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‘Secret sin’ of pornography examined in LifeWay Sunday school material

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–About a dozen years ago, John Wolf’s wife gave him an ultimatum — choose his pornography or his family. He couldn’t keep both.
“The decision was easy for me. I chose my family — but the answer was not so easy to live,” Wolf wrote in an article appearing in the Winter 1998-99 issue of Life & Work Directions, a Bible study for young adults published by LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn.
A 40-year-old businessman, father of two and member of Heritage Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Wolf shared his struggle with pornography in a first-person article, “How to Live A Porn-Free Life.” The story was linked to the Jan. 10 Sunday school lesson on “Rejecting Pornography,” which appeared in Life & Work member books in all adult age groups, from young adults to seniors.
While addressing social issues is nothing new for LifeWay’s Life & Work Series, — at least one unit each year is devoted to such topics — biblical studies designer Mike Livingstone said he believes this is the first time an entire Sunday school lesson has focused on pornography.
“In the last three years we’ve dealt with everything from prejudice and violence to sexual abuse and suicide,” he said. “We felt like pornography is an issue which needed to be talked about in our churches, too. Because for every John Wolf out there, there are thousands and thousands of other Christians who are secretly struggling with it. We wanted to show them there is a way out of this addiction.”
Wolf’s struggle with pornography began at age 10 when he found a “girlie magazine” his dad had thrown away in the trash. By age 14, he and a friend had lined the inside of their fort with their favorite pornographic pictures. His teenage years were marked by frequent trips to R-rated movies, and by early adulthood he was purchasing porn magazines and visiting strip clubs. Eventually, he found his way to adult bookstores.
“No one had taught me the laws of reaping and sowing,” Wolf wrote. “If they had, I sure wasn’t listening. Little did I know the havoc I was inviting with this habit.”
Wolf accepted Christ at age 14 but drifted away from his commitment after his college days. He married at age 25, and after the birth of his first son, he and his wife felt the need to return to church.
“Everything in my life looked great on the outside. I was the president of our third-generation family business. Our church involvement grew over the next few years. My wife and I were the perfect picture of a young married couple.”
But pictures can be deceiving. Wolf was living a dual lifestyle.
“I had finally realized the magnitude and severity of my problem when, on the way home from work, I would struggle to get past the highway exit where a nearby bookstore was located,” Wolf said. “I would fight with the steering wheel of my car, and virtually every day I wound up at the bookstore.”
Wolf knew his addiction to pornography was wrong. Over and over he made the promise, “This will never happen again.” Over and over he broke that promise.
For a three-year period he was able to walk in victory, but he eventually returned to the “muck and mire” of his old habits.
“Sin takes you further than you planned to go, keeps you longer than you planned to stay and costs you more than you plan to pay,” Wolf said. “Fortunately, God’s love for me is stronger than my stupidity. His patience is more powerful than my pornography habit.”
Wolf’s struggle with pornography isn’t unique in the Christian community. In another article also included in the Life & Work lesson in some age group quarterlies, Keith Inman said the battle over this “secret sin” is being fought in churches, Christian homes and on Christian campuses.
Inman, who assumes the role of state student director for Kentucky Baptists Feb. 1, said one reason for the growth of the $8.5 billion porn industry is that X-rated content is becoming much easier to access. Cable TV, satellite dishes, 1-900 numbers, explicit videos and the explosion of porn on the Internet provide opportunities for many people to do in private what they once had to travel to a back street bookstore to encounter.
Inman talked with dozens of students before preparing his article, “The Lure of Pornography and the Secret Sin.” He shared the story of one student who won’t go to his school’s computer lab alone because the lure of porn on the Net is too tempting. Another student became so frustrated with his inability to resist the temptation that he disassembled his computer, took the “guts” out and placed it under his bed.
Wolf said studies show that, conservatively speaking, two out of 10 men look at pornography. “My experience,” he said, “has been that pornography is one of the biggest secret sins of the church.”
For some, pornography quickly moves from fascination to addiction. Studies by Victor Cline, a researcher at the University of Utah, show a four-step progression among men who become hooked on porn:
1) Exposure. Once exposed to pornographic materials, they get hooked and keep coming back for more.
2) Escalation. There is an escalation in need for harder, more shocking material to get the same sexual stimulation as before.
3) Desensitization. What was once shocking becomes, in time, acceptable and commonplace.
4) Acting out. There is an increased tendency to act out the sexual activities in the porn viewed, usually victimizing women and children.
For Wolf, the turning point was his wife’s discovery of his pornography habit and his growing realization he couldn’t kick the addiction on his own. Disappointed and sad he had hurt his wife and family, he was, nonetheless, finally able to address his problem openly and honestly.
In the last portion of his article, he shared advice for how to live a porn-free life in these “four steps to freedom:”
1) Counseling. A good, biblical counselor can help you make a lot of progress in a relatively short time. A counselor can also help strained relationships suffering from the pain of pornography.
2) Accountability. Find another individual with whom you can share your struggles. At first, visit daily, then gradually decrease time together.
3) Maintenance. Avoid tempting situations. You can do numerous things in your life to resist moral failure. If your source of temptation is a regular visit to the bookstore, stay away, change the route you use to go home. If television is a problem for you, turn it off or set up some house rules, with no channel surfing. If the Internet is an obstacle, unplug the computer or only use it when someone is in the room with you.
4) The power of God. Make a time for God every day. Twenty minutes praying, reading and memorizing Scripture will make a big difference in your life.
Wolf compared the four steps to a four-legged chair. Take away one leg and the chair falls over.
“Satan will do everything within his power to keep a pornography addict from breaking free,” he warned. “But the truth is nothing is too difficult for God. Remember, whatever battle you may be facing, God is bigger.”
Wolf said he is already beginning to hear from teachers and Sunday school class members who have read his article in the Life & Work quarterly.
“I’ve literally had tears running down my face as I’ve read some of the e-mails,” Wolf said. “Some are telling me they have struggled with the same thing; some have lost their marriages because of it. Others are just thanking me for telling my story and helping to prevent others from making the same mistake.
“I really applaud LifeWay for tackling this issue. The church can’t afford to pretend this problem doesn’t exist.”

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  • Chip Alford