Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Minefield, Part Deux

I've already posted my personal pilgrimage when it comes to lust & pornography (entitled 9 Years Ago). This may come as a surprise to some of you, but it's almost physically painful to write stuff like that. I am right on the edge of being an introvert, yet my role as a pastor leads to doing stuff that runs roughshod over that side of my personality. Having to be blisteringly authentic is one of those "run-over" areas. Given my druthers (what are "druthers" anyway?), I'd never open up like that.

Anyway, what I promised last week is to share what I taught Sunday morning... so here it goes:

Our culture has been pornified (term courtesy of Pamela Paul's disturbing book,
Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships & Our Families)... I mean, when Victoria's Secret can do lingerie shows on network TV, when Carmen Electra can market a series of Stripper-cise exercise videos, and where MTV & BET can produce entire specials on the positive connections between porn & rock & rap, something has gone wrong. (I won't even get into the amount of porn on the internet... sheesh.)

But the pornifcation of our lives isn't just about dirty pictures... it's the avalanche of "romance" novels & internet chat rooms & whatever else men and women use to gratify themselves sexually outside of marriage. Lust isn't just about centerfolds.

Lust, in fact, is more than looking... it's strong desire gone out of bounds or out of balance. (The following outline is courtesy of
Dan Allender.)

It's OK to have strong desires (
Luke 22:15, Philippians 1:23). The problem arises when they go
  • out of bounds - into areas that are destructive to yourself, your relationship with God, and/or those around you. (BTW, that really shouldn't be an "and/or" there... stuff that is destructive to you by it's very nature is also destructive to those around you and to your relationship with God.)
  • out of balance - when a perfectly good desire ends up blocking you from doing what God has called you to do. (No surprise - I didn't spend a lot time here on Sunday morning.)
The commands against sexual sin (Matthew 5:27-30, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20) are more than "God sez: Don't Do It" - they are to protect us from harm & provide for the best possible relationships. (See last week's notes.) Specifically, "lust, pornography & all that goes with that" (that's the phrase I settled on to avoid using the word "masturbation" in the sermon) leads us go totally self-focused. If sex is supposed to be about connection & intimacy, then autoerotic behavior is a bad wax museum copy of a good thing. It's all about me, myself & I:
  • fix me
  • fill me
  • satiate me
  • validate me
  • make me feel masculine
  • make me feel feminine
  • satisfy me
  • help me forget my troubles
  • numb me from the pain
So, what do we do now?
  1. start w/God... according to 2 Peter 1:3, we've got all the tools we need for godly living - what we desperately need is Bob Villa to show us how to use them. (At this point, I made self-deprecating cracks about my personal issues with mechanical stuff.) I don't want to sound too AA, but this is the whole "I'm powerless" thing.
  2. with God's help, make wise choices to deal with the problem - shut off the DirectTV, ditch your Internet connection, whatever it takes. (I know that sounds harsh to some of you - but as a recovering addict, continuing to have unfettered/unmonitored access to porn via the internet for me would be the rough eqivalent of giving an alcoholic a job as a clerk in a liquor store.)
  3. don't go it alone... find one or two fellow believers who will walk through the recovery process with you
Here's some quotes from my message prep materials:
  • I made a solemn pact with myself never to undress a girl with my eyes. Job 31:1 (The Message)
  • You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act -- that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us? C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
  • Gary Brooks, a psychologist who studies pornography at Texas A&M University, explains that "softcore pornography has a very negative effect on men as well. The problem with softcore pornography is that it's voyeurism -- it teaches men to view women as objects rather than to be in relationships with women as human beings." According to Brooks, pornography gives men the false impression that sex & pleasure are entirely divorced from relationships. In other words, pornography is inherently self-centered -- something a man does by himself, for himself -- by using other women as the means to pleasure, as yet another product to consume. Pamela Paul, Pornified
Finally, a note: I've included a link to xxxchurch in the sidebar pretty much from the begining of this blog. If you're struggling with internet pornography, I can not recommend this site highly enough. It's edgy, it's "hip", and it's brutally honest about the cost & the "cure" for sexual addiction.

My next post will deal with what I didn't deal with Sunday morning - masturbation. For those of you who wonder if I'll ever stop talking about sex, you're gonna have to wait a day or two more.

3 comments:

Amy said...

Mark,
I am so proud of you for continuing to get this message out. I think it is so important. I think the "church" tends to pretend the matter doesn't exist and surely if you are a christian you don't think or do such things. HA! Anyway, I wanted to throw in for the women out there a book as well. My small group is currently going through "Every Woman's Battle." It is very life changing. Women deal with sexual and emotional integrity as well. I feel our battle is more dangerous in a sense. We tend to have "emotional affairs" - this can be with men, romance movies or books, etc. We also have to battle comparing our husbands to others - physically, spiritually, emotionally. And of course some women deal with pornography as well.
I highly recommend that women read this book. It is a life changing experience.
thanks again Mark for being vulnerable to help others out of secrets.

zionred said...

kudos!

The men in my smallgroup are currently working through the book and workbook entitled "Every Man's Battle." Have you read through these yet? So far, I'm not really that impressed with the material. Especially the workbook. It's definitely not near as good as the "Faithful and True" series that we did at TCAHH. However, at least it's opening up discussion about these topics and forming accountability between all of us. For that is what is most important anyway.

One of Freedom said...

My comments on your more recent post would likely fit here as well. I would echo again your third point of advice - don't go it alone. Very wise advice.

Zionred - I have Everyman's Challenge from that series and I hated it. They would have some great story and then ask you if you felt shamed by it. Last time I checked shame was the enemies tool. I think it was just one of the writers because it seemed half of it was excellent and the other half unneccisarily rude. I was doing this as a study with a men's group at a sister church in my city and ended up dropping it because it would just make me so mad.

I think I might take these things so seriously because I struggled with it for so many years. The way out wasn't through shame and self-flaggelation, but through grace, community and forgiveness (both God's and my own towards myself).