Steven Luff leads sexual addiction recovery groups with the well known XXXchurch.com. He's also the co-author of Pure Eyes: a Man's Guide to Sexual Integrity and the creator of the X3Pure 30-Days to Purity online recovery program. His most recent initiative is the Faith and Sex Center in Los Angeles, CA. I emailed Steven to ask how local churches can engage the rising numbers of porn-addicted people in their communities. - Paul
In your experience, what do many pastors not understand about our growing porn culture?
Porn is everywhere and it doesn't just affect the user. It affects the user's spouse. It affects the user's children. It affects the user's productivity. Pornography use ripples out from the individual in many different forms that is being felt deeply by society overall. In any given church there are a high percentage of individuals who are numbing their loneliness through porn instead of through community. What the church becomes is a gathering of silently shamed individuals playing the roles of Christians instead of a body of genuine believers working out life's challenges together. Porn is the opposite of vulnerability and that's why it is so appealing. The church needs to find a way to provide its congregations with safe places in which to be vulnerable. This includes licensed therapy or recovery groups like those offered through xxxchurch.com, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, or even Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon.
Stats on the number of pastors who use porn compulsively vary, but all are ridiculously high. What does this say about Christian leadership?
The tricky thing about religious leadership—above and beyond any other form of leadership—is that there is the expectation that religious leaders be the very embodiment of morality. A business or political leader can still be effective even if he or she has been morally imperfect and, as we know, many of them are. But with religious leaders, since their job is to be moral examples, they can never leave their job at the office. With this there is a lot of pressure for religious leaders to be perfect and that kind of pressure can lead to acting out sexually.
Well, the truth of the matter is that perfection is impossible, yet many Christian leaders fall into the trap of believing that it is. Big mistake. If we recognize that we are imperfect that requires that we not only preach and teach about imperfection, but we also set up the safeguards that protect us from our imperfections. These safeguards include accountability, supervision, transparency, and community. Most other professions require this, why not ministry? Quite frankly, openly accepting these safeguards is the example that we should be providing as religious leaders, not unattainable perfection.
A recent PARSE piece critiques traditional abstinence education. Do you agree that evangelicals are off to a bad start in talking about sex?
On some levels, yes. In a perfect world we could teach abstinence to unmarried men and women and they would understand its value—protection from STDs, protection from pregnancies, protection from broken hearts and emotional scars. But, as we all know, this has never completely worked. The tricky line we all walk as Christians, and certainly as Christian leaders, is between judgment and grace. It's the same line God walks with us. We need to have standards that challenge youth but grace to account for their learning process and imperfections. Abstinence is a worthy goal, but it cannot become the only destination or else we are only as good as our sexual behavior, and we should all know as Christians that that simply is not the case.