As I am quite sick of hearing about 1) the election, especially since I never got my absentee ballot from Arizona and am thus disenfranchised yet again (the same thing happened in 2000 when I was in Bosnia) and 2) the Episcopal/Druid liturgy debate (which I've been following mainly by way of Pontifications), I've decided to ask a serious question, especially for anyone ever involved in a ministerial leadership position.
Do you ever wake up the day after a sermon/Bible study/discussion and just ask yourself "what the hell was I thinking?" or "how did that happen?" Something happened or came up that, at the time, seemed like a good idea or topic, but after you've had a chance to think about it, you realize it may have been a mistake, that some people might be offended or upset if they heard about it since they didn't hear the whole conversation in context. I bring this up because on Sunday, I split the youth group up by gender - my wife took the girls to talk about modesty, boundaries in dating, etc, and I took the guys to talk about porn & masturbation. Ahh, the wonderful differences between the sexes! I didn't plan to just talk about porn & masturbation; I was also going to talk about boundaries in dating and respecting women by not treating them as objects, but that didn't happen. Reality crept in.
Every guy in that room, including several 11 year olds, had already seen porn- not surpising since statistically, one of the largest consumers of online porn is the 12-17 year old age group. Most had seen it while at school - either a friend brought something or they saw it online on a school computer. And while I didn't press the issue, it was clear that more than a few probably continued to view porn on a regular basis, so the conversation tended to stay focused on that. I talked about the effects of porn on the way we view women, violence towards women, sex & relationships, how it prevents us from having healthy relationships and desensitizes us to feeling real love & sexual pleasure. I also talked about how, like a drug, we need ever more explicit materials to get the same stimulation, which can lead to pretty sick stuff. This is where things got bad. I'm not really sure how it came up - whether someone asked a question or not - but somehow we started talking about that sick stuff. Stuff like child porn or porn dealing with urine or feces - the really warped, disgusting extreme that people are, unfortunately, drawn into through their porn addictions. I tried to emphasize that these people started off just looking at pictures - of some actress they found attractive or some "men's magazine" - but eventually went off the deep end. We didn't spend too much time on it, but it was definitely part of the conversation and probably the part kids will remember most. One parent, thankfully a very understanding parent, came in to talk to me about it. Having struggled with porn himself, he didn't mind what we talked about and thought it was good that it came up since it was something that shocked the kids and showed them in an extremely clear way how porn can change us. So far, no other parents have called or emailed, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they won't. Even now, though, I think the discussion was a good one - kids are rarely presented with the consequences of this kind of thing. In a culture that trivializes sex & pornography, the prevailing opinion seems to be that porn isn't all that bad, if not good for you. But its a blight on our nation and a cancer eating away at the men, especially the young men, of our society. Our kids have to see where it leads - the potenial depravity in all of us.