Pornography is a spiritual disaster, and the euphemisms of Sunday sermons aren’t getting at the problem. It’s not a secret that we have a pornography problem. By “we,” I mean American males, but also American Christian males. It’s also a problem for females, but not as big a problem and I can’t speak to it very well, so I’m focusing on the male side of things. If you need survey data to back up the claim that American males have a pornography problem, you haven’t been paying attention.
Virtually every boy has seen pornography at least once. Most see it for the first time before the age of 15. Many develop a problem and have a hard time stopping. I know because I’m one of them…. A Christian euphemism for the problem is “impurity,” which is a catch-all term for any sin of a sexual nature. Adultery, fornication, pornography use, “looking upon women with lust” …. — all these and more fall under the label of “impurity.” Since all euphemisms are dishonest by definition, to talk about pornography as impurity is to be dishonest…
The turning point was 2005. Before 2005, you had to go out of your way to access pornography. You could go to old-fashioned, sketchy movie theaters or buy racy magazines, but to get pornography on your computer, you had to download files. Downloading files entailed the risk of viruses. And saving the file on your computer made it easier for someone else to find later. Many potential casual users were deterred by those risks. But he probably watches pornography. He has a problem with pornography…
We need to teach from the starting point of the specific problem. When teaching is framed around impurity, most men hear the list — adultery, fornication, prostitution, pornography — and think, “Hey, I’m only doing one of those; that’s pretty good!” That’s a reasonable thing to think when it’s framed that way. We’re all human; we all sin; if we avoid most sin, we’re doing okay. And we can always think of someone whose behavior is worse than ours to assure ourselves we’re doing okay. That line of thinking is dangerous, however, and it has contributed to pornography’s proliferation. First, God does not call us to be okay. He calls us to be holy as He is holy, perfect as He is perfect. Second, of course you haven’t done the first three. It’s really easy to not have sex with another person, especially when pornography is an available substitute. …
So, what should we do instead? First, call it what it is. Give sermons on pornography. Be specific. Be honest. Second, address it early. “Impurity” is a euphemism, but it’s not the worst one. The worst is “adult entertainment.” It’s terrible because it signals to children, “This is what adults do,” and what kid doesn’t want to be like an adult? But it’s also terrible because it’s antiquated. Given that most people see pornography for the first time before age 15, sometimes as early as 10, if you don’t talk to kids about it before they turn 18 because you think it’s inappropriate, you’ve missed your chance by years. Every middle-school ministry needs to address pornography directly and in some depth. Third, we need to understand that pornography isn’t something that appeals only to losers or creeps. The cool kids at school use pornography, and they talk about it at the cool kids’ lunch table. It’s becoming so commonplace that people aren’t ashamed to talk about it with friends. Why would they be ashamed when they don’t think it’s wrong? Porn users aren’t a type or a subculture. Everyone is susceptible.
Finally, separate pornography from other sexual sins. We aren’t backpedaling on Scripture when we teach that anger is a different sin from murder, even though Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount that being angry at a brother or sister is like murder. Jesus is teaching that those sins have the same source in our hearts, not that they have the same consequences. Imagine if every sermon associated anger with murder. Most people would be afraid to talk openly in church about the times when they felt angry, lest it make them seem like a murderer. A similar dynamic is at play with pornography. People don’t feel comfortable talking about it in church because they feel like it’s akin to admitting you’re an adulterer. ….Pornography is a spiritual disaster, much as an earthquake is a natural disaster, and the wreckage is all around us. After an earthquake, people learn from the calamity. They rebuild in different places. They use earthquake-resistant architecture so that the next one won’t do as much damage. They don’t ignore that an earthquake just happened, or instead ponder tornadoes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions. Our problem isn’t impurity. It’s pornography. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (END)
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When you realize that you have been wounded by sin, whether through weakness or malice, do not lose your courage or become panic-stricken. Turn to God with a great and humble confidence saying: “See, O Master, what I am able to do. When I rely on my own strength, I commit nothing but sins.” Meditating on this, recognize the extent of your humiliation and express to our Lord your sorrow for the offense committed. With an unperturbed heart, indict your vicious passions, especially the one that has occasioned your fall, and confess:
“O Lord, I would not have stopped at this had not Your goodness restrained me.” Give thanks to God, and more than ever give to Him the complete love of your heart. What generosity on His part! You have offended Him and, despite this, He extends His hand to prevent another fall. With your heart full of confidence in His infinite mercy, say to Him:. “O Master, show forth Thy Divinity and pardon me! Never permit me to be separated from Thee, deprived of Thy help; never permit me to offend Thee again!” After you have done this, do not upset yourself by examining whether God has forgiven you or not. This is a complete loss of time, an outcropping of pride, a spiritual sickness, an illusion of the devil who seeks to harm you under cover of an apparently good act. Place yourself in the merciful arms of God, and plunge into your usual duties, as though nothing had happened. The number of times during the day that you fall cannot shake the basis of a true confidence in Him. Return after your second, your third, your last defeat, with the same confidence.
Each lapse will teach you greater contempt for your own strength, greater hatred for sin, and, at the same time, will give you greater prudence. This will dismay your enemy because it is pleasing to God. The devil will be thrown into confusion, baffled by one he has so often overcome. As a result, he will bend every effort to induce you to change your tactics. He frequently succeeds when a strict watch is not kept over the tendencies of the heart. The efforts expended in conquering yourself must correspond to the difficulties encountered. A single performance of this exercise is not sufficient. It should be frequently repeated though but one fault has been committed. Consequently, if you have fallen, if you are greatly perturbed and your confidence is shaken, you must first recover your peace of mind and confidence in God. Raise your heart to Heaven. Be convinced that the trouble that sometimes follows the commission of a fault is not so much a sorrow for having offended God, but is a fear of punishment.
The way to recover this peace is to forget, for the moment, your fault and to concentrate on the ineffable goodness of God and His burning desire to pardon the gravest sinners. He uses every possible means to call the sinners back, to unite them entirely to Himself, to sanctify them in this life, and make them eternally happy in the next. This consideration, or others of its kind, will bring peace back to your soul. Then you may reconsider the malice of your error in the light of what has been said above. Finally, when you approach the Sacrament of Penance—I advise you to do this frequently—recall all of your sins and sincerely confess them. Reawaken your sorrow for having committed them, and renew your resolutions to amend your life in the future.
– from The Spiritual Combat by Lorenzo ScupoliBACK TO LIST