Today begins the week that draws attention and raises awareness of the dangerous and ever-increasing impact of pornography in our culture. It’s a problem that has led to the destruction of countless marriages and relationships, including several close friends. Many of you know that my dissertation was centered around developing effective ministries to help combat this problem — a problem that Chuck Swindoll has called the #1 problem in the church today.
In an open letter posted to his website several years ago, Swindoll wrote:
The most recent studies available suggest that one out of every two people — that’s 50% — of the people sitting in our pews, are looking at and/or could be addicted to internet pornography. Stop and imagine the ugly but very real possibility of some of your own elders and deacons leaving your meeting and going home to surf porn. Think about youth leaders viewing it one minute, and leading a small group with your kids thirty minutes later. It’s ruining marriages, destroying relationships, harming youth, and hurting the body of Christ. . . . My friend, it’s time to do something about it. In fact, we need to start today. Making a difference requires action . . . . Our churches are in trouble. This is not the time to simply wait and pray.”
I have fought — and to a large extent still fight daily — the battle against pornography in my own life. It’s not a fun thing to talk about. It’s certainly not something that most people want to think about, especially as it relates to Christians and ministry leaders. However, not acknowledging and not talking about it is precisely why pornography is considered a silent epidemic that impacts far more men and women than you’d like to know. Sexual temptation really can be thought of as every man’s battle — or, for that matter, every person’s battle. Many studies and surveys have been conducted regarding sexual thoughts and behaviors. While the statistics do not always match, they do almost universally sound major alarms about the severity of the problem. Consider for a moment these statistics:
- 12% of internet websites are pornographic. That’s 24,644,172 sites! (United Families International)
- Every second $3,075.64 is spent on pornography — and 28,258 people are viewing porn. (UFI)
- Total porn industry revenue for 2006: $13.3 billion in the US; $97 billion worldwide.
- 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites. (UFI)
- 29% of born-again adults in the US feel that it is morally acceptable to view movies with explicit sexual behavior. (Barna Group)
- 42% of adults believe it is “morally acceptable” to have a sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex to whom they are not married.
- The least popular day of the year for viewing porn is Thanksgiving. (UFI)
- The most popular day of the week for viewing porn is Sunday. (UFI)
- 51% of pastors say cyber-pornography is a possible temptation; 37% say it is a current struggle. (Christianity Today, Leadership Survey, December 2001)
- 20% of all the calls received on the Focus on the Family Pastoral Care Line are for help with issues such as pornography and compulsive sexual behavior.
- 33% of clergy admitted to having visited a sexually explicit website. Of those who had visited a pornographic site, 53% had visited such sites “a few times” in the past year, and 18% visit sexually explicit sites between a couple times a month and more than once a week.
- 57% of pastors say that addiction to pornography is the most sexually damaging issue to their congregation. (Christians and Sex Leadership Journal Survey, March 2005)
- 70% of men from age 18-24 visit a pornographic site in a typical month. (UFI)
- 67% of 18-26-year-old men believe viewing pornography is acceptable.
- 66% of men in their 20’s and 30’s admit to being regular users of pornography.
- 20% of men admit to accessing pornography at work. (UFI)
- Half of unmarried men ages 20-29 said they would have sex without any interest in marriage.
- 28% of those admitted to sexual addiction are women.
- 34% of female readers of Today’s Christian Woman‘s online newsletter admitted to intentionally accessing internet pornography — and 1 out of every 6 women, including Christians, struggles with an addiction to pornography.
- 49% of 18-26-year-old women believe viewing pornography is acceptable.
- 13% of women admit to accessing pornography at work. (UFI)
- 47% of Christian families said pornography is a problem in their home. (Focus on the Family, October 2003)
- The internet was a significant factor is 2 out of 3 divorces. (American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 2003)
- 9 out of 10 children between the ages of 8 and 16 have viewed pornography on the internet, in most cases unintentionally. (London School of Economics, January 2002)
- Average age of first internet exposure to pornography: 11 (InternetFilterReview.com and UFI)
- Largest consumer of internet pornography: 12-17-year olds (various sources as of 2007)
- 1 in 7 children who use the internet have been sexually solicited. (InternetFilerReview.com 2005)
- 80% of 15-17-year-olds have had multiple hard-core exposures.
Over the last ten years there have been a number of positive attempts to proactively lift the veil from this dirty little secret. These include efforts by Promise Keepers, XXX Church, Every Man’s Battle, and Freedom Begins Here. I remain convinced, however, that we have much work left to do. It starts with me; it starts with you. I encourage you to take the following steps with regard to this issue:
- Get your head out of the sand and acknowledge the reality of pornography’s influence in our sex-saturated society.
- Examine your own life, and honestly assess your risk. Here’s a helpful tool for self-evaluation.
- Purchase a filtering program for your computer, particularly any computers shared by your children — even occasionally.
- If you struggle with sexually compulsive thoughts and/or behaviors, admit this truth to a same-sex friend who can help hold you accountable. In fact, I urge you to have a set of friends to help keep you honest with yourself and with them. Here’s a great list of men’s accountability questions that can be customized as you see fit. Here are other accountability questions specific to men, women, couples, and teens. I strongly advise you to use an internet monitoring service that reports your internet activity to one or more accountability partners. I have used Covenant Eyes for years and highly recommend it.
- Educate your children about the dangers of the internet (including smart phones and apps). I want my kids to learn about sex from me and my wife — not some online stranger. Don’t be afraid to start talking with them about it ‘too early.’ Chances are good that they already know more than you think.
- Educate yourself about the ways kids can circumvent filtering.
- Don’t let the enemy convince you that there’s nothing to worry about.
As I said in my dissertation, it’s the silence that fuels the shame that feeds the addiction. Commit to learn some things during this week of awareness. I challenge you to do your own internet searches — but do so very carefully because you just might stumble upon something you don’t really want or need to see. David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills and author of Radical, will be addressing this issue and a variety of related topics during the Secret Church Simulcast this Friday, November 4. Click here to find a host site near you.
I pray that God will continue to use my own struggles to help other people. To Him alone be the glory!
Here are some additional online resources you might find helpful:
- Full-page flyer explaining this awareness week and offering a number of helpful online resources
- Here’s one of the best articles I’ve ever read regarding sexual brokenness.
- Covenant Eyes – Internet monitoring and filtering services
- Breaking Free – blog of Covenant Eyes
- Great general information about the facts regarding pornography as well as resources to help you guide your children.
- Informative article about pornography’s effects on the brain, written by a neurosurgeon
- Blazing Grace – online resources for sexual addiction
- Knight’s Quest Ministries – online resources regarding internet safety; workshops and seminars for schools, churches, and organizations
- Bethesda Workshops – online resources, healing workshops for sexual addiction and co-addiction with Marnie Ferree
- Faithful and True Ministries – training, counseling, and workshops with Mark and Debbie Laaser
- The Harms of Pornography – from United Families International
Related prior posts:
*Unspecified statistics come from the Archdiocese of Kansas City. For an updated and very detailed statistical report from Covenant Eyes, click here. Even more statistical data provided by Internet Filter Review can be found here — and by Pure Hope by clicking here.