Results tagged “pornography” from Reformation21 Blog

Wise Technological Parenting

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It is the apex of foolishness for parents to allow their children to have free and unaccountable access to technology-- smart phones, tablets, iPods, computers, etc. Before I explain the reasons why I believe this, I want to make clear, in no uncertain terms, that I'm not a Luddite. I'm not against the advancement and use of modern technological devices. Indeed, I have no desire to go back to the sixteenth-century! Quite the contrary, I'm profoundly grateful for the seemingly endless and valuable functions of iPhones, iPads, and computers. It's wonderful to be able to stay in touch with family and friends around the world through FaceTime and Skype, as well as through social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram. Even so, there is a dark and insidious side to our brave new world of information and connectivity; and, we would be exceedingly foolish to ignore it. Here are a few reasons why our children should not have free and unrestricted access to technological devices:

Internet Pornography. Internet porn is a pandemic of massive proportions. The statistics related to this wicked industry are staggering (see http://www.covenanteyes.com). The porn industry generates thirteen billion dollars of revenue each year in the United States alone. One in eight online searches is for pornography, and the same goes for one in five searches on mobile devices. Twenty-four percent of smart phone users admit to having pornographic material on their device. Fifty-six percent of divorce cases involve one spouse with a porn addiction.

These statistics do not bode well for our youth. Did you know that nine out of ten boys and six out of ten girls are exposed to pornography before the age of eighteen? The average age that boys first come into contact with porn is twelve, and sixty-eight percent of young adult men (18-24 years old) use porn at least once a week. Nineteen percent of 18-24 year olds have sent a pornographic text (i.e. sext). It is most often during puberty that our youth get addicted to porn. Seventy-one percent of teens hide online activity from their parents, and the kinds of porn that teens access are too repulsive to even mention.

Yes, the problem of porn really is this bad. Having served in youth ministry for over ten years, there was always a steady stream of students confessing to me their deep struggle with internet pornography. Many at age fifteen or sixteen had already been regularly looking at it for several years. Over the course of my ministry I have counseled dozens of men (all ages) struggling with porn addiction. It has caused serious marriage problems.

For most the problem begins in their youth. And this makes sense, doesn't it? Tweens and teens are hormonal, curious, and immature. They are becoming more aware of their bodies and their attraction to the opposite sex. These discoveries and desires are natural and good. But the evil one seeks to twist, corrupt, and pervert these desires. Satan has come to "steal, kill, and destroy" (Jn. 10:10) our covenant children, and he is actively doing so through the porn industry.

To allow our children to have free and unrestricted access to the internet on one or more of their devices is to practically guarantee that they will be exposed to all manner of sexual perversion online-- and the consequences will be long-term. Therefore, any parent that knowingly gives their children this kind of freedom on their devices is acting profoundly foolish.

Ungodly Relationships. The world of social media and mobile connectivity is also causing significant issues among our youth. With little to no parental oversight, youth ages ten and up are privately texting, instant messaging, emailing, and calling friends, acquaintances, and those whom they hardly know. One friend shared with me that their seventh grade granddaughter had sent and received over 10,000 texts in a couple of weeks-- partly because she was texting half the night with her friends. Her parents weren't too happy with the over-usage fees that appeared on their monthly bill!

Many of the friendships and conversations that occur through these media sites would be off-limits if parents actually knew what was being seen and said. How are we to teach, shepherd, and protect our impressionable children if we are ignorant of the substance of their relationships? God's Word teaches us that "Bad company corrupts good character" (I Cor. 15:33). If our children are sending and receiving thousands of texts, instant messages, and emails per month without parental accountability and oversight, then we are being unwise at best.

There is a lot more that we could unpack on this important subject. But for now we must ask, "What should we do?" How should we, as Christian parents, approach these thorny issues related to modern technology? Well, certainly not as the world handles it. The world says to give kids what they want. The world says that kids will be kids, and we should let them sow their wild oats. The world says that everybody's doing it and we shouldn't make such a fuss. The world says that we shouldn't be so prudish. But none of these responses takes into account the word of God and the spiritual health of our children.

Christian parents are commanded to bring up their children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). This entails protecting our children from the deceitfulness of the world, the schemes of Satan, and the foolishness of their youthful hearts. Here are a couple of simple ways to protect our children in our fast moving, technological age:

Password Protect/Block Internet Access. Can anything be more commonsensical? Make sure that every device in your home with internet access is password protected! This includes devices that a friend or neighbor may bring into your home. Make sure that you change your device passwords on a regular basis in case one of your kids may have looked over your shoulder and figured it out. If your child has an iPod, smart phone, tablet, or laptop, be diligent to password protect the internet access on the device and any other apps that might be an avenue for porn or soft porn (e.g. iTunes is full of illicit album and movie covers, and the search engine for Instagram contains a cesspool of filth). If you are unsure how to password protect the web browser on a device simply go online and find out how. If your kids need to get online for a school research project or for some other reason, make sure they do it in a visible location in the home (e.g. living room, kitchen table, etc.). Moreover, it is critical that you prepare your kids for what they might encounter outside the home, and how they should respond in situations where others seek to show them illicit images.

Strict Oversight/Social Media. How many of you would allow strangers to walk into your child's room, talk to them for several hours per day, and show them lots of personal pictures? How many of you would shrug your shoulders if your teenager developed inappropriate online relationships? That's essentially what's happening when we allow our kids to have unrestricted and unsupervised social media, texting, emailing, etc. Parents, it is extremely unwise not to monitor and limit your child's time on social media, especially in the early tween and teen years. Apps like Facebook and Instagram can be fun, but you need to set down clear rules, and consequences for breaking those rules. Also, please be aware that apps like Snapchat are almost impossible for parents to monitor, since images that are sent disappear almost immediately. It is easy to see how Snapchat has become a primary means of sexting among teens. I would recommend that it be deleted from our children's phones.

Of course, as our children get older, and as they approach college years, we need to slowly loosen the reins of parental oversight. One day our covenant children will be out on their own. Hopefully they will have gained some considerable wisdom and maturity before they go. However, especially in the early tween and teen years, they need consistent, firm, and loving oversight.

I realize that I have only scratched the surface of this important subject. Allowing our tweens and early teens carte blanche freedom on their devices is equivalent to letting our toddlers play soccer next to the freeway during rush hour. It's absolutely foolish, plain and simple. If ever we needed to be wise and courageous in our parenting, it is now.

Before I had my own email address (remember the good old days?), I warned in one of my Windows on the World that the internet would make pornography pervasive. Now we are living a depraved new world, in which sexually explicit material is the most common and most financially profitable content available on the internet. Sexual chat rooms abound, enabling people to commit virtual adultery with an almost limitless number of partners in the privacy of their own homes and offices. Sin has never been so simple. Pornography is one of the largest industries in America, and the more people are exposed to it, the more pornographic our mainstream media becomes. Once regarded as a shameful sin, porn has become the norm. 

The Problem of Pornography

Pornography diminishes our capacity for the human relationships God wants us to share for his glory. Sexual intimacy is designed to serve as the covenant cement that binds one woman to one man in a love relationship for life. But when our sexual experience is privatized through pornography, we treat sex as a means of selfish gratification rather than a joy to be shared with the man or the woman God has called us to love. When a single person uses pornography it stifles the growth of selfless love and makes it increasingly difficult to have other-centered relationships that build up the church and may lead to marriage. When a married person uses pornography it defiles the marriage bed, darkens the flame of romance, and destroys the partnership of prayer. But these are not the only problems with pornography. It is a secret sin, and therefore it isolates us from the spiritual community we need to grow in grace. It is a visual sin, and therefore violates Christ's command not to look at someone with lust in our hearts (see Matt. 5:28). And since it is often accompanied with masturbation, it is an intensely physical sin, and therefore more easily gains addictive control. 

Unless this sin is mortified--that is to say, unless it is put to death (see Gal. 5:24; Col. 3:5)--it will only intensify. Pornography makes greater and greater demands until finally it becomes a life-dominating sin. As one of the Puritans said, sexual pictures secretly convey poison to the soul. Now they are only a click away--a click that may eventually lead a man or a woman straight to hell. 

A Plan for Spiritual Change

What is God's plan for putting pornography to death? George Scipione says at least six things are needed in any effective spiritual strategy for dealing with this sexual sin [see George Scipione, "Is Porn Norm?" Evangelium , pp. 2-5]. 

The first is regeneration, or the new birth. This is essential to everything else. Unless we are born again, we do not have the Holy Spirit living in us, and we will be powerless in our struggle against sin. But when the Spirit is alive in us, we can begin to grow in godliness: "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). 

The second is renewed repentance and faith. When Christians feel guilty, sometimes it is all we can do to drag ourselves back to God. But God wants us to run straight back to the cross, believing that because Jesus died for our sins, we are fully forgiven--forgiven for as many sins as we have sinned. 

The third part of a spiritual strategy for dealing with sexual sin is a renewed mind. This is always God's plan for spiritual change: a transformed mind that leads to a transformed life (see Rom. 12:1-2). This mind may be fed by reading good Christian literature, but fundamentally it is formed by feeding on the Word of God. 

The fourth part is renewed obedience. It is not just our thinking that needs to change, but the way that we live. This means replacing the old habits of lustful sin with new habits of purity before God. Among other things, this means being wise about when and where we use various forms of electronic communication. If you can't be trusted not to look at sexual images, don't watch television when you are alone, keep your office door open, or do whatever else it takes to limit the temptation to sin (see Matt. 5:29-30). 

The fifth part is regular use of the regular means of grace. Some people always seem to be looking for some special method that will guarantee spiritual change. But the only means that God has given for our spiritual growth are the ordinary means of the word, sacraments, and prayer. If you want to make progress in your struggle with sexual sin (or any other sin, for that matter), spend more time reading your Bible, sit under the faithful preaching of the gospel, receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper by faith, and pray daily for Christ to take control of your thoughts and actions. 

Sixth is regular reporting to responsible shepherds. We are not designed to grow in godliness by ourselves, but only in community with other Christians. When we are struggling with sin--especially any kind of addictive sin--we need to share our struggle in the church. Do not be afraid: a good brother or sister will not condemn you, but encourage you in the mercy of Christ. When the struggle is intense, you may need daily or at least weekly accountability from a close Christian friend. In addition, it is always wise to make sure that a pastor or elder is aware of your situation for the purpose of prayer. Many Christians also find it helpful to meet with a counselor who is trained to help people who are in bondage to sexual sin. Good places to get help and resources include Harvest USA and the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF). 

Anyone who does these things by faith will experience the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who is involved with pornography and decides not to do these things is pursuing his or her own destruction.


Ref21 Vault.jpg *This post first appeared on Ref21 back in August 2005. You can find the original post here
I recently heard one man say, "If you don't have accountability software on every internet-accessible device, you're a fool." His comment was in the context of how pornography, particularly one's usage of it, is ravaging the church. Men and women, boys and girls, at home and at work, in hotels and while in public, view sexually explicit material. With the exception of the shame it brings some, pornographic material is steadily becoming normalized.

Much has been written on the topic. People have attempted to provide gospel-saturated material for those viewing pornography so that they might finally be free. Others have suggested accountability groups, such as Celebrate Recovery. But one consistency, in my observation, between all methods of freeing oneself from pornographic addiction is, internet accountability software.

There are many programs from which to choose. Some are more helpful than others depending on the computer one uses (e.g., Mac versus PC). Most, if not all, of the software sends a report of potential pornographic material viewed to the designated persons of one's choosing. I know of pastoral staff who keep each other accountable by having the reports sent to all within the pastoral staff. Laypersons have also created accountability groups, and their internet reports are sent to each other.

I have no problem with internet accountability software. If utilized properly, it can be a useful tool. My problem is with the people who use it. In many of these software programs, there is a way to sidestep the monitoring process such that when the reports are issued, it does not tattle on the person who viewed pornography. Should we blame the creators of the software? Perhaps. More importantly, we should focus on the one manipulating the system to watch sexually explicit material.

This is one of the reasons internet accountability software does not work. The cravings that men, women, and children have toward viewing pornography causes them to seek ways to overcome the system so that their cravings are satisfied. Essentially what has occurred is that internet accountability software has produced an outward display of repentance (i.e., I can be on my best behavior because I have accountability software) but the heart has never been changed. The heart still desperately yearns for viewing that material and it will do what it takes to satiate its desires. Repentance, therefore, is needed, but it must take place both outwardly and inwardly.

According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism 87, "Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience." The catechism links both inward and outward actions. A true sense of one's sins, grief and hatred toward it, and an apprehension of God's mercy in Christ are primarily inward actions. Yet, those inward actions leading to repentance are inextricably linked to outward displays of repentance (e.g., "...with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience").

Repentance toward pornography needs to occur at both the inward and outward levels. Slapping accountability software on one's internet-accessible devices will only help for so long if one's heart is not changed. It is like the mother who continues to tell her son, "Stop hitting your sister," yet wonders why he continues to do it. She is focusing on the outward action without looking at the issues of the heart that are causing the problem.

Internet accountability software can work, but those using it must be saturated in the love of Christ and repentant both outwardly and inwardly. This does not mean one's struggles will cease permanently, but it does produce a greater possibility that she will never look at pornography again. Beloved, in Christ, it is possible to break the cycle.

Other people's pornography

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There is little doubt that an appetite for pornography is endemic in the modern West. That this is the case was driven home on a recent voyage. On my outward journey, I settled in to my seat for what was going to be a monster trip. Within a few moments, to my immediate right, one passenger was offering to another one of those lurid British tabloids with some kind of vulgarity and/or nudity on every page. Fortunately, before long, the offending organ was put away.

My own screen broke before a couple of hours had passed, and so I spent much of the journey reading, thinking, a little typing, and just mentally wandering. Of course, when this happens, the attention begins to roam also, and half a day's concentration is too much for this particular soul to bear. At one stage, a kind steward offered me the use of an empty chair with a working screen. Fine, except that it left me sitting next to a pleasant woman with a toddler-in-arms who was indulging in one of those seedy European films that features a fair amount of tawdry sordidness. Before long, I went back to my seat. When I did, I lifted my eyes, and a few rows ahead of me was a fellow with one of those much-envied bulkhead seats. On this particular aircraft, his screen, of a reasonable size, is set into the wall in front of him. On this screen, for him and anyone else with eyes in their heads, was a stream of Hollywood filth, all toned and bronzed flesh heaving and sweating in a display of aggressive and unrealistic hyper-sexuality. It struck me that not many years ago to indulge in this kind and degree of pornography (however it masquerades as art or entertainment) would at least have involved some kind of personal secrecy and social embarrassment. But now the whole is paraded on screens for men and women, boys and girls, to watch or glimpse without a seeming shred of moral awareness. Seeking to tear away and keep away my eyes, and so guard my heart, I looked in the other direction, and something similar was on another screen across the aisle directly in my line of vision!

I eventually took prayerful refuge in a combination of a book, the ceiling, one of those funky eye masks, and the "Bible study" of the chap next to me who turned out to be a Jehovah's Witness, but who was simultaneously plugged into a pair of earbuds that made conversation nigh-on impossible. It was at least a mercy that his screen did not have more naked flesh alluringly presented upon it.

On the journey home I was better prepared, spiritually and mentally, and managed to negotiate the pornstorm more effectively, but I was also more aware of it, and conscious of how it was being held before me on every front. Though the challenge has existed before, I honestly cannot remember such a deluge of other people's porn. For many of us, this may be where the battle is joined. Perhaps God in his mercy has entirely or largely spared us from indulgence in pornography in secret. Perhaps we have been exposed to it and repented of it and kept away from it. Perhaps we have patterns of work and leisure in which we deliberately keep our screens and our pages in clear view of others. Perhaps we have ditched our screens - cutting off our right hands, as it were - in order to keep us from sin and the punishments that follow. Perhaps we have accountability partners and software that help keep our feet to the fire. But what we cannot entirely avoid is other people's porn.

This is where we need more than a software installation or a gentleman's (or lady's) agreement with a friend or an open door and a visible screen. This is where we need a covenant with our eyes (Job 31:1). This is a battle that is fought and won or lost, first of all, in the heart of man, and the battle is joined at Eye-Gate, with these aggressive, invasive, enticing images that are held before us and around us on every side. Here we could potentially indulge without anyone but God knowing, though the Lord will know it. It is here that we need to pray for ourselves and others that we would not allow our eyes to roam and our hearts to wander and our souls to drink at the cistern of filth, not allow Eye-Gate to be broken through, but rather bar it up and hold it fast against all assaults and onslaughts. When pornography has become the entertainment norm, a regular diet for men and women, unremarkable and unremarked, it is ultimately a covenant with the eyes and a commitment of the heart, made in humble and prayerful dependence upon the Lord, that will serve us best and keep us pure.