Addicted to Porn? So is Half the Church!

 “Jason Umidi, You Won! Claim your winnings today!” “Jason Umidi, chat with these Russian beauties.” “Military Grade Flashlight now available to the public.” “Date Club-I want you. Click to see my photos.”  These are some of the spam emails that I found in my inbox recently. The most troubling of these emails would obviously be the porn-related ones. As a person of faith, are my temptations unique? Do other men of faith share this struggle? How about our spiritual leaders? How about you?

The Growing Problem of Porn Addiction in the Church:

One in five youth pastors view porn on a regular basis and consider themselves trapped in their addiction. How do you think they view your son or daughter as they get to know them? Could they have inappropriate thoughts about them? One in seven senior pastors use porn on a regular basis and struggle with this addiction. How does this porn use affect their ability to hear  the Holy Spirit? Can they be effective leaders for moral change? That’s approximately 50,000+ church leaders here in the US! 64% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women admit they watch porn at least once a month.

Most likely the guy sitting next to you in the pew wrestles with this addiction too. The most shocking response to this epidemic is that only 7% of pastors report that their church offers a ministry program for those struggling with porn-addiction (according to covenanteyes.com). This statistic is an outrage if you take the time to understand the effects of porn use, especially amongst people of faith.

Our moral leaders need to start pointing their fingers at themselves and look within their congregations for solutions to this problem, instead of pointing fingers at the “low hanging fruit,” i.e., sexual sins of others outside of the church.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3 (NIV)

The Plank in My Eye: Porn Addiction

My first exposure to porn on a regular basis was in college. The fraternity floor where I lived kept a stack of Penthouse and Playboy magazines in the men’s restrooms. With such easy access and without having to feel the embarrassment of going into a store to purchase them, the temptation grew too much, and I began to view these magazines anytime I needed to use the restroom. In the beginning, I felt conflict as I knew deep in my spirit that this was not pleasing to the Lord, but over time it became easier as I turned my back on the convictions of the Holy Spirit. The images in the magazines made my heart race as the dopamine coursed through my brain.

At the beginning of each month, I felt excitement walking back to my dorm. I expected the new issues of Playboy and Penthouse waiting in one of the stalls. My mind became a sponge, soaking up the images to replay again and again. Much like my alcohol addiction, over time I needed to consume more porn just to satisfy my cravings. Some of those early memories and experiences appear crystal clear in my mind. But what makes porn so tragic?

The Public Health Crisis of Porn:

There’s a ministry based in L.A. I support, Treasures, whose mission statement states, “We are a survivor-led, trauma-informed outreach and support group for women in the sex industry, including victims of trafficking.” Here are a few of the stats that can be found in their literature.

  1. 70% of female trafficking is in the sex industry.
  2. 95% of these women have been sexually abused as children.
  3. The level of PTSD for these women equals that of veterans of combat.
  4. “89% of women in the industry want to escape, but don’t see any other options.”
  5. Porn sites receive more daily traffic than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined.
  6. The commercial sex industry in the US brings in $16.9 billion in revenue—more than the NBA, NFL, and MLB combined.
  7. 47% of Christian families say porn is a problem in their house.

 

What I find so troubling about these statistics is that this entire business is mostly driven by us men. According to Psychology Today, nearly 90% of young men and 33% of women report watching porn on a regular basis. 77% of online visitor traffic to adult porn sites are men; 46% being married.

I’m sharing my experience, alone, in this article, but it mirrors that of every man I’m close too. Regardless of personal faith, I think we can agree that porn addiction is a public health crisis. Not only for the those trapped in the addiction cycle, but especially for the broken and hurting men and women who find themselves trapped in the sex trade. They are all somebody’s son or daughter, but even more importantly, they are children of God who need to experience the freedom and unconditional love that only Jesus can provide.

The Brain on Porn:

I’d like to say that I’m in that 36% percentile all the time—those men of faith who profess they don’t ever view porn—but the truth is, in the past I’ve often found myself in the other category. I treat this much like my sobriety; in that I take it one day at a time. (You can read my story of addiction here: Jesus and Seltzer: Life Without Vodka) Just like abstaining from alcohol, I treat porn as a corrosive disease of the mind, body, and spirit that I cannot allow into my life. Just one slip-up can lead me directly into bondage again. It’s never satisfying and leaves me feeling empty. The shame and self-loathing that I feel always follows. I can go months without succumbing to this temptation, but I’ve found when I’m not living in community, and when I let my guard down, I feel the most vulnerable.

There are reasons porn excites the brain—and it has nothing to do with one’s morals. When I’m stressed out, tired, anxious, or feeling depressed, my brain often reminds me of porn’s powerful effects…namely the production of dopamine. To fight this addiction, one needs the knowledge and understanding of these neurological connections, to successfully mount a long-lasting defense. As humans, our sexual relationships involve the spirit, body, and soul with our spouse, whereas porn leaves out the most important of these elements—spirit and soul.  Porn creates neural pathways that send other “rewarding” feelings to the body, such as, opiates, oxytocin, and endorphins. These pathways create “ruts” that ensnare and keep people in bondage.

As Dr. Norman Doidge says in The Brain That Changes Itself, “Porn is more exciting than satisfying because we have two separate pleasure systems in our brains: one for exciting pleasure and another for satisfying pleasure. The exciting system, fueled by dopamine and anticipation, is all about appetite, such as imagining your favorite meal or a sexual episode. The satisfying system involves actually eating the meal or having sex, which provides a calming, fulfilling pleasure. This system releases opiate-like endorphins that provide feelings of peace and euphoria. But the satisfying system is left starving for the real thing, which includes actual touching, kissing, caressing, and connection, not only with the body, but also with the mind and soul.”

Porn Separates Us From All that is Good:

Part of the allure of porn is that it’s anonymous, available, and affordable. In my opinion, the desire for it is a spiritual battle of the heart and mind. How else do you account for the consequences of this insidious addiction? Furthermore, I believe that it’s a tool straight out of hell meant to separate us from all that is good in our lives.

Separation from a loving God and separation from our spouse.

Dozens of studies have shown that it reduces relationship satisfaction, reduces couple commitment, and increases the acceptance of infidelity. The more porn that an individual views, the less likely they enjoy sex with their partner. “56% of divorce cases involved ‘one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites,’” according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Porn Viewers Play a Responsible Role in Sex Trafficking:

I find focusing on my role in the exploitation of young women one of the best deterrents. It’s this addiction that keeps these women trapped in their own private hell. Their drug and alcohol addictions ultimately connect to each of our mouse clicks; we will be held accountable for every image we’ve downloaded, viewed, or shared. Do you really believe you’re not hurting anyone by viewing porn? Who told you this lie?

The next time you feel this urge, take the time to consider how you’d feel if one of them were your son or daughter. Put a familiar face to the problem and become part of the solution. This is not a victimless addiction. The latest figures found that between 14,500 and 17,500 children ages 13-17, turn out to be commercially exploited each year in the US. This statistic alone breaks my heart to think of the human suffering that’s being experienced by these innocent children.

“It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Luke 17:2 (NIV)

 

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 “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:15 (NIV)

The Tools I Use to Combat Porn Addiction:

One of the tools I use to combat the porn threat in my life is to be 100% accountable to other men. The ability to send a quick text to one of my guy friends, letting them know that I need accountability, proves lifesaving. I also use a prayer app, 2GTHR–downloaded from the App Store– that allows me to send immediate and confidential prayer requests to those in my prayer group.

Still another, the software “Covenant Eyes”monitors one’s online traffic. It sends a report to those people you preselect to be your accountability partners. With all these tools at my disposal, I may fall short of my expectation of being 100% free of porn, but at least I’m positioned to be the most successful at abstaining from it.

I’m a work in progress, and in my continued pursuit to remain porn free I must always be on high alert for when temptation hits me. Just because I’m porn free doesn’t mean I’m not at risk anymore. The allure of a sexually charged image sends my mind wandering through saved images in my brain that holds the ability to excite me. When these moments happen, the quickest escape is for me not to give that thought any room to mature.

Every week I travel for work, and so many of my battles occur when alone at the hotel. For me, when these moments arise it’s best to leave the hotel room, take a walk, go to Barnes & Noble, or hit the pool (if the weather is nice.) Taking these types of precautions supports staying porn-free while on the road. In these lonely battles for purity of the mind, I take comfort in what the scriptures say in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV), “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Watching Porn Breaks A Commandment:

The truth is, I can rationalize just about any behavior, given enough time. What’s the big deal with a little porn here or there? A deeper look at this sin and we find we become guilty of the sexual fantasy by coveting. In fact, the Lord admonishes coveting so much that He included it as one of the Ten Commandments, found in Deuteronomy 5:21 (NIV), “Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, you shall not desire your neighbor’s house or land, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”

It’s so easy to create these little boxes where we stuff the “little sins” away, like something old and discarded, into the basement of our mind. Although, it’s in these deep recesses we need to shine the light. The scriptures tell us that darkness cannot overcome light.

The Hope of Overcoming Porn Addiction:

The need for the gospel message of restoration and forgiveness of sins, after you succumb to porn, turns vital to the health of your spirit, as it contains the power to deliver you from the shame associated with viewing porn. The Bible says in Proverbs 24:16 (NIV), “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.”

For a person of faith, we know we will fall into sin, but the lesson that Proverbs teaches us is that you must get back up on your feet and continue to press on. In fact, I believe getting back up on your feet and pursuing the Lord is part of the sanctification process forgiveness of sins produces.

 

 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (NIV)

Once forgiven, all sin’s baggage God no longer remembers. Scripture says in Psalm 103:12 (NIV), “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” This is the good news that must be celebrated early and often after one’s moral failings.

Living in Agreement with the Spirit of Truth:

To live without this addiction you live life in agreement with the Spirit. What does life in the spirit promise us? Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) says, “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” When I put everything into perspective and I look at the big picture, it’s a simple decision to say no to porn. It’s obvious to me that in choosing life in the Spirit, I increase my odds of staying porn free. Jesus says that He will be sending a helper from the Father which is the Spirit of truth. This is the Good News! Who doesn’t want to live in truth?

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Fruits of the Spirit:

Love

Joy

Peace

Long-suffering

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

Self-Control

Living in Freedom:

Freed from the bondage of porn addiction is not only imperative, but I believe possible through humility and consistent accountability. Friends, I suspect many of you find yourself deep in your addictions to porn, with your career and family possibly at stake. This addiction is a serious threat to your life as you know it. Your porn use over time may no longer satisfy you and you may contemplate having an affair.

Time is of the essence, and I highly encourage you to implement some of the life saving measures that have worked for me. I pray you seek truth each morning and as you submit to the leading of the Spirit in your life, you choose to walk in the light as He is in the light, and that you strive for fellowship with one another. Find accountability partners and humble yourselves. The Bible says that the Lord opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. This life in the Spirit requires us to live in community with one another.  I promise you the Lord will show up and honor your desire to live in purity and freedom.

Note to Parents:

I’m not an expert but parents, if you are reading this and you have middle school age kids (or older), it’s not if your kids will be exposed, but when and by whom. According to Net Nanny, the average age that children start viewing pornography is eleven. Have an honest conversation about the dangers of explicit content, and place reasonable restrictions on all devices. The use of software like Net Nanny is a good place to start your search for internet protection for your household.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Jason Umidi is an in-house writer for The Hallelujah House. He’s happily married to Aimee and has three children. Jason travels the country overseeing construction projects. He also writes a personal blog at http://www.todaysoneminuteread.com. In his free time, Jason is working on getting a book into the marketplace. He resides in the Tidewater area of Virginia. If you’d like to contact Jason directly, please click on the “About Us” tab at the top of our homepage.

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