by Marc and Julie Anderson
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
Yet, there’s a certain type of picture that is a great source of harm and worry.
That is pornography.
According to some estimates, pornography is an industry of nearly $100 billion. That’s enough money to feed 4.8 billion people and more money than Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA combined make in a year.
In terms of monthly traffic, pornographic websites see more than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.
As a Catholic counselor and lead consultant for the archdiocese’s My House initiative, Sam Meier said he’s concerned about what pornography is doing to society — especially to children.
The archdiocese’s My House initiative’s threefold mission is designed to “help [people] protect their children and families from pornography; develop a deeper understanding of the beauty and sacredness of God’s gift of human sexuality; and experience freedom from the effects of pornography.”
Meier regularly interacts and communicates with religious leaders, educators, parents, clients and counselors. One such person is Amanda Khemraj, a member of St. Paul Parish in Olathe.
Protecting young minds
A few years ago, Khemraj attended a Valor & Virtue conference. It proved to be a life-changing experience.
There, she learned of a book written by Kristen A. Jenson and Gail Poyner called “Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.” The book is aimed at parents with 7- and 8-year-olds, and is distributed by Protect Young Minds, an organization seeking to empower and promote the protection of children from pornography and sexual exploitation.
Published in 2014, the book has become one of the top 100 best-selling parenting books. It is available in both English and Spanish.
Meier, as part of the My House initiative, originally began a campaign to distribute the book to parents of children in second grade at either Catholic schools or in parishes’ religious education programs. Nowadays, Meier turns to Khemraj for help.
“Kristen Jenson was looking for a Catholic representative for her book, and I thought that Amanda Khemraj would be a great candidate with her background in education and parish leadership,” said Meier.
After the conference, Meier helped connect Khemraj with the authors of “Good Pictures Bad Pictures.” Together, they wrote a contract permitting her to sell the book in bulk throughout Kansas and Missouri.
“Sadly, many parents just don’t realize the true addiction that we’re up against,” said Khemraj.
Khemraj and Meier compiled PowerPoint slides for Khemraj to use in presentations about the book to mothers’ groups, women’s organizations and parishes.
Young people today will be exposed to pornography at some point in their lives.
“Times are different. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when,” Khemraj said.
The trick is, she said, to equip kids with the tools they need to turn away from it.
Saving souls from permanent damage is not only a concern of parents and educators, but also of priests.
Father Brian Schieber, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel in Leawood, said his parish provided 125 copies of the book to the families of the second graders.
“Jesus wants us to be free, and sin leads to slavery,” said Father Schieber. “Sin isolates us and turns us inward.”
Discussing the physiological effects of pornography, Father Schieber said, “The brain of someone addicted to pornography works like someone who is addicted to drugs. This is doing real damage to people and their relationships.
“Nobody’s immune from the bombardment through media today.”
In addition to St. Michael the Archangel, the following archdiocesan parishes have provided the book to families of second graders: St. John Paul II in Olathe, Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, Sacred Heart in Shawnee, Prince of Peace in Olathe, Sacred Heart in Emporia and Sacred Heart in Ottawa.
Despite the damage being done, it’s important for Catholics to realize that even though sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.
Creating awareness of God’s plan for human love, Meier said, is essential to bringing truth into the world we live in.