On Saturday morning, Andy Lundy spoke at our Men’s Breakfast on the theme of moral purity. He dealt with the topic from a number of different perspectives but just as he got started someone asked an insightful question, “Could you give us a definition of pornography, because I’m not sure everyone in the room will otherwise understand what you’re talking about?” It was a helpful reminder to me that our culture keeps moving the line when it comes to morality, and no more so than in the area of sexuality. Andy shared that what used to be considered soft core pornography is now mainstream and what used to be considered hard core pornography is now entry-level soft-core pornography, with modern hard core pornography stretching boundaries of violence and degradation that were previously unthinkable. Anything that is sexually stimulating regardless of whether it’s in a novel, music video, store front advertisement, or movie is pornographic and has an impact on a Christian’s morality.
Andy walked us through the Scripture’s teaching on sexual purity. The Bible uses a number of words to describe a believer’s attitude toward sexual immorality. We’re to “abstain” from it (1 Peter 2:11), implying the presence of temptations we must actively resist. We’re to “flee” from it (1 Corinthians 16:8), implying that it’s something that we need to actively remove ourselves from, similar to the way Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:12). And we’re to “put to death” sexual immorality and impurity (Colossians 3:5), implying a radical elimination of the source of temptation, depriving it of its power.
Recent developments in neuroscience have helped researchers and practitioners better understand the mechanics of addiction. As a trained psychotherapist, Andy walked us through some of the top-level findings that relate to pornography addiction. While we understand the mind to be the centre of a person’s will, the brain is wired to seek dopamine and serotonin, chemicals associated with pleasure. When we give in to sexual temptation, these chemicals are released and the brain creates pathways to encourage us to do it again. Like the grooves made in a farm road by repeated use, sinful choices create pathways in our brain that actually hard-wire us to pursue more sin. Thankfully though, the opposite is also true. Neural pathways, that have been built to sustain an addiction, are broken down when that habit is starved. And new pathways can be built as we seek pleasure in God glorifying ways.
In his practice, Andy sees many of the terrible consequences of pornographic addiction and he shared some of the research findings in this area. Pornography creates exaggerated expectations of sex. In fact, many couples Andy counsels have built their intimacy almost exclusively on their sexual attraction. When they hit some rocks sexually, they realize they have done almost nothing else to develop intimacy in the other areas of their life, relationally or spiritually. Pornography also breaks down the trust between couples and leads many young people to abandon hope of sexual monogamy and see promiscuity as the new normal for relationships. Perhaps most damaging, is the tragic impact of pornography on men’s attitudes toward women. With the rise of pornography in our culture, men are more inclined to look at women rather than interact with them. Women are objectified and seen as the sum of their body parts. Where pornography is allowed to flourish, violence and injustice toward women grows.
While it’s easy to focus on surface solutions, Andy shared some of the common heart issues that enable sexual impurity in general and pornography addiction in particular to grow.
1. Selfishness: Viewing pornography is an inherently selfish act. It promises to meet sexual needs without the work of relationship. If someone values selfless sacrifice then they will have to go to great lengths to justify pornography.
2. Pride: The pride of a person tells him he is strong enough to deal with pornography on his own, despite lots of evidence to the contrary. And it’s a person’s pride that keeps him from admitting a problem and so taking the necessary steps to deal with it.
3. Hypocrisy: When we allow ourselves to develop a double-standard, portraying health on the outside while allowing sin to flourish in secret, our integrity is compromised and it will break down in other areas over time.
While underlying issues need to be addressed, Andy recommends a number of practical steps to deal decisively with sexual temptation. First, access to pornography must be cut off by installing filtering (e.g. www.opendns.com) and accountability software (e.g. www.covenanteyes.com) on all internet-enabled devices (e.g. phones, tablets, computers, gaming devices) as well as parent controls on televisions. Once all the doors have been locked, if attempts to deal with pornography have failed on your own, it’s time to seek help. As a church we’re committed to supporting people in this. And counselling practices like Andy’s organization, Juniper Tree (www.junipertree.ca), offer group and individual treatment options when more specialized support is needed.
May Jesus purify His church and help us model His righteousness.
In awe of Him,