I recently attended a conference to do with online pornography. The flyer advertising this event begins thus: “The shift of pornography from sex shop to smartphone has created huge problems for our churches and communities. Porn has never been more accessible, affordable, anonymous or addictive. Our heart is to equip leaders with a practical and pastoral response to this issue. The conference will feature short talks from experts including activists, therapists, pastors and Parliamentarians. Delegates will be given a clear understanding of the social costs of porn and practical tools to address it in their churches and communities.”
The P Word conference is as a a partnership between CARE and NAKED TRUTH PROJECT, organizations that have taken a particular interest in trying to combat the damaging effects in our culture of pornography (check out here and here for further blurb about the conference and these two organizations).
Having said earlier that I am not one for attending conferences, I have found in recent weeks I have attended two, this and one concerning Islam (see here). I tend to only go to such events when I realize there are important gaps in my knowledge that it is necessary to fill. So on EU referendum day I trundled up to the Emmanuel centre in Westminster a couple of minutes walk from the Houses of Parliament (another amazing place and with a story that needs telling) and attended the conference with 400 other delegates. Regarding human interaction, it was limited, and it happened there was no one there that I knew, but regarding content and a sense here was a vital issue that needs addressing, it was a valuable visit.
Besides there being a spiritual angle (prayer, theological reflection and worship), the content was pretty wide including testimonies by ex porn addicts, one of which was a beautiful young woman. While I knew a lot already, I learnt a lot more, thus justifying spending my time away. Memorable highlights – there were many. The issue of shame, fear, and doubt among porn addicts, the chemistry of the brain that makes it hard to break the cycle of addiction, the Siren voices that draw and how this was overcome (in Greek mythology), the dead bones coming together and to life (Ezekiel 37), the denial in our culture, the damaging effects especially among the very young, moves to raise awareness and make porn less accessible, engaging with the industry, helping those addicted to porn, etc. Finding strategies for getting people, including Christian believers, free from porn is a challenge and having intimacy with our creator is a key. As I reflect on what turned out to be a pretty intense time, I am glad I came and recognize more than ever there is a battle to be fought.
Yesterday, I came across a homeless friend who I have in the past given a sleeping bag to (more than once). I learned one reason he comes back for more is he sells his sleeping bag for a can of beer and so feed his addiction. Drink and drugs are the sort of addictions I come across mostly in my work, but gambling and porn are not so far behind. There are common factors and this is not the time to be over psycho-analytical. What all addicts have in common is there is a deep need resulting from loss, which an addiction can meet for a time, but when fed, while giving momentary respite, generally it leaves the addict in a worse state than before, and we need to wake up to what is happening. The message and challenge as far as I am concerned is setting people free from the chains that bind!