Recently, I explained the idea behind Covenant Eyes accountability software. The response I received was “That’s creepy.”
This is a typical response. The idea of a detailed Internet-usage report being sent to designated accountability partners sounds like a subplot from 1984. Big Brother is watching you.
What benefit does accountability of this type have? Why would anyone endorse* such a program.
What is Accountability?
Accountability is the obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions. Nearly every organization, political machine, and social group has at least an informal code of accountability. In each new social setting, we take on commitments and from those commitments there are expected outcomes; accountability is the obligation to demonstrate one’s performance in light of those expectations. When we firmly adhere to expectations, this is called building integrity.
Covenant Eyes is a simple software tool that helps to establish Internet integrity. It keeps us accountable to what we view and hear from the World Wide Web.
Temptation and Power of Hidden Sin
The average Covenant Eyes software user is also concerned about more than just establishing a flawless Internet surfing record to get kudos from others. These users are concerned about the issue of temptation. The statistics speak for themselves:
- 25% of all search engine requests are pornography related.
- 70% of 18 to 24 year old men visit pornographic sites in a typical month. 66% of men in their 20s and 30s also report being regular users of pornography.
- 34% of churchgoing women said they have intentionally visited porn websites online.
- The No. 1 search term used on search engine sites is “sex” (more than “games,” “travel,” “music,” “jokes,” “cars,” “weather,” “health,” and “jobs” combined). “Pornography/porno” was the fourth-most searched for subject.
- 72 million Internet users visit pornography web sites per year.
- 2.5 billion emails per day are pornographic.
- The most common ways people have accidentally reached pornographic content on the Web are pop-up windows (55%), misrepresented links (52%), misspelled URLs (48%), and auto links within emails (23%).
- 15% of online porn habits develop sexual behavior that disrupts their lives.
- The adult industry was a $13.3 billion business in 2006. The Internet accounted for US $2.84 billion of that (21%).
- Roger Charman of Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Ministries reports that approximately 20% of the calls received on their Pastoral Care Line are for help with issues such as pornography and compulsive sexual behavior.
- 38% of adults believe it is ‘morally acceptable’ to look at pictures of nudity or explicit sexual behavior.
- For every 10 men in church, 5 are struggling with pornography.
- Median age for the first use of pornography: boys: 11-13 girls: 12-14.
- According to pastors, the 8 top sexual issues damaging to their congregation are: 57% pornography addiction, 34% sexually active never-married adults, 30% adultery of married adults, 28% sexually active teenagers, 16% sexual dissatisfaction, 14% unwed pregnancy, 13% sexually active previously married adults, and 9% sexual abuse.
Temptation is everywhere. Pornographic material is more accessible now than ever before. No need to walk into a seedy little shop on the edge of town or find the back room of the video rental store. Pornography is a click away.
So where does accountability come into the picture? How does becoming accountable aid in the area of temptation?
The preoccupation that we are able to hide our sin makes it all the more powerful. An insightful post on healthymind.com talks about the three A’s of internet pornography: anonymity, affordability, and availability. Monitoring software, it states, is “designed to prevent internet surfing from being done ‘privately’ without someone else knowing what is being viewed.” Covenant Eyes is one such program. It removes the first A: anonymity.
So, how does an accountability report help the tempted? Is it just a tool for those who want ridicule from others for their weaknesses? Is it just a way for Big Brother to slap a line-item guilt trip on those caught in sin? Certainly it could be used this way (and likely has for some).
There is, however, a powerful connection between our willingness to have our sins brought out into the light and our willingness to be changed. In our hearts, openness and transparency are linked to the desire to obey and the acknowledgment of our weaknesses. Those who are unwilling to speak candidly about the temptations that hit them day after day (especially the temptations they give in to) are more likely to lower their standard of purity. Sin only gains more power when shrouded in darkness and hidden in corners.
The root of many self-gratifying sins is the tendency to self-centeredness. This is why the process of growth and discipleship is often referred to as a death to self in Scripture. Self-centered pride leads to other sins besides sexual impurity: it can lead to a haughty, unapproachable, unsubmissive spirit in many areas of life. Seeking accountability often reflects not just a desire to turn from sexual sin, but a desire to turn from the prideful root of that sin. As Christians, we are growing into the likeness of Jesus. The fertile soil of this growth is humility, a willingness to say “nothing in my hand I bring, only to the cross I cling.”
The Beloved Disciple once wrote, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:6-7,9 NASB). Light means exposure: it reveals what’s really there. As we drag our sins into the light of confession, there we find the presence of Christ to embrace us, the body of Christ to instruct and comfort us, and the blood of Christ to wash us of sin’s gripping power and guilt.
* Covenant Eyes is recommended or endorsed by a number of organizations: The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families (NCPCF), Focus on The Family, Promise Keepers, Young Life, Navigators, Faithful and True Ministries (Dr. Mark Laaser), Wycliffe Bible Translators, Precept Ministries International (and founder Kay Arthur), Assemblies of God denomination, The National Coalition for Purity (NCP), Dallas Theological Seminary, Christ for the Nations Bible College.