Evicting the Enemy at the Gates: Porn in Church

Satan’s greatest trick is deceiving us into thinking he doesn’t exist (C.S. Lewis). Or perhaps greater, to know he does exist, and the ways he’s working, but to do nothing about it.

C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters is one of my favorite books. It’s the chronicle of senior devil Screwtape’s advice to his apprentice tempter, Wormwood, on how to seduce his assigned “patient” for eternity. We’re given great insight into how the devil works, particularly among “church people.” I can almost hear Screwtape speaking about us today:

“Don’t worry about those who know the truth, or even profess it. Even we’re able to do that. As they become aware of our work, disguise the true horror. Make it about something academic. Out there. Something distant. Anything to keep them from recognizing the Voice of our Enemy speaking to them personally. Of course, our best weapon is to ingratiate their moral superiority! They must not see through the eyes of our Enemy’s Rightness, but their own righteousness! By all means, let them bluster about all our horrible work! How lovely to hear their sneering and hissing! What music! Joining in our own chorus… all within His very gates! In this, we actually have them worshiping themselves… in the name of the Enemy! [hideous laughter]

“No. Worry about those miserable, pathetic little souls who are aware of their weakness… aware that the Enemy made them for Himself… who approach Him not for their own status, but with their very lives, aware that He is truly speaking… who have an eager, ready desire to respond. We must stop this at all costs. It would be the end.”

“We too need to guard the faith, guard it from darkness. Many times, however, it is a darkness under the guise of light. This is because the devil, as saint Paul, says, disguises himself at times as an angel of light.”
Pope Francis 

Does this speak to you as it does to me? Do we really believe our ultimate call is to see God, to be “pure of heart” (Matt. 5:8), such that we’re aware of the Enemy’s attack through pornography? Such that we do something about it?

Putting it straight: If you or those you love are on-line anywhere without filtering or accountability software you’re playing games with eternal life. You’re playing with Fire. The door is wide open, and for many if not most of the most “religious” and “holy” among us, Satan is coming in.

One of our great strengths as Catholics can be a crippling weakness: we are conceptually rich in culture. How alarming and motivating is it for most of us to speak of porn as an “objectively grave matter”? Not so scary. That’s like chatting with friends at your kitchen table about the burning house going up in flames across the street, and your informed fireman friend Fred says: “Yep. I’d call that a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion. Sure hope no one gets hurt.”

Let’s say it plainly. Hell is very real and porn can land you there. Porn is designed to land you there. Forever. On whose authority? The Son of God. He admonished us not to fear that which can destroy the body, but that which can destroy the soul (Luke 12:4-5). Do you believe it?

“[Jesus came] to give us the freedom… [from] the enslavement the devil has over us… On this point, there are no nuances. There is a battle and a battle where salvation is at play, eternal salvation. We must always be on guard, on guard against deceit, against the seduction of evil.”
Pope Francis

So, you know the truth. You profess it. But where are you at? What do you really believe? Let’s see.

Go back to the above stats and replace “view porn” with “jumped off a bridge attached to a fraying bungee cord.” Imagine these thrill seekers doing just that, mindless that the cord they’re depending upon is fraying. But you know. They’re people you know and love. People you live with. People you interact with every day. Would you say something? Would you do something about it? Knowing that statistically well over 50% of the men you know are there, and the cord could snap any time?

We know the answer. Likely in the instance of physical life you would be more than merely one who knows, or professes. You would do all you could to be rid of the danger.  You would be a believer.

So again, are you a believer when it comes to awareness that porn can destroy the soul?

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace to take these things seriously. He came to fight for our salvation. He won against the devil!”
Pope Francis 

Of course, if it’s not enough, porn is not simply destroying souls. It’s not simply about eternal suffering “then and there.” Porn is one of Satan’s means of ensnaring victims in a very real and tangible hell here and now.

Neuroscientists have explained how porn radically re-wires how men and women think, about themselves and one another. Porn scrambles a built-in “adhesive” meant to bond a man and woman forever in sacramental marriage.

Porn is like two pieces of duct tape stuck together, only to be ripped apart. And again. And again. For every instance of porn. What happens to the “stickiness” of the tape? What happens to the tape? This is a remote idea of what porn does to a soul. And why porn is responsible for destroying countless marriages, families and relationships.

To understand porn we need to understand something about God’s design for purity in connection to the “sexual urge.” Another of Satan’s great attacks has been brainwashing many of us into regarding the sexual urge as something divorced from purity, as something “naughty,” or “dirty”… or simply “our own thing.” Distant from God. Of course, porn reinforces this.

To the contrary, the pure sexual urge is a God-given, built-in compass whose Due North is God Himself. It is about our ultimate, eternal end of intimacy with God, and in Him, with all others. It is about Holy Communion. As Pope St. John Paul II suggested, the heart of the sexual urge is an urge to a completion that can only be found in God. The sexual urge is the capacity for man and woman to literally make God, who is love, known– through total, mutual, self-giving love (Gen. 1:27).

And it must be emphasized that this capacity for divine-human communion is no less possible for those who are not married. In fact, whether a priest, religious, or single, the very same “urge” is simply directed in different ways of worshiping God, of making Him known.

“Marriage in this life is meant to foreshadow heaven where, for all eternity, we will celebrate the ‘marriage of the Lamb’ (Rev 19:7), the marriage of Christ and the Church. This is the deepest desire of the human heart to live in the eternal bliss of communion with God himself.  As wonderful as marriage and marital intimacy can be in this life, it’s only a sign, a foretaste, a sacrament of what’s to come. Earthly marriage is simply preparation for heavenly marriage.”
Christopher West 

Porn lies to the deepest desire of souls, promising a kind of intimacy, but only delivers intensity. It promises transcendence, but delivers slavery. Cut off from God, porn paves the way to disrespect for others, promiscuity, infidelity and even violence. Porn engenders deep guilt, shame and helplessness, a brick wall keeping the Niagara Falls of God’s grace from flooding into our lives.

“Let us always remember… that the Adversary wants to keep us separated from God and therefore instills disappointment in our hearts when we do not see our apostolic commitment immediately rewarded. Every day the devil sows the seeds of pessimism and bitterness in our hearts. … Let us open ourselves to the breath of the Holy Spirit, who never ceases to sow seeds of hope and confidence.”
Pope Francis 

It’s time those walls come down.

It’s time we quit allowing Satan to hide in the shadows.

It’s time we shine a big, bright light on this.

I’m inviting men and women of courage to be honest about their own challenges, personally, and in their marriages and families. Let’s raise the conversation. Let’s create grace-filled environments marked not by shame, but the power of the Cross. Let’s recognize the power God has given us in Christ. This will ignite a holiness revolution.

The fact that a multitude of godly men struggle should suggest that praying isn’t enough. Being involved in church  isn’t enough. The Sacraments aren’t even enough… without understanding our need to cooperate, to “avoid the near occasion of sin.” To believe.

Our Enemy is cunning. We have to know our vulnerability and minimize his influence. For our part let me say having Catholic Covenant Eyes (CatholicCovenantEyes.com) on our computers and devices isn’t just for our children.

What women and men need to understand

What women need to understand is that vulnerability to porn has nothing to do with how much we love our wives. It has nothing to do with our earnest desire to be holy. In fact, we’re vulnerable to porn precisely by God’s design. God placed in each of us a relentless desire for completion that can only be found in Himself, and He linked this to sexuality.

What women need to understand is that real men really want to win. They need their wives to understand their vulnerability without judging it, or taking it personally. God’s transforming love can help them overcome understandable hurt and anger and get in the game, to go to battle for them, to sacrificially pray for them. And yes, to insist upon accountability. (Commit at CatholicCovenantEyes.com)

What men need to know is that porn is grave, and is paving the way there. Porn is sexual involvement with other women. It is adultery. (Matt. 5:28) Satan is there. As Jesus suggests, it’s not even just the physical engagement. It’s your imagination. Your soul is in danger. You need real help. You can not conquer on your own.

What men need to know is that regardless of how far you’ve fallen, or helpless you feel after so many attempts, Paul is absolutely right: You can make yourself a living sacrifice. You can conform no longer to the ways of this world. You can be transformed inwardly by the renewal of the Spirit; this means your inner world of imagination, thought and feeling. You can live in the abundance of God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

Where to begin?

Start by deciding. For real. Not kinda-sorta. Because God made you for greater things. Because your spouse and family need you. Because you are more than a conqueror. (Romans 8:37)

You may have done this before, but this time mean it by taking action and closing the door. Make your declaration to the Lord. Engage a good priest or brother whom you trust. Fully confess. Heartfully repent. Renounce the Enemy in the name of Jesus Christ. Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Back it up with real commitment. (Commit at CatholicCovenantEyes.com)

“[The Devil] attacks the family so much. That demon does not love it and seeks to destroy it. […] May the Lord bless the family. May He make it strong in this crisis, in which the devil wishes to destroy it.”

Pope Francis

Parents, especially dads, regardless of how much control you think you have over media consumption, don’t presume. Have the courage to sit down with your children and ask straight forward, “Have you struggled with porn?”

Convey to them that you get it. That God designed them for great intimacy. That the Enemy would rob them of it. Acknowledge that it is attractive. You’re on their side. They can come to you. You’re going to battle for them. Together you’re going to help them receive all God desires for them.  Right there pray with them and bless them.

“[T]he Devil is at work. But I would like to say in a loud voice ‘God is stronger.’ Do you believe this, that God is stronger?”
Pope Francis

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

– Joshua 24:15

In our home we’ve enlisted in the battle. We’re committing in two ways. Please join us. First, Catholic Covenant Eyes (CatholicCovenantEyes.com) is installed on all our devices and computers. It’s the best recommended solution by every Catholic leader I know. Resist Wormwood’s whispering in your ear right now, “You and your loved one’s are just fine. You’re different. You don’t need it.” He doesn’t want that door closed. This is your battle right now.

Secondly, my sons and I decided that we’re going to give up meat on Fridays for the specific, sacrificial purpose of defending and honoring God’s design for women, and to live fully our call as men. Join us.

And if you want to be a real Kingdom builder, you can make a difference with one click. Share this article. Tweet. Like. Email. Get it to your pastor.

“The devil cannot stand seeing the sanctity of a church or the sanctity of a person, without trying to do something.”
Pope Francis 

We are Church. The united Body of Christ for the salvation of the world. This is our ultimate purpose. The gates of hell will not prevail. In the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s take this world back for Jesus Christ.

image: shutterstock

Greg Schlueter

By

Greg Schlueter is an award-winning Catholic film producer, writer, speaker and movement leader. He is President / CEO of Image Trinity, a Catholic, non-profit organization committed to families living their identity and mission (Live IT: Image the Trinity), and it's ecclesial outreach, Mass Impact, which is committed to parishes becoming dynamic communities of missionary disciples (http://MassImpact.us). Greg lives with his wife and six children in Toledo, Ohio.

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  • Sara

    Women should be involved in conversation as consumers. To not include them is to further them from help.

  • Laurie

    “Wife eagerly fulfilling her sexual obligations and vice versa?” This, no matter how or why this might happen in a marriage, will NEVER be a valid excuse for the use of porn. My bet is that this is rarely the reason either.

  • Laurie

    Wait…this is totally one-sided. Women too are more and more involved in porn. They are as vulnerable. This idea of women needing to understand the vulnerability of men without judging is objectionable. I will be judging the behavior of the use of porn because it objectifies the human person whether it be man or women making use of it, and now it is pillaging the innocence of children. And we do know what the Lord said about the millstone and leading children into sin. Porn is not “involvement with other women” it is total self-gratification. You bet it is “grave” and “Satan is there.” We can easily see how it has progressed to human trafficking and child porn. Anyone making use of porn feeds that evil. People do not think about that aspect of it. It is way more grave than most people think. Let’s not kid ourselves.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    I agree. I hear this excuse so often and, plainly, I just don’t understand it. If it were only single men using pornography, that would make sense, but the statistics show how many married, committed men (and, increasingly, women) are turning to it.

  • jesusloveshismum

    for us men,its simple, if you have a mother,sister, wife, daughter or girlfriend, don’t look at, or read anything that you would not look at if they were with you,you are disrespecting the very people that you love,and are also disregarding the words of Jesus

  • Anon2659

    It’s not a question of “excuse”. There are steps that can be taken to help avoid sin, and both husbands and wives have responsibility. St. Paul makes this very clear, even though it should be self-evident.

    There seems to be a reluctance in articles like this one to address the obvious approaches to minimizing the attraction of pornography. For the vast majority who do not have an actual celibate vocation the Church should be facilitating finding the right spouse, encouraging marriage in late teens or early 20s, and promoting enthusiastically sexual marriages.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    I see what you’re saying and do indeed agree with your statement that the Church should facilitate finding the right spouse and encouraging marriage. Pardon my abruptness in the previous remarks of mine. I tend to see folks who treat marriage as a magical solution for everything from porn addiction to pedophilia. With porn, there is often a psychological part where men and women who seek it out are more interested in it than just the sex. I don’t want to post it on a Catholic website (for obvious reasons) but I know that even Vice Magazine covered this aspect about a year ago.

  • Tessye

    We don’t know if C.S.Lewis blasphemied against the Holy Spirit for not converting to Catholicism. Maybe God needed him to die as a Protestant. More than a few Protestants conversions to Catholicism read CS Lewis and later inspired to read from many of the vast majority Catholic writers we have, a necesary stepping stone as CS Lewis’ writings had a lot of Catholic elements. Perhaps had CS Lewis converted on his death bed, many Protestants would not have read his works and thus remained unconverted.

  • Greg Schlueter

    Johnny– thanks for contributing.

    In the words of Augustine, isn’t it wonderful that “all that is true is ours”? Our Catholic Faith is pervasively rich. Our Catholic Faith is the defining fabric of all human existence. This raises the possibility that Catholic truth may be proclaimed and lived in certain aspects even more fully outside it’s institutional bounds; this ought to inform and challenge all of us who profess to be Catholic.

    As just one illustration, I recall some enthusiastic evangelicals during college:
    (1) Coming to my door (is not such evangelical enthusiasm uniquely Catholic, an appropriate response to our exhortation to “go into the world and make disciples”- Matt. 28… to “shout it from the rooftops”- JP2?);

    (2) Sharing with me the Word of God, exhibiting real familiarity with the same (is not familiarity with and love for the Word uniquely Catholic?).

    Granted, these are missing the fullness of the Catholic faith, which can
    not be understated, but ought we disregard their modeling in an
    exemplary way these aspects that are distinctively Catholic– which they
    are doing (for the most part) better than those in the institutional
    folds?

    Consider recent Catholic works that at least in part share this thesis: “Forming Intentional Disciples,” “Divine Renovation,” “Rebuilt,” “Evangelical Catholicism” and “Evangelizing Catholics.”

    Why should we consider this thesis?
    80% Catholics are gone by age 23
    13% of mass attenders pray before meals
    40%
    question if a relationship with Jesus Christ is possible

    Many evangelical Christians invite us to awaken to our Catholicism (Eph. 5:14), the heart of which was most distinctly articulated in Pope Benedict’s JON Trilogy– in so many words, relationship (with Jesus Christ) is the heart of religion and ritual. We are to be a Holy Community lived that radiates the Holy Communion received: Evident and vibrant love of God in Jesus Christ, warm and welcoming community endeavoring to live it out beyond a moment.

    Quick commercial. These considerations are the basis of our person, family and parish discipleship movement at http://MassImpact.us. In the past year we were blessed to facilitate over 20,000 encounters with Jesus Christ.W’re calling all to be united in commitment to personal, family and parish discipleship (Mass Impact Kingdom Builders at http://MassImpact.us).

    As a post script to the evangelicals knocking on my door, I enjoyed my connection with them. Allowing them to speak first, I simply replied with a smile, “I’m glad you like our Book!” The bewildered looks on their faces was priceless. More than simply an occasion for proving points, it was an occasion for fostering faith-based friendship, one that benefited me as much as them… both became Catholic shortly thereafter.

    On the question of C.S. Lewis’- he may not have been a Catholic, but he is now. 🙂

    Thanks again! United in the mission…

  • Greg Schlueter

    Anon2659- Sacramental Marriage is an icon of the Trinity (Gen. 1:27). Truly, is there anything more majestic? Given our capacity to love– revealed in Jesus Christ, to sacrifice self for other (Eph. 5), our identity and mission is literally to make God, who IS Love, known.

    Our bodies are our God-given means to express, proclaim and live Love. The body is given to “communicate” (to become one)… as an authentic expression of the soul. It’s a question of truth and integrity. Integration of affections and actions. If the body’s expression of total, exclusive, self-giving comm-union does not correspond to the same for the soul, the sexual act is a lie. Worse, it’s using another person– reducing him/her to a means for self-gratification.

    Yes, it’s possible, if not likely, that sacramentally married couples can be in the sinful state of lust, with neither ever knowing it. Why? Because on this side of eternity neither are perfectly pure. We are prone to gratification. We fall short of the total, mutual self-gift of soul that is so beautifully expressed in union of body.

    On this side of eternity, in God’s marvelous grace and mercy– we’re all working out this authenticity, unity, whole-ness, or holiness. It is possible (Rom. 12:1-2). We are given the transforming majesty and beauty of the Cross of Jesus Christ– in whom, by renouncing sinful inclinations and affections, we might find our deepest desire of intimacy transformed and fulfilled– a Holy Comm-union, that is but a shadow of the Divine Human intimacy and communion we were designed for.

    Awareness of our selfishness, incompleteness, unfulfilled and misguided desires– is precisely what ought to impel us all the more to Reconciliation and Holy Communion– with the result that the Holy Community lived proclaims the Holy Communion received.

    United in the mission…

  • Philip Sieve

    God wants us to die with all the sacraments for our state in life. He doesn’t want us deprived for some ulterior purpose. He made the best of Lewis’s faith decision, but Lewis didn’t make the best advice of Catholic friends, if the other prominent Catholic writers spoke to him about it and I’m sure Tolkien did.

  • Anon2659

    Takes a bit of imagination to get from

    God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.

    to

    Sacramental Marriage is an icon of the Trinity

    doesn’t it?

    While the above isn’t a terrible bit of philosophical noodling, this is more than a matter of academic interest. Although attractive to some who value innovation and complication, such overwrought thinking and locution does at least two things…

    First, it makes the Church an object of mockery, or at best an entity of inconsequence with impaired moral authority. Also, considering the frequently fruitily-inflected nature of said ideas it makes promotion of sexual morality particularly difficult.

    Second, the truth is usually simple, and embellishment risks introducing error. While modern and older iterations of innovation on biblical guidance aren’t necessarily deliberate attempts to deceive as such, they do recall Sir Walter Scott’s tangled web. When you get off-track from the truth the story has to keep getting more convoluted.

  • Greg Schlueter

    Thank you for contributing. I’m writing here with THIS particular audience in mind: Committed Catholics with some depth of theological knowledge and appreciation. Based upon your reply– exhibiting the same, seems I wasn’t off target.

    Marriage as “icon of the Trinity” is in the most beautiful tradition of our Catholic faith; arguably, this is our most fundamental identity and mission: Image the Trinity. Thus, some of our name-branding is: Live IT. Preaching IT. Keep IT Real. What IT’s all about.

    How wonderful if it became so pervasive that every time someone used phrases such as these, our unsurpassed identity and mission came to mind?!

    If you’re wanting to see approaches seeking to more fully reach and engage the typical “Catholics in the pews”… check out http://MassImpact.us. We’re inviting people to be united in personal, family and parish discipleship. We’re inviting families to talk and pray based upon subsequent Sunday readings, typically seeking to integrate (and therefore engage) popular culture.

    Here are a few, short Live IT (we Image the Trinity) videos in particular:
    Speaking Truth with Love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTP0rq2-Noc

    Most Amazing Drama; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4nKfrvHAX0&index=2&list=PLJZYJ2GkKcdvEcjAy5UluThddsWDaeHdM

    Catholic Youth on Fire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gX4-S2RxVkg&index=5&list=PLJZYJ2GkKcdvEcjAy5UluThddsWDaeHdM

    Thanks again contributing! Have a great weekend.

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