It’s an indelible memory in the life of a family: the day mom catches her son with porn.
For my 13-year-old, church-going son, that day started with a simple slip of leaving a racy website open on the family computer. My 8-year-old daughter saw the screen while he hurriedly went to the kitchen to fetch a soda, leaving the computer unattended.
“Mommy, what are these pictures of girls with no clothes on?” little sister innocently inquired.
Screaming, crying, yelling, running, hiding, and more ensued. On the scale of catching a teenager with drugs, cigarettes, or booze in his room . . . or a child stealing from dad’s wallet . . . or lying to cover up something very shameful . . . finding your child investigating porn is right up there in testing the bounds of innocence and trust within the family.
“HOW COULD YOU DO SOMETHING SO EVIL?” Mom endlessly repeated over and over. When I came home that night from work, the vibe of cataclysmic, traumatic emotion still hung thick in the air. As the father, I tried to calm the tense mood and lend perspective as best I could.
“Boys are naturally curious,” I explained. “It doesn’t mean our son is a porn addict.” But inside, I was concerned.
The Internet has brought a ready stream of the most lurid pictures and videos within a few clicks of any family. Not only old-fashioned nudity like the Sears catalog brassiere section I peaked at as an adolescent, but the most horrid, deviant sexual expositions of various unnatural, ungodly practices. The statistics of college-aged young men and older addicted to porn are incredible. And some research reveals that a majority of church ministers indulge in porn occasionally or regularly.
What could I do as a father to protect my sons and daughters?
Understanding the Times
As explained in Summit’s Understanding the Times, secular worldviews teach that only what happens during our lives matters. The Enlightenment gave birth to Secularism, bitterly blaming eternity-focused religions for all of society’s ills. The Enlightenment also gave birth to Darwinism, which made it intellectually respectable to believe that humans are just complex animals for whom any constraint on our impulses is unnatural.
In the 1900s, people began putting these two ideas together in explaining the search for intimacy. Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey, among others, concluded that love is just a term we use to describe our brains being stimulated with sexual desire.
Since only the material world exists, there’s no grumpy God telling us what is right and wrong. We can decide that for ourselves. This line of thinking gave birth to a sexual revolution in the 1960s.
Dr. Jeff Myers shares his own experience in explaining the temptation that young people face today:
College offered the opportunity to find the intimacy I had always desired. I did find it. Sexually at least. Sleeping around made me feel wanted. It gave me a high status among my fraternity brothers. And when I didn’t have a partner, pornography was always available. Rather than orient me to the truth, my classes just affirmed my actions. This world is all there is, my professors implied, and if our bodies are all we have and our sexual impulses are our strongest biochemical reactions, then sexual expression is how we become real. Sexuality, says commentator Rod Dreher, is how the modern American claims his freedom.
Co-ed living is now the norm on campuses. Gay marriage has been made the law of America. Transgenderism is the new civil right. The Kinks sing, “Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls. It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world.” Our times carry a ubiquitous onslaught on sexual norms everywhere we turn, from social media to motion pictures to government.
Understanding the Faith
I shared with my teenage sons what the Bible teaches about inappropriate pictures, videos, and sex outside of marriage, not in a formal, sit-down Bible study, but in the moments of life together, like a mentor sharing with his protégé.
Among other things, I shared that once lewd images make their way into our minds, it’s impossible to ever fully remove them. I shared what Jesus taught about how the images we longingly gaze at affect our inner character, heart, and spirit: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27).
The Playboy pictures I found one day on a bike ride through the streets of my hometown, Chicago, are still lurking in my mind 40 years later. And lurid pictures somehow always undermine the beautiful images and relationship between two loving people in God’s institution of marriage. Once adultery, real or imaginary, has been broached, it can never be taken back, but God is always faithful and forgiving.
I also taught my children “whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent and praiseworthy — think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Mass media today provides an endless array of things to experience. Be discerning for the sake of guarding your heart, as the Psalmist encourages us to do.
Understanding the Culture
How far we have slipped as a culture! Male bare-chested nudity was illegal in many parts of America until the 1930s. Now, women in New York City are crying to “free the nipple” as they sit bare-chested in city parks. Summit teaches four steps as a biblical approach to engage culture and to avoid counterfeit worldviews, including various worldview images: identify, isolate, inform, and invest.
It’s clear that the identification of pornography in all its various forms as evil is needed within the church. Christians can never participate in porn, which can apply to the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and lascivious romantic comedy movies. The unequivocal identification of porn as something to be isolated and avoided is without question. Christians need to hold each other accountable to this high standard: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed … anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3: 5-8).
Jonah Mix from Porn Kills Love says, “I’m interested in a world where men are raised from birth with such an unshakeable understanding of women as living human beings that they are incapable of being aroused by their exploitation.”
The secular worldview of mechanistic sexuality is all-pervasive in culture today. Beyonce’s cleaned-up Super Bowl performance undoubtedly led to the thousands of views and purchases of her new single “Formation,” which is profane, obscene, and inappropriate in many ways. As an alternative, wonderful ministries like Movieguide and Plugged-In can help Christians stay informed about quality movie, TV, and music choices.
Lastly, as I raised my sons and daughters, I invested in them daily. I tried, albeit imperfectly, to model purity in our household. Of course, at times I failed. For instance, the hilarious Seinfeld episodes I watched sometimes included insidious messages about sexuality that I allowed into my family’s thoughts. Or the lyrics to my favorite classic rock bands were not always the most edifying. But I’m glad to say that we kept a positive relationship and honest dialogue that continue to this day as they are in their 20s, and new members of the family enter the discussion as well.