Fighting Back Against Pornography
Because of the anonymity and access of the Internet, pornography has become a silent scourge that is plaguing all segments of society, including Christians. In fact, it is not uncommon for pornography addicts to faithfully attend church. Chances are good there are pornography users in your church; not because there is anything wrong with your church but because pornography use has become so ubiquitous. Pornography has become so widespread Christians must be prepared to confront the issue.
All Christians should be prepared to speak the truth in love about this difficult topic to people they care about, fellow believers and unbelievers. Anonymity, access, and secrecy are the primary enablers of pornography users. Consequently, bringing the problem out into the open is an important step in overcoming it. However, before engaging someone about pornography, take the time to educate yourself about this sin.
Pornography is erotic material in any form that is intended to arouse sexual excitement. Traditionally, pornography was distributed in the form of magazines, books, photographs, and films, but these forms have been substantially replaced by the Internet. The bulk of pornographic material is now distributed over the Internet. As a result, pornography is more readily available and easily accessible than it has ever been.
Pornography is hardly new in America; it has existed since the founding of our country. By the time America was founded, Europe—particularly France—was already a major purveyor of pornographic material. Inevitably, this kind of material found its way to our shores in the baggage of European immigrants. For decades, the pornography industry in America operated on the periphery of society but the Internet changed that, bringing pornography into our homes, offices, and anywhere else there is access to the Internet. The Internet provides instant, anonymous access to the most prurient and salacious material imaginable. Consider the following facts about pornography in America:
40 million Americans self-identify as Internet pornography users. Among men between the ages of 18 and 24, 70 percent visit a pornographic site once a month or more. Men between the ages of 35 and 49 are the most frequent consumers of Internet pornography.
Of all Internet downloads, 35 percent are pornographic. Further, 25 percent of all Internet searches are related to sex.
Approximately 33 percent of all Internet pornography consumers are women.
Sadly, Sunday is the most popular day of the week for viewing pornography.
America has a long history of trying to eliminate pornography or, at least, limit access to it. These attempts have come primarily from governmental bodies such as state legislatures and city councils. Sadly, they have been ineffective. Pornography advocates wage continual legal battles against attempts to curb their trade claiming they are empowered by the First Amendment to produce their prurient material.
Child pornography is a particularly vile and destructive form of child abuse that has exploded in recent years because of the Internet. Child pornography is any visual image of sexually explicit material or conduct involving someone under 18 years of age. Visual images that qualify as child pornography can be photographs, videos, or computer-generated images, depicting a minor. With child pornography, the age of consent is 18, and federal law supersedes state and local definitions. The age of 18 applies no matter how a state or local community might define the age of consent for other issues.
Penalties for violating federal law pertaining to child pornography are severe. A first-time offender convicted of producing child pornography can be sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison. A first-time offender convicted of transporting child pornography can be sentenced to 5 to 20 years in prison. Penalties may be increased to life imprisonment if the following circumstances exist: 1) The pornographic images are violent, masochistic, or sadistic; 2) The minor in the pornographic images was sexually abused; or 3) The person producing the pornographic images has prior convictions for sexually exploiting children.
Sadly, some of the most common offenders in the production of child pornography are the parents or guardians of the children victimized. Friends or neighbors known to the children targeted are also common exploiters. These offenders are all people who have ready access to the targeted children and who are trusted by those children.
Sextortion is a growing component of the child-pornography industry. Sextortion as it applies to child pornography means threatening to reveal sensitive secrets about the victims or to harm them or their loved ones if they don’t submit to assisting in the production of pornographic material. Sextortion is one of the reasons for the rise in the number of cases of self-assisted child pornography. Self-assisted child pornography is the production of pornographic images in which the child is coerced into cooperating in the production of the material, often following instructions provided online by an exploiter.
Jack came close to ruining his life by using pornography. It started innocently enough when he clicked on suggestive pop-up ads on his computer at work. Before long, Jack found himself seeking out pornographic sites on his desktop computer, smart phone, and laptop computer. At work he would spend nearly two hours a day with his office door closed and locked immersed in pornography. At home, as soon as the kids were in bed, Jack locked himself in his home office and called up his favorite pornography sites on the Internet.
Before long, his boss and his wife became suspicious. At work, Jack’s productivity declined noticeably. At home, he spent more time locked away in his office than with his wife. Jack’s boss was the first to confront him. “Jack, I don’t know what you are doing holed up in your office with the door locked, but I have strong suspicions. It’s certainly not your work. I can have the IT department find out what you are doing within an hour, but I am going to give you an opportunity to stop it and get your productivity numbers back on track. You have two weeks. If your numbers aren’t back up within that time, serious disciplinary measures will be taken. Also, keep your office door open at all times.”
The no-nonsense message from his boss shook Jack to his very core. He had an excellent job and could not afford to lose it. That night, instead of locking himself in his home office, Jack sat down with his wife and made a complete confession. He told his wife everything, and asked her to forgive him. Eventually, after much prayer and counseling, she finally forgave Jack, but not before they endured a rough six months in which she considered divorcing him.
When things were finally back to normal at work and home, Jack took stock of what he almost lost because of pornography. As part of the counseling he received, Jack knew how widespread a problem pornography use was. He decided to join the fight against pornography. Unsure where to start or what to do, Jack approached the Christian counselor who had helped he and his wife through the ordeal.
The counselor told Jack, if he wanted to do something positive about pornography, he should start by learning what the Bible has to say about this subject. “You might begin with Colossians 3:5: ‘Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature, sexual immorality, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.’ Once you have equipped yourself with God’s Word, pray. Pray for the victims, users, and purveyors of pornography. Ask God to restore the victims and change the hearts of users and purveyors of pornography.
The counselor told Jack pornography infects all levels of society, both sexes, and people of all ages—churched and unchurched. “It is almost guaranteed you have an extended family member, friend, colleague, or fellow church member who indulges in pornography. Consequently, it is important for you to be prepared to speak the truth in love about this scourge.
“When you pray about the issue, ask God to eliminate this plague on American society and equip you with the wisdom, knowledge, and words needed to be an effective instrument on his behalf.” The counselor then gave Jack the following list of strategies for helping fight the scourge of pornography in all of its forms:
Get your church involved in combating pornography. Encourage your pastor and other church officials to talk about the issue rather than ignoring it or sweeping it under the rug.
Encourage your church to provide recovery and restoration counseling for pornography victims and offenders.
Be Christ-like in dealing with pornography addicts. Make your goal their restoration not condemnation or punishment (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 for guidance).
Encourage your church to provide strong Christian mentors for people who give in to the temptation of pornography.
Take advantage of the materials, information, and assistance available from anti-pornography organizations and agencies such as Project Safe Childhood (An arm of the U.S. Department of Justice: www.justice.gov).
Encourage your church to provide classes on how parents, guardians, and other adults can interdict child pornography.
“Jack, there is no place for pornography in the church or out of it. Be prepared to make this point when you speak the truth in love to believers and unbelievers on this subject. If we, as Christians don’t speak up on this subject, who will? If we choose to ignore the problem, we are complicit in its perpetuation.” The strategies given to Jack by his counselor will work equally well for you or any other Christian who wants to join the fight against pornography.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com