Porn again — Facing denial in conservative pews

The Rev. Heath Lambert usually hears one of two responses when he tries to get pastors to be candid about the impact of Internet pornography in their churches.

Response No. 1 sounds like this: “Pornography isn’t a problem in my church.”

That answer drew laughter at a recent conference on faith and sexuality, organized by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Lambert, a seminary professor who leads the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, said he realized that laughs and disbelief were appropriate — if sad — responses to this crisis.

Response No. 2 is also rooted in denial, he said. Pastors shake their heads and say: “Good night! I can’t talk about this. Do you know what the people in my church would do if I started talking about pornography? … I can’t talk about this from the pulpit.”

But if pastors cannot face this issue with their own flocks, then who can? It doesn’t help that this pulpit silence often, according to researchers, may be linked to pornography addictions among clergy.

Lambert said he found it disturbing that 75 percent of clergy say they have zero accountability systems in place to help keep them honest about their online activities. Far too many pastors — tragically — seem to “think they are Superman” and need to be challenged on this issue, he said.

Sex and religion remains a volatile mix. Thus, this “sex summit” in Nashville generated it share of online buzz, and news coverage, with its discussions of hot topics — from private issues such as adultery and divorce to public controversies surrounding gay marriage and sexual trafficking.

But while the culture wars rage on and draw the most attention, Lambert argued that the greatest moral threat to the church today is “the Christian pastor, the Christian school teacher, the Christian Bible college and seminary student, who exalts sound theology, who points to the Bible and then retreats to the basement computer to indulge in an hour or three of Internet pornography.”

The bottom line, he said, is hypocrisy: “Porn is something that evangelicals can do in a dark room, behind a shut door after they have railed against homosexual marriage and talked about conservative theology.”

In addition to looking in the mirror, Lambert challenged religious leaders to:

* Face the fact that 12 is now the average age at which American boys first experience video pornography, which means “some people are getting exposed to it a lot earlier,” he said. “This is the reality. … We have no idea what kind of generation we are creating. We haven’t tested it yet. We don’t know what it’s like to have a nation of grown men who were taught about sex from Internet pornography. God help us.”

* Help members of their congregations — of all ages, male and female — learn strategies for how to avoid the common dangers on the digital roads that led into the online marketplace that dominates modern life. Far too many people, he said, keep going to “places where they shouldn’t be at the times when they shouldn’t be there.” Many are alone and vulnerable and pastors need to openly discuss that fact.

In particular, he said, religious-education leaders must talk to adults about Internet security in an age in which their homes are packed with Internet devices. Most of the time, of course, it’s the children who know significantly more about how to operate this technology than their parents.

* Confront the belief that consuming pornography is a sin that only affects individual users. For example, he said believers should feel concern — at least at the level of prayer — for performers who are caught up in the porn industry. Then there are the patterns in modern divorce, with 50-plus percent of those in broken marriages confessing to some degree of problematic involvement with pornography.

It’s simply wrong, said Lambert, to think “this is all about you. … You wouldn’t do it if you thought everybody was going to find out. You wouldn’t do it if you knew that you were going to lose your ministry position. You wouldn’t do it if you knew your wife was going to leave. You wouldn’t do it if you knew that your kids were going to think that you were a pervert.

“The lie is: Nobody has to know.”

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X