Blessing Pornography: From Shame Toward Delight
Much of our work at The Allender Center is about inviting people to move toward restoration not by shaming our brokenness, but by magnifying our beauty. Here, Andrew Bauman, a licensed mental health counselor, extends that invitation into the realm of pornography—where, for many people, shame and self-contempt are far too dominant. Where is the beauty in our desire, asks Andrew, and how might blessing that beauty move us toward healing?
Christian Newswire reported that 68% of Christian men and 50% of pastors confessed to viewing porn weekly (this statistic does not account for the 20% of pastors who probably lied). That is nearly 7 out of 10 Christian men, and half of all evangelical pastors! Porn has been shown to ruin marriages and contribute to loss of jobs, severe depression, and sexual issues within committed relationships. The intention of this article is not to convince you that porn is an epidemic or even a problem—that’s easy, just look at the statistics and the countless shattered lives. The purpose of this article is to ask you to look more deeply into the desire and beauty behind the darkness of pornography and take the courageous step of blessing. Let me explain by sharing some of my story.
I come from the first generation where pornography invaded our sacred spaces. I was 12 when my family first got dial-up Internet in my home. My friend Steve was a grand teacher; he showed me how to search for naked women and erase the history so our parents wouldn’t find out. We knew how to use the computer better than our parents did, and this new, uncharted, nude world was before us. It was always accessible, simple, and incredibly exhilarating. We did not need be afraid of getting caught; we became masters of deception and internalized shame.
From 12 to 25 years of age, I was addicted to porn. At times I had long seasons of sobriety, I had accountability partners, groups. (In one particular church group we formed a “jackpot,” where if you masturbated you owed the pot $5—we all donated a lot of money.) I prayed 10,000 times for God to remove temptation, for God to forgive me, or at least show me mercy and make me a eunuch. Nothing worked, God remained silent, and I could never bring myself to the knife. My computer screen remained lit, I still liked naked women, and shame bound me.
For nearly 13 years I tried to humiliate and hate myself into transformation. It didn’t work. I thought if I abused myself enough, I could somehow forgive my sins (God forgives sins better than I do), or wash away how I had objectified and harmed all those storyless woman. The more shame, the more contempt, the deeper into addiction I became; shame and contempt always lead to greater darkness and entrapment. I despised myself for what I was doing and believed I deserved the death I was heaping onto myself. There was no amount of penance that could fit my crimes.
Shame and contempt always lead to greater darkness and entrapment.
Bound by shame is exactly where the Thief wanted me. I was immobilized, the feeling of running full speed in 3 feet of water—I was getting nowhere fast. Evil had stolen from me and was not going to stop until I was killed and destroyed. As Dr. Allender puts it, “Evil steals innocence and joy. It hates our potential intimacy with God, therefore it uses the desire God created in us for beauty, sensuality, and the hunger for wisdom to seduce us away from God.” Evil was seductive and turned me against myself and my holy desire for beauty.
To begin to break the curse that pornography had over my life, I had to come to the place of blessing, or the addiction and agreement with Evil could not be broken. Yet how do you bless something that is so fundamentally wrong? The naked body is not evil—it’s actually quite good and stunning, good enough for it to bear God’s image and house God’s spirit. We enter into the realm of evil when we objectify and deface the image of God in another. For me to begin to heal I had to come to see that porn was actually the closest thing to heaven I could access at the time.
I had to come to the place of blessing, or the addiction and agreement with Evil could not be broken.
My family devastated by divorce, infidelity, and addiction, my father absent and silent, my mother nearby yet so far away, I longed for any beauty in the desolation of my life. I longed to be touched, to be held, to feel pleasure and to numb my pain. I tried drugs, I tried alcohol, but nothing quite touched my desire and broken heart like Eve’s body. As John Eldredge writes, “Eve is the crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God. Woman. In one last flourish creation comes to a finish not with Adam, but with Eve. She is the Master’s finishing touch.” Once knowing that beauty and desire were not the problem but my perversion of them was, I could begin to disrupt Evil’s hold over me.
There is no place in this world where I see more of Evil’s distortion of goodness and beauty than within pornography. The crown of creation objectified into oblivion. The kingdom of darkness enters and twists what is holy into something sinister. Evil is a master deceiver and father of lies (John 8:44). My desire for beauty and sensuality was fundamentally good and holy, and I needed to bless that to become free. The orphan within me needed unconditional love and delight, and the false intimacy of pornography stepped into those desires where my parents could not and offered me comfort. In many ways pornography was a good parent (and equally a destructive one). Until you can name the goodness of what your addiction gave/gives you, you cannot let go of devastating cycles.
When I began to engage my story with radical kindness I could finally enter into authentic repentance and let go of the addiction that was destroying my life. Only now I comprehend Roman 2:4, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” Only through the kindness of God have I been able to enter heartache, grief, forgiveness and what it means to repent.
My story with sexual shame is not over (in many ways it’s just beginning). Evil rears its slithering head from time to time, yet I am learning to battle with more integrity and truth. Not turning against myself, but standing with the one whose image I bear. Knowing that God is Truth, and the more I enter into the question “What is true?” the more I experience God’s fullness and smile over me. God is a huge fan of you, too. May we open our hands and hearts to our blessing that has already been given.