Luke Gilkerson and his wife Trisha are the primary authors of IntoxicatedOnLife.com. Luke recently worked as the Educational Resource Manager at Covenant Eyes, a company dedicated to protecting eyes and minds from harmful sexual content online. Luke has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary. He is the author of several family Bible studies, including The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality.
T4L: Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview with Theology for Life Magazine, Luke. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and the current ministries you are involved in?
Luke Gilkerson: My wife and I primarily write books for Christian parents—and one of the most important areas we write about is sex education. On our blog, intoxicatedonlife.com, we dialogue with moms and dads every week about this and many other parenting subjects. We are always aiming address things from both a biblical and research-oriented perspective.
T4L: So, what areas of opportunity do you see in the current purity movement?
Luke Gilkerson: I assume “areas of opportunity” is a nice way of saying “ways in which the purity movement has done a bad job in the past and has room to improve.”
While the word “purity” is a biblical word—and thus a perfectly acceptable word to use—defining a whole movement around the term has certain weaknesses. “Purity” stresses the absence of something—the absence of some kind of impurity, separation from something that taints us. This represents only part of the biblical narrative of what holiness is and only part of Christian sexual ethics.
I would much prefer our conversations about sex to major on positive terms, stressing both the goodness of sex and the power of sex. In our modern, ethically liberal culture, only the goodness of sex is stressed, but its power is downplayed—sex is good anytime, anywhere, with anyone, but its power to unite and bond two people together (and create life) is largely ignored.
In more traditional, conservative circles, the power of sex is stressed while its goodness is downplayed—sex is treated like a nuclear reactor that needs to be kept in an airtight steel cage.
But when we stress both its goodness and power, we can present a well-rounded and biblical sexual ethic to the next generation. We can tell children and teens, “The reason God places limits on the whos and whens of our sexuality is because it is so good and so powerful.”
T4L: What role should parents take in protecting their children from pornography?
Luke Gilkerson: A parent’s role cannot be understated. Parents are the gatekeepers of the home, and one of the big gateways is digital media of all types. More than 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls see porn before their 18th birthday. Porn is no longer the exception. It is norm.
Parents should do everything they can to limit exposure to pornography. This includes, at a minimum, good Internet filtering technology and parental controls, but should also include good monitoring and accountability services. Parents should know the websites and apps their children use so they can catch small problems before they become big ones. Parents should always operate with this rule: we will not allow in the home what we do not monitor.
T4L: So, how can parents teach their kids about the dangers of pornography and promote purity?
Luke Gilkerson: Parents should have open and honest dialogue with their kids about sexuality and pornography. This can start even from a young age. Parents often have the mistaken idea that talking about sexual topics will rob their children of their “innocence.” Parents should understand, however, innocence is a function of attitude, not information.
When children are young and (hopefully) have not yet seen pornography, simply draw correlations to things your kids have seen—the billboard along the highway, the magazine cover at the grocery story, the big displays in windows at the mall. Tell your children, “There are a lot of images like this out in the world—some of them even worse than these, showing off even more of a person’s private parts.”
Tell children there are three major problems with porn: (1) Pornography is offends God; (2) Pornography hurts the people in it; (3) Pornography hurts the people who watch it.
First, tell your child the primary problem with pornography is that it offends God. It takes sex, something God invented, and it rips it away from where it is supposed to be, away from a husband and wife. It presents sex as something to be shared with anyone and everyone—not an act of love between married people. This makes God very sad to see people misusing his good gift this way.
Second, pornography hurts the people who are in it. Tell your child, the people who are in these photos and videos are people made in God’s image, and yet they are being treated like objects that can be bought and sold. The making of pornography involves real people, and these people are often treated very badly in the making of pornography.
Third, pornography hurts the people who watch it. It can be very addictive. It hurts our hearts and minds, which hurts the way we see others and the way we relate to other.
Of course, there’s a lot more that can be said about these topics, and as a child gets older, you can go deeper and deeper with these lessons, drawing more and more personal applications and tying in relevant Scriptures.
T4L: So, as someone who is actively engaged in the purity movement, how can pastors and ministry leaders minister to those facing an addiction or coming out of an addiction to pornography?
Luke Gilkerson: Whole books have been written on this. In fact, if you want a lengthier treatise on this, I wrote a mini-book for Covenant Eyes called Fight Porn in Your Church: What Works and Why It Matters. You can download it for free from their website.
A lot of this boils down to two essentials: safe place, safe process. Some churches have only one or the other. Other churches have neither. Few have both. Churches that have safe processes that leads addicts and their families through recovery—but they aren’t safe places to confess sins—will have a small porn recovery group filled only with men who “got caught” and now have everything to lose. No one else will come for help. Churches that are safe places to confess—but lack safe processes—will see many people at their altar calls and counseling offices, but no one will get the quality of help and community support they need.
T4L: And how do you think Pastors and ministry leader’s ministers equip parents to help their kids face the dangers of pornography and promote biblical purity within homes of their congregants?
Luke Gilkerson: The best thing you can do is pass along as many “scripts” for parents as possible. Most parents don’t want to “think on their feet” when it comes to talking about sex or porn. Most parents don’t know how to open up the Bible and use it to help them break the ice on these subjects. So pass along great pre-written scripts for parents to use, especially things they can use for family devotionals at home.
Pastors can write these themselves, or there are some excellent ones out there on the market already. When I wrote by book, The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality, my hope was that it was something pastors could give to the parents in their churches to spark these kinds of discussions. That’s just one example, of course, but I’m honored to see it helping so many parents.
T4L: Once again, thank-you so much for taking the time to let us interview you, Luke!