Culture At Large

Barna study details porn’s pervasive influence – including in the church

Josh Larsen

Barna Group has released a new study surveying the current cultural influence of pornography, including within the church, and it’s not encouraging. If some of you have wondered why we regularly cover the topic here at Think Christian, this is the reason.

Nearly 3,000 people participated in Barna’s four online studies, which included in-depth surveys among the general population, American teenagers, Christian pastors and the Christian church. Among the findings:

  • More than one quarter (27 percent) of young adults ages 25 to 30 first viewed pornography before puberty.
  • Nearly half of young people actively seek out porn weekly or more often.
  • Teens and young adults consider “not recycling” more immoral than viewing pornography.
  • Teenage girls and young women are significantly more likely to actively seek out porn than women over age 25.
  • 66 percent of teens and young adults have received a sexually explicit image and 41 percent have sent one.
  • More than half of Christian youth pastors have had at least one teen come to them for help in dealing with porn in the past 12 months.
  • 21 percent of youth pastors and 14 percent of pastors admit they currently struggle with using porn. About 12 percent of youth pastors and 5 percent of pastors say they are addicted to porn.

At Think Christian, we’ve considered pornography not simply as a moral and social issue, but as a theological one. From Genesis to Song of Songs to the (qualified) writings of the Apostle Paul, the Bible presents sexuality as a good gift from God that has been distorted, along with all of creation, as part of the Fall. Pornography — which sees bodies as commodities, which denies the imago dei, which prioritizes self-pleasure over relationship — is an obvious example of this fallen state.

And so, here at TC, Alex Bersin has written about the approaching scourge of virtual-reality porn; John J. Thompson has covered Playboy’s decision to do away with nude photos; and I’ve looked at the surprising, anti-porn stance taken by the film Don Jon. We’ve also shared a video by British comedian Russell Brand, where he discusses his own past relationship with pornography in unexpectedly theological terms.

These are important trends to follow, especially for Christians who believe that a positive, Biblical vision of sexuality is part of God’s plan for human flourishing. Josh McDowell, whose ministry commissioned the Barna study, put it well in a press release announcing the findings: “Pornography violates all relational values between the individual and self, the individual and society, the unity of our families and our moral fabric and fiber as a nation. When we objectify and demean life by removing the sanctity of the human person, our future is at risk.”

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, The Church, News & Politics, Social Trends, Home & Family, Sex