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The porn connection

As churches grapple with abuse of power revelations, should pornography be on the radar?

During the Christian Reformed Church’s Synod, I was surprised when an overture asking that clergy “curtail pornography use” didn’t pass – especially because “curtail” already sounds toothless in this context. Surely “halt all pornography use immediately” would be better? So I called the Director of Safe Church Ministry, Amanda Benckhuysen, for an explanation.

The overture likely didn’t pass, she said, because it was too legalistic in asking all church councils to check the search history of church-owned computers. The CRC typically doesn’t mandate top-down rules like that. Instead, every congregation can put its own policies in place to help hold each other accountable.

Thinking of my recent conversation with Rachael Denhollander, I asked Benckhuysen whether there’s a connection between porn use and abuse. As churches grapple with abuse of power revelations, should pornography be on the radar?

Yes, she said, because “when you engage in and become addicted to pornography, you lose the sense of responsibility to protect the value and dignity of every person. Abuse of power is the same – using your power in ways that fail to protect the dignity of other people. If you lose that sensitivity of who we are as image bearers of God, then you are more inclined to abuse power in ways that are in line with that.”

She cited the distinction that Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune, founder of FaithTrust Institute, makes between a predator – someone who actively manipulates others for their own sexual gratification – and a wanderer – someone who doesn’t protect boundaries. “Pornography is being a wanderer at the very least,” she said. “You’re not protecting the boundaries of yourself or of others. So that’s also an abuse of power, and a violation of trust.”

The Human Sexuality Report (HSR) included a section on pornography, Benckhuysen added, that got lost in the bigger debates. I went back to the original report for details. Sure enough, the HSR doesn’t mince words: it names the widespread harm of pornography and calls churches out for being “comfortable with the objectification and domination of women” (50). It draws a connecting line not only from porn to abuse but to human trafficking.

“We must address [porn] regularly in our churches,” it says: “lament our guilt and provide pastoral, non-judgemental care for victims and porn users” (56). As part of the whole HSR, these recommendations – more comprehensive than the overture that did not pass – were approved by Synod.

Safe Church Ministry provides resources on pornography for Abuse Awareness Sunday, the fourth Sunday every September. Benckhuysen also recommended Unwanted by Jay Stringer, a book that helps men examine why they’re turning to porn. Safe Church strongly encourages that church councils be aware of the widespread addiction to pornography in our culture and take measures to prevent the viewing of it.

“It’s dehumanizing for both the person who’s watching and the people involved,” Benckhuysen said. “It diminishes your appreciation for the dignity of human life.”

Author

  • Angela Reitsma Bick

    Angela became Editor of CC in 2009, having learned English grammar in Moscow, research skills in grad school and everything else on the fly. Her vision is for CC to give body to a Reformed perspective by exploring what it means to follow Jesus today. She hopes that the shared stories of God at work in the world inspire each reader to participate in the ongoing task of renewing his creation. Angela lives in Newcastle, Ontario with her husband, Allan, and three children.

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