If you’ve been following us on Facebook or Twitter, then you may have seen this video of actor and comedian Russell Brand talking about porn. You probably have your own preconceived views of Brand, but whatever you make of what he says, you can’t deny that he talks about these issues openly and without fear.
What struck me about this clip from his daily YouTube show “The Trews” was how he talked about his own experiences with porn, remarking on how he had been obsessed with it as a teenager and also how he treated women as trophies. He was not afraid to be honest about how he has mistreated sex in the past for his own pleasure. He wasn’t afraid to be real.
Oh how we could do with more Russell Brands in the church!
I asked myself, how is he able to do this?
How can he be so forthright?
Is he not afraid of what people will say?
Then I realized something. Brand doesn’t fit neatly into the church, and his faith probably pushes on the boundaries of what many would consider normal. Still, I believe he has a deep spirituality that is connected to God and everything that Jesus stood for, even if he would not necessarily describe it always in those terms.
But although he may have his critics, he doesn’t have to fear the backlash or shame that openness can provoke in fellow Christians.
When we go to talk about these issues, a lot of times we are closed down or at the very least feel compelled to describe sex and porn in terms that don’t really scratch the surface of what’s going on. We’ll talk about all the ways it is considered sin, but we won’t have the important conversations which us allow us to connect deeply to our own sexuality and subsequently, with God.
Brand seems to dwell in a freedom that comes from not worrying what people think, and that allows him to live fully aware of his own demons and addictions. We can find hope and a fullness of life too, if we get on board with this same idea.
Here is how I think Brand does it and how we can join him: he acknowledges all parts of himself and the power they have to shape who he is. Even the ugly parts. And without the fear of being judged.
Let’s delve deeper into what this means.
At one point in the video, he describes how porn isn’t healthy and acknowledges that viewing porn prevents us from connecting with the world. I take this to mean with God and other people, and perhaps most commonly overlooked, ourselves.
Brand uses the word “dominion” when describing how we could just overcome porn by having dominion over ourselves. Rather than this being a seedy sort of BDSM idea, though, in this case it describes all the ways we piece together the good and wonderful parts of us that have been suppressed due to porn. Bringing to light all the pain we sweep aside because we are afraid of it.
When we repeatedly view porn we’re not just becoming disconnected from God but from ourselves.
When we are afraid of even talking about porn, then we are left stuck in a place where we can’t address much of the real pain that we carry that drives us further and further into porn’s dominion.
Anyone who has ever struggled with porn (or any addiction for that manner) will know this feeling all too well. The feeling of knowing this is the last thing that you want to be doing but never being able to stop. After the event, feeling shame and guilt and an awareness of the pain you live in. Of asking yourself, how did that just happen? Where did the time go? Why do I keep doing this to myself?
But this awareness of our pain is a gift. (Tweet This!)
Not because it shows us how much we need saved or forgiven, but because of this simple notion: if we can become more conscious of shame and guilt, perhaps it is possible to find freedom by becoming more conscious and aware of the possibilities that life offers, too.
Can we use this consciousness to become whole again rather than more and more isolated from ourselves?
When you engage in porn there are two versions of you at play. There is the “addiction has taken over, porn viewing” You and the “Spirit-filled, conscious, and connected to God and the world” You. Most of the time this Connected You gets suffocated and stifled by the Addicted You.
My friend Seth showed me a way of meditating which involved actively connecting these two parts again. I would take on the role of “The Watcher,” observing myself as I engaged with my triggers and then, when the time was right, stepping in to take control, comfort, and offer wisdom to the Addicted Me.
By taking on the role of the Spirit-filled “Watcher” and visualizing and verbally comforting and offering grace and love to the Addicted You, the part which comes from God’s Love is able to gently lead you back to where you were created to be the whole time.
It doesn’t simply shut up the addict in you, it redeems it.
By utilizing this practice, I began to learn how to connect the true side of me – the side that was always meant to be – to that side of me that takes over when porn starts shouting at me to feed it.
If this all sounds a little too out there or new age-y, I get it. It was completely strange to me also! But as I began to engage in this work, I realized there was so much I was unconscious of about myself and God. Sure, I may not have looked at porn in years, but in some ways I have only begun to scratch the surface of what freedom truly looks like. (Tweet This!)
It is time for us all to put aside the fear we have of talking about porn and sex and those parts we don’t like to bring with us to church on a Sunday morning. This fear is only holding us back and giving us an excuse to keep hiding behind shame and guilt.
So, I invite you to face every part of you – even the parts that terrify you – because that is where you will find the answers you may be seeking.
And it is there in the end, where shame and guilt are no match for Love. (Tweet This!)
For more discussion on porn and Fifty Shades of Grey (the movie that prompted Brand’s video) check out this week’s episode of Craig’s Car Ride below or get it on iTunes.
Paul Robinson is a writer who isn’t afraid to poke some of the boxes of church culture especially in the areas of sexuality, creativity, satire and peace and reconciliation. He’s also spent the last several years blogging content for XXXchurch.com and acting as an X3group leader. Originally from Northern Ireland he now lives in Detroit with his wife Brittany managing to successfully switch to driving on the right side of the road but drawing the line at calling ‘football’, ‘soccer’. You can follow Paul on Twitter or his personal blog.