Should pastors encourage people to look at porn to avoid shaming them?
“I’m not going to shame people when they already feel ashamed,” said a well known Lutheran pastor in an interview. She believes that consumption of pornography should not be shamed. I agree. We should never shame someone for viewing porn, but this doesn’t mean we should encourage it.
Shame is thinking something is wrong with the core of who we are. Shame creates a fear of unworthiness, specifically of the love of God and others. Without feeling worthy of that love, sometimes, we continue to live in our sexual sin. Trapped, we find that sexual shame hinders our ability to give and receive love and keeps us in a vicious cycle of sin and unworthiness. Shame lies to us, telling us that no one will ever love us.
If you struggle with watching porn, you are not shamed. But I can’t lie to you and tell you that watching porn will free you from shame.
The pastor mentioned in her interview, “If you take Liberals and Conservatives who show outrage (over porn) and made a Venn diagram of those who consume pornography, you’d see a huge overlap.” Sadly, she is probably right. This could be happening because people feel too ashamed of their struggle to seek help. The answer to the porn problem isn’t encouraging porn use, but rather to love people through recovery, to teach a theology of sex, and to show them God’s love and endless grace. Jesus loves porn addicts.
“I’m not going to shame people when they already feel ashamed,” she said.
Amen sister. I wish all Christians lived this out. Too many churches shame people for their sexual brokenness and this shame keeps them in a cycle of addiction. Sexual shame pushes people away from God and causes them to leave the church.
But, is the only way to not shame porn use to encourage it?
Watching porn will not free you from shame. I’ve been there. I used to struggle with watching porn in college. I turned to it for comfort when I felt sad about my abuse or during seasons of loneliness. The whole situation was never freeing. I felt so sneaky and dirty. Hiding away in my college apartment when my roommates were in the rooms next door. Looking at screens in the middle of the night because I couldn’t sleep. None of these moments freed me from shame. Actually, the opposite would happen. I would wake up and feel absolutely horrible about myself.
The pastor continues her argument by saying we shouldn’t shame people for having sexual desires that cause us to look to porn. I agree, God created us as sexual beings with sexual wires. The church has also done a bad job at shaming people for sexual desires and curiosities, especially through the purity culture. Just look at the impact of the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. But the solution for removing the shame is not to encourage porn. The solution is to teach a theology of sex to young people. Instead of giving purity and modesty talks, let’s give talks about the beauty of sex, the way God designed it to be. Let’s read the Song of Solomon to our youth and show them how God views sex as playful and adventurous, not something to be shamed.
To conclude her argument, the pastor says, “Our bodies are wired to have empathic responses to others, and it includes erotic ones. To say you should have shame for that is problematic.” I agree that God created us as sexual beings with erotic desires and feelings. But I do not believe that means we should act on those desires through watching pornography. I believe that watching porn causing severe damages. The images people see in pornography abuse and objectify women, and distort their view of sexuality from God’s perfect design. Science and research are showing us that porn harms the brain, damages relationships, and negatively affects society as a whole.
I spent years trying to free myself from chains of shame, thinking something was wrong with me because I had sexual desires and curiosities as a young girl. What helped me begin a journey to freedom was hearing believers talk about sexuality. I began to understand that God created me as a sexual being and that my desires and curiosities were not sinful. This was the first time I fully believed God didn’t mess up when he created me.The church needs to do a better job talking about sexuality. Click To Tweet
We need to stop shaming our sexual desires and curiosities and teach a theology of sex. We need to remove all shame from our sexuality. We must stop making God the bad guy by saying “that the Creator of the Universe, God in the heavens above, knows if you’re masturbating, and God is super disappointed,” said the pastor. I agree with her. The church has truly caused harm in people’s lives by shaming people. However, instead of using porn to free people from shame, let’s use God’s love and grace. “And the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6, NIV).
The church may have shamed people, but Jesus will never shame people.
I pray porn would no longer master us, but rather we would be slaves to righteousness. I pray that grace would change our lives and cause us to love ourselves and others. I pray we would live shame free lives, because of Christ, who took all of our shame onto himself the day he died on the cross.
“Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:13-18, NIV).