Facing the Porn Plague

James Tonkowich | ReligionToday.com Columnist | Friday, April 04, 2014

Facing the Porn Plague


“As a U.S. Justice Department memo warned,” writes Matt Fradd, author of Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity,  ‘“Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.’” 

 

Then he adds the zinger: “If that sounds about right, it will be sobering to consider that it was written in 1996—before wireless broadband, before iPads, before selfies and sexting. Before pornography took over twelve percent of the Internet, with more than 25 million sites today raking in over $5 billion a year. Before it was considered common practice, as it is today, for porn consumption to begin with a first encounter around age 11 and go on to radically shape the ideas that teens and young adults have about sexual intimacy.” 

 

Fradd’s comments are in the introduction to “Bought With a Price: Every Man's Duty to Protect Himself and His Family from a Pornographic Culture” a booklet by Paul Loverde, the Catholic Bishop of Arlington, Virginia.

 

“In my nearly fifty years as a priest,” writes Bishop Loverde, “I have seen the evil of pornography spread like a plague throughout our culture. What was once the shameful and occasional vice of the few has become the mainstream entertainment for the many.”

 

In the booklet he argues that pornography, which he brands as “a criminal enterprise,” is fundamentally unjust because it dehumanizes both the actors and the viewers and harms the innocent. “By taking an essential aspect of the person—human sexuality,” he writes, “and making it a commodity to be bartered and sold, to be used and discarded by unknown others, the pornography industry commits a most violent attack on the dignity of these victims.” In addition, pornography violates the commandment not to bear false witness since it tells lies about women, men, intimacy, the meaning of our bodies, and the nature of sex. 

 

He warns everyone, but husbands in particular, “It is futile to believe that this secret preoccupation can be contained and isolated from family life. In small ways, the self-centeredness and disrespect of self and others, which lie at the heart of this vice, will become manifest within your relationships with your family.” 

 

Bishop Loverde writes knowing that the problem is widespread in his diocese and beyond, that is, beyond his diocese and beyond the Catholic Church. 

 

Focus on the Family reported in 2009, “When surveyed, 53% of men who attended Promise Keeper said they viewed pornography that week. More than 45% of Christians admit that pornography is a major problem in their home. An anonymous survey conducted recently by Pastors.com reported that 54% of pastors admitted viewing porn within the last year. In an online newsletter, 34% of female readers of Today’s Christian Woman admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn. One out of every six women who read Today’s Christian Woman say they struggle with addiction to pornography.” It is highly unlikely that those statistics have moved in a positive direction since 2009. If anything, matters have likely gotten worse.

 

What’s to be done? Bishop Loverde enlists the aid, of “Catholics, other Christians, and all people of good will” and offers practical suggestions for youth, singles, couples, and ministers. 

 

His practical steps for healing and renewal come from the point of view of Catholic theology and spirituality, but apply to everyone. Daily devotions, meditation on the work of Jesus, prayer upon awakening and as we turn the lights off at night, faithful attendance at worship, and careful, prayerful use if the Internet are good ideas for every Christian. As to his stress on the need for confession, the instruction “confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16) doesn’t just apply to those who believe in confession to a priest. It’s a command

of Scripture we should all obey—and it’s also wise advice.

 

“Bought with a Price” is a model for what pastors, denominations, or parachurch leaders could and perhaps should produce for their people. It’s short, readable, to the point, and it addresses a moral plague that is ravishing the Church. “The most effective way in which believers can combat the plague of pornography,” the bishop writes, “is by the witness of their lives.” Purity is possible, but we have some work to do.

 

Let me encourage you to read and apply “Bought with a Price.” If you don’t like Bishop Loverde’s Catholic perspective, well then write a booklet of your own. We have a problem and the more people helping with the solution the better.

 

James Tonkowich is a writer and scholar at The Institute on Religion & Democracy where his focus is the intersection between faith and the public square, where worldview makes all the difference in the world. Jim worked with Chuck Colson, managing his daily BreakPoint radio commentary, founding a magazine, writing, speaking, and developing curriculum including the Centurions Program. He is a regular contributor to ReligionToday.com and also works with The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, Oxford House Research, and other policy institutes. Learn more about Jim at JimTonkowich.com.

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