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Garbage Cans for Minds: Pornography Goes Mainstream

By Charles Colson
Guest Columnist -- A man I'll call Ted knows what it's like to go to hell and back. Ted is middle-aged and well-respected in his community and his profession. But one day Ted discovered the Internet and, soon thereafter, Internet pornography.

Within six months, it was completely controlling Ted's life. As he puts it, his mind had "become a garbage can."

What makes this story especially noteworthy is that Ted is also an evangelical Christian -- as respected in his church as he is in his community. But he isn't alone; his problem is shared by a growing number of Christian men.

For the past few days, I've told you about how cultural and technological factors have taken pornography from the margins of society to the mainstream. This, sadly, includes the church.

A recent survey conducted by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families provides us with a clue as to how big the problem of Christians and pornography may be.

The Coalition surveyed students at five Christian colleges. Sixty-eight percent of the male students said that they had intentionally looked for pornography on the Internet -- more than two-thirds of them! Ten percent of those surveyed admitted to frequent use of pornography, and five percent acknowledged having a problem with pornography. Like any poll, these numbers understate the incidence of actual use.

Another Christian college, Seattle Pacific University, examined all the web sites accessed by its students during a three-week period. Officials were dismayed to learn that nearly seven percent of all sites visited were pornographic. And, one in five of all campus computers had been used to view pornography. In response, officials installed blocking software that kept students from accessing pornography on campus computers. But, we need to understand that this is not an isolated problem -- it's happening all over.

Technology alone will not solve the problem, because there's no blocking software for the human heart. That's why, as Steve Watters of Focus on the Family wrote in a recent issue of Boundless web magazine, Christian colleges across the country are creating programs to deal with the problem: "special chapels, accountability groups and innovative dorm programs."

Why are Christian men so vulnerable to Internet pornography? Barbara Steffens, of the Coalition, points to several possible factors. There's the technology. Temptation is only a few clicks away. The Internet has brought the red light district into every American home. As a result, there's very little standing between a man and his worst impulses.

But it's not just technology. Steffens adds that few churches are prepared for the challenges posed by Internet pornography. People aren't comfortable talking about their struggles with sexual temptation at church for fear of being judged. Even if they are prepared to talk, there's often no one to hold them accountable in a meaningful way.

The church has got to find a way to confront this challenge. An entire generation of Christian men is at risk of experiencing the hell that Ted did. Ted eventually got help and is now helping others to understand that, by the grace of God and the help of our brothers, we can empty that garbage can.

From BreakPoint, Copyright 2001 Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission of Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC, 20041-0500."

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