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Fleeting images

"Fleeting images" Continued...

Issue: "Rethinking the death penalty," Oct. 19, 2013

By extension, a problem afflicting so many men affects just as many women. Lindsey Wagstaffe, 21, said several men who have pursued her admitted to struggling with pornography. They usually raise the issue at the start of the relationship, and her first reaction is compassion.

But personally, the questions haunt her: “Will my husband compare my body and actions with other women’s bodies and actions whenever we’re intimate?” “If my future husband found me more beautiful, would that help him stop fantasizing about having sex with women who aren’t his wife?” And the biggest question: “Am I only an ‘it’ to this man … that possesses a body to be used?”

Some girlfriends are stuck in a difficult place: not committed in marriage, but still in love. Wagstaffe said porn has kept many of her friends in their 20s and 30s single, as they haven’t been pursued by godly men. She believes it’s important to look at the underlying causes of the addiction—often spiritual immaturity: “I would definitely, absolutely marry a man who has a history with pornography and is currently experiencing more regular victory over it. But I haven’t considered it wise to pursue unity with someone who is currently in the grip of an addiction.”

John Piper agrees: Wagstaffe asked him if a boyfriend’s porn addiction should be a deal-breaker—Piper’s response became one of his most popular podcasts ever. He noted four problems with porn: It is unloving to the women pictured, adulterous, destructive to man’s capacity to love real women, and destructive to a man’s soul and his capacity to see God.

Piper said if a man can’t control his lust, women should see that as a deal-breaker: “An overall satisfying relationship with Jesus means that Jesus is precious enough so that we value Him above [porn]. … A man who says I embrace all that destruction … is saying something that a woman who is about to marry him better hear loud and clear.”

Denison, who leads the Denison Forum on Culture and Truth, said women should anticipate men having a problem with pornography and not be afraid to bring it up if the man doesn’t do so first—which Denison said men should do before engagement: “Don’t ignore it or think they’ll outgrow it or think it will go away with marriage.”

Andy, a 29-year-old professional athlete who was first exposed to porn at age 10, had already been in recovery for several years when he married his wife in 2011. He was clean for the first two years of marriage, then relapsed in March of this year and struggled for months. On his 60th day of sobriety he said, “I have to surrender my thoughts and feelings to God on a moment-by-moment basis. There have been times I’ve gotten on my knees [to pray] in the middle of the day, because I feel like I’m under attack.”

Andy said he is transparent with his wife but doesn’t tell her about every lustful thought. That’s why he stays plugged in to his support group of men: “No woman will ever understand what a guy goes through—sex addict or not. … It’s too much of a burden to put on my wife.” He hadn’t had sex with his wife in months—he’s earning back her trust—but considers himself lucky: “I’d rather be married and working through this than going through a divorce.”

Tens of thousands of men are turning to online support groups like NoFap on Reddit.com to overcome porn.

While porn is wreaking havoc within the church, Christians have done little to address the issue. Among pastors who broach the subject, most only give it a passing reference, and virtually all direct comments to men—leaving out women and children, whose porn usage is on the rise. Daniel Weiss of Brushfire Foundation, an organization that promotes a positive view of sexuality, said, “We have a situation where the whole world is talking about it, but the church and young people are looking for answers outside the church.”

In the absence of the church and proactive parenting, many children look to the internet to understand sexuality. The result: The average addict is exposed to porn between the ages of 10 and 12, and teens use porn more than any other age group. Ninety percent of all boys and 60 percent of all girls will see pornography before they turn 18—including large amounts of deviant behavior, such as bestiality, group sex, and child porn.

Churches often expect one-time fixes through prayer or confession, but addicts get frustrated and start doubting God when they end up slipping back to pornography. “When we only talk about it from the moral view, we are doing listeners a terrible disservice,” said David Zailer, a former porn and drug addict who now heads Operation Integrity, a porn recovery organization that started in California: “They already know it’s wrong. The problem is people will stop but generally go back to it because they’re stuck in isolation.”

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