This, the second part of my “What shapes your world”, focuses on the modern phenomena that is the internet aka “the web”, “the net” and whatever else you want to call it. In 1973, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) initiated a research program to investigate techniques and technologies for interlinking packet networks of various kinds. The objective was to develop communication protocols which would allow networked computers to communicate transparently across multiple, linked packet networks. This was called the Internetting project and the system of networks which emerged from the research gave birth to the “Internet”.
Phew….that’s the technical mumbo jumbo out of the way! From its primitive and small beginning the internet has now grown to such a scale that it is believed around 1 billion users around the globe surf the Internet every month. (All figures taken from Internet World Stats). The UK lies second to Germany in the usage table for the European Union with their being an estimated 40 million internet users. There has been a 162.1% growth in internet users since 2000. A report by the Web-based Education Commission, released in March 2001, asserted that
“the Internet is making it possible for more individuals than ever to access knowledge and to learn in new and different ways……The Internet is enabling us to address these educational challenges, bringing learning to students instead of bringing students to learning. It is allowing for the creation of learning communities that defy the constraints of time and distance as it provides access to knowledge that was once difficult to obtain. . . .”
No harm there right? In fact I think it’s great. If it wasn’t for the internet I wouldn’t be writing this article. If it wasn’t for the internet a lot of people (gamer-geeks, down right freaks and average Joe’s) would be a lot less happy in life! Mr Youtube and Mr Google would not have made the fortune they have done without the good old world wide web. And so it must be said that without a shadow of doubt the Internet is perhaps the most transformative technology in history; reshaping business, media, entertainment and society in astonishing ways.
However, (you know where I’m going with this right?) there is a darker side to the internet that is having a negative affect on the individual. Ecclesiastes 12:12 states “And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.” In essence the internet is one big giant library full of information, books and ‘things-to-do’. Entertainment and information is available at the click of the mouse, nevertheless this is not necessarily a good thing.
Our verse from Ecclesiastes tells us that books written on any other subject than God’s revealed wisdom will only proliferate the uselessness of man’s thinking. Oh it may make one more knowledgeable but this is not necessarily a good thing. We sinful men and woman may think that is so but Scripture reveals the opposite. Quoting from Ecclesiastes once more chapter 1 verse 18 claims “For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” You see, man expects that the information age will bring/has brought about nothing but prosperity and success for all of humanity. This is the expected outcome. Success, in turn, should bring happiness, right? But Solomon concluded that there were no guarantees.
Indeed with the internet one can see clearly that it is bringing both joy and pain. Vaughn Roberts in his book ‘Distinctives- Daring to be Different in an Indifferent World’ tells us that, apparently, in the 1950’s the average man laughed for 18 minutes per day on average. By 1990 that figure had dramatically decreased to only 6 minutes per day and who knows what it is today. Surely the information age and prosperity and knowledge that it has brought to God’s creation should have the opposite affect?
Why is this so? I would like to put forth one reason; Human sin. Plain and simple. Matthew 6:22-23 tells us that “the eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness”. The internet is providing the opportunity for men and woman alike to access vile and immoral images on a daily basis with ease. With the corrupted nature of man the likelihood is that each internet user will at least use it for the wrong reason at some point.
Pornography is one such interest that is rife on the internet. The adult online industry in the United States generates approximately $1 billion in revenues annually, and some in the industry expect this figure to grow to between $5 billion and $7 billion over the next 5 years, barring unforeseen change (p72). Sensational growth for a far from sensational product. There are 400,000 pay-to-view adult sites globally and approximately 70 million individuals per week view at least one adult Web site on a global basis. If one types in “sex” on Google around 797,000,000 results come up in 0.7 seconds. In 2003 there were 260 million pornography pages on the internet, an increase of 1800% since 1998.
Today, it is estimated that there are 4.2 million pornographic websites, 100,000 of which are dedicated to the sadistic practice of child pornography (1). Internet Porn is giving rise to a form of sexual compulsiveness. 15% of online-porn habitué’s develop sexual behaviour that disrupts their lives. The Internet is the “crack cocaine” of sexual addiction (2) . Test that against the 70 million above and you get around 10,500,000 people’s lives messed up by internet pornography. It truly has become the new “crack cocaine” of sexual addiction. Studies show pornography is progressive and addictive for many. It often leads to the user acting out his/her fantasy – often on children (3). The average age of first time contact of pornography among sex addicts is 11 (4).
Unavoidably this is having an effect on the family, something which The Guardian newspaper took to task in their article on “Daddy’s internet secret” (27/09/08). Recent figures show that 1 in 4 men use online porn at one time or another. Research carried out by the BBC in 2008 among therapists and counsellors showed that 74% said it was increasingly common to see excessive use of internet pornography as a problem in relationships. At a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two thirds of the 350 divorce lawyers who attended said the Internet played a significant role in divorces in the past year, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half such cases.
Pornography had an almost non-existent role in divorce just seven or eight years ago. (5) Relationship agencies such as Relate also report that up to 40% of couples with problems feel pornography has been a contributing factor. More sophisticated analysis reveals that men who had “purchased pornographic materials in the past year” had significantly lower marital, fathering and family-life satisfaction when compared to those who had not purchased pornographic materials in the past year (6).
Clearly there is a problem here and it is something the church must deal with. The Church can no longer hide under the image of “squeaky cleanness”. This is a new generation that has new problems and the problems must be dealt with rather than attempting to sweep them under the rug. If it is unpleasant for older folk to hear this, that is unfortunate, but that doesn’t mean we don’t attempt to deal with it.
The average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is age 11 (7) with the primary consumer group being teenage boys between the ages of 12-17. (8) Maybe this goes a long way to explaining why young people, males in particular, are leaving the church. God tells us that his people tend to satisfy their thirst not by drinking from his streams of living water, but instead drinking from man-made toilets (Jer. 2:13). Pornography is toilet water. This metaphor is particularly adept in a world that is providing thirsty men all over the world, many of whom claim to be children of God (Christians). According to Mark Driscoll;
“The church alone has access to the living water from God’s perfect Word, but largely fails to teach men masculinity in any area, particularly regarding their sexuality. The effeminate nature of pastors and churches causes many masculine men to feel unwelcome in what they perceive as an organization solely for women, children, and weaker men. There is also a timidity among weak pastors to wade into controversial issues in general, and sexual ones in particular. The sad truth is that many pastors are also enslaved to their own sexual sins and/or are languishing in unfulfilling and infrequent sex with their wives, and therefore are unable to speak of sexual matters out of a sense of disqualification.”
Driscoll goes on to quote Scripture stating;
“Ezekiel 23:18–21, God says, “When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.” God basically called his people tramps for lifting up their shirts like it was Mardi Gras and chasing men with huge penises and semen emissions like fire hoses”
Indeed Pastor Driscoll, indeed. How then should the church respond to this problem? I believe the church should not run from it or be prudish about it. It is a problem that needs addressed. God requires men of courage to stand up and speak truth, even if it makes the hearers squirm in their seats at times. According to Jason McClain, an addiction therapist who runs quitpornaddction.com, once men are caught up in this cycle, they will spend all their time in one of three stages: “They’ll either be in anticipation, planning how to get away, back to the computer.” This is an addiction cycle that only the power of the Holy Spirit can break.
McClain goes on to inform us that “ [this cycle] is followed by the consuming [of pornography] itself and then, finally, self-hatred and that awareness of what a waste of time it’s been. To rid themselves of that comedown it’s back to stage one again.” More worryingly he continues “Often there are mood swings too- rage at himself for using pornography but also at the partner for being an obstacle to that use” (10) Men are turning to pornography, and in turn liberal sexual relations outside of marriage, as a form of escapism, from sincere intimacy or family life itself.
It must be noted that this is open rebellion against the Word of God. Jesus says in Matthew 5 27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Men and Woman who view pornography may think it is harmless but it is not. It is breeding an ever-increasing problem for society and the church. There is desensitisation taking place amongst the younger generation to such sins.
Sexual immorality and drunkenness is now much more socially acceptable than it was, say, 50 years ago. Because of this young Christians are confused as to the moral standards of God’s perfect law. In 1 Peter 4:3 we read, “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” God’s men are urged by Peter to not return to their pagan patterns of reckless living and sexual perversion. If Peter were to be writing that verse today I am confident he would include “secret porn viewing whilst your wife is in bed and mates are in church”.
There is an attitude today that says internet porn is fine as it does no harm. The evidence shows quite the contrary. We may be able to hide it from our loved ones but ultimately we cannot hide it from God. I do not say this to provoke a state of despair. I know the struggle that exists for single Christian males.
If you are someone who struggles with this sin let me point you to the Cross and to Jesus Christ. To quote Mark Driscoll again;
“First John 3:9 teaches that “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” Clearly, while no man of God can become perfect in this life (1 John 1:8), God does promise that Christian men have the ability to walk away from habitual sins of all kinds, including sexual sins, which are commonly accepted as undefeatable foes. Practically, this means that sexual sin should not be managed, but rather put to death because Jesus died for it.”
Christian brothers and sister we are to “abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9b). I write because I want you “to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Romans 16:19b). I leave you with the words of the apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Colossee;
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleaness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.”
Turn to Christ in prayer and repentance always remembering that His mercies never come to and end; they are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). We must be careful what we view when we use the internet. Porn is not the only problem. There are many more of which I have not the time or desire to cover at this present time. Let’s continue to “stare at the cross, for without it we are lost” whilst not watering down the serious danger of sexual sin.
1.National Research Council Staff(CB). Youth, Pornography and the Internet : Can We Provide Sound Choices in a Safe Environment?.
Washington, DC, USA: National Academies Press, 2002. p 17.
2.Cybsersex Exposed: Simple Fantasy or Obsession? by Jennifer Schneider
3. Victor Cline, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Utah 1988, Pornography Effects: Empirical and Clinical Evidence, pg. 24
4. -American Family Association OutReach, 1997
6. -National Center for Fathering
7- Family Safe Media
8- Attorney General’s Final Report on Pornography, 1986, pg. 258
9- Mark Driscoll www.relit.org/porn_again_christian
10. The Guardian