PORN HUNTING US

By Chew Sue Lee

“In the past, we hunted for porn; today, porn hunts us.”

Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). But Satan can twist these gifts to entrap people into sin and destruction, e.g. using money to feed a gambling addiction, food to feed an eating disorder, and holy marital sex to fuel one-night stands and a soul-destroying plague – pornography.  

Retired anatomist and medical doctor Dr Paul Nah Seang Hoo and his physician wife, Dr Chiam Yoke Choo, recently published a book entitled The Neuroscience of Pornography Addiction made simple: How to treat porn addiction. The book comes at a pivotal time when even our government has begun initiatives to address the issue of pornography viewing among young people, and a new police unit has been set up to monitor traffic at pornographic online sites.  

In the past, pornography (porn) was limited to Playboy magazines and blue movie tapes that were difficult to come by. Today, porn is easily accessible on your smartphone via the Internet. Dr Nah agrees that “In the past, we hunted for porn; today, porn hunts us”.

“The Internet is a ‘two-edged sword’ that has evolved into a sophisticated super highway for the dissemination of information. Unfortunately, while we are surfing the Internet for good reasons, when you least expect it, uninvited pornographic materials pop up to entice you,” says Dr Nah.

While some may consider porn to be harmless, for believers, there should be no doubt that porn is unbiblical and evil. Porn causes viewers to look lustfully at the actors, which God views as adultery. In the end, porn hurts not only the addict, but his spouse and children, and the church. Dr Nah explains: “Satan’s strategy is not complicated. He knows the family is the basic unit of the church. If he can destroy families, he can destroy the church. If the church is destroyed, society will be destroyed. And if society is destroyed, the world will be destroyed.”*

One of the most dastardly effects of porn is its link to sex trafficking and sexual violence against women. Adult and child porn is made possible by the fact that many “actors” are trafficked and forced to perform for the camera as modern day slaves. Prior to his execution, Ted Bundy, the famed US serial rapist and killer of the 1970s, revealed in an exclusive interview with Dr James Dobson (founder of Focus on the Family) that porn addiction was one of the key influences that led to his sexual crimes. Hard porn no longer gave him any sexual satisfaction and he resorted to acting out his fantasies.

While not every porn addict is destined to become a serial killer, the negative effects of porn addiction are undeniable. Dr Nah and his wife cover many issues surrounding porn addiction in their book – from the basics of the roots and consequences of porn to the scientific aspect of what happens to the brain of the porn addict and the holistic treatment strategy for the addict.

Porn hunting us
“After watching pornography for some time, the brain begins to change structurally and chemically.” – Dr Paul Nah (with his wife, Dr Chiam).

Brain change

Much like addiction to substances such as drugs and alcohol, porn addiction has the ability to damage the brain and its God-ordained nerve pathways for feeling pleasure. Dr Nah explains, “After watching pornography for some time, the brain begins to change structurally and chemically. These changes are responsible for making addiction so resilient. Unless these changes are restored to normal, the addict will find it difficult to give up pornography,”*.

One of the major changes is the degeneration of the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that is responsible for rationalising, planning, making judgments, helping a person focus, exercising self-control and making good decisions. It is no wonder then that when a person is addicted to porn, his desire for it overtakes all other important aspects of his life and he is weak to resist, despite knowing that he is on a path to destruction.

Dr Nah notes that there are different degrees of addiction that can be roughly categorised as mild, moderate or severe. “It depends on the natural predisposition of the person and how deeply and how long they have been in the addiction. But all porn addicts will have some measure of degeneration in the prefrontal cortex. The degeneration will become worse as the addiction become more severe and prolonged,” he says.

Help at hand

Because of the complexities of healing the addict, Dr Nah discourages believers from counseling addicts without proper training, no matter how good the intention.

“Very few believers fully understand porn addiction and the struggles that an addict goes through. Most Christians will take the straightjacket sort of approach – porn is only a moral issue and all that needs to be done is for the addict to confess his sin, pray for God’s forgiveness, and to discipline himself with God’s strength to abstain.”

This approach will result in failure 95% of the time*. The process of healing is much more complicated than a lesson in self-discipline.

Dr Nah advises that while online help can be found, face-to-face counseling or accountability small groups are more effective in helping addicts. This is because the tendency to relapse is high at the early stages of abstaining, and the addicts need a lot of support to carry on. “Success in the first three months will give a feeling of hope. They will then need one year to feel free as regeneration of the prefrontal lobe of the brain occurs,” Dr Nah explains.

He adds that it may take up to five years for the brain to fully recover.

For those struggling with porn addiction, the best person to seek help from is a trained counselor – better yet, one who has overcome the struggle, says Dr Nah.

“Such a person will be less judgmental and have more compassion. Addicts are fearful of being exposed and need to be assured that strict confidentiality will be maintained. Church leaders must also be exceptionally sensitive when making altar calls after service and refrain from saying ‘All those struggling with porn, please come forward’!

“Porn addiction does not involve another person, so only the addict knows about it. If he does not share it, nobody in the world will know about it. This is what makes it a covert sin… a sinister sin.”*. He adds that the addict will only seek help when he encounters upheavals in his work and marriage, at which point he is already deep into the addiction.

Halfway house for porn addicts

In efforts to equip church members with the necessary tools to address porn addiction, Dr Nah and Dr Chiam have conducted seminars in churches since 2016 as part of The Healing and Anointing Team, a committee started by Dr Rosy Leong, a Malaysian missionary. The committee hopes to set up a halfway house for porn addicts one day.

“The advantage of a halfway house is that addicts will not be alone after work. They return to a place where there are full-time staff who can give them some supervision and where there are fellow addicts who will be able to provide encouragement and a sense of camaraderie,” says Dr Nah.

To tackle the problem of porn addiction with group therapy and facilities such as a halfway house, support from the church in the form of finances, and trained staff/volunteers is much needed. Dr Nah notes the lack of church awareness or ministry presence to counsel those afflicted with this addiction. Though Christians are not exempt from porn addiction, most of us have probably never heard a sermon on porn or sexual addiction.

Dr Nah and Dr Chiam exhort church leaders to be proactive and take action now in ensuring that porn is kept out of the church and that those struggling with it find the help they need.

SHIELDING OUR YOUNG ONES

According to a 2016 US-based survey by The Barna Group involving 2,771 people*, 17% of all practising Christians seek porn at least once a month. Out of 870 pastors surveyed, 43% of senior pastors and 43% of youth pastors admit to have struggled with porn in the past, while 14% of senior pastors and 21% of youth pastors are currently struggling with it. With such high percentages, it is worrying that only 7% of churches are reported to have set up programmes to treat porn addiction.

Lest we are fooled into thinking that porn addiction is mainly a problem of the West, surveys show that young Malaysians are increasingly being caught in this trap. According to a 2017 survey carried out by Associate Professor Dr Ke Guek Nee from Herriot-Watt University of Malaysia, 19% of children aged 10 and below have been exposed to porn and 63% of teenagers use their smart phones for this purpose.

For parents of young children, how can we protect them from the lure of pornography? According to Dr Nah and Dr Chiam, there are four stages of porn and sexual addiction. The first stage is the crucial time when exposure to porn has yet to happen, and parents should be diligent to keep their children in that position. “Once the child becomes addicted, it is very difficult to dissuade him/her from watching porn,” Dr Nah says. Prevention is definitely much better and easily dealt with than the cure.

“Parents should become more tech savvy about the workings of electronic devices and the Internet, and teach their children that watching pornography is evil,” advises Dr Nah. There are parental control software programmes such as K9, Covenant Eyes and Net Nanny to help block and filter access to questionable sites, and keep tabs on net surfing habits. Young children should not be allowed unsupervised access to the Internet, and home computers are best placed in open areas such as the living room.

Despite taking all the necessary precautions at home, children may still be unknowingly exposed to porn material. “It may be helpful if parents can guide their children in choosing the right kinds of friends whose parents have similar values with regards to Internet access. Similarly, get the cooperation of teachers at school and ensure that teachers do not allow Internet access without supervision.”

Dr Nah emphasises the importance for parents to be extra vigilant with this verse from 1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  

Porn hunting us

* Taken from the book The Neuroscience of Pornography Addiction (available at Canaanland bookstores)

For personal ministry, email brother George Ng at kolacg@gmail.com

If you are interested to run a seminar on this issue in your church, email healing_anointing@gmail.com

Asian Beacon: Oct – Dec 2018 (Vol 50 #4, p32-34)

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