Friday, January 3, 2014

Into the Light – Dealing with the Scourge of Internet Pornography

I’ve come across a two-part series on internet pornography by an Orthodox Christian psychologist, Dr. Albert Rossi, that is about the best brief exposé I’ve read.  Dr. Rossi has a PhD in Psychology from Hofstra University and is currently an adjunct professor of pastoral theology at St. Vladimir’s Seminary.  Those of us who have been ensnared by internet pornography tend to live lives of increasing isolation, wanting desperately to be free of the addiction, and yet caught in self-consumed spirals of fear or selfishness or emotional pain that push us to turn to our ‘drug’ for relief.  This ongoing battle occurs out of sight, out of bounds, as we are motivated by fear of what might happen if we get caught.  But like any addiction, the consequences eventually catch up with us, the worst happens, we experience great pain and loss, as well as inflicting great pain and loss on those around us who must now cope with our behavior.  We ‘hit the bottom’, which we must if we are ever to be delivered.

Sadly, most churches and Christians have not distinguished themselves in positive ways towards those who are so afflicted.  Often there is a conspiracy of silence and shame, or, most usually, denial.  We Christians don’t want to know that this might be going on in anybody’s life.  And yet the statistics speak for themselves.  Close to 40% of pastors/priests have viewed internet pornography.  Most of our boys are not just exposed to porn but are regular users.  If half of the marriages among Christians end in divorce, I’m sure there is a significant percentage of marriages that are affected by the husband’s use of pornography.  Help for these men (and women) who so struggle hardly ever comes from the church (with exceptions I’m sure), but from accountability groups such as Sexaholics Anonymous (mentioned by Dr. Rossi), where these sex addicts are not judged but helped step by step to find a way out.  Sadly, most men experience the gutting of their lives alone without finding the help they so desperately need.

Maasai woman looking at laptop

The first step in escaping the scourge of pornography addiction will be familiar to anyone who has experience in a Twelve-Step Program:  ‘We admitted that we were powerless over lust – that our lives had become unmanageable.’  This simply states the reality, but it is the hardest step to take and for a flood of reasons that conspire to hold us back.  The reason I am writing about this is that addiction to internet pornography is not some isolated problem of a few sleazy miscreants. Pornography is easily available and everywhere, to anyone with a computer/laptop/tablet/smart phone and an internet connection.  And men and boys are lured like fish to bait, where we are hooked and reeled back again and again until our brains are addicted to the chemicals produced by our participation in lust.  Maybe a third to half of the men who are reading this are addicted to internet pornography.  It is the scourge of our hearts, the scourge of our relationships and families, the scourge of our churches, the scourge of our society.  It will only get worse.

Ethiopian boy in the middle of nowhere with a tablet

But rather than condemn men and women for their addiction, it is time we offered them/us the way out.  Condemnation on the part of churches and Christians has never worked as a strategy to deal with sin; it serves only to push the behavior underground.  To that end, I offer these two links to articles/podcasts by Dr. Rossi.  The first describes the problem, the second on the ways of recovery.

We Christians have been tempted since the beginning of the Christian movement to treat sexual sin as The Unforgivable Sin.  Addiction to internet pornography is serious sin and has terrible consequences.  But so does any kind of sin that goes unchecked in a person’s life, be it greed or gluttony or gossip or abuse or uncontrolled anger or alcoholism or theft or adultery or the choice not to love.  The addict who is reading this has a choice to make.  But so do the rest of us.

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