Sixty seven countries speak English as their official language. Despite the official agreement on that count, many of them have dialects and accents that make it difficult for some from the United States to understand them. But inversely, almost every English speaker understands a North American accent. Sure, there may be some confusion with idioms and turns of phrase, but on the whole the message gets across. A lot of messages get across. Why is this? Everyone watches TV shows from the U.S., everyone sees movies from the U.S., and yes, everyone watches porn from the U.S. Granted, “everyone” is an exaggeration. But the United States is an unparalleled media content creator with global influence. This means that aspects of U.S. culture are being broadcast to the world, and not all of them are beneficial.
Among these is the trivialization of sexuality that is present in many shows and movies. Name a popular sitcom, late night show, or drama series, and it is sure to include lewd jokes, contempt for a biblical view of sex, and approval for worldly ways of interacting with sexual desires. The internet allows these ideas to make their way all over the globe, including to countries that still hold more traditional views of marriage and sex. For better or worse, what the U.S. is doing impacts far more people than just its residents. The Daily Mail reported that the United States produces 60% of the world’s pornography. While this number is from a decade ago, the growth in the industry cataloged by IbisWorld displays a steady increase since then. Aided by a jump during the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry is now worth over a billion dollars annually.
To make this more concrete, the percentage of the world that has consistent access to clean water is just a little higher than those who have access to the internet. Online porn is almost as easy to get globally as a glass of potable water.
What can we take away from this? Perhaps a little bit of perspective. Despite what the older generations may lament and what we may see in media, the U.S. is not uniquely struggling with a problem of sexual depravity. Pornography is a sin problem, not an isolated social result of a secularizing culture. And sin can be found wherever we look in this world. Porn consumption is not as much a matter of acceptance as of availability. Where it can be watched, it will be. This is one of the biggest downsides of the internet; vast amounts of immoral material are available to anyone with an internet connection and mobile device.
I am not saying this to make the situation seem hopeless, to shame ‘those people,’ or to discourage the members of the body of Christ who are involved in this fight. I’m saying it to lead us to realize that it is a fight! To the death.That every one of us participates in. Paul in his letter to the church in Rome says, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Every day in the life of a Christian is a fight to put to death the desires of our sinful flesh. And since the fall into sin when the first married couple, Adam and Eve, looked at each other’s nakedness and felt shame, sexual sins have been among the most pervasive. This goes beyond just physical action, as Jesus explained. To even look with lust at someone is to break the sixth commandment. As one of my professors put it, “The Devil wants you to think that there is an acceptable margin of error as you live your Christian life. There isn’t.” Millions of people, millions of Christians, find themselves in this imaginary margin with their porn use.
Prepare yourself for battle. The fight against pornography is difficult. You may be tempted to stay in the lie of that margin. It’s a comfortable place to be, but is also a soul-endangering place to be. Jesus had some strong illustrations about the danger of sin. Better to lose a hand than sin and lose heaven. But he also provides the most loving and welcoming place to those who want to escape their sins. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
For this reason the crucial first step to freedom from porn is confession. But it is incredibly hard to do. All of our sinful flesh and the hordes of hell scream at us to remain unseen in the margin. But may God give us all strength not to stay there, whatever the sin that keeps us there. Confession will not be the end of the struggle, but it is certainly the beginning of the end. We all must daily put to death our sinful flesh. That is why confiding in a trusted Christian friend, family member, or pastor is so important for breaking addiction to sin. They can provide accountability day by day, redirection when we fall, and heap on the message of God’s overflowing forgiveness and boundless grace. Brothers and sisters, do not live in the margin. Flee the sinfulness of the flesh. Run to Christ, who gave his life for the sins of the whole world, which includes you.
Jonas Landwehr is a first year student at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.