“Both statistically and anecdotally, there might not be anything more undermining to the freedom that Christ longs for us to walk in than the isolating shame of sexual brokenness,” Northwestern chaplain Mark DeYounge said.
Each semester, chapel chooses a focus theme. Some themes in the past have been politics, unity and justice. This spring’s chapel theme of pornography and sexual violence is a tough, conversation. It has also been a conversation on DeYounge’s heart for over a decade.
The pornography industry, which has been steadily growing since the beginning of the internet, not only affects every person with access to the internet but also the sex-trafficking industry that is fueled by the pornography industry.
As of 2017, the pornography industry has an annual revenue of over $97 billion.
DeYounge felt a strong conviction to dive into preaching a series on the topic of pornography that invites small group accountability that could lead to the freedom of individuals from their addictions. To prepare, he prayed, studied statistics, read quite a few books, focused on scriptural context and invited guest speakers to help support his preaching.
One of the speakers that has spoken so far is Dr. John D. Foubert. Foubert is the president of One in Four, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of sexual violence. He is the first of many educated speakers to come.
“Dr. John Foubert did a great job highlighting the seriousness of this issue. I appreciated his ability to handle such a difficult topic,” Isaiah Lee, Campus Ministry Team member, said.
By bringing in intelligent and informed speakers, DeYounge hopes to encourage students toward the truth of Christ: “to shame-free, Christ-exalting, authentic conversations where we believe God wants to write the gospel in the most vulnerable place of our brokenness.”
The authentic conversations he wishes for campus need to be handled with care. Some first steps are to reach out to an RA or a roommate with the knowledge that this conversation will take vulnerability. For those on the receiving end of this conversation, DeYounge encourages prayer and listening ears that are committed to affirming the other in their vulnerability.
“Jesus didn’t die for a more ‘cleaned-up’ version of you, He loved you as you are right now, and he loves you too much to not invite you to more fullness, freedom and healing,” DeYounge said.
Students around campus have already seen positive feedback from this chapel series. Lee has had conversations in his dorm and around the Hospers cafeteria table. Lydia Pearson, a Stegenga Hall RA, has had several conversations with friends. Ryan Sjaarda, a Campus Ministry Team member has also seen positive conversations happen but has also heard some push-back from other students. Because it is a delicate topic that intimately engages those involved, it is common to see both progress and push-back.
“This is something that our parents and the church have not talked to us about enough, so I’m glad that we are being told about this from an institution that holds Christian values,” Sjaarda said.
“Before it used to be a conversation behind closed doors or not at all,” Lee said. “Now, it seems that more people are asking questions in public spaces.”
The series hopes to continue in its course with upcoming NED talks shaped around disembodiment and shame in the first two weeks of February. It is DeYounge’s hope that students can see past their shame to fullness in Christ.
“Although we are all sexually broken people, Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save it, to redeem it, to heal it, including my sexuality and yours,” DeYounge said. “Our healing is our wholeness and our wholeness is our freedom.”