Blog | Topic: Pornography

13-Year-Olds, Smartphones, And Pornography. . .

Last night I finished reading Rachael Denhollander’s sobering book, What Is A Girl Worth?, which tells the story of her courageous leadership in exposing the systemic sexual abuse of young female athletes by Dr. Larry Nassar. I can’t recommend this book enough. For those of us who might be ignorant of the breadth, depth, and fallout from the epidemic of sexual abuse, this book is an eye-opener.

What many don’t know about Larry Nassar is that in addition to molesting hundreds of victims through his medical practice, he was also deeply addicted to pornography. Not only was he convicted on multiple accounts of sexual abuse, Nassar was also convicted of having over 37,000 images and videos of child pornography on his computer.

As we’ve worked to understand and respond here at CPYU to the growing glut of pornography that is accessible, affordable, and largely anonymous, we have learned that as with all types of human brokenness we need to respond with a three-fold strategy.

First, we need to be prophetic. . . bringing the light of God’s Word to bear on the realities that exist. What do the Scriptures say about the issue of broken sexuality and pornography? And, how do we talk about pornography with our kids? Second, we need to be preventive. What can we do as responsible adults. . . parents, teachers, youth workers, pastors, etc. . . . to build the borders and boundaries that will keep our kids and ourselves from undoing God’s good design for our sexuality through sin? And finally, we need to be redemptive. What steps should we take when we discover that a kid we know has wandered into the dangerous world of pornography? (Many have found Tim Chester’s book, Closing The Window: Steps To Living Porn Free, to be very helpful!). And by the way, it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.

I was reminded again this weekend of one of the most powerful preventive steps we can take to provide for our kids’ well-being while protecting them from harm. In an article in the November 2019 edition of First Things, “How To Regulate Pornography,” Terry Schilling writes these words: “A thirteen-year-old with a smartphone in 2019 has greater access to pornography than the most depraved deviant could have dreamed possible two decades ago. . . Not only has pornography become more accessible, it has become more diverse and perverse, as cultural vanguards and even mainstream institutions have promoted sexual fetishism as a new sort of societal norm, if not overtly, then with a wink and a nod.”

While Schilling is right about the difference between then and now, she does shoot a bit on her age estimation. The fact is that in today’s world, the tipping point where more than half of our kids have their own smartphone is now age 11. And what about those kids that have their own smartphones at the age of seven or eight?

We have to ask. . . If we really care about our kids and their well-being, why would we walk them by the hand right up to the doorway into online sexual brokenness by giving them access to the internet through their own smartphones?

If you would like to learn more about kids and pornography, you can download our FREE “Parent’s Primer On Internet Pornography” here. 

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A Woman’s Take On The Super Bowl Halftime Show And Human Dignity . . .

The conversation continues. . . and so it should. . . because these things do indeed matter. (Here’s what I wrote on Monday). And lest you think that all those who care are only singling out the few minutes and participants we saw on Sunday night, that’s not true. What we saw was a brief  and wide-open peek into a widely-held and fast-spreading cultural narrative that’s so deeply embedded in our world and ourselves that it is largely invisible. We know that’s the case for the simple reason that when it is brought to light, the push-back is that it doesn’t even exist. . . or if it does in fact exist, it just doesn’t matter.

I’ve been tracking with the back-and-forth on social media. This morning, I ran across some insightful and heart-felt words from my friend Mindy Summers. Mindy is a young wife and mother who six years ago began a ministry to people who are making a living in the sex-industry. The ministry is called “SoLoved.” Mindy and her team don’t desire any attention, and I asked her permission to share the focus of the ministry and her words. She says, “We are a team of women and men (prayer & security) who reach out to women here locally within the sex industry. Our entire goal is to build relationship & sisterhood with the ladies in the clubs. We want them to know they are loved, valued, seen & that we so enjoy who they are. Every month we bring gifts, homemade treats, handwritten love notes and homemade meals to each club. It has been a true honor & joy. Our vision statement is this: ‘Ministering to women in the sex industry, helping them see they are valued and dearly loved by Jesus, and believing for lasting freedom for their lives.’” Mindy and her team are living the Gospel.

Here’s what Mindy posted the day after the Super Bowl. Her words are filled with hope, truth, and compassion. . .

After I put my babies to bed tonight I ventured online to see this halftime show everyone was talking about…

As I watched two incredibly talented and beautiful women…my eyes welled up with tears.

This is the thing- I am not sheltered. I spend hours in strip clubs every month. Hours. I’ve been doing this for nearly 6 years. I’ve seen a lot of stuff. Our SoLoved team desires to build relationships with the precious women within the walls of these establishments. They are treasures. Most of them are there because of childhood trauma & abuse, lack of opportunity and/or manipulation or coercion. They didn’t dream of this. It isn’t empowering…it’s where they are and they are doing the best with what they’ve been dealt.

…and the men. The men who go…most of them are sorting out their own brokenness within these walls. Porn addiction, broken relationships, loneliness, power trips & addiction are many of their stories.

The supply for the USE of women is due to the demand. The demand is 100% fueled by a hyper sexualized culture.

This all seems expected within the walls of a strip club, right? Sad…but expected.

If that isn’t heartbreaking enough…this. Tonight on a Superbowl halftime show…two super talented women chose to share their God given talents with the football fans by pole dancing and thrusting with little clothes on. In front of the whole world. The moves, the poles, the song lyrics…the sex industry was glorified as empowering tonight.

Let me tell you. That is a LIE. These two ladies choose to shake their tails for the world to gawk at…but there is nothing empowering about women being the recipients of the onlooker’s sexual attention. They have body guards to walk them off the stage. Most women just get a can of mace.

We say we are tired of rape, sexual assault and young girls being told their body is what gives them value…BUT THEN we go and we INVOLVE YOUNG GIRLS in the very scene…at a football game…and the crowd goes wild & we clap and praise it.

So dear young girl-
I bet you are super confused. We tell you that YOU ARE NOT YOUR BODY. We tell you that what’s inside is what needs to shine. We tell you that you have a MIND AND A SOUL. We tell you to take self defense classes, carry mace, watch out for date rape and don’t let a guy pressure you. BUT THEN…we entertain you with pole dancing, thrusting, hyper sexualized lyrics & seductive facial expressions…and we clap for it.

We tell you that women can do anything. Women are equals. Then we bring out two influential women to entertain us…with what? Sex.

Don’t buy into the lie. Women do have minds. They also have self respect. The things that are done in bedrooms and inside strip clubs should never be performed on a stage for strangers and children to watch. And you know what…I’m sorry that this is how things are. You deserve a better world. A world where women are empowered and can use their God given talents in ways that don’t scream sex. Because again…that’s not why women are here.

So dear girl…be proud to be female & don’t for one second believe the lies. Keep offering your gifts to the world in meaningful ways. Be kind. Be a friend. Dance. Paint. Sing. Play. Lead. Learn. Grow. Serve. Think. Do hard things. Change the world.

Again- I’m sorry that you live in a day when you can’t watch a football game without hyper-sexualization. How sad for us…all of us.

I know there will be some who shrug me off as judgmental and want to rave about how talented these superstars are…and let me just say…yes I know they are talented. No doubt. As for the judgmental part- my heart is not out of judgement…but concern for young girls and the messages we are sending about women. God help us.

Thanks Mindy.

(If you’d like to contact Mindy directly, you can do so at solovedcontact@gmail.com)

Here’s a link to one of our favorite books for teenaged girls. . . all about where to find identity in today’s sexually-charged/image- conscious world. . . Face Time: Your Identity In A Selfie World.

To learn more about the pressures on our girls, listen to episode 82 of our Youth Culture Matters podcast here.

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Shakira, JLo, and The NFL… Thoughts On Halftime

I’m really not sure how to put into words the cascade of thoughts, confusion, concern, and sadness that began last night shortly after Shakira took the Super Bowl Halftime stage. . .  and which have continued up to this moment.

My years in youth ministry and culture-watching have, I hope, been marked by growing skills in both the exegesis and interpretation of Word and world. At least that’s what I have endeavored to move towards. And, I hope that the fruit of that journey has been an ability to develop some kind of discernment that might reflect a growing commitment on my part to things that are good, true, right and honorable. It’s a journey that I’m still on and one that I believe all followers of Christ are called to pursue. I say this purely as a precursor to sharing some thoughts sparked by my ongoing study of Word and world, specifically how that all played out in an unsettling manner between halves last evening.

In case you are tempted to miss the significance of last night’s halftime show, remember that culture is both a map and a mirror. It serves both directive and reflective purposes. As a map, it tells us what to believe and how to live in the world. It’s an especially effective map when its pop culture forms are consumed by children and teens. . . who are in developmentally formative years which make them especially vulnerable to blindly following the maps with dedication and without question. What we watched last night was not at all benign. It served as a signpost pointing in a certain direction. As a mirror, last night reflected back to us our collective cultural heart. . . at least what the entertainment moguls desire and expect our collective heart to be. If we’re not all there yet, we at least know that our cultural leash is pulling us in that direction. As William Romanowski has written, “Culture refers to the way that we define and live in God’s world. It is a collection of ideals and beliefs, values and assumptions, that makes up a kind of master plan for living an interpreting life.” Last night that “master plan” played out on the halftime stage.

Rather than using this space to jump into a complete overview of the lives, careers, and worldview messages communicated through the entertainment brands known as Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, here are some thoughts prompted by last night’s cultural moment. . .

First, let’s never diminish or deny the reality of talent and where it ultimately comes from. We saw great talent on display last night. There were the players who have been given athletic talent. The performers. . . Yolanda Adams, Demi Lovato, Shakira, and Jennifer Lopez. . . those ladies can all sing! There were dancers who have been given the ability to move. . . something that I’m totally void of myself! The list of talented people who went into making last night’s Super Bowl game and broadcast a reality is long. . . coaches, producers, owners, administrators, graphic artists, videographers, marketers, etc. . . . all of them incredibly gifted and talented. And lest we forget, when all of them develop and pursue their talent, they are imaging the God who made them by exercising their creativity. The result might not be God-glorifying, but the talent in and of itself always is. Which leads to the next thought. . .

Second, let’s never forget that talent always moves in a direction of glory and praise. Our creativity. . . whether in work, play, academics, or the arts. . . always points in a direction of glory and praise. When talent moves in a direction that promotes the beauty of human flourishing, it gives honor and glory to God. It serves as a signpost where human eyes are not invited to stop and stare, but where human eyes and the hearts they lead to look beyond the creation to the Creator. But when it invites us to settle on the things of the world, the flesh, and the devil. . . then talent leads to the spread of cultural beliefs and behaviors that undermine our human flourishing and are ultimately idolatrous.

Third, we must endeavor to teach our kids how to discern media’s messages and maps. Here at CPYU, we’ve been relentless in our three-decade pursuit to help youth workers, parents, and kids alike learn how to process media critically and Christianly. Our popular tool to facilitate this is our How To Use Your Head To Guard Your Heart 3(D) Media Evaluation Guide.

And this is where I jump off into my great concerns and sadness over what was mirrored to us last evening. . . and the map that was laid out before the hearts and minds of children and adults alike. My thoughts during the halftime show unfolded in a short series of three social media posts.

When the children came on stage I couldn’t help but think, “Isn’t having children in this halftime show some kind of abuse?!?

A few minutes later I registered by dissatisfaction with Pepsi for their sponsorship of the halftime show: “I’m giving up Pepsi products.” And yes, I will be doing that.

And finally, I wrote these words: “I am currently reading Rachael Denhollander’s book, What Is A Girl Worth? I’m going to send copies to Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.”

If you are unfamiliar with Rachael Denhollander’s story, she was one of the main victims and whistle-blowers over physician Larry Nassar’s systemic molestation and abuse of young girls. As I’ve read, I have been reminded of how women are objectified, trafficked, and abused. I couldn’t help but notice the great irony last evening, as we viewed multiple commercials and messages touting the value of women. All humans are divine image-bearers. . . and we are served well when cultural outlets remind us of the value of the marginalized. But there were the reminders of the dark under-belly of the Super Bowl. . . an event that is now recognized as one of the main hubs for sex-trafficking. . . so much so that the this year the state of Florida teamed up with the NFL for a “Stop Sex Trafficking Campaign.”And on the half-time stage, there were the lyrical and visual reminders of the fact that we embrace an expressive individualism largely void of sexual borders and boundaries. The hypocrisy and mixed messages were unavoidable.

What is a girl worth? Far more than we saw last night.

Rachael Denhollander shared this quote from C.S. Lewis: “A man does not call a line crooked unless he some idea of a straight line.” It’s a clear reminder of our need to focus on the straight line of God’s revealed will and way, and to view all of life. . . our own and our corporate human endeavor. . . through the lens of God’s Kingdom priorities.

Some have pushed back saying that to criticize Shakira and Lopez is not an option if you understand Latino culture. The reality is that all culture reflects and communicates deeply held values. And where those values stray from the straight line, we need to pray and humbly push for change. . . not for change that results in conformity to one’s own cultural preferences, but for change that leads to fully experiencing the freedom and joy of true human flourishing. The Gospel confronts all cultures and cultural expressions. . . yours, mine, and ours. Last night’s message to me, to you, to my grandchildren, to all of us. . . it was deeply troubling. We’ve been made for so much more.

This morning, I took the time to read and ponder the lyrics from last night’s set-list. I would encourage you to do the same. You will see the map.

One little line from Jennifer Lopez’s “Jenny From The Block” jumped out at me. . . “Put God first.” That’s a powerful directive.

Perhaps it was timely that this morning as I continued my journey through the One Year Book of Hymns, I read about Frances Ridley Havergal and a hymn she wrote on February 4, 1874. She wrote “Take My Life and Let It Be” as an expression of “the blessedness of true consecration.” As I read the text of this old familiar hymn (see below), I was struck by what it really means to “put God first.” It’s a complete reorientation of everything. I made a list of what Havergal included in her hymn: life, time, hands, feet, body, voice, mouth, money, mind, will, desires, heart, love. . . everything. . . “Take myself – and I will be/Ever, only, all for Thee/Ever, only, all for Thee.”

As we pursue that end, let’s make sure that it is the One true God, His will, and His way that we have in our sights.

  1. Take my life and let it be
    Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
    *Take my moments and my days,
    Let them flow in endless praise.
  2. Take my hands and let them move
    At the impulse of Thy love.
    Take my feet and let them be
    Swift and beautiful for Thee.
  3. Take my voice and let me sing,
    Always, only for my King.
    Take my lips and let them be
    Filled with messages from Thee.
  4. Take my silver and my gold,
    Not a mite would I withhold.
    Take my intellect and use
    Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
  5. Take my will and make it Thine,
    It shall be no longer mine.
    Take my heart, it is Thine own,
    It shall be Thy royal throne.
  6. Take my love, my Lord, I pour
    At Thy feet its treasure store.
    Take myself and I will be
    Ever, only, all for Thee.
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This School Year – Keep The Conversation Going

Over and over again I learn how important a parent’s voice is when it comes to the conversations surrounding sex and sexuality. Parental involvement is critical in forming healthy sexual attitudes and behaviors. There are three areas I think parents can focus on this school year that will make a big difference in the years ahead.

Communication is KEY

Yes, peer and media influences impact youth and probably more than ever before. However, parents continue to be the largest influence of sexual attitude formation among adolescents. An important piece of parental involvement is communication between parents and children. 

Parental expectations regarding sexual activity have significant impacts on young adult sexual activity, particularly regarding first sexual encounters. This can only happen though if the parent is communicating their value to their child. Parental attitudes and expectations have been found to be protective, and as parental disapproval and communication of sexual integrity messages are communicated over and over, the likelihood of your son and/or daughter living out these values increases dramatically. 

It is worth noting though, how we communicate matters! While communicating messages of sexual integrity can contribute to delayed sexual experience, too much control or authoritarianism can lead to the opposite effect. Simply challenging your kids to wait and make it more about a rule than a change of heart can have just the opposite effect! 

Children Need to Know YOU Care!

In addition to communication, general care is often correlated with timing of sexual initiation. Support, perceptions of closeness and connection all factor into an overall caring environment. A few years ago, I read about a Dutch study that found favorable perceptions of parental care, support and connection are correlated with delayed sexual experience. I think the Dutch were on to something! 

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Simply communicating is not enough if your children don’t know you really care about their overall well-being. Being connected to a parent functions as a tool that protects against early sexual involvement. Take time to be with your children, enter their world, and get to know the things they are involved with throughout the school year. This will have a tremendous impact on the way in which your words (communication) land on them during the school year. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Be The Parent

The popular notion is to be a child’s best friend but this can undermine your authority. Being close to your child is important but don’t forget the role you play as their parent! Studies that have looked at parental control and sexual experience find that higher levels of control (less permissiveness, more supervision, and parents perceived as more strict) correlate with a delay of first sexual intercourse. It is worth noting that control alone may be counterproductive in reducing sexual activity, but is effective if coupled with care and communication.

Making a distinction between authoritative control (clear and fair demands) and authoritarian control (an arbitrary insistence on obedience), is important to isolating the most effective factors of encouraging sexual health. Again, this all works together, but when you engage in your child’s world you become more aware of what they are watching, listening to, and who their friends are. Higher levels of monitoring were associated with lower levels of sexual risk-taking, and delayed sexual initiation. 

When a parent communicates effectively, shows they care, but also is not afraid to show their authority when it’s required, have youth that more often than not delay sexual activity and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. So as this school year begins take note of each and keep the dialogue moving forward!


Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds. He is an internationally recognized seminar and conference speaker and published writer on issues surrounding sexuality and youth culture. He can be heard on Project Six19’s podcasts, “DriveTime” and “Mixtape” as well as the CPYU podcast, “Youth Culture Matters.”

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What’s The Big Deal With Pornography!?!

This blog was adapted from the first episode of the second series of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.

There is a story that is being worked out around us and within us. In Genesis 1 and 2 we find God made all things and made them good. The very beginning of scripture reveals this truth. “God saw all that He had made and it was very good.” – Genesis 1:31.

But the story also includes humankind’s rebellion, which resulted in all things being broken and distorted. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. . .” – Genesis 3:6-7

We are broken people living out a broken and distorted sexuality. 

This truth must not escape us. It is especially important for us to remember as we dive deep into the issues surrounding pornography. There is a constant battle for what God declared as good and what satan does to distort and bring destruction. 

Pamela Paul writes in her book pornified: “The pornification of American culture is not only reshaping entertainment, advertising, fashion, and popular culture, but it is fundamentally changing the lives of more Americans, in more ways, than ever before. We are living in a pornified culture and we have no idea what this means for ourselves, our relationships, our society.” Porn surrounds us 24/7. Some of it is undercover and hidden while some of it lurks out in the open. It is easy to say as a culture and even individually we have become desensitized to some of the images and content that we now consider common and accept it by saying “it’s just the way it is.” 

This is the reality of the world we now inhabit.

The average age of first exposure to pornography is now 11 years old. For many years it was 12 years old but with the advent of the smart phone we are finding that there is a correlation between first time smart phone ownership and pornography exposure. Parents please don’t let this pass by you. Smartphones are the place where first time exposure happens the most and setting up healthy boundaries before they ever get the phone is important! 

But we need to also pay attention to who pornographers target most. Historically, we’ve thought children 12-17 were the targets of most of their advertising. But that is not true. Yes, they are the largest group viewing pornography but not whom they target most. That group belongs to boys ages 5-9! Please note: This is not because they are sexually aroused by the material but because they are curious about the human body.  

Going just a step further, in 2015, 32% of teens admitted to intentionally accessing nude or pornographic content online. Of these, 43% do so on a weekly basis.

Finally, by age 18 over 90% of boys and over 60% of girls have been exposed to online pornography.

Which requires us to say this – the porn epidemic is not only a “guy issue.” Girls ages 18-25 are the fastest growing group of those looking at pornography.

At this point in the conversation, it’s crucial that we take the time to actually define pornography. We can think we are talking about the same thing and realize how one person defines porn might not be the same as the next person. Therefore, being on the same page is important. 

Let’s start with a couple of definitions for adults. We really like the way Tim Chester in his book Closing the Window: Steps to Living a Porn Free Life defines porn – “Anything we use for sexual titillation, gratification, or escape – whether it was intended for that purpose or not.”

Focus on the word ANYTHING. Sometimes we try to fit pornographic images or writing into a box but this definition says ANYTHING, which means it might be different from one person to the next but it is clear about its intent.

One other definition to discuss comes from Harvest USA – They say pornography is “anything the heart uses to find sexual expression outside of God’s intended design for relational intimacy. It is anything that tempts or corrupts the human heart into desiring sexual pleasure in sinful ways.”

Obviously these definitions might not make sense to your kids, especially if they are younger. When trying to share what pornography is with younger kids, consider these key points: First, let your children know that pornography includes pictures of people without clothes on. Second, it may make you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or sick to your stomach (might also say words like “gross” or “weird”). On the flip side it may also feel exciting – which can be very confusing to have both feelings at the same time – but it is possible!

Now that we’ve defined pornography, let’s talk about how it negatively effects us. Researchers are finding that pornography influences more than just behavior. Pornography also reshapes the brain, breaks down relationships and has an impact on the community.

Pornography Harms The Brain

Studies have found that exposure to pornography between 9 and 13 is linked to high-risk behaviors. This is mostly due to how the brain processes the information it receives and an inability to separate fantasy and reality as it relates to sexuality. 

Watching porn lays down new neural-pathways in your brain. The more you use, the stronger the neural-connections and the more difficult it is to stop. This means your brain can actually begin to rewire itself causing an individual who habitually looks at pornography to get lost in the fantasy.

It Destroys Relationships

In real life, real love requires a real person. Research found that after men are exposed to pornography, they rate themselves less in love with their partner than men who did not see any porn. On top of that, another study found that after being exposed to pornographic images, people were more critical of their partner’s appearance. 

Several studies also show that partners of porn users often report feeling loss, betrayal, mistrust, devastation, and anger when they learn that the other half of their committed relationship has been using porn. Many even show physical symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Porn is a product. It makes you miss out on the best parts of actual relationships. 

It Impacts Community 

So often we can think of pornography only really impacting the user. But that causes us to forget the impact on family, friends, spouses, significant others, and on and on. It also does not take into account those who create and participate in making pornography. Their own experiences are often flooded with drugs, diseases, rape, and abuse. Many victims of sex trafficking are used to film pornography. 

Porn’s reach has gone beyond the magazine and dingy store fronts. It is all around us and it is having a dramatic impact.

One last thing:

If porn is seen by kids it is important to let them know this should never be kept secret. For more on secrets and surprises please be sure to check out the third episode of DriveTime, Series 1.

DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.

Check out further discussions around parenting and all the reasons you should be encouraged on Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.

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2 Lies The Church Tells Us About Porn

This blog was adapted from the fourth episode of the second series of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.

The culture is full of many lies when it comes to pornography and sadly, so too is the church. And not because of anything they do on purpose. It’s with good intent but a lack of knowledge or willingness that the church can sometimes communicate something it doesn’t plan or hope to share.

How we speak about, engage, and tackle this issue communicates what we believe about not just pornography but all of sex and sexuality. That is why it’s important for us to discuss the issues surrounding pornography with honesty both in our homes and in our church. 

Please be aware – even though we are speaking about the church we recognize it’s dangerous to say this is true for every church because it’s not. These are simply lies that have taken place in some churches and have in some way made it into our larger lexicon of beliefs surrounding this subject. The majority of churches are doing great work around the issue of pornography. 

We must be vigilant when it comes to any lie that either the culture or the church shares. Our goal must be to point back to the creation story and God’s ultimate plan as the sex-maker.

Lie 1: Everyone Who Looks at Porn is Addicted

Not everyone who watches pornography will become immediately enslaved. Sometimes we hear from parents who worry their child will become an addict after being exposed a few times. Too often, as fear and shame enters the parent-child relationship, it can make the problem worse by creating distance and isolation. While we are looking at how to navigate the pitfalls of pornography, we have to also recognize that those who fall into porn are not “bad” people, and not all people who are exposed become addicted.

The desire to watch porn arises, in part, from simply being a sexual human being. It’s true that science and research are showing the harms of viewing pornography, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to automatically ruin their lives and turn every person who watches into a hopeless porn junkie. 

Here is a legitimate question. Do we as Christian leaders interchange the words habit and addiction without meaning so? Understanding the difference between habit and addiction is extremely important. Especially as it relates to how one engages pornography. One noticeable difference between habit and addiction is the amount of effort and time required to change the behavior. Altering habits require minimal effort, time, and attention. On the other hand, addiction often demands an integrative, long-term plan to treat negative physical, social, and spiritual symptoms like withdrawal, as well as the emotional disconnect between body and behavior.

As a human being, you are naturally drawn to habitual patterns because repetition creates familiarity and comfort. Positive habits can even become tools of survival. Sometimes, however, habitual behaviors take a dark turn and develop into addictions. Recovery requires that you honestly assess your behavior and how it is affecting your health, relationships, job, spirituality, and life to understand the difference between habit and addiction.

Someone who habitually watches porn is dramatically different than someone who is addicted to porn.

When trying to assess your son or daughter’s pornography use, it can help to hear some of the warning signs of porn addiction. These include:

  • Being consumed with thoughts of porn even when they are not actively viewing it.
  • Viewing porn on a smartphone, iPad, and/or iPod during school, work, or in social situations where you might be seen.
  • Feeling ashamed, guilty, or depressed about their porn viewing.
  • Continuing to watch porn despite any harm it has had, is having, or may have on their relationships, school, work, or home life.
  • Early onset of sexual activity. 
  • Getting upset when asked to stop using porn.
  • Losing track of time when viewing porn.
  • Trying and failing to quit.

If you thought you observed more than three or four of these warning signs in your son or daughter it would be good to seek professional help. Most times, however, what we observe in church could be described as a habit, which requires the breaking of a custom or norm. 

Lie 2: I Am The Only One That Struggles With Pornography

Silence, unfortunately, is something the church can do quite well. As the number of those who struggle with pornography increase, along with an ever-growing number of individuals who experience other forms of sexual brokenness, it is unfortunate the church as a whole doesn’t engage the issues surrounding sex and sexuality more often.

There are a variety of reasons for this silence. We think it’s our own pasts and sexual baggage that keeps us silent, and dealing with sexual brokenness in our life and the lives of others is messy so we avoid it. I also think we don’t have a complete understanding of God’s grand design as the sex-maker, or maybe we simply just want to pretend everything is okay. Staying silent may seem easier than addressing these issues. 

Think about what this silence breeds. It can make people believe that their struggle is unique and that no one else has this same issue. This can make them retreat and cause shame to grow. 

And remember shame communicates, “I AM A MISTAKE” where as guilt communicates “I MADE A MISTAKE”. Those are dramatically different statement. So its important to recognize silence can make people believe they are not valuable. 

Adolescence is a period of life spent at the crossroads. It’s a time marked by overwhelming change, numerous questions, and a search for answers. But the crossroads where they stand are anything but quiet and desolate. Not sure which direction to take, our children and teens are presented with an abundance of confusing options. The noise can be deafening. Perhaps the signposts they choose to follow are the ones that are most attractive, loud and convincing in response to their unspoken teenage cry of ”Show me the way!” This is why we need to be absolutely clear when we talk to our kids about sex and sexuality. This includes our conversations surrounding pornography. Silence should never be an option.

There is a reason our kids are drawn to the naked human body – they were created to desire this. But there is a plan and a place where God has prepared for us to experience this desire – in the covenantal marriage relationship and we should be speaking this at every intersection along the way!


DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.

Check out further discussions around parenting and all the reasons you should be encouraged on Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.

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3 Lies The Culture Tells Us About Porn

This blog was adapted from the third episode of the second series of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.

The culture is full of stories of how porn doesn’t hurt anyone. Pornography used to exist in the dirt and dark shadows of society and culture. While it existed, there were commonly held standards and societal safeguards that kept it at the fringes and out of the mainstream. But that has all changed in a relatively short period of time. 

It’s no longer a matter of if you will see pornography…it’s only a matter of when. Those long held standards and safeguards have declined to nothing. Accessibility, affordability, and anonymity have all played a factor in making porn readily and easily available.

50 years ago, you had to interact with someone to personally purchase or secure pornography by buying it at quick mart or seven eleven. 35 years ago you could rent a VHS tape from a rental store. Both required you to stand before someone and make a purchase. 

Today technology allows someone to access pornography from their fingertips without ever having someone know, and the supply is unlimited. Type “XXX” into google you will get well over a billion results. 

Never before has pornography been so accessible and it also doesn’t cost you anything. Most of it is available for free online. 80%-90% of what is accessed is free material. All of which can be done sitting alone in your home while hiding your identity.

Because of this unlimited accessibility, our perceptions of pornography have changed. As society changes its standards and established safeguards, so too does our perception of pornography. 

Lie 1: Porn Doesn’t Hurt Anyone.

The truth is that the pornography industry regularly exploits the women and children they use in the making of their content.

In their analysis of over 80 million child pornography images since 2002, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that 1 out of every 6 runaways reported in 2016 were likely sex-trafficking victims. This means these children were likely involved in either the adult entertainment industry (pornography) or sex trafficking.

These statistics also reveal many “porn stars” are involved against their own will. A common practice is to “groom” women through online ads luring them to serve in an escort service. A trafficker or “madam” (female leader of trafficking victims) then continues to push the victim toward a one-time role and then ongoing role in prostitution, pornography filming or a combination of these practices.

And the problem does not stop outside the doors of the church.

Most pastors (57 percent) and youth pastors (64 percent) admit they have struggled with porn, either currently or in the past, the Barna Group reported in a 2016 study. “Overall, 21% of youth pastors and 14% of pastors admit they currently struggle with using porn.” More than 1 in 10 youth pastors (12%) and 1 in 20 pastors (5%) said they are addicted.

Lie 2: Porn Helps Increase Sex Drive and Sex Life.

First, pornography distorts your view of sex and sexuality. We must remember that sex is a GOOD thing created by God to experience and share with each other within the boundaries of lifelong, exclusive, covenantal marriage. Sex is a means to foster marital intimacy for mutual pleasure and for procreation.

Pornography takes all that and turns it into something entirely separate from this plan. Sex is seen as purely physical – void of intimacy, closeness, oneness, relationship, and commitment. It’s all about the mechanics of what you get, rather than what you give. It also teaches that sex is primal, hormone-driven, and conquest-driven. 

Second, it SUPER-SIZES sexual expectations. Women are taught to behave like porn stars, men are taught to be aggressive in their pursuit, and sexual perversions are normalized. What was once disturbing is now tame, normal, and acceptable. We become conditioned to act outside of our God-ordained destiny as it relates to sex.

Lie 3: Porn Doesn’t Have a Lasting Impact.

First, Pornography causes an earlier onset of sexual activity in our children. In one study it showed an association between pornography use and increased acceptance of behaviors such as; premarital sex, casual sex, multiple sexual partners, cohabitation, premarital pregnancy, and substance abuse.

Second, it can lower an individual’s libido. A 2015 study by researchers at the University of California found a rare positive correlation between porn watching and libido. Couple this with an increase in erectile dysfunction in recent years in otherwise healthy young men, and it is largely thought that excessive porn use was the most likely the factor at play.

Finally, let us not forget how it hijacks the brain. There is legitimate scientific research and evidence coming out all the time that shows how pornography is harmful to the brain. We’re seeing more evidence about porn’s capability to change how the brain functions. Neuroscientific studies show that repeatedly viewing porn causes the brain to literally rewire itself. It triggers the brain to pump out chemicals and form new nerve pathways, leading to profound and lasting changes in how one sees sex, enters relationships, and engages with both.

These lies remind us of the importance of healthy discussions we have surrounding pornography in the home. It’s a good thing to talk about pornography because it’s one of the greatest threats to the spiritual and relational health of ourselves and our children. It’s an unfortunate thing because it’s so pervasive and enticing in today’s world. The statistics tell us this, our own experience tells us this,  common sense tells us this, and the sheer number of stories we see, hear, and find ourselves in tell us this. 

But here is the fortunate part, you and I have the opportunity to talk about God’s good gift of sex as the sex-maker with our children.


DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.

Check out further discussions around parenting and all the reasons you should be encouraged on Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.

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Lies The Culture Tells Us About Sex

This blog post was adapted from Episode 4 of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.

There are several lies our culture communicates about sex. As a parent, you have the unique opportunity to help your children navigate the many lies they hear and set them on a path that points to God’s plan as the sex maker. But what are those lies?

Lie #1: Sex is only physical.

If this is the case, sex is merely casual and only there for our pleasure, nothing more. But this is a contradiction in terms. Sex – even sex that does not feel intense or meaningful, even sex with someone you don’t love – is never truly casual. Sex is a life-uniting act. Simple as that! This is why Jesus says “what God has joined together not let man separate!” in the gospel of Matthew. Often we can focus so much attention on the physical act of sex that we place a 100% of our energy on protecting against the physical consequences. But there are so many other consequences – emotional, social, spiritual, and even future consequences – all of which we’ve discussed in other blog posts. 

Lie #2: Sex is the most important thing there is.

In a “do-anything,” hyper-sexualized world, we will do anything and everything as we allow our lives to revolve around the idol of sexuality.  Honestly, we are surprised we’re not hearing more stories like this. I believe that over time and in the very near future, we will be hearing more and more stories as a generation of kids nurtured by a boundary-less and border-less ambient sexuality comes of age. Sadly, many of the stories will involve both victims and perpetrators who haven’t yet come of age. That’s called “age-compression.” Something the Center for Parent Youth Understanding (CPYU) always says, “culture is the soup that our kids swim and marinate in 24/7.” If that’s the case, we shouldn’t be surprised at how they are flavored. Is it possible that we might even be moving from a world where that which is “secret sin” becomes an “open celebration?” Then there’s the wildly mixed messages our culture sends to our developmentally vulnerable and easily influenced kids… things like “Go ahead and look at this!” but “Don’t you ever do this!” This is where so much of the difficulty comes in. Right is still right and wrong is still wrong… people are ultimately responsible for themselves and should be held accountable for their decisions and actions, regardless of what culture may or may not be saying at any particular moment. But we are not sure we can stand and point accusing fingers without any blame at all when we’ve been part of the horribly flawed nurturing process through commission or omission. Our culture is talking about sexuality. We need to do the same. And in doing so, we must redeem this horribly misunderstood and mis-used good gift of God!

Lie #3: Sex is no one else’s business.

Dale Kuehne, author of the book Sex and the iWorld,states that only three taboos around sex exist in today’s culture. Those include: “One may not criticize someone’s life choices or behavior, one may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others, and finally one may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent.”  Outside of these taboos all other sexual acts are permissible. Historically though, sex has always been something that held a place in the public discourse. It is also why there were probably several other taboos up until recently.

For most of human history, people of many different cultures have agreed that societies must order certain forms of exchange in order to survive. Communities have ordered language, practices, and division of labor that are agreed upon. And sex, as mentioned by novelist Wendell Berry says, like any other necessary, precious, and volatile power that is commonly held, is everybody’s business. But over the last several decades this reality has faded and “what I do in my bedroom is my business…plain and simple.” However, throughout scripture sex is spoken of as relational and as part of something bigger than ourselves. Christians have to work hard to overcome the pervasive message that my sexual behavior is none of your business. Scripture tells us to intrude into one another’s lives because of the work of Jesus… and as a brother or sister we are called to speak lovingly to one another and transform seemingly private matters into communal matters. Teaching this to your son or daughter will be an important task.

Lie #4: We can’t control sex, but rather it controls us.

“We can’t control sex, it controls us” is one of the most widely accepted lies in our culture. It’s this rumor that’s caused us to believe that we are slaves to our sex drive, and has reduced humans to hormone-driven, sexually motivated creatures that teach our children that if we want it, we hunt it…we stalk it.In this, we treat people as objects that are nothing more than prey, animals or pieces of meat. Or we simply starve this appetite, all the while holding up the same degrading view of humanity. However, God’s design for His grand and glorious gift of sex is this. . . that it be indulged by one man and one woman within the context of an exclusive, monogamous, covenantal, life-long marriage. That’s it, plain and simple. Sex is something God made, gave to us, and enthusiastically declared “VERY Good!” But like everything else, we can go and mess it up. And when the Bible commands us to “flee from sexual immorality,” the word that it uses is porneia, which means “to practice prostitution, sexual immorality, or fornication.” In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul frequently used the word in reference to any kind of sinful and illegitimate sexual activity. Porneia is, in fact, the very thing from which followers of Jesus are commanded to “flee!” 

Further, it’s by Gods grace we have everything we need to take charge of our sexual appetites by disciplining our mind, heart, and our body. And it doesn’t matter our relationship status. Because the very desires we are unable to control before marriage will be the very desires that haunt us after. That is unless we’ve taught ourselves how to come under the authority of the sex-maker.

DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.

Check out further discussions around “Lies The Culture Tells Us About Sex” on Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.

This post originally appeared on Project Six19’s blog. Used by permission.


Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.

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Porn: The Quiet Anesthesia

I cannot count the number of worship services I’ve stood through unmoved. Others around me would be weeping, dancing, or shouting their passionate cries to the Lord while I stood in the midst of it wishing I felt something.

Anything.

The Catechism states that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but most of the time, if I’m honest, there has been little to no enjoyment of Him. In fact, in the midst of my addiction to pornography, there was often no enjoyment of anything at all.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, and how exactly I want to say this. Because what I have found to be one of the absolute worst effects of porn is that it numbs me to reality. To the good and the bad. It files down the sharpened points of agony when suffering comes into my life, but it also curtails the heights of joy when there is reason to rejoice.

I feel like men and women turn to porn because something is lacking in their lives. They want to escape the bad and painful bits, but end up escaping the good too.

Sometimes it would be so that I could not enjoy sunsets
or hikes in the mountains
or board games with friends
or sitting by the sea
or any of the small things that simply enrich our lives
because my mind was elsewhere.

It was as if the volume was turned down on reality.

It’s similar to the way C.S. Lewis described grief:

“At other times it feels like being mildly drunk or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting.”

I didn’t cry for seven years.

Not because I resisted it by any means. The tears just never came. My wells were empty. My emotions had evaporated.

I even wonder, in the throes of my addiction, if a family member or dear friend were to die, if I would have cried. Or if I’d be the one at the funeral, sitting stoically silent, my face dry as the western plains.

Addiction is that powerful.

Even a ‘non-chemical’ addiction such as pornography has the ability to rewire our brains to the extent that we don’t feel. (And of course, any learned person knows that there are plenty of neuro-chemicals involved in a pornography addiction.)

In David’s great psalm of repentance after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, Psalm 51, he continually calls for God to return and awaken emotion within him. He prays, “Let me hear joy and gladness…Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” Part of repentance is returning to a delight in the Lord; it is also mourning the places we have grieved Him.

When I look at the person of Jesus, I see the polar opposite of numbness. I see someone who was entirely alive to His emotions, the full spectrum. I see a man who wept at the passing of his dear friend. In the Christian world, I often hear the verse thrown around as a bit of trivia: Do you know the shortest verse in the Bible? 

Jesus wept.

Do we ever take time to think about the implications of these two words?

God wept.

God…..cries.

If we are to be like Jesus, then we are to be alive to our emotions.

Seeking to escape the hard times and numb the pain is not what God wants in us. The enemy may lure us in with the promise of a pain-free life, but what ends up happening is reality becomes dimmed.

To be like God is to embrace the reality around us with the emotions He has wired into us, not to escape it. I picture Jesus on the mountain, crying out to the Father for guidance. I see Him in the temple courts, fiery with rage at injustice. And there He is in the garden, nervous and terrified of the suffering He is about to go through.

And as He hangs on the cross, shattered and dying, He is offered a drink to ease the pain. This cocktail was designed to reduce the agony of those suffering torture, so they could slip into death with some amount of comfort.

But He turned it down.

Jesus refused to partake in anything that would reduce His experience, the good and the bad, in life and in death.

Saint Irenaeus said that “the glory of God is man fully alive.”

Jesus was fully alive. From the moment he emerged from Mary’s womb til’ the blood dripped from His toes onto the dirt beneath the cross, I see a man who embraced every ounce of His life, and continues to from His place on high.

To embrace pornography is to escape life.

So let us cling to Jesus. Let us cling to the One who gives to each of us life, and life to the fullest.

e

A version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on February 29, 2016. Used by permission.


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I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.

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Killing Prince Charming And Cinderella

At the risk of incurring the wrath of Disney, and every little girl who has grown up loving Princess stories, I think it’s time we adults take a drastic step:

We need to kill off Prince Charming and Cinderella.

I’ll admit my own little girl will be growing up watching every Disney classic I can get my hands on. She’ll probably play with dolls, hold imaginary tea parties with her dad, and wear princess dresses until I have to peel them off of her.

The problem isn’t with the princess stories or the dreams and fantasies they inspire when we’re young. Those stories are meant to teach us lessons of valor, chivalry, the struggle to find a love worth fighting for, and how to discern between the real princess and the witch masked by a spell.

The problem is that while we’ve stopped playing dress-up with dolls and plastic swords, we’re still living in a land of make-believe and fantasy.

As we grow up, we replace the Disney movies with Hollywood romance movies that continue to reinforce the message that love must be perfect in order to be real. If you’re not instantly swept off your feet, madly in love every day, and skipping through life with a gorgeous specimen of a human being beside you, then you simply haven’t found ‘it.’

We expect to marry Prince Charming or Cinderella in all their Disney perfection, looking for a spouse that can be our soul mate, our perfect match, the answer to all of our problem.

When we encounter struggle in the relationship, have to face conflict or are asked to be vulnerable, we instead cut and run. It’s uncomfortable showing our imperfections and we certainly don’t want to be reminded that other people are imperfect.

Rather than kill off our expectation of Prince Charming or Cinderella in the hopes of finding a real relationship, we hold on tight to our fairy tale, bemoaning that all the “good ones” have already been taken.

The irony is that we’re also incredibly skeptical. 

We’ve watched so many marriages fall apart that we struggle to fully believe ours could be different, that we don’t have to live the same storyline as our parents. We wonder how we’ll ever find love in this broken world.

Could it be that our impossible expectations are a means of protecting ourselves, a defense mechanism designed to keep us from having to face our fear of a failed relationship?

We decide it’s better to never have loved at all than to have loved and lost. We want so desperately to find that life-long partner, to experience marriage at its best, but can’t shake the fear of enduring marriage at its worst, of waking up next to someone one day a little less excited than when we first met them.

Relationships, especially marriage, go through cycles. Some days are better than others, some more exciting, more joyful, more full of romance. Others are filled with the monotony of life, with battling together and against one another, of overcoming disappointment and letting go of expectations.

The good is made better and the bad less bitter when we’re able to share it with someone. Even if that someone is as imperfect and confused as we are.

It’s time to dump Prince Charming and Cinderella in order to find the authentic, gloriously difficult, life-changing love we seek.

It’s time to let go of what we think we want for what we need. 

The stunning reality is that in doing so, we usually find ourselves living a story better than anything Hollywood could have written.

A version of this post originally appeared on Joanna’s Blog on June 5th, 2013. Used by permission.


A native of Spokane, Joanna (Repsold) Hyatt has spoken to thousands of teens on healthy relationships and sexuality and has authored The Sex Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents. She is currently the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Live Action, a national non-profit that educates on abortion and the humanity of the pre-born.

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Porn is Not Just a Man’s Problem

You may or may not hear this often, but women struggle with porn.

Over the past few years, there has been a new wave of what some have called “mommy porn” across the world of entertainment with films as controversial as 50 Shades of Grey and as mainstream as Magic Mike XXL.

No matter what you call it, the truth is that this kind of entertainment is definitely not just geared toward “moms,” but rather, women in general. It’s a type of entertainment that’s typically loaded with sexual innuendo, scantily clad men and, in some cases, explicit sex scenes.

But the truth is, this type of over-sexualized entertainment is not just found in recent blockbusters, it’s been slowly seeping into popular books, television shows and even commercials for quite some time now.

What bothers me the most about this new movement is how little attention it seems to be receiving. In fact, we often sit back and take it in without even batting an eye. While I’m happy to say that the objectification of women is finally beginning to gain some attention and push back in our society, it seems that we’ve neglected the other side to the story. Women struggle with porn, too.

Even the Church at large has had a role in the double-standard by pushing sermons, messages and ministries encouraging men to deal with their lust, porn and sexual immorality.

But what about women?

Women Struggle With Porn

We often view porn and lust as a man’s issue, so we don’t typically challenge women as much about the things they think about and the ways they entertain themselves.

Whether man or woman, as human beings, we are all wired with natural emotions and a sexual appetite that can become unhealthy if we continue to feed it with junk. It’s important that we remember that lust is not just a male problem, and start realizing how our culture has played a role in this important conversation.

Women Struggle With Lust

While I can’t deny that men and women perceive and process the world differently, when we focus the entirety of the conversation about porn and lust on men, we not only ignore, but also isolate the many women who are also struggling. By making light of female lust issues we actually enable and encourage the problem instead of offering a place for help.

According an article by the American Psychological Association, various studies report that porn use ranges all the way up to 99 percent among men and up to 86 percent among women. The difference is much less than we tend to talk about.

I had a personal realization of this truth when I received a barrage of emails from women stuck in porn addiction after an article I posted on my blogabout the subject.

Maybe it’s time to recognize that we’re all prone to get lost in sin, yet we’re all given the opportunity to walk in freedom.

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“Protect Your Eyes” vs. “Explore Your Sensuality”

Often, we challenge men to protect their eyes all the while encouraging women to explore their sexuality and sensuality. We tend to “scold” and even look down on men who struggle with porn use and addiction, while women are praised for being “in tune” with their sexuality.

And stranger still, some of the same women who are offended at the thought of their spouses watching porn are just as quick to run out with their girlfriends to watch the latest sex-themed film or book club for that racy novel. It’s time to challenge one another to a higher standard, starting with looking inward and working to remove even a “hint of sexual immorality or any kind of impurity” from our own hearts and lives.

Objectifying Men

True, women tend to be objectified far more than men in our society. But that doesn’t justify objectifying men. Objectifying men is just as degrading and detrimental to our society as men objectifying women. As a society, we are quick to get up in arms when women are used as sexual objects in films and in marketing, and rightly so. It’s devastating to fearfully and wonderfully made, complex and capable human beings reduced to the shell of their bodies.

But shouldn’t it be just as devastating when we see it happening to both genders? If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll see that we tend to feel differently from one gender to another. It would do us all well to take a second look at our definition of “equality” and then apply that to the entertainment we allow ourselves to consume, learning to respect both genders in the process.

God’s Call to Holiness Has to Do With Each and Every One of Us

When we categorize sin into “gender specific” categories, we miss the mark. As children of God, we’re called to reflect Christ in the best way that we can—whether we happen to be male or female. Together, we portray to the world a clearer picture of who He is.

Whether we’re talking about lust, sexual struggles, or any other sin, let’s remember that the call to holiness applies to all. We shouldn’t shame one another about issues like porn—after all, the cure for any sort of sin is not shaming, it’s Christ—but we should talk about these issues with both genders. Because women struggle with porn, too. But too many of them are struggling alone.

Let’s challenge, encourage, and support one another in the Body of Christ as we take inventory of the things we’re allowing to enter our minds and influence our hearts.

How do you control your sex drive while you’re single? Check out the latest episode of the Love + Relationships Podcastwhere I answer this exact question!

A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on September 20th, 2018. Used by permission.


Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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Porn: The Hidden Self

“And you’re wondering why you felt like you weren’t good enough?” my friend Dave said. “You were literally conditioned to think that way!”

I had just finished telling Dave about an exercise I had been doing for a class on addiction in which I created a timeline of my life. In doing so, I realized that there was a lot of rejection in my younger years. Prior to college, nearly every girl I had been interested in either dumped me after a few weeks, or flat out rejected me from the start.

I hardly dated anyone after that.

It has taken me a while to freely admit it, but one of the deepest roots of my addiction to pornography has been this feeling that I’m not good enough for a real woman.

You see, in middle and high school, I was not the oxen of a man you see today. I was not the “Shirtless Wonder.”

I was a nerd.

A geek.

Whatever label you want to stick on the kid that moved a couple times, went to three high schools and two middle schools, and had a collection of 500 comic books. The kid who had every detail about Middle Earth memorized and longed to become Batman (truth be told, that’s part of the reason I started working out…I guess comic books were good for something.)

After a number of failed relationships (or whatever you call two 9thgraders going to a movie), I came to think that the problem was me. That I was the undesirable one.

So I worked to change it.

I chopped my Beatles-era haircut and hit the weights. I bought nicer clothes and dropped the Star Wars t-shirts. I did everything I could think of to change people’s perception of me into a man who was worthy of dating. The problem with these things is that they do nothing to heal the wounded heart of a man.

Dr. Dan Allender saysthat men today are broken hearted. “Not broken hearted as in sad or full of grief,” he writes. “Instead, we are broken into fragmented selves that are unable to do much other than posture and pretend we are someone whom we know we are not.”

At an early age, my heart was broken into a dozen different pieces. Some of these pieces ventured to the identity of a nerd while others worked at getting into better physical shape. Some tried to earn value in artistry, while other fragments delighted in being the class clown.

All of these “identities” were only parts of a shield, though. Like a turtle shell I could tuck into whenever someone looked my way, while the Real Ethan, the weird, eccentric, tender-hearted self stayed safe inside.

John Eldredge echoed this sentiment when he wrote,

This is every man’s deepest fear: to be exposed, to be found out, to be discovered as an impostor, and not really a man…We are hiding, every last one of us. Well aware that we, too, are not what we were meant to be, desperately afraid of exposure, terrified of being seen for what we are and are not, we have run off into the bushes. We hide in our office, at the gym, behind the newspaper and mostly behind our personality.

The sad thing is, most of us go on living like this and wondering why we feel so severed from our realself. Why there is no peace inside us. Why we feel splintered into so many pieces. Social media doesn’t help because we can look any way we want online.

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I maintained the charade for many many years until recently when I decided to do the tough work of examining myself and taking a good, hard, honest look in the mirror. It was like pulling a hermit crab from his protective shell: It was ugly and it snapped and fought like hell against being exposed, because the work of healing is not easy.

Several years ago, I was on the bus in Chicago with a Moody student who was an acquaintance of mine. He began sharing what the Lord was teaching him in that season, and the only part I remember was one line: “The Lord is teaching me that it’s okay to be weak, to be broken.”

I don’t think I’ve ever had so much respect for another human being in my life.

It’s as if he was standing before me as the bus tilted and rocked, holding his palms open to me saying Look, this is me. I’m not that cool. I’m hurt and broken. But God’s cool with that, and I’m learning to be cool with it too.

So I’m attempting to become like that too. It’s incredibly hard for a man to admit that he is weak and broken, but I think that is the first step in healing.

Because women don’t fall in love with how many pounds you can put up on the bench, or that sweet new shirt from H&M. They can’t even love the jokes you make or the intelligence stored in the folds of your brain.

People love other people, not the things they try to wrap around themselves as a disguise.

Learning this is hard, because ever since we got the boot from the Garden of Eden, we’ve been trying to cover ourselves up, trying to look better than we actually are.

Underneath all the fancy fig leaves and one-liners, we are all pretty ugly and weak, but that doesn’t mean we’re unworthy of love. God doesn’t stop chasing you because you woke up with bedhead, or you can’t curl a 5 pounder.

It’s hard to examine myself and see that there are a lot of things I don’t like about myself. But it’s even harder to accept that despite them, God still loves me. And hopefully, there’s a woman out there who will too. But living with a splintered heart and trying to be a dozen men at once is exhausting and will keep us returning to the fire hydrant of porn to try to nourish our broken heart.

My friend Michael Cusick points out that the word “integrity” comes from the word “integer,” meaning whole. A person of integrity is a whole person, not a shapeshifter who modifies themselves to fit the scene.

So may we be a people who give up disguising ourselves and trying to be more impressive than we are.

May we seek wholeness, root ourselves in quietness and peace and know ourselves as we are known by God, recognizing that God loves the weak and the broken; He lifts up those who are low. (Psalm 145)

“But [Jesus] said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weaknesses…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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A version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on September 21st, 2016. Used by permission.


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I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.

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Pornography and Kids

One of the most difficult and humbling things I get to do is talk to kids about the cultural scourge of pornography. That’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow morning with a group of 300 kids at a camp in Massachusetts. For several days now I’ve been asking the Lord to give me knowledge, words, wisdom, and courage. It doesn’t matter that I’ve done this numerous times before. It’s always something that verges on overwhelming. It’s difficult and humbling for the simple fact that the accuser comes at me hard, whispering things like “Why would they listen to you. . . an older guy?”. . . and “What qualifies you to talk about this?”

My goal is not to impress, but rather to faithfully and obediently communicate the truth of joyfully living as sexual beings in the context of God’s story for our sexuality, as opposed to choosing to destroy our sexual flourishing by living out our sexuality according to the cultural narrative. Sadly, the cultural narrative is so pervasive and compelling that our task as parents, youth workers, and yes. . . children’s ministry workers. . . is to map out God’s liberating story for our sexuality to even the youngest of the young.

Evidence of the power of the cultural narrative can be seen in how our kids conduct and portray themselves on social media. In her book American Girls: Social Media and Secret Lives of Teenagers, Nancy Jo Sales shares what she’s learned about today’s teenagers by embedding herself (with knowledge and permission) into the lives of 13 to 19- year-old girls. One of her most alarming observations about kids is what serves to educate them about sex and sexuality. Sadly, boys and girls are defining themselves and their understanding of sexuality by what they see depicted in pornography. Our boys learn that their value lies in physicality, while for our girls value lies in sexuality. Our boys need to develop and act out a hypermasculinity, while for our girls it is a hypersexuality. Boys learn that they are to dominate, while girls learn to willingly submit. And finally, our boys learn that it is expected that they issue sexual demands, while our girls see themselves as providing a kind of sexual supply to those demands. Sadly, nothing could be farther from God’s glorious truth for the gift of sex and sexuality.

Parents, youth workers, and children’s ministry folks. . . our calling is clear. We must be diligent about teaching our kids God’s borders and boundaries for his gift of sex and sexuality.

How can we do this? Begin by assuming that all of your students, thanks to the internet and smartphones, either have or will see pornography. Assume as well that because of where they are at developmentally, many or even most will be drawn to what they see over and over again. Youth workers, push back by beginning with parents. Hold a parents’ meeting to give an overview of the changing nature of pornography and how it functions in the lives of kids. Then, take the initiative to work with parents to redefine sexuality according to God’s Word. Then all of us together must walk kids through the creation account so that they will see sexuality as a good gift from God with a purpose and a place. Continue, by helping kids see that pornography defiles not only sexuality, but individuals and families.

And finally, if you would, pray for me and all others who will be broaching this topic with kids over the coming days.

To learn more about pornography and its effects on kids, download this free resource from CPYU. And, be sure to tap into all the resources that are available for free at CPYU’s Sexual Integrity Initiative.

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Friday Fodder… How Men View Women, Etc

Here’s something to think about and talk about with each other and with your kids. It comes from Tim Keller and his devotional book, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs. If you spend any time at all paying attention to and deconstructing today’s culture, Keller’s words are provocative, insightful, and appropriate.

Keller offers commentary on Proverbs 11:22. . . “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” Keller writes, Men especially tend to evaluate women on their looks, hence this verse’s metaphor. Today we consider how this harms everyone. It damages relationships between the genders. Women see clearly how men react to beauty and it rightly lowers their respect for men. Also, it distorts women’s self-images and lives. It is difficult for them not to overvalue thinness and shapeliness, high cheekbones and great skin. It’s a huge temptation for women to say, ‘Why should I care about my character when everyone else – men and women – is evaluating me on my looks?’

Addiction to beauty fuels the pornography industry, which confirms men in their delusion that only young and beautiful women are sexually alluring. Pornography also gives men a way to get quick sexual pleasure with out the messy, frightening work or building a real relationship with someone. Finally, many men fail to see wonderful prospective spouses – women who would be absolutely terrific partners – right under their noses. They are ‘screened out’ for not being as good-looking as the pictures in porn. The idolatry of beauty is ruining us individually and as a society.

Can you think of any other ways that our culture’s overvaluing of physical attractiveness is harmful?

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Porn and Relationships: When Are Sexual Struggles a Deal Breaker?

“I just found out that my boyfriend struggles with regular porn use”

“My girlfriend shared with me she’s struggling with compulsive masturbation”

What do I do?

The amount of questions I’ve received lately regarding the topic of sexual struggles and sexual integrity has been on the rise. Partly, because of how mainstream the pornography industry has become. Where a person had to sneak around with a Playboy magazine, now porn can be accessed anywhere, anytime, using a device that we carry around in our back pockets.

But, I also believe that the questions have also increased because of our changing culture, and the freedom to talk about things we never felt able to discuss out loud before. Sexual struggles have existed since the beginning of time, but now, I’d like to believe we have more awareness of the damage that unbridled sexual energy can do. More and more research is coming to the surface to reveal the damage that porn use has on a relationship. It’s important that we acknowledge that, and then take next steps to get ourselves to a better place.

So, what do you do if you find out that your boyfriend or girlfriend is struggling with sexual integrity in his or her life? What if you find yourself in that position right now? When are sexual struggles a deal-breaker when it comes to dating and relationships? How do you know if you should break up with someone, or see them through the struggle? While I don’t believe there is ever a one-size-fits-all approach to navigating these types of relationship issues, here are some questions I believe are important to ask with regard to contemplating next steps:

Is there openness and honesty or deceit and concealing?

I think the most important indicator of whether or not someone is on the path toward healing in this area of their life is their openness and honesty about their journey with sexual integrity.

Are you in a relationship with someone who has patterns of lying and covering their sexual struggles, or someone who is honest about where they are and how they’re desiring to get to a better place? If you’re with someone who is lying, covering up their struggle, or not taking it seriously – that’s a sign that they’re not on the journey of healing. Because even more dangerous than being stuck on pornography, is lying about it.

Healthy relationships involve two people consistently moving in the direction of healing in their life. If this doesn’t sound like your dating relationship, than maybe it’s time to pursue your healing alone. – (tweet this)

Are they seeking external accountability and putting boundaries in place as they move toward healing?

One thing I always tell people who are looking to change something in their life is that you’ve got to change the outside while you’re working to change the inside.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve got to fill your fridge with healthy foods and get rid of the junk in your pantry. The same thing applies to sexual integrity. What steps have you put in place on the “outside” (your house, your devices, your accountability) while you get the “inside” (your heart) in the right place? A couple things I recommend for this:

Find an accountability partner (of the same sex as you). Meet with someone who has victory over this specific are of their life, and talk through your struggles on a regular basis. A regular time of confession can bring so much healing and give you so much power as you’re moving toward healing.

Be proactive on the web. Download a program like Covenant Eyes to help keep you in check when you might have a tendency to struggle.

Take inventory of the not-so-obvious (yet still harmful) areas that might be fueling your sex drive and shaping your sexual palette such as your Netflix account, your social media, and your entertainment – and cut out the junk. Less junk in = less junk to deal with. (For more on the importance of shaping you sexual palette, check out Chapter 8 of Choosing Marriage).

If you’re in a relationship with someone who says they want freedom yet aren’t willing to put in the effort, that’s a major red flag.

Is this a struggle or a stronghold?

Most people are battling the struggle of sexual integrity in some way, shape or form. I think the battle itself is a normal part of life. If it’s not battling porn use or masturbation, it’s battling thought life or sexual interactions.

We’re all facing a struggle of some sort, but struggles don’t have to own us. There is a difference between a struggle and a STRONGHOLD.

A struggle is an area in our life in which we are moving toward healing day by day.

A stronghold is when give in to that struggle and decide we’d rather not even fight it.

With a struggle, you continue moving forward, but with a stronghold, you find yourself moving backwards.With a struggle, you have victory more times than not. With a stronghold, you give in more times than not. If you or someone you are dating someone is caught in a stronghold rather than a struggle – I believe it’s important to recognize this, and then take a few steps back in the relationship to make room for a focused time of healing.

Because when you get yourself healthier, your relationships become healthier as well.

Having victory from sexual struggles is not only possible, it’s completely and entirely probable for anyone who is willing to put in the work. I’ve met with countless men and women who have consistent victory over this area of their lives, and I really believe it’s a necessary part of having a healthy relationship — which in turn, leads to a healthy marriage.

*If you are caught in a sexual “stronghold” and your sexual struggle is starting to negatively impact your social life and relationships, your job, or even negatively impacting you more days than not, I suggest you take the time to meet with a professional counselor to help you discern if you’re battling a sexual addiction, and equip you with practical steps toward healing.

Looking for some more encouragement? Check out my talk about Sex and The Single Life.


A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on June 27, 2018. Used by permission.

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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching over 4 million people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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Sex Trafficking, Sexual Integrity, and the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl,  the single greatest reason to spend just over $80 on food that probably will only leave you with heartburn. This might be especially true of whichever fan base sees their team lose on Sunday.

But did you know the Super Bowl is often sighted as the single largest sex trafficking incident in the United States?

As more people become aware of this reality over recent years, many individuals and organizations have stepped up to raise awareness and stop this travesty from continuing to occur.

Groups like Fight the New Drug, A21, and Saving Innocence are organizations dedicated to ending sex trafficking (among other issues) through education and program initiatives. These are powerful change-makers made up of people who are united for a similar cause.

But even still, I ask what more can I do as one individual.

When I first began speaking on issues surrounding sex, sexuality and relationship, I never thought I would also be talking as much as I do about pornography, sex trafficking and dating violence. While these issues have always been a reality, they remained (and still often do) on the peripheral of most people’s consciousness.

Today these issues are part of every conversation I have on sexual integrity.

To not speak about pornography, sex trafficking and dating violence is to commit an injustice and disservice. Individuals and communities are in desperate need of education regarding these issues because in order to live with sexual integrity we must make a choice to look beyond ourselves. Our decisions, sexual or otherwise, impact others.

And this might be the hardest part.

The stain of sex trafficking that we see at the Super Bowl is on each of us when we fail to speak up or take action on a personal level about this situation. Yes, living with sexual integrity benefits our individual lives, but it also impacts the wellbeing of others and sets a precedent of moral integrity we demonstrate to an often immoral world.

For me this has meant looking deep within myself and admitting I am sexually broken. There have been times in my life I have not lived with sexual integrity, and this includes viewing pornography. As difficult as it is to admit, I too have contributed to the demand for sex trafficking that porngraphy fuels.

But that is not where the story needs to end.

Here are three things I’ve worked to do in my life that I believe contribute to a better society and less demand for this horrible reality.

Realize pornography aids in the creation and demand for sex trafficking.

The link between porn and sex trafficking is well documented. However, many people are still blind or unconvinced of this reality, believing instead that pornography is not harmful and sex trafficking is a separate issue.

Not so. Countless women have been kidnapped, abused, drugged, threatened and coerced into doing porn. This is sex trafficking. And it’s happening in the very cities we call home.  

Stop looking at pornography!

The impact pornography has on an individual, their brain, their relationships, and the community where they live is also well documented. Pornography is linked to higher rates of divorce, abuse in relationships, unrealistic sexual expectations,decreased energy, and the objectification of other people.  Pornography offers nothing healthy or helpful for our relationships.

The first step to breaking free from the grip of porn is to repent and confess this reality. The only way I ever stopped looking at porn was to understand its impact and abhor its influence. It was only then that I was eager to apologize and make amends. This requires a deeper look at yourself and how this sin impacts not only you.

Finally, I needed to have a clear plan of action for how this was going to stop. Those with the highest success rates of defeating a pornography habit have a clear plan on how they are going to do it. Find a friend or  trusted adult and begin laying out a plan for how porn will no longer have an impact on your life.

Encourage better dialogue around sex and sexuality

Pornography is not the only way sex trafficking is fueled. We can’t forget the demand goes beyond the computer screen. As we inch closer to kickoff at this year’s Super Bowl we need to remember there are individuals who will be trafficked around the city of Minneapolis.

The only way this part of the demand will change is through proactive dialogue that ultimately compels people to make better decisions regarding their own sexual wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.  We live in a time where our sexual appetites have almost no bounds.

Whether we need to change our own lives or change the way the world thinks about sex, this change begins within ourselves. Our actions and dialogue regarding these topics will ultimately lead to a shift not only in our perspective but the perspective of others, working to combat the ways a twisted idea of sex plays out in out culture.


 

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Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds. He is an internationally recognized seminar and conference speaker and published writer on issues surrounding sexuality and youth culture. He can be heard on the CPYU podcast “Youth Culture Matters”

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Porn Makes You Numb

You’ve been there.

We all have.

Regardless of which addiction has taken you as its prisoner, you’ve experienced the numbing agent it provides. My pastor in Chicago once said that if there is one thing which unites all of humanity, it’s addiction.

In the words of Saint Peter (and Bob Dylan), we are all slaves to something. We are all the proverbial dog returning to his vomit. Eventually you become used to the flavor because at least your stomach is being filled with something.

I wrote in the past about porn as the quiet anesthesia. I still think it’s one of my truest blogs to date. We tend to look at all the blatant effects of a pornography addiction, like the marriages it ruins and the relationships it alienates; we look at how it fuels global sex traffickingor creates highly unrealistic expectations for how a human should look. But we overlook one of the most basic and common effects of pornography:

Desensitization.

I was once on a spontaneous date in California with a beautiful woman which ended up going well. Very well.

She and I took off from In-N-Out through the serpentine mountainous road near the small town and found a field from which to stargaze in the crisp spring night. It was nearing midnight and the clouds only let us see half the stars in the sky.

In other words, it was a really, really beautiful date.

We were lying on the ’emergency blanket’ I keep in my trunk for such situations, when she rolled onto her elbows, looked at me and told me she wanted to kiss me.

And she did.

And I remember the thought running through my mind as it happened: I feel like I should be feeling more than this. I feel like I should be more present. More blown away by this moment.

Earlier today I was talking with a college friend on the phone. He recounted times he had held his girlfriend as she wept, but he was removed. Detached. Emotionless. He said he felt nothing watching the woman he loved weep about what weighed on her heart. He was physically holding her, but he was somewhere else.

As he described the moment, he laid the blame for this removal from reality directly at the feet of pornography.

As men (and women I’m sure), we are robbed from much of the ability to feel feelings when we struggle with an addiction. It removes us from ourselves. One writer describes this as ‘the man who walks beside himself.’

We are experiencing our lives from somewhere outside, rather than from within, from our center.

The more I learn about feelings, the more I realize how many of us are uncomfortable with our feelings. As I’ve said before, I went nearly a decade without crying once. The more I grow, the more emotional of a man I become. And I think this is akin to becoming more in line with how God intended us to be: He did not create us to be binary robots with no emotions or impassioned reactions to our lives. The God of the Bible is one who is adamantly alive to His emotions, the entire spectrum.

We are quick to run to the lighter emotions of laughter and happiness, but anything that dives beneath the surface of weight or reality we are quick to wash away.

If your girlfriend leaves you and the pain is too much to bear, are you going to patiently sit in that feeling, or try to quell it with your vice of choice? For an addict, the choice is obvious, even if we don’t want it to be.

The problem with using substances (pornography, alcohol or otherwise) to escape the painful feelings is that, yes, they make the lows less low, but they also make the highs less high.

They rob us of the ability to deeply take in the power of beauty.

They may take the tears away, but how often are those tears necessary to experience life well? What kind of son wants to sit in his mother’s funeral with dry eyes? What kind of Christian wants to hear a powerful representation of the gospel and be unmoved?

Being fully human means being fully awake to our emotions, not distanced from them. God never intended to give us shortcuts when we grieve a loss or feel rejected. Nor did He want us to pacify the beautiful feelings of falling in love or watching your son take his first steps.

But pornography robs us of these beautiful moments by removing us from the present moment. It takes us to a place where pain and rejection don’t exist, but neither does beauty or intimacy.

Yesterday my church was performing baptisms and I was asked to share a few words beforehand. I stood up and, strange as it may sound, talked about a personal hero of mine, Nabeel Qureshi. I had just found out the day before that Qureshi had finally died after battling cancer at the young age of 34. He left behind a wife and daughter, but he is now reunited with another daughter they had lost to a miscarriage, and most importantly, with his savior Jesus Christ.

I had followed Nabeel’s videos the past year as his face and hair grew thinner and he became emaciated from his treatment. His last video update was an announcement that he was being moved to palliative care in order to make him more comfortable until he slipped away. Even now a lump rises in my throat.

As I spoke before my church and recounted the story of the brother we lost, a similar lump rose. My eyes filled with tears and I had to stop talking.

“Yesterday, our family lost a member…”

Silence filled the room.

“…but……but today we celebrate new members coming into it.”

I then entered the water with one of my middle schoolers and we baptized him. The beauty of the action is unspeakable. Even now. Something sacred happens as we observe certain family members moving on while new ones are ushered in.

And you know what? That moment choking up in front of my church was not bad. It did not make me feel like less of a man, nor was it painful, in the negative sense. It was a beautiful moment which I was able to experience in the presence of my community and my God, and if there is one thing the enemy wants to take from us, it’s that.

It is these moments of intense beauty which get stolen from us the more we numb ourselves with pornography. The enemy doesn’t want us to feel. I think he would be much happier if he could rob us of our ability to feel and worship God with a healthy and full emotional life.

But may we be like Christ, whose rich and vibrant emotional life should teach all of us to feel things to the fullest without taking shortcuts and numbing the pain. May we suffer well and rejoice well. May we grieve deeply and laugh loudly. May we loose the chains which keep our emotions subdued and drugged in the dungeons of our souls.

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A version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on September 18th, 2017.


 

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I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.

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Hugh Hefner Wrecked My Life… Sort Of

Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, died last month.

Based on your age, you may or may not be aware of just how significant a cultural figure the man known as “Hef” actually was. . . or perhaps I should more accurately say is. Shortly after his death last evening, his son Cooper stated that his father lived an “exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer.” That statement is 100% correct, depending on how you would translate and understand the word “exceptional.” Cooper Hefner also tweeted that his father was a powerful advocate for “free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom.” Consequently, whether you know who Hefner is or not, if you’re a living, breathing, human being who is swimming in the soup of today’s culture and youth culture, Hefner’s ideological DNA exists within the sexual beliefs and behaviors driving our culture and ourselves.

Pornography, or more accurately “sexual immorality”, moved into the modern U.S. mainstream when Hefner published his first edition of Playboy back in 1953. Yes, sexual immorality has been around since Genesis 3:6 in terms of beliefs, desires, and behaviors. Pornography certainly not anything new. But by pulling the curtain back on societal taboos, Hefner was a leading figure in the move to rewrite moral codes. In effect, Hefner may have been the guy standing on top of the mountain, kicking the first rock which has eventually morphed into the growing landslide of the sexual revolution which continues today.

 

Like all things crafted by God and declared as “Good!”, our sexuality is broken. And rather than pursuing redemptive sexuality, Hefner encouraged us to indulge our sexual brokenness as “sexual freedom” without borders or boundaries.

In some ways, Hugh Hefner wrecked my life. I was born just three years after the launch of  Playboy. And just 11 or 12 years into my young life, I joined several friends in taking a first-look at Hefner’s printed monthly. I will never forget it. It was the first time I had seen published pornography. In fact, like most men, the memory is seared into the fabric of my brain. And, like all human beings, my sexual brokenness has existed inside of me in ways that changed on that day just before the dawn of my teenage years.

If I’m honest with myself, it wasn’t Hugh Hefner who made me do it. It was me. And since then, I thank God that a history of sexual indiscretions in thought, word, and deed can be redeemed . . . even though the battle still rages. And, I thank God that His good gift of sexuality can be thought about, exercised, and understood in all its intended glory (by the power of the Holy Spirit) through pursuing sexual integrity to the glory of God and by the grace of God.

While reading this morning about Hefner’s death, I was reminded that several years ago, Hefner purchased the burial vault next to Marilyn Monroe’s. Why? So he could spend eternity with his magazine’s first cover girl. Another one of his crazy ideas, I know. And while we might be tempted to applaud the death of Hugh Hefner as the end to an era, there are some other ways of looking at this.

First, Hefner’s death has not brought an era to an end. The rocks of the sexual revolution landslide are still tumbling. . . picking up speed, volume, and mass.

Second, just as Hefner’s message of “sexual freedom” without borders and boundaries continues to flourish, our role is to preach the Gospel to ourselves and to our kids so that we might continually hear the message of what leads to true sexual flourishing over and above the loud, compelling, and convincing voice of culture. . . that sadly, we are apt to not even question anymore ourselves.

And third, among those of us who see and understand eternity from the perspective of the One who created, called, and redeemed us, there should be no applause over Hugh Hefner’s death. Rather, we should be grieving over his beliefs, his behaviors, and the gods of his heart. We don’t know his heart condition as his earthly story ended, but we do know that his actions and beliefs regarding end-of-life and the after-life were horribly misinformed.

I know it sounds weird, but I’ve spent time pondering Hugh Hefner this morning. . . his impact on my life, my kids, and my culture. It hasn’t been much of a direct influence since that day when I first looked at his magazine, but the influence has been strong. And, I can’t ever self-righteously forget that there, but for the grace of God, go I.

Let’s continue to unapologetically  pursue, live, and speak a message of sexual integrity. 

Life is way too short to not be living God’s grand and glorious design for His good gift of sex and sexuality. I’m guessing Hugh Hefner knows that now.

A version of this article appeared on CPYU’s Blog on September 28th, 2017.


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Dr. Walt Mueller is the founder and president of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. His organization is always looking for new ways to be salt and light in the culture-at-large. Walt’s the author of eight books and is a sought-after authority on youth culture and family issues.

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Dear Internet,

I just got back from a week in the mountains with my beloved children. I’m a youth pastor without any kids of my own, so when I talk about “my kids,” I mean these teens and tweens whom I love with all my heart. We had a phenomenal trip, but the more time I spend with them, the more my heart breaks as I get to peer deeper into the culture in which they dwell.

And that culture is shaped in large part by you, Internet.

When I was in high school not that long ago, girls would wear the sports jacket of the boy they adored. They would fill their notebooks with his name, and perhaps her own name followed by his last name.

But today, to catch the eye of the boy she likes, a teenage girl will just send naked pictures via Snapchat or any other myriad apps designed for just that kind of communication.

Today, in order to impress her boy, she has to strip down and reveal her body just to keep a guy interested for longer than a few minutes.

So thank you for that, Internet. Thank you for disrobing my kids just to let them feel a little bit of value or beauty. Thank you for putting into their pockets unlimited connectivity and unrestricted access to the world.

Thanks to you, I walked in on three of my 8th graders talking about sexual acts I didn’t know about until well into my college years. So thanks for spreading your wealth of information.

Thank you for stripping down and beating to a pulp any hope my kids had of holding an attention span longer than 14 seconds. They have become addicted to your apps and videos like a drug addict to his beloved heroin.

When we first arrived at the cabin, we made a rule that during group activities, discussions and meals, your phones were to be nowhere near you. That rule lasted about five minutes before my kids were pasted to their screens once again, unable to enjoy the company of the friends and leaders present with them.

 

And I know this is no accident, dear Internet. I have read article after article about how you rake in the profits the more time my kids and I spend on your apps. Not only do you beckon them back to your beloved apps with push notifications and unique sound effects, you want to keep them there as long as possible. You have countless little algorithms in place to ensure that my kids will whittle away their time (aka, lives) glued to your precious screens, unable to break from their devices longer than a few minutes.

Unable to sit in silence, their minds unstimulated.

Unable to be with their closest friends in a mountain cabin for a week.

Unable to read a book (those heavy paper things) because ‘it’s too boring.’

You hide behind the cloak of connecting us with our friends, when just the opposite is true. You don’t want to connect us; you want our time. Because the more time we spend on your slice of the web, the more money you make.

Dear Internet, you are heartless and cold; a vacuum cleaner sucking in not only our time but our money as well. You don’t see humans or feel warmth, you only see dollar signs and addictive triggers in the chemicals inside our brains.

My kids are less healthy because you have glued them to their beds and couches.

My kids are less secure in themselves because you flood them with images of far away models flaunting as much skin as Instagram will allow.

My kids are less at peace because you have programmed them to crave your constant stimulation and to wonder who has contacted them in the last 3 minutes.

My kids don’t see their bodies as things of value; they see them as a means to some kind of cheap digital affection.

My kids are more exposed, not only to sexual and pornographic content, but violent and gory images as well. One of my students is addicted to looking at snuff films and pictures of humans who had died brutal deaths. Did he wake up one day and decide to look at these? Or were they served to him on one of your popular websites?

You may have done a lot of good for the world, but most of what I see is destructive and uninhibited. You don’t care about the souls of my kids, you care about dollar bills. Perhaps if you were only aware of just how much damage I’ve seen you do in the lives of my students, you’d at least try to make an effort to improve things.

Please leave my kids alone and stop berating them with your addictive tactics and ruthless dopamine stimulation. I love them more than you ever will, so the least you could do is make an effort to change.

…or just go die.

Angrily,

e

A version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on July 15th, 2017.


 

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I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.

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Pornography: Necessary Talking Points With Kids. . .

“I want to talk about pornography.” That’s what the 15-year-old boy said to me after hearing me talk at his Christian school on “God and Sex.” Sadly, he wasn’t a curious young dabbler looking for someone to help him understand whether pornography was right or wrong. Instead, he was already spending time every day looking at online pornography while masturbating regularly. He was already a pornography addict. He’s not alone. A growing number of our students are either hooked on pornography or on the path to living future lives dominated and destroyed by pornography’s sick and twisted distortion of God’s good gift of sexuality. Should we be surprised?

The United States Department of Justice recognized the prevalence and life-shaping potential of pornography when they issued this statement: “Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.” Oh. . . by the way. . . that statement was released back in 1996. . . more than 10 years before the advent of the smartphone! Since then, the “pandemic” of porn has spread like wildfire.

It is estimated that anywhere between 12 and 37 percent of all Internet web pages contain pornography. And with the average age of first exposure to Internet pornography being 11-years-old (again. . . an outdated statistic that’s over 10 years old), our youth, children’s and parent ministries must recognize, understand, and address the issue with urgency, knowledge, and depth.

 

 

The rapid rise in pornography’s popularity has been facilitated by a perfect storm of factors. At its root is the fact that we have been created for sex and wired for intimacy. God made us as sexual beings with deep sexual desires. . . and said it was “good.” But with the advent of sin into God’s “good” world, nothing remains the way it was supposed to be, including our sexuality. Sex “becomes distorted” – as Dennis Hollinger writes in his book The Meaning of Sex“in its longings, directions, misdirected end, and idolatrous impetus.” No surprise, our fallen sexuality yearns for, creates and consumes pornography. Pornography, in turn, is a “gasoline” that fuels our fallen sexual fire.

Experts also cite the “three A’s” as contributing to the problem. First, pornography is accessible. Fifty years ago, pornography started its trek into the mainstream with  Playboy magazine. As of 1973 there were fewer than 1000 adult theaters across the country. Eventually, home video technology created a gateway for pornographic film to enter the privacy of one’s home. Now, technology provides 24/7 access to pornography regardless of who you are or where you are. Google the term “xxx” and over a billion and a half results appear. A seemingly limitless ever-expanding supply has created a world where even if your kids don’t go looking for pornography, it will find them.

Second, pornography is anonymous. All you have to do is sit alone at home or focus your gaze on your hand-held device. There’s no need to go into a quick-mart to interact publicly with a clerk. The stumbling-blocks of embarrassment and age-restriction are relics of the past. In today’s world, nobody sees you, and you can even hide your identity on online. Even those who have a clear sense of right and wrong can sit alone and indulge. Sadly, the anonymous nature of pornography won’t even matter in future years as pornography becomes more culturally acceptable and normalized. There will be no need to hide.

Third, pornography is affordable. Internet pornography doesn’t have to cost you a penny. Surveys show that 80 to 90 percent of those who access pornography online only access the free online material. It couldn’t make it any easier. . . especially for a kid.

I was a curious and inquisitive 12-year-old boy when I was first exposed to pornography.  Like most other men my age, that watershed moment from my childhood was so powerful that the memory is still ingrained in my brain. I remember where I was, who I was with, what was said, and what I saw. I’m not at all proud about it. I shudder to think who I would grow up to be if I was a 12-year-old boy living in today’s porn-infested world. I fear for our kids, both boys and girls. What kind of men, women, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers will they become after spending their formative childhood and teenage years in a world where encountering pornography is no longer a possible if, but an inevitable when?

Parents and youth workers have a window of opportunity and an even greater responsibility to address the pornography issue with kids. Here are three initial elements that must be present as you address pornography in your family or youth ministry.

 

First, define pornography.

 

Not only do kids need to know what pornography is if they’re going to face it in their lives, but they need to know how ugly and broken it is so that they can develop a healthy hate for pornography. Used a variety of times in the New Testament, porneia  (por-knee-a) refers to fornication, whoredom, sexual unchastity, sexual immorality, harlotry, and prostitution. “Pornography” comes from the Greek word pornagraphos, which is written descriptions or visual depictions of prostitutes. Drawing a connection between these definitions and the current worldwide scourge of sexual trafficking and victimization might serve to open their eyes to just what pornography really is. In his book Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free, Tim Chester defines pornography as “anything we use for sexual titillation, gratification, or escape – whether it was intended for that purpose or not.” Another helpful definition comes from Harvest USA : “Anything the heart uses to find sexual expression outside of God’s intended design for relational intimacy. It is anything that tempts or corrupts the human heart into desiring sexual pleasure in sinful ways.” Be sure to emphasize the “anything,” as our boys are typically drawn to visual representations and our girls are typically attracted to literary pornography (think Fifty Shades of Grey). . . although these differences are leveling out as more and more girls access visual pornography.

 

Second, educate on pornography’s consequences.

 

The old saying “actions have consequences” couldn’t be more true of pornography. Disobedience to God’s sexual will and way through pornography leads to consequences that are immediate, long-term, and far-reaching. Contrary to what is rapidly becoming widely-held opinion, pornography is not harmless, benign fun. The consequences are spiritual, physical, emotional, and relational. Like all sin, pornography destroys your relationship with God. Research points to a host of other negative outcomes.  It distorts your view of sex and sexuality. It shapes sexual expectations as users expect others to “make love like a porn star.” It leads to sexual dissatisfaction and intimacy issues. Pornography teaches us to view other people not as individuals made in the image of God, but as nothing more or less than sexual objects. The more you use, the more desensitized you become, leading into the downward spiral of more frequent and extreme use. Pornography fuels lust and leads people to believe that marriage is sexually confining. Pornography users tend to engage in sexual activity at earlier ages, and they grow up to see having children and a family as unattractive prospects. New research on the brain shows conclusively that pornography is highly addictive. Finally, a growing body of research is connecting pornography use to sexual addiction, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking. On the flip side, there are absolutely no benefits to the use and abuse of pornography!

 

Third, take steps to respond.

 

While there are no fool-proof and immediate strategies to protect the kids you know and love from seeing and suffering from pornography, there are steps you can take to prepare them to deal with the inevitable temptation that most – if not all – of them have alreadyfaced and indulged. As Martin Luther once advised, we might not be able to stop the birds from flying over our heads, but we can stop them from building nests in our hair.

Here’s a list of some of the steps to regularly include in your youth ministry:

  • Teach on positive biblical sexuality. Start with the positive. Sex is a good gift from God to be expressed/experienced within the context of a monogamous covenantal marriage between one man and one woman. God does not look down on sex!
  • Remind them that their sexuality is broken. . . just like everything else in the world. Their default setting is sin and it’s for that reason that they must be “soberminded and watchful” as “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion” who seeks to devour them and their sexuality (I Peter 5:8&9).
  • Let them know that Jesus knows what it’s like. Yes, he shares in their temptation and he is praying for them! (Hebrews 4:15).
  • Engage in biblically-based sex education at a young age. The reality is that by the time they arrive in your middle-school youth group much of pornography’s initial damage will have been done. Raise the awareness of parents and children’s ministry people at your church so that they can proactively educate children in age-appropriate ways.
  • Teach them to respond to their engagement with pornography in healthy and redemptive ways. Encourage them to talk to their parents, to seek help, to share their struggle with others who can hold them accountable, and to run to God rather than to pornography.
  • Process media portrayals of fallen sexuality as you encounter them together. Think with them about the skewed portrayals of sexuality that they see and hear each and every day in film, music, TV, and advertising. Challenge those portrayals that are sinful and wrong, while celebrating and affirming portrayals that reflect God’s will and way for sexuality.
  • Have people tell their stories. Invite those who are battling pornography addictions to share their stories along with how they are making it through with God’s help. Have them answer these questions: “What made you give in?”, “How has pornography affected you?”, “How has pornography affected your relationships?”, and “How have you learned to effectively deal with pornography now?”
  • Provide redemptive and recovery resources. There will come a day when you will have to act. . . and quickly. Have a referral list of competent Christian counselors and other referrals at your fingertips. Know where the recovery and support groups meet. Provide a list of mentors who have not only been through it themselves, but can guide students to redemption and hope in Christ.

The reality is that we might not want to talk about pornography, but we must. And whether they know it or not, our students want to talk about pornography too. They might not think so now, but they will wish they had done so if they get caught in pornography’s addictive grip. We have a small window in which to get talking. Culture is shifting quickly in ways that are moving pornography from something once seen as a vice, to something seen as a matter of personal choice. . . or even a virtue.

What steps are you taking to guide your students through the spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational minefield of pornography?

Some additional resources you can use. . . .

-CPYU’s Sexual Integrity Initiative – loaded with free downloads, resources, and media clips.

-CPYU’s  Handout on Internet Pornography. . . found on this page at our Digital Kids Initiative.

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