The Symptoms

Pornography is a snare to a man’s soul.  It’s addictive.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I realize in a previous post that I wrote on the idea that pornography is an extremely bad habit.  I still believe that.  By using the term addiction, I only mean to show how this habit has a psychological effect.  It is not meant to give anyone a pass by blaming it on addiction.  That’s why I hesitate at all to attribute addition to the problem.  To interject the word addiction, it is only meant to describe pornography in a descriptive way.  Since addictive can mean “causing a strong and harmful need to regularly have or do something,” it seems to fit the narrative.

However, it is the symptoms of pornography that I really want to touch on.  To suggest pornography is only a symptom is to suggest there is a greater problem beneath the surface.  To be sure, pornography is a huge blight on our society.  But what is it that is at the root?  Like an onion, for each layer there are other problems.  What I believe to be at the core, though, is idolatry.  Think about it.  God should be our desire.  The Bible says we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Instead, we give our focus and energy to other “gods” that demand our attention.

Idolatry is a difficult concept to grasp.  We all think that it has to be a bronze statue where someone is kneeling down and chanting prayers.  That’s true but there are other ways idolatry shows up.  The definition of idolatry is “extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.”  If something, like pornography, has become an addiction (remember the definition of strong or harmful need), then it has become an idol.

What about other areas in life?  For some, it may be difficult to believe that there are certain habits that could be considered idolatry.  However, it’s only a matter of recognizing some thing that you think or do that is not healthy or beneficial.  How many in our nation suffer with weight gain?  Is it gluttony, the habit of eating or drinking too much, that they desire more than God?  Or how about gossiping?  Do people love unconstrained conversation meant to hurt others more than God?  Why is it when you learn some juicy tidbit about someone you know that you find it difficult to keep it to yourself?  These are some of the less extremes of bad habits.  But in context, can’t you see how each of these can be considered idolatry?

Again, I go back to the idea that idolatry is the core issue.  None of us likes the idea of putting something or someone before God.  Well, most of us anyway.  But to identify the problem is to recognize the symptoms.  And I believe viewing or being involved in pornography is one symptom.  Although, the symptoms may show up in varying degrees.  We need to recognize these.

Pornography is similar in its effects as other habits.  But what may be different is that its symptoms are devastating internally and externally.  Speaking only as a man, I recognize that it creates inner turmoil.  It creates a hormone and chemical process in the brain that stimulates the body.  The brain responds to visual images quite rapidly.  In a moment of what may seem like only a brief second, the brain has the capacity of responding to an image and releasing chemicals that are just as powerful as cocaine.  So, whether intentional or not, when a man sees even “soft porn” it has an effect on him.

Many may not realize how difficult the culture can make it for a man that wants to be pure in spirit.  Women today often dress so provocatively it actually doesn’t leave much to the imagination.  This can be a form of “soft porn” that triggers the chemical release in the brain.  Of course, there are billboards, window dressing in malls, television shows, etc. that provide the same handicaps.  This is not to say that a man doesn’t have any control.  It only makes it that much more difficult.  This is the internal battle that takes place in a man’s soul.  The effects can be damaging spiritually, as well as emotionally and relationally.

Of course, pornography doesn’t take place on an island.  How this medium affects the culture and the world is devastating and destructive.  These are the external symptoms.  In creating the pictures, images, videos, etc., many young ladies and girls have been manipulated and exploited.  It’s becoming more widely known that girls are often kidnapped, raped, abused, and forced into this form of media only to add to the wealth of the oppressors in this multi-billion dollar industry.  It’s hard to imagine a society that prides itself on respect and dignity would allow this to continue.  The contradiction and the hypocrisy from the government, the courts, colleges, and various private and public institutions are very telling.  In allowing pornography to become this heinous monster that feeds upon its most vulnerable citizens, it speaks loudly to the corrupt and sinful nature of every person.  In other words, idolatry.

No one can say that there is nothing that can be done.  Politicians can change laws, courts can rule on the side of life and dignity, the public can demand accountability and hold its elected officials to higher moral standards, men can turn from aiding and abetting an industry that destroys lives in more ways than one, and women can learn purity and modesty that is honoring to God.  These are only a handful of ideas and suggestions.  But nothing truly is going to change until people recognize their own sinful nature, repent from idolatry, and turn to God.  It’s only through the power of the cross and the message of hope through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that true and lasting change can ever take place.  Until then, the symptoms of a culture going under is only going to increase and intensify.

The Culture

How things have changed over the years.  Where there used to be modesty, there isn’t anymore.  We live in a sex-crazed world.

The United States isn’t exactly representative of the entire world but I can only speak of what I observe in my own country.  I am aware that there are countries where sex is more freely flaunted about and there are countries where sex is more suppressed.  The US is unique, however, in that it is the only country that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and ideology.  It is with this in mind as I observe a trend that is troubling within our culture.

Certainly times have changed.  Sexual immorality has not.  Despite the fact that the early patriarchs of the United States were overwhelmingly Christian, there was a diversity of people that didn’t hold Christian views.  While laws were constructed in a way to regulate sexual tendencies, and while there were obvious traditions passed on from generation to generation that promoted abstinence and traditional marriage, there were still those who brought liberal views of sex from all corners of the world.

Fast forward to the 20th century.  Women began taking more risks with their sexuality.  Many men, naturally, obliged with their new sense of sexual freedom.  However, there was still a sense of moralism through film and television as witnessed through programs such as I Love Lucy where the husband and wife slept in separate beds.  Over time, a short period of time at that, indiscretion would take over the air-waves.

Now television and media have become so saturated with all forms of sexual displays that society has become desensitized to its effects.  But every so often there’s an event or episode on TV that pushes the envelope and tests the shock value.  Those that push sexual immorality through the various media continue to test the waters.  Maybe their interest is to get a sense of what people will accept and how far they can get past government regulation.  Actually, there’s not much that gets censored anymore.  Programs like Victoria’s Secret and several reality shows demonstrate that regulations are very lenient or non-existent.  The only things that garner attention are the ones where there’s a public outcry.  Again, with desensitizing the public this will become a non-factor as well.

The culture has become saturated with sex, the adulterated version.  It’s next to impossible to not have it flaunted in one way or another in your face on a daily basis.  The question is not about its accessibility because it’s everywhere.  Sex is on television, in the movies, in the stores, on the billboards, and even in the schools.  Sex sells.  And it’s obvious that sex is a billion dollar industry.  It may be even a trillion dollar industry.  You may think I’m talking about porn industries, prostitution, adult video stores, Hollywood, Las Vegas, etc.  But sex sells products everyday like soft drinks, automobiles, glamour magazines, and a million other such products.

All these things I’ve mentioned about how the culture being invaded by perverted sex is not even the core issue.  These are only the effects of a much greater problem.  We can analyze this to death, and we have, and we can point fingers and shake our heads or even our fists.  But the issue that we must wrestle with is the fact that we have turned our backs on God.  This isn’t to say that every man, woman, and child is involved in some kind of sexually immoral sin.  It has reached a point, however, where an overwhelming majority of people seem to be knee-deep in the muck and the mire.

God has set a standard.  He has given us his written Word.  He has basically told us what is acceptable and what is not.  And when it comes to God’s standard for sex, mankind has botched it up badly.  But instead of feeling guilt or remorse, which might lead to repentance and getting right with God again, many actually enjoy the sin.  The perverted sexual lifestyle is instead celebrated in our culture.

There are many things wrong in our society.  In my opinion, sexual immorality ranks as one of the top, if not the top, issue.  For years, society and government institutions have turned a blind eye to hot-button issues regarding heterosexual sins to the point that people barely even make notice of them anymore.  New issues are being debated such as homosexual lifestyles and same-sex marriages.  Tomorrow, we’ll be discussing more in length about forced marriages involving children, polygamy, bestiality, and inanimate objects.

So what’s the answer to this increasing problem our society faces?  Or do you, like many, think there is no problem?  Sadly, our opinions don’t matter, much like opinion polls in politics, when it comes to right and wrong.  There is a Righteous Judge who will ultimately decide our fates based on the decisions we make in this life.  You can take your chances and believe that there is no such thing as hell or God Himself.  But if you’re wrong, you’re gambling with your eternal soul.

The answer to sexual immorality and every other sin that mankind gets entangled in is Jesus Christ.  He is the Answer.  There is a Righteous Judge and there will be judgment for sin.  But God made a way for man to be saved and that is through His Son, Jesus.  The Bible says that if you declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  That’s accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for your sins to be your propitiation.

Repenting of your sin and turning to Jesus as your Lord and Savior is something that is on a personal level.  On a much larger scale, however, society needs to hear the words written in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The Affects

Pornography is not a topic that most people want to talk about.  But the harsh truth about it is that it needs to be talked about just as much as other sin issues.  For believers, it’s easier to confess a sin when it involves over-eating, thinking bad thoughts, or even having a temper tantrum.  It might even be less difficult to confess stealing or lying.  I would even wager people would be more willing to discuss divorce or any other issue than they would personal sexual sin.

However, turn the subject to pornography and people start feeling uncomfortable.  Bring on the gamut of sexual perversions such as homosexuality, extra-marital affairs, fornication, masturbation, lust, prostitution, sex slavery, etc. and people start squirming in their chairs.  I’m purposely leaving out some of the more disgusting perverse sins because I think you get the point.

Sexual immorality is a difficult subject to broach among people who still value morals and decency.  I say that tongue in cheek because I find that there are many people who claim to value morals but find themselves in immoral situations.  And I place myself in that category.  It’s sad and we need to turn away from this hypocrisy.

Society as a whole, however, has seemingly embraced sexual immorality as a normal part of life.  Not that I want to make this all about homosexuality but recent events in sports has shown praise for certain athletes who would proclaim their sexual freedom and display it in front of the whole world.  On the one hand there’s the issue of a man kissing another man.  On the other, there’s the deliberate act of wanting to display wanton sexuality thus showing no sense of morals or modesty.

Recent events are only examples of the decline of morals and values that used to guide the collective consciousness of this nation.  Years ago, perhaps centuries ago, people used to fear God.  Today, people not only do not fear God, they don’t even want to acknowledge His existence.

When I first thought of writing this post, I was going to cite statistics and provide links to various articles showing the effects of pornography and sexual immorality on our culture.  To be certain, there are plenty of examples.  But I think it would be a tiresome exercise.  I believe that despite the arguments and objections, people understand the decline in morals.  Some may actually celebrate it.

It’s the Christian community that concerns me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think the secular world is in a rapid decline in the cesspool of despair.  But it’s the church that needs to clean house and gets its own affairs in order.  If a hospital is going to tend to the sick, it needs to have workers that are healthy and understands medicine.  The same idea applies to the church.  But it’s the need for godly men and women to live authentically according to the gospel of Jesus Christ and be the vessels that God would use to bring the life saving message to a dying world.

It’s time that the church understands the issues that are plaguing the body and making it sick.  They need to quit being uncomfortable to talk about the issues that are systematically hurting the family.  We need leaders that are willing to lead the fight against the stain of immorality that’s affecting the church.

I’m not saying I have all the answers but one of the greatest examples in the Bible is in Ephesians where the Apostle Paul talks about bringing sin issues into the light.  There needs to be an honest assessment of the problem and it needs to be talked about.  It needs to be exposed.

Leaders within the church are not immune to this problem.  In fact, there are plenty of books and articles that would indicate that sexual immorality is rampant even within the leadership of the church itself.  As there are plenty of examples of men in the Bible who dealt with these issues of immorality, the church is finding itself again having to confront them today.  And the answer lies within our recognition of the problem and our desperate cry for Jesus to bring healing and restoration back to the church and our families.  Revival is needed and the kind that brings men to their knees.  Only then will the effects of pornography and sexual immorality be turned around.

The Beginning

I could say that it all began with my first encounter with a Playboy magazine when I was twelve years old.  I could say that all throughout puberty there were regular encounters with such magazines.  Unfortunately, they were available from all the male figures in my family.  But I think the issue goes back even further than that.

Several years prior to my experience with pornography, my family moved to a small town in Iowa.  We had lived on a farm with limited contact with neighbors only to move into a town where everybody knew each other’s business.  It seemed like a good move at the time, and it probably was for everyone but me.

It didn’t happen immediately but within a relatively short time I became the butt of people’s jokes.  I was perhaps an awkward child and it is possible that I brought on a lot of the trouble upon myself.  From the first year in grade school, kids teased and ridiculed me.  During those years there were very few teachers or adults that truly got involved for the child’s benefit.  Unlike the culture in schools today, there wasn’t much training taking place or awareness involved in the area of bullying.

What happened didn’t affect me overnight.  It took several years of berating but eventually I became isolated, somewhat of a recluse.  I did have a friend at that school but he endured much of the same ridicule as I did.

What transpired over time affected me.  It would eventually change my behavior, or at least be a catalyst.  I acted out in unusual and harmful ways.  I would end up lying and stealing on many occasions.  It became so bad at times that when I was accused of arson, there was no one to believe that I was innocent, despite all my objections.

With my experience as a child, I think it’s quite possible that psychologically I was not in a good place when I first viewed pornography.  It may have fed into my insecurities.  It became, perhaps, a way to escape the realities of life and use sexual fantasies to fill a void.  Without real male leadership, I was alone to deal with these emotions and strange feelings I was experiencing.

It may not be much different today.  Kids all over the world are growing up with dysfunctional family units.  Many children grow up in homes without any father present.  Even if they are physically present, they’re absent in other ways.  Too many have to muddle through childhood and adolescence and try to figure out stuff on their own.  Even worse, now liberal schools with their perverted sexual agendas are pushing their form of sexual education on these children warping their minds and exacerbating the situation.

As bad as things started out for me as a child and having to deal with and sort through all the sexual perversion, I think children today are going to have it that much worse.  With pornography readily available on smart phones, laptops, and other such gadgets, perversion is more accessible to a generation of impressionable minds more so than ever in history.

It’s fair to say that my beginnings didn’t start out well.  I only pray that the generations of children growing up in our immoral culture are able to recognize and get help when they need it.  Too many are going to go through experiences they’re not fully equipped to understand.

What about you?  Do you have an unhealthy view of sex?  Has pornography led you down a dark path in your life?  Or do you know someone who is going through a problem with sexual immorality?

As Christians I hope we’re ready to deal with these issues.  The church needs to be ready to identify and minister to these increasing problems.  Unfortunately, these are problems that many in the church want to keep quiet and sweep under the rug.  Pretend it’s not there.  But just as Paul dealt with sexual perversion in his day, the church needs to be ready to deal with sexual perversion in ours.  Men and women alike are going to need help when they begin to realize their sin.  Let’s pray that the help will be there when it comes time for their healing and restoration.

The Habit

How does one get hooked on a bad habit?  It’s actually quite easy given our sinful natures.  I think all of us are prone, if we’re not careful, to fall into some form of bad habit probably for many reasons.  But the one reason I believe kind of drives it all is self-centeredness.

Think about it.  What are the two greatest commandments in the Bible?  To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.  It seems that God knows that we love ourselves.  A lot.

Obviously loving God is the highest priority.  But to put such an emphasis on loving others as much as or more than self shows something about how much we really do love ourselves.  How often do you think about what you want, need, or desire on a daily basis?  If you’re like me, it’s frequent.  In fact, I’m constantly thinking about what I’m going to wear, what am I going to eat, do I need a haircut, why does my back hurt, how come this guy cut me off in traffic, etc.  The focus is on me a lot.

So considering all this, starting a bad habit is really not that difficult to understand.  Since we’re already prone to love self, sinful desires are only a step away.  And it only takes repetition of feeding a sinful desire for it to develop.  Take over-eating as an example.  You’ve had a bad day so you indulge.  You’ve had a great day so you celebrate.  You’re home watching TV and you’re bored so you munch on something.  Over a period of time you’ve developed a habit of eating for every occasion.  And that may lead yet to other bad habits, but you get the idea.

So how do I transition this from a bad habit to an addiction with pornography?  Like I said, sinful desires are only a step away.  But consider the so-called addiction to pornography.  Is it really an addiction?  Could it be just an extremely bad habit?  An article in the NY Times shows that addictions are really learned behaviors.  They can be very strong and intense and sometimes unlearning those behaviors can be quite difficult.  And in my opinion it fuels the sin nature which makes even that much more difficult.

I believe that the brain is so complex that the science community can’t even fully comprehend it.  That goes along with the way we learn, associate things, and process the information all around us.  The brain takes in all the stimuli, the environment, and the conscious and subconscious factors involved.  I also believe the more the brain is stimulated in an activity that brings what is perceived as “pleasure,” the more intense and solidified the behavior becomes.  Add to it what the brain receives when hormones and chemicals are involved (natural or unnatural) and it’s possible that the behavior becomes more subconscious and more difficult to overcome.

Again, I don’t believe in providing excuses for the poor choices I’ve made in my life.  The many choices that led to my dysfunction with pornography are my own doing.  But I also see how being exposed to pornography at a young, impressionable age in addition to the hormone-filled years of adolescence made an impression in my brain that intensified the temptations and led to many years of sexual immorality.

But as the article shows in the NY Times shows, these behaviors can be reversed.  It takes the process of undoing the learned behavior over time and teaching the brain new, better habits.  If the brain can be taught to receive “pleasure” apart from the sinful activities, such as making our relationship with Christ be our joy, then we can develop good, healthy habits that hopefully will become as intense in a good way as the bad habit was once, well, bad.

It is a choice.  If you have a bad habit, are you willing to teach your brain to think correctly?  The article called it “self-programming.”  It involves change.  Maybe it’s a change in the environment, or minimizing the temptation in some way, but in any case relearning can be done.  I believe it can because with God all things are possible.  And God is in the business of healing, restoring, and sanctifying.

So if you have a relationship with Christ, pray that He gives you the strength and endurance to make it happen.  Get the support of other believers and, more importantly, elders within the church.  If you don’t have a relationship with Christ, may I suggest you make that decision today?  I believe if we’re to leave that bad habit behind, Jesus is the only way.  And if you want to know how to have a relationship with Jesus, let me know and I’ll tell you where you can get started.