Culture

At 22, I fear about the dangers that my generation faces

Samuel Tan // October 5, 2019, 9:09 am

AT 20, I FEAR ABOUT THE DANGERS MY GENERATION FACES

I first fell for porn at 11 years old.

A few classmates started talking about it after we had sex education classes. Out of curiosity, I searched for it myself. Then I got hooked.

I stole a look at porn about once a week from Primary 5 to Primary 6. My conscience screamed within me, and I decided to discard my intimacy with God to satisfy my cravings. After every time I watched, I felt guilty, depressed and spiritually dry. And I tried to brush off the nagging feeling of losing God’s presence by watching again.

Those years were the worst. Because I let myself slip, my behaviour became terrible. I still regret destroying friendships and my reputation back then. All for porn. 

THE 3 DANGERS OF BEING DIGITAL NATIVES

1. Distortion of beauty

The pervasiveness of pornography has made it virtually impossible to escape from porn. Digital natives are savvy enough to access the dark web, and porn exists even in cartoon forms.

I also found out that some secondary school boys have class chat groups where nudity is forced down everyone’s throats, even for those who discipline their eyes. Guys are exchanging nudes with girls from other schools and circulating these posts in class chats too. 

In my own life, I decided to start afresh when I was in Secondary 1, but it was almost impossible. My sexual cravings just led me to search for porn again. Each time I fell for porn, I felt guilty and helpless. I prayed to God because I desperately wanted to get out of the addiction.

What are you hiding from God?

I really hated that I could not tell anyone about it. I was scared that my mum would ban my computer usage and cane me. I was afraid of being judged by my Sunday School teacher and being referred to pastors for prayer. That would have been too embarrassing for me.

I finally found the courage to confess my sin to my parents. And they prayed for me. I thank God that they understood. But even then, I was still addicted. Every time I wanted to search for porn, I prayed. Sometimes I overcame the temptation. Sometimes I didn’t.

I started getting serious about my relationship with God again. When I accepted Jesus into my life again, I was able to overcome the temptation. And I finally stopped watching porn.

But then came another problem. I started masturbating. I had stopped watching porn, but the images in my mind kept provoking my sexual desires in other ways. I fought against it, most fiercely before I sleep. 

“I promised God I would stop”: My struggle with sexual addiction

Nine years on, I still struggle with this temptation today. I still have to kill my sinful thoughts with prayer. I still fight this very lonely and shameful temptation. But I thank God that He has given me a spirit of self-control. 

Yet I recognise there are other problems our generation faces with the proliferation of digital technology.

2. Distraction from God

The disproportionately huge immoral and twisted content online causes a few challenges:

  1. The illusion that the rest of the world is godless pressures us to conform.
  2. The deluge of toxic ideas being fed into our minds drowns out holy thoughts.
  3. The deficiency of Christian material means we don’t have the language to speak about Christ on social media.

Crass and obscene social media accounts abound, but content that feed spiritual nourishment? Few and far between. 

Thir.st, The Bible Project, The Gospel Coalition and other digital platforms carve out a tiny but growing media space for godly content. I hope to see more of such initiatives.

My greatest fear is that our generation will reverse every seed of godliness sowed and nurtured over the past 200 years.

I also want to point out the lie of mobile devotions: Passive scrolling through devotions and Bible apps are no substitute for solitude and intimacy with God.

I know many who find it difficult to calm their hearts and focus on God when they are on their phones. They give a cursory glance at devotions and move on to other notifications.

As believers, how can we help each other to slow down and be still?

To connect with God, shut your phone and computer, and open your Bible (not the Bible app). It’s impossible to focus when multiple notifications, icons and tabs are beckoning you into distraction.

Consider the concept of a digital detox and rid yourself of your devices for one hour just to pray and read a physical copy of the Bible. To hear from God, I also read devotionals and books, and listen to worship songs. 

Should I fast from social media?

3. Disconnection from others

The problem is not so much that our generation is unable to connect face-to-face. We appreciate ambient presence, meaning that we never actually leave one another. Conversations never end. They just shift mediums.

Before meeting friends in person, the conversation has already long started on Instagram and WhatsApp. When we meet up, we just continue where we left off.

But to tackle the problems faced by our generation, we can’t do it alone. We need to connect deeply with others and build authentic relationships.

My suggestions are:

  • Begin with one or two friends that you can be vulnerable with.
  • Confess secret sins to each other (including masturbation).
  • Pray for one another.
  • Intentionally love one another.
  • Believe me, when you’re in that community, you will not use your phone. You will respect each other, and look at and comfort one another so much that it will violate your conscience to be distracted by your phone.

From that community, let that compassion spill over to other friends.

MY GREATEST FEAR

In 2 Kings 21, we read of a 12-year-old king called Manasseh. He reversed all the godliness instilled in the nation by his father, Hezekiah. He rebuilt all the altars dedicated to pagan gods, worshipped all the starry hosts, offered his own child to be burned to death and did so much evil.

And this was all it took for the entire nation to descend into oblivion and decadence. I want to emphasise that he was just a kid!

My greatest fear is that our generation will reverse every seed of godliness sowed and nurtured over the past 200 years by those who have come before us.

Singapore, we have a porn problem

So how do we stop the rise of more Manassehs? I believe the answer is in discipleship. 

We desperately lack a biblical worldview about friendship, romance and sex. The only things I remember being taught about these topics are the rules to follow: No vulgarities, no stealing, no punching, no sex before marriage and no cheating. 

But as a child, I enjoyed self-serving mischief, crude joking and porn. I did not understand the joy of being vulnerable, pure, loving and giving in my relationships. I hated Christian rules.

I had to discover the biblical worldview myself. If we can help each other better understand what is God’s design for friendship, romance and sex, the sacred value of love and the perfect unity of the Trinity, we will appreciate and enjoy obeying God’s laws.

MY VISION FOR ALL OF US

Despite all the challenges we face as digital natives, our generation has never been so equipped and blessed to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The barriers to evangelism have never been lower. 

We live and breathe the digital space. We are the generation that can exploit every opportunity for digital missions.

Be bold about your faith online. Make God viral!

The tools for spiritual maturity have never been more accessible. Sermons, ebooks, courses, websites, videos and social media can offer so much spiritual knowledge. We are the generation that can become more spiritually nourished than our parents.

Creating content has also become easy. Anyone with a social media account can influence for Christ. Anyone with a blog can write for Christ. We can bring the Good News to the whole world from our phones. That is how powerful we are.

Some of us have 10,000 followers on Instagram. That’s a 10,000-strong congregation. That’s like being a pastor of a megachurch!

Let’s be brave to share the God-dimension on social media, through our testimonies about struggles as well as our successes.

Be bold about your faith online. Make God viral! 


How do we follow and serve Christ in this new age? Is the Church ready for the future?

Join others to explore questions such as these at ChristianX 2019: The Church in a Digital World. Held from October 18-19, 2019 (Friday-Saturday), the event is co-organised by BGST, Bethesda (Katong) Church, CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology and Indigitous.

For more details on speakers and topics, visit the BGST website.

THINK + TALK

  1. What are some struggles you face with social media?
  2. How are you dealing with them?
  3. How are you sharing your faith online?
  4. How can the Church better engage and impact digital natives?