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On Religion

May 16, 2014

Porn again: Denial in conservative pews

The Rev. Heath Lambert usually hears one of two responses when he tries to get pastors to be candid about the impact of Internet pornography in their churches.

Response No. 1 sounds like this: "Pornography isn't a problem in my church."

That answer drew laughter at a recent conference on faith and sexuality, organized by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Lambert, a seminary professor who leads the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, said he realized that laughs and disbelief were appropriate -- if sad -- responses to this crisis.

Response No. 2 is also rooted in denial, he said. Pastors shake their heads and say: "Good night! I can't talk about this. Do you know what the people in my church would do if I started talking about pornography? ... I can't talk about this from the pulpit."

But if pastors cannot face this issue with their own flocks, then who can? It doesn't help that this pulpit silence often, according to researchers, may be linked to pornography addictions among clergy.

Lambert said he found it disturbing that 75 percent of clergy say they have zero accountability systems in place to help keep them honest about their online activities. Far too many pastors -- tragically -- seem to "think they are Superman" and need to be challenged on this issue, he said.

Sex and religion remains a volatile mix. Thus, this "sex summit" in Nashville generated its share of online buzz and news coverage, with its discussions of hot topics -- from private issues such as adultery and divorce to public controversies surrounding gay marriage and sex trafficking.

But while the culture wars rage on and draw the most attention, Lambert argued that the greatest moral threat to the church today is "the Christian pastor, the Christian schoolteacher, the Christian Bible college and seminary student, who exalts sound theology, who points to the Bible and then retreats to the basement computer to indulge in an hour or three of Internet pornography."

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