Thinking Out Loud

December 29, 2012

Men and Pornography: Keeping the Discussion Going

In July, 2008, I posted a draft version of The Pornography Effect online, and spent a great deal of energy trying to increase awareness of this plague which has spread via technology and has had particularly damaging effects on men. A few months later, popular blogger and writer Jeff Goins interviewed me on the subject, and today I can’t honestly recall where the interview appeared; but after finding a copy of it yesterday, I thought it helpful to spread this message yet again. Besides, we need to keep this discussion going. This is the first time this material has appeared at Thinking Out Loud.

You can read The Pornography Effect here, it uses a blog format but reads like a book with the chapters in proper order and a ‘next page’ type of click necessary to get to the second of the two screens.  It takes about 55 minutes. There’s also a ‘Cliff Notes’ version of the key points here.

The Interview

What is your personal experience with pornography? What did your own struggle look like?

We owned a computer that was connected online for about ten years before anything remotely pornographic ever crossed the screen.   Up until that point, I would say I was probably in the “This could never happen to me” category.   One Saturday afternoon doing a relatively random search, I ended up in the middle of an erotic novel.   A few days later I decided to read the whole thing from the beginning.   When I finished the story, nearly two weeks later, a link took me a site which contained photographic porn.   At that point certain walls of resistance had already collapsed.   Like the proverbial “guy with a remote control” who “wants to know what else is on,” I was determined to explore this alternative universe.   The internet was more than willing to oblige.   Even though I was leading worship in my church on Sunday, I was on the way to becoming a hopeless slave to internet pornography addiction.   But I rationalized that I was balancing the two worlds quite capably and getting away with it.

After what I consider a wake-up call several months later, I was able to break free for several months.   And then I went back for several weeks.   And then broke free again.   Today, there is a short-term freedom in being able to honestly say I’ve forgotten the internet addresses of most of those sites.   But in the long-term, the fact remains I know the search criteria that got me there.   For anyone, the internet’s dark side is never more than a few clicks and keystrokes away.

When did you realize that this was a systemic problem in a lot of men’s lives?

After remaining free for a longer period, I decided to (a) go public, and (b) create a forum for women to know more about the mechanics of how the internet porn industry functions.   There are millions of pornographic web pages, but each has one thing in common:  They were all put there by someone.  That person had a reason, a motivation, and I thought it would be helpful to create more understanding of why the stuff is there in the first place.   Perhaps I’m wired to want to share and apply knowledge once it’s acquired.   Perhaps I was trying to redeem a bad personal experience.   I just figured there were already seminars for men who were dealing with a multitude of addictive behavior, but nothing for the women who were, as I termed it, the collateral damage in the sphere of internet addiction.

teen with computer I found out really fast that this is truly “the elephant in the room” both within and outside the church.   Tell people this is what you want to discuss, and the room gets really quiet.   Plus, I’m in Canada where there isn’t the same transparency about personal struggles.   We don’t talk about our spiritual lives here in the same way that people do in the U.S.  I have always know that this was a hot topic, but once I was trying to create open discussion, it was initially the silence that told me I had struck a nerve more than anyone’s particular admission or confession.

For a younger generation of internet sex addicts, though, this is a non-issue.   Images of naked people — even images of their classmates — have been available online all their lives.  An entire generation is being raised without a sense of shame.   It was once the case that humans distinguished themselves from the animals by our ability to blush, but slowly, an entire generation is losing that.   They would say there is no problem at all here.

How does pornography affect men’s relationships with their wives, family members, and God?

I don’t think anyone who has had exposure to pornography is ever the same.   Over an extended period, I think exposure rewrites the brain programs of our minds, to the point where, for guys, any female is just a body to be exploited.    I don’t think any man who is deeply hooked can look at his wife or girlfriend, his sister, his daughter or even his mother the same way.   Yes, I’m saying it changes all relationships that a man has with all females.  The girl serving at the fast food place.  The woman in line at the bank.   The kindergarten teacher at the elementary school.  All females. 

In terms of spousal relationships, the problem — and fortunately this wasn’t exactly the issue for me — is that men are intended to find sexual fulfillment in their wives. (And likewise, wives in their husbands.)   So immediately the relationship is encountering damage.   But where the internet habit is also a secret habit, there is an additional wall of separation building between the husband and wife.   Trying to get “alone time” on the family computer can also cause friction between other family members.

Spiritually, sin is sin.   While we can admit that God probably ain’t too happy, we can use all kinds of rationalization to justify that what we’re doing isn’t such a big deal.   After all, aren’t a lot of popular songs played on radio somewhat pornographic when you read the lyrics?    If a person is really tuned in to their own spirit, I think they’ll recognize that, like Adam in Eden, we’ve somewhat hidden ourselves, and hurt the relationship in the process.   There are other indicators of spiritual life and growth that will start to flash warning lights.

 Have you encountered women who have struggled with porn?

Once I went more public with my desire to speak to this subject, I had a number of women who came to talk me.   While at first discussing a husband’s or a son’s addiction, they eventually shared with me that they had struggled with this themselves.   Yielding to female stereotypes of soap operas and romance novels, I assumed they were speaking of text pornography, like the novel that had initially hooked me.   But they were saying no such thing.   They were into the pictures just like the guys were, and one woman in particular hinted at a very deep addition that had tied up hundreds and hundreds of online hours.

However, one of the main ideas I want to advance is the idea that text pornography is every bit as dangerous and harmful as drawn or photographic pornography.  It is able to convey ideas that either (a) cannot be expressed in a picture, or (b) would still be considered taboo graphically.  Text pornography, which includes but is not limited to erotic literature, puts forward ideas which in some cases are intended to change societal norms.  It ought to be the focus of more concern.

 What does it mean for a porn/sex addict to discover grace? What does that look like?

I think that the grace of God comes in the form of the strength that we don’t have within ourselves to walk away from the internet, either figuratively or literally.  Apart from Christ’s power working in us, there’s no compelling reason to break free, let alone the strength to do it.   But with Christ’s power, I believe that breaking free of this particular addiction can be a relatively painless process.   If we see our sin as being sin against God, we will strive for holy living.   The man who desires to do the will of God positionally does not sin.  

Grace can also appear in the form of a friend who has walked the same road, or a friend who is simply brave enough to wade into the topic with you.   Grace can be a pastor willing to devote a Sunday morning sermon to the topic; and grace can be a congregation that doesn’t judge when you walk towards the altar at the pastor’s invitation.  Grace can be an understanding spouse who desires to encourage you towards freedom from addiction.   Grace can even be a young daughter who catches a glance of an image on your computer screen and asks, “Daddy, how would you feel if that were me?”

Can you share at least one story of someone you know who was able to break out of a porn addiction?

It’s interesting to think about that question apart from the various things I’ve read in books and magazine articles that were all U.S.-based.  The Book Porn Nation by Michael Leahy, and the book I Surrender All:  Rebuilding a Marriage Broken by Pornography by Renee and Clay Cross share two stories that I believe to be representative of stories that are common to so many.  In my country, what I’ve experienced is hushed voices, speaking in low tones, whispering, “Been there.  Done that.   Free now.”  

I think the curiosity factor engages a great percentage of men at one time or another, particularly as the computer changes the way pornography is accessed.    The question is how long are you going to stay in Sin City?   Some stay a long time.   Some reading this are there right now.   No… make that many reading this are there right now.  Thankfully,  I think there are probably more stories of spiritual victory out there than we realize, but far too many men are afraid to admit the problem existed in the first place.   A person has to simply determine not to go back there. 

What resources are available for those who are struggling?

If a person has a trusted friend who can serve as an accountability partner, I think that accountability software like Covenant Eyes is probably the best resource we have right now.   I know pastors who serve as accountability watchdogs for each other.   If a person is really fighting the addicitive nature (which can be part of the human condition) then a program like Celebrate Recovery is also helpful.

October 3, 2008

November 26, 2011

Recycle Your Marriage

Hats off to blogger and writer Carol Hatcher — I love her blog name, “Sheep To The Right” — for having a piece picked up this month by CBN’s website.  If you want to do the polite thing and click, here’s the article.  Statistically, many of you won’t so here it is for those of you whose mouse finger is arthritic today:

“What are you going to do with that?”, she reached her wrinkled hand across the generations between us and placed it on mine.

“Umm. Throw it away?”, I said in more of a question than an answer.

“Oh, this would be great to make little ornaments.” My husband’s grandmother recycles everything. She saves butter tub lids, the little cotton in the tops of the medicine bottles, and the inner wrappers from the cheese cracker boxes. She comes from a time when you didn’t throw anything away.

Even with the focus on going green, we live in a disposable society. Paper napkins, cups, and plates make washing dishes a thing of the past. At the doctor’s office, you’ll be handed a throwaway gown, and the airline gives throwaway pillows.

Unfortunately, we’ve also bought into the idea of disposable marriages. When your husband leaves his wet towel on the floor or your wife never looks your way, the world tells us, toss ‘em. It’s the same disposable mentality we find on aisle 6 of the grocery store.

Care must be given to things meant to remain. We brush and floss our teeth each night hoping they will last a lifetime. We hand wash the china passed down from our great-grandmother to protect the gold from rubbing off the edges. Hours are spent bringing old muscle cars back to their original glory. Time and effort are necessary in restoring or maintaining something we plan to keep.

With the current push for Americans to recycle, the number of recyclers still hovers between 70-80 percent depending on the area of the nation. The divorce rate, however, lingers around 50 percent.

So, why not recycle our marriages?

Webster’s definition for recycle is to pass again through a series of changes or treatments, to reuse, or bring back. If we want a lasting marriage (and we should), sometimes it’s necessary to pass our marriage through a series of changes to bring it back.

So what can you do to recycle your marriage? Here are a handful of ideas to get you started:

1. Discover your spouse’s love language and speak it.

Gary Chapman’s book 5 Love Languages is a great book to help you understand how to express love to your mate in the way they need it. Chapman’s five love languages are gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Often we show our spouse love the way we want to be shown it, not the way they need to hear it. Find which love language your spouse speaks, and use it often.

2. Practice the 10-second kiss at least once a day.

You’d be surprised what a little lip-lock can do to jump-start a marriage. Make it a habit to kiss good-bye and hello each day. Then turn up the heat by prolonging your kiss at least ten seconds – the longer, the better. Even if it feels a bit awkward at first, hang in there. Before long, you’ll forget you were counting and get carried away in the moment. Trust me, some eyebrows will be rising, and they might just be your own!

3. Check in during the day.

With today’s advanced technology, there is no excuse for not communicating. Drop a quick “hope your day is going well.” Whether you text, email, or use the old fashioned telephone, contact your mate at some point while you’re apart. If you’re busy, just say so but follow with, “I was just thinking about/praying for/missing you.” A little effort goes a long way.

4. Apologize for old hurts.

If there are any unresolved issues, apologize for any hurt feelings that may have occurred as a result of you. Drop assumptions at the door and discuss the true issue. Remember, it’s important for all parties to feel like they are being heard. Use the rules of active listening, and repeat what you hear to make sure there isn’t a kink in the line of communication. Then share your feelings in a way that isn’t accusatory. Don’t forget to keep your voices low. Yelling only creates tension.

5. Pray for your spouse.

Praying for your mate is always a good idea, especially if your marriage is in dire need of repair. An amazing thing happens with prayer. When we pray for those who hurt us, our hearts soften, and we often realize where our own faults lie, as well. Prayer is free, it’s simple, and you can do it any time of the day.

If your marriage is cracked, beat-up, or you are just plain fed up, don’t be so quick to throw it out with the crumpled paper napkins. Marriages really aren’t meant to be disposable. With time, effort and a little TLC, you can recycle your marriage to last for years to come.

~Carol Hatcher

May 9, 2011

Pornography Changes Worldview

I’m at a point where I often forget that I have an online book, let alone a book about a devastating social problem.  But then I’ll hear a sermon where someone discusses the effects of pornography, and I’m reminded of some of the unique things my manuscript had to say on the subject, and aspire to see the material reach more people.

…Redemption comes in various forms. The redemption of a period of several weeks being counted among the this-could-never-happen-to-me addicted to the internet’s dark side, was a book manuscript that would help females understand what’s going on in the lives of some male they know.

screenshot - book online The Pornography Effect is available online as a free internet resource.

Sadly, this is totally defeating the point. The original idea was that as a crisis resource — which describes the under-24,000-words length — this book would be a print product that would be given to women who might be completely unfamiliar with the workings of the internet. Having the book online is helpful, but that help is now limited to those who can get online to find it.

The original publisher contact — who told me his company did over 400 titles in 2007 — took this one step further and suggested that the book be shrink-wrapped in packs of four or five, so that pastors and counselors could have copies on their desk to put in the hands of those dealing with this problem. But then came the “backhanded complement” that this project was “too big” for his company to handle. Hmmmm.

Sadly, I’ve been unable to find a publisher who would catch that vision and meet two industry criteria as to its distribution to retail stores. And now, three years later, I’d want it to be a rather different version of the text instead of this Version 1.0 edition. In the meantime, people needed help; and they need people to start the conversation.

So here are the highlights of my book for those of you that don’t want to click the link at the beginning and end of this article. If you do click; allow about 50-55 minutes to read the thing fully, and since it’s formatted as a “reverse blog,” click on “previous entries” to find chapters 7-15.

These are the Cliff Notes, or for those of my fellow-Canadian readers, the Coles Notes.  Chapter by chapter, the book goes something like this:

  1. Any exposure to internet pornography results in immediate changes in relational dynamics between men and women. A man who watches this stuff over time will look at his wife, or girlfriend — and perhaps even his sister, or daughter, or even his mother — differently.
  2. Addition to porn is at the extreme high end of the spectrum of addictive behavior and addiction consequences. Its availability is not unlike the cigarette company is standing outside the junior high school passing out samples.
  3. After much exposure, the tastes of porn viewers “skews” to interest in things they would have previously considered reprehensible. I don’t believe anyone just gets up one morning and says, “I think I’ll look at pictures of naked eight-year-olds.” Doesn’t happen instantly like that. But does happen over time.
  4. The long-term consequences of pre-teens and teens growing up with pornographic images freely available won’t be known for at least 20 years.
  5. Immersion in pornographic and related websites will eventually change your worldview on a number of issues connected to family and sexuality.
  6. Porn is more than pictures. The guy in the office staring at a screen that is all text may well be reading erotica. Text sites can also be a gateway to visual or photographic porn.
  7. For all the pictures on pornographic websites, don’t expect to see shots of people in love. Porn sites are all about people “using” other people. Nobody “cares” about anybody else but themselves and their own personal gratification.
  8. Whether it’s passive viewing on internet sets, or the more interactive nature of chat rooms, the “next step” of “acting out” on something seen online is just a heartbeat or two away from happening.
  9. There is a limitless number of formats that pornographic websites can take. Many are inter-linked and all of them eventually want to you to produce a credit card number so that you’ll pay for what was formerly free.
  10. Just because it’s set up as “photography” or “art” or “modeling” or “recreation” doesn’t mean it’s not porn. Many of these are just shallow attempts at establishing legitimacy.
  11. Cartoon pornography is porn nonetheless. Aimed at kids, it’s actually more dangerous. And it has a mission: The incest agenda. Promoting the acceptance of incest. (Betcha those other books on this subject didn’t tell ya that one!) And the kids are watching. And downloading.
  12. While psychologists debate genetic predispositions to homosexuality, a lot of same sex attraction begins with the internet and is based somewhat randomly on the type of website — and surrounding online community — that gets to a young person first.
  13. If a family member is caught up in online porn, you are — whether you like it or not — engaged in a battle. You have to start fighting back, for the sake of that person and the sake of nuclear and extended family. The forces you are fighting are giants and you are David. But…
  14. …Faith can be the slingshot you’ve got to go up against the giant. Pray, yes; but pray very specific prayers. Teach your kids self control and delayed gratification. Be intentional about the spiritual formation of yourself and your family. But always remember that many people clicked on that first website because of personal hurts that also need to be addressed.
  15. You are not alone. There are number of different types of resources available to help.

That’s the bullet-point version. But you may know someone who needs to read this in full, with the topics fully discussed. For them, here’s the link one more time to The Pornography Effect.

December 8, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The finest links have been assembled for your reading pleasure…

  • Without doubt, the site to see this week is Paperless Christmas.   Start your tour by clicking on the guy in the delivery uniform and the other clips (all approx 1:00 in length; 9 in total) will play in sequence.   Great music, too.
  • A big HT to Vitamin Z for the above book cover shot.   He got it from Brian Lopez who got it from [drum roll] Exotesparemboles, which everyone knows means… [cricket, cricket] …
  • After being involved in a four-car crash, Greg Boyd is asked how an event like this squares with his open-theology view vis-a-vis praying for protection before you drive somewhere.
  • Don’t blow it, guys.  Trey Morgan has ten gifts your wife would like for Christmas;  which, three days later, resulted in a list of ten gifts your husband would like for Christmas.
  • England’s John P. Richardson gets into the moral and ethical dilemma created by the WikiLeaks story.
  • Linda at the blog, I Wonder as I Wander, would like you to meet Josh Garrels, who she describes quite well when she says, “He ain’t your typical Christian musician.”
  • The whole NIV thing gets a little more complicated for Bill Mounce after hearing someone’s proof that the Holy Spirit is a “she.”
  • Here’s the link for this year’s edition of Boston.com’s Big Picture series of Hubble Space Telescope advent pictures; with a new picture added each day.  I like to call this Artwork by God.
  • Here’s another website dealing with issues of sexuality; check out Six:11 Ministries, in particular, this organization ministers to the GLBT community.   Here’s their blog.
  • Brian Welch, a former member of the band Korn was a guest last week on The 700 Club.
  • Carlos Whittaker gets told, in essence, that he’s not white enough to lead worship in a particular church.
  • Tim Elmore guests at Michael Hyatt’s blog with a piece on teaching your kids generosity at this time year.   Would your kids be willing to think in terms of giving away some toys this season?
  • Youth worship from Canada:  Here’s a link for a free download of the band Nine O Five from east Toronto doing Hillsong’s With Everything with guest Aaron Gillespie.
  • Producers of the third and newest Narnia movie, Voyage of the Dawntreader, are hoping to capture the spirit and the profitability of the first one, as explained to the L.A. Times.
  • Ron Pai, aka The Brown Kid, is back blogging — or was — and asks the question, How Then Shall We Church Plant?   Some good thoughts.
  • Here are your CCM/gospel category nominees for this year’s Grammy Awards, not including Christian musicians who may be part of projects nominated in other categories.
  • Our picture this week (below) was found at the blog Ironic Catholic.

October 10, 2010

“He Will Not Give Me Children” — A Cry for Help

Reposted from October, 2008

Every married couple knows that sometimes marriage involves compromise. But what do you do when the will of one spouse trumps the deepest longings of the heart of the other?

If my wife and one of my sons wants KFC tonight, and my other son and I want Chinese, there are various solutions. Have one tonight, and the other tomorrow night. Go to a food court. Declare a draw and go out for burgers.

But what was I to do with the woman who suddenly blurted out after a dozen or more years of marriage, “He will not give me children.” She didn’t say, “I can’t get pregnant;” or “He can’t father a child;” she said “will not,” in a way that almost intoned, “Help me! Do something.”

Or the woman who came in my store and complained about her husband’s lack of sexual response — albeit caused by a major illness — and said, “A woman’s got needs, you know.” Or the woman who told me, “We haven’t taken a vacation in ten years.” Or the man who wishes his wife would spice things up a little in the bedroom. Or cook something other than Kraft Dinner. Or the woman who is stuck at home all day because he won’t buy an inexpensive second car. Or the man who has a chance at a job on the other side of the country, but she wants to be close to family.

There are times when one person’s desires and goals totally and completely triumphs over the other’s for an entire lifetime. It could come under the heading of compromise, yes; but with a clear winner and a clear loser. “Losing the battle, but winning the war;” doesn’t really describe the situation properly. If an individual desire of the one person is so central — such as the desire to have children — it’s more like a hurt that never goes away. You don’t get Chinese food or KFC the next day.

The question I want to ask the “HWNGMC” woman, but have always been afraid to is, “Did you know this before you got married?” Sigh.

This section was added today, October 10, 2010

Sometimes it seems areas of life end in a draw.

Around the same time as I wrote this, a local church was going through the issue of whether or not to have women as church elders.   The pastor was wise, and brought in two guest speakers for Sunday night workshops to discuss their side of the issue.

I sat there uncomfortably and finally decided to ask the second one what he felt the scriptural precedent was for resolving this kind of issue when both sides were presenting strong arguments.   He nicely dodged the question by saying it went outside his mandate, and that this was the whole purpose of our discussions.

It’s the same question in theology and doctrine in local churches as it is in marriage:  What do you do when you don’t know what to do?  When the debate seems to end in a draw?

Life does involve compromise and as it turned out today, in a similar food debate to the one that introduced part one of this post two years ago, we ended up going out for burgers.   (Actually it turned out they also had fish and chips and Greek gyros, but that’s another story…)

How do you resolve “draws” in your marriage, or your church?

 

July 12, 2010

Rock Music and Pornography: Parallels

The 1960s was a time of accelerated social change in Western Europe and North America.   No chronology of those times is complete without some reference to the role that popular music played in both reflecting and shaping those times.

As folk singers protested Vietnam and The Beatles sported longer hairstyles, the church began to establish its somewhat defensive posture; and by the end of the ’60s, the psychedelic branch of rock music combined with the message of free love to confirm all their worst fears.     Any band with guitars and drums was immediately caught in the line of fire.

The actual music form itself was no different than the modern worship that was played in the church service I attended yesterday.   The drums, bass guitar, electronic keyboards, lead guitars and rhythm guitars would later be regarded as morally neutral.

By the 1980s we began to hear a redefined meaning to the term “rock music;” it wasn’t the music itself, but the performers and their lifestyles and ideals; it was the attitude and the surrounding culture.   The music itself — the notes, the harmonies, the rests — were simply the wave which carried youth culture along; in fact it was the youth culture itself that the church had really been afraid of all along.

The eventual emergence of Christian rock wasn’t so oxymoronic.   It showed the spiritual neutrality of the musical forms, and showed that those forms could be used to carry a positive and even Biblical message.

Over two years ago, I posted a rough manuscript online of a short book titled The Pornography Effect:  Understanding for the Wives, Mothers, Daughters, Sisters and Girlfriends. Part of the reason that I’m still looking for a publisher for the print version is that some people disagree with the book’s basic assumption.

I believe that the visual images that one thinks of when they hear the term “pornography” are not the ultimate core issue.    I do believe that they are addictive, that they are exploitative and that they can be devastating to men (and women) and especially teens and pre-teens.

But like the music issue of the ’60s, I think we may be focused on the wrong target.   (The parallel ends there however; I don’t foresee those images appearing in our worship services 25 years from now the way that contemporary music styles are part of modern worship.)

Just as rock music is about lifestyles and ideals and attitudes, pornography changes the worldview of those who partake.   Again, I think that the point in my manuscript that some people can’t get past is the idea that text pornography — chats, forums, stories, blogs, etc. without pictures — is every bit as serious a threat as sites with various types of pictorial images. If not more so.

click image to orderThe Church’s response is to think in terms of pictures and videos (a concern not to be minimized) and think in terms of addiction (an issue to be taken seriously) but to neglect what exposure to porn does in terms of how men look at their wives and girlfriends, and even their sisters, daughters and mothers.   (The promotion of incest is a major agenda on many websites.)  Perhaps we’re more concerned with the physiological sexual response than the brain ‘wiring’ or brain conditioning that is at work here.   Perhaps it is easier to choose a target we can see than consider the more serious concern which is invisible.

Pornography has even changed the expectations men have as to what constitutes normal sexuality within marriage.   (And, as we’re seeing, increasingly changing the expectations of women also.)   The result is an increase in unusual requests and even demands in the bedroom.   But it also causes men to think nothing of considering an office affair; it causes boys to make advances toward their sisters; it causes heretofore straight individuals to nurture same-sex attraction.

It’s the 1960s all over again.   The “Summer of Love” of 1969 is back with its message of free sex without consequences, but aided by a new technology tailor-made to get that message to the widest audience.

It’s the escapism drug-of-choice; with each dosage customized to meet individual desires.   In online pornography nobody ever gets pregnant, no STDs are spread, no one is arrested for rape or indecent exposure, no small children are ever left without a daddy.

Hedonism is the reigning philosophy.

Jesus said He came so that we might experience life to the fullest; however the “abundant life” is also the “narrow way.”  Countering the ‘message’ of pornography isn’t about saying “don’t look” anymore than putting up a wet paint sign on a freshly whitewashed fence is going to accomplish “don’t touch.”    Pornographers, advertisers and fashion designers will continue to keep pushing the envelope.   Men’s thoughts will continue to stray.

So while we do need to tell the world that,

  • pornography is an addictive behavior;
  • as an addiction it is subject to the laws of diminishing returns; the addict is never satisfied;
  • with God’s help you can be set free;

we also need to be proclaiming,

  • the version(s) of sex depicted online does not generally represent God’s intention for sex;
  • many of the subjects in online images are being exploited or being forced to participate; it’s not true that “nobody is being hurt”;
  • the movies and stories are unbalanced; they don’t show disease, unwanted pregnancy, loss of self-respect, or ruined lives;
  • if you keep watching, the images are changing you; as you give more time to worship at the altar of porn, the pornography effect is a sacramental effect; as you receive it, you’re allowing it to shape you and define you;
  • those so exposed need to recognize, confess and confront how pornography has so changed their worldview; both in subtle and greater degrees;
  • the consequences of long term exposure to the larger society is that it places that society in a downhill spiral (what pilots call a ‘graveyard spiral’) from which there is no recovery apart from dramatic repentance followed by dramatic intervention from God (or what might be called “a turning” or “revival”)
  • because it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness; more energy needs to spent promoting models of modesty, purity and chastity; and less energy on appearing spiritual by simply “denouncing” porn;
  • in the end, pornography is not the problem; the human heart is deceitfully wicked; the core of the problem is human rebellion against God;
  • finally, we need to proclaim the omnipresence of God; men and women need to be reminded that God is constantly sitting next to us as we click the mouse, turn the scroll wheel and stare at the monitor; His Lordship has to extend to be Lord over the URLs we visit daily.

Allowing myself to be a spokesperson on this topic has had to involve some awareness of its magnitude, and I think the people who say there are 200,000 pornographic websites online are terribly low in their estimating.   I believe the person who suggests 1,000,000 might be more accurate.

This means that realistically, we’re not going to see an end to pornography any time soon.  (Although, I applaud those who faithfully file objections to blog hosts, internet service providers, and search engines; each day sites all over the world are shut down because of their counter-measures; and even some of the most liberal pornographers recognize a need for someone to be applying the brakes, though often for different reasons.)

What we can do is build resistance (not immunity) to it.   We can recognize that just as the music debate really wasn’t about the musical forms itself, the sexual ethics debate is not about this picture or that video.

It’s a battle for the mind.

It’s a battle for the heart.

Want to study more on this?  Here’s an article also posted today on the complications of leaving internet choices to filtering devices.


January 7, 2010

Duets: Quick Takes on Couples in the Bible

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:10 pm

Reviewing a devotional book is about as impossible as reviewing a Bible dictionary or commentary; its utility is only proved over a period of constant use.   So I wasn’t sure how to approach Duets: Still in the Word…Still in the Mood by John & Anita Renfroe other than to binge-read large sections at a time.

When you’ve spent a lifetime in church, and your reading preference is toward longer detailed chapters, the value of a devotional — often skimmed in a hurry before leaving for work, or late at night before falling into sleep — is its ability to arrest you in your tracks with concepts from the text that you haven’t considered before, or heard expressed exactly that way previously.

That being the case, Duets scores very high marks.   The 52 four digest-size page readings — which includes text from The Message bible — are light in terms of word-count, but deep in terms of the thought and consideration that went into the exposition of each text.    Each deals with a Biblical couple, although several days are spent on a couple of key characters, such as Abraham and Sarah.

Each concludes with a one-sentence evaluation of where this couple succeeded (if they did), and where they failed (if they did).  Then there are questions, followed by an application question and a conclusion.

The idea is that couples can use this together and then pray together; however I found some of the Renfroe’s take on Old Testament stories so refreshing that with some quick on-the-fly editing, I read several of the selections out loud to my kids for several days.

Duets releases this month in hardcover  from David C. Cook at $16.99 U.S.    If the name Anita Renfroe seems familiar, but you can’t remember from where, check out the comedy DVD section of your local Christian bookstore.

July 30, 2009

Pornography: Help for Wives, Sisters, Mothers, Daughters, Girlfriends

Redemption comes in various forms.   The redemption of a period of several weeks being counted among the this-could-never-happen-to-me addicted to the internet’s dark side, was a book manuscript that would help females understand what’s going on in the lives of some male they know.

screenshot - book onlineToday marks one year that The Pornography Effect has been available online as a free internet resource.

Sadly, this is totally defeating the point.    The original idea was that as a crisis resource — which describes the under-24,000-words length — this book would be a print product that would be given to women who might be completely unfamiliar with the workings of the internet.    Having the book online is helpful, but that help is now limited to those who can get online to find it.

The original publisher contact — who told me his company did over 400 titles in 2007 — took this one step further and suggested that the book be shrinkwrapped in packs of four or five, so that pastors and counselors could have copies on their desk to put in the hands of those dealing with this problem.   But then came the “backhanded complement” that this project was “too big” for his company to handle.    Hmmmm.

Sadly, I’ve been unable to find a publisher who would catch that vision and meet two industry criteria as to its distribution to retail stores.   But then again, I think this topic is “hot” enough that I’m not prepared to pay an agent to place the title; and some of the largest publishers of Christian books only work through agents.   (Essentially, that’s how they all missed out on The Shack, which, whether you agree with the book or not, you have to admit it’s a major title to have missed out on.)   Perhaps I shouldn’t have limited its potential to the Christian book market.

In the meantime, people needed help; hence the online version.

So here’s the highlights of my book for those of you that don’t want to click the link at the beginning and end of this article.   If you do click; allow about 50-55 minutes to read the thing fully, and since it’s formated as a “reverse blog,” click on “previous entries” to find chapters 7-15.

Chapter by chapter, the book goes something like this:

  1. Any exposure to internet pornography results in immediate changes in relational dynamics between men and women.    A man who watches this stuff over time will look at his wife, or girlfriend — and perhaps even his sister, or daughter, or even his mother — differently.
  2. Addition to porn is at the extreme high end of the spectrum of addictive behavior and addiction consequences.   Its availability is not unlike the cigarette company is standing outside the junior high school passing out samples.
  3. After much exposure, the tastes of porn viewers “skews” to interest in things they would have previously considered reprehensible.   I don’t believe anyone just gets up one morning and says, “I think I’ll look at pictures of naked eight-year-olds.”  Doesn’t happen instantly like that.   But does happen over time.
  4. The long-term consequences of pre-teens and teens growing up with pornographic images freely available won’t be known for at least 20 years.
  5. Immersion in pornographic and related websites will eventually change your worldview on a number of issues connected to family and sexuality.
  6. Porn is more than pictures.    The guy in the office staring at a screen that is all text may well be reading erotica.   Text sites can also be a gateway to visual or photographic porn.
  7. For all the pictures on pornographic websites, don’t expect to see shots of people in love.    Porn sites are all about people “using” other people.  Nobody “cares” about anybody else but themselves and their own personal gratification.
  8. Whether it’s passive viewing on internet sets, or the more interactive nature of chat rooms, the “next step” of “acting out” on something seen online is just a heartbeat or two away from happening.
  9. There is a limitless number of formats that pornographic websites can take.   Many are inter-linked and all of them eventually want to you to produce a credit card number so that you’ll pay for what was formerly free.
  10. Just because it’s set up as “photography” or “art” or “modeling” or “recreation” doesn’t mean it’s not porn.   Many of these are just shallow attempts at establishing legitimacy.
  11. Cartoon pornography is porn nonetheless.   Aimed at kids, it’s actually more dangerous.   And it has a mission:   The incest agenda.   Promoting the acceptance of incest.   (Betcha those other books on this subject didn’t tell ya that one!)   And the kids are watching.   And downloading.
  12. While psychologists debate genetic predispositions to homosexuality, a lot of same sex attraction begins with the internet and is based somewhat randomly on the type of website — and surrounding online community — that gets to a young person first.
  13. If a family member is caught up in online porn, you are — whether you like it or not — engaged in a battle.   You have to start fighting back, for the sake of that person and the sake of nuclear and extended family.   The forces you are fighting are giants and you are David.   But…
  14. …Faith can be the slingshot you’ve got to go up against the giant.   Pray, yes; but pray very specific prayers. Teach your kids self control and delayed gratification.    Be intentional about the spiritual formation of yourself and your family.   But always remember that many people clicked on that first website because of personal hurts that also need to be addressed.
  15. You are not alone.   There are number of different types of resources available to help.

That’s the bullet-point version.   But you may know someone who needs to read this in full, with the topics fully discussed.   For them, here’s the link one more time to The Pornography Effect.

July 3, 2009

Is The Person You Married The Same Person You’re Now Married To?

Filed under: family, parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:00 pm

glasbergen - marriage

  • When she married him, D. was a party animal.   The first year of their married life, a quarter of their budget was concert tickets.   But now he sits in the recliner reading John Grisham novels.
  • S. made it quite clear about seven years into the marriage that she was no longer into church.   Just stopped going.   Her husband is a bit perplexed, and ends up taking the kids himself, which leaves the people there asking questions.
  • M. said she was a dog lover, and J. didn’t like cats, so it seemed perfect; but now M. says she doesn’t want a dog in the house.
  • Y. knew when she married F. that he had smoked a cigarette or two, but never expected all these years later to be married to a confirmed smoker; especially in view of all the scientific data we now have.
  • T. was the picture of health when they got married, so V. never expected he’d be spending his life playing both husband and nurse.
  • R. had never spent a lot of time around kids; was never a babysitter; and made it clear to B. she wanted a small family.   That was five kids ago.

A lot of people wake up one morning and realize that they’re not married to the person they walked down the church aisle with.   (A strange expression, since most brides walk down the aisle with their father, to whom they had better not be married.)

Much of the tension in marriage is due to a crisis of expectations.    It reminds me of the book title, This Isn’t The Trip I Signed Up For. Judging it from Day One, it didn’t look like it would be like it is today.

Today’s question is, do you think this is the norm or the exception?   Is it better that “people change” than if they don’t change at all?    Does it matter how long a couple dated or were engaged, or do the “surprises” in marriage happen regardless?

And of course:   What changed in your partner after the wedding?   Did you change?    Did the marriage survive?

And yes, you’re allowed to say, “My marriage is fine, but I have this friend…”

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