Have you heard? Pornography is now being considered a public health crisis in three states with several more considering this option. South Dakota, Utah, and Virginia are among a growing number of states whose lawmakers who are saying that children are being exposed to porn “at an alarming rate,” while noting that it is also “linked to a lessening desire in young persons to marry.” The measure in Virginia goes further and calls for more “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of the Commonwealth and the nation.”
Although this is great news we must understand the many realities that have lead to this moment in history. For much of the last decade organizations like Fight the The New Drug and ministries like XXX Church have spoken of the many ills of porn. However, up until recently no one really listened. Yes, sexual imagery has always been available but never to the extent it is today.
Porn is anonymous, free (or very affordable), and more accessible than ever before.
Divorce, sexual assault, depression, anxiety, a dismantling of trust between partners, and unrealistic expectations of the love partner are just some of the many results from habitually viewing pornography. These results have ended marriages and destroyed others before they even started.
I am grateful that so many are starting to realize the harm pornography brings to our society, but I worry it’s not amounting to much more than words.
Most of this legislation is nothing but gestures of kindness. It expresses a concern but no funding mandate, no programs they are making available, or offering any solutions to ending the cycle of distribution pornographers have created over the last several decades. Porn is being declared as dangerous with few actionable programs in place to battle exposure or addiction.
And the church is not in any better of a position to answer the call in addressing the issue of pornography.
In a 2016 Barna Group research study commissioned by Josh McDowell Ministry, church leadership indicated that this problem is much bigger than it was 20 years ago, yet only 7% of pastors said they have a ministry program for those struggling with porn.
Churches should be the hospitals in this health crisis, but very few have something to offer when it comes to sexual discipleship.
A few years ago we asked several lead pastors from around our region how often they addressed issues related to sex from the pulpit. On average the topics of sex, sexuality, and pornography were addressed 1-2 times every three to four years. This blew me away.
The church is struggling to offer support in this area.
Recently we hosted a lunch with over a 100 church leaders addressing this very issue with my friend, Walt Mueller. During our time together I realized that its not because church leaders don’t want to address it. Rather, they lack the tools. Seminary prepared many of these men and women for sharing scripture but not the resource or expertise to dive into the sensitive landscape we now find ourselves in when it comes to sexuality.
Let us use the momentum of states like Utah, South Dakota, and Virginia to create a measure for own congregations.
Initiating such vulnerable conversations can be a major hangup for most leaders, but by simply speaking about the impact pornography is having in your church will open up opportunities for change and healing.
Take steps to develop tools that shed light on this conversation.
The churches greatest resource is its people. Often we think we need the hottest or greatest sermon series or program to create change in our congregations. And there are some great organizations and programs that are incredibly helpful in this journey! But I’ve learned that the best thing we can provide someone struggling with pornography is a community that is willing to sit down, listen, and give direction. Every church has people that can do this!
Recognize that we sometimes need trained professionals to help us.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in seeking outside help. Because this issue has become an epidemic we need to understand there will be times a community of people will just not be enough. Fortunately there are several qualified counselors in every community to help. Don’t be afraid to admit if something is over your head.
What else do you think the state or church could do to end this public health crisis?