Porn's destruction is infiltrating the church
LINTHICUM HEIGHTS, Md. (BP)--Foes of pornography are losing, and an onslaught of sexual attacks likely will result, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land believes.
"We're losing this war. We haven't lost it, but we're losing it," Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said at a conference on porn and sex exploitation. "And if you don't think we're losing it, you spend time with college-age young people, and you'll find out we're losing."
He described hardcore, online pornography as "the greatest danger this country faces."
"[I]t is destroying our culture. It is destroying our families. It is destroying our children," Land said.
Sexually graphic material online is destroying men's lives especially, he said. "Their ability to be the husbands and the fathers God intended them to be is being shriveled and shrunk and stifled and twisted and distorted by exposure to ever more hardcore, Internet pornography," Land told conference participants.
The fall-out in the next decade from the problem could be devastating to women, he said
"I believe that we are looking at in the next 10 years truly an avalanche, a tsunami of sex crimes against women and girls, because we've got a generation of boys that have been exposed at an earlier and earlier age to hardcore pornography," Land said. "And the mathematics are a certain number who view it will become addicted to it, a certain number who become addicted to it will eventually act out what they've seen on screen."
Land gave his warning at the Convergence Summit, an April 13-14 meeting in suburban Baltimore focusing on the battle against sexual exploitation in a digital age. Government, business, education and religious leaders from across the United States gathered to address solutions to pornography via new technology such as mobile devices, as well as the related problems of prostitution and sex trafficking.
Christians and the Gospel ministry have not escaped the reach of porn, Land said.
"Internet pornography is in your church. If your church has got more than 50 members, it's in your church," he told the audience. "I can tell you hardcore pornography is on the seminary campus. It's on the Christian college campus. It's in the pastorate. It's on the staff."
Its prevalence among staff members has been disclosed when some churches have decided to begin daycare centers to reach out to their communities, Land said. In preparing to provide coverage for churches, insurance companies typically research what is being viewed online in the church's buildings.
"I can't tell you the number of broken-hearted pastors who have called me when they have discovered what some of their trusted church staff have been looking at on church computers," he said.
His wife, Rebekah, and fellow psychologists focusing on marriage and family counseling say pornography is the leading cause of divorce in the United States, Land said: "They just routinely now ask the question, 'What have you been watching? What have you been looking at?' And the men are so surprised: 'How did you know?'"
Statistics support Land's concern:
-- A 2008 study of undergraduate and graduate students ages 18-26 showed that 69 percent of the men and 10 percent of the women viewed pornography more than once a month. The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Research.
-- A Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project survey released in December 2009 showed that 15 percent of those ages 12-17 who own cell phones had received a "sext" message.
-- In 2009, the fourth-most searched word on the Internet for kids ages 7 and under was "porn," according to data by OnlineFamily.Norton.com. For all kids -- those up to age 18 -- sex was No. 4, porn No. 5.
-- A Time magazine story about a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers showed that, of the 350 attendees, 62 percent said the "Internet played a significant role in divorces in the past year, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half of such cases."
There is no debate about pornography's addictive nature, Land said.
"We know it's addictive," he said. "We know how it's addictive. We know how it rewires the brain. It requires [viewers'] sexual response, so that they become focused on self-gratification as opposed to the gratification of their partner. It reduces their sexual partner to the level of an appliance."
Churches need to address the issue, and a grass-roots effort must take hold to persuade the government to act effectively to address the problem, Land told the audience.
"Our pastors need to talk about it from the pulpit," he said. "We need to talk about it in men's groups and in boys' groups. And we need to talk turkey."
Resources on pornography and sexual exploitation recommended through the Convergence Summit website may be accessed at http://www.convergencesummit.net/pdf/Recommended_Resources.pdf.
The Religious Coalition Against Pornography and the Christian organization Pure Hope sponsored the summit.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.