The Spiritual Warfare Against Pornography 


Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21) 


Pornography was well known in the ancient world. Anyone who has toured the ruins of Pompei sees plenty of examples of it. The printing press, movies and the internet have all made pornography ubiquitous in our lives and homes, but it is not just a modern issue. The spiritual battle against it is perhaps a greater struggle today since one does not have to leave one’s home to find it. And society has become increasingly tolerant of it as an expression of free speech – it’s even debated whether something can be labeled pornography as morality is seen as something personal and not societal. Christians still are expected to work toward purity of heart, and so pornography remains a temptation to sin and thus an evil.  There is a truth that it is not society’s responsibility to keep us away from sexual sin but rather that is a battle to be fought in our own hearts and minds. (When Eastern Europe was under atheistic communism, pornography was banned from public view. After communism fell, in those same countries where pornography was once banned, you could find pornography being sold right outside of churches.)

From the desert fathers (people who were far removed from society and thus from the societal temptations) show us the power and plague that pornography can be, even to people who had no access to it. 


Abba Gerontius of Petra said: ‘Many are they who, tempted by the delights of the flesh, indulged in porneia in the mind without any physical contact. While maintaining the virginity of their bodies, they commit porneia in their soul. Therefore, beloved, it is good to do what is written: for each one to ‘keep his own heart fully protected’” [Proverbs 4:23]. (GIVE ME A WORD, p 88) 

One doesn’t even have to engage in sex to be tempted by pornography, for once the images and ideas are in our minds, we have to battle them. One can stay away from pornography in the media, but carry it within one’s mind. This spiritual warfare is constant for many. And ‘soft’ porn is used constantly in advertising which is also ever present in our lives.


A brother asked Abba Poemen: ‘What am I to do, for I am embattled by porneia and in prey to anger?’ The elder said to him: ‘This is why David said: “I smote the lion and throttled the bear” [cf. 1 Samuel 17: 35], meaning: ‘I cut off anger and wore down porneia by toil.’”  (GIVE ME A WORD, p 247) 

Expelling sexual temptation as soon as it arises in the body is the best remedy. To engage in it even briefly is to succumb to it. One has to be vigilant in staying away from anything that causes one to be sexually tempted. And if a seductive sexual thought arouses the body, one has to struggle against it. There is no easy way to deal with it as long as we have a body. Even aging doesn’t always temper the temptations. Purity of heart means expunging all the filthiness that wants to reside there. 


Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

If you even wonder why you don’t see God, look at your own heart and what’s in it.

(See also my post A Pure Heart: Uprooting Vices and Passions)