I have to admit that it is not often that I stray outside of the Catholic world for reading on topics of spirituality and morality. But when I was offered the opportunity to review Covenant’s Eye’s new More than Single, Finding Purpose Beyond Porn, I made an exception. I read it because I’m passionate about educating people about the multifaceted dangers of pornography and I’m always on the lookout for more effective ways to communicate this important message.And, in fact, I was rewarded for taking the risk. The guide is written by young Protestant author Lisa Eldred who integrates the faith into her discussion of how to stay free of pornography as a single person. While at times it is clear that the author is not Catholic, the text for the most part is consistent with Catholic teaching on why pornography is immoral as well as the reasons why we should pursue the virtue of chastity.
It is precisely because the author does not use the same lingo many are accustomed to in Catholic works that I recommend giving this book a try; or passing it on to one’s older teens or young adults—perhaps in a study group setting. For seasoned Catholics, this book is a fresh approach that may just strike a chord with someone who is struggling with pornography use. While we have many rich resources, such as the Theology of the Body (which the author does quote), sometimes I find my eyes can glaze over text when I’m hearing the same tone or approach to an issue over and over again.
The tone is definitely geared towards young people. While relying on many eye-opening statistics on the effects of pornography as well as references to the faith, the guide also adopts a straight talking style that could jar someone who is indifferent about pornography to thinking about their own virtue a bit more clearly. “It’s not true”, the Guide states, “that we’re like cows, who get sick if they don’t get milked. Nobody has ever died of chronic virginity.”
The book, appropriately, does not mince words when it comes to the dangers of pornography—both for the user and for the creators. In one powerful section, the author reminds us that pornography is a symptom of deeper issues, not a core problem. She illustrates her point by relating a study done with rats. Rats who were isolated and lonely willingly drank heroin-laced water because they were unhappy; despite its ill effects, the rats turned to the drug-infested water to numb their pain.
Here, Eldred hits what I find to be the most essential value of the book: how to turn away from pornography. She addresses four main subject areas: “centering our lives on the Gospel; finding accountability; changing our emotions; and channeling our energy into productive projects.” I found these sections to read a bit like a self-help book…a self-help book that many people will find to be genuinely useful.
While practical actions are important—and she gives plenty of tips—Eldred emphasizes that these tools alone are not enough. She writes, “This is more about your heart and mind—filling your mind with things above, and training your thoughts to run to Jesus instead of porn when you’re stressed or tired or angry or lonely.”
Of course running to Jesus instead of pornography is easier said than done when things are rough and society touts pornography and other sexual sins as normal and even healthy. Among other recommendations, she suggests starting a dialogue with God daily, not just when one is faced with temptation. It is these habits—or virtues—that help fortify us against giving into the empty promises of pornography.
The book delves into the “hows” of turning away from pornography in a way that fulfills a desperate need for so many men and women. Many know that pornography leaves them feeling empty and ashamed, but for those for whom pornography is an addiction, leaving the behavior behind can seem like an insurmountable challenge.
Focusing on Covenant Eye’s main mission, Eldred focuses on the ways in which accountability will help those struggling for purity. She also lays out the steps to making accountability a stable part of one’s life. Through a combination of internet filtering and a flesh and blood accountability partner, people have a much higher success rate of turning away from this destructive and harmful behavior. Of course, as a Catholic I would add the infinitely valuable practice of regular Sacramental Confession, which is in itself also a form of accountability (to God) as well as a source of sacramental grace.
This book is a beacon for people—particularly single men and women who may be lonely and struggling—who need the tools and the grace to turn away from pornography. In the words of St. Paul, “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it” (Corinthians 10:13).
You can find More Than Single, Finding Purpose beyond Porn here.