Growing up, many Christians sing songs such as “O be careful little eyes what you see” in Sunday schools nationwide. The question is, are they careful with those “little eyes” as they get older? Research reveals unsettling statistics on things such as pornography use among Christians.
“From what we read from the Barna Group’s research, two-thirds of Christian men have viewed pornography in the last 30 days,” Rob Jackson told AFA Journal. “And we’ve known for some time pornography victimizes probably one out of five women as well.” Jackson is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Oxford, Mississippi.
When it comes to adolescents, Jackson said he has not found a lot of statistics that he trusts, but based on his practice, he believes half, if not more, struggle with pornography.
He even counsels children with porn issues, a tragedy that has led him to two striking common denominators. First, on many occasions, the father has issues with pornography. Second, in the majority of cases, moms and dads were sexually active before they married and have not repented.
As a result, he said sexual sins continue and leak down into the lives of the children. Fortunately, there is help and hope for families and individuals.
Address the addiction
The vast majority of men Jackson serves are married. “I would love to serve a single, Christian man,” he said, “but typically it’s a married man or father that’s seeking my service.”
Some say pornography addiction has been common for years, while others believe it is a relatively new phenomenon fueled by things such as cable television and the Internet.
“I think every advance of technology has really worked to produce more addicts,” said Jackson, “and at this point in time, we’ve got people who have grown up with the Internet, and it’s as if they’re citizens of this new country that we call the Internet.”
In other words, people are getting addicted to pornography precisely because of how technology is making it so easily available. Of course, Internet filters and other options such as accountability partners are available, but Jackson recommends caution when it comes to depending on those safeguards. Unfortunately, many men download a filter or agree to accountability thinking this will solve the problem. Not likely.
“Behavioral interventions are not going to change the heart,” Jackson said. “As a Christian counselor who’s done this now for almost 30 years, I can tell you they just cannot.”
In a counseling session, Jackson seeks to get a firm grasp on the person’s view of God and any personal relationship he professes to have with God. He wants to see if the person understands that Christ came not only to forgive sins, but also to change the human heart.
Jackson hopes to help clients realize that ongoing sanctification in Christ by the Spirit is really possible, as opposed to trying to change behaviors specifically with filters and things of that sort.
Challenge the church
While the work of a professional counselor may be appreciated and respected, an addict’s concerned friends often forego referrals, initiate an intervention, and help the addict formulate a self-structured plan for recovery.
“I would encourage them to look at Matthew 18 starting with verse 15,” Jackson said.
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.
“Make sure that you have gone one-on-one and, from a Galatians 6 perspective, you’ve gone with a spirit of gentleness and caution as you confront the behaviors you’re concerned about. But in my experience, most people have gone down that road numerous times. It’s as if they’re continuing to read Matthew 18:15 and doing it over and over instead of moving on to Matthew 18:16, which says if your initial confrontation didn’t work, take a witness or two, who can establish what you’re saying and how the person is receiving it.”
When it comes to churches, Jackson would like to see a more proactive approach.
“I feel like what we have now is often reactive and defensive,” he said. “We need an approach that deals with prevention of the problem as well as early identification. Once that person is ‘caught,’ that person helps the church determine which path to follow.”
For example, someone who is confronted with a porn problem may be repentant. In that case the church is loving and concerned, nurturing and inviting, and willing to continue to shepherd and so on, as opposed to someone who may meet such a confrontation with attitude, shifting the blame, lying, and refusing to repent. Again, this is where Scripture comes into play.
“From a Matthew 18 perspective or a 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 perspective, the church would offer tough love which would be a temporary separation until that person repented,” Jackson said.
If something does not change, if the generations of Christians occupying today’s churches do not tackle these and other matters, the church can expect to deal with even more problems in the future.
Hope for healing
“When you look at statistics from Barna and others, it appears that we have a system perfectly designed to yield the results we’re getting,” Jackson added. “We’ve got all kinds of things that are contributing to sexual sin in the church, regardless of age.”
Yet, there is silence on the issue. Jackson compared it to the age-old fable in which an emperor wore no clothes, but no one in his kingdom dared mention it.
“My practice is called Christian Counsel,” Jackson said, “but I’m not trying to exclude non-Christians. I’m trying to be more about making disciples of those who profess Christ.
“Somehow, as a group, we’re really not emphasizing authentic discipleship, or the stats would be different. I don’t say that with a spirit of judgment but more as a clinician looking at it objectively. A different system would produce a different result.”
Jackson said 70% of porn users have unresolved trauma, which adds another layer of tension or stress for the addict.
“We think, Well, there are men who are sinning sexually, but they need a compassionate approach to dealing with underlying trauma,” said Jackson. “Others are suffering depression and anxiety, and that’s rarely addressed; still others have personality disorders like narcissism.”
Jackson concluded by reiterating that a porn addiction must be addressed with the Word of God as the solution.
Depending wholly on a sin management approach will touch only the tip of the iceberg, and there will rarely be healing. The path to victory travels through Christian counsel and application of scriptural principles.