Exposing the Truth About Pornography
About the Guest
There’s a problem in our midst, and it’s destroying our sons. Today on the broadcast, Tom Fortson, president and CEO of Promise Keepers, talks with Dennis Rainey about the widespread problem of pornography.
Tom and Toni FortsonDr. Thomas Fortson (B.A., Iowa State University; M.A. and Ph.D. Michigan State University) is the former President and CEO of Promise Keepers. Before coming to Promise Keepers, Dr. Fortson spent seventeen years in corporate America serving as an administrator at General Motors Corporation and as the Vice President of Human Resources at Edwards Baking Company. Dr. Fortson currently sits on the Board of Trustees for Moody Bible Institute and on the Board of Directors of the National Religious Broa...more
There’s a problem in our midst, and it’s destroying our sons.
Exposing the Truth About Pornography
Bob: There are guys today who are confused about exactly what it means to be a man. Promise Keepers president Tom Fortson says part of the reason for that is because many people are confused about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Tom: It's so easy for guys to say, "Yes, I'm a Christian." Well, what does that mean in today's vernacular, and it's easy to disguise and be a Christian when you're with other believers. But what about when you're around nonbelievers? Could I be convicted in a jury that I am follower of Jesus Christ or will it be a hung jury, you know? So it's easy to say you are a Christian – are you living out the life of a follower of Jesus Christ?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, June 11th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear today from Tom Fortson about one of the traps that is ensnaring men in their pursuit of godly masculinity. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. Do you remember the first time you heard anything about Promise Keepers? It had to be back in the early '90s, maybe the mid-'80s.
Dennis: It was, it was. I think I got a message from Dr. Howard Hendricks that he gave, before a few thousand men, I think, at – would it be Folsom? Folsom Stadium?
Bob: The stadium in Boulder at Colorado State?
Dennis: In Boulder, Colorado, right? Where he talked about – I think he talked about mentoring, and I thought, "Now, that's unusual – a bunch of men getting together and talking about being models and mentors for the next generation."
Bob: Well, and within years it had exploded to the point that it was happening in cities all around the country and then on the mall in Washington, D.C., and it's still happening today – is men are getting together, being challenged biblically on what it means to be a man.
Dennis: Right, and some of the highlights of my ministry have come at Promise Keepers events. I wasn't sure whether I was going to pass out or be able to speak as I spoke at Texas Stadium. You know, Texas Stadium has a hole in the roof, and the sun was coming down right on me, and, I mean, I was broiled.
Dennis: I was well broiled by the time I finished, but I was sweating without the sun. It didn't matter. I wondered if I would be able to speak or not; had the privilege of speaking in Jacksonville at Jaguar Stadium – or at least where the Jaguars play, and then in Denver at the old Mile High Stadium, it's gone now.
But just a real privilege to link arms with that great organization, and we have with us today the president of Promise Keepers, a good friend, Tom Fortson. Tom, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Tom: Well, thank you, Dennis. When you were just speaking, I thought about many of our highlights, PK highlights, and what we have our – our Hall of Fame, and one of your presentations is that bear trap. You were walking on the stage, and there's a father, and his son has his hands on his shoulders, and he's walking with his son around these traps, and you were talking about what it means to be a dad.
Dennis: And I remember, I'm even getting chill bumps on the back of my neck, because that was Tom Ward, who is from Oklahoma City, and his son, and it was interesting, because as that father was guiding his son through those traps, that stadium got deathly quiet, and then one man, way back up high, began to [starts clapping slowly].
Tom: That's right, you got it.
Dennis: And before long, that one man's applause erupted into a standing ovation by all those men. It was interesting, it was really a very instructional moment that here were all these men and their sons standing and applauding a father who was symbolizing what the responsibility is for a man who leads and guides his son through some of the most dangerous traps and dangerous days of his life, his adolescent years.
Tom: That's true. Not only was it instructional, it was moving. It caught the emotion. A lot of times, the guys just want to think, they want to keep it cognitive, but that moment grabbed their hearts, because it was a visual of what it really means to lead your son or your daughter through the traps of life, and that there are traps out there. Sometimes we don't see them, but, as a dad, we need to be careful and go ahead of our children to warn them of things that they can fall into and be trapped by because they're deadly, and I thought the visual was gripping, it was moving, and it was also a teaching moment.
Dennis: I'm glad to make the Hall of Fame in something.
Bob: Well, and PK is still working to grab men's hearts and minds every summer. You've got a number of gatherings happening all around the country this summer. Tell us some of the cities you're going to be in.
Tom: Well, we're going to be in Fresno, California; Atlanta, Peoria, Illinois; Dallas; Cleveland, Ohio; Charleston, West Virginia; and Tacoma, and the dates of these can be picked up on the website.
Bob: And you can go to our website, FamilyLife.com. We've got a link to the PK website, and you can get all the information. You've really turned these into regional events, and men are coming from a day's drive away to be at these conferences for men, aren't they?
Tom: No question about it, and the need is even greater. I think about FamilyLife, Dennis, your ministry here; Bob, what you're doing on the radio, and it's a team effort. We can only take the guys so far. We are catalytic, but what we're finding is that the men need to be discipled.
Your phrase, "One home at a time." You're right on target, because you can get men excited in a gathering; you can give them those teachable moments; you can see God's presence manifested; you can see worship. But what happens is, the guys have to go out the exit door, you know, they have to leave. And so what kind of a home do they go back to?
And so we encourage men to go back, certainly, to the local church. We are hoping that they can be part of a local gathering, but there needs to be teaching in the home, i.e., the Homebuilders program. We are learning that the guys need to go deeper, they need to be discipled, and we need to stick with them.
Bob: When they exit, they've got to execute.
Tom: That's correct.
Bob: And they need help knowing how to do that, don't they?
Tom: No question about it.
Dennis: Yeah, and execute the right thing, and that really is what your book that you've recently written is all about – "Manhood: Let the Truth Be Told," and one of the statistics, Tom, that you share in that book is that you report that George Barna says that 32 percent of followers of Christ– now, these are believers, this is people in the church – only 32 percent of us believe in absolute truth.
Now, when you heard that, what was your response? Because when I read that in your book, I thought it would be one thing to say that about the culture, but you're talking about the people of faith who are supposed to stand for something.
Tom: I was startled, I was startled, because now we're dealing with data, statistics. But you kind of sense something is wrong. We who proclaim to be followers of Jesus Christ are not only followers but passionate followers, which is what we want the men to become – that's our mission – to ignite and unite men to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, and we do this through the Seven Promises.
But there is something wrong. Do we really know who Jesus is? You know, if this is the case, who are we following? What has He said? And are we obeying what He has said? And it's so easy for guys to say, "Yes, I'm a Christian." Well, what does that mean in today's vernacular? What does it mean that I am a Christian? Well, is that a political statement, is that a social statement? Is that one we just use here in America, or are we talking about passionately following Jesus Christ? And are we obeying Him? If this is what He says, that means this is what He says, that's what He meant.
And so when we say that we are Christians, and a lot of the guys aren't even going to church, a lot of the guys aren't keeping their promises to their wives, to their children, then something is wrong, and I think maybe these statistics can be validated.
Bob: Do we have a watered-down definition of what it means to be a Christ-follower today, do you think?
Tom: I believe we do. I believe we don't really know what sacrifices need to be made. Jesus said "Pick up your cross and follow Me." And it's easy to disguise and be a Christian or be a follower of Jesus when things are good, when you're with other believers, but what about when you're around nonbelievers? Do they really know who I am? Could I be convicted in a jury that I am a follower of Jesus Christ or will it be a hung jury, you know? So I think obedience, to me, becomes a big issue. Because it's easy to say you are a Christian; are you living out the life of a follower of Jesus Christ?
Dennis: You know, you talk about these men to come to these events by the thousands over the years, actually millions. They've attended Promise Keepers events, and they are hitting the exits. Where do you see these men having the greatest need for truth, Tom, in terms of being obedient to what the Scriptures teach? Is it at work? Is it at home? Is it in their private lives? Where do you see life and truth colliding?
Tom: I think it's in our private lives, which is lived out in our relationship with our wife and with our children, and then it's played out even further at work and then in the community and in the marketplace. And so there are biblical mandates that Promise Number 1 talks about worshiping God, study of the Scripture. Are we spending time with God alone? You know, in the morning, in the evening? I'm not going to pick or choose your time, but are we spending that time alone with Jesus?
Are we then asking Him to give us wisdom? Are we inquiring about what does He want me to do in terms of obedience with my wife? Where have I broken down? Are we asking the right questions of our Lord? Then not only in the family but at work? Does my supervisor really know that I am a believer. Does that take my standard of work, the ethics of work? My integrity, does that take it to a new level because I am a follower of Jesus Christ?
What about the community? Do my neighbors know that I am a believer in Jesus Christ? I am a follower of Jesus? How is that lived out? How is that manifested? Do I know my neighbors? And what are my responsibilities in the world – who should I be praying for? What nations of the world should I be praying for? What leaders? So I think this can be played out in many aspects of our lives when it comes to being a follower of Jesus Christ.
Dennis: I know one of the areas that Promise Keepers speaks to regularly and has over the years, and that's the area of pornography. You have undoubtedly done some research with the men who are attending Promise Keepers events. What kind of problem do we have among men now in this culture with this issue?
Tom: Dennis, it's destroying us. I don't know what other term to use. It's everywhere. What was called pornography in the '80s wasn't pornography. I mean, it's really getting bad. Not only that, it's opening up in the schools, and so we are not clear on what is pornographic and what's not. And, therefore, I think there needs to be deeper teaching on what it means to guard our hearts, what it means to guard our eyes, and I think, as fathers and dads, we need to be protecting not only our own selves but our sons and our daughters.
Dennis: I just received an e-mail this morning from a young man who wrote, and he said, "Dear Dennis, I'm really struggling with pornography, and I need help. I want you to know what I just did." He said, "I just went to the Web, and there was a website I could click on, and I could join this pornographic site for 15 minutes for $5." Now, he's come saying, "I want help," but he's just told me, on the other side, that he just spent $5 to go visit someplace for 15 minutes. I'm going to set him across the table from you, and I'm going to let you bring the essence of your book to play in this man's life because this is who you're speaking to. This is a real deal for men today.
Tom: It is.
Dennis: And our wives don't fully understand what a man is struggling with here, but we men do, and what I'd like to challenge you to do is just speak to that man right here and say what should he do? What should his response be, as a follower of Christ and one who embrace the truth of Scripture?
Tom: That person needs accountability. One of the standards that you held us to when we were speakers on a speaker team; whenever I met you, you would look in my eyes and say, "Are you clean?" I remember that, and I knew you were coming with it, and I was ready to respond? It was accountability. You wanted to keep the team at a high level.
I think that young men like that need to be held accountable. I need to be held accountable, and I mentioned some things on safety, how Toni and I – how she holds me accountable to things because it's easy to fall prey. And so I think the key, Dennis and Bob, is accountability. I need another man challenging me, challenging me, saying, "Tom, are you clean?"
Hey, no matter who you are, because I'm an ordinary guy, and that's what I like about Promise Keepers. The leadership, who we minister to, just ordinary guys, so even leaders need accountability …
Dennis: No doubt about it.
Tom: Where somebody can go and look them in the eye and not be intimidated by the position or the title and say, "Are you clean?" And a lot of leaders are not held to that high level of accountability.
Dennis: But just so we can understand this, you are saying to that young man, he needs to go to another man that he respects, probably would be a leader in his church or a man who is a mature follower of Christ in his church and submit his life to him and say, "I've got a problem with pornography. I need to ask you to enter my life, engage my life, ask me the question."
I don't think you can hold another person accountable, honestly. I think the key is that he submits his life to be held accountable by the older man.
Bob: Well, and I'd just add to this – I think his wife may need to be an ally in the whole process. You talked about your wife, Toni, being a part of your accountability system, and I've found that guys can kind of dodge one another. We can see somebody coming down the hall that we don't want to talk to, and we'll just find another hallway to go to.
But if our wives know that we've got to struggle in this area, they're going to keep asking us, because it matters to them, and they're not going to let us dodge. And I've said to a lot of guys, if this is a struggle in your life, and you do want to be free of it, your wife has got to be brought in on the process, you've got to be able to say "I'm struggling with this," and you've got to give her permission to hold you accountable here.
Tom: I would agree with that, and let me just take that point further. You get a man who comes to his wife and says, "I'm struggling with pornography." Her response could destroy him, because if she doesn't handle it right, and he's coming to her for validation – "I'm struggling with a problem." And maybe he had no father to validate him as a man. If it's not handled right, she could invalidate him as a man.
So we've got a very sensitive issue here that certainly needs further discussion on the issue because we want to encourage men to be transparent, to share those hurts, those feelings, those struggles with his wife. But you don't want him destroyed when he takes that chance. Maybe there needs to be a pastor or a friend, a close friend, with him when he begins to share this because you're dealing with a very sensitive issue, and even though he may come, or we come in the masculine context, like we're tough, guys are fragile. They are very fragile, and many times women don't realize how fragile a man is.
I tell a number of people, "I'm very sensitive," and the way – if Toni says something to me that hurts, I won't tell her she hurt my feelings. I'll say, "Toni, can you say that another way?" Why? Because men don't tell women or their wives that they're hurt. So what we're dealing with a very fragile issue, a good topic that needs further exploration but certainly the response to a confession like this is very sensitive, and we need to be very careful.
Dennis: And just as we've been coaching the wives to know how to respond to their husbands, there is going to be a time if something like this has happened, where the wife is going to need to share with her husband what that betrayal felt like to her and how that hurt her, as a woman. And so, as men, we're kind of interesting creatures. You know, what we want to do is we want to take this sack of garbage that we may have allowed to fester in our lives, and we just kind of want to dump it.
Tom: That's right.
Dennis: You know, just – here it is.
Bob: Dump it out and get rid of it.
Dennis: Get rid of it and flip a switch and move on and be done with it and, "Whew! Now, sweetheart, aren't you glad we dealt with that?"
Tom: That's right.
Dennis: Well, no, your problem has just become her problem and our problem, and that demands time, grace, conversations – notice I said plural? Multiple conversations, and it's not just a matter of a man dumping something on the table and saying, "Well, now, we've done" – you know, wipe his hands and let's move on and be happy forever ever after.
Tom: "I've confessed my sins, I've shared with you my problem, let's move on." It's not going to work, exactly.
Bob: I've coached guys on this subject. I've said, "If you really want to be free from the snare of pornography, the first thing you have to do is get alone with God, and you have to own up with Him. You've got to confess your sins to Him. You've got to agree with Him that it's a sin to look on a woman to lust. Then, secondly, you've got to find a guy that you can go to, and you've got to confess it to him, and you've got to get him on your team and have that accountability you're talking about.
Tom: That's right.
Bob: And then, third, you're ultimately going to have to find the right time, the right way, to confess this to your wife and to bring her onto the team as well. I think if God and a buddy and your wife aren't all three involved, then there is still an opportunity for the enemy to do an end run and pull you back into this thing.
Tom: And you can see how the enemy is just destroying men. He's destroying families with this one issue of pornography. Obviously, there are a lot of issues here, but he's on target with this issue.
Dennis: I believe pornography, and I have no way of proving this biblically, but just having watched men over the years, I think it can be one of the top three or four things that completely zap a man of any spiritual vitality, the ability to love and lead his wife and his children and protect them from evil. I think when you let pornography into your life, you open the door to all kinds of things to enter your marriage and your family, and I think spiritually it's a profound act to dabble in this, and I know we've been very frontal in talking about it here. We're not trying to stone men from …
Tom: No, no, we're not.
Dennis: … for making the mistakes and the errors but, on the other hand, I think some sobriety about this is also appropriate to call men out of it.
Bob: Well, and we've got resources on our website. I'm thinking of the book by Fred Stoker called "Every Man's Battle," that has helped a lot of men wrestle with this issue and find victory. Also, I think of Josh Harris's very helpful book, which is called "Sex is not the Problem, Lust Is." Both of these resources are tools that will help a man understand better the challenges he's facing when he's confronted with the temptation to view pornography, and we'll give him strategies on how to guard his heart and soul and protect himself from the ever-present danger of pornography.
You can go to FamilyLife.com, and when you get to our home page, on the right side of the screen, you'll see a button that says "Today's Broadcast." If you click that button, it will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about a variety of resources that are available, not just on the subject of pornography, but we've got copies of the new book Tom Fortson has written, which is called "Manhood: Let the Truth be Told." You can order these resources from us online, or if it's easier you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, and mention the resources you'd like, and someone on our team will make arrangements to have them sent to you.
Once again, the website is FamilyLife.com, and the toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329. that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Let me also mention that we do have on our website a link to the Promise Keepers website. If you'd like more information about any of the conferences coming up this summer in Fresno or Atlanta or Peoria, Dallas, Cleveland, Charleston, West Virginia; Tacoma, Washington – dates and information are available on the Promise Keepers website, and there is a link to that website at FamilyLife.com.
One of the guys who has spoken at Promise Keepers events over the years and has spoken at FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences throughout the years is a former Army Ranger and Green Beret, Pastor Stu Weber. He wrote a great book called "Tender Warrior," and he was here in our offices a number of months ago and spoke to our staff about what is at the heart of real manhood. He was talking about the same subject you're talking about in your book, Tom, and he talked about how men get out of balance with their masculinity.
We are making that message available this month to any of our listeners who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount. We are listener-supported so those donations are vital to keep us on the air here and in other cities across the country, and if you make a donation this month, and you'd like to receive the CD called "Applied Masculinity," you can simply request it.
If you're donating online, there is a keycode box on the donation form. Just type the word "Stu" in there – s-t-u – and we'll know to send you the CD of Stu Weber. Or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone, you can request the CD on manhood, the CD by Stu Weber. Our folks will know what you're talking about, and we'll be happy to send it out to you. It's our way of saying thanks for partnering with us and helping to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We appreciate you.
Now, tomorrow we want to talk about why there is such confusion today around what it means to be a man. Tom Fortson is going to be back with us tomorrow. I hope you can be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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