Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
~ Psalm 51:10-11
Pornography usage by Christians is extremely high. Perhaps it is lower than among the general population, but considering that almost every Christian denomination would agree that it is sinful, porn use among Christian men — which has been estimated as high as 50% — is rather extraordinary. One poll did find that evangelical Christians were more likely than the general public to say they were “addicted” to porn, but that is almost certainly a reflection of a higher moral standard among them. In other words, someone who thinks pornography is fine and dandy will not say he is addicted to it no matter how much he watches it, since addiction has an aspect of involuntary use.
Anyway, the polls seem to indicate that roughly 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women have looked at pornography in any given week. The reason that it is so hard to shake, even for those who have a very strong desire to do so, is that looking at pornography is, indeed, akin to a physical addiction. It is hardwired into our mid-brain, especially in men, who have a naturally strong visual tie to sexual stimulation.
Is it a sin? Yes, of course it is. Is it harmful? Again, of course it is. Is it weird or even unusual? No, it seems that it is actually normal behavior, at least for men. Statistics would indicate that a large percentage of the men, and some of the women, who visit Daily Prayer are regular (if unwilling) pornography users.
The first thing I want to say about pornography is that their is no shame in it, and no guilt in it. All who watch it — and, generally, this is an internet phenomenon — need to confess it as sin, repent, and try to stop using it. But guilt and shame are not part of Christianity. Porn is a bit different than many sins, because it is considered “gross”. And when I say “porn” I'm including the auto-eroticism that usually goes with it. But anyone who would tut-tut about sexual sins needs to start thinking about the beam in their own eye!
It is normal and natural, and legal, so there isn't any real reason to keep it hidden. And the scope of the problem is enormous, since a great number of clergy are counted among those who use porn. So, if this is a problem you have, don't feel all isolated and guilty about it. There's no reason to be embarrassed; embarrassment is one of Satan's favorite emotions. Find a group; it is so widespread, and people who use it and want to stop are so numerous, that there are a lot of support groups around.
And if you look at porn, or have a less common problem with sexual immorality (like homosexual urges, foot or underwear fetish, etc.), don't feel like you are especially or unusually sinful. Personally, I think pride is much more harmful to the Christian community, and it is really widespread. People just lie to themselves about their pride; whereas, it's impossible to ignore watching porn.
So if this is a problem for you, pray about it and then do something about it. Although it can be hard to break, porn has the positive feature of being easy to identify as a problem! There are a million websites to help with breaking a pornography habit. Just Google it. Many larger churches have groups, and believe me, every pastor and priest is accustomed to counseling people on the issue.
Lord God, help me to free myself of all immorality and sexual sin; for sexual purity is a beautiful thing that you wish for all of your children. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer