Luring the Kids
In the past generation, many young people — especially the unchurched — have come to consider pornography a benign recreational pursuit. Indeed, a recent survey by the Barna Group revealed that not even one-third of teens and adults under 25 believe viewing pornographic images is “always or usually wrong.”
In fact, more teens and young adults believe failing to recycle, overeating, and consuming too much electricity or water is immoral.
Yet Rob Blakney, assistant dean at Harrison School of Graduate Studies at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas, believes Christians are more susceptible to the lure of pornography than non-Christians.
Blakney, a trained toxicologist/biochemist, understands the complex neurochemical draw that lurid images can have on the brain. The ordained AG minister also spent 17 years as secretary-treasurer of the AG Louisiana District, during which time he counseled various ministers caught in porn addiction or physical adultery.
“Pornography addiction is much more addicting to the Holiness minister or layperson because they have repeatedly been told, Thou shall not look at this,” Blakney suggests. “The surge of adrenaline is so much stronger. Our makeup is such that the more ‘illegal’ it is, the more addictive it becomes.”
In such an atmosphere, Blakney says strong safeguards and accountability systems are necessities.
“When a person first sees pornography, it’s not long before it takes more deviant images to get the same hit chemically in the brain,” says Blakney, 63.
Subsequently, those who continue to feed the addiction without restraint may start exploring genres that initially repelled them, such as homosexual acts, group sex, and even child porn.
“We must do more to fight porn than talking about it for one night at youth group,” Blakney says. “I’ve dealt with too many ministers with moral failures. There is virtually always a strong correlation between porn use and an adulterous relationship.”
“Porn will grab anybody — the nerds, the geeks, the jocks — anyone who has testosterone in his veins,” says Steve Benintendi, an Assemblies of God counselor based in Springfield, Missouri. “Porn is an equal opportunity destroyer.”
Benintendi says part of the recovery process for those in the throes of pornography addiction is to understand the power of the “arousal template.” Adults tend to be tethered to behaviors they saw when first attracted to porn at a younger age, he says. He notes that it’s not just boys who are at risk, as recent research shows the brains of girls who repeatedly look at porn are actually changing to be more like the “hunter” brains of their male counterparts.
Sam Black, Internet safety and partnership manager for Covenant Eyes, an accountability and filtering company, says this neurochemical bonding, or “attachment,” can be even more enhanced for the Christian because of feelings of novelty, secrecy, and fear of getting caught.
“The porn viewer’s brain bonds to the image, video, or situation, especially when the activity is reinforced through repetition,” Black writes in his e-book, The Porn Circuit: Understand Your Brain and Break Porn Habits in 90 Days
With free, accessible porn ubiquitous, Black says parents need to understand their children will be exposed to porn in today’s digital culture, no matter how much they think they are being shielded.
The recent Barna survey found that 26 percent of those ages 12 to 17 are seeking out porn at least weekly, second only to the young adult (ages 18-24) age group at 38 percent.
Black, 48, encourages parents to intentionally create an age-appropriate conversational environment, as opposed to a lecture, where a child can feel safe and accepted in asking any question about pornography. He notes that the average age of first porn exposure is only eight.
“Shame gets attached to sex when kids see porn and don’t talk about it,” Benintendi says. “Nonjudgmental questions help open dialogue.”
Still, Black urges parents to implement controls on electronic devices their child uses and to let the youngster know they are there. Parents should have a “no privacy” policy that allows them to check computers, cellphones, text messages, or online profiles at any time, he says. Black recommends that parents know the passwords to their child’s e-mail, social networks, and apps.
Parents who hand smartphones to kids are putting them one click away from long-term addiction,” Benintendi warns. “Unless we get this figured out, monogamy may be a thing of the past.”
For children as well as adults, Blacks says accountability is something the individual must desire wholeheartedly. People must determine on a daily basis to be accountable on their phone, computer, tablet, iPad, and iPod, he says.
“If the right decision is made time and time again, our brain changes,” Black says. “By our habits and our actions, neuroplasticity creates new pathways when we focus on positive things instead of pornography.”In recent years ministry leaders have been devoting more efforts to battling the problem. Thirty Christian leaders will gather at a “Set Free Global Summit” April 4-7 in Greensboro, North Carolina, where further findings about porn use in the U.S. and the church will be presented.