The Church has a Porn Problem

We have a porn problem. I believe that pornography may be the most pressing issue the church presently faces. I recently read a NY Times article on this issue (Triggering Images). The article had all sorts of problems, but I will say that I am encouraged to see that even mainstream news is now considering this issue. They are at least asking the question, “Is this a problem?” The issue is the writer of the NY Times article doesn’t really seem to see porn as dangerous, even to teens. Fight the New Drug wrote a post dealing with the problems in the NY Times article, but even their work falls a little short on this issue, for one specific reason. They don’t deal with the spiritual dimension of the problem. (Fight the New Drug is a group that I am a fan of by the way. They don’t address the spiritual problem because they are not a Christian/religious organization.)

This porn problem has been festering in the church and in our culture as a whole for a while now. I’ve been toying with posting on this issue for some time. I’ve delayed for several reasons. I will delay no longer though, because the issue is not going away. I am going to be addressing some issues that I see and hopefully offering the church, and parents specifically, some solutions. There is no way to subtly address this issue so some of these posts will be forthright and blunt.

I want to answer the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” questions. This post will focus on “who, what, when, where, and how.” Why is going to need a post in and of itself. There are some many cultural and spiritual dimensions to this problem.

But let’s start by defining the problem. What is the problem? Statistics range fairly significantly on the problem but one thing they all agree on is that the scope is MASSIVE. The NY Times article mentioned above cites a 2008 University of New Hampshire study which found that 93% of boys and 62% of girls were exposed to pornography during adolescence. Even if their numbers are 30% off, which they are not, that is 1 in 3 girls and 2 in 3 boys before 18. Their numbers indicate that it is likely closer to 9 in 10 boys and 2 in 3 girls. We have to talk about this!

Porn, even with limited exposure, redefines marriage, sex, dating, singleness, and holiness. Jesus defines holiness as it relates to the opposite sex as this: “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28, ESV). Jesus sets the standard. We’re not graded on a curve…there is one standard.

Who has this problem? As a youth pastor, I would love to tell you that the church and parents don’t need to worry quite that much. I’d love to tell you the statistics are better for “church kids.” Sadly though, I would be lying. My experience tells me that where I am guys are probably around 80% and girls are around 50%. I could be low, I don’t think I’m high. It’s bad folks. It’s really bad. This is my world. Every week I’m standing in front of 40-70 students teaching the Bible and they’re going home and to school and this is the message I’m competing with. I’m not going to win this fight on my own. The who is something like 65% of Millennials, 65% of Generation Z (the generation behind Millennials), and probably more than 50% of Gen Xers.

It’s not just the “bad” kids struggling with this either, this is a trap all of our students can find themselves in very easily. I hear arguments from teens that go like this: (1) “It’s normal.” (2) “It’s the best way to learn about sex, they’re experts.” (3) “It doesn’t hurt anyone.” I’m hearing these arguments from them because they’re hearing them from peers, popular media, Hollywood… But that is a lie, particularly for the church, for believers. Jesus teaches us an entirely different lesson and these lies draw people away from Jesus. “You cannot love God and porn.”

The when and the where are always and everywhere. Seriously, it is literally accessible from every piece of tech we own, 24/7. Your smartphone, even some traditional phones, tablets, computers, X Boxes, PS4s, Nintendo Switches, Kindles, TVs, you can even still get magazines. It is literally everywhere.

How is slightly more complicated. Most kids are exposed by other kids or accidentally in search for something else. (More on this later.) But one exposure can do a lot of harm. They’re exposed by ill-intentioned friends, they’re exposed by genuinely innocent friends accidentally, they’re exposed during research for a school project. It can happen so many different ways.

So what are we to do? I don’t want you to panic, I want you to be aware. Our God is big enough to overcome this problem. He is powerful enough to protect you, to protect our kids. But we need to have real conversations and partner together as the body of Christ on this issue. Parents need tools. The church needs understanding. We need to walk together. My coming posts will have two main threads. My main line of posts will be walking through steps I believe we need to take. But I will also be talking about the research out there on this issue in other posts. PLEASE take time to understand this issue.

I will not be including many images in my posts, I want to protect the guys out there who have struggled. So I will mark links that have “Triggering Images,” or “Descriptive Content” so that you know to be careful reading the linked article. If you’ve struggled with porn, exercise wisdom in following those links. Nothing that I post will contain nudity or content that is explicitly descriptive.


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