Jesus said... Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8
Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4
Finally... whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about these things. Philippians 4:8
I’m sure you can see a link between these very challenging and very beautiful verses. They’re all about purity.
They’ve been rattling around in my mind for a week or so, since I attended a Christian seminar on the theme of pornography. Purity, of course, isn’t only about sex - it covers all of our living, speaking and thinking. But certainly sex has a big place, and absorbing the facts and figures from this seminar was a salutary business. I don’t think I learned a lot that, in principle, I didn’t already know. But it was good to get it all spelled out in an hour or two.
First, though, a working definition of pornography: “Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement.”
I don’t want to bombard you with loads of statistics, but just a few will help us to get our minds focussed...
One porn site boasted 18.5 billion views in 2014 - that’s 2.1 million visits per hour or 35 thousand per minute.
79% of men and 76% of women (this isn’t only a male problem!) aged 18-30 said they watched porn at least once a month. (They wouldn’t call it porn, probably, but some stupid euphemism like “adult material”.)
95% of people who would call themselves evangelical Christians say they have viewed porn.
Even more alarming are the stats that relate to children and young people. For example, 90% of 8-16 year olds have viewed porn on line, usually while doing their homework. A third of 3-10 year olds have viewed porn on line.
Two words kept cropping up with depressing regularity.
One was availability. There was a time when people looking for porn would resort to seedy clubs in back streets - or even just the top shelf in the newsagents. But today, with all the phones, laptops and other devices, it really is a case of “any time, anywhere”.
The other word was normalisation. Sexual explicitness would once be greeted with a sharp intake of breath and a solemn shaking of the head. But a point has been reached where it is regarded as entirely normal. I know a teacher who told me that in her primary school class there were children who routinely watched porn with their parents. Once the unthinkable becomes thinkable, it’s not long before the thinkable becomes do-able...
Given that regular use can physically change the brain (it’s all to do with a brain chemical called dopamine), it can lead to an addiction similar to tobacco, alcohol and drug addiction; and given that children’s brains are naturally more vulnerable to change than adults’, this is sobering indeed. There are reports of boys and young men who are physically incapable of truly “normal” sexual activity because they have become dependent on the kind of stimulus provided by porn.
I’m not sharing this experience of the seminar just in order to get us all shaking our heads with a what’s-the-world-coming-to? frown, or in order to be alarmist, but in order to put us on our toes - me as much as anyone else. Let’s finish with a word to three categories of people.
First, let’s all of us resolve, by God’s grace, to keep our sexual lives (such a precious gift from God!) scrupulously pure.
Second, to those of us in leadership of any kind, let’s not only be aware of the situation ourselves, but also set out to make sure others are too. One simple way of doing this might be to include the various organisations that seek to combat this evil in Sunday morning prayers of intercession. Doing this will flag up to the congregation that the church is aware, and that this is something that can be talked about - and also perhaps encourage those who struggle in this area to share their problem with someone who will counsel them in a loving, sensitive and accepting way.
Third, to anyone reading this who has fallen into the grip of porn, especially if you’re feeling helpless or despairing... the positive thing that came out of the seminar was that change is possible, and a healthy and wholesome sex life can be achieved. Even (I quote) “the damage to the brain can be undone when someone gets away from unhealthy behaviours.” It’s time to share your problem and get help!
God doesn’t only call us to be pure; by his Holy Spirit he really can make that possible.
Lord God, thank you for your call to purity of thought, word and deed. I know I can’t achieve this by my own will power, but I humbly pray now that by your grace, and with the support of others, I will find victory. Amen.
The seminar drew heavily on the work of two Christian organisations. Why not explore further?
CARE (Care for the family): care.org.uk. Click on “our causes”.
The Naked Truth: email@example.com