December 9, 2011

Embracing the Erotic

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Turn on the television or the computer and you will guarantee the bombardment of a 97 billion dollar industry that has preyed on the innocent eyes of our students since its infancy.  Some might think that the communication age has been the greatest innovative feat of our generation, but it has been coupled with the largest production and dissemination of pornography to ever interact with our culture.  In 2006, every second, $3,075.64 was being spent on pornography, 28,258 Internet viewers were viewing pornography, 372 Internet users were typing adult search terms into search engines, and every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video was made in the United States (Internet Filter Review, 2006).  Unfortunately, the statistics have done nothing but grow.  80% of 15-17 year olds have been exposed to sexually mature content in the last year alone.  We live in a new day; a day when the alluring temptress preys not merely on the sides of street but on every computer, every television, every over priced data plan.  And in a world saturated with media, the problem cannot simply be ignored; it must be confronted.  Every one now walks down the street that houses the adulterer.  The temptations are many, so our response must be as explicit as the source.

He stares endlessly at the computer wanting more, wishing the screen would somehow satisfy the endless void that has plagued his life for years.  It is not merely boredom; it isn’t even purely depression, it is way deeper.  With every click, every downloaded pixel his heart wanders even farther from purity, farther from the Lord.  Slowly, he becomes drunk with the intoxicating poison of the tempter.  Like fine wine, it appears harmless, but slowly and surely every drink penetrates his mind, prematurely awakens love, and rattles his emotions.  As he embraces the erotic, the erotic devastatingly clinches every fiber of his being, altering his reality, and ultimately controlling his very outlook on life.  Though we do not like to openly discuss it, the entrapment of pornography has snared the lives of many people all around us.  If you have been serving in youth ministry very long, you have undoubtedly encountered masses of students captured by the sin of pornography.

The statistics are absolutely alarming:
• 79% of youth unwanted exposure to pornography occurs in the home (Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later, 2006).
• The largest group of viewers of Internet porn is children between ages 12 and 17(Family Safe Media, December 15, 2005.)
• Nine out of 10 children aged between 8 and 16 have viewed pornography on the Internet. In most cases, the sex sites were accessed unintentionally when a child, often in the process of doing homework, used a seemingly innocent sounding word to search for information or pictures. (London School of Economics January 2002).
•    70% of 18-24 year old men visit pornographic sites monthly
•    87% of young men report using pornography is acceptable
•    Out of all countries, the United States is the top producer of both pornographic websites and pornographic videos.  In fact, the United States has produced 89% (244,661,900) of the pornographic web pages in the entire world.  The average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is 11.

The Disturbing Delay

The response of the church has unfortunately been seriously delayed.  Like Jews dismissing their children as Song of Songs passages are read during Passover, we have intentionally avoided conversations that could develop a healthy perspective of sexual relationships in our students.  Because of our silence, our culture has become inundated with provocative entrapments.  Though God’s word is full of teaching concerning the sexual relationships between a man and a woman, we have dodged all teaching on the subject.

Why the Delay?

Though outrageous, 29% of born again adults in the U.S. feel it is morally acceptable to view movies with explicit sexual behavior and 57% of pastors state that pornography addiction is the most damaging issue to their congregation.  A proper and anointed teaching must flow from our churches.   Perhaps the problem is equally rooted in unhealthy leadership.  In 2001, Christianity Today reported that 37% of pastors say pornography is a current struggle in their ministry.  Though disturbing, over half of evangelical pastors admit viewing pornography in the last year and 33% of all clergy admit to having viewed a sexually explicit website.  Parched vines whither up and die, and they certainly never bear fruit.  Unhealthy pastors cannot produce healthy members…period!
Whether from ignorance or infected leaders, the topic of sex has been taboo for far too long in our straight-laced religious clubs.  As a result, students are garnering their understanding from health classes, department of health organizations, and their wandering minds.  Couple this with the fact that 63% of parents never talk to their children about sex and you have an immediate recipe for disaster.

The Addiction of Pornography

Victims of pornography say that it is more alluring than any drink and more addictive than any substance they ever tried.  In fact, research shows that the psychological effects of viewing pornography are far greater than that of abusive medications or even illegal substances.  Apart from Christ, the chains of pornography cannot be broken off of someone.

Twisted Delivery

With the onslaught of data access on mobile phones, the enemy has found yet another venue for transmitting this perversion.  In 2005, Google reported that more than 20% of all mobile phone queries and 5% of personal digital assistant queries were searches for adult entertainment.  Couple this with the craze of text messaging, and a whole new problem has risen.  In fact, the problem has become so rampant, we know have a new term created to describe the problem: sexting.
Sexting is the exchange of sexually suggestive or nude images between minors via cell phone.  1 in 6 teens (ages 12-17) with a cell phone have received a sexually suggestive image or video of someone they know.  20% of teens overall have sent or posted nude or seminude pictures or videos of themselves.  71% of teen girls and 67% of teen guys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content say they have sent/posted this content to a boyfriend/girlfriend.

The Effects of Pornography

According to the Anti-Pornography Task Force, as little as 6 hours of exposure to soft porn is enough to:
1.    Destroy satisfaction with his or her spouse
2.    Decrease in the value of faithfulness
3.    Decrease in partner satisfaction
4.    Increase in the though that women enjoy rape
5.    Lose ability to be with one person and cherish that one person
6.    Increased attitudes of sexual exploration
7.    Increased feelings of loneliness and depression

Practical Steps to Avoid Confrontation

1.    Talk with your senior pastoral staff to make sure you have their full approval of what you are going to be teaching.
2.    Include Your ministry team in the planning so you have the full support of your entire team.  Keep your inner circle informed.
3.    Send out a letter/email to parents notifying them of the upcoming teaching.
4.    Allow parents to ask questions about what you are going to be teaching prior to the service.
5.    Give the parents some talkback sheets to help engage in conversation with their children after they have went through the service.

The Answer for Pornography

By all means, please do not avoid the issue because the subject makes many uncomfortable.  How long will the shackles of sexuality continue to entrap our students before we overcome the awkwardness of speaking about sex?  Speak clearly, pointedly, and directly on issues regarding sex.  Topics as explicit as sex do not need cowardly responses that skirt around the problem.  We must not simply state that sex is bad.  The perversion of what God created is bad, but God did not create the act of sex as something inherently wrong.  There is, therefore, a need for the restoration of the purity of what God created.  Make sure you teach the Word and not merely opinions fostered in response to the epidemic of pornography.
The last thing students need is another person standing on the streets with a megaphone jeering at their infidelity.  However, that does not mean we blatantly ignore this sin.  As for that matter, laws apart from a real relationship, are nothing more than pure legalism.  The embracing of a “No” to sexual impurity is a lot easier when one has committed themselves to an authentic, heartfelt “Yes” to the Lord. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:3, KJV).  Our teaching has centered on the laws of God rather than God, Himself.  When directing students in the Way, we cannot simply meditate on rules, we must focus on the intimacy one can attain with the Divine Creator.  Teach students how to commune with God, and demonstrate it in your own life as well.
Practicality aside, we do not war against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).  Though there are many safe proofs, and accountability helps, a person must be delivered from their addiction by the power of our Holy Father.  Pornography is a spiritual issue that demands supernatural intervention.  Offer times for counseling, prayer, and intervention for those suffering.  Apart from Christ, the habitual nature of pornography will completely consume a person.  In Christ, they can receive a freedom which words cannot even begin to describe.

Practicality lists some great
steps to overcome pornography
Here are some steps to victory:
1) Confess your sin to God (1 John 1:9).
2) Ask God to cleanse, renew, and transform your mind (Romans 12:2).
3) Ask God to fill your mind with Philippians 4:8.
4) Learn to possess your body in holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).
5) Understand the proper meaning of sex and rely on your spouse alone to meet that need (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).
6) Realize that if you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
7) Take practical steps to reduce your exposure to graphic images. Install pornography blockers on your computer, limit television and video usage, and find another Christian who will pray for you and help keep you accountable.

May we bring the power of God into the world of pornography and watch it crumble.  May the Father replace mental hard drives that have been contaminated with perverse images.  And may the Father replace false intimacy embellished by our computers with true intimacy hidden in the Divine Wonder.

Tools to Help With Pornography (Blocking Software) (Accountability Software)
Every Man’s Battle – Stephen Arterburn
Pure Freedom – Mike Cleveland
The Game Plan – Joe Dallas

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