Another Brick in the Wallet

I was looking out over a sea, well, maybe a pond, of beautiful faces.  Clean, fresh, well-mannered, beautiful faces.

We were talking about the dangers that can come at a kid.

A boy in the back raised his hand. A sixth grade boy.

“I used to play with my neighbor all the time.  Then he started looking at that stuff online. Now he never comes outside.”

I caught the eyes of a boy in the center of the room, just to my right, just before he hung his head. I saw it in his eyes.

I told them my friend’s story. The one I told you.

If you have kids, or love kids, you should probably read this, too.

Hey! Billion dollar porn industry! Leave them kids alone! All in all they’re just another bill in your wallet.





R, Really?

My daughter and I saw Far from the Madding Crowd last week.  It was really good and Matthias Schoenaerts – the actor who played Gabriel Oak – was REALLY attractive.  So attractive that we both mentioned it on the way home – same as we did about Garret Hedlund after seeing Country Strong a few years ago.

So while I was driving, my daughter was googling Matthias to see what else he’s been in.  All foreign films.

Perusing the “World Cinema” shelves at the local library a few days later I spotted one of them, a french film entitled Rust and Bone.

Yay!  I don’t usually watch R-rated movies, but the blurb on the back cover said the Cannes Film Festival audience stood up and cheered.  Plus Matthias.  So I made an exception.

Wish I hadn’t.

Since when is full frontal nudity rated R?  Since when is completely naked animal sex, with no attempts whatsoever to hide body parts rated R?  Contrary to what Rotten Tomatoes wrote, the graphic nudity was far from brief.  Rust and Bone was just glorified porn and it ought to be rated accordingly.  So people like me can put it right back on the shelf.

I loved the character Matthias played in “Far from the Madding Crowd”, but I didn’t like the character he played in “Rust and Bone” at all.  And now that I have seen EVERY NAKED BIT of the actor, I’m not so sure I like him anymore either.

Kinda’ lost respect for the man.


pornography, restoration

Productive Things

If I had to say there’s a beginning to this story, it stemmed from the TV.  I’ve been exposed to plenty of sex, promiscuity and adult content on TV since I was a little kid, probably mid-late elementary school age.  Not all of it was that bad, but just about all of it drew up the same excitement and curiosity that would follow me through adolescence.

When our parents were asleep or out of the house, my brother and I had control of the TV.  We ended up on the E! channel a lot, where we could watch anything they happened to feature about celebrities, swimsuit models, fashion shows, whatever.  Women are the reason that channel existed and we were definitely too young to watch stuff like that.  We often saw Howard Stern at night, where his radio show was rehearsed.  They either invited really weird people or slutty porn stars or nude models to guest on the show.  They got nude most of the time and censored only a little.

To a fifth grader that stuff was awesome.  You got this feeling of attraction and arousal that you didn’t really understand, and you had the ability to access stuff that your parents would have had a fit about.  Score!    I would tune in whenever I was up late enough.  I always craved a little bit more – you never get to see women naked in real life.

That was before we had internet.  It took maybe only a couple months of having internet in our house before I started looking at pornography.  Damn, It was easy.  Still is.  But I was well aware of what pornography was.  The first nude magazine I saw was hidden away in an old-school military ambulance at Selfridge Air Base.  A bunch of my friends and I were on a Cub Scout campout and found a 1940’s era gentleman’s magazine in the back of the vehicle, and it was awesome.  Fold-out centerfold and everything.  I knew how pornography made me feel, and I liked it.  So when I found out how easy it was to find it, I started looking for more.

I was 13, it was summer and I was looking up pornography on the internet whenever I had the chance.  I was ashamed of it until I learned that most of my friends were doing the exact same thing, and they often talked about it in a very proud way.  I don’t think most people – older generations and females – understand how big of a problem this is.  I know many people aren’t even aware of it.

Pornography is the ultimate distraction.  I am ashamed of my addiction because of my Christian ideals, but I am also ashamed of it because it takes my mind off what is important – LIFE.  I don’t think it makes me disrespect women, even though people claim that as pornography’s effect.  Pornography actors and actresses are already disrespecting themselves.  To say that pornography has had that great of an effect on my view of the opposite sex is to say I believe everything I see on TV.  Guys don’t watch pornography to seek relationship advice, they do it to watch girls, have sex, get aroused and jack off.  Sex feels good.  It gets those brain chemicals pumping, and is pretty comparable to a high.  Like a drug addict, a pornography addict can relapse at any time.  I’ve done it a few times after being clean.  Christianity and good mentors and friends blocked it out for a few weeks.  After that, I fell right back in.

Most guys – Christian or not – struggle with this to some degree.  Sure, some guys are proud of it, but they’re idiots.  It’s so false, so wrong, and such a waste of time.  I’ve lived with it and sadly still do.

The way out?  Keep yourself busy with productive things.  Find supportive friends and keep them close.  Don’t use the internet – separate yourself from the root.  Evaluate what’s important to you.  Being a Christian and a Bible reader alone won’t solve it (you can get aroused to stuff in the Bible).  You need support – whenever I’ve had others care for me, I’ve been able to feel BE clean.

Women need to help guys, too.  They’re the source – the “object” – of male lust after all.  Most girls – and many “Christian” girls at that – have no idea what they are doing when they make themselves look cute/hot/insert word here _______.  I heard a lot about this when I was an adolescent at [Bible camp].  My counselor had talked with his older sister about his struggles with lust, and she had no idea how greatly her appearance could affect a Christian guy.  It’s stunning how much time some Christian girls spend on their outer appearance after the Bible states that looks/clothes/makeup and all that shit is clearly unimportant in the whole scheme of things.  If the Bible holds the Word, why do so few listen?  Who is really a Christian? That’s another story – but describes quite well where I stand.

I’m searching, and maybe one day I will figure it out.  I know right from wrong, and I attribute that to a Christian upbringing.  These paragraphs alone describe only an episode in my life that will hopefully come to an end…but life goes on.

The story you just read was handed to me by a young friend on the last day of a four day retreat, as I was loading my car to leave.  The way it was folded let me know that he didn’t want me to read it until I got home.  And when I did get home and read it, I wept.  Because I love that kid and I had no idea he was struggling.  I hadn’t seen him in a few years – since he went off to college – and when he walked into the retreat center on that first day, I gasped.  The bright, sparkling eyes that I remembered and loved were dead.  Dead.  No life in them whatsoever.  I knew something was wrong.

If my friend had been in front of me when I read his story, I would have told him two things:

First, friend, I have to disagree with you when you said. “I don’t think it makes me disrespect women, even though people claim that as porn’s effect.  Porn actors and actresses are already disrespecting themselves.”

What if it were your mother?  Would you want people looking at her if she was disrespecting herself?

Not all porn actors and actresses are participating willingly.  The federal government estimates that 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked in the United States each year. The Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children both recognize that pornography is an element that adds to the serious problem of sex trafficking. Many traffickers are found with filming equipment and cameras to create and sell pornography. (E. McGinnis, The Horrifying Reality of Sex Trafficking)

By viewing pornography you are supporting sex trafficking.

Then there’s this:  I almost hate to share this link with you because the article itself reads as exploitation to me. You can read why in Spare Me the Details.

One more thing, friend, with regard to “an episode in my life that will hopefully come to an end…”, I just want to say that passive hope isn’t going to cut it.  Only God has scissors that are strong enough.

And to you, dear Readers, I’ll say it again:

Mamas, protect your babies.

I know this young man’s parents.  They are a fine Christian couple and they have no clue as to the clutches their son has fallen into.  In fact, they’d probably say that church kids don’t need to be talked to.  But, Oh, I’m sure they suspect something is wrong….

pornography, restoration

I Still Break Her Heart

This Friday afternoon I will spend close to two hours speaking to an assembly of 7th graders.  I will be showing them why it is important to guard their hearts and I will be giving them practical suggestions on how to keep them sticky – for a marriage bond that will last.

After a short break the youngsters will learn to discern media messages.  And in the process I will warn them to steer clear of pornography. I’ll tell them that pornography is especially dangerous for kids their age and I’ll tell them why:

When you are young – a toddler, a pre-schooler, an elementary school kid – your brain is like a sponge.  It continually soaks up all kinds of information.  Every piece of new information that comes at you gets attached to existing information and synapses (connections) are formed.

Then, when you become around 11 for girls and 12 for boys, your brain starts to prune itself.   It’s like little scissors start to snip some of the connections.  Random info that you don’t really need gets snipped away.  But the connections that are reinforced – like by practicing the piano; adding, subtracting, multiplying every day; listening to the same song over and over until you have the lyrics memorized – those connections become really strong and tough.  They are too thick for the scissors to snip.


So if you are a 10, 11, 12 year old kid looking at pornography on your computer, smart phone, whatever, your brain will make a connection between inappropriate images and sexual arousal.  And if you reinforce that connection by looking at it again and again, the connection will become strong.  Very strong.  Too strong to be snipped.

Years from now, when you marry the beautiful, godly woman of your dreams, you’ll have a difficult time being aroused by her – especially after the newness of your marriage wears off – because you have trained your brain to be aroused by lust, exploitation and flesh rather than by love and intimacy with a beautiful soul.

There was an article in Time magazine several years ago that said pornography is as addictive as heroin when it comes to the effect it has on the brain.  When I was a social worker, I often saw moms choose heroin over their children.  Not because they didn’t love their children, but because heroin is so powerfully addictive.  So is pornography.

Five years ago I took a group of young people on a retreat to pilot a Bible study I was writing.  On the morning of the final day I asked them to share their stories.   Here’s RJ’s story:

I first met RJ and Beth when they came to lead worship at the retreat.  I hired RJ over the phone, sight unseen. It was clearly a divine appointment.  I still keep somewhat in touch with them through Facebook.  They now have a band, a precious little boy and another baby on the way.  They are a darling couple and their lives are good, and hard.  Sometimes REALLY hard for Beth.  Every time her husband chooses to indulge his addiction he is choosing to break her heart. When his lifeless eyes reveal that he has fallen off the wagon, when their browser history reveals that he has been googling “how to get around Covenant Eyes” at 2 am, he breaks her heart again.  REALLY breaks it.

And though she forgives him, that forgiveness costs her a lot.  And he keeps letting her pay.

Which breaks MY heart.

I asked my retreat guests to work through portions of the Bible study and give me feedback.  I collected them at the end.

In the chapter entitled “Know Your Enemy” I asked:

Is the enemy trying to rob you of the glory of your future marriage by appealing to your physical need?  Is he trying to get you to prove your desirability?  Is he offering you immediate gratification with a cheap imitation of the “naked and unashamed” marriage God has planned for you?  Couples who are living together and sleeping together are being tricked out of it and it’s a darn shame.

Beth highlighted those questions and wrote:

This kind of trickery does not stop once you get married.  It just begins to happen in new ways.  Also, Satan does what he can to get people to have sex outside of marriage & he does what he can to keep you from having sex when you are married, unless it is w/ someone other than your spouse.  We need to fight this tactic!

I wonder how many young wives, whose husbands are addicted to pornography – whether through actively partaking or through revisiting the images that they cannot snip from their brains – are tempted to prove their desirability elsewhere.  To somebody.  To anybody.

Mamas, watch your babies.  Talk to them, explain things to them.  And when you have a minute, read this:

Jamie is 13 and hasn’t even kissed a girl.  But he’s now on the Sex Offender Register after online pornography warped his mind.

© 2015, The Reluctant Baptist


Families in a Fog

The Gift from Kensington on Vimeo.

Today’s elegy might seem somewhat gritty,
compared to yesterday’s concrete ditty.

Children reared on Sex and the City,
parents asleep, such a pity.

The video above, made to warn and convict,
vehemently dissed by iphone addicts.

Let’s please awake from our media giddy,
‘cuz I miss the days of prim and pretty.

You might critique this verse with a rhyme word not pretty,
Or even call me a prudish old bitty.

Today it was fog, elegy and metaphor. I think I included all three elements if you count the title.  (And if you watched the clip, add another metaphor.)

Happy Friday.

life, pornography

Spare Me the Details


quas, Creative Commons

quas, Creative Commons

“I must warn you that what I am about to share with you is very dark.”

So began an article I read via Facebook last July.  The featured image was of a very cute, wholesome-looking fourteen-year-old girl.  The article was written by a reformed porn actress recruiter who exploited and preyed upon very young women and girls.  It was depressingly eye-opening.

The article brought to mind the ad that ran daily in my university’s newspaper – the one that promised big bucks for modeling.  The ad seemed creepy and the money seemed too good to be true.  But there the ad was, in my face, day after day, wearing me down.  And as my bank account grew weaker, so did my common sense.  “What’s the harm in calling and asking?,”  I finally inquired of my roommate.  “Go ahead,” she replied.  So I called.  “Modeling and light massage” is what I was told.  I did not know what “light massage” meant, exactly, but I knew I wanted no part of it.  So I quickly hung up the phone.  We still used wall phones back then.  And then I spritzed the phone with lysol – just in case.  Ewww.

Now I know what became of some/many/most? of my fellow co-eds who did not hang up their phones.  Now I know what could have become of me.

The article went on for paragraphs detailing how the perpetrator lured the young girl further and further into decay – from “innocent” modeling into full-blown hardcore pornography.  He also detailed how he ruined her life in the process – how it is still ruined.

By the end of the article I was angry.  I wanted to smack him – HARD!

As the article progressed, the pictures he included became more and more inappropriate.  Perhaps he was trying to show the evolution from wholesomeness to defilement.  But I felt like he was exploiting her all over again.

It felt like he was providing a fix to any pitiful sex addict that might stumble upon it.

Or – to be generous – at least potentially triggering a recovering addict.

It made me mad that, in the end, he is reformed (unless he’s not and the article was an insidious attempt to “innocently” lure in new users… wait, that might be too dark on my part.  But I might as well admit that it struck me that way.  I have a very strong and reliable sense of discernment). And, in the end, he is making money off of his book and speaking engagements, while she is still strung out and homeless, trying to rear her child in poverty.

I hope he’s throwing some of the money her child’s way, because not only did he ruin her life,  as the title of the article states, he also got her child’s life off to a very rocky, rocky, rocky start.

Then yesterday I started following a Christian blogger who is a recovering porn addict.

He wrote a book on how to break the addiction.  When I speak to kids, I warn them to steer way clear of that stuff.  But sadly, for some it is too late, and then parents and teachers ask me to suggest resources.  So I read an excerpt from his book.  And it made me say, “Ewww.”  I could have done without the details.  And then it occurred to me that for some, those details would be a trigger.

So I commented my thought to him.  And he sent a suitable reply saying it was tricky and unavoidable.

Except that David gave no details whatsoever when he confessed his sexual sin with Bathsheba.  And we, the readers, understand perfectly well what happened without them.  What he did share was how the sin affected him:

When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
    your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
    as in the heat of summer.  from Psalm 32

And how he regained his strength:

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
    my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
    the guilt of my sin.  from Psalm 32

And what the consequences were:

Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house…  Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight…. because you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”  from 2 Samuel 12

As a recovering addict, the blogger should know better.  A recovering food addict would not describe the taste, sensation and ritual of eating a box of frozen hostess cupcakes to readers who might just stumble at those words – who might run to her stash hidden under the organic chicken and frozen green beans in her downstairs freezer.

A recovering alcoholic would not describe the glorious burning sensation of the alcohol traveling down his throat and into his veins, warming and calming his body.  Even if he was describing it in the context of saying alcohol ruined his life.  A true recovering alcoholic, If he really cared about helping others, would just say, “Alcohol ruined my life.”  Any details would be about the damage he did to himself and others. Anyone reading it who was an alcoholic/recovering alcoholic would not need the experience described for them – they live(d) it.

Writing books about one’s sexual addiction is a tricky business – it is obviously very easy to warp into exploiting one’s disease and/or enticing others.

So here’s my question and my challenge:

Would someone PLEASE write a book about how to break a pornography/sex addiction that does not include any descriptions of the acts.  Those who are caught in that web already know what the acts look like and they are trying to keep those images out of their heads thank-you-very-much.

Would someone please write a book that I can actually recommend to a teen or parent without worrying that they will be sucked in, or relapse?

Maybe I am a pornophobe.  So what?  Sex is one of God’s greatest inventions and pornography wrecks, wrecks, wreck it.  And I’m sick of it.

New Year’s Eve, after our truly special dinner, the four of us played Scrabble.  We played the deluxe, mahogany-encased Scrabble that my daughter gave us for Christmas.

Before playing one of his words, our guest – the father of two very wholesome, healthy, well-adjusted young adults (one a newlywed and the other a college student) – apologized for what he was about to lay down on the board: n-u-d-e.

I wish the writers of books and articles on pornography and sex addiction would be that kind of a gentleman, with that level of sensibility.  Amen.

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2015


The High Cost of Forgiveness


My pastor almost preached a really good sermon on forgiveness.  He started by laying out our need for forgiveness.  Then he assured us of God’s willingness to bestow it.  And then he stopped. If ever there was a time for a three-point sermon, this was it. Because, contrary to what David wrote in Psalm 51:4, there is more to the equation than just the sinner and God.

As those who read their Bibles know, David poured his heart out to God in Psalm 51 after being confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding his sins of adultery and murder.  He wrote, “Against you, you only have I sinned…”  But hold on.

What about Bathsheba?  Bathsheba was married to a great guy.  I doubt she entered David’s bed willingly.  Because of David, she no doubt suffered guilt in addition to the agonizing loss of a husband and a child.

What about their infant son?  “The son born to you will die.”  If ever there was an innocent victim of someone else’s sin…

What about Uriah?  If you know the whole story, you know that Uriah was a classy guy.  He wasn’t just a random soldier, he was one of David’s elite “Mighty Men”.  Twice he refused to enjoy the comforts of his wife while his fellow soldiers were on the battlefield.  David wrote a letter to Joab ordering Uriah’s death in order to cover up his sin.  Uriah was so classy that he carried the letter back to Joab without once peeking into the envelope.

What about the peripheral soldiers who were killed along with Uriah in the cover up? What about the wives, children, brothers, sisters, parents, friends and fellow soldiers who mourned them?

What about Joab, David’s right hand man on the battlefield?  He was the general in David’s absence. I imagine he loved his men.  Can you imagine the guilt he carried for needlessly putting them in harm’s way?

What about Ahithophel (Bathsheba’s grandpa and one of David’s counselors)? (2 Samuel 11:3, 2 Samuel 23:34, 2 Samuel 15:12,)  Did he know David raped his granddaughter and killed her husband, or did he only feel the betrayal in his spirit?

When it comes to forgiveness, no one has hit the nail on the head like Josh McDowell in his book, More Than a Carpenter.  His illustration has stuck with me through many years:

“… let’s say my daughter breaks a lamp in my home. I’m a loving and forgiving father, so I put her on my lap, and I hug her and I say, “Don’t cry, honey. Daddy loves you and forgives you.” Now usually the person I tell that story to says, “Well, that’s what God ought to do.” Then I ask the question, “Who pays for the lamp?”  (p.156)

That’s why my pastor’s sermon left me unsatisfied.  It is wonderful to rejoice in God’s forgiveness, but God is not the only one who pays for the lamp.

I get why my pastor stopped short:  God’s forgiveness makes us feel good.  It is nice and tidy.  The price has already been paid, after all, and He is huge and powerful enough to absorb it.  The only time we come face to face with the itemized invoice is once a year on Good Friday.

Human forgiveness is messier. And easily distorted.  We delay forgiveness until we think the offender has paid enough.  And that completely misses the point.  It is the forgiver who pays for the offense, not the offender.  That is what makes forgiveness so powerful.  And that is why Jesus tied it to love (Luke 7:44-47). The innocent party pays.

If we truly understood that, I wonder whether we would be so quick to take the high cost of forgiveness lightly.

I recently heard that 50% of Christian men are addicted to pornography.  As my pastor was winding down his two-point sermon, I looked around the auditorium.  Statistically, 50% of the married women in the room are paying for the forgiveness their addicted husbands enjoy.  God paid 100% of the spiritual cost, those wives are paying 100% of the physical cost.  God sees them rolled up on the floor in a fetal position because they discovered their husbands were googling, “how to get around Covenant Eyes” at 2 am.  He sees the toll it is taking on their physical health, the clumps of hair in their hands when they shampoo.  He knows the temptation some of them face in their desire to feel attractive again.

I wish my pastor had mentioned them.  I wish he had reminded their husbands who all is paying for the lamp.  I wish he had acknowledged the earthly price they pay. Forgiveness is holy ground.  It is beautiful and costly and powerful.  It deserves a three-point sermon.

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014