“To the pure, all things are pure but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and consciences are defiled.” (Titus 1:15)
An old survey shows that 85% of men have used porn regularly.
And that 15% lie on surveys.
Needless to say, I’m one of them.
Starting as a lonely teen, with Grandpa’s Playboys, I quickly graduated to the wonders of the internet. I let myself get sucked into a fake set of human relations and a set of sexual fantasies which satisfied my hormones but played tricks with my head.
And then, unlike most versions of this story, porn stayed with me through college and into adult life. It set a weird sort of semi-liturgical rhythm to my day: usually the first thing I would turn to in the morning or the last thing I’d resort to at night.
Like Paul says, “to the defiled, nothing is pure” – it really does rewire your head. Of course, there are forms of impurity beyond the sexual (Paul might have even had these mostly in mind) but my porn habit made purity tough for me in any way.
My relationships with women were flattened because I got used to viewing them as a collection of body parts for visual pleasure and my relationships with men were strained because of the furtiveness porn bred and the massive amount of time it consumed.
To be a proper testimony, this should be the ‘aha’ moment, in which everything changes and I come to Jesus. Except it isn’t. I’ve been a Christian this whole time, but only gradually have I begun to put on the purity of Christ and join myself to him (it has also helped developing healthier relationships with women and teenage hormones dying down).
Christ has that perfect purity to which everything is pure.
This ought to be suffocating: how could I, in my mess of defilement, be joined to the pure Christ? But we have Paul’s testimony later in Titus: “We ourselves were once … slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hating by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not by works done by us in righteousness but according to his mercy…” (Titus 3:3-5)
When I am a slave to my passions and pleasures, God saves me from myself. I’m reborn in Christ even in my sin. By dwelling with him (especially in the Eucharist) I become purer myself. As I began to worship at a church with weekly Eucharist, that constant contact with the purity and holiness of Christ began to burn out my desire for the fake connection of porn.
I need to keep clinging to Christ, keep joining myself to him in the sacraments, and trust in his work of grace to change – to know I am pure in him even though I’m not perfectly there yet.
I pray with the old English saints for purity and trust that through union with Christ I will be finally made pure in the last day:
Deliver me from attachment to things unclean,
from wrong associations,
from the predominance of evil passions,
from the sugar of sin as well as its gall
that with self-loathing, deep contrition, earnest heart searching
I may come to thee, cast myself on thee, trust in thee, cry to thee,
be delivered by thee.
If I sin wilfully, grievously, tormentedly,
in grace take away my mourning
and give me music;
remove my sackcloth
and cloth me with beauty;
still my sighs
and fill my mouth with song,
then give me summer weather as a Christian.”
(“Prayer for Purity,” Valley of Vision, 146-147)