Pornography: A Very Real and Troublesome Problem

H.B. London From the start, I will tell you that it was difficult for me to write this article. It may prove to be distasteful for you. Still, I respectfully ask you to read on.

The subject matter we addressed on volume 11 of our audio series, Pastor to Pastor, was titled "Overcoming Sexual Addiction" and was burdensome to discuss. Those who joined us are some of the finest commentators on the subject in our country. They are godly folks who care a great deal about you, your church and the people you serve. I must admit that, as I reviewed the various aspects of this subject we addressed, I was a bit overwhelmed by the problems we face as colleagues in Christian leadership.

I have just reread excerpts of a book by Archibald Hart called The Sexual Man (Word). Dr. Hart is a good friend of mine, and he currently serves as Dean of the School of Psychology at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. His book is based on the experience of "good men" — mainstream types. Most of them were married fathers who attended church and worked hard. The Sexual Man does not address in any depth sexual perversions or deviations except to clarify what is considered to be normal.

One day, one of our secretaries in Pastoral Ministries mentioned to me that she had received five calls that morning from pastors on the issue of pornography. Initially, I thought the callers were looking for counseling aids, but I soon discovered that they themselves were hooked. One had been struggling with the temptations for more than 20 years.

Sexual addiction is a major problem in the ministry. At Focus on the Family, we surmise that more than one in five pastors have a problem in the area of pornography. Research in The Sexual Man shows that 15.5 percent of married men who are not clergy and 6.8 percent of married clergy continue to masturbate to pornography. Why? From his research, Dr. Hart concludes that sex has become dehumanized. In many circles, it is no longer regarded as an act between loving, responsible couples. Sex has become a sport. And, as in all sports, there is a strong desire to improve one's performance — pornography is a tool. Ministers are not excluded from this game.

How do men break the pattern of pornography? First, they must realize they choose their behavior. The men I have counseled say they could never break the habit gradually. It had to be done cold-turkey. The Sexual Man makes the following suggestions for the man who is faced with a pornography habit or any other sexual addiction:

  1. Be honest with yourself and acknowledge that you have a problem.
  2. Be accountable to another person. Tell someone else you can trust about your addiction.
  3. Dispose of all the pornographic material you own. Don't keep any of it. If you're tempted to rent videos, don't go near a video store of any kind.
  4. Be patient and resist feeling defeated each time you fail. Your addiction took time to develop; it will take time to overcome.
  5. Pray about your problem. Rely on God for deliverance and strength. God promises to make a difference in our lives. Allow Him to give you the special strength you need to overcome this battle.

Dr. Hart states, "I have seen men take spiritual steps to find significant release from their lust and longing for porn. Thank God for this. But it doesn't happen every time. Many godly men have prayed for release from their obsession, but to no avail. Why God helps some men and not others, I don't know." For the clergy, I would think the reason, though complicated, is that the minister often has no one to turn to and cannot possibly find healing alone.

Research shows that, as men look back later in life on how pornography influenced them, the overwhelming majority see it as a negative force. Eighty percent said it was harmful. Eighty-two percent said it is distorted sexuality. Ninety-seven percent admitted it did not help, and 71 percent concluded it was destructive.

Why am I writing an article on this subject? Because pornography is a problem in the church and among our colleagues. I hope you will purchase Dr. Hart's book, The Sexual Man. It will prove to be both helpful to you personally, and invaluable as a counseling tool.

Below, you will find a helpful list of other resources for use in dealing with men who God places in your care that are battling sexual addiction. The resources might even be helpful to you personally. If we can serve you in any way, please feel free to give us a call on our toll-free Pastoral Care Line at (877) 233-4455. We are here for you. I am serious when I say, "What happens to you matters to us."

Resources: Sexual Addiction

(Focus on the Family does not necessarily endorse the views expressed by these organizations, individuals and publications. Some of these resources may no longer be available from the publishers, but may be found in local and seminary libraries or from colleagues.)

Organizations & Therapists

Dr. Harry Schaumburg
Colorado Springs, CO
(719) 548-0908

Dr. Ralph Earle
Psychological Counseling Services, Ltd.
(602) 947-5739
(602) 946-7795 (fax)

Sex Addicts Anonymous
National Service Organization for S.A.A. Inc.
Houston, TX
(713) 869-4902

Sexaholics Anonymous
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 859-5585
New York, NY
(212) 439-1123

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
Boston, MA
(617) 332-1845

Sex Offenders Anonymous (SOANON)
Van Nuys, CA
(818) 244-6331

Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS)
Temecula, CA
(909) 695-2277

Fuller Psychological and Family Services
Pasadena, CA
(818) 584-5555

Biola Counseling Center
La Mirada, CA
(310) 903-4800

Books & Articles

Lonely All the Time
by Dr. Ralph Earle and Dr. Gregory Crow (Pocket Books)

False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction
by Dr. Harry Schaumburg (NavPress)

The Sexual Man
by Dr. Archibald Hart (Word)

Out of the Shadows
by Patrick Carnes (ComCare)

The Secret Sin: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction
by Mark R. Laaser (Zondervan)

Sexual Sanity
by Earl Wilson (Intervarsity)

"Freeing the Sexually Addicted"
by Hal B. School and Gary Sweeten with Betty Reid
Leadership, Fall 1989

"The War Within"
Leadership, Fall 1992

Also check out the "Sexual Issues" section of our Online Pastoral Care Directory.

Taken from Pastor to Pastor newsletter, Jun. 1994.
Article copyright © 1994, Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Dr. H.B. London is the vice president of Pastoral Ministries for Focus on the Family and the author of numerous books on and for pastors. He served as a Nazarene pastor for over 30 years in several churches in Oregon and California. He and his wife, Beverley, live primarily in Colorado Springs, Colo., and have two sons and four grandchildren.