Does God Care If I Watch Pornography?
We’re kicking off this year with a series that is essentially taking us “Back to the Basics.”
This blog is written for a Christian audience, for Christian women specifically. It’s more than just a blog about women who struggle with porn. It is about helping women restore a relationship with God. The hope is that women reading this experience grace. What we believe God believes about our struggles is an important piece of that experience.
If God doesn’t care about what I’m doing, I don’t need to stop. If God thinks I’m worthless because of my struggle, then I have no access to hope.
The original question that raised the doubt that changed the course of history is a question of what God really said and meant.
In Genesis, we read the story of Eve’s temptation. The serpent asks Eve what God had said. She misquotes it (a different post for a different time). Then, the serpent throws into question God’s intention.
He didn’t really mean that. You won’t actually die. You’ll become like Him. He’s holding out on you.
I feel like that’s a theme in so many of our struggles- God is holding out on me.
He’s holding out on my happiness.
He’s holding out on blessing me.
So it’s important that we get back to what God said. We need to chase His heart. Because there are things about God that are true. There are aspects of His character that, if we were to keep those in mind, would help us douse these lies with truth.
Let’s tackle perhaps the most primary question for those who would come here to this site:
Does God Really Care If I Watch Pornography?
The train of thought for so many is that pornography is a private choice I make.
It isn’t hurting anyone.
It isn’t really sex.
It is a perfectly acceptable alternative for sex.
Why would God give me this sex drive and then expect me not to use it?
When I was in high school, struggling with an addiction to hardcore pornography, I believed this. I believed that pornography was the perfect answer to “purity culture.” In my church, and in my family, it was expected that I would enter marriage a virgin. Anything less was completely unacceptable.
Pornography seemed like the perfect sexual outlet. I could explore, feel pleasure, and relieve tension all without risk of STDs or unwanted pregnancies. Surely God was OK with this, in moderation, of course. I would stay a virgin and then once I got married, I figured, I would stop watching pornography. It was just a temporary solution until I could have the permanence of sex in marriage. Everyone would be happy- my church, my family, my future husband, God, and me. It was a win all around.
When I first tried to break free, it wasn’t because I saw anything wrong with pornography itself. I tried to break free because my use was out of control. Despite what people may say, I will always maintain that people can absolutely become addicted to pornography. Is everyone who watches porn an addict? No. But I truly believe I was.
A Christian girl, a straight-A student, addicted to pornography.
A couple years later, I was in Bible college, still struggling. I actually told God He needed to be ok with this.
“I’ll do anything you want me to, God. I’ll even be a missionary to China. Anything. Use me however You want, but You need to understand something. This comes with me.”
I figured God would be OK with pornography.
I assumed pornography wasn’t that big of a deal to God. After all, it wasn’t as bad as actually having sex. How many pastors and missionaries struggle with pornography? Surely He could use me anyway. This was a private choice I made in my private time; it didn’t need to affect the rest of my life, especially my faith.
In my mind, somehow they could be separated. Pornography and God could happily coexist. If I were actively serving God, going to church, doing all the things, would God really care about the racy magazine stashed in the closet in the corner of my heart?
Turns out the answer is yes.
What does the Bible say about pornography?
If you’re looking for a chapter and verse that says, “Thou shalt not watch videos of people having sex” you won’t find it. So many of us are looking for God to spell it out. We become little litigators when it comes to protecting our vices.
Well, God, if you really didn’t want me to do this then You should have been more specific. I need to know exactly which sites are OK and which ones aren’t, what amount of time is ok, what level of clothedness is acceptable, and, while you’re at it, I need a very specific definition for pornography and lust, just to be clear. What if it’s married couples having sex? What if it’s a Christian married couple who filmed themselves in a dimly lit room at exactly 7:00 pm on a Sunday and the bedsheets are purple? What if it’s just drawings of people having sex? I need You to spell this out for me.
We’re all so great at coming to our own defense and finding loopholes. It’s a human thing. Back in Genesis, in the account of the Fall, when God confronted the direct disobedience, Adam and Eve found a way to blame anything and everyone else, even throwing some blame back and God.
“Hey, YOU’re the one who gave me this woman. If you hadn’t given me her, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
We’re all little Adams at times.
“God, it’s this sex drive You gave me! What else do You expect me to do with it?”
God, You should have known better.
I once went on a date with a man who parked in the middle of a traffic circle. Just pulled right on up into the grass in the middle and parked there because the parking around the restaurant we wanted was full.
I was mortified, which he found hilarious. Everyone knows you’re not supposed to park in the middle of a traffic circle. I told him, “You can’t do this.” He insisted he could because a) another guy was parked beside us and b) there was no “no parking” sign.
“If they don’t want you to park here, they should have a sign,” he said.
He then went off to find a security guard (not a police officer) to ask if it was ok to park there. The conversation essentially went like this:
“Hey man, I found somewhere to park on the grass. Is that ok as long as there’s no sign?”(Conveniently neglecting to mention that “the grass” he had found was in the middle of a traffic circle.)
The security guard shrugged, “If there’s no sign, then I guess it’s fine.” My date thought that would put my mind at ease. (It didn’t.)
Minutes later, I was standing outside the restaurant wondering where he went when I spotted him face-to-face with an actual police officer writing him a ticket. Turns out, you’re not supposed to park in the middle of a traffic circle. Who knew? Also turns out you’re not supposed to get in a police officer’s face or scream out the window at him as you drive off and leave your date behind. (Obviously it didn’t work out for us.)
While many of us read that and say, “I would never!” we do the exact same thing with choices in our lives.
If God doesn’t want me to do this, He needs to put a sign here. There’s no sign, so I’m doing it. It must be ok because here’s this other person who is doing it. And, for good measure, I’m going to scour the internet to find some recognized Christian expert who has an opinion that agrees with mine. I’m going to find a pastor who doesn’t address the issue at all. I’m going to consult the off-duty security guard.
There are entire blogs out there dedicated to defending Christian erotica.
Their creators used to come onto this blog all the time and would spam me with pictures from their sites. Isn’t this picture beautiful? You can’t tell me God has a problem with this.
So while the Bible does not come out and specifically condemn your favorite video site or fetish, I’m going to challenge you, in a loving way, to knock it off. The fact that you are even willing to fight God for pornography is a pretty good indicator that it’s not something He’s ok with and you know that in your heart.
You know you’re not supposed to park there.
I want to challenge to lay down your weapons and defenses for just a second while we walk through. It won’t take long.
And if you feel that feeling welling up- that feeling that says, “Now, did God really mean that?” I encourage you to ask Him. Don’t go waltzing off to some obscure corner of YouTube to find some Christian sex addict who has justified why their addiction is ok. They’re all just security guards, wearing the uniform but with no authority to speak to the issues.
That’s why we’re going to let God speak for himself and then I challenge you to take up your challenges with Him. Because, at the end of the day, He’s the one “writing your ticket.”
Truth: God Cares About Our Hearts
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23
People may tell you that pornography doesn’t affect our hearts (emotions). It’s just “entertainment” and it’s “harmless.” But if you struggle with pornography, you probably know this isn’t true. In fact, studies have shown this isn’t true. Studies have shown that pornography actually desensitizes consumers. Content you may have once found morally repulsive becomes the content you crave. Pornography chokes out our empathy. That’s a big deal.
Even if pornography didn’t contribute to sex trafficking, which it does…
Even if pornography didn’t promote violence and racism, which it does…
Even if pornography didn’t promote unhealthy and unrealistic expectations for sex and relationships, which it does…
Pornography would still numb our hearts to what it means to be human. It would still encourage us to objectify people. It would still callous our hearts. I can’t care about people and also use them. Those are mutually exclusive. Either I truly care about who you are, what you want, what you need, or I see you as a means to an end.
Either I see you as God does, or I see you as something to be used.
In college, I walked this road. I went from watching pornography to becoming someone else’s pornography. When I share my story, I tell people that it’s like something in me died. I became a thing for someone else to use. In order to live with that, I had to stop caring. I had to give up. My heart had been so numbed and calloused that I was even willing to exploit and objectify myself in order to find “worth.”
Does God care about that? You better believe He does.
Truth: God Cares About Our Minds
Does pornography affect our minds? Yes, yes it does. I have many- hundreds- of emails from women who struggle with the pornography in their minds. It’s either memories of videos they’ve watched or pictures they’ve seen or it’s pornography/fantasy they’ve made up themselves. Our minds are powerful and potent things and what we think about influences how we act.
Even when you aren’t actively consuming pornography, it can be overwhelmingly distracting. Those images can pop up anywhere at any time. They can even encroach on sacred times: when you’re reading your Bible, worshiping, trying to pray, or even trying to be intimate with your spouse.
Does that matter to God? Of course it does! In the Bible we’re encouraged to guard our minds, to think on things that are holy and pure and good, and warned that we are what we think. The way pornography can just creep its way into our minds and throw down roots there is frustrating for those who are trying to break free. This is why so many groups address the battle of the mind- and it is a battle, one that God cares about even if it doesn’t involve pornography.
Truth: God Cares About Our Idols
There’s no other way to say it, if you have addiction, you absolutely have an idol. Can you have idols without being addicted to something? Yes, but if you are struggling with not being able to give up something, you have an idol. They can come in all sorts of forms- food, sex, drugs, alcohol. And, the addiction itself may not be the idol. For instance, if you struggle with a drug addiction, you’re not necessarily “worshiping” the drugs as much as the high they give you.
You’re elevating your experience- a high, drunkenness, sexual release- above all else.
And this is clearly something incompatible with a life that claims to worship God. Either you’re worshiping God or you’re worshiping you. There are no temple prostitutes in this Kingdom. The throne of your heart is not a loveseat. There isn’t room for two. Either God is at the top or something else is.
In their book, The Cry of the Soul, Dan Allender and Tremper Longman talk about shame. Obviously, that’s something we talk about a lot here on the blog and it’s something that is frequently discussed in ministries to people who struggle with pornography. Shame and grace are in competition with each other. We can’t experience grace while clinging to shame. It’s one or the other.
But these authors brought out a very fascinating perspective on shame. Shame is a “severe mercy.” It’s a way for us to find the idols in our lives. When we experience shame, it’s because an idol has been revealed as a fraud. We’ve been exposed. If you struggle with pornography and you fear shame at being discovered, that shows an idol- either the pornography or the image you have built up of yourself, or both.
In Bible times, the idols they worshipped were crafted of wood and precious metals. We don’t necessarily throw our earrings in the fire and worship the result, but we worship plenty of other things of our own making. Even those of us who claim to know God can be guilty of trading His glory for lesser things. (Romans 1)
As a woman who spent years watching pornography and now enjoys sex within a God-honoring, loving marriage, I can tell you that pornography and the “sexual satisfaction” it gives is cheap and hollow. There is no glory in pornography, no love, no beauty. It’s a fraud.
Truth: God Cares About Our Freedom
Do you feel trapped in your porn use? Well, that’s a problem, because God’s heart is for our freedom. That’s the entire message of the Gospel. He came to set us free. If you are living enslaved to something like pornography or even an out-of-control sex drive, His heart is for you to have freedom from that.
That’s a theme all throughout Romans in particular. Over and over Paul emphasizes that we are dead with Christ and that we are free now to live and worship Him.
If you’re living in bondage you’re not living how God wants you to, plain and simple. And there will be plenty of people out there telling you that the problem isn’t your bondage; it’s God. They’ll encourage you to just remove God, Christianity, “purity” whatever from the equation and “embrace your sexuality.” Embrace your slavery.
That’s not the life God wants for you. Christ came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10), not so that we could spend our days in isolation, shame and darkness glued to sex on a screen.
Does God Care if You Watch Pornography?
I believe the answer is yes. I believe those choices you make in the dark, in the secret, in the quiet, matter. They do affect all other areas of your life. They do affect how you interact with people. They do affect how you interact with God.
I believe it does matter to Him, not because He’s some dictator who doesn’t want you to experience sexual pleasure or have any fun, but because He cares about you.
As a mom, I try to keep my daughter away from things that can hurt her because I love her and I care about her. If pornography is such a destructive and isolating force, we can’t help but conclude that God cares. He cares how it affects our hearts and our minds. And the sweetness of that message is that He also cares about the damage it does. He cares about our healing. And that’s when we get to experience His grace.