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Living porn free

a XXX sign lit up

Porn is a sad reality in a broken world. I have chosen the adjectives carefully in that first sentence, and while you may or may not agree with them, I stand by them. Pornography is a symptom of a broken world, and its reality can be described in a number of ways, but ‘sad’ seems a simple one.

I have heard it said that most boys have seen pornography by the time they are 13 and that it is closer to 100 per cent by the time they are 17, with a large number being exposed to it unexpectedly while searching for something else on the internet. And while most teenage boys might just enjoy what they are seeing and the feelings that come with it, it will only be in the future that the toxic reality of what they are doing now will become apparent. Too many men know exactly what I mean here.

Sadly, Christian men are not immune to this temptation. But unlike their non-Christian friends, they carry an added burden of fear; fear that they will be discovered and kicked out of their church. This probably wouldn’t happen, but the fear is there nonetheless.

A number of books and resources offer ideas to help people dealing with this. Recently, I’ve been reading Tim Chester’s book Captured by a Better Vision. Chester’s aim is not just to provide some tools that will help people get off the sinking ship of pornography, but also to help them see beyond it to something different—a better vision.

Chester emphasises that ‘porn will teach you nothing about good sex’. He says, ‘Think about a meal. You feel hungry, you consume the meal and then you feel satisfied. Twenty minutes later, you feel full and you don’t want to eat anymore. Think about porn. You feel a desire, you consume porn, but you don’t feel satisfied. Porn doesn’t deliver. Twenty minutes later, you still feel empty and you still want more.’  

Chester says human sexuality is supposed to be like the Niagara Falls. The rock constrains the water, forcing it into a powerful surging rush. But porn makes sexuality more like the Mississippi delta in the U.S. ‘The water there is not constrained by anything. It’s spread out wide and thin and muddy,’ he says.

Statements like these make porn seem like a poor alternative to the real thing—and it is—but people still find it attractive. Even when we know it is fake or forced, like the sirens of Greek mythology, men can find the desire too strong to turn away from.

Why is this? What lies behind the urge to use pornography? Luke Gilkerson (writing on www.churchleaders.com) summarises Chester’s thoughts:

Respect: When our craving for respect becomes an idol, porn offers us a fantasy world where we are worshipped and adored.
Relationship: When our craving for intimacy becomes an idol, porn offers the illusion of relationship without the risks of rejection or vulnerability.
Refuge: When life gets tough and our craving for escape becomes an idol, porn gives us a fantasy world where we are never a failure, where there are no expectations.
Reward: When our desire for reward becomes a sinful sense of entitlement, porn gives us a fantasy world where our underappreciated egos can ‘get what we deserve’.
Revenge: When our anger at life or God or our spouse gets out of control, porn can become our tantrum at a world that isn’t catering to our desires.
Redemption: When self-pity becomes a consuming desire, porn offers us a fantasy where we can feel ‘normal’—or even a place where we can punish ourselves.

If you are tired of your own fight against porn, Captured by a Better Vision can help. But don’t read it alone. Find someone to read it with you who will help you put its guidance into action. Chester says you can help others even while you are dealing with this issue yourself. This makes good sense. Indeed, I would suggest that a great way to help yourself is in helping others.

Remember, there is something infinitely better than anything porn offers. To use the meal imagery again, it’s time to stop playing with mud pies when there is a feast being prepared.

By Brian Harvey