There’s a Porn Addict in My Church

I wonder what would happen if my forty something year old husband stood at the front of the church one Sunday morning and disclosed his past pornography addiction and the freedom he has received from it through the healing of God and his recovery program.

Would there be the same cheers that accompanied the announcement of the anniversary of another church member’s sobriety from alcohol? Would there be the same compassionate call to prayer as there was for another member who relapsed in their drug addiction after being sober for nearly a year?

Would there be the same acceptance that was given to the courageous teenager who recently shared how God had freed him at youth camp this summer from his struggle with pornography? I sat in church that morning, trying to interpret the reaction of the congregation, knowing that my perception was subjective, and not necessarily truth.

I was proud of that young man’s willingness and ability to boldly stand before the eyes staring back at him, not knowing exactly what those faces would display. I didn’t hear any horrified gasps, or coffee cups dropped in surprise. Neither was the room filled with an uncomfortable silence or an air of judgement.

My church family seemed to easily accept this admission. Perhaps because it was accompanied by a victory story and did not challenge them to do anything more than pat him on the back and say a few hallelujahs. Perhaps because this was a well-liked, good-looking, intelligent young man from a respected family involved in ministry in the church and community. Perhaps because he did not embody by age, appearance or status the preconceived idea of what a porn user or addict would look like. His testimony appeared to be non- threatening to most of the people who heard it. But it should have shaken everyone.

It made me uncomfortable. Not because I didn’t want to hear it. But because the smiling faces seemed oblivious to the accompanying message being presented to them. Statistically speaking, it is highly unlikely that young man and my husband were the only two people in that room battling the darkness and enslavement of pornography.

I was concerned for that young man. Freedom from pornography use or addiction is possible. But it takes work. Intentional steps need to be taken, a plan formed, to overcome the temptation and sin. God seldom heals a heart by an instant removal of the symptom, but rather provides a way to conquer it as He brings healing to the root issue. To me, the celebration of victory over sin by everyone that morning was blissfully deceitful in its ignorance. The real triumph was his desire to acknowledge and confront his bondage and to introduce the topic in church. That made me smile with hope, that unlike my husband, he will potentially be able to avoid years ensnared in the harmful effects of pornography.

My spirit remained unsettled. Feeling like our church family missed an opportunity. For this young man. For my husband. For me. And the others that are sitting in our pews wrestling with the damage caused by their own or a family member’s pornography use. A door was opened a crack. But no one knew what to do with it. Or wanted to open it wider. The responsibility given solely to his parents.  And now with each passing week, the splinter of light diminishes. The warning forgotten. Ignored. Denied.

But just because the monster has been returned to its hidden place in the darkness behind the stacked chairs in the basement crawlspace, doesn’t mean it won’t emerge again. The question is more likely to be when and who. Pornography destroys. All ages. Both men and women. In all social, economic and religious demographics. But it doesn’t have to. I would like to be ready for it next time. I would like my church to be prepared to fight and conquer. Be proactive rather than reactive. When the porn addiction of the twenty to ninety year old is confessed or exposed, it won’t be as easy to accept and dismiss. There will be consequences. People will squirm. God will convict some hearts and push others to their breaking points. I want to be a part of God’s combat team. To defeat the enemy, and to rebuild the broken lives and marriages.

Our pastor knows our story of brokenness and redemption. Of two lives and a marriage transformed. My husband and I have offered ourselves as mentors or resources should any other person or couple come to him for guidance through their own sexual betrayals and infidelity. In the past three and a half years, we have never even been asked for the name of our Christian sexual addictions recovery therapist. And that causes my heart to ache because I don’t believe the reason is that no one else in our church community is struggling or suffering. I believe the shame and stigma surrounding sexual sins and addiction is keeping them alone and silent in their pain.

There is a conflict in my heart. An overwhelming desire to loudly proclaim the proven hope and victory we have found through God’s amazing, redeeming, restorative, healing, saving, supernatural power. And then the balancing of the very real need to cautiously protect my husband and our family from the judgement and consequences of the broad misunderstanding of sex addiction.

The shame and stigma continues. Pornography use remains hidden. And sadly, so does the hope of healing when no one feels safe to talk about it. I want that to change. I want the porn addict to be able to celebrate their sobriety as freely as the alcoholic or drug addict.

I dream of that time. That’s all it really seems to be. A far away dream. But maybe if enough of us dare to dream it, we can open the door together and shine the light a little brighter.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

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17 thoughts on “There’s a Porn Addict in My Church

    • Thank you. In fairness to our pastor, he made a valiant effort 1 1/2 years ago to address pornography and masturbation in a sermon series on bondage, with input from my husband. They were even hoping to start a recovery support group. So the resistance isn’t coming from the top as much as it is from our church members. It has actually been really tough on my husband, as a new Christian through this all, to understand and accept that his church family cannot be a part of his recovery. He has desired support from other Christian men, and also to offer it, but hasn’t found that in his own church. And sadly, that affects more hurting people than just us. We have so much hope and experience to share, but for now, we wait…..

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  1. You are so right, if the statistics are correct this is a huge problem even in our Christian churches. A friend and I are trying to start a support group in our own church for wives of pornography addicts, but so far it is just a dream. I hope and pray that our dreams can come true very soon!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am glad that you do have a friend you can walk with as you heal, but there is something special about a group gathering together. I have been blessed to meet some beautiful, amazing women in my recovery support group which is lead by my therapist’s wife. I share your dream of being able to participate in a support group with women from my church and community. Don’t give up hope. You only need one more to be a group!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If you look at the statistics from the Barna Group’s 2016 study, it suggests that, at least on a self-reporting basis, that there is a higher amount of porn addicts who consider themselves churchgoers than among those who are not. Also, the rate of pornography addicts among the clergy is much higher than non-clergy members. My guess — and it’s only a guess — is that with the Catholic Church getting so much negative press over allegations of molesting children that those within the church who suffer from porn addiction are afraid that they’ll be lumped in with that other group. It makes some sense. On Maine’s sexual offender registry, you’ll find me — with a non-contact offense — next to somebody who molested several children.
    The best thing we can do is just keep talking about it, almost normalize it in a sense. I’ve said it many times: When I went off to rehab for alcoholism, people wanted to shake my hand and pat me on the back. When I went off to rehab for porn addiction, they went running for the hand sanitizer.
    Statistics say it’s only going to get worse…much, much, much worse. People like your husband and I are the 1 in 12 in our age groups. If you’re 27 and a porn addict, you’re 1 in 3. That number won’t fix itself until the stigma goes away and education is introduced.
    Well written piece, thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • As always, thank you Joshua for providing your perspective and some statistics. I’ve seen many eye opening and scary statistics on porn usage among church goers and believe them to be true. I was just feeling too lazy to wade through them this week for my post. But it is why, along with my personal experience, I believe with certainty, (as does my husband) that there are many men, and some women, sitting in church with us every week who are porn addicts and silently suffering and struggling. We feel so stuck in our ability to help them because we don’t know who they are. I lament the stigma, but do little to change it amongst our own people. But one by one we have chosen to trust our stories with others. It’s a beginning…..

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  3. Another awesome post Cynthia. Let’s just assume that at least half of the men and about a third of the women in ANY given church have watched or do watch porn at least a minimum of once a month. I don’t take stats as a true indicator because of the simple fact that so many that say they are churchgoers only go at Easter and Christmas.

    I agree that churches are still silent on the issue. And that is a shame. It does need to change and it has thanks to recovery programs within the church like Celebrate Recovery. But it is a slow change and need to speed up.

    I agree with Kathy. You are planting seeds sis!

    Thank you for this wonderful heartfelt post!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think porn is prevalent both inside and outside the church, and really the issue is that there is freedom for anyone. Church goers are flawed, hurting people just like anyone else. The main difference is that they believe in God. I have a theory, based on no actual research or studies or statistics, is that one of the reasons church goers choose pornography as their source of medication is because it is more hidden and private than other vices such as alcohol, gambling, etc. It isn’t about the sex as much as it is soothing a pain. Of course that doesn’t address lust, but hey, I never said it was a perfect theory.

      I think one of the issues in my church that keeps people silent is that we are a small size. There is a bigger church in a nearby community that is doing amazing things to battle sex addiction. They have asked every man in the church to attend a Conquer series on sexual integrity and ran it every night of the week and on the weekend so that no one had the excuse to not be able to attend. And by doing that, no one feels conspicuous in attending. And then for a follow up they have separate programs for both men and women who are struggling with sexual sin, as well as a course for betrayed partners dealing with the fallout and trauma. It is truly remarkable.

      Change is happening, but it is maybe easier for the larger churches than the smaller ones. Sometimes I covet that church and their many programs and courses, and then I remember that God has me purposefully right where I am in mine.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree with everything you have said. And your “small” church is a blessing I am sure and you and your husband are there for a reason.

        Porn and sex get addressed at my church (sometimes) and our Celebrate Recovery every Thursday…mainly because I will not let them forget about it. They have seen the amount of men that come up to me, after speaking, asking for prayer. So they understand it’s vital it gets talked about in one form or another.

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    • Absolutely that is darn cool to have someone in authority and leadership shining light in the dark hidden crevices and removing the shame for both the addicts and their loved ones! What a beautiful, walking testimony and example of God’s grace and freedom. So good!

      Liked by 1 person

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