HOUSTON (BP) — In nearly 20 years of being a pastor’s wife, Angie Dennis said she doesn’t remember a single instance of a young woman coming to her and saying, “Miss Angie, my husband is struggling with pornography.”
Perhaps they have been ashamed, scared, embarrassed or too paralyzed to take action. Or maybe they simply didn’t know what to do.
Dennis, whose husband Jay Dennis launched the Join One Million Men movement at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 11-12 in Houston, is hopeful women will pray up, speak up and join the fight against pornography in a way that will capture hearts and minds for generations to come.
“As moms and grandmothers, we should be angry — righteously angry about this,” Dennis told Baptist Press where Join One Million Men staffed a booth in the SBC exhibit hall. “These pornographers are trying to steal the purity from our sons and grandsons. Every woman should be doing whatever we can to stop it.”
In recent years, Dennis said she sensed a growing drive within her husband, pastor of the 9,000-member First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla., to minister to families struggling with a “snowballing” effect of online pornography.
“It was new, the Internet was new, and we evolved into all of that,” Angie Dennis said. Unfamiliar with confronting the issue on a personal level, the longtime pastor’s wife said she quickly learned young men and women are sometimes overwhelmed with the toll of pornography and the effect it has on their relationships.
“They are embarrassed and humiliated,” Dennis said of couples struggling with the issue.
Wives who know their husbands viewed pornography may ask themselves, “What’s wrong with me?” Dennis said, noting that self-doubt can occur whether the husband confesses or the wife discovers his sin for herself.
“I think we just haven’t addressed it,” Dennis said of women’s response to pornography. “I think there are some real barriers we need to break down.”
Although numerous men stopped to chat with her husband and other men at the SBC exhibit, few women stopped to talk to Dennis except to express support.
One woman who did stop told of her son, a student at a large Christian university who said virtually all of the male students there struggle with looking at pornography. The young man will connect with her husband, Angie Dennis said, to look at ways to minister to and provide resources to collegians — many of whom are afraid that if they reveal their struggle, they will be expelled from school.
She urged pastors’ wives and other women in the church to educate themselves with the resources for women available through the initiative in order to understand the issues and pray for men and women.
“We need to find a way to break this down and not castigate people,” Dennis said.
Still, she acknowledged, the road ahead is rocky for ministers’ wives, who can be hit by a “double whammy” when they consider that their entire livelihood could be dramatically affected if their spouse confesses his problem and seeks help.
More challenging still may be a situation in which a woman discovers her husband is looking at pornography or is involved in an affair and won’t “come clean.”
“Absolutely,” the wife should lovingly confront her husband, like in any situation, and get help, Dennis said. “Maybe he’s just been waiting for someone to ask.”
In a church setting, she said women are well aware of the radiating effect a secret sin may have on people who discover their pastor or other church leader has fallen. And yet, “God is going to be their support,” she said. “It may be tough, but God said, ‘I have never seen the righteous forsaken.'”
Dennis, who has counseled numerous women through the years, said the world outside the church is watching this issue. A neighbor who is not interested in church — and shies from anything remotely religious — recently stopped her cold on the street near her home.
The young woman said she was shocked that many of her friends, including Christians, were reading “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a popular erotic romance novel, and the neighbor was glad to hear that her husband had preached against it and other pornography.
“This is a totally lost, sharp girl and how convicted we Christians ought to be against pornography. We have got to take a stand,” Angie Dennis said.
Describing one of the simple ways her husband has demonstrated an understanding of and respect for women, Dennis said when their daughter Emily was young and would take her father shopping, he would turn his head when walking past the Victoria’s Secret lingerie shop.
“I wish every daughter in America could say that about their daddy,” Dennis said.
There is satisfaction in knowing women can “make a dent” with prayer, resources and commitment against pornography, Dennis said, and people who suffer from sexual addictions join the whole Christian story which is filled with people who have struggled with sin, repented and received forgiveness.
The subject is not an easy one for many women in the church or for Angie Dennis, who said no woman would want to take it on if she wasn’t strong in her faith. Nonetheless, the call to arms rang clear when she looked in her husband’s heart and knew he was the one called to lead into battle.
“Jay said, ‘Pick yourself up out of your recliner, put on some Soma pajamas, pick up your cross and follow me — and be relevant to the culture,'” Dennis said.
For more information and resources for the Join One Million Men movement, go online to http://www.join1millionmen.org/
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of Florida Baptist Witness, the official newspaper of the Florida Baptist Convention, online at gofbw.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).