By Joy Allmond
Russell Moore says the use of pornography—especially by evangelical men—goes beyond the lust of the heart.
“Pornography becomes an escape valve for people who are in crisis,” said Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), during a Q&A at a recent leadership event.
“When something is going wrong, and they feel as though they are losing control in their parenting or in their job or in their marriages, this becomes a way of … checking out of reality for a while—in a way that is really, really dangerous.”
A 2011 Lifeway Research study where 1,000 pastors were surveyed about their views on pornography, 69 percent indicated they believe their congregations have been adversely affected by it.
But nearly half (43 percent) were unable or unwilling to estimate the percentage of men who view pornography on a weekly basis.
This kind of turning a blind eye, Moore said, is grievous.
“I had a pastor say to me one time regarding discipline in his congregation that they don’t even talk about porn anymore because ‘that ship has sailed,’” he said.
“I asked him why, and he said if they were to try to intervene in the lives of everybody who’s involved in porn that would be all [they] would do. And that is a terrifying reality. When you have a crisis—a spiritual crisis—going on, we can’t just say, ‘It’s so common, so we won’t deal with it.’”
Sam Alberry, a pastor from the United Kingdom who often speaks and writes on biblical sexuality, joined Moore for the discussion.
“We need to recognize this is a massive issue within the church,” said Alberry.
“We need to offer people hope and repentance and hope… to people who feel like, I’m in so deep now. There’s no hope of changing. And one reason church discipline is uncommon is because it’s an issue for the pastor as well. The fear from a pastor who struggles is, Who am I to do that?”
Another danger of pornography, Moore said, is the misguided perception they are hidden. This feeds the sense of shame many churchgoers feel when it comes to approaching their leadership for help and counsel.
“We think God is not watching and He doesn’t know,” he said.
“I think that is the core issue that there is a sense of, I am hidden and I am hidden from God. … There are a lot of people—men and women—who think if they were to step forward and say, ‘I have a problem with porn,’ the response will be a gasp. And so church leaders saying, ‘These are the steps we’ll take with you’ is a good start.”
Alberry said while there is even a minority within the secular world raising questions about the negative social impacts of pornography, cultural transformation begins in the heart.
“I’m just not convinced yet that our love affair with sexual gratification has gotten to the stage where we’re willing to show some restraint,” he said.
“It has become such a cultural given that we gratify ourselves in any way we like. With the ubiquity of materials available on our phones and devices, I can’t see the world moving away from that—though I wish people would. I think it will take an act of spiritual renewal rather than social reform.”
- Combatting the Porn Problem in Homes and Churches
- The Porn Epidemic
- Why the Scarlet Letter Remains and How the Church Can Help Mend Broken Marriages
JOY ALLMOND (@joyallmond) is managing editor of Facts & Trends.