Christian Psychologists: Internet Sex Addiction a 'Global Epidemic'

Two Christian psychologists who have advised a number of churches and community groups on the sex-related problems that plague society have released a book that chronicles the problem of addiction to Internet pornography among Christians, including pastors, and describes problems that this type of addiction can create.

Behind Closed Doors, written by Drs. Robert. J. Baird and Ronald Vanderbeck, also provides solutions for how people can break the cycle of addiction.

"We see this as a global epidemic that is not going to go away," says Baird. "We are trying to rally the faith community across denominational lines to work together and combat this dark side of things with useful and real information."

According to Baird, more than thirty-five percent of the Protestant pastors he was able to include in a study for his Ph.D. thesis said they have used Internet pornography.

Other surveys have yielded similar results, including a 2002 survey by, which revealed that 54 percent of pastors said they viewed porn within the past year, and a 2000 survey by Christianity Today, which found that 37 percent of pastors said pornography is a "current struggle" of theirs.

"They (pastors) are not immune and are particularly at risk, since they often work on their computers and are unaccountable for their time," notes Baird who based Behind Closed Doors on the real stories that he and Vanderbeck have come across in their counseling session.

Both Baird and Vanderbeck frequently do consulting work and offer advice to the courts, social service agencies, churches, and community organizations that are seeking solutions to the sexual difficulties that plague so many people in today's society.

In each chapter of Behind Closed Doors, a story of a real situation that someone faced is presented followed by an analysis of the situation and biblical references that can inspire hope.

The authors also give advice, arising from their own experience and knowledge, and offer strategies on how a person can "renew and restore a healthy, Christian sexuality," according to the book.

"We decided four or five years ago that we needed to bring awareness of this problem to the faith community," says Vanderbeck.

"The Christian family is especially vulnerable," he adds. "Often out of a strong sense of shame, parents aren't willing or able to talk openly and lovingly and in a kind way about this problem to their children. Partly what we are doing is trying to open up a dialogue between parents and children."

Topics addressed include the temptations of Internet pornography, confronting one's sexual addiction, and repenting from it. It also looks at the problem of Internet chat rooms, the destructive cycle of sexual abuse, and how to protect children from Internet sexual predators.

"We live in a highly sexualized culture and are conditioned to believe that sexual potency should be a primary function of our lifestyle," says Vanderbeck. "Sex on the Internet is like a drug. It is a very seductive process and people can become enslaved by it."

"We believe that the Christian community should obtain all of the necessary information in order that it can fight back against this and learn to talk about it in a healthy way," adds Baird.

Faith Alive, the publishing agency of the Christian Reformed Church and Reformed Church in America, is working with the authors to try to develop other materials that can be used in conjunction with the book, such as study guides and videos.

Another new book from Faith Alive, Preventing Child Abuse: Creating a Safe Place by Beth Swagman, director of the CRC's Safe Church Office, also addresses some of the topics in Behind Closed Doors. Swagman's book is especially geared to help churches and nonprofit organizations through the process of designing and implementing the policies and procedures they need to keep children safe.