Pornography, some say, is a Goliath. A gigantic industry — a conservative estimate puts it at $10 billion — it can break into any home via the Internet. In its “softer” forms, it permeates our movies, novels, television shows, and advertising. And although there is no way to know for sure how many men (and women, too, increasingly) are involved with pornography, no one denies that the number must be very high.
But if pornography is a Goliath, there are now some very determined Christian Davids on the scene, looking to bring it down.
Curt Swindoll, writing for his father Charles R. Swindoll’s Insight for Living ministry, estimated that one of every two church members is a consumer of pornography.
That estimate, he explained, is based on data from many sources — polls taken by Esquire magazine, Today’s Christian Woman, Promise Keepers, MSNBC, and major newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News.
“The amazing thing is that 50 percent of the people are admitting to this,” he said. “There must be some who are looking at porn and not admitting it. So all these numbers are probably on the low side.”
Citing a Daily News-ABC News report (go.com), pornography’s $10 billion tab makes it a bigger business than the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball combined.
To help Christians resist pornography, Insight for Living provides many resources on its website ( insight.org) and has ministers available to take phone calls. Curt Swindoll, twenty-year member of Insight for Living’s Board of Directors and a member of their Executive Committee, recommends setting up “honesty groups” ( coolstrategies.com). These accountability groups are to meet regularly. Members are to admit to their individual weaknesses and temptations, ask one another “tough questions,” accept advice, and work together to live up to a higher moral standard.
Insight recommends an independent ministry, NetAccountability ( netaccountability.com). “Our whole ministry is to fight Internet pornography,” said Scott Covington, NetAccountability’s CEO. “It’s a huge problem. In our first week of operations, we got calls from at least 500 pastors. Most of them were looking for help and advice on how to talk to people who were in trouble with pornography, but some needed help with their own porn problems.”
NetAccountability’s founders took two years to develop software that would provide customers with a new way to resist pornography. It allows the client to designate “accountability partners” who will be alerted whenever the client’s computer hits a pornographic website.
“When you know someone will see what you look at on the Net, it encourages you not to look at porn,” Covington said. “My wife sees every site I surf. But you can designate anyone or more than one person to review your Net use history. The system is secure, and you can delete a reviewer anytime.”
NetAccountability is nearing the end of its first full year of operation.
“Our inspiration,” Covington said, “is Biblical: Ecclesiastes 4:12, ‘A cord of three strands is not easily broken.’ People resist pornography better when they are not alone.”
NetAccountability also partners with New Life Ministries and its sponsored workshop program Every Man’s Battle (EMB).
Every Man’s Battle is serious — a five-day total immersion program that costs $1,600. Participants check into a hotel for four nights and spend the days attending motivational and instructional lectures, discussion groups, and prayer groups. According to New Life Ministries’ David Boyle, one program is held each month in a different city, and in the three years since EMB began, between 1,800 and 2,000 men have participated in the workshops.
“Involvement in pornography, extramarital affairs, prostitution — for most of the men who do these things, it’s a search for intimacy,” Boyle said. “You’d think a man who sneaks out of his marriage bed to look at pornography on his computer is leaving real intimacy for an illusion of intimacy. Well, he is. Real intimacy takes work. A lot of men are afraid of it, so they turn to false intimacy.”
The lectures at Every Man’s Battle are delivered by Joe Dallas, who is described by Doyle as a gifted, committed teacher and motivational speaker. Scheduled lecture topics, followed by group discussion, include “The Nature of Sexual Addiction,” “Repentance,” “Common Roadblocks to Recovery,” “False Intimacy,” and “Relapse Prevention/Epiphany.”
Does it work?
“One of my jobs here is to follow up,” Doyle said, “so I’ve talked to hundreds of men who’ve been through the program. Most of them, while in the program, bond with other participants in real and lasting friendships. They’ll always have someone to talk to.
“I’d say, yes, it is working. We’ve received hundreds of testimonials from men — from their wives, too. We’re pleased with our success so far.”
EMB employs Christian counselors to direct the group discussions and also provides leadership training seminars for pastors and men’s ministry leaders. These run in conjunction with the workshops for two days.
NetAccountability’s Scott Covington said that although pornography has always been a problem for society, the advent of the Internet has turned it into a serious mental health and social issue. “Never before have children been so easily exposed to pornographic images,” he said. “And pornography itself has changed significantly. The images are worse than they were some years ago — more violent, more explicit.
“I’ve had to counsel young girls who found these images on their home computers and knew their fathers were looking at them. It’s hard to imagine the impact of that.”
Churches must do more to fight pornography, he said. “They need to develop more of a problem-solving approach — and the people who belong to the church need to learn to go there when they need help.
“Pornography is not harmless: it’s a bad thing in itself. But it’s also a symptom of deeper, more serious problems in our culture. The oil light is on, and there’s a problem with the engine — that’s how we need to think about pornography.”
Covington hopes the time will come “when pornography is not in such high demand. If I didn’t believe that, then the outlook would be pretty bleak.” Meanwhile, Covington added, the sheer size and pervasiveness of the pornography problem sometimes makes him want to throw up his hands:
“When that happens, I turn to God. I realize my own strength and my own resources aren’t enough, so I lay it all on God, in prayer. God is bigger than the problems that we face.”