Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cardboard Butterflies and Porn Addiction




I’m convinced that watching pornography is one of the most serious sins affecting people today, including people in our churches.  I’m also convinced that pornography is having widespread and deeply damaging effects on culture and society as a whole.

I recently watched the documentary movie Addicted to Porn:  Chasing the Cardboard Butterfly.

Here, I will share some thoughts I have related to the movie.  I will share what is good about the movie.  I will also share what the movie leaves out.

What’s Good About the Movie

My first concern about any movie about porn addiction is the risk that in discussing this topic they might show some pornographic material or present the topic in a way that is tantalizing.  This movie does not fall into these pits.  It discusses pornography without showing any images that are tempting.

The film is very effective in communicating several important truths:

1.  Pornography can become an addiction. Watching porn affects the brain like chemical addictions do. Over time, the brains of porn viewers are actually rewired to seek porn as a trigger for reward chemicals released by the brain.  Pornography functions like other addictions in other ways as well. Porn viewers tend to seek harder and darker forms of pornography over time.  Viewers eventually find themselves watching things which would have disgusted them when they first started.  There is a cycle of addictive behavior which forms a downward spiral.  Because of all this, porn viewers may find it very difficult to stop and may need significant help to get free. Science has shown that porn is indeed like a dangerous, addicting drug.

2.  Pornography objectifies women and encourages sexual practices which are demeaning and unhealthy. It also presents a model for sex and beauty which is unrealistic and damaging.

3.  Pornography addiction affects women and children, too. Porn has often been viewed mainly as a guy problem.  Perhaps in the past this was true.  But today’s porn is affecting women and children as well, and a significant portion of porn addicts are women.

4.  Pornography damages real life relationships. Far from enhancing sexual intimacy with one’s spouse, pornography often makes it difficult for the person addicted to it to enjoy healthy, sexual intimacy with another real live human being.  This point is brought out in the movie by the painful testimony of a couple whose marriage was destroyed by porn.  The movie ends with a brief explanation of an experiment done with cardboard butterflies. (Warning: I am going to give away the final “punch line” of the movie.)  Male butterflies are known to be attracted to the markings on the wings of females.  In an experiment, a cardboard butterfly was made with bigger wings, and brighter and more vivid markings, than real live female butterflies have.  The cardboard butterfly was placed in a container along with many live female butterflies.  Male butterflies were also placed in the container.  The male butterflies consistently ignored the live females and attempted (unsuccessfully!) to mate with the cardboard butterfly.  The meaning of this analogy is obvious, but it is even more poignant after hearing the testimonies in the film.

What the Movie Leaves Out

The movie is not explicitly Christian and it leaves out relevant Biblical truth both about the evil nature of pornography and also about the power of Christ to set people free. Here are some truths which are made clearer by the Bible:

1.  It’s true that pornography is addictive and a social ill.  Pornography is also sin.  All pornography is sin.  Jesus said,

NIV Matthew 5:28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

2.  God cares not only about our actions, but also about our thought life.  The Bible emphasizes that God works deep inside of us at the level of our thoughts, desires, and emotions.  It is wrong to think that it is ok to watch porn if you don’t actually commit acts of sexually immorality with another person.  The Bible says,

NIV Jeremiah 17:10 "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve."

and

NIV Revelation 2:23b Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

3.  Jesus can set porn addicts free! The sin of watching pornography can be forgiven and its effects cleansed from hearts and minds.

NIV John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

ESV Isaiah 49:24 Can the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?
25 For thus says the LORD: "Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.

My Testimony and Pastoral Counsel

From my teenage years into my mid-20s I sometimes looked at porn.  This was before the age of widespread, instant, easily available porn through the internet and smart phones and similar devices.  I don’t know how deeply I would have fallen if practically unlimited porn had been available to me just by clicking on a screen.  The porn I saw mainly involved me secretly looking at magazines that other people owned. Even that level of exposure did a great deal of damage to my thought life.  It was a long, hard struggle to get free.  But the struggle was worth it. I thank God that I have not looked at porn in over twenty years.  Yet, even now, I constantly keep my guard up.

Jesus can set porn addicts free. He often does so through a long, and often difficult, battle. If you or someone you know is trying to get free from porn and you quickly succeed without a lot help, thank God!  However, many people will need a lot of help to get free, just as alcohol and drug addicts usually need help to get free.  Here are some sources and ideas for help:

1.  God often helps us through other Christians.  Share your battle with mature Christians who are ready to help you.

2.  Consider attending a group like Celebrate Recovery.  Chances are, there is already a Celebrate Recovery meeting within driving distance of your home.  This ministry is a powerful tool for overcoming all types of hurts, hang-ups, and habits, including porn addiction.

3.  Get Christian counseling from a pastor or professional Christian counselor. Be willing to spend some of your time and money to get free.  It will be one of the best investments you ever made.

4.  Focus on God through Bible reading and meditation, prayer, and Christian fellowship.  As our relationship with God grows stronger, it is far easier to get free from sin of all types.

5.  Don’t give up!  For some, it will be a long, hard battle to get free from porn.  There may be setbacks along the way.  Don’t give up.  Keep fighting the good fight.  It’s worth it!

6.  Be ready to help others get free.  Don’t judge them, help them! Porn is a widespread problem.  Many Christians already feel a deep sense of shame over their secret porn habit.  Show them grace while helping them get free.

7.  Getting free from porn (or any sin!) will prepare you to be used by God in new and bigger ways (see 2 Timothy 2:21).

My prayer:  May God help His children get free from the snare of pornography.  May He heal minds, hearts, and relationships from the damage that has been done by porn.  May He give courage to those whom He is calling to fight for freedom from addiction. May He be glorified in the lives of those whom He frees. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!





Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

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