With Dr. Bruce Hartung
Thanks to alert readers for pointing out that a Web address for Internet accountability software in May’s column actually led to the online opportunity to purchase watches. I apologize.
The correct site address is www.x3watch.com. This is part of the www.xxxchurch.com initiative. Lutherans will not find it perfect, but these are quite wonderful resources for Internet security, self-awareness and spiritual reflection.
In my May column (online at http://classic.lcms.org/?18686), I laid out what I think is a spiritually honest and direct approach to the issue of pornography. The issue is often complicated and, in my clinical experience, very often involves lots more than just lust and sex. That is why I articulated a comprehensive approach.
Many readers also offered their recommendations for resources. We will get to those. But first, please consider the sobering communication from a reader that follows.
According to a divorce lawyers association, Internet pornography and cybersex are … leading causes of divorce in America today. We have seen churches torn apart when it is discovered that their pastor is using church equipment to feed his addiction. Lutheran school teachers are being terminated when their cybersex activities are revealed. Students in our Concordia Universities (male and female) are losing their opportunities to serve as professional church workers because of their sexually explicit activities online, and children in our Lutheran schools (elementary through high school) are sexting one another during school.
I do not have firsthand information to support the reader’s comments related to university, high school and elementary school students. But frankly, I would not be surprised.
Estimates vary, but a consistent and conservative estimate is that 20 percent of all email and texting messages have some pornographic content. It is also clear that this is no longer (perhaps it never really was) an exclusively male issue, as the use of pornography by women is significantly increasing. One Canadian study found the average age for a first encounter with pornography is 9. In short, the culture is permeated with this.
It is naive to believe that church workers, aspiring church workers or students in any of our Lutheran schools are immune or that they have no contact with pornography.
Because the culture is so permeated with this, it is also not particularly helpful to simply scream about it or tell people just to cease. We need thoughtful conversation about sex and sexuality, deeper reflection on the stewardship of our bodies, greater practice of empathy for others (which then keeps us from using them to satisfy our own impulsivity) and prayerful spiritual discernment and study.
We also need to be able to be alongside people who struggle. Breaking free of addiction to pornography is most often not an easy or quick task. The development of processes of support and open conversation are crucially important.
Thanks to a number of readers who offered additional resources.
Several referenced the Every Man book series, two titles of which are Every Man’s Battle, by Stephan Arterburn, and Every Woman’s Battle, by Shannon Ethridge and Arterburn. A booklet titled Getting Internet Pornography Out of Your Life (www.directactionbooks.com) was recommended by a Lutheran marriage and family therapist. Others suggested the Internet site www.no-porn.com, which also includes reference to the Internet security system titled Covenant Eyes. Several other readers suggested retreats sponsored by Doxology (www.doxology.us) that, in part, address pornography.
Several readers also pointed to what I suspect is the most comprehensive current LCMS resource available — Responding to Sexual Temptation in a High Tech Society, produced by Ambassadors of Reconciliation (www.hisaor.org) in 2008. This resource includes a Bible study and a DVD.
Also, two readers recommend the following books for those whose spouses are involved with pornography: Mending a Shattered Heart: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts, edited by Stefanie Carnes, and Hope After Betrayal, by Mag Wilson.
Rev. Bruce M. Hartung, Ph.D., is dean of Ministerial Formation at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted May 27, 2011