by Art Adams
Biblical Insights, July 2007
Cyberspace has opened an exciting world of enjoyment, business, educational, and networking opportunities. However, what exists in cyberspace via the Internet is merely a clone of the real world and real-time. The Internet can be used as a tool for growth or a weapon for destruction. The choice is often made impulsively at the click of a mouse.
How many of us in real-time would turn our kids loose to walk down any street, to enter casinos and gaming houses, to go into X-rated movie theatres, to frequent strip joints, to be approached by strangers, or allow long-term "friendships" with seedy persons who are twice their age? The Internet provides all of this and more in "cyber time" at the click of a mouse.
- 1 out of 5 kids has been solicited sexually online
- 1 out of 17 kids has been harassed, threatened, or bullied online
- 1 out of 3 kids has been contacted by a stranger and ½ of these contacts were considered inappropriate
- Most kids do not report inappropriate Internet contact to their parents because they are afraid of losing computer privileges
- 9 out of 10 parents will never know that any inappropriate contact has even occurred
Unfortunately, it is not just a matter of trusting your kids to use the Internet responsibly. It is a matter of whether or not you can trust the other millions of people who are also on the Internet-and, whether you can trust yourself
The problem not only affects youth. It poses a real threat for adults as well. Internet addiction affects 5-10% of all online users. The world recognizes the problem as specialty rehabilitation programs are springing up rapidly in response. The church cannot afford to hide the fact that there is an epidemic among us, too. From my interactions with brethren and from reports of denominational leaders it appears that about 20% of religious men struggle with Internet or cable television pornography. My guess is that women and chat rooms are not far behind that number.
Those caught in the web at addictive levels are obsessed with online pornography, chat rooms, gaming, stock investing, and even addictions to online auction houses. Excessive hours are spent online robbing fidelity in marriage, creating sleep-deprived zombies, isolating from family and friends, and creating shame/guilt about "the secret." The damage manifests itself in families, marriages, job performance, and even more so in the church.
Currently, more than 60% of all Internet visits involve a sexual purpose. Over 100 new porn sites are opened and linked each day. Without significant fear of discovery, people are investigating and exchanging information about the most intimate details of sexuality. Fantasies allow the viewer or chatter to be whoever they want to be. Voyeurism is encouraged. The whole perversion whether in pornographic pictures (more men view these) or porn chat (more women go there) leads to continuous descent into more perversion, loss of relationship (family, health, jobs), and distancing from connectedness with God.
Compulsive users often will not hear or listen to the concerns or criticisms of those around them who see the danger and are willing to speak out. Nor are they likely to respond to their increasingly neglected career, family life, or lack of sleep. Even worse, they blame the very same troubled family, problematic job, or loneliness for their irritability and exhaustion. They may be willing to lose it all to participate in sex at whatever level online.
The Stages of Internet Addiction
Here is where the addiction to Internet pornography entrenches itself:
- It is progressive. What satisfied, in the beginning, fails to continue to satisfy so the perversion seeks more extreme websites. This becomes scary as the perversion leaves the screen and is carried into real life.
- The person is preoccupied with planning the next website visit and fantasizing about it.
- There is an inability to control or quit. Once started, the person sits for hours surfing for pictures, movies, and in chat rooms.
- The person becomes oblivious to time, space or sites visited.
- There is continued use despite consequences. Even when caught the person may become more devious in planning their next visits to an Internet porn or chat porn site.
Effectively, those caught in the porn and chat sites have found a way to detach and avoid the pain and anxiety of the real world by riding the "high" of their own sexual build-up to orgasm. In "the zone" (as addicted persons call it) fantasy takes over. A person can become whoever they want to be, look any way they want to look, and be told what they want to hear. Stress, anxiety, loneliness, boredom and hurts disappear, as the person stays suspended in "the zone." It is to the sex addict what heroin is to the junkie and alcohol is to the drunkard.
My work in the mental health and addiction field has led me to see the progression of deviant Internet sexual behavior in six stages:
Level 1 -- casual viewing and enticement, obsession.
Level 2 -- viewing or chatting involving masturbation, alternative sexual behaviors based on fetishes and secret preferences, introduction to cybersex via camera and sound access with an online partner in cyberspace.
Level 3 -- virtual sex with a partner online via camera/sound and movement through the mouse or explicit sexual chat with the online partner.
Level 4 -- the transition from online to real-world via meetings, rendezvous, exhibitionism, voyeurism, public sex, anonymous sex, escort services, obscene phone calls, and seeking opportunities for more.
Level 5 -- becoming "a friend with benefits," multiple sex partners, sexual boundaries are almost gone, making ones' own Internet movie recordings.
Level 6 -- more serious crimes: rape, child molestation, sexual abuse of older adults, incest, bestiality, etc.
Verses that Will Help You
Matthew 5:27-30 warns us not to "look" for the purpose of lusting. The consequence is "adultery ... in your heart." Jesus talks about our "eye" and "hand" causing us to stumble in lusting. He says if the eye or hand offends, cut it off. Jesus is warning us to take extreme measures if we cannot control ourselves. Internet porn viewing and chatting often involve both the eye and hand in self-gratification. Certainly, there are lesser steps to take first in "fleeing youthful lusts" (II Timothy 2.22). Three of those steps may be
- screen blockers/nannies,
- positioning the computer in a room all can see, or
- throwing our computer away if we cannot control it.
Jesus' warning is to do whatever it takes to stop sexual "lust:'
I Thessalonians 4:1-8 speaks of our sanctification being tied directly to "avoiding sexual immorality" and "learning to control our own body" in holiness and honor. We must do this. Then, Paul tells us what we must not do -- "not in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God." If we do what we must not do, "the Lord will punish for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you." We have been warned!
II Peter 2:14 reminds us that it is possible to go so far into sexual sin that we cannot find our way out. Peter described this as, "having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin." That is a heavy warning to those who are "checking out the babes or guys." The appetite for sex when fed can reach a point where it takes over our life.
"Flee from sexual immorality!" (I Corinthians 6:19). Flee does not mean to see how close we can get. It means to put great distance between self and the situation for immorality. Proverbs tells of two foolish men who sought illicit sexual favors and instead entered "a highway to the grave leading down to the chambers of death" (Proverbs 5:1-22; 7:1-27).
What the mind dwells on, the body acts on. Rather than filling our minds with perversion and things that destroy relationships, let us fill our minds with better things (Philippians 4:8). If a person lets their thoughts go, they dishonor God, their spouse, and the object of their lust -- and set themselves up for an ever-deepening struggle with sin. Flee fornication in every form!