Dr. Samuel Perry: “Porn-Again Christians”

Last night, on a recommendation from my Comparative Religions professor, I attended a lecture about the impact of pornography usage on the mental stability, faith and quality of marriage for Evangelical Christians. The results themselves might not surprise you–porn usage exhibits negative effects on all of these aspects of Christian lives. The trends support the societal connotation: porn is bad. That being said, the differences between porn’s effects on Evangelical users and non-Evangelical users is where the point of interest lies. Porn affects the lives of viewers who believe it to be morally wrong (typically Christians) much more adversely than it does those whose feelings on the subject are a bit more neutral. Dr. Perry refers to this as the Moral Incongruence Theory or “MIT”.

MIT posits that porn’s negative impacts lie not in the viewing of explicit material, but the voluntary violation of “deeply-held, sacralized and socially-important values”. It’s not what Christians see that bothers them, it’s the fact that they deliberately cross moral boundaries when they sneak a peek at some adult content.

Why though, is porn so much more detrimental for Christians? Well, it looks like the answer–like most problems in the church–boils down to stigmatization. A 2017 survey was conducted at Baylor University asking students to identify what activities their church was most likely to forbid. The language left nothing to question–it was a matter of black and white, right and wrong, undoubtedly off-limits. Over 70% of students answered with pornography–the highest ranked of the options–making it a more out-of-bounds commodity than traditional Evangelical evils like premarital sex, homosexuality and abortion. More students at Baylor considered watching virtual copulation to be a greater sin in the eyes of the church than actually having sex.

Additionally, studies in 2006 and 2012 show that weekly church attenders are far more likely to consider porn wrong. However, that same group of Evangelical Christians has the highest tendency to view porn despite holding the belief that it’s morally unacceptable. Dr. Perry believes that this violation of personal beliefs leads to the figures of pornography-related depression, sexual dissatisfaction and divorce that we see in Evangelical communities.

The “porn shaming” that is inherent to Evangelical life is somewhat astounding. Until the lecture, I had been unaware of “accountability software”; programs that send messages to chosen contacts to alert them that your recent browsing history has been less-than-holy. This means that, in theory, your mother could receive in-depth emails detailing your forays into the sinful side of the search engine. Not only does this sound utterly horrifying, it seems immensely unhealthy. Studies show that this stigmatization of pornography alienates Evangelical porn users and, in some cases, drives them away from the guilt of the church.

CovenantEyes, a popular online accountability software.

Dr. Perry doesn’t really know what to make of the Evangelicals’ plight. It’s clear that we have a problem on our hands, but he isn’t sure how to solve it. It’s the old question of unstoppable force meets immovable object. Sex sells, and trends don’t show pornography drying up any time soon. That being said, Hell hath no fury like a good Christian woman and I certainly don’t see them relinquishing their position on the matter.

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