Porn again

"Porn again" Continued...

Issue: "The fewer and the proud," April 23, 2005

Only the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000 remains in effect, though not for lack of challenge. This skimpy provision requires that public libraries employ internet filters on public computers. No legislation has succeeded in limiting the rights of pornographers in any way.

What then to do? Mr. Burgin, now free for five years from porn use, has developed and marketed Dynamic Living for Men (DLM), a multimedia curriculum that promotes integrity-forming habits. Mr. Laaser, porn-free for 18 years, serves as executive director for Faithful and True Ministries, leading support groups and work shops for recovering addicts. Other organizations are springing up across the nation as well. Harvest USA operates centers in Philadelphia and Chattanooga, Tenn., running classes and producing literature aimed to help couples recover from the effects of pornography. Christians for Sexual Integrity in Excelsior, Minn., emphasizes personal counseling sessions via telephone, e-mail, or in person. Pure Life Ministries in Dry Ridge, Ky., offers a more extreme 6-12 month live-in program where men escape all internet temptations and participate in intensive prayer.

The websites of these and many other similar organizations boast numerous testimonials of changed lives, but the problem seems only to grow larger. As more Christian homes broaden their bandwidth to high-speed connections and put computers in multiple bedrooms, the opportunity for private online viewing increases-and supply follows demand.

Numbering roughly 4.2 million, pornographic websites account for 12 percent of all websites. Attached to those sites are around 372 million pornographic pages, amply serving some 68 million daily pornographic search engine requests.

The magnitude of this crisis has pushed some Christians to more creative and perhaps even desperate measures. Gen-X pastors Mike Foster and Craig Gross run a website called XXXchurch.com where issues of pornography are discussed with striking candor, openness, and humor. Mr. Foster and Mr. Gross drew national attention for setting up a booth at a Las Vegas Adult Expo in January 2003. They promoted their website, handed out Bibles, and collected names for a prayer list.

The stunt earned them an interview with Penthouse, in which they decried the failure of more traditional church efforts to effect any broad change and spoke of their desire to work alongside the porn industry to get people thinking and talking about issues otherwise left in the dark.

Such risqué tactics have earned Mr. Foster and Mr. Gross considerable criticism from Christians. But many conservative ministries, including Focus on the Family, eye XXXchurch.com with growing interest, suspecting that so pervasive a problem may call for such radical solutions. XXXchurch.com lists personal testimonies similar to those on other sites, and its national media appeal has publicized the use of internet filters and accountability software.

Such products as Bsafe Online and Integrity Online promise to block offensive content for internet users. Other programs track web browsing and deliver regular e-mail updates to an accountability partner of choice. XXXchurch.com offers free downloads of such deterrents. While helpful, Mr. Burgin says these security measures alone cannot solve internet addiction: "Until a man's core needs are met, he'll go over, under, and around any boundaries."

So what are those core needs? Mr. Burgin's addiction was not accompanied by the stereotypical environmental factors. He and his wife maintained a regular, even vibrant, sex life. His job as a pastor was fulfilling work to which he felt called. But Mr. Burgin says he lacked closeness to God and other men. Those were his core needs.

For women with cyber-porn addictions, the symptoms are often different. Most prefer sexual chat rooms or sexually explicit stories to viewing illicit images. But despite that dissimilarity, the antidote of spiritual and social intimacy is similar.

"The church is the most equipped organization on earth to deal with this issue," Mr. Burgin said. "The biggest problem is getting pastors to take it on." Some pastors fail to address the problem because they are uncomfortable with it or ignorant of its prevalence. Others focus all efforts on producing an immediate emotion-filled moment of deliverance. "I believe in deliverance, but that can come in many forms," Mr. Laaser said. "To think God is going to just zap part of your brain so you're only attracted to your wife from that moment on is not realistic."

The consensus among experienced porn fighters is that quick fixes offer no widespread solutions. "Just bringing conviction in a Sunday sermon most of the time is not sufficient," Mr. Burgin said. "The man in the pew who looks like he just walked off the 18th green on top of his game and won't admit his problem, the church can't help him. The breakthrough point for every man is honesty."


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