I have a habit of looking intently at what the Christian world is saying about pornography addiction. The good thing is it’s being talked about more openly. The bad thing is that conventional Christian wisdom on the subject is woefully inadequate. I wrote some about this in the post titled “Save your money, sanity, and dignity!” I mentioned in that post that I may feature some books I’ve read along with the notes I took while reading them. I read material hoping to find something different and something that actually works, but even those who claim to be different recycle the same sad ideas that are failing miserably. Today, I’ll cover just one chapter. I bought this book because I knew there would be one chapter dedicated to lust and pornography. I love reading on kindle and highlighting certain parts and adding notes. I hate it when I see the same ole tired advice, however.
Before I get into the quotes and notes (with limited commentary) I have to share a few qualifiers.
First of all, my critiques are not ever directed toward the good hearted individuals promoting these ineffective strategies. In this case Patrick Morley has made a tremendous impact on men’s ministry for thousands and thousands of men over the years. I’m grateful to him and others and their positive contributions and ministries. I’m sure this book is wonderful. I just found this particular chapter to be lacking.
Second, since I’ve found true and lasting freedom with no help from popular techniques or practices, I’ve become very passionate about the truth and that can sometimes come across as arrogant. This is never my intent. I have to constantly remind myself that I thought the same way most of my life. Now that I’ve overcome what was once thought to be virtually impossible to eliminate, I have to be careful not to be harsh toward those who can’t fathom this level of freedom.
The book I bought to read is “The Christian Man: A Conversation About the 10 Issues Men Say Matter Most” by Patrick Morley. Chapter 8 is ironically (in my opinion) called “Lust: The Right Way to Deal with This Powerful Drive” – I say ironically, because I didn’t see a right way in there. In fact, the big idea for this chapter is: “the practical solution to lust for most men is to get married and enjoy regular sex with their wife.” My reaction is: Seriously? That’s the best you can do? That’s just purity culture all over again. Marriage doesn’t guarantee fidelity and integrity! I thought that would fix my issue. How many others thought the same? That’s what we were told. It’s a lie. Even a good marriage and good regular sex is no solution if you have a perverted way of thinking.
Ok, let’s get to the quotes and then my notes (his words will be bold and in quotation marks while my reaction will be in italics):
“I have always felt too uncomfortable to teach this material in depth at the Man in the Mirror Bible Study until, essentially, I was forced to as part of my preparation for writing this chapter!”
Being so unformfortable with a topic, that you were forced to look at it does not bode much confidence in your level of expertise in this area.
“I don’t know how it could be any clearer: If you have chosen marriage, Satan will tempt you if you don’t have regular sex. If you want to go on a “sex fast,” you can, but only by mutual agreement and not for long. To be blunt, if you’re not horny, you’re more likely to exercise self-control. Bottom line: Our sexual design is a powerful, primal force. Having regular intimate relations with our wives is the biblical solution to block the corruption of that design by sexual immorality, including lust.”
I’ve written and re-written this comment a few times as it’s a touchy subject but it is the crux of the matter with my and many others’ frustration with popular Christian teaching on sex, especially “obligation sex.” The underlying premise is that men are are highly susceptible to sexual temptation if their wives aren’t meeting their “God-given” needs enough. I believed this type of mindset for most of my life until I rejected it as the lie it is. Much could be said here, and I will probably expand on this topic in an future article all by itself. For now, let me direct you to a podcast by some ladies (Sheila Wray Gregoire and company) who are working hard to undo a lot of the harm that comes with this teaching. They talk openly and frankly about many items which aren’t brought up very often, such as consent and marital rape. They give voice to 20,000 women surveyed in their research (that’s a massive study and important data!). While they are asking hard questions and pointing out valid problems, in my opinion they don’t go far enough with solutions, but they are at least moving in the right direction. The sad truth is unhealthy men in many cases can abuse their wives in several ways while appearing to be godly in the process. Those are startling words to take in, but unfortunately I believe them to be true. I was once complicit in these types of abuses, that are typically overlooked. Give this podcast a listen if you have the courage to do so.
Patrick makes a common disclaimer here in quoting 1 Corinthians 7 allowing for moments of temporary abstinence by “mutual agreement” in order to distance himself from any allegation or criticism of this nature. And while he would not condone any of the evils I’ve mentioned, this is often the logical end result of the ideas being perpetuated even in his own quote, if you read between the lines. This is so common in these resources! The consequences can be quite tragic. We need to be better!
“This is not a chapter on how to have great sex, but on how to deal with lustful thoughts.”
Deal with lustful thoughts? How about eliminating them?
“Every man is wired by God to appreciate beauty of all kinds—sunrises, mountain vistas, newborns, soccer, and so on. But a woman falls into an altogether different and exclusive category.”
Why? Says who? Surely not the same God as we see in Genesis 1-2?
“…men think about sex nineteen times a day on average.”
They’ve been conditioned to do so. That was the case with me. Not anymore.
“As men, the main way we experience sexual attraction and arousal is through sight.”
That’s the lie that abounds. I think an exclusive and intimate relationship is a better way to attraction and arousal with your wife and with her alone. I’ll write a piece called “The wife of your youth” soon to explore more on this.
“He [David] didn’t go up to his roof to look for a naked woman so he could be sexually aroused (provided that’s true, and I think we can plausibly assume it’s true).”
David’s sin of adultery was probably premeditated. I think it’s likely that he went up there for that very reason. It was a common occurrence, and he knew what he was doing and sought it out, and when seeing wasn’t enough, he had to have Bathsheba.
“[We can also be] surprised by a sensuous waitress, the suggestively dressed coed who attracts your attention at the gym, a sex scene you didn’t seek out… Sex, of course, is everywhere. But in our cultural moment, seduction is inescapable. We’re bombarded. The visage of a shapely woman walking down the street comes to mind, or a scantily clad model who suddenly appears while scrolling through what should be a harmless news feed. But these images burst into our minds like a guest who doesn’t knock. When a sex scene comes on your screen, is that for you a temptation to lust or the sin of lust? It depends. It’s not lust to “stumble” onto a temptation.”
This is the tragic reason why men are so weak and frankly immature; we tell them over and over that these little situations are so dangerous. It’s sickening! We must always be on guard if we haven’t renewed our minds on how we view the body and other human beings, made in the image of God! Once you remove the desire in the first place, temptation goes away completely.
“It was a bare-knuckles brawl between old habit and new commitment. My face was half twisted toward her, but my eyes bulged out to stay glued on those peas. ‘Finally the battle began to subside. A few moments later it was over. I had won. God gave a spiritual victory. I still am tempted to lust, but God has given me the power to have victory every time I ask him to help.’”
This is a story about a guy focusing all his attention on 3 peas on his plate to avoid looking at a “very sensual woman.” What a terrible way to live! And it’s unnecessary.
“[His] wife, Sarah, asked him, ‘Are you intentionally not looking at other women?’ When Mike said, ‘Yes,’ Sarah said, ‘You have no idea how secure it makes me feel to know that you only have eyes for me.’’
I had a similar experience with my wife, but now I have seen that the covenant with my eyes which Patrick is referring to from Job 31:1-4 is not as he describes it here. And in the verse’s immediate context it refers to the thoughts. It’s not about what you see, but how you react and think about what you see. Bouncing your eyes solves nothing!
“There’s no reason you can’t make it your covenant too. I did many years ago. I haven’t been able to keep it fully, but I’ve sure done a lot better having made the commitment than not.
Exactly- you won’t keep it fully until you change your mindset. Then it will be easy to keep it and fully.
“Job’s covenant requires will power—your will and God’s power.”
I know it can’t be, but it sounds like you’re saying God’s power isn’t enough. The logical deduction is that God needs us. That’s just not true. As long as you believe that, you won’t see God’s power and transforming effect, because you think he needs your involvement. He’s powerful enough regardless of any of our efforts. Our will power is feeble and frail. We need God plus nothing.
“Let’s be honest: you can’t resist googling something you shouldn’t or thumbing through the Victoria’s Secret catalog on your own—at least not every time. If you haven’t already done so, consider making “Job’s covenant” right now as a call to action. That’s what Mike did.”
Let’s be honest, even though Mike made this covenant, he’s going to fail because you told him as much, and didn’t offer him real hope or a better alternative.
“He [David] graduated from “seeing” her to “watching” her. Instead of turning away, he stared.”
This is predatory behavior from someone who is conditioned to think these desires are unavoidable. Instead of preying on any woman, I’d rather be a protector of all women.
“At this point it was either turn away or lust was inevitable.”
Aha! There it is. The notion that lust is inevitable is so strong in Christian books. It’s like we can’t imagine our men being equally as strong or mature!?
“Lust is sexual desire out of control.”
No, it’s just the desire. If you remove that desire, you have nothing to have to control. The commandment against killing my brother is so easy to keep, because there’s no desire to do so (hopefully)!
“Adultery type 2 is mentally having sex with someone not your wife, or lust.”
Absolutely agree! No argument here. This is part of what is missing in the usual discussions.
“Nevertheless, ‘mental’ adultery is not the same as “physical” adultery.”
Wait just a second, didn’t you (and Jesus for that matter) say it was the same? It IS the same and needs to be viewed as the same. There are some different ramifications, granted, but it still is adultery. As long as we make distinctions, we won’t treat it with the same severity, and we need to.
“You can’t commit adultery with your own wife.”
Yes you can. It would help to study some of Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” to better understand both lust and purity of heart.
“What I’m about to tell you is opinion—please read it accordingly. You can masturbate and not sin.”
I suppose it’s a matter of opinion and conviction. I’ve determined as a married man to have my wife’s direct involvement with any and all of my orgasms. It’s been surprisingly simple to keep to this. It doesn’t feel cumbersome. It’s a joy to have and honor this conviction.
“When you see a beautiful woman and feel an attraction, here’s what you should do: Pause and say, ‘Thank you, God, for this beautiful woman whom you have reverently and wonderfully made. I pray she knows you, or one day will know you, the way I know you.’ And then move on.”
This is ok. This is some good advice. I appreciate this; I just don’t think it goes far enough. To renew your mind is to see the other person as a whole person (not just an object), an image bearer, beautiful and deserving of love, respect, and dignity on that basis alone. I’d rather die than objectify another human being reducing them to the sum of their parts. That’s the mind change.
“Look once, you’re human; look twice, you’re a man; look three times, you just disrespected your wife.”
Not just disrespected. You’ve committed adultery in your heart because you looked with intent.
“Nobody is forcing us to lust. Lust is our own fault.”
True. It’s our fault alone- not our hardwiring or any external stimuli. So no excuses! And no more pressuring wives to “put out” more or “be more sexy” in the guise of protecting you from having a lust problem. That’s victim blaming and it’s wrong and gross. Why can’t we see this?
“Here are several practical examples of how you can flee sexual temptation:”
These, like so much advice given, are mere avoidance techniques and sin management. We have to do more than treat the symptoms of a greater and more dangerous disease. We have to kill it at the root and eradicate the problem. Or using another metaphor, don’t just brush away the cobwebs, which will surely come back as long as the spider lives! See Romans 8:13.
“Give a brother or your small group permission to hold you accountable…”
You can lie and fake it.
“Even if you have a group of men asking you weekly, “Have you sought out any sexually explicit materials this week?” you can still lie to them.”
“Run as fast as you can from any group that reinforces the notion that all men “struggle” with lust and so it’s acceptable. Men in those groups can rarely testify to God’s power to change their lives in this area.”
My point exactly. It’s better to not even have the need for accountability in the first place.
“…was still struggling with unwanted sexual behavior. He said, “PG-13 gives me hungry eyes.”
I like that term “hungry eyes” – it describes so many men today and myself at one time. The problem is you are opting for junk food instead of a gourmet meal that is a healthy and loving committed relationship with your wife (if married). Hungry and thirsty should describe your desire for righteousness not for sexually provocative and relationally empty conquests.
“He said, ‘I had a broken mind.’”
Yes, indeed. But behold, Jesus is making ALL things new, including your mind, if you’ll let him (Revelation 21:5, Romans 12:1-2).
“…the leader of a ministry that specializes in sexual purity said, ‘One hundred percent disclosure in brokenness, humility, continued transparency, and confession to the people you care about is the only way out.’”
Nope. The only way out is not confession, but a redeemed mind to see others as God sees them.
“Steve has now been free from bondage to pornography for three years. ‘I’m still tempted all the time,’ he said. ‘But now I immediately text my wife and tell her what’s happening.’”
He is SO not free! It breaks my heart that this is viewed as success. I have been free for three years, but I’m no longer tempted. And it’s been so different than the 20 years prior! I know it’s a permanent change, not just temporary victory. I’ve had sustained times of victory in the past, but always with a constant struggle. Now, the struggle is gone. It does not have to be every man’s battle!
“Objectifying women and thinking about sex constantly became a daily struggle.”
Objectifying is the key word. But again, it’s only a struggle because you think it will be. We have this unhealthy fixation on certain body parts due to a hyper-sexualized culture and the constant warnings about it from the church, which only serve to reinforce this dehumanizing view of other people.
“Today, Miguel is living in victory over pornography. He said, ‘That doesn’t mean I’m not tempted. I still have pornographic images pop into my mind, and I’m not perfect.’”
Miguel’s story as told by Patrick is a very sad story, and I’m glad it’s better, but this is still NOT full victory!
“…they can be free from compulsive behavior, but it’s going to be a lifelong battle. They’re going to be tempted every day.”
No, no, no!!
“Miguel, who now lectures on porn and sexual purity…”
What? After what I know of Miguel from this story, it seems like the blind leading the blind.
“[Miguel’s] own intentional plan…”
This is indeed “his own” plan. He and so many others. It’s not God’s plan. God, the only one needed for immediate, lasting, and permanent change, is sorely missing in this awful plan.
“Confess to everyone you can—”
Or just to God and your wife (if you’re married). Get the real solution and then help others with your testimony.
“Ask them to monitor your computer with software like Covenant Eyes.”
Save your money and be trusted without these aids. Again, you’re not truly free if you have to depend and rely on these filters.
“Purge all pornographic content from your home, your devices, your social media accounts, etc. Delete apps, people, websites, etc. that may be triggering lust.”
Trade one bondage for another, it would seem. And still not be free from either!
“The best way to overcome temptation is to not put yourself in a position where you will be tempted.”
Wouldn’t the very best test of whether you are free or not be to spend time in the place that is unthinkable, where temptation is all around you (say like a nude beach)? If you are fine, then you are truly free! I know this sounds crazy and unconventional and like the worst advice. But it worked for me and for thousands of others and a true cure to pornography and lustful thinking.
“When you fail—and you will—”
I’m wondering why I wasted my time on this chapter if you, like other authors, are just admitting defeat here!
“Ed Cole, a pioneer in men’s ministry, wrote a story in his magnum opus, Maximized Manhood, about a men’s retreat in Eugene, Oregon…”
This was a good story and a good point that’s worth reading. But then I still was asking how those men are going to overcome their longings after repenting? It will continue being a struggle and temptation, as long as you think it will be.
I want to end with a story he used to open and set up this chapter on lust. It shows just how pervasive the habits of thinking sexually like the world have become, even among those who are supposed to be leading spiritually. I don’t want to be too critical of the pastors in this story, because that would’ve been me too, as long as I believed the lie that all men are visual, etc.
“At a conference away from home, several pastors went to lunch together and were waited on by a strikingly beautiful, sensuous waitress. You could hear the sexual energy crackle in the air. The temptation they felt to lust was so arresting that each man muttered his order into his menu so as not to stare. As she exited into the kitchen to place their orders, they all sat speechless staring at their place mats. As Mark Rutland told the story to our Bible study group, the senior man finally broke the ice in his own inimitable way. “Well, God hath made the heavens and the earth.” They all nodded in agreement. “Oh, yes.” Then he said, “And all that is in them hath God made.” “Yes, that’s right,” they agreed. “And also all humanity hath God made,” he continued. “Yes, God made humanity,” they chimed in perfect cadence. Then the older pastor nodded his head toward the kitchen door where their waitress had just disappeared and said, “And God hath made some nifty humanity, hath he not?” They all howled, and the spell was broken… If even pastors can be so easily tempted to lust, one thing should be crystal clear: no man is immune from the temptation to lust. As one man put it, ‘My three greatest temptations are money, pride, and bikinis.’ Any man who says he doesn’t struggle with the temptation to lust is lying. Plain and simple.”
Good writing, but my experience and the testimony of many new friends causes me to vehemently disagree. Or I guess I’m lying! (I’m not.)
See more posts on lust by clicking here.