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INSIDE STORY: Sin unclad: Churches face porn problem


A couple of months ago, I tested the bounds of your Christian compassion by attempting a humor column in this space.
Well, I’m going to challenge you again. But not with humor.
Rather, I dare to broach a subject that most of us would prefer to keep behind a brown paper wrapper — out of sight, out of mind, as it were. The only problem: Those brown paper wrappers aren’t what they once were.

When our churchelders were growing up, getting a glimpse of a sexually explicit photographrequired slapping down a seedy magazine on a store counter or walking into anadult video store. Fortunately, most Christians were much too afraid of gettingcaught to ever attempt that.

Nowadays, it’s mucheasier to access all manner of bare-skinned images. In the Internet age, thefilth flows easily into our bedrooms or our offices.
And no one ever hasto know.
As we report startingon Page 17, three A’s — accessibility, affordability and anonymity — combine tomake Internet porn a major temptation, and many church members succumb.
Some of us probablycan’t imagine that a person could call himself — or herself — a Christian andfall victim to something so unholy.

Others of us preferto ignore the subject for a different reason: It strikes too close to the pewwhere we sit. But we’re all human, all of us in those pews.
Vital piece ofinformation for the indecent Web surfers in our midst: Your husband or yourwife might not know what you’re doing late at night, but God does. And so doesSatan.
So, who among usstruggles with this? Well, it could be that erratic-attending member on theback row. But it could just as easily be the Scripture-spouting minister withthe perfect wife and sparkling-toothed children. For example, some counselors suggestministers are even more susceptible to this particular sin than members.
Ministers work sohard at helping others that they can burn out. Moreover, the often-unstructurednature of their job allows plenty of time when they’re not directly accountableto someone.
Add to that thedepression ministers sometimes feel — thinking they’re underpaid orunderappreciated, or that after giving so much to others, they’re entitled tosomething for themselves — and porn may masquerade as an easy escape.
Don’t get me wrong.I’ve got too many personal hang-ups to pick on ministers. I just make the pointthat the lure of X-rated images touches a wide spectrum of us.
Nonetheless, it’stypically not something you hear much about from the pulpit. Part of the reasoncould be a generational gap: Most of our church leaders grew up in a differentera, when this wasn’t an issue.
But in a survey lastyear, nearly three out of four Christian men ages 19 to 29 indicated theystruggle with Internet pornography as a temptation. While the findings were notscientific, the responses came from church of Christ members.
In that same surveyof 4,000-plus church members of all ages (available atwww.campbellstreet.org/survey), half the respondents said they had heard one orfewer sermons in the last year that mentioned Internet pornography.
Given what we know,does that sound like enough?
So, what can ourchurches do?
A few ideas based onmy interviews with the experts:
• We can acknowledgethe problem.
• We can become safehavens for confession, repentance and healing.
• We can takepractical steps to help. Our Currents story highlights some examples.
Finally, if you’recaught in the porn trap, there is hope.
God provides a way ofescape, as Steve and Holly Holladay — who are profiled in Currents — canattest. I appreciate so much their willingness to expose their most personaldetails to help others.

Here’s what Hollytold me about their decision to do so:

As a teen growing upin the church, I had the perception that everyone was perfect. Everyone exceptme. When I found myself caught in a cycle of sin that I couldn’t get out of, Ilived in mortal fear that someone would find out. At the same time, there was apart of me that wanted to be found out so that I could be free.
No matter howmiserable I was, the fear of disappointing all those who seemed perfect helpedkeep me trapped. Eventually, as I grew up, I realized that all those peoplecoming to church all dressed up every Sunday had skeletons in their closet too.At first I was relieved.

That was quicklyfollowed by disappointment. Why hadn’t any of them shared their real lives withme? It would have given me hope.
Individually and as acouple, Steve and I have been through numerous experiences that were extremelydifficult. We both firmly believe that those experiences weren’t only for ourbenefit. If we are honest with others, we may be able to spare them some of thepain we went through.
As scary as it is, mylife isn’t about me, and it sure isn’t in my control. If I have trulysurrendered every aspect of my being to the Lord, then I can only be obedient.And obedience is rarely comfortable.

Thank you, Holly andSteve, for your courage.

Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

April 1, 2006

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