How Evangelical Pastors and Church Members Can Overcome Their Porn-Watching Habits

watching porn is a sin

According to an upcoming study by the Barna Group titled The Porn Phenomenon, Christian pastors have a porn problem. While the full study will not be released until April 2016, Barna president David Kinnaman announced some of their findings:

Most pastors (57%) and youth pastors (64%) admit they have struggled with porn, either currently or in the past.

  • Overall, 21% of youth pastors and 14% of pastors admit they currently struggle with using porn.
  • About 12% of youth pastors and 5% of pastors say they are addicted to porn
  • 87% of pastors who use porn feel a great sense of shame about it.
  • 55% of pastors who use porn say they live in constant fear of being discovered.
  • The vast majority of faith leaders who struggle with porn say this has significantly affected their ministry in a negative manner. It is not clear why, but youth pastors are twice as likely as pastors to report this kind of unfavorable impact.

I suspect that the stated number of pastors who are “struggling” with porn, “addicted” to porn, or currently using porn is underreported. It is not surprising to learn that youth leaders have a big problem with pornography. Youth pastors tend to be younger, often with the same raging hormones as the teenagers to whom they minister. I have long believed that Christian youth groups led by youthful pastors are havens for sexual abuse and misconduct.  While churches have all sorts of policies in place that are meant to keep sexual misconduct from happening, rarely does a week go by without a youth pastor being arrested for some sort of sex crime. While these stories get all the press, the bigger story is the sexual misconduct that is covered up by church leaders and parents. Offending youth pastors are quietly fired or shipped off to Fundamentalist treatment centers such as Reformer Unanimous, the ministry that treated child molester Josh Duggar.

Evangelicals have all sorts of ministries and mechanisms they use to combat the “porn problem.” XXXchurch.com is a site dedicated to helping Evangelicals battle porn addiction. They offer things such as X3 groups, which are online meetings for Evangelicals who are struggling with porn. Evangelicals wanting “freedom from porn addiction, freedom from pain, freedom from guilt and shame and freedom from the very things that keep them trapped” will find help in one of XXXchurch’s 60 X3 groups. Joining one of these groups requires the payment of a $19-$39 a month membership fee.

XXXchurch also offers video workshops on subjects such as:

  • Porn — Giving you a clear path to Sexual Freedom. This course will finally give you the steps to porn addiction recovery and healing.
  • Sex — Helping you have Better Sex. This course will allow you to experience a deeper connection with your spouse and find greater intimacy.
  • Accountability — Helping you discover a life of Character. This course will give you the tools to finally live a life of accountability and openness.
  • Pre-Marriage — Everything you should know before Marriage. This course talks about great sex and other things your parents wouldn’t. A must for engaged couples.
  • Parenting — Guiding you through parenthood and Tech. This course gives parents a solid foundation to build trust and openness with their children.
  • Spouses — Helping women understand the visual nature of men. This course will give you the keys to understanding how the male brain works, thinks and responds.

Each of these workshops cost $97.

If Evangelicals are overwhelmed by porn and unable to break free, XXXchurch even offers one-on-one coaches who will help sinful Christians overcome their porn addiction. This personal attention doesn’t come cheap:

  • The Standard plan costs $300 a month. For this fee, Evangelicals receive a 1-hour-a-week coaching session and daily chat access with their coach.
  • The three-month Plus plan costs $700. For this fee, Evangelicals receive a 1-hour-a-week coaching session, daily chat access with their coach, Free X3watch Premium annual subscription, FREE X3pure recovery video workshop, and FREE X3groups
  • The Ultimate plan costs $1,500 and includes 7 months of Plus plan services.

According to the XXXchurch website, having a coach will help the porn addict:

  • Identify what triggers you sexually and how to resolve those triggers in a healthy manner
  • Minimize high risk scenarios that often lead to acting out
  • Seal up the leaks in your game that cause stress, and other emotional triggers
  • Find, form and foster healthier relationships
  • Discover the secret sauce of real accountability

XXXchurch is a nonprofit, but something tells me that Craig Gross, the man behind the “ministry,” has handsomely profited from helping Evangelicals with their porn addiction.

A new player in the porn addiction game is Seth Taylor. Taylor offers a program he calls My Pilgrimage (based on the book, Feels Like Redemption). For $399, Evangelical porn addicts receive:

…a four-module approach to finding freedom from pornography and masturbation. It starts with upending everything you thought you knew and ends with complete and total freedom. This book, guidebook, video curriculum, and small group will change everything.

Like Gross, Taylor has found a way to turn sex, guilt, and shame into a moneymaking business.

For Evangelical porn addicts who can’t afford the services of XXXchurch or My  Pilgrimage, “ministries” such as Covenant Eyes offer what is advertised as “internet accountability and filtering.”  For $13.99 a month Evangelical families can use Covenant Eyes’ services to filter internet traffic and block access to pornography and other objectionable material. Each family member is given a username that allows Covenant Eyes to track their internet usage. On a daily basis a report is sent to parents detailing who viewed what. Adults who are addicted to porn can have their wives or pastors be their accountability partners. Each day their porn gatekeepers receive a report showing the addicts’ internet activity.

The next time you to go to a Sunday service at I Love Jesus Church, located at the corner of Self-Righteousness and Moral Superiority, just remember that it is likely that the pastor and some of the church members were surfing porn sites the night before. When the pastor stands behind the pulpit and preaches against masturbation, pornography, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality, don’t forget that he is likely a hypocrite, a man who says one thing but does another.

Forget all these “ministries” that prey on Evangelical fear, guilt, and shame. While I am sure there is such a thing as porn addiction, most so-called porn addicts are weak men (and women) who are unwilling to stop looking at pornography. Instead of manning up and being personally accountable for their behavior, Evangelical men are taught that they are morally crippled and helpless. Evangelicals are led to believe that without Jesus and the church, they would quickly slide down the path of moral decadence. Yet, even WITH Jesus and the church, Evangelicals generally sexually behave in a similar manner as their heathen counterparts in the world. Perhaps Jesus and salvation is not the sin antidote Evangelicals claim it is. In fact, isn’t the very existence of ministries such as XXXchurch and Covenant Eyes proof that the supposed moral superiority of Evangelicals is largely a fiction? If Evangelical pastors can’t practice what they preach, what hope is there for parishioners? (Please see Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to seriously question their beliefs concerning sin and human sexuality. Instead of shaming people over their use of porn, perhaps churches would be better served if parishioners were taught how to embrace their sexuality. Porn is not the problem. While I have my own ideas about porn, having viewed it a time or two myself, I know that most people can look at pornographic magazines or watch videos on YouPorn without turning into sexual miscreants. While I am sure that secular counselors work with sex/porn addicts, this obsession with pornography and sex addiction is largely an Evangelical phenomena. Perhaps Evangelicals need to take a hard look at WHY they have such a big porn and sexual misconduct problem. Perhaps Evangelical THEOLOGY, with its focus on sin, shame, guilt, fear, and Puritanical sexuality, is the problem.

For readers interested in what science has to say about porn and sex addiction, I will end this post with an excerpt from an article titled Your Porn Addiction Isn’t Real, written by The Daily Beast contributor Samantha Allen:

The last time neuroscientists Nicole Prause (Liberos LLC at UCLA) and Vaughn Steele (Mind Research Network) published on porn addiction, they received six legal threats, several calls for a retraction, and anonymous emails telling them to kill themselves.

Their controversial claim: “porn addiction” isn’t actually an addiction, at least in the sense that it does not neurologically behave like other well-documented addictions.

For therapists that treat porn consumption on an addiction model and for religious groups like Focus on the Family that are invested in maintaining a concept of “porn addiction,” the research undermines the clinical language they used in their approach to the controversial medium. But conclusive evidence for “sex addiction” and “porn addiction” continues to prove elusive.

Today, Prause, Steele, and their team of researchers are back with a new study, published in the journal Biological Psychology, that only reaffirms their previous findings: “porn addiction” and “sex addiction,” as we understand them, may not be real.

In what is now the largest neuroscience investigation of porn addiction ever conducted, Prause and a team of UCLA-based researchers asked 122 men and women to answer questions about their relationship to “visual sexual stimuli” to determine if they experienced problems as a result of their porn usage.

Whether the subjects were “problem users” or not, they were all shown several categories of images—pleasant ones like skydiving photos, neutral ones like portraits, unpleasant ones like mutilated bodies, and, of course, sexual images—while hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG), a device that measures electrical activity in the brain.

From this body of data, researchers examined each subject’s late positive potential (LPP), a common measure for the intensity of the brain’s emotional response at a given moment. The results were clear: Subjects who reported experiencing problems as a result of their pornography use did not display characteristically addictive brain activity when viewing sexual images.

As Greg Hajcak, a Stony Brook University researcher on the study, points out, a cocaine addict will experience “increased LLP to cocaine-related pictures”—one of the clearest indicators of psychological addiction.

But even subjects in the study who experienced “major problems” related to their porn usage didn’t display this same LLP pattern when viewing sexual images. In fact, as the researchers note, they “showed decreased brain reactions when shown the sexual images, rather than heightened activity”—the opposite of what one would expect to find in an addict’s brain.

Some self-described “porn addicts” may experience legitimate problems as a result of their habits, the researchers are quick to clarify, but neurologically speaking, they do not appear to have the same relationship to porn as a substance addict has to their drug of choice. In other words, porn and sex addictions are probably not addictions and treating them as such could prove counter-productive.

“This study appears to add to a list of studies that have not been able to identify pathology consistent with substance addiction models,” the authors conclude.

So far, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has agreed that there is insufficient evidence to support diagnoses for sex and porn addiction. In 2010, the APA rejected the inclusion of “sex addiction” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). A new condition called “hypersexual disorder” was proposed for the DSM-5 but, in 2012, the APA rejected it as well for lack of evidence.

Note

XXXchurch offers an online sex addict test for those who wonder if they are addicted to sex and/or porn.

The Mormons have a porn addiction problem, as do Catholics.

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13 Comments

  1. Tammy

    Prime example of what we forbid becoming all the more desirable. There’s a reason it’s a bigger problem in the church than elsewhere. Forbidden fruit and all.

    Reply
    1. Angiep

      That pretty well wraps it up. If you don’t consider viewing “porn” a sin, then you don’t have a problem at all.

      Reply
  2. Melody

    I once read this result of a survey done by a christian magazine. Nearly everyone was against sex before marriage but when asked if they had had sex before marriage, a huge group, about 95/97 % said they had. They also said they would teach their children not to have sex before marriage…. I was pretty shocked at the time. It was hardly practice what you preach to say the least. Most of them regretted having had sex before marriage which is why they would ‘warn’ their children not to. So the behavior is more or less the same as the ‘world,’ but the guilt and shame about said behavior is so much worse.

    You’d think that with a powerful God on their side the percentage that would have resisted the temptation would be bit higher, right?

    Reply
  3. Brian

    (snark)
    The whole point of religion, real religion that is fundamental and evangelical, is to free you from yourself. You don’t really like living anyway and are quite unhappy much of the time. When you give the wheel to God, God makes you happy whether you feel like being happy or not. God gives the strength to resist your fallen nature (you are thinking about genitals and stuff right now, aren’t you!) and rise/swell above the masses who are all masturbating and holding back their tithes. My older brother says that it is probably God that has kept him out of prison in his adult life! (He might be talking about something other than masturbation and porn…)
    It’s not easy, the path of God. You have to treat your own humanity with disdain and hate the fact that your mind allows you visualize swear words and even whisper them! You have to learn to hate yourself so God is really loving you. I would go on but I am overcome by lustful thoughts just now and missed church this week again… well, for many years of weeks. Imagine a lovely person naked. I mean DON’T imagine them! God can figure all this stuff out for you. It seems impossible, I know, but it isn’t. (If you will send me $29.99 a month to cover my basic costs of ministry, I will get you started on God’s true path. First, I’ll send you a set of gloves I have patented after having a vision. They are called the ‘Good Touch Mittens’ and are a secret blend of materials that bring great discomfort to human skin….. (a hint, slivers and itching!) wearing these gloves, as you will be trained to do, will reduce your dirty activities and make God smile.
    Get started today! After you send your love offering for one year, I will send you COMPLETELY FREE! my latest book, called, Orgasms and Satan: How to DO IT with God! (This book is not available in retail outlets and will only be sent to those who have completed their first year of love offerings to my ministry.) If you send the whole year’s offering today, you get the book early, a good faith gift from me to you.
    Bruce, ex-preachers get a special discount here and everything mailed to you will be done so very discreetly (wrapping paper with the Cross of Christ all over it) so that nobody will know your dirty, filthy, disgusting secrets. Best wishes! Remember, GOD IS LOVE!

    Reply
    1. Melody

      LOL. Wishing you good luck with your business venture! It works for all the preachers 🙂

      Reply
    2. Angiep

      Where do I send my money???

      Reply
      1. Brian

        Post Office Box Don’t Touch It!
        Station Really, Don’t!
        Church of the Whole Dude Undone
        Trumpville ,Texas

        You after the deep discount, Feb. deal? Send one little five hundred dollar offering and you get one month free! No, really, I mean free! You can go to sex workers, offer money to strippers and whippers, do whatever you like for a whole month free. This is not a joke and absolutely guaranteed. Got a perversion you want to get out of the way to clear the slate? This is the way to do it! (end snark)

        For those of us who really have an issue (as Randy shared earlier) there are qualified therapists who can and do help with addictions, with excess, out of control areas of our lives. I went to a guy who was very helpful with moving me out of my indoctrination ideas/feelings. Sometimes even simple talk-therapy can be so supportive and freeing.

        Reply
  4. Randy

    Why does this continue to be such a problem for pastors? Do you think labeling it as an “addiction” makes it more acceptable as a problem? An addiction is usually something you don’t control but it controls you. I don’t think porn and sex generally work that way. Let me share my story in brief.

    In the past I had an unhealthy obsession with pornography (note: I’m not using the word addiction purposefully). It became one of my favorite pastimes. For a long time I kept it secret from my wife. Eventually I didn’t care. This was back in the 90s and I went from viewing soft core to hard core to bizarre porn. From there I went to meeting up with females in chat rooms (pre-my space/facebook days) and roleplaying online to actually physically hooking up with some of the women I met online and cheating on my wife.

    I never viewed this as an addiction. It was my choice. It would be like saying because I break the speed limit all the time I am addicted to speeding. I think it’s a ridiculous comparison to things such as substance abuse and addiction. Ultimately, my activity almost destroyed my marriage. I regret the things I did. I have four daughters and I regret that I contributed time and money to those who profit off of the exploitation of women. I didn’t have to go through a recovery program to break my “addiction” to pornography. I just made a decision that it was detrimental to the most important thing in my life: my family.

    I became a Christian in March 2002 and had done away with my pornographic habits by the end of the previous year. I entered the ministry in 2006 and have never struggled with a porn “addiction.” I make conscious decisions to avoid something that I believe is harmful to my psyche, emotions and family. I cannot understand how a man can look at porn on his computer on Saturday night and preach in the pulpit on Sunday morning. It pretty much makes me sick. Then when a church leader is found out, they confess, enter “recovery” and want to return to ministry after they kick their “addiction.” What a mess.

    Something is rotten in the body of Christ. For one we have an unhealthy focus on sexuality. I’m not sure what the solution is, but the church in general seems to be a hideout for porn lovers and sexual predators at a percentage that seem higher than normal society. Why do you think that is?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      As an atheist and humanist, I don’t think porn is inherently wrong, evil, sinful, harmful. I know of many men who watch porn, yet they are loving fathers, great husbands, and productive citizens. Watching porn doesn’t necessarily make someone a bad person.

      This is why atheism/humanism is more complex than Christianity. The Christian says: porn is bad, porn is a sin, end of story.

      For the atheist/humanist, sin doesn’t enter the discussion. As long as all the parties involved are adult and no one is being coerced, I am indifferent to what they do sexually. I think women (and men) have the right to control what they do with their body. If a woman chooses to make money posing nude or acting in porn movies, I support her right to do what she wants.

      As far as marriage and watching porn. I think married couples need to determine the sexual parameters of their relationship. Some women don’t want their husbands viewing porn, others don’t mind or might even watch it with their husband. I make no judgments about what consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes.

      Reply
      1. Randy

        Thanks for the input Bruce! Really it all breaks down to is sex itself evil or not. Somehow the church has done a great job vilifying sex. It’s such an innate part of our humanity and the church has tried to make us hate ourselves for feelings of lust and desire.

        When it comes to somebody who does not profess Christianity viewing porn that does not involve coercion or under age participants, I’m good with that. It’s a free country and I believe all of that is amply covered under the 1st Amendment.

        However, I have a major problem with somebody who preaches from the Bible and then secretly views pornography. Give up one or the other – the pulpit or the porn. You know as well as I do Bruce that when you submit yourself to a pastoral position you are agreeing to abide by certain standards set up in the Bible for church leaders. I’m sure you would agree porn cannot be part of that equation.

        These leaders that preach one thing and do the other are a big part of the decline in the church. I’m not sure what that ultimately says about the church or faith. It just disgusts me. The funny thing is as you’ve said before it seems the church has an agenda in America to set up a theocracy and take porn (and lots of other stuff) away from everybody, and that is un-American. The temple of Diana in Ephesus was home to some crazy sexual activity, but not once did the Apostle Paul stand outside protesting it or trying to bar people from entering it. I think the church would do well to really look at the implications of this and how we function in society.

        Reply
  5. Brian

    Randy, would it be fair to say that you were meeting a need, an excessively demanding need through your increasing involvement with porn and the like? And would it be far-fetched that once you put a stop to your excess, you needed a new outlet for ‘what ails you”? In my humble opinion, I would suspect that your human needs, excessive as they have proven to be, will still be evident in your life. Perhaps the ministry plugs the dam but it does not answer your need to act out. You have done exactly what other ministers have done, kicked your ‘habit’ but all you have done is replace one excess with another, perhaps. Why does a man with a family find himself going off to meet a sex worker? What is the human basis for the excess? You don’t know yet? have you done any therapy to seek more insight or has God fixed you, in your view? Your last paragraph, with due respect, Randy, might be written to your own heart of hearts. Try to answer your question and get professional help to answer it. (God is a professional but his expertise is sleight-of-hand.)

    Reply
    1. Randy

      Hey Brian thanks for the dialogue. Really, what my new outlet became was my family. That was the part of my life that I had lost focus on and somehow the porn had filled that need. I don’t blame my wife or my family at all for this. I just let a pastime become way too consuming.

      Honestly, ministry is quite frustrating for me in general. I always feel like I have one foot out the door at church. I joke that when I was an atheist my greatest enemies were Christians and now that I am a Christian my greatest enemies are…Christians! I like to ask questions and approach things from a way that can make believers uncomfortable. The church is so empty of critical thinkers. My favorite part of ministry is what I do in the county jail. I go in and sit down with a group of guys and we just try to figure out how to do life better and improve ourselves. Of course the Christian paradigm plays into this, but I am not heavy handed. I’m just there to give them some hope and encouragement.

      As for has God fixed me? Not by a long shot. However one of the biggest changes in my life in the last few years is that I have become happy with who I am. If that offends other Christians then that is their problem. I am done trying to conform to a standard set by people. The entire idea of a Christian sub-culture annoys me: Christian music, Christian books, Christian movies, etc. I like heavy metal, I like sci-fi and fantasy, I like a good cigar and a glass of bourbon, I don’t always have a clean mouth. That’s just me. I think the biggest problems Christians have is pretending to be something they are not. Always wearing a mask, always looking for the problem in others to cover up their own problem.

      In all honesty, I am on a journey for truth. I consider myself a truth-seeker. I will go where the truth leads me, and one day that may lead me in another path altogether. I’m okay with that.

      Reply
  6. BJW

    I find that now that I don’t have to worry about my THOUGHTS, sex is even better. Why? Because what I THINK isn’t a problem. So if I have mildly weird, kinky thoughts, so what? These aren’t things I want to do in real life, just entertaining and enjoyable to think. I have found myself more fulfilled by our sex life.

    I would like to point out, that a person who gets off on ugly stuff, violence (not BDSM), murdering a person or living creature, etc, needs to GO TO A SHRINK. Although it’s likely such people are sociopaths, and wouldn’t care. 🙁

    Reply

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