Fighting Pornography: What You Can Do (Colossians 3:5)
One of the biggest shocks of my life happened when I opened the morning newspaper one day and saw a photograph of a friend and professional associate who had been arrested on charges of child pornography. I had met with this man only a week before his arrest. Never in a thousand years would I have suspected my colleague—a successful business man and former elected official—to be involved with child-pornography.
How naïve I was to be shocked. Because of the relative anonymity of the Internet, pornography has become a silent scourge that is plaguing all segments of society in America, 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 they exist in almost all churches. The scourge of pornography is so widespread that Christians must be prepared to confront the issue.
WHAT IS PORNOGRAPHY?
Doing something positive about pornography will require you to speak the truth in love to others about this difficult topic. The first step involves educating yourself about this silent plague. Therefore, I will begin with a definition of the concept. 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 overtaken by technological developments. These days pornography is distributed mostly over the Internet. As a result, pornography is more readily available and easily accessible than it has ever been.
PORNOGRAPHY IN AMERICA: SIZE OF THE PROBLEM
Pornography is hardly new in America; it has existed since the founding of our country. By the time our country 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 in a big way. The Internet gave mainstream America instant, anonymous access to the most prurient and salacious material.
Rather than being sold in back alleys and X-rated porn shops on the wrong side of town, pornography is now readily available to anyone anywhere who has access to the Internet. Anyone with a laptop computer or a smart phone can now access pornographic material. In fact, more than ten percent of all Internet sites are pornographic. 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, though predictably, these efforts have been ineffective.
Pornography advocates have waged legal battles against attempts to curb their trade claiming they are empowered by the First Amendment to produce their prurient material.
Pornography opponents made some headway in limiting this scourge in Miller v. California (1973). In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that material lacking “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value” is not protected by the First Amendment’s freedom-of-speech clause. Then in 2002, the Supreme Court came close to reversing itself when it ruled in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition that pornographic material produced using consenting adults is protected by the First Amendment. This ruling has had the effect of protecting most of the pornography produced.
CHILD PORNOGRAPHY IN AMERICA
Child pornography is a particularly vile and destructive form of child abuse that has exploded in recent years because of the Internet. In 2004 the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children maintained 450,000 files on child pornography victims. By 2019 this number had grown to 70 million files and is still growing.
Child pornography is defined in Section 2256 of Title 18, United States Code as “…any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age). Visual depictions include photographs, videos, digital or computer-generated images indistinguishable from an actual minor, and images created, adapted, or modified, but appear to depict an identifiable, actual minor.”
This definition also encompasses undeveloped videotapes and any electronically stored data that can be converted into visual images that meet the definition of child pornography. Further, with child pornography, federal law supersedes state and local definitions of the age of consent. When it comes to child pornography, the age of 18 applies no matter how a state might otherwise define the age of consent.
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.
THE MOST COMMON CHILD-PORNOGRAPHY OFFENDERS
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 children targeted and who are trusted by those children. The actual statistics are shocking: 18 percent of child pornography images are produced by the victim’s parent or guardian and 25 percent by a neighbor or family friend. Online exploiters who entice children into going along with the production of pornographic images account for another 18 percent.
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 cooperates in the production of the material, often following instructions provided online by an exploiter.
WHAT CAN CHRISTIANS DO TO FIGHT PORNOGRAPHY?
If you want to do something positive about pornography, begin by learning what the Bible has to day about this subject. You might begin with Colossians 3:5 where we read: “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. Pray that God will restore the victims and change the hearts of users and purveyors of pornography. Finally, pray that God will use you as His instrument in fighting against this scourge.
Pornography infects all levels of society, both sexes, and people of all ages—churched and unchurched. It is an almost ironclad guarantee that you have an extended family member, friend, colleague, or fellow church members who indulges in pornography. Consequently, it is important that you be able to speak the truth in love to people about this tragic consequence of rejecting God.
When you pray about the issue, ask God to eliminate this plague on American society and to equip you with the wisdom, knowledge, and words needed to be an effective instrument on His behalf. Once you have prayed, the following strategies will help you do your part in combating pornography in all of its forms:
Equip yourself with the information in this blog so you can speak the truth in love to others on this critical subject.
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. 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 continuance.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Veteran’s Lament: Is This the America We Fought For? and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press.