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Pornography Addiction: A Stronghold Inside Church Walls Too

  • Janet Chismar Senior Editor, News & Culture
  • Published Jul 27, 2001
Pornography Addiction: A Stronghold Inside Church Walls Too News Channel - Steve* is an associate pastor at a growing, nondenominational Ohio church. He established a number of new ministry programs and is often asked to speak at young adult retreats. When he started watching football with some non-Christian neighbors last fall, they joked about hiding their Playboy magazines and the Victoria Secret catalogues they had swiped from their wives, so as not to offend the "holy" man in their midst.

Little did they know Steve had his own collection ... and then some. Not only pornographic magazines, but a number of adult videos, a selection of carefully selected Web sites and a membership with a phone sex club.

He is not alone. Focus on the Family says one out of seven pastors who call its toll-free help line say they are addicted to pornography. Promise Keepers reports that one-third of the men who attended PK rallies in 1996 admitted to a personal struggle with pornography.

Pastor Ted Roberts knows what it's like. Since overcoming his own addiction to pornography, he has spoken to thousands of people about similar problems, and he has reached an inescapable conclusion: "Hell is using sexual bondage to tear the Church apart."

Roberts is senior pastor of East Hill Foursquare Church in Gresham, Ore. He has become a leader in pioneering sexual recovery ministries, and recently trained more than 200 pastors and lay leaders to set up ministries like the "Pure Desire" program he launched eight years ago.

In both the program and the book by the same name, Roberts provides a biblical answer to overcoming sexual sin and addiction. Pure Desire offers a lifeline to those struggling with sexual bondage and teaches others to establish sexual addiction recovery ministry at their churches.

"Sexual addiction in the Church is more prevalent than most people have ever thought," says Dr. John Townsend, co-founder of Cloud-Townsend Communications. "Ted Roberts' uniquely biblical approach to healing and hope makes this book a great asset to both the struggler and the helper."

According to Enough is Enough, an organization devoted to protecting children and families from the dangers of pornography, illicit sexual material is just about everywhere. This country now has over 20,000 outlets selling prosecutable, hard-core pornography that would be found illegal by educated citizens in most American communities. In fact, there are now more outlets for hard-core pornography in the United States than McDonalds' restaurants, says Enough is Enough.

The introduction of pornography to the information highway has made home computers the fastest growing and primary mode of distribution of illegal pornography, says Enough is Enough.

Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, calls porn a "ravenous cancer" that is destroying modern society. Land noted in Baptist Press that 1999 revenues of porn Web sites alone were estimated at nearly $1.2 billion. In addition, some 25 million Americans visit cyber-sex sites - and sex is the No. 1 searched-for topic on the Internet.

Land also outlined the painful trail left by pornography -- increased incidents of child molestation, rape and sexual violence, transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, and societal values and attitudes that condone and encourage dissemination of soft-core pornography.

Dr. David Smith, president of Christians United and a family practitioner, says: "I see a lot of people that come into the office who have had their families disrupted, in some cases [by] divorce or child molestation [or] cases of rape. In almost all instances it starts with someone's addiction to pornography," Smith says. "It's such a detriment to the communities around here, I don't know why anybody would want to have that type of material available."

Several Christian ministries have joined the fight and established faith-based sexual recovery programs. "RSA--Renewal from Sexual Addictions" is run by a Laguna Hills, Calif., psychologist and has a program at Saddleback Valley Community Church. Another program called "Faithful and True Ministries" is based in Minneapolis and operates in 70 churches in the southeastern United States. "Avenue: Resources for Healthy Sexuality" drew 500 participants last year.

Meanwhile, Steve is being helped by the Pure Freedom program on the Setting Captives Free Web site. According to Mike, who along with his wife operates Setting Captives Free, "Our heart's desire is to reclaim those who are captive, to recover those who are enslaved; not merely to inform, but to help release."

Mike says he was exposed to pornography at the age of 10. "It excited me, but it didn't take root until my early 20's when I began traveling extensively for my job. It was then that I discovered that pornographic movies were available at nearly every hotel in the world. This began a 15-year addiction to pornography." To feed the fantasy life that pornography encourages, says Mike, he became involved in chat-groups on the Internet.

"By the grace of God, I have now been free from pornography for two-and-a-half years," he adds.

Steve highly recommends the Pure Freedom program, cautioning that people are not set free from pornography just through the course, but only through the work of God in the heart.

Another participant shared the following testimony: "My wife and I are doing great. I can't believe how much our relationship has grown since I have been porn free. God has rely blessed me with a woman that has stood by me through all the junk that I have brought in our lives. I think that I am understanding how Christ loves the church, because I am so passionately in love with my wife and would do anything for her."

According to Mike, "We have people come to this ministry who have been enslaved to pornography and sexual impurity all their lives. We work with pedophiles, prostitutes and homosexuals - and have seen some from every category become completely changed. While it is impossible for man to change man, it is a small thing for God and He can do it. If you have been addicted to pornography for 10, 20 or 45 years, have hope that you can be changed."

*Names have been changed.