A few weeks ago, I sent an email to some ladies with whom I am connected. It's prompted a number of conversations and has reaffirmed my belief that this topic is one that needs godly discussion. I'd like to post that email here now for a wider audience. I realize that some may see my views and unyielding, old fashioned, and too black and white. I'm ok with that. I realize that it may be one of those issues where we may need to "agree to disagree", but I welcome any comments and discussion.
Here's the original email:
I wanted to share with you something that's heavy on my heart right now. I've chosen to email each of you because you are a young person, have a young person in your home, or you may have an opportunity to minister to someone who has been touched by the following topic.
I'd like to talk about pornography. This is a hot button issue for me and I have some strong opinions, but, today, I'd like to share with you the story of Clay and Renee Crosse. You might recognize Clay as a popular Christian recording artist in the late '90's. He rose quickly to the top of his profession with powerful songs about the cross and surrendering all to Jesus. However, even during his time of ministry at such a prominent level, he struggled with a secret addiction to pornography. No one knew he had a problem - not even him.
In 1998, while in Savannah, Clay came down with a sinus infection that affected his voice. He assumed the problem would go away once the infection had cleared. It didn't. After several months of doctor's visits and tests, the doctors told Clay that there was nothing physically wrong with his voice. In an effort to recover some of his range, he went to visit a prominent vocal coach in Nashville. This godly man looked Clay in the face and asked him if he was a man of God. He asked him if he had a daily prayer life and if he spent time daily in the Word. He also asked him about his marriage and his relationship with his wife. It was then that Clay broke down under the weight of his secret sin.
The Lord had tried to get his attention in a number of ways and finally got through to him by taking away his voice. Yes, that's right, he believes God took away his voice - what he was known for, his source of income, his source of personal success - in order to get his attention and get the sin out of his life.
In reading their story, I was amazed at the honesty of both Clay and Renee. And, they both made a point to say that Pornography wasn't the real problem, it was just a horrible symptom. The real problem was that neither of them were seeking the Lord or pursuing a real relationship with Him. They had allowed things into their life (R-rated movies with intimate loves scenes, inappropriate comedy entertainment, certain women's magazines, etc) that had put them on a slippery slope into deeper sin. The problem was a heart problem and it manifested in a number of ways in their lives, their marriage, and their home.
I don't think we talk about holiness enough in our churches. In a conversation today I was reminded that holiness isn't exactly black and white and can have different meanings in different cultures and different homes. (Is it unholy for a woman to wear pants? In some cultures it is. There are definitely grey areas). In our society, it's difficult to live a set apart life. Too short shorts and spaghetti strap tops are the uniform of summer. Women and men display their bodies in magazines, television, movies, and any number of other forms of advertisement. Sex is all around us. How do we live holy lives in the midst of the world that is pulling us deep into her web?
Clay and Renee Crosse have created a ministry called Holy Homes in response to these questions. They offer frank discussion on how we make our homes holy and get rid of the things that lead us to sin. To read their story in more detail, I recommend that you visit www.holyhomes.org and click on the "We need to talk" link. I also recommend their book I Surrender All that details their journey through this dark valley. The Lord restored their marriage and their ministries (although, not Clay's voice entirely) and they are living proof of what God can do when we turn to Him.
Now for my thoughts on this topic. It's one about which I have strong feelings and opinions. I see no room for any of this in the life of someone who is trying to seek after God. I know that not everyone holds that view. (I also allow room for grace and understanding when we fall short. Goodness knows we all fall short in some way or another.) But, below are my reasons why I believe porn to be so damaging.
How do we live holy lives amid all of the craziness around us? I think we need to be soaking in as much scripture as we can. We need to be filling our minds with good things (Phil 4:8). We need to talk to each other more and hold one another accountable. We should applaud holiness where we see it and encourage those who are seeking to honor God with their lives.
And, we need to remember there are consequences when we choose unholy things.
For the unmarried man, viewing pornography is not harmless. It may seem like a "victimless crime" because it can be done in secret and with women who are putting themselves out there to be seen and enjoyed. But, it forever puts sexual images in the mind of a young man - images that can return unbidden even in the most intimate of times with his future wife. It teaches him to disrespect and degrade women - to treat them as objects for his own pleasure. It encourages habits that may be harmful to the intimacy and trust in his future relationships. It is sexual sin because the Lord says "Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Sadly, there are many young men who are saving themselves for marriage, holding on to their purity in order to give that gift to their bride, but are viewing pornography and fantasizing about women who are not theirs. (Just because these women put themselves out there does not make it right). They are destroying the intimacy of their marriage before they even find their bride. It breaks my heart.
For the unmarried woman, it can also have the same problems as for the unmarried man if she views pornography (which many young women do). However, it also has repercussions for the single girl that she may not even realize. Some of you may already know the heartache of discovering a significant other has cheated or betrayed a trust. In essence, this is what happens to a young woman (married or single) when her significant other chooses to watch pornography and fantasize about other women. It causes problems with self esteem and body image and, it causes something in her heart to break (who can live up to the "perfection" men see in these photos and movies? Note to the men: Would you want to be compared to the men in those photos and movies and wonder if you measure up?!) I would challenge single woman to seek after a life of holiness and choose a man who is doing the same. And, before you make a lifelong commitment, you need to have "the talk". Don't walk into your marriage blind to a man's flaws in this area. Don't pretend it's not there or believe that it's ok or that it will stop once you're married. Talk to him about it and get help, as a couple, if you need it.
For married couples, the effects of pornography can be completely devastating. To find out that your husband or wife is engaging in a fantasy life outside of your bedroom can be heart breaking for all the reasons mentioned above. I'm sure that each of us knows of a marriage that has been touched by this. But, there is hope! The story of Clay and Renee Crosse proves that. If the couple is willing to seek God together, help one another through the bad days and the temptations, and stick it out, God can restore the intimacy, trust, and deep love to the marriage.
I am so thankful that my home, growing up, was a PG household and one where I heard Philippians 4:8 nearly every day. It was difficult, as a teenager, to tell my friends I couldn't go with them to see those PG-13 or R-rated movies, but I’m so thankful that I did not allow that garbage into my mind. I see friends who are completely desensitized to sex and violence in movies because they've been soaking it in since grade school. I’m so thankful that my parents were wise enough to guard my heart, mind, and eyes from things that would harm me. I still try to make those same choices for myself when it comes to entertainment. I don't always choose as I should, but, I hope to be challenged to continue seeking holiness in my own life. I also do what I can to surround myself with people who hold me accountable in my choices.
Thanks for "listening" to my rant for the day. I pray that it will help equip you for future conversations with people who might be struggling with this issue. If you'd like to order Clay and Renee's book, you can click on this link and order it from NavPress: http://www.navpress.com/Store/Product/9781576837320.html (I've already promised my copy to someone else, but you're welcome to get in line if you'd like to borrow it!).