Yes, another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and hopefully you’re done digesting the turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed taters, cranberry sauce, beans with bacon (BACON!), gravy, apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, & wide variety of liquids you consumed. I want to reflect a little bit on this reality we call Thanksgiving and connect it to some deeper realities of life.
Historically, the first settlers of America came from Europe in search of religious freedom. The Patuxet Tribe, led by Squanto, befriended the settlers and helped them survive their brutal first winter. After having a very successful harvest, the 50 or so Pilgrims shared their gifts with 90 Native Americans in gratitude for have such plentitude in abundance of what nature’s Creator had provided for them.
This feast Americans celebrate every 4th Thursday in November is a remembrance of that first event is not just about food; it’s to be a further expression of the abundance that we have been given by God. Thanksgiving is about recalling all aspects of our life, recognizing that everything that is given, what we’ve done, or what has been done for/to us, is a gift (even the tragedies have silver linings if we have the eyes to see it). From this copiousness of gifts we are to share with others and do so from a grateful heart. Thanksgiving was never meant to be one day – it should be lived everyday, at every moment of our lives.
I write the above as context for this post. Some years ago, onlineschools.org created a graphic (seen below) with some solid stats about internet pornography.1 While the info is most likely outdated, the general truth behind it stands: porn is a problem. It’s wreaking havoc on all aspects of life, and the porn epidemic has not improved, but gotten exponentially worse.2
What’s fascinating is the last graphic, which states that “The least popular day of the year for viewing pornography is thanksgiving,” and “The most popular day of the week for viewing porn is Sunday.”
Why is this? I think it has everything to do with the nature of the two days.
Regarding Thanksgiving, when we are grateful, it is psychologically impossible to be what I call B.L.H.A.S.T.T.ed3 – Bored, Lonely, Hungry, Angry, Stressed, Tired, Turned On. Are these not the main driving factors of why people seek satisfaction in pornography in the first place?
There are a ton of health benefits4 for living from an attitude of gratitude, from improving mental & physical health to increasing our self-esteem. Most importantly, it can open doors to more relationships, which is exactly what those who seek out pornography are looking for in the first place. They’re trying to seek out a genuinely human need in a way that will never satisfy.
As for Sunday, why is this day of the week reportedly the highest amount of porn use? I think it boils down to 3 reasons:
First, on a practical level, it’s the day before most people have to go back to work. The tensions of the week are beginning to creep up. There’s “nothing to do.” And through the years of being programmed to respond to such stimulus – or lack there of – the person feels impelled to wade into the septic tank of pornography.
Second, because of the splintering of marriage and family life, many of us are incredibly isolated and lonely. It is our father and mother who were supposed to provide for us nurturing and care, as well as help us to develop the ability to express our emotions in a healthy way. Everyone longs to be accepted by those who brought them into this world and to grow up in a home where they can be who they were created to be by God.
When our biological parents are absent physically and/or emotionally during our formative years, there is a tendency to be stunted emotionally. This is certainly manifested in many ways, but most especially in the way we relate to others. The programmed lie that we may begin to believe to be true is that “I am not worthy of love.” Because of the rejection and hurt, walls are built to keep us from forming bonds of communion with others.
Because we are designed to receive and give love, when we don’t find the real deal, we will often sell out for the counterfeits. Porn is one of those counterfeits. Instead of spending our Sundays with our families truly recreating, we choose to be absorbed in a technological jungle that can snare our soul. Instead of being surrounded by real persons where we have the opportunity to establish genuine relationships with those we can share the whole of our lives with, we may choose the many airbrushed and surgically altered bodies who don’t fill us with gratitude, but instead steal our joy.
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.”
– Blessed Mother Theresa
Third, and most importantly, Sunday is not treated as sacred anymore. Most fill the last day of the weekend with all kinds of noise – shopping, sporting events, empty entertainment, everything but the One that can satisfy the craving for connection. All of this stuff has suffocated our ability to be aware of the transcendent nature of reality, that which speaks to the core of who we are.
Sure, we may go to church, but for many of us it‘s not really the launching point for the week. Instead, just having our butt in the pew for maybe 45 minutes is treated as obligation that must be checked off a list to be seen by others as a “good Christian.” Besides, the game’s on soon, and we need to tailgate beforehand.
At root, too few Christians do not have a living, breathing relationship with Jesus Christ. They simply don’t know Him as the One who knows everything about them and Who wants to be involved deeply with every specific detail of a person’s life. What’s worse, in the Catholic Church, nearly 70% of self-identified Catholics don’t actually believe that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity, Real Presence of God Incarnate.5 70%! This is truly significant, and I think it may shed light on the fact that porn use amongst Catholic males is at the same rate as the general population.
The Solution to being B.L.H.A.S.T.T.ed.
This leads us to three very bare, bold truths. First, the Source and the Summit of the Catholic Faith is the Eucharist. Eucharist literally means “Thanksgiving.”
Second, God is Intimacy and it is Intimacy that we crave, a craving that leaves us vulnerable to every image of pornography that we come in contact with.
Third, it is impossible to be filled, to achieve communion, if we don’t believe that the Lord of Heaven and Earth is willing to come down and reside within and through us, if we will only let Him. The King of Reality gives us these transcendent truths to be practical and applicable in the lives of those who seek Him in every place and time.
So, how do we apply these transcendent truths? Two simple things we need to do:
First, we need to partake fully in the Mystery of the Eucharist. Mind. Heart. Body. Soul.
Second, we need to reflect that Thanksgiving, that Communion, that Eucharist in our lives by thanking God for every day, every hour; every time we experience temptations and every time we experience blessings.
These two simple tasks will increase our touches with Intimacy Himself and give us the fulfillment of our deepest craving that no earthly thing can supply. By coming to rediscover this ever ancient, ever new gift, Love Incarnate will satisfy our every desire.
What are you grateful for? Leave your comments below.
1Jason Chen, “Finally Some Actual Stats on Internet Porn,” http://gizmodo.com/5552899/finally-some-actual-stats-on-internet-porn, June 1, 2010 [Date Accessed: November 27, 2015].
2 For a recent discussion on this, see: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/pornography/upload/Create-in-Me-a-Clean-Heart-Statement-on-Pornography.pdf, November 2015, [Date Accessed: November 27, 2015].
3Adapted from a list provided by Mark Kastlemann in The Drug of the New Millennium.
4Amy Morin, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round,” http://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/, November 23, 2014 [Date Accessed: November 27, 2015].
5Rev. Kenneth Doyle, “I don’t believe the Eucharist is the body of Christ. Am I going to hell?” http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/02/23/i-dont-believe-the-eucharist-is-the-body-of-christ-am-i-going-to-hell/, February 23, 2015 [Date Accessed November 27, 2015].
Steve Pokorny is the founder of Freedom Coaching, a one-on-one mentoring program designed to break the power of an attraction to lust and pornography. After 12 years of being enslaved, Steve has been granted the grace of freedom and offers a path for others to have their chains broken. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.