­In the first part of this piece, I looked at the issue of pornography in society. In this piece, I want to look at the issue more at the level of the individual, firstly seeking to understand what drives people to use it, and then going on to look at the remedy for those who are users.

If I were to do a sample of readers to ask what they think is the driver behind pornography, my guess is that the most common answer would be just one word: lust. As far as it goes, this is true. But we need to get behind that word, so to speak, to find out what we actually mean by it. A good place to start is by studying the words of James in his Epistle:

“From whence come wars and fighting among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust and have not. Ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain. Ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:1-3).

I have bolded out three phrases here, because it seems to me that they are key to understanding lust (and incidentally not just lust, but all sorts of other sins that James alludes to). Lust, according to James, is at root a desire to have something that we haven’t got and which isn’t rightfully ours, to seek to obtain it but always fall wide of the mark, and consequently to fail to be satisfied. It is a vicious circle in which failure to obtain the satisfaction we desire drives us to seek it again in other places. This, by the way, at least partly explains why pornography, as with drugs, is often a gateway habit, with users going on to seek harder and harder stuff in order to be satisfied. But of course true satisfaction never comes.

Like all other vices, pornography is driven by the twisting of good and noble inclinations in a direction to which they were never meant to go. Pardon the pun, but there are no “original sins”. There is “original sin”, but there are no “original sins” in the sense of actions that are entirely thought up by the devil or by man with no reference to God. Rather, all sins are perversions and mockeries of something good that God has given to man.

Imagine a father who buys his son a toy drum, only to later find him using the stick to whack his little sister. The stick was meant to be whacked. It was meant to beat something. But it wasn’t meant to beat people. And so although some of the actions involved are nearly identical to what the stick was meant to be used for, in his mind and in his actions he has twisted it out of all recognition so that it is now actively used for vastly different purposes than the one intended.

This is how pornography works. God has given us the good and noble inclination to want to be satisfied. Physiologically, he has given most of us the good and noble need to be sexually satisfied. Why good and noble? Because it is the consummation of and the most intimate part of the marriage relationship, which the writer to the Hebrews tells us is honorable (Hebrews 13:4). Without it, humanity would die. What pornography does it to take this God-given desire for satisfaction, and the physiological need for fulfilment, and wrench it out of all recognition, fixing the gaze on another object than the one intended.

Yet the irony is that by using the gifts that God has given us for entirely different and incompatible purposes than the ones intended, in order to find fulfilment, we find that fulfilment eludes. If the sexual drive was created to lead us towards intimacy, how can pornography, which is entirely non-relational and involves people who have never even met, fulfil? The answer, as hinted at by James, is that it can’t. To the extent that it appears to users to provide some fulfilment, it does so only in the way that scratching an itch does – entirely temporary relief, but with the catch that when the itch returns, it will be even harder to appease than before.

Herein lies the pornography trap. We are designed to find fulfilment in a real relationship, but it is partly the fact that pornography is non-relational that makes it so appealing. Relationships are hard. Life is often a monotonous routine. Living with another sinner is often far from easy. But as for the people in the pictures or the video, you don’t need to worry about their sins. You don’t need to live with them and deal with their issues day after day. And so the thrill and excitement of being taken out of normal life into some fantasy world where real satisfaction apparently resides can become intoxicating. No faithfulness is required to obtain satisfaction there. No commitment is required to achieve satisfaction there. No dealing with another person in an ongoing relationship is required to get satisfaction there. And yet the irony is that true, lasting satisfaction is the one thing it can never bring.

What then is the remedy? That might seem like an odd question. Surely I’m not about to suggest that there is one remedy for all of this? Actually I am. There are plenty of reasons and inducements for somebody who has a pornography habit to break it, but ultimately there is only one remedy, which I’ll come on to that in a moment. But first here are some reasons and inducements.

1. Come to see how much it dehumanises, both yourself and others

As noted in the first piece, pornography is by its very nature dehumanising. Not just for the people who make it, but also for the one viewing it. By its nature it objectifies and commoditises people, which means that if you are a user of pornography, you are both an objectifier and commoditiser of people. That’s not a good thing to be.

2. Understand that it cannot bring you the satisfaction you desire

As mentioned above, the use of pornography is rooted in a desire to be satisfied. Yet as any counsellor of those with a porn habit will tell you, it has never yet brought anyone true joy or lasting happiness. If you are having to look for satisfaction in something which demonstrably cannot bring you what you are looking for, it’s probably a good time to question whether you are seeking satisfaction in the right places.

3. Recognize how ridiculous it looks

There’s something to be said for just sometimes stepping out of yourself and your circumstances, so to speak, and looking at what it is you are actually doing. What do you call fantasizing about having some sort of sexual encounter with a person you’ve never met, never will meet, and if you did meet them it would never take place? Isn’t it about as absurd a scenario as it’s possible to conjure up?

4. Stop referring to your habit as an addiction

The word addiction has become one of the most abused words of our day, and is often used as an excuse for responsibility avoidance. While I have no doubt that pornography produces certain chemicals in the brain that can take a powerful hold on us, the idea that we become passive victims is not borne out either biblically or practically. Biblically, pornography falls into the category of sexual immorality, and Scripture is plain that this is a sin that we should avoid, can avoid and must avoid, chemicals notwithstanding. Practically, the fact that many “porn addicts” break their “addiction” shows that, though undoubtedly hard, it can be done. “Porn addiction” is in reality a “porn habit”, and it is there to be broken with willpower and determination.

5. God tells us that those who don’t break with it will be excluded from the Kingdom of God

The Apostle Paul says this:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).

Despite the wonderfully elaborate attempts of many modern Christians to ignore, twist, deny, camouflage or dispute much of this, there it is. Seems pretty clear to me. Make of it what you will.

Yet finally, as I mentioned above, whilst these are all good reasons and inducements to break the porn habit, they are not the remedy itself. What is that then? Biblically speaking there is only one, which is this:

“Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

That’s it. All the reasons and inducements in the world will not help the user of porn to break his or her porn habit unless they are prepared to do the one thing necessary. Flee from it. Get away from it. Have nothing to do with it.

2 thoughts on “The Pornification of Society – Part 2

  1. Rob,

    Thanks for taking the time to write a thoughtful 2 part piece on the crushing and defeating darkness of pornography. This is a topic that has become taboo in many christian circles and just isn’t spoken about enough.

    However, with all due respect, you write from a place (or at least it sounds like you do) of an individual who hasn’t born the burden of trying to break free from the addiction to pornography. Your advice boils down to “understand what the bible says about it, and try harder.” That is absurd advice for anyone who is dealing with this struggle. The problem is that it’s not just about viewing pornographic images, it’s all out warfare for the space between our ears. A person may be able to abstain from watching porn but that in no way means that they are whole and now in alignment with scripture.

    I grew up in a christian home but was still exposed to pornography at around the age of 13. It never really took root though until it became as available as the phone in my pocket and became an addiction (yes an addiction – its called a process addiction much like gambling) around the age of 18. As a christian who knew it was wrong I talked to pastors, mentors, etc. and the advice was always the same, try harder. So what happens when trying harder doesn’t work? You end up thinking that something is legitimately wrong with you or “this is just the way it is” and you become apathetic towards it.

    This was not because I didn’t understand what scripture said about it (I felt guilt and shame every time because I knew how scripture talked about it). This was not because I hadn’t tried many times to run away from it (I tried harder so many times it would make your head spin). It was simply a sin that I didn’t understand and nobody I sought counsel from understood it enough to guide me to true recovery (they either didn’t understand because they didn’t deal with it, OR, and statistically more likely, they were dealing with it too and didn’t know how to beat it either so try harder was their only advise).

    It wasn’t until my wife called me out and told me to go get real help that my life changed. That was 2.5yrs ago and I have been sober since. BUT, I had to go get professional help and commit myself to a weekly support group. Even with that, it hasn’t been an easy walk as the battle of my mind is an ongoing struggle.

    I write all of this not to call you out and say how dare you paint is so simply, but more importantly provide a perspective that reaches beyond what you wrote here. MAYBE someone can just try harder and be completely free of the “acting out” portion, but that action is being caused by other pain in their past that hasn’t been dealt with and consequently the porn becomes a copping mechanism to mask the pain.

    Again, thank you for writing this article. I wish it was as simple as you spoke about here but my experience, along with the 100+ other men I have walked through this process with, would say that it runs a lot deeper than knowing the scriptures, receiving what they say, and running away from it.

    Be blessed.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Luc. I do appreciate it.

      Actually, you are not entirely correct when you say that I “write from a place of an individual who hasn’t born the burden of trying to break free from the addiction to pornography.” I wish I could say that this is the case, but unfortunately it isn’t.

      But the way I broke the cycle was exactly what I am advocating in the piece. It wasn’t a case of “try harder”, but simply making a 100% conscious and determined effort to flee from it.

      In the end, my love for my wife was the thing that made the difference. Who do I love, them or her? It sounds like you may have been spurred by a similar motive.

      But the point is, at the end of the day, any habit, be it porn, or smoking or alcohol or drugs or anything else, can only be dealt with by a wilful and determined decision on behalf of the person doing it. I understand this may take more time in some people than others, but I believe that fundamentally this is the thing that makes the difference.

      As I say, thanks for your comment and I wish you every blessing.


      Your advice boils down

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