So I was talking to a pastor recently who was looking for ways to help men overcome their porn habit. Since I am a psychiatrist, he was asking me about the parts of the brain that were involved in reward.
I know why he was asking. He had been exposed to Gary Wilson’s “Your Brain on Porn” and wanted to preach a sermon to men about how viewing porn was just like using crack cocaine.
It isn’t. Here is what I explained to the pastor. If you approach porn as an addiction then you will try to “cure” it using the anti-addiction methodology that we use for cocaine, meth, gambling, and heroin addicts. But this is like treating gall stones with lung cancer medicine. It won’t accomplish your goal and it will just make things worse.
For example. One of the first anti-addiction drugs of choice that we use is Wellbutrin. Wellbutrin reduces addiction cravings. I have given it to alcoholics, smokers, and today I thought about prescribing it to a crack cocaine addict.
But Wellbutrin does not lower sexual desire at all. In fact, when we have a patient whose use of Paxil/Lexapro/Celexa/Zoloft is reducing libido, we switch them to Wellbutrin. If porn/sex was really an addiction, the Wellbutrin would reduce desire, not increase it.
So, if a Christian pastor wants to help their disciples to stop viewing porn, they should approach it from a different standpoint than addiction. They should treat it as an sinful – but natural- behavior like fornication or adultery.
Looked in the church bulletin this morning and saw the same thing that was in every bulletin. Events this week for the high school teens, the college youth, and the women’s weekly fellowship.
Hmm, do you notice who was left out? The men, of course. There was no place for the men to socialize. There were no hunting, fishing, or four-wheeler/camping trips. There were no trips to see sports games or monster trucks.
Do you think that men stay home all week and don’t go out with their friends? Of course not. The young men are hitting the single’s scenes (They are certainly not showing up to the “college youth” meetings. Who wants to be sneered at as a sex-addict and probable future “emotional abuser”)
Their are lots of social events that men go to, but none of them are sponsored by the church. There are soccer groups, bowling leagues, amateur baseball teams. There are hunting groups, fishing friends, and bars where men can just hang out, drink beer, play cards, and talk about women. Men get together to go to the rodeo or see wrestling or monster trucks. None of these are approved by our new female-led churches. We are more likely to be told that we have to go on “Daniel Fasts” that don’t include meat. Certainly we can’t drink beer or talk about sports and boobies.
But the fact is that men have always done these things and always will. The masculine pursuits are as Godly as weight-watchers and diabetes education workshops. Jesus and his 12 disciples, along with the many other disciples including wives and single women, spent time in the wilderness, resting just before the crucifixion week. I guarantee you that during that time there was some wine drinking, some wrestling, some races, and I think that the married couples did a lot of humping and the singles flirted.
This is not how the modern church treats its men. It sneers at sweat, hunting, and bloody sports. It treats their God-given sex-drive as an addiction.
Oh, by the way, there was one event scheduled that the men were encouraged to go to – Celebrate Recovery. The church wants them to deal with their “addictions.”
One of the greatest challenges facing the man who wishes to be honest about his porn use is overcoming society’s insistence that he is being, somehow, unfaithful to his wife.
Biblically, this insistence makes no sense. If reading about or looking at sexy women or sex acts were adultery, then God would cause us to be commit adultery every time we read the Bible, which doesn’t close the bedroom doors. Privacy is a function of large living spaces, which didn’t exist until after World War II.
The oft quoted Matt 5:28 Whosever looketh after a woman to lust after her… ignores the context of the scripture which talks about hatred being equivalent to murder. Every time I become angry with someone I do not “hate” them. I can be very angry with someone without desiring their death, so also I can be very aroused at the sight of a woman’s body without desiring or scheming to have sex with her.
Only in America are women’s breasts always hidden from sight. In the rest of the world, and in the rest of history, breasts were considered a normal, and very pleasant sight.Clearly the people of the Bible were used to naked breasts in public. Unquestionably the Romans had no problem with them. The Jews certainly appreciated the finer parts of female anatomy. David saw Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop because it was obviously common for women to do this.
The shame of nakedness in history is not associated with a lack of modesty, but rather with poverty. Poor people could not afford enough clothes to be dressed all of the time. But even rich people took off their clothes when they were around water. The bathing suit – like pajamas – is a recent American/English invention.
The pornographic portraits, statues, and literature of the ancient world is pervasive in all cultures. Yet neither Jesus nor Paul and the other New Testament writers mentioned it. They spent their efforts warning against real adultery, real fornication, and real lasciviousness.
The churches are failing fathers because they have lost the concept of masculinity.
When Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, he began preaching Jesus in the marketplace. He made the unconverted Jews so angry that they attempted to kill him. Today, if a man preaches Christ this way he will be informed that he is not be “seeker-friendly”
When Peter was working out on the fishing boat after the Resurrection he worked naked. Today he would be arrested and put on the sex-offender list.
When Abner sent David an invitation to be King of Israel, David told him to return the wife that was given to another man. He went to war to keep the woman that was his. Today, he would be denounced as a brute.
When Solomon was inspired to write a Song of Love, he made no secret of his erotic desire. He publicly described his sexual acts. He proclaimed how much he liked her naked body. He talked about her nudity in detail. He detailed his masturbation. Today he would be called a pornographer and banished to the sinful alleys of the internet.
Today, Christians expect a man to listen to his wife instead of lead his family; to play with his children instead of instruct them; to romance his wife instead of have sex with her; to play soccer instead of hockey; to drink soft drinks instead of beer. To compromise instead of fight for what is his.
None of these things are bad. They are just not MASCULINE. Masculinity is not always the best thing, but it is half of the best thing. It is the half of humanity that God created to express. It is the half that is usually expressed by men.
No man is perfectly masculine. I, personally, never hunt. Frankly, I would rather quilt. I happen to be pretty good at listening(I’m a psychiatrist, after all). But I also have no fear of standing my ground on an issue if I stand all alone. I have often, like, Shammah the son of Agee, stood in the patch of lentils and defend it when everyone else fled.
The point I am making is not that every man has to act like a cave man. But the skills that make a good cave man ought to be encouraged
It happened again this week. Some friends went to the pastor to save their marriage. The man had a “porn addiction”. The result is always the same – the marriage is not saved. The wife continues to go to church, the ex-husband drops out. The children are assured by the church that their daddy is a bad person.
This is because the pastors are not actually being trained in good counseling techniques. Most of them only took a couple of introductory courses during Bible school, learn a little bit more by practicing (malpracticing) on their people with no supervision, and then finally are confirmed in their poor practice by other poor counselors and pastors who have gathered together in organization like “Focus On the Family” which should named Focus On Destroying Fathers.
Firstly, let’s get rid of the idea that God ever intended pastors to be counselors. Just where did this idea come from? Is it in the New Testament. No, it isn’t. In fact, when a man came to Jesus seeking family counseling Jesus said, “Who made me a judge or divider among you?” (Luke 12:14).
How did pastors get into the marital counselor position? They got there because when a couple have a disagreement between themselves, they want an outside authority to force the other side to capitulate. The husband is not obeying the anti-masculine rules that our society has made its new norm. The wife threatens divorce unless the husband agrees to “counseling”, but instead of going to a competent counselor who can actually help, she drags him down to the church, where she knows the pastor will tell the husband that he is “sinning” by acting a like a man. Because of his love for his wife, the husband will attempt to feminize himself for some time. This inevitably fail. When he does fail, the wife will feel holy as she disobeys the direct command of Jesus and leaves him. The church ladies who all participated in the gossip surrounding this breakup will all comfort the ex-wife that she “tried” and the man will be ostracized. The pastor is called into testify that the husband didn’t cooperate with counseling, the children are handed to the mother and told that the father is bad.
No, this has never happened to me. My wife likes me to be a man. Oh, yes, the sisters of the church have tried to force her to adopt the pervasive man-hatred of the church. These women are now divorced and our marriage is strong.
The reason that pastors make bad counselors is because that they look at things in the “sin-righteousness” paradigm. This is not bad. The church is supposed to teach righteousness. They are supposed to teach healthy behaviors and good habits of life. So when a couple comes to the pastor for counseling, he looks for what is “wrong” in the marriage. He attempts to remold this couple into the Platonic ideal of what he has been taught is the “Biblical” model of marriage. He looks for “sin” and attempts to get the couple to let the “Holy Spirit” guide them into righteousness.
But, those of us who happen to be trained in human health – DOCTORS – know that there isn’t a perfect model of the human body or a perfect model of a human relationship. Every body and every relationship is infinitely unique. They cluster around certain norms, but these norms are considerably more diversified than untrained people realize. Hearts are not all the same size or in the same position, the arteries (and especially the veins) are in much different places in the body that we expect. As a psychiatrist, I know that people’s baseline behavior varies very widely.
And the “normal” differences skyrocket when you combine all of these widely varying behaviors into families. Even if you simplify humans into 16 basic personality types (a vast over-simplification) you have 256 different combinations of just two people. Now add in the in-laws, children, cousins…. The number of different combinations is astronomical.
You are not going to solve all of the myriad numbers of things that can go wrong in a marriage by teaching the husband to say, “I hear you saying….” and filling her car with balloons on her birthday. Nor are you going to become a capable pastoral counselor by going out to Colorado Spring, CO, taking a 5 day course and getting a certificate.
You are especially not going to become a capable counselor when you are being taught a method that has no peer-reviewed studies showing its effectiveness. Being told that we don’t need studies since the Bible already told us everything that we need to know is false. The Bible gives us guidelines for STUDY about our relationships with each other. It is not a textbook. God expects us to develop expertise in how these guidelines are implemented in each culture.
It would be nice if the evangelical community decided to develop Christian counselors. It would be nice if they started some peer reviewed periodicals to see how their different methods worked. It would be even nicer if they actually read the Bible instead of just waving it around claiming that it supported their theories. But none of this has happened. Instead non-expert preachers have gotten together, pieced together some ideas based on traditions and then wrote books telling us what GOD SAID.
The third commandment told us to not take the name of the Lord in vain. This means, don’t use God’s name to defend your own ideas and your own vanity. Don’t claim God said something he didn’t say in order to give authority to your bad ideas.
There is one other reason to not go to your pastor for counseling. Because he already has a relationship with you that will get in the way. You will not be honest and open with him and he cannot be honest and open with you. I often have patients tell me that they are very religious and are very involved in their church. I then ask them if they would like their pastor involved in the treatment team. They invariably say “NO.” Why? Because they are afraid of what he will learn about them. They don’t want to discuss their substance abuse, their adultery, their sins. They have to go to church and watch him preach at them for a long time after the treatment is complete. Therefore they hide the true problems from him.
And this goes the other way. The pastor is under pressure to not say certain things to his parisioners. Sometimes I have to tell my patients that they cannot continue to use marijuana if they wish me to continue prescibing for them. I will have to give them a drug test before I will meet with them. Can you imagine a pastor telling a congregant that if he doesn’t stop using pot he will have to leave the church? If he did so, would he be a good pastor?
Don’t go to your Pastor for counseling. He is not appointed by God to be your psychiatrist. He doesn’t know what he is doing. His position prevents him from giving the best treatment. He will destroy you.