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RTVC helping Internet users caught in sexual addiction

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–A recent e-mail message received by the correspondence counseling department of the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission caused rejoicing at the agency’s daily prayer service.

The reason for the praise was that a man who had accessed the RTVC’s HelpLink pages on the Internet had renounced his sexual addiction and had accepted Christ as his Savior.

Statements included in the man’s e-mail messages to the RTVC included “Thank God I found you … I have struggled with sexual addiction for a long time … I asked Christ to come into my heart and take control of my life … I did clean off my hard drive and I deleted all the bookmarks to the porn places.”

Darel Robertson, the RTVC counselor assigned to help people who write or call who have a sexual addiction, said the man has now gone to a minister of a local church who has helped him get into a sexual addiction support group.

“What happened with this man has been an all-around redemptive situation,” Robertson said. “Sexual addiction is a much greater problem, even among church members, than most Christians want to admit. I think many sexual addicts access our pages on the Internet.

“They find hope on our pages because they say you can change, that God cares for you even in your addiction and that you can have a real relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Robertson said HelpLink gets more “hits” on sexual addiction than on any other subject. A “hit” is when someone accesses a page. “Hits” does not refer to the number of people accessing the page, but the number of times it is accessed.

The HelpLink web site address is www.rtvc.org/helplink.

HelpLink went on-line in April 1996. Last November there were 10,933 hits. Last December there was an increase to 14,073 hits. This past January there were 28,915 hits.

Sexual addiction has been described as a state of devotion to erotic feelings that reinforce a need for new and more exciting experiences.

“Sex addicts persistently and consistently pursue or practice behaviors that result in erotic feelings,” Robertson said. “They typically substitute healthy relationships with others for the mood-altering experience that is produced from sexual events or processes. These sexual events range from culturally accepted level one activities, such as viewing pornography, to level four criminal activities such as child molestation, incest and rape. Addicts tend to progress through the levels in search of new and exciting experiences.

“That is why sexual addictions at any level are insidious and harmful. Sex addicts who want to quit and can’t are miserable. That’s also why the biblical standard of sexual expression with one partner for life within marriage is God’s guarantee of health.”

Robertson, who was on church staffs more than 17 years and has been at the RTVC more than five years, said that from counseling experiences he has learned that a high percentage of men, including ministers, are addicted to pornography. He said he could not give an exact percentage, but that it is significant.

“And it’s rare to be addicted to just one thing,” he said.

Robertson, currently a doctoral student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, also expects the percentage of men addicted to pornography to rise in part because of the Internet.

“The Internet makes pornography available in the privacy of one’s home, so it’s obvious that the number of people who will become addicted to it will increase,” he said. “Because pornography can be accessed in private, the stigma of being seen going into a sleazy place to obtain it
is eliminated.

“So the Internet can be a great tool for good, but it can also be a tool for evil. Just from the e-mail we receive, we can ascertain that many church members, including ministers, are struggling with addictions.”

Robertson said the Internet has opened many new avenues for

“For one thing, we’re reaching many different people on the Internet than we reach with our radio and television programs,” he said. “And we can respond much quicker to someone sending an e-mail than to someone sending a letter. With e-mail we often have two or three exchanges a day with a person in need.

“With coming developments in Internet and television technology, especially the combining of the two, the Southern Baptist Convention will be able to take the gospel directly into the living rooms of practically every home in America. The Internet won’t just be limited to the World Wide Web when combined with TV technology. The idea of one
central communications-information center in practically every home in America is not far off. This provides a tremendous opportunity for the SBC.

“We’re in an age when if you can dream it, you can do it.”

Robertson said the Internet enables the church to reach out to people who are very private with their problems and pain.

“Through the Internet we offer a man or woman stuck in their sexual addiction a discreet way in which to deal with it,” he said. “They can contact us in the privacy of their home. Of course, they can also access pornography in the privacy of their home. It’s a two-way street.”

One man who contacted HelpLink via the Internet wrote: “I’m so glad you’re on the Internet. I’ve been addicted to pornography for years. When I typed ‘pornography’ into one of the search engines on my computer, your web site and eight others came up. Out of the nine sites, only one was pornography. The rest were information on how to break pornography addiction. I knew right then that I needed to do something. Can you help me?”

Robertson said, “The beauty of what we do is that once a person gets his or her secret out to someone, it takes away the power that secret has over their life. It’s a first step to getting help locally.

“All our pages on the Internet link with salvation material, with how to have a real relationship with Jesus Christ. And everything we do is geared to putting a person in touch with a local church.”

    About the Author

  • C.C. Risenhoover