From Leader to Leader: Out of the Darkness & INTO THE LIGHT: How PORN is stealing, killing & destroying the present and future relational & sexual health of our children & youth

by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

Any war strategist will confirm that knowing one’s enemy is vital to victory. This month we have decided to stimulate what we hope will spur further curiosity and candid conversations about and intentional, strategic plans to boldly expose to our families (parents, children and teens) attending our churches and schools how our enemy’s masterfully designed porn epidemic is hijacking the gift of emotional and sexual connection that God wired humans to enjoy in the context of emotionally and sexually healthy marriages.

The insidious use of porn is, unbeknownst to it’s unsuspecting consumers, stealing the love, tenderness and affection that God intended men and women to share with each other, killing healthy gender and relationship perceptions and practices, and destroying the God-wired capacity to derive sexual arousal and pleasure with one, 3-D, human spouse for a lifetime.

While many other religious communities have become increasingly aggressive in their attack against this invisible enemy, I believe that it is time that we Adventist spiritual leaders assertively join the ranks of those who have determined that they can no longer remain silent regarding this growing epidemic that is imperceptibly destroying the healthy relationship dynamics our boys and girls, youth and adults are experiencing, as well as the degree of emotional and sexual satisfaction they will experience in their future (and current) marriage relationships.  Is it any wonder that so many Millennials and Gen Z’ers seem to be increasingly trigger shy when it comes to committing to a life-long marriage? Remaining sexually exclusive with one person for a whole lifetime seems to be getting more difficult for the current generations to imagine or desire.

Who Consumes Pornography

Over the past 10 years there has been a large increase in the pornographic material that is available to both adults and children.  Porn use has grown increasingly common because it is anonymous—no one need know, accessible—one click away, and affordable—much free porn lures users in.

A 2014 Barna Group survey revealed the following demographic data regarding pornography use by American adults:

  • Among males 18-30 years old, 79% viewed pornography once per month and 63% viewed pornography greater than once per week.
  • Among males 31-49 years old, 67% viewed pornography once per month and 38% viewed pornography greater than once per week.
  • Among males 50-68 years old, 49% viewed pornography once per month and 25% viewed pornography greater than once per week.
  • Among females 18-30 years old, 34% viewed pornography once per month and 19% viewed pornography more than once per week.
  • Among females 31-49 years old, 16% viewed pornography once per month and 8% viewed pornography greater than once per week.
  • Among females 50-68 years old, 5% viewed pornography once per month and 0% viewed pornography greater than once per week.

From Sabbath to Sabbath, sitting in our pews are men, women, teens, and children who have fallen prey to the seductive snare of pornography and are being consumed by the guilt and shame that festers best in the darkness of their secret vice.

The Impact of Porn on Children

In the June, 2016 study conducted by the American College of Pediatricians entitled: “The Impact of Pornography on Children”, the researchers report that the availability and use of porn has become pervasive among adults AND adolescents. They reported that the consumption of porn is associated with MANY negative emotional, psychological and physical health outcomes including:

  • Increased rates of depression
  • Increased rates of anxiety
  • Acting out & violent behavior
  • Younger age of sexual debut
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Increased risk of teen pregnancy
  • Distorted view of relationships between men and women

For adults, according to the same study, porn results in an increased likelihood of divorce which is also harmful to children.  Interestingly, the American College of Pediatricians urges healthcare professionals to communicate the risks of pornography use to patients and their families and to offer resources both to protect children from viewing porn and to treat individuals suffering from its negative effects.

WE must become more comfortable

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were attending one of our local churches where we had been asked to speak on Emotional-Spiritual Healing in the Family. During her children’s story, Carolann invited the kids to answer what the different kinds of paper she was holding up were used for. The kids were enthusiastically raising their hands and answering with satisfied smiles on their faces, “Napkins are for picnics”; “Paper towels are for wiping your hands” they responded. When my wife pulled out a long piece of toilet paper, most of the previously enthusiastic responders suddenly became bashful, likely embarrassed. One hand-raised child, after some gentle encouragement from my wife, slowly and hesitantly whispered into the mic, “it’s for wiping your bottom” (everyone giggled). But then another unbashful boy, who seemed eager to get the mic, uninhibitedly and with clear enthusiasm added, “my mom says it’s also for wiping my penis.” An immediate ripple of restrained adult laughter joined the nervous giggles of the kids sitting up front.

I ask, why is it that we can mention all of our body parts. . . ears, nose, eyes, hands and feet without a blushing of our faces, yet become visibly uncomfortable (no matter what our age) when our genitals are mentioned by the correct name in the middle of a Sabbath Children’s Story? (FYI, my wife congratulated the unbashful boy and his parents for using the correct term for his genitals; and in an effort to mitigate what she thought might be a seed for later shame, and to normalize the obviously awkward situation, affirmed to him that he had used the correct word and that all the other boys and men in the audience had one too!)

So how might our own personal discomfort with talking about genitals, sex or porn be affecting the way we think about, approach, address, and candidly dialogue (or not) with our own as well as our school or congregation’s parents, children, youth and young adults about this increasingly relevant topic?

I would like to urge you, my colleagues, to make a commitment to evaluate your own responses regarding human sexuality and pornography. If you have identified personal discomfort, bashfulness or even some shame surrounding this subject, please honor your experience and take the appropriate steps to evaluate and process your own history and experience.  It is never too late to identify and process the events or wounds of our past. In fact, we must!  We cannot allow our discomfort or shame cripple us from battling our enemy’s masterfully orchestrated attack on the children, youth and young (as well as the not so young) adults we love and serve!

In November, 2018, Facts & Trends, a division of LifeWay reported “Four in five pastors (80 percent) say they were approached in the past year by a church member or staff dealing with infidelity, and three in four (73 percent) have handled pornography-related questions.” What’s more, fewer than one third felt confident that they were qualified to handle these tough topics. Interestingly enough, only 7% of churches have a program in place to help those who are struggling with sexual addiction.

So what can we do?

While I don’t think its my place to tell you what you must do, I do feel comfortable stating that doing nothing is no longer appropriate or even ethical.  If our Adventist communities refuse to tackle this topic, where can our parents, children and teens expect to receive accurate and helpful resources? As we prayerfully consider how we might encourage and empower our parents in their efforts to disciple their children and teens and even as part of our church & school discipleship efforts, we must become much more intentional about providing the space to have these vital conversations about what healthy relationships look like and how porn has insidiously dehumanized both men and woman which has resulted in an abject distortion of what healthy platonic and romantic relationships look like. I’ll push it a little further. Could it be that it’s time you prayerfully consider tackling this topic behind your pulpit on Sabbath morning when you have the mostly undivided attention of most of your parents, teens and children?

If the mere thought of preaching a sermon on porn has raised your cortisol levels, I have good news for you!  You no longer have to feel ill-equipped to tackle the tough topic of pornography that is insidiously crippling your churches & schools.

One of the resources I listed below and one I highly recommend for every pastor, teacher, Family, Men’s, &/or Women’s Ministries leader to invest in, is the Conquer Series by Dr. Ted Roberts, author and former Marine fighter pilot and founder of Pure Desire Ministries. This will be the finest monetary investment you can make for your church and school families.

Our kids and teens desperately need to hear accurate and relevant information about how they can enjoy emotionally, spiritually and sexually healthy lives before and after marriages. Let’s get intentional about speaking into the hearts of our children, teens and adults.  Blessings & Victories in Christ as you pray for holy boldness to bring this silent enemy out of the darkness and into the LIGHT as you research and share what the Spirit gives you!

The following list of resources we have compiled, contain some of the most comprehensive and relevant ministries, articles and books dedicated to sparking important conversations, sermon series, seminars, and maybe even retreats dedicated to battling this relationship crippling epidemic.

 

RESOURCES:

  1. The Conquer Series – This is the by far the BEST in-depth teaching & training on brain chemistry involved in porn consumers and how to achieve victory.   6-disk DVD collection that every pastor, teacher, parent, church should own! You can also sign up on their site to receive FREE, very relevant monthly articles.
  2. Covenant Eyes – This is a GREAT website that offers internet accountability and filtering. You can also download GREAT free pdf ebooks under Resources
    1.  Hope After Porn: How Their Marriages were Saved
    2. Your Brain on Porn
  3. NAD Family – This is our North American Division Family Ministries Website where you can download training and certification courses & materials for your Family Life, Women’s and Men’s Ministries Leaders. The training & certification materials are available in English & Spanish. Parenting, Grand-parenting and other valuable materials can be ordered here and also on adventsource.org
  4. XXX Church – One of the most comprehensive website ministries by Fireproof Ministries helping men & women who are struggling with porn to break secret habits, crush shame and create a great life with a healthy view of sex through their online community and resources.
  5. Fight the New Drug – a non-religious and non-legislative organization (created by the Mormon church) that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science, facts, and personal accounts.

Recommended Online articles:

  1. How Pornography Affect Teenagers and Children
  2. How to Talk to Kids About Porn
  3. When Your Son is Looking at Porn: Resources for Christian Parents
  4. Parenting in a Porn Saturated World
  5. The Impact of Pornography on Children
  6. How to Respond When Your Child is Caught Viewing Porn
  7. 4 Ways Churches Can Help End the Pornography Epidemic
  8. Silent Epidemic: The Church’s Problem with Porn
  9. The Normalization of Porn in the Church: What the Church Needs to do Now
  10. Porn in the Digital Age: New Research Reveals 10 Trends
  11. 15 Statistics About the Church and Pornography that will Blow Your Mind
  12. Raw Truth: Kids and Pornography
  13. Are we Failing Christian Women in the Battle Against Porn
  14. How Porn is Sidelining Missionaries

Recommended Books:

Arterburn & Stoeker, *Preparing Your Son For Every Man’s Battle: Honest Conversations About Sexual Integrity (The Every Man Series) 2010

Arterburn & Stoeker, *Every Young Man’s Battle: Strategies for Victory in the Real World of Sexual Temptation (The Every Man Series) 2009

Arterburn & Stoeker, *Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time (The Every Man Series) 2009

Ethridge & Arterburn, *Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle: Creative Conversations About Sexual &Emotional Integrity (The Every Man Series)2010

Ethridge & Arterburn, *Every Young Women’s Battle: Guarding Your Mind, Heart, and Body in a Sex-saturated World (The Every Man Series)2009

Ethridge & Arterburn, *Every Woman’s Battle: Discovering God’s Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment (The Every Man Series) 2009

Lambert, Heath, Finally FREE: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace.

Larkin, Nate, Samson and the Pirate Monks. It was only when he got other men deeply involved in his life that he was able to gain real victory over his sin. He came to realize that Christian friendship—men befriending men—is a precious gift. It is also a call for men to put aside their pride and inhibitions and to find meaningful relationships with one another. And it provides more than a call—it provides a defense and a structure.

Schaumburg, Harry, Undefiled. Schaumburg’s particular strength and ministry is in recovery from sexual sin. This book is ideal for hurting spouses who are attempting to recover together.

Stoeker, Stoeker & Arterburn, *Every Heart Restored: A Wife’s Guide to Healing in the Wake of a Husband’s Sexual Sin (The Every Man Series) 2010.  One of the BEST resources for hurting wives.

Struthers, William, Wired For Intimacy. Struthers explores the important link between pornography and biology.

Thorne, Helen, Purity Is Possible. Written for women, this book addresses the issues of pornography, fantasy and erotica from a female perspective.

Tiede, Vicki, When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography. This book gives women sensitive, biblical, and conversational support as Tiede comes alongside hurting women as a friend and guides them to the hope and peace only the gospel can give.

White, David, Sexual Sanity for Men. Geared toward helping men build or recover a healthy sexual identity.

 

*All the books in the “Every Man Series” are UNPARALLED and highly recommended

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