The Bible and sex addiction

Occasioned by two comments he left on my blog, we last time discussed Chad Holtz’s recent return from Pure Life Ministries, where he had gone to live for seven months in order to be healed from his sexual addiction.

I find there are just a couple of things I want to say on this matter before it gets eclipsed by the Next Blog Post.

Firstly, all I personally need to know about Pure Life Ministries is found in this statement on their website:

We do not collect statistical data pertaining to the success rate of participants [in our live-in program]. However, based on Philippians 1:6, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it,” we believe that the success rate is extremely high for the graduates of our program who are sincere.

There can only be one reason for PLM to maintain silence on the critical issue of how their graduates do once they’ve left their live-in program. It’s not like they haven’t the means to collect such data; they surely have all the contact information of their program participants. And if PLM did have a good after-program success rate, you can be certain they would crow about it—and deservedly so.

But they keep mum on that point. (Though not before making the reprehensible point that the failure of any graduate to on their own maintain the “pure life” can only be due to the moral failing—the insincerity—of that graduate.) That ringing silence means they know such data would discredit them. You can bet they’d use it otherwise. There’s only one reason for a kid to hide his report card.

And of course Pure Life fails in its mission. They’re no more prepared to heal sexual addiction than I am to perform open-heart surgery.

The three head counselors at PLM got their “Masters of Ministry in Biblical Counseling” from Master’s International School of Divinity. MISD is a “distance education school,” meaning it’s online only. (“At Master’s, you can drive to school via your computer. Your ministry education is only a keystroke away!”) And if you’re doubting MISD’s academic integrity, you’ll stop upon learning that one of its four “Academic Partnerships” is with the Institute for Creation Research. (“Biblical. Accurate. Certain.” is ICR’s motto.)

And gosh, look at that: not only did Pure Life’s President and Board Director, Director of Women’s Counseling, and Director of Men’s Counseling get their Master’s in Biblical Counseling from Master’s International School of Divinity, but so did PLM’s Founder and Chairman of the Board, Steve Gallagher.

What a coincidence!

It is, at least, until you learn that Steve Gallagher is on the faculty of the Master’s International School of Divinity.

And it doesn’t get better from there. The only qualifications of the Pure Life counselors assigned to each of the male live-in clients is that they themselves are graduates of the live-in program, and are “trained in biblical counseling.”

The only reason Pure Life “works” at all is because they’re selling what their customers have already bought. Their clients arrive toting the answer to their own problem. They already believe in Christ. They already think they’ve sinned against God. They already think Jesus is the answer to all their problems. They already think the Bible is the “supreme and all-sufficient Truth for overcoming sin.” What they desire is to hear, over and over again, in lots of different ways, what they already believe—while simultaneously hearing nothing else at all.

You spend twenty-four hours a day, for seven to nine months, having what you already believe constantly fed back to you? Then, yeah, afterwards that will be the only thing left in your mind and heart. You’ll be like a new car filled with that new car smell. And that smell is great! It’s wonderful! It fills the entire vehicle!

But then, inevitably, you start driving that car. And one day follow the next. And slowly but surely that new car smell fades. And then you’ve got yourself just a regular, everyday car.

Secondly, The Bible isn’t all you need to heal from sexual addiction (whatever “sexual addiction” actually means.) It can’t be. Expecting the Bible to be sufficient for curing sexual addiction is like expecting water to be sufficient for curing starvation. It doesn’t work that way. It’s not that easy. If it were, as a class Christians would be markedly more moral than any other group. But we’re not. We’re just people, struggling with the same things all people do.

The person compelled to act out in sexually inappropriate ways suffers from a psychological dysfunction. Literally or figuratively someone deep in their past (and we’re looking at you, Mom and/or Dad) royally screwed them. And thus did some of their wiring get scrambled. Some mechanism for self-negation got embedded within them that, as adults, they are compelled to try to exorcise through what ends up being inappropriate sexual behavior.

They’re trying to fix something that got broken. They’re trying to secure something primal that was denied to them.

They’re revisiting the scene of the crime, basically.

And that’s their problem. It’s unique to them. It has to do with their past, their parents, the way they were raised. It’s about all the intense, personal, intricate and exceptionally complex dynamics that informed their life. The Bible can’t address that. It has no apparatus for dealing with that. That’s not what the Bible is for.

God can give you the tools, but the work left to be done must be done by you alone. We all have to take out our own garbage. No one gets around that. No one gets to be the exception to that. No one has a different set of rules they get to play by. We’re all the same. We all have to deal with all the stuff in our past that someone responsible for us got terribly wrong, and which thereby became our unwieldy personal baggage.

Chad may, in fact, be delivered of his sexual addiction. We all hope that he is. But only those with working time machines can say whether he is. Right now all we know for sure is that when he left he didn’t believe in hell, and now he does; that he’s back with his wife and kids (yay!); and that five or so hours after I yesterday responded to his comment on my site he and his wife launched, via a blog apparently hastily thrown together, a new ministry of theirs founded upon their conviction that God wants them to share, for the benefit of others, the story of their victory over sexual addiction.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheHereticalWay The Heretical Way via Facebook

    Personally, I thought it was God and the addict working together, rather than a book.

  • Bruce Shaw via Facebook

    I liked the section where they think the solution is to immerse themselves in the echo chamber they’re already in. Got sucked into that once – lasted about a week.

  • mike

    Sexual addiction in the context of fundamentalism.

    I think I see another possible cause besides “my parents messed me up”. Maybe “I am a healthy sexual being surrounded by control freaks”?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Well, that’s why I was careful to qualify the sort of thing we’re talking about via “compelled to act out in sexually inappropriate ways.” (And to include the “[whatever that means].”)

    • InaCat

      I was sitting here thinking how many different things could be interpreted as ‘sexual addiction’ by fundamentalists who were also in it for the money…

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        It’s very often defined as habitually or routinely or whatever watching porn—which the (fundamentalist-type) wife feels is a betrayal of her trust and the will of God. And from there, of course, it moved downward into all kinds of behavior destructive to all involved.

        • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

          It’s interesting that you mention that, because my gut feeling when I read your first article about Chad was, “he and his wife are incompatible and they both need to realize it and move on”.

          Is it still sexual addiction if one who likes to have a lot of sex with a lot of different people gets together with a bunch of people who like the same thing?

          I’m not making a judgement call one way or another, because I don’t know how torn apart Chad’s life has become because of this potential problem. But I do believe that a talented and neutral therapist could certainly help him.

        • Allie

          My mother has a friend who divorced her husband because she found out he had a subscription to a porn site. He was (at least according to the wife) otherwise devoted to her and his children, a good provider, and a pleasant person. She considered the porn exactly the same as if he had an affair, and my mother told me the story as an “aren’t men evil?” story and was shocked when I said I thought her friend was a fool for making a huge deal out of her husband being normal.

          Partly this is a generational thing, but I also know people of my own generation and even teenagers who think masturbation is evil. They usually say that masturbation is forbidden in the Bible, and when pressed to say how, often they can mention the name of Onan. Whereupon I tell them to go and read the story, which is about a man refusing to give his brother’s widow a son according to Hebrew tradition by using coitus interruptus. It’s about refusing to care for his brother’s family, presumably because he wants to inherit his brother’s property himself. Even if you reduce it to a story about sex, if anything, it forbids pulling out, not masturbating. Which ironically is one of the few forms of birth control considered acceptable by some of their fundamental churches.

          • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

            While criticizing the use of condoms as unreliable!!!!!!!!!! So a man’s sense of timing in the throes of sexual near climax is acceptable but condoms are unreliable.

            One looks on in wonder.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

    It is quite possible that desperation drives people to places like this, thinking they have no other option.

    I don’t buy the concept that the bible offers the answers to all of life’s problems either, and I seriously wonder if the people who compiled what we ended up with had that in mind themselves. Life it just too complex with too many unknowns for that. Besides if the bible had all the answers for us, then why on earth would we need faith?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      a good way of saying it, sd.

  • Bob

    Sex Addicts Anonymous treats sexual addiction as a disease, much like alcoholism, while emphasizing that the disease can be treated (not cured) with the help of a “higher power, whom some choose to call God.” http://saa-recovery.org/

    • Ray Odiorne

      Alas, most clinicians do not accept “sexual addiction” as a valid diagnosis. Too often this behavior has been linked with a conservative (not to say “puritanical”) perspective. Yes, there are people who get caught up in obsessive-compulsive behavior. but these don’t fit the rubrics of “addiction.” But many times people who have found a new way to see the world (being saved, for instance), have old issues that weren’t instantly resolved. So they act out in compulsive ways, whether that be internet porn or playing around sexually. Still, not an addiction.

      • Larry

        “sexually complusive behaviors” would be fair then?

    • http://www.godpots.com Susan Phillips

      Twelve step programs are not treatment.

      They are support groups.

      Addicts need both.

    • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

      I know what the “13th step” is for AA members, but what’s the “13th step” for SAA members? Getting drunk?

    • Elizabeth

      Bob, I have a big problem with “Whatever Anonymous” being the de facto choice for self-help in America. You must claim allegiance to a Higher Power and confess to strangers in order to regain basic legal rights like employment, parole, or visitation rights with your kids. I’ve known many it helped. For me, it violates the separation of Church and State. Even its advocates complain about its cult-like atmosphere.

      For those who need help, I recommend Rational Recovery by social worker Jack Trimpey. It’s basic method is outlined in Chapter 2 and called Addictive Voice Recognition Technique. One of the bullet points I have highlighted is

      - Many people appreciate AVRT as if it were a subroutine in a BASIC computer program: 1. I never drink. 2. “(anything thinking or feeling that supports drinking)” 3. Go to 1.

      Other bullet points I highlighted, fifteen years ago, with guidance from a trained, certified psychologist and psychiatrist:

      - Don’t count time. … If you’re never going to drink or use again, why count time?

      - Don’t congratulate yourself for abstinence, or expect others to do so. Is it really remarkable or cause for celebration that you have been acting responsibly?

      - Don’t hang around with recover groupers. Form new relationships based on common interests (passions!) rather than common problems.

      For those of us who want a rational way to approach addiction questions, there’s an alternative. For the record, I smoke too much, drink in moderation, and am abstinent.

      • Elizabeth

        I’m ignoring my typos these days. Mea culpa.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.jolliff Brian Jolliff via Facebook

    You said “Just up”. Hehehehe

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    I remember the first time I went to counseling. My counselor asked me what my situation would be like, how I would feel and act, if I were able to wave a magic wand and heal myself. I thought of how great I would feel if all of my issues went away and was wondering what magic wand it was she would wave for me. As it turns out, the magic wand didn’t exist, but by imagining myself healthy, I was able to take stock of all of the areas of my psyche that needed some help. Thus began the long and continually ongoing process of healing.

    There is no magic pill.

    I pray for Chad and his wife and continued healing in their marriage and in their lives as individuals.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      What an excellent therapeutic technique.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leavalencia Lea Valencia Noring via Facebook

    Very insightful.

  • Christopher Pair via Facebook

    Im rather fond of my addiction

  • Melody

    God. This makes me ill. If that’s not brainwashing, I don’t know what is. I have no ill will toward Chad, but Pure Life should be sued for this. I pray Chad wakes up and exposes these charlatans for what they are.

  • Ben Husmann via Facebook

    Nope.

  • Ray Odiorne

    Another way of viewing this is: replacing one form of addictive behavior with another form of addictive behavior…

    Never mind that “sexual addiction” is not a clinically accepted diagnosis (and I am a psychotherapist, so I’m knowledgeable about such things), the sort of “therapy” here is more like cross-conditioning, getting the person hooked on addiction to faith. (Okay, that ain’t a clinical term either, but you know what I mean!) When someone has spent hours, days, weeks, surrounded by nothing but one point of view, one way of thinking and acting, what do we call that, class?

    • Melody

      Exactly. AA is notorious for this. Basically replacing alcoholism for “Jesus-ism.” Sooner or later, your addiction is going to let you down. We can’t rely on them.

      • Larry

        addicitions are pretty powerful things.

      • Mindy

        I so agree, Melody. I have a distant family member in throes of Jesus-ism right now after a very dysfunctional life of addiction to drugs and alcohol. His “Christianity” isn’t simply a belief system and source of spiritual guidance – it is what he holds onto with utter desperation out of fear. I feel for him, and I know in many ways it is a “healthier” addiction than the self-harm in which he was previously immersed. But the desperation is always there. He’s one disappointment away from going over the proverbial edge, always.

  • Kathleen

    It’s awful to think of people in such pain, in such need of qualified guidance, turning themselves over to people who may have the best intentions but none of the qualifications.

    And then to lay the blame of failure on a lack of sincerity? That’s just cruel.

    • Mindy

      Hear, hear, Kathleen. I’m utterly appalled by people with no viable training making money off of those in need of, as you say, QUALIFIED guidance. Yes, use your spirituality for strength, turn to God or your Bible for comfort – but get thee to an educated expert for help with ANY psychological dysfunction. Do you think these PLM folks have any understanding at all of the chemical response in the brain to orgasm and how corrupted neural pathways cause messages to be distorted? I’m guessing no.

      • vj

        Excellent! About 15 years ago, the church I am part of announced that they would respond to addicts (of any kind) by walking alongside them, praying with/for them – and referring them to appropriate professional help. Mainstream Western Christianity has for decades (centuries?) been comfortable with referring people to surgeons and other medical professionals for physical ailments (while still providing support, encouragement, fellowship, etc to patients and their families) – it’s high time the same attitude was extended to psychological/psychiatric ailments…

  • Ben

    I think all of this focus on him makes this otherwise supportive and loving community look bad.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      That’s not fair, Ben. First, most of the comments to yesterday’s post (in which I showed Chad mucho support and affection) were in response to Chad’s chastising comment to that post, which he began by saying that he was “ashamed and saddened” by the comments left on it thus far. That’s him bringing focus on him. And in today’s post I’ve again been about as gentle to him as I could be.

      But overall we’re not really talking about Chad so much as we are the larger question of the relationship between Christian spirituality and psychological dysfunction. And it’s fair to use Chad as a launching point for that discussion, since he himself invited that by, at the outset, commenting on my site with a link to his new blog all about his (very public) experiences regarding that very thing. Again, that’s him initiating and inviting us into a conversation about him.

      Either way, I hardly think two posts qualify as “all this focus.” The first was a simple “Look! Our old friend is back!” post, and this one refers to him only at the very beginning and end.

      And if you want to say something loving and supportive, do, please. But I don’t think it’s fair to criticize the people here for honestly responding to someone who’s basically asked for their opinion.

  • Mary

    I don’t buy it! He needs professional help. By a licensed psychiatrist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jos.reyn Jos Reyn via Facebook

    Sex addiction? Does that come in a six-pack?

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrewchow01 Andrew Chow via Facebook

    I like and agree with everything except the part that makes the “parent” responsible for a person’s addiction.

    Frankly, I don’t know for sure why someone becomes an addict. You may be right, but I suspect it is not that simple. I suspect there are other factors, and the “person” responsible can be any authority figure, any “person” who happened to be in a young person’s life at a pivotal moment that defines our sexuality.

    I ain’t no expert so I can say what is the answer, but I’d be surprised of the answer is so simple and universal, that ALL addicts have one or both parents screwing them royally.

    As for curing sexual addiction, since we don’t know exactly the cause, anyone claiming to have a cure is suspect. I agree with you that their methodology is “dodgy” using a new word that I learned recently.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Becoming in some way intensely emotionally dysfunctional due to the way you were raised is a dynamic far from “simple.” Universal, yes. Simple, no.

      • that Mike guy

        I can’t agree that it is universal that emotional dysfunction is due to the way you were raised.

        Genetic and environmental factors… well, we just don’t know yet. Incest and other abuse explain a lot of obvious problems, but scientists keep discovering chemical factors that are really, really overwhelming.

        There is the reality that sexuality is an aspect of ourselves that is beyond our rational control. Do we choose to be gay or straight? To be strongly tempted or sexually dull? We are who we are and we don’t even know why, much less control it.

        And then you have a religious tradition that considers a sick bastard like St. Paul – who literally gives sainthood a bad name – an important leader. By Paul’s standards, if you haven’t castrated yourself with a rusty butter-knife yet, you are a sex addict.

        And on top of that, the people in your close circle. Your religious leader, your mate. I was once married to a woman who considered me a sex addict because I thought sex more than two or three times per year might enhance our relationship. And I was part of a fairly large cult that pretends it accepts sex within marriage for the purposes of making new members, but only puts resources into sex between priests and children.

        • that Mike guy

          Clarifying:

          Obviously, there is such a thing as sexual acting-out. Sexual behavior that is destructive to self and others.

          I am not at all sure “addiction” is the right word or idea. Mental health professionals would do better at determining that than I would.

          I would not trust any religion (especially one with Paul in it, or one with bishops protecting and enabling sexual predators) competent to diagnose, much less treat, my sexual health. Would I go to them for a broken leg or malaria?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            great points all, tMg.

        • Larry

          I have to take issue here.

          What precisely is your point of contention with the apostle Paul? (While you painted the picture, your exaggeration threw me off what you’re trying to say).

          I think it would be good to keep in mind that Paul was not writing to a sexually aware, 21st century context. And he didn’t write primarily about sex. The comments he made were 1- in regards to congregation-specific issues and 2- in context of a whole body or work concerning Christian theology/discipliship.

    • Rob

      I agree with both you, John, and Chad. The hard work of overcoming addiction comes from the individual; the Bible can only point toward a way out. Chad is right, however. As a person who worked in harm reduction for two years, in the South Bronx, I can say that I met all sorts of people who came to addiction. Some had rotten upbringings, others no. People come to addiction through all sorts of ways. On a certain level, all of us are addicts, it’s only a question of degree. The mechanism for addiction is built into us, as is the mechanism for our own salvation.

      • Larry

        fascinating. Never considered the idea that all of us are addicts, it’s only a question of degrees.

        Thanks for those insights.

      • http://Www.unnameablecuriosity.wordpress.com Christine

        Some studies of brain chemicals seem to indicate that falling in love is more addiction than emotion – you get hooked on person. thinking about them constantly, never getting enough of them – and the depression and “withdrawal” symptoms that come from being heart broken. This addiction, though, tends to resolve itself, shifting to new brain chemicals that induce bonding into long-term commitments. Fascinating how the brain works. And that’s just one element. Our brains have “addiction centres” or “addiction chemicals”. It’s a recognizable pattern that can be seen in all of our brain chemistries at times. The challenge is to harness/control/limit it so it’s positive/manageable. It’s only a disorder when it starts to ruin your life.

    • Mindy

      I was raised by parents who love me. They’ve loved me from the day I was born until this very moment. They never physically or sexually abused me, never neglected me, never intentionally hurt me emotionally. Yet the way they raised me caused me great emotional pain, because it didn’t fit with who *I* was. They were very young and naive when I was born, and believed I would be just like them and that there was one way to raise children. It worked for my sister but not for me. Sort of for my brother. Today, we are all functioning adults, both my sibs have happy marriages of over 20 years and we are all close. But the way I was raised failed me. I don’t blame my parents. But I learned a lot about how not to do things from growing up.

      I realize this is generally vague and doesn’t have anything directly to do with sex addiction – my point is, though, that how we are raised plays a big part in setting our wiring, our responses to various stimuli, etc. For better or worse. UNDERSTANDING our children first then responding accordingly makes a huge, huge difference.

  • Jeff Straka

    Let’s just say that when you Google “pure life ministries” and the “searches related to…” displays “exodus international” and “focus on the family”, it just might not a good sign…

  • Larry

    John,

    I don’t want to miss your point. Are you going as far as to say the Bible doesn’t HELP people address these issues? Or… just that it’s not properly suited to be the sole tool used to help sexual addiction?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      No, of course I would never say anything like that the Bible can’t help people address these issues. (I wouldn’t have said that even when I wasn’t a Christian.) I’m simply saying … well, what I said: “Expecting the Bible to be sufficient for curing sexual addiction is like expecting water to be sufficient for curing starvation,” “God can give you the tools, but …”, etc.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

        I have evangelical type siblings. My sister and one of my brothers, in a conversation about me being gay (back when we had such conversations 20 years ago!!!) looked me in the eye and TOLD me that the only book anyone needed to read to help solve human problems was the Bible. By then I had read so many books about Christian history, sexuality, theology, philosophy and homosexual history I probably had at least a Masters on the subject in my head and I was quite content with God AND being gay and their suggestion was so preposterous I couldn’t think what to say, realizing that nothing I said would get thru anyway. However, I did say that I was quite comfortable with being gay and with God and their bewildered/frustrated/quizzical expressions confirmed my conclusion. They simply can’t process it.

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    I am remembering reading some of the material on Dancing on Saturday a long time ago. I found some of the material encouraging, while some of it I didn’t entirely agree with – but moreover, it left me with an impression of a very sweet-hearted person. (Am I mistaken over seeing a post there just after Bin Laden’s death about the solution to war being dropping care packages instead of bombs? I remember thinking “The world does not work that way!” while at the same time thinking such ideas could only come from a truly good-seeking and innocent kind of heart).

    And to have someone like that suddenly toeing a “suddenly back to grit-conservative” theology line in relation to a one-step addiction-kicking program…I worry about an innocent heart being ultimately crushed because he listened to people who weren’t really qualified to help. If there is anything I’ve learned in life, it is the innocent and kind people the rest of the world wants to kick around and take advantage of for thier own agendas.

    (I think I’ve started to grow a nice coat of jade over myself…)

  • Wife leftwanting

    John, thank you for bringing this difficult subject up and handling it so intelligently and in such a balanced manner. Being the wife of a man who has used masturbation/porn to replace intimacy in his life, I have lived with and done years of layperson’s research on the subject. The example in a comment of one woman who happens to be a Christian Fundie that divorces her husband over his one time casual interest in porn (we don’t know if he used it excessively and tried and wasn’t able to stop), is not a clear enough example to explain the breadth and width of the damage that real sex addictions cause to families and the individual’s enslaved by them. I have not been touched or loved by my husband for 10 yrs because of his problem. I do not hate sex and am not overweight or disgusting and this has traumatized me and I am not alone. He was actually raised by a mother who was a paranoid schizophrenic and an alcoholic father, neither of which were ever able to properly bond with him. So, yes the human need for healthy attachment and bonding is a huge issue with some of types of disorders but not always, sometimes the men are from a happy and well-balanced family and develop a porn addiction later on.

    Furthermore, the pain to wives of men who frequent prostitutes, random sex with strangers or prefer porn to their wives is beyond painful. Wives of sex addicts suffer incredible trauma and it is very much like being cheated on. It frequently tears families apart and I am not referring to members of the Fundies who hate sex club. It’s just that Christian Fundies attempt to deal with it in a strictly spiritual sin way that is largely unhelpful and unqualified (as is evidenced by the Purelife Ministry) and others deal with it in a more scientific therapeutic way. As an aside, 12-Steps is designed to support addicts but is most ineffective as a healing device, they have a very high relapse rate for alcoholism but it is still the mainstream therapy go-to, though that is slowly and thankfully changing.

    Sex addiction is not the same as having a high sex drive. It’s not primarily about the sex per se, as much as it is to do with numbing emotions and avoiding intimacy. Masturbation in and of itself is not a problem, but when it replaces intimacy and bonding with another it becomes a problem. Not every man or woman who looks at porn is a masturbation and or porn addict or sex addict. There are too many people suffering the impact of compulsively repeating behaviours they don’t want to and that hurt them and others to pretend that sex addictions don’t exist. Also, porn addiction is not the same as sex addiction and masturbation addiction is not the same either, though they are often processed together.

    This post is already waaay too long. This is a very complicated issue that is muddied when folks don’t understand the realities of sex addiction and do not understand the real brain changes in people who become reliant on using sex or porn with masturbation as a tool (pun not intended). Many start during puberty to modify their emotions through masturbation with fantasy or porn then get hooked by brain changes or get hooked later in life, from the slow process of changing their brain circuitry by repeating behaviours that give them pleasure. The need has always been out there to treat and help these people (more so since the advent of online porn) and science and treatment modalities are slowly catching up and that includes treatment for trauma for the wives or spouses if it is the woman with the problem. I have a ton of information on the subject, but about the experts regarding addiction this post below explains it. http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/toss-your-textbooks-docs-redefine-sexual-behavior-addictions

    • David S

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You have shed so much light on a very difficult subject, at least for me. I think sexual repression is a big issue for the church. I have rarely seen good pastoral approaches to encouraging healthy sex lives. Sharing your experience so freely helps to underscore the need to take ‘sex’ off of the taboo subjects list. Thanks for adding so much to the conversation.

      • Wife leftwanting

        There is so much misinformation and misunderstanding on the subject of sex-addictions in the general public, coupled with crippling shame and secrecy for the victims and their families, that I felt the need to add my experience. Thank you David S. for reading my post and I am very happy that it helped illuminate some of it for you. Having also had the re-traumatizing experience of being counselled by a well-meaning Christian Counselling MD with a decidedly fundie/complementarian worldview, I have been forced to learn more than I ever imagined on the spread and seriousness of this problem and so feel compelled to discuss it when appropriate venues present themselves.

        • David S

          Ah yes, the complimentarian world view: it must be the wife’s fault. I can only imagine how hurtful and frustrating that perspective must be. I don’t imagine it is very helpful.

          I wish you strength and comfort and affirmation as you continue to work through things. God bless.

        • Anonymous

          My sympathies, WLW. I’m stuck in a sexless relationship, which has recently become not just sexless, but affectionless. Since my wife doesn’t like or appear to be in any way interested in sex, and won’t talk to me about our other problems, my choices are cheat, leave, or be celibate. I don’t particularly want to do any of those (I don’t feel the situation is unforgivable, just untenable). In that regard, I feel your pain.

          I do some of the things you described, and it’s worse now, because it releases the occasional “horny” wave that I get, and being the over-analytical type I’ve earnestly tried to figure out why. So I figured I would write this down, anonymously, because this is not something I will talk about to anyone I know. (Perhaps that’s part of your husband’s problem, too.)

          Lack of sex is a trigger, and it was definitely easier to cope with during the occasional periods we used to have when we were sexually active, but it is kind of addictive none the less. I’m pretty sure it hasn’t affected my view of or relationships with women (in fact, most of my friends have always been women)–in contrast to some of the cases I’ve heard about where porn addicts have very negative relationships with women–and I don’t think I personally fit into either the “porn addict” or “sex addict” categories your link describes.

          But there is definitely a profound lack of any emotional connection when viewing porn. This lack of baggage is, I think, both a draw (for instance, I’m also now attracted to a single friend and so far have with some consternation avoided making any overt expression of that attraction, because I don’t want to become emotionally involved with someone I am not available to–I also am actively uninterested in patronizing a prostitute or anything of the sort because it would mean sharing this feeling, however impersonally) and an immensely unsatisfying thing. In contrast, sex with a real person is profoundly intimate and emotional for me–I cannot fathom, if I think it through, how I could “hook up” with someone and leave. There were a few times, back when marital sex was still on the table, that I did deliberately avoid making any effort to have sex (I almost never actually said “no” when she asked) because I was irritated or preoccupied, and it was too much emotional effort to have sex. Now, of course, with such emotional distance between us, I still look at porn but it’s maddeningly ineffective and this probably makes me do it even more.

          Anyway where I guess I was going with that is it sounds like your problem is obviously grounded in your husband’s feelings toward you, and you need to find out what those are before they’ll get better. No wonder the “Christian” counselling was so unsuccessful. No church of which I’m aware (and I’m moderately familiar with church history) has never offered anything even remotely constructive with regard to sex. (While I generally can reconcile Jesus’ teaching with my sexual ethics, I draw these from culture, not scripture–Jesus didn’t talk about sex either.) So no doubt you probably just got a bunch of “complementarian” bullshit about how you need to be a subservient wife and know your place. That’s clearly not even close to the issue.

          Sorry for rambling. May the peace of God be with you.

          • Wife leftwanting

            Anonymous thank you for sharing your likewise complicated, difficult and painful situation, my heart goes out to you. No one should have to live with this kind of emotional and ongoing pain. My husband is aware of how negatively this has impacted me and affected our little family. To what degree he has not yet been able to process because that requires a great deal of empathy and would be painful for him. Yes the shame and embarrassment keep him bound in silence though our little family is aware of it, no one we know is. The greatest difficulty is not just how he feels about me, as he will express verbally that he loves me very much and is now able to show affection again. More importantly he is finally now making attempts to reach out and be there for me more as he tries to heal using an online program known as Recovery Nation. I learned that his problem existed long before I came on the scene and has nothing to do with me being who I am at all. But dealing with the pain of constant rejection and lovelessness in the marriage has been incredibly difficult. Temptations over the last 10+ yrs I have managed to deflect and use similar fake replacements as yourself when the body starts to yell too loudly but of course this leads to a host of emotional difficulties in and of itself, as you have come to learn. His specific type of sexual avoidance is commonly referred to as Sexual Anorexia or Sexual Intimacy Disorder, it is a process that slowly gets worse, and so spouses are initially unaware. The good doc/ Christian counsellor asserted that all I had to do was let my husband lead and to stop being angry. His advise to my husband was to just stop and to do spiritual warfare with Satan. Eventually, he lost patience with both of us because we did not feel comfortable in his church and chose to attend elsewhere. I don’t believe Jesus ever told us to park our brains at the door but He did say to follow Him. To love others as yourself, you have to love yourself first. This journey has taught me about love, anger, healing and brought me closer to understanding what love really looks like more than any other legalistic nonsense ever did. May we all find freedom and love from the chains that bind us. Blessings to you too my friend.

          • Melody

            This is beautiful. I’m so glad your husband has made such progress and is doing his best to show love to you. I pray that you and your family find complete healing and unification.

          • Larry

            I’ve had a fair share of experience with PLM. It seems the above situations are similar to ones they would seek to minister to.

            I think John made the “echo chamber” comment… that people who enter PLM are a priori looking for a Jesus fix anyway. And i think that’s accurate.

            I also think PLM is pretty upfront concerning their approach, etc. I don’t see them hiding or pretending to be anything they are not. (That is, they are very upfront that they are Bible-based counseling.)

            I understand they are far more on the conservative end of the spectrum than John and many here. Steve Gallagher is a man who’s had his life radically transformed by God, and Pure Life does some helpful, solid ministry in many lives.

            I feel they at least deserve credit for treading in some murky waters that the Church (generally) has simply failed to address.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            There’s nothing “murky” about the waters PLM treads in; there are a million “Christian” ministries in exactly their kind of business. Steve Gallagher is making serious coin on this “ministry.”

          • Larry

            you have access to his finances?

          • Larry

            I would hope that isn’t the case w/Steve, but i can’t know for sure. Maybe we could ask him?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            I’m sure he’s struggling. Never mind.

          • http://Www.unnameablecuriosity.wordpress.com Christine

            No one gets points for addressing a neglected issue if they only serve to make it worse, not better.

            Counselling is serious business and should only be done by those thoroughly trained to do so – NOT by those instructed by those who took an *online* course through some not-actually-a-university. To take on that kind of trusted position, as an amateur, just puts the person being counselled at serious risk. There’s no justification for that.

            While spiritual guidance can be an important *element* of a healing process, the bible doesn’t say one iota about mental/pysochological disorders. Those who are “bible-based” should stick to what’s in there and not pretend they’re experts is everything. It’s like forgetting about engineers and letting bible-based construction take over.

          • http://deep.mastersfamily.org BJohnM

            Christine, you’ve made the most important point in this discussion. If we are truly “working with” a counselor, they are able to kind of walk around in our heads, and help us do some re-wiring. The few times I’ve needed electrical work done here at the house, I’ve called a respected long-established company. I’m not interested in having a short circuit set the house on fire some night. Same is true with counseling.

            A couple of times in life things just got to a point where I needed some help to keep going. I wasn’t on the verge of suicide or anything, but lots had piled up, and I was afraid that “one more thing” might be the straw. Through a friend, I’d found a wonderful lady who was warm, thoughtful, supportive, open, and who really helped me cope and resolve issues.

            On two other occasions I was, for only a very short time, involved with counselors who were, frankly, more screwed up than me. They very clearly needed to deal with their own issues before working with others. Thankfully, I was able to realize this, and get back to a qualified counselor. I think there are some “counselors” who are like homophobes. They go into that profession trying figure out and exorcise their own demons, or to feel superior because their life, screwed up as it is, isn’t nearly as bad as their patients. Again, this isn’t an indictment of all. This one person has been, more than once, a god-send for me.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            you leave such great comments, BJM. thanks.

          • Wife leftwanting

            Melody thank you so much. I read and follow John Shore daily as well as others, where I learn and feel the sharing do it’s healing through the internet. I see you here and there and admire your spunk to speak the truth as you see it and your words mean the world to me. From your lips to His ears, thank you.

          • DR

            This is wonderful.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

      Hmmmm. re: your link: “As a man thinketh, so is he”? Prov 23:7 Brain circuitry?

      • Wife leftwanting

        Excellent connection (pun intended). Thank you for pointing it out it is worthy of further study.

  • Eddy

    John,

    This is one of the few (emphasis on the word “FEW”) well thought out discussion on the issues of sexual addiction. I think how you explained it is very well done and something I can identify with regarding the mixed messages about sexuality we hear from the church. With the exception of adultery (which I think all of us can agree on) it seems the church would want many of us sexually ignorant. When it comes to sex I think singles don’t have a prayer and married folks are told marriage will allow God to give you all the knowledge about sexuality you’ll ever need.

    What a crock!

    It took long, agonizing, and painful study and prayer to get to a point in my life to understand who I am regarding sexuality. Folks like these muddy the waters where well meaning people are trying to find complex answers to human sexuality.

    Sadly, the church or the christian community do not want to have an all out, honest, and open discussion regarding sexuality. But I think the hunger for such a talk is there; the will to do it is another thing.

    • Diana A.

      It is possible for the church to discuss sexuality in a healthful and helpful manner. When I was in the eighth grade, my church did a sex ed class for my youth group. I found it quite helpful because it went into far more than the physical mechanics and discussed different kinds of love (friendship, romance, sexual, agape, physical, selfish, etc.) and other issues related to making intelligent decisions as regards sex.

      • Eddy

        Lord knows I wish more churches would take that approach than the “you better not do ANYTHING” kind of approach.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john10423 John Gragson via Facebook

    what exactly IS “sex addiction”? not that i don’t completely agree with your comments about how these guys can’t be qualified to do any psychological treatment under the circumstances.

  • Robert

    Hi John…

    The timing of this piece is perfect… I recently began to attend a 12 step program called SLAA… sex and love addicts anon… after spending 3 years in adult children of alcoholics focused alanon meetings. (I am more a love addict… hanging onto relationships long after they have ended). IN alanon… I found my god… in SLAA I have been finding my path.

    In these meetings, people (straight, gay, bi, men, women, transgender, white, black, hispanic and asian) share their stories with honestly, gently, and courage… we face the issues which compels us to sexually act out… or to remove ourselves entirely from the arena of relationships… we support each other through the painful and lonely moments… and almost all the people I have encountered have histories of abuse and trauma… or profound neglect…

    we all want connections with others… emotional, spiritual, caring, mutual… but missed how to get it…. and it seems that the first thing we have to learn is to develop a loving relationship with ourselves… from this place of love… we begin to learn how to engage and love others.

    Also… there is no quick fix… there only opening yourself to yourself… to a god of your understanding… and to others who are sharing the path with you…

    thank you for this piece…

    Robert

    • DR

      I find a lot of wisdom in this comment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leigh.kelly Leigh Pinkston Kelly via Facebook

    Bible-only approaches to anything are cults which fixate on the supernatural. They make believing in the unbelievable a test of faith that must be “passed” in order to “earn” salvation. They refuse to admit that science and the Bible are complementary. One explains how and the other explains why. Bible-only cures are nothing more than a belief in magic. One shouldn’t invoke Divine help alone; requests for miracles should be saved for a last resort.

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    That is one odd photo choice to illustrate this post, BTW. All kinda things can be read into it…

    • Ric Booth

      I guess I thought it meant we have to take out our own damn trash.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        that was the idea!

      • http://Www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

        First when I saw it, I saw it as a wife making it clear to her new hubby that it was the man’s job to take out the trash. (Would be a bit problematic for my wife and I ;-) ). But when I read the post I got that it was just meant to say we all have to take out our own garbage.

      • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

        Exactly.

  • textjunkie

    The DSM-V is likely to include “hypersexual disorder ” as a new diagnosis for folks who spend dysfunctional amounts of time or personal risk or discomfort on sexual activities, or uses them as coping mechanisms for stress while not wanting to, that sort of thing. They did not include “sexual addiction” as a disorder, though they were considering possibly internet and video game addictions, if I recall correctly. ;) I was intrigued by that decision. They did recognize that there can be a problem, but explicitly disentangled it from addictions.

    • Elizabeth

      In other words, they’re human. No one, from horny teenager to stereotypical mid-life crisis guy in a convertible, hasn’t thought they were valuing sex too much. I’m not saying it’s not an accurate diagnosis; I’m saying it’s self-defined.

      • Larry

        i would disagree Elizabeth.

        Besides, that’s not a statment there’s even any way of possibly measuring.

        I think there’s a vast gulf separating two underlying premises.

        one side raises sexual pleasure and gratification to the level of a “right”

        another side finds faith as emphasizing self-denial, not self-gratification.

        • Elizabeth

          Agreed on the “vast gulf”. Personally, I think sexual pleasure is a right human beings have and it’s best in a committed monogamous relationship, for practical not moral reasons. Knowing that, I deny myself. The self-discipline is good for me at this stage in my life.

          No, there’s no way you or anyone else could measure that. That’s why it’s self-defined.

          • Larry

            I love the way you paired those tensions as you described in your first paragraph. Hope it’s all well with you!

          • DR

            In sexual addiction, there’s rarely pleasure involved. You’re speaking about a range of human sexuality that’s normal – sexual addition and obsessive love disorder are real things, real addictions that have little to do with love or pleasure and everything to do with masking and avoiding pain.

          • Allie

            That’s valid; however, many parties have a vested interest in convincing people within the normal range that they aren’t normal. Just because someone no longer is attracted to his wife and also uses porn doesn’t mean porn caused the loss of attraction to the wife. It’s a sad, but completely understandable biological fact that many men who are sexually attracted to the nubile women they marry are not attracted to the postmenopausal women they end up with after years of marriage.

          • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

            Agreed.

          • Elizabeth

            DR, you are one of my all-time favorites, but I’ve used the line “fuck to keep from thinking” for years. It always resonates with my friends, even the ones in committed relationships. We all console ourselves with sex sometimes, whether it’s through porn, or “dirty” books, or–worst case scenario–acting out with others. Sex IS pleasurable. It DOES make us hurt less, for a little while. That we use it that way to make ourselves feel better isn’t an addiction.

            It’s a sliding scale. Sexual addiction/love disorder is self-diagnosed. If you think you have that disorder, you can bet you’ll find a doctor to treat it. In New York prices, that’s $400 an hour for a qualified doctor, and he won’t take insurance.

          • Elizabeth

            My former shrink thinks I’m perfectly sane, by the way. He’s very well-known in the writing community in New York, and I paid a fraction of that.

          • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

            But that’s not the point that was being made about the actual topic. You’re talking about sex and desire within a continuum. This is sexual *addiction* and obsessive love disorder which is a real thing. A real addiction. That there are people who want to call a lot of things a lot of things, scams, etc. Sure. That’s true. But it seemed from your comments (perhaps I’m wrong) you were dismissing the entirety of sexual addiction and that would be a mistake.

          • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

            Simply put, I don’t know why you keep equating sexual pleasure with sexual addiction – even sexual pleasure used as a relief mechanism from pain can be normal. Are you challenging the fact that sexual addiction exists at all? Or that people have attempted to treat you or someone else you know as though you were sexually addicted as a result of behaviors that are normal?

          • Melody

            I agree, DR. ANYTHING can become an addiction, even if it’s a part of everyday life. That’s why some people overeat, spend all day playing video games or having sex (all the time, not just once in a while) instead of doing what they need to do (clean house, run errands, etc.). Our bodies need food and sex. We need to work. It’s when these things take over our lives that they become addictions. No amount of rationalization can get around that fact.

          • Elizabeth

            Hi DR. No, I’ve never been treated for sexual addiction. I’m practically a sexual anorexic. (I’m not anorexic. I get that a lot, too.) I was in therapy a long time. My problem, per se, is that I’m depressive. I can compensate with mental tricks until I’m slightly manic. My friends (an admittedly skewed sample) find it hilarious. I manage anxiety with cigarettes. I also have mild OCD tendencies.

            If you read enough psych lit, you can diagnose yourself with almost anything.

            Nor have I known a sex addict, and I’ve known some real characters. If they exist, someone’s math is off. The accounts of sexual addiction I’ve read use blame-and-guilt language, as if compromising to please those we love and mastering our sexual appetites within that framework isn’t normal. It is. And celibacy is hard. I don’t judge those who can’t hack it. At my age, I risk staying single and childless for life. It’s expensive. It’s lonely. It’s a choice I reexamine daily.

            But no, I don’t believe it’s possible to be addicted to sex, anymore than it’s possible to be addicted to food. We need it. If we don’t have it, that tension finds another outlet, usually worse. It boils down to “boys will be boys.” That’s OK. I like boys. As long as women take offense at men’s natural urges and measure their self-worth by where they put their penises, men’s shame will have them running for a doctor’s note. I feel the same way about labeling a woman a nymphomaniac. If she’s not hurting anyone but herself, I don’t care. Only she decides when that behavior is destructive. Then I hope she goes to whatever therapist, self-help group, or spiritual leader works for her.

            Sexual addiction/love disorder is, in my layman’s opinion, an individual’s spiraling loss of control created by our society’s obsession with sex. It’s a symptom, not a cause. My generation was raised on MTV. As our young brains developed, we were exposed to intense sexual imagery. It would be bizarre if we didn’t think about sex too much. If we weren’t simultaneously flattered and repelled by others’ perceptions of us as sex objects. Sexual addiction’s near-inclusion in the DSM is meaningless. The DSM’s a laundry list. It listed homosexuality as a disorder until relatively recently. We have an LGBT suicide epidemic to prove it. Defining their sexuality as “a problem” hurt people. It didn’t help them. You can’t quit who you are like you can gambling or alcohol.

            So sex is just… sex. One continuum. It’s God’s greatest gift to us and our worst vice. If it isn’t, we’re not doing it right.

          • Wife leftwanting

            Elizabeth, People who are diagnosed with sexual addiction (for lack of a better term) have out of control behaviours that are damaging to themselves and others. They do not have healthy sexual appetites; they have out of control ones. You’ve heard of folks who eat so much they end up weighing 600 lbs and eat all the time. They have an appetite for food that is out of control. They are using food in an unhealthy way to compensate for other issues. It is the same with sex. It is not men are horny and women don’t need sex. That is yet another minimization of a seriously growing problem. Please see this article http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-lies-trauma/201204/sex-addiction-is-it-real regarding the reality of how sex addiction can be understood and the link I listed here before regarding the politics of the DSM. I don’t think disregarding it out of hand because mistakes have been made in the past regarding our collective understanding of the human journey, is helpful to those who are struggling with the damage of trying to manage their out of control and painful lives. And I would like to add that sex is more than our biological urges, men and women are motivated by different factors at different times, it is completely reductionist to say it is just sex, because sex is very complicated and so are we.

          • Elizabeth

            I endorse everyone getting the help they need. Absolutely.

    • Wife leftwanting
  • Ric Booth

    Very well said, John. The necessary work of taking out our own trash (aka, emptying out our closet/unpacking our luggage) is our work. And there is usually (always?) Years involved.

  • dan(chicago)

    This discussion reminded me of an incident a number of years ago with a grammy award winning Christian singer who was outed in an extortion attempt by someone he met in a gay chat room. The gentleman quickly entered into a program which from what I remember was put together by a group of ministers, with the intention of curing him of his dreaded disease. During the program he sent out a regular newsletter detailing the program activities which were quite bizarre and often sounded a bit homoerotic. It was pretty obvious that no one involved had a clue what they were doing, and were much more likely to do damage than good.

    I would have felt bad for him, but it seemed obvious over time that he was using the situation to plan a comeback tour, which he did. Still it is troubling and reminds me of how sure the charismatics I was with for fifteen years were that they had the answers for pretty much everything, and how badly this often turned out, especially for (but not limited to) those with mental illnesses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

    ******We all have to deal with all the stuff in our past that someone responsible for us got terribly wrong,…..********

    Whoa, John. That’s a pretty strong indictment on………other people? That is certainly true in many instances, but are you discounting the possible influences of biology and genetics alone or in combination?

    My parents and family decidedly did NOT make me gay, for instance, a characteristic that they WOULD define as an addiction. (sigh)

    And what is the definition of sexual addiction. Is there one that is IT, the final word?

    There’s that old phrase, “Location, location”. In this case it’s “definition, definition”. In this and many other controversial issues, we bandy about words without agreed upon definitions as if they are self-evident. No wonder our nation is a Tower of Babble.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Did I say anything that would give you reason to believe I’m discounting the influences of biology and/or genetics?

      • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

        No. But after referring to family influences (which I concede exist) more than once, the absence of even a slight reference to biology and genetics struck me as very odd because you are usually so thorough in your analyses of issues. The absence was so notable that it caused me to wonder if you didn’t think it worthy of consideration. I’m not making a criticism here. Just an observation

        Indeed, why DID you focus so almost exclusively on parental influence? Granted, it is a major influence. Some might say I am gay because I’m searching for the love of a father I never felt as a child. Well, maybe, because it’s true that, while he was never abusive physically or emotionally, I never knew a word or gesture of love from him. The only hug I ever got from him was at my mother’s funeral and probably because everyone there knew I might not attend. So maybe.

        But the first gay guy that comes along with a affectionately loving father (and there are millions) wipes out the looking-for-a-father’s-love “diagnosis” (as if homosexuality is an illness!!!).

        We know that hormones released during development in utero have an enormous influence, quite possibly more so than after birth environmental influences.

        So no, you didn’t SAY anything ” that would give [me] reason to believe [you were] discounting the influences of biology and/or genetics”, but your silence about them while focusing on parental influence seemed notable to me.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          As you know, I don’t consider gay to be any kind of dysfunction at all, so considering it in that light holds no interest for me. And as far as the nature of 99% of the spiritual and emotional angst suffered by 99% of people, I’m extremely comfortable claiming 99% of it is rooted in unresolved issues with their parents. And I’m not being hyperbolic: 99% across that board is the number I’d defend.

          • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

            Hmmm. I can’t disagree and you’re making me look back…..way back. I’m the first born with two bros and a sis. And my father was in Korea which means out of my life for a period of time in my formative years. He definitely related better to my brothers, sharing sports with them, but nothing with me. I was the dreamer, the wanderer in the woods. I enjoyed Liberace and my year younger brother Johnny Cash. We couldn’t have been more different. Dad probably had no clue what to do with me. So maybe there’s something to what you suggest.

            Oh well, it’s all long gone now……..or is it?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            never

  • Christy

    It seems to me malpractice to say you can fix something which you are not trained to treat. Replacing unhealthy psychology with a different form of unhealthy psychology isn’t exactly what I would call recovery.

    • Elizabeth

      Exactly.

    • Christy

      Meanwhile, a serious (and important) kerfuffle erupted last week in the Evangelical blogosphere. *Tirgger warning when reading the article.

      (See: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christianpiatt/2012/07/gospel-coalitions-views-on-gender-sex-arent-complementary/ ) It was regarding teachings that some complementarians put forth as the godly and righteous perspective on marriage and sex which includes dominating roles for men and submissive roles for women, even in bed. Unfortunately, to most of us egalitarians, it smacks of misogyny and is a primer on rape apologetics. It also enlightens a worldview that is based on authority and submission and reflects a belief system not only for a godly marriage but also for “God’s will” for society.

      In the article the author of the referenced book, Douglas Wilson, writes: “This is of course offensive to all egalitarians…”

      Yes. Yes it is.

      • Elizabeth

        I enjoy submitting. My brain is busy being superior all the time. I even feel ideas physically. When someone touches me, I’m allowed not to think. That’s why it’s so important that A. I trust who I’m reading, how I’m processing information, and B. I’m in a long-term relationship before I sleep someone. I’m just too vulnerable, otherwise. I’m not sure where that puts me on the complementarian/egalitarian scale.

        Extra credit points for introducing BDSM on a Sunday morning. Christy, you are my platonic girl-crush forever.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Okay, fine. You don’t have to get on your knees and respectfully request it. I’ll do a series on BDSM.

          Wait. No I won’t.

          • Matt

            Oh my good golly God!

            Please do this, John! It is so, so sorely needed! :D

          • Melody

            Good recovery, John. PLEASE, for my sanity, DON’T.

          • Elizabeth

            LOL, for real.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            So you guys want me to. Got it. Will do.

          • Christy

            I love how you use sarcasm as an illustrative point.

        • Amelia

          Hey, Elizabeth! I just wanted to comment from my understanding of dominance and submission. The way I see it, you do indeed want/need to be submissive in any particular aspect of your life. That is you and how you enjoy life. Two people can be totally equal if they are both choosing how to live that out together. The issue with the idea that we’re SUPPOSED to live with men as dominant and women as submissive- be it sexually or in any other way- doesn’t take in to account any other way of being and forces people to go against their own core being.

          I’ve seen relationships where the couple come from the ‘bible’ based idea that the husband is the head and the wife is the support. They are wonderful lovely people and they have an amazing relationship. They would seem to be poster children for that type of ‘biblical’ relationship working. But at the end of the day they are both totally wired in a way that this does, in fact, work. I have seen other couples MISERABLE trying to live this way. Either the woman is left feeling enslaved or the guy feels weak under the stress of having to be responsible for everything. For them it does not work no matter how hard they try. On the flip side I’ve seen couples where they are egalitarian but one half really wishes the other would have/take more control…

          Sigh…if only we could all be reared to figure out our own selves instead of having every thing dictated to us.:)

          • Elizabeth

            Beautifully put. We must incinerate church dogma, peer pressure, and what we inherit in genetics and learned behavior from our parents. People who can reconcile all with someone they truly love are blessed.

          • Elizabeth

            *that

          • Larry

            really good points, Amelia.

        • Christy

          Thank you. I wasn’t going for points, but cool.

          I suspect (though I could be wrong) you enjoy submitting so long as you know that if and or when you chose to say to your partner: “now I don’t enjoy submitting, and I would prefer X,” you had the full right and authority to do that…and your partner would listen and respect your wishes and/or you would be able to communicate wants, needs and desires and they would be valued and seen as equal to the wants, needs and desires of your partner. And I would presume most of us would prefer to have the right to refuse sex if your partner was interested and you were not.

          Within some corners of this complementarian society, this is not a choice. And to go against the husband’s authority is categorized as having a “rebellious spirit” in need of repentance and the proper solution is to return to one’s assigned gender role of godly submission to the proscribed order of the universe which is, for them: men dominate and women submit – no questions asked.

          So, from where I stand this is a form of theological BDSM since it is their perspective that this wifely submission to the husband in all things (How should I wear my hair? What do you like me to wear? Am I allowed to have a job outside the house? What kind of a job will you permit me to have? How many children would you like us to have?) reflects the “proper relationship” the believer is to have with God.

          Since Jesus is reported to have said, “”The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,” in Luke 4:18, I’m going to have to assume their exegesis is a little off and they just really enjoy the privilege of religiously sanctioned patriarchy.

        • Christy

          And, Elizabeth, I hope you know any points from you are especially meaningful. So, I’m good with the crush.

          • Elizabeth

            :) Emoticon that.

    • Lymis

      I can’t speak at all about what these particular people say, but I know that a lot of the people who claim to “work with” homosexuality aren’t saying that they are treating the person at all – that they are simply helping the person reestablish a healthy relationship with God, and that it is God who will do all the healing. And of course, what right does any human have to say that God isn’t qualified to do anything God wants?

      It’s a slick and circular way of covering all the bases. Luckily, it’s one that more an more people are seeing through, and that the legislative and legal systems are starting to deal with as well.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        One of the things about Pure Life that I decided not to deal with was the video testimonies they have on their site relative to the “problem” of homosexuality. They’re a simply fascinating exercise in knowing exactly what to say–and what to not dare to. They walk that line as delicately as anything I’ve seen. It’s very clear PLM has learned to NEVER say anyone is ever cured of being gay. They insinuate the HECK out of–but never say it. They way they handle it is equal parts artful and repulsive.

  • Bmac

    How can these people get away with their fake science?! Being in cahoots with ICR proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they should be kept far away from people who need real psychologists with real degrees from real universities. Without science these fundies would be performing excorcisms on cancer patients.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      You know, I think you’re the first person in these comments to note the ICR partnership. How insane is that to use as your big-deal academic affiliation? It’s just unbelievable. It’s like looking on the menu of a restaurant and seeing that one of its proud business partners is a sewage disposal company.

  • Mimi K

    For me, yeah, the church’s idea of ‘healing’ did me more harm than good. I was very naive when I entered the world of evangelicalism. I went for prayer counselling/healing. I was ‘delivered’ of my issues. I bowed to the ideals of getting married and having children because I thought that was how one was in the center of God’s will for their life.

    I’m now married when I should have stayed single. I have children when I’ve no business being a mother. And those issues? Even worse now that they were never dealt with when they should have been. They were shoved aside to make room for trying to be a wife and mother and be ‘safe in the center of God’s will’. Those issues have festered and poisoned me yet I have to keep on keeping on.

    Don’t mean to sound like such a downer! I just get my hackles up when people talk about healing through prayer and leaving it at that. Thanks for bringing this up, John! More people need to be open to both prayer AND psychotherapy.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      No, no, what you’ve said isn’t a downer. It’s good to hear people figuring all this hard stuff out.

    • Larry

      i’d be curious to hear what makes you feel as you shouldn’t be married, or why you have “no business being a mother.” Prob too personal stuff to share, but (for what it’s worth) as a spouse and parent, you’re certainly not alone in those sentiments.

      • Mimi K

        Hmm. Well, what I can share is that my inner self is really screwed up and I was seriously ill equipped to get married. I’m sure lots people can look back and say that about getting married :) But really, the dysfunction I grew up with sort of messed something up.

        I was happy enough being single. I like being alone and always have. Relationships were just more than I could deal with but there was all this pressure to be in a godly relationship and have a godly life and make godly children. All the confessing and prayer and ‘healing’ caused me to believe I was whole and healthy and was following god’s will. Prior to being a christian I had never been in a relationship for more than 3 months. Then I married a guy because I thought god told me to.

        As for being a mom- I have to spend so much time dealing with my inner turmoil it’s really hard to be there for my kids. I love them to bits but I have to work VERY VERY hard to try and be what they need. One of them needs be to be so much more than what I am, needs lots of hands on involvement and I find it quite difficult.

        Life can be full of what if’s and I don’t live that way anymore. I’m a little more que sera sera about my choices, no matter how they came about. That’s a happy thing!

        Does that make sense?

        • Larry

          yes. Thanks for sharing it. Makes a LOT of sense.

          Sorry to hear you sort of got “pressured” into marriage. I think sometimes the church struggles with “what do to” with single people. :(

          It seems you’re on your way to being an amazing mother. Keep your head up. :)

  • Lymis

    I’m not sure how on-topic what I’m about to say is, but I remember at one point when I was developing as a person and as a Christian having my mother say to me that theology was trying to do much the same thing as physics – explaining to the best of our current level of understanding how the world around us actually works, and that it was focused on different parts of reality and using different tools.

    But that first and foremost, it couldn’t be valid if it clearly and demonstrably contradicted the observable reality around us. Theology cannot validly be addressing an issue it’s getting wrong in the first place.

    That doesn’t that faith cannot guide us in the fuzzy areas where we have no facts, but it cannot be Truth when it runs counter to the facts we do have.

    • mike moore

      I love what you wrote. Your Mom may have one of the most coherent and concise definitions of theology I’ve ever run across, including my years at Westmont and a brief hanging out at Fuller.

      I may have to quote you on my FB page.

      (The best explanation I ever got as a young person was that people needed something to do before brunch and Bloody Marys.)


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