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Porn users have 'structural brain damage'

A young man in a white shirt and glasses stares in shock at his computer screen while browsing the internet (Credit: Yeko Photo Studio via Fotolia) A research study published in the latest Journal of American Medical Association: Psychiatry concludes that the more pornography a person watches, the less gray matter, connectivity and activity they have in their brain.

Numerous negative effects of pornography are already well documented.  For instance, boys who consume pornography daily show more interest in deviant and illegal types of porn.  Frequent Internet pornography consumption among couples leads to a decrease in sexual satisfaction and a tendency to adopt pornography scripts.  Accessing porn online leads to compulsive computer use.  But this new research is the first to show that pornography is also linked directly to negative physical capacities within the brain.

Dr. Donald Hilton, a neurosurgeon and professor at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center calls this study "the real deal."  According to Dr. Hilton, "the study shows that heavy porn users have structural brain shrinkage."  So, what can we do to combat pornography in our culture?

I believe that behavior is the result of a three-step process: our actions are the product of our values, which are shaped by our worldview (our beliefs about the world).  We can legislate morality with regard to actions, and often should.  For instance, child pornography should be illegal, whatever our beliefs and values on the subject.

We can try to change values, but our principles are often in conflict with each other.  For instance, 67 percent of Americans told the latest Gallup poll that they disapprove of pornography use.  However, 66 percent of men and 41 percent of women consume pornography every month.  Apparently a majority of us value telling researchers that we oppose pornography, but also value consuming it in private.

It's on the level of beliefs, our basic worldview, that systemic change begins.  Imagine a society which agreed with Scripture that humans are intrinsically sacred as God's creation, our bodies are his temple, lust corrupts our lives, and sex is intended only for heterosexual marriage.  How would our values and actions change as a result?

Now comes the dilemma.  Human words cannot change human hearts.  Nothing I say in this Cultural Commentary can convince our fallen world that God is right on the subject of sex and pornography.  However, God's ambassadors in Scripture frequently seek to reason with their hearers, citing authorities and evidence accepted by their culture (cf. Acts 17).  And we are called to declare God's word to the world by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and "with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).

I conclude that when we reason biblically with others, the Spirit works through us to do what we cannot.  He changes hearts and worldviews in ways we cannot see or measure.  As we work, he works.

God called you to serve him where you are, and when you are.  It was his providential plan that you are alive today and not a century ago.  You have gifts and influence his Spirit can use to change your world.  So don't be discouraged about the moral trajectory of our day, but do be urgent.  Carl F. H. Henry was right: "The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time."

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