Guest speaker Tony Beliz shared shocking statistics about pornography addiction, including addiction among Christians
The Theology Department and the Department of Mental Health teamed up to co-sponsor a mental health seminar about pornography addiction. This event was hosted at Azusa Pacific University Thursday, Oct. 19 in the Upper Turner Campus Center.
The other sponsors for this seminar were the Practical Theology Department and the Azusa Pacific Seminary. The host for the event was Dr. Bobby Duke with guest speaker Tony Beliz, Ph.D.
Beliz is a clinical and forensic psychologist with over 30 years of experience assessing men and women seeking to enter religious life, evaluating and treating ordained men and women with life crises and other problems.
Beliz is an instructor at the University of Southern California. He attended Loyola Marymount, the University of Southern California, the Wright Institute of Los Angeles and did his internship at Harvard Medical School in the department of psychology and psychiatry.
Beliz had a thorough slideshow presentation for the guests in attendance for his lecture about the pornography addiction crisis. He started the presentation by sharing famous examples of people who have committed crimes involving sex including Jerry Sandusky, Dennis Hastert, Marcial Marciel and others.
Beliz made several points about how this issue needs to be discussed and is not an easy burden to leave behind.
“You’re just out of balance. Something in your life is triggering these behaviors. Don’t get caught up with shame and guilt because that’s a part of the process,” Beliz said. “Think about something is going on in my life. I’ve got to start looking because it is preventable. Demons refer to inner things in your life, the monkey on your back.”
Beliz said that this was an informative seminar and to look at both sides of the issue.
“We are going to talk about this with your minds open. If you’re somebody that adamantly hates pornography, that’s okay, but learn the other side. Because there are two sides to every tortilla and you need to know the other side so you’re not vulnerable,” Beliz said. “If you’re pro life, for example, take the time to learn everything about the pro choice. Don’t be ignorant. Don’t be arrogant. People don’t lead when they are like that. Be balanced because then you are better able to help people.”
On the PowerPoint slide for “Pros,” it listed: healthy ways to explore sexuality as sex therapy or to promote intimacy, and that it was a harmless way to meet human sexual desires.
On the PowerPoint slide for “Cons,” it listed: root of all evil, improve or harm marriages, educate or desensitize minors, promotes human sexuality or exploitation, and feminism or victimization.
“Do not put a computer and a TV in your kid’s room because you don’t want them to be isolated,” Beliz said.
Beliz had a PowerPoint slide about pornography data which read, “60 million people annually visit porn sites and 8.5 percent of porn viewers become addicted.” This means that annually, 5.1 million people become addicted to viewing pornography. It also revealed that there are 15 billion pages of adult content on the internet.
“Porn has easy access, it is anonymous, free and it is private,” Beliz said. He also mentioned the issues and negatives from porn.
Some of the issues with pornography were: “not reality based, objectifies women, distorts sexuality and erodes relationships.” The negatives included how “child porn is the fastest growing online business, and that it increased marital infidelity by 300 percent.”
“I had a desire to help people and was really intrigued about why people do what they do,” Beliz said.
One of the special guests in attendance was Dr. Barbara Dickerson, a mental health liaison and Congresswoman Grace Napolitano of the 32nd District in California.
Dickerson said the congresswoman became involved with this issue over 40 years ago when she served as mayor and mental health and wellness became her passion.
“This exceeded our expectations. She [Napolitano] started this conversation over a year ago with just a very small group of faith leaders in district 32,” Dickerson said. “To see the attendance today and to watch people as they were hearing information, it was more than we could imagine.”
Beliz shared an important comparison PowerPoint slide that showed the unique monthly visitors on big websites.
The unique monthly visitors included: “Netflix with 46 million, Amazon with 110 million, Twitter with 160 million, all porn with 450 million and YouTube with 800 million.”
“For me, as a therapist, it’s not about therapy. For you as ministers, you should realize it’s not about prayer. Prayer only helps so much. It’s what you add to the mix that helps people get better. ‘Cause I’ll tell you right now, you can’t offer it up to God, can’t pray it away. It’s not [going to] happen,” Beliz said. “You can’t give someone a book and say ‘read this and you will get better.’ It’s the process. Different people in different moments in their lives turn to things and the real question is not the behavior but the dynamics. Why? Why now? But they are never going to get there unless you open up that door.”
Beliz entitled another slide “Porn and the Faithful.” It revealed that “76 percent of 18-24 year old Christian young adults looked at porn, 62 percent of Christian teens receive nude images, 40 percent have sent nude images and 33 percent of 13-24 year old Christian females view porn regularly.”
Another slide read “57 percent of pastors struggle with porn, five percent were addicted, 64 percent of youth pastors struggle with porn and 12 percent [of youth pastors] were addicted.”
“The easy access is not going away. It’s probably just going to become easier,” said Dr. Bobby Duke. “I think one of the biggest difficulties is those honest conversations between clergy and their parishioners, between people in churches, between friends to say ‘how can we support each other knowing that it’s right there?'”
Duke said he hopes people take this seminar as space and partnership with the Department of Mental Health to have these conversations in a third space, to bring up these difficult topics in your community to make sure everyone is healthy.
“[I learned] the importance of reminding those in the field of helping others to do self care. That was the important piece,” Dickerson said. “[Napolitano] hosts quarterly conversations with mental health providers but the thing that struck me today was they also need to take care of themselves because they can’t take care of anybody else if they don’t take care of themselves. That was my biggest takeaway.”