Porn: crack cocaine for Christian men?

No, this post isn’t a totally blatant attempt to drive up pageviews by including “porn” in the title.

It’s only partially about that.

Seriously, The Daily Beast ran a news-feature last week on a Baptist pastor who has launched an Internet campaign to recruit 1 million men to say goodbye to smut.

The lede:

Pornography will destroy your life. It is as addictive as crack cocaine. And your child’s cellphone can be a tool of Satan.

These are among the boldest of claims from a Florida pastor who has launched a campaign to find 1 million men willing to do what many may find unnecessary, if not unthinkable: quit porn. Cold turkey. Forever.

Baptist Pastor Jay Dennis of the Church of the Mall in Lakeland, Florida, never thought he’d find himself taking sexual addiction classes, he told The Daily Beast. But staff members were approaching him with concerns about pornography in the church: wives who’d caught their husbands, moms worried about their sons. He knew it would be an awkward conversation, taking on pornography as a mission, and he knew he’d face critics who would tell him the church is no place to deal with sexual issues, he said. “But my heart believed this is the very place to deal with it.”

So Dennis launched a glossy website, Join 1 Million Men, where he asks men around the world to add their first names to a wall, pledging to say goodbye to smut. There’s an iPhone app with related scripture, tips, and tools. Videos about how to “destroy your porn stashes.” Testimonials from men who’ve found themselves in the clutches of Satan’s ubiquitous tools. And some pretty jarring claims, like this one:

“I believe as many as 80 percent of men in the church are struggling with viewing pornography,” Dennis says in one video, adding that drastic action may be necessary to truly rid yourself of it. “You may even need to destroy your present computer. I realize that can be an expensive move, but it may be necessary if you are serious about living porn-free.”

Now, the idea that Christian men struggle with the temptation of pornography isn’t exactly breaking news. I remember reporting in 2004 about a Dallas-area ministry targeting the “secret sin” of porn with billboards. A few years after that, I wrote an in-depth feature on “A minister’s escape from sexual addiction.”

But when the mainstream media cover Christians and porn, they tend to focus on the “novelty” factor, as opposed to giving serious treatment to the issue.

How’d The Daily Beast fare on that front?

Certainly, there’s a bit of a “gee whiz” element to the story by Winston Ross (no relation to this media critic). But overall, this report impressed me, mixing a small amount of R-rated humor with important context (you’ll have to click the link to read the paragraph that precedes this one):

Yuk, yuk. But sex therapists say the pastor has a point, and along with feminists who object to pornography’s objectification of women, Dennis could become the third in an otherwise unlikely trio of interest groups fighting the same scourge.

The pastor’s rationale for excising porn from your life is rooted in Romans 13:14: “Put on the lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lust.” Porn, Dennis says, “is a place your flesh in a moment of weakness will run to for relief or medication from pain or stress.”

If I have a criticism of the piece, it’s that it relies entirely on this one Baptist pastor to assess how other Christian leaders view the anti-porn movement.

Take this paragraph, for example:

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