It wasn’t by design, but the Outhouse happened to get launched on my birthday two years ago.
Speaking of Libras, Mark Driscoll and I were born on precisely the same date (October 11, 1970). I should be enjoying memories of toting orange-iced cupcakes to school. But I’ve noticed the good pastor seems to revel in fairly racy sex talk some might deem unbecoming a man of the cloth. All things to all men, some might say, but it may be closer to nothing new under the sun. For better or worse, it does seem to me that Driscoll’s pastoral care could benefit more from considering how self-restraint beats self-expression instead of indulging crass questions with even baser answers (I’d link here what I am referring to, but, well, you know, ew). So in light of a shared birthday on Sunday, yet not-so-shared perspectives on either appropriate public speech or dispositions on how to better engage a fleshy culture, I thought I’d re-post this, originally titled “Of Vice and Men.”
It is always interesting to me how our in our more conservative religious circles we yet see how the culture of the therapeutic has been so fully embraced while simultaneously criticized.
It is not long after discussion about something like pornography ensues that one hears an almost constant barrage about “addiction,” couched in a lot of religio-speak. Men talk in whiny-pitched tones about their “problem” and pastors talk in a duped tenor and rehearsed empathy about all the “devastation that comes from pornography.” Men speak heroically about what sort of baby-sitter software with which they have laced their computers, revealing that they have chosen to simply meet their juvenile impulses by further treating themselves like little boys. Awash in group versions of self-help, ministry-teams talk about “accountability partners” and we are all supposed to be thoroughly impressed.
It is not as if I am of the bootstraps mentality that cavalierly dismisses the validity of both authentic behavioral problems and legitimate intermediacy and convalescence. To be sure, there are those who have real, genuine behavior problems that manifest themselves in illicit consumption of certain substances, phenomenon or even human beings. And if I learned anything during my brief stint in a pastoral care internship, real people with real problems need real help, not a false hope that an eternal faith fixes their temporal problems.
But it is my contention that the large majority of those who claim this thing called “sexual addiction” actually give these poor souls a black-eye by pirating their problems in order to excuse their plain and simple bad behavior. They want the benefits of being considered—by others and themselves—amongst those for whom will power and personal responsibility are but more tangential dimensions for those with real ailments. And it’s further baptized in the “devil made me do it” psycho-spirituality which has human beings the unwitting pawn between the unseen forces of good and evil. But the problem with the husband who has turned to pornography is not so much a problem of addiction or devils and angels perching his shoulder as it his plain refusal to pull up his socks and behave like a man instead of a child. And if he really has a serious behavioral problem he needs to see a psychiatrist in real time, not a pastor doing Christian voodoo. Just because a red-blooded man has refused to control what his natural wiring seems to demand is no justification to steal the validity of those who have authentic behavioral issues.
But conservative religionists have always had a particular fixation on sexual ethics ever since they were persuaded that Wesleyan notions of “personal holiness” and orthodoxy go hand-in-hand. Reader, gird thy loins, but I daresay this may go a fair ways to help explain why they are so associated with and fixated on the politics of sex, specifically those that surround the questions of abortion and homosexuality. For better or ill, I tend to agree with those who observe that such socio-political fixation against abortion or homosexuality on the part of conservative religionists says at least as much about an ignoble socio-political punishment for aberrant sexual behavior as it does a noble concern for social welfare.
There is also the tendency for most conservative religionists to cast our society as one that “would Babylon blush.” On the one hand, it is true that self-expression always beats self-comportment in our age, thus modesty is deemed more vice than virtue. But I don’t get the sense that this is so much what the self-described conservative means. My sense is that he has accepted the premise that to be conservative is to be a prude and cast his lot with Mrs. Grundy when it comes to the meaning of modesty. The legalisms of yesteryear’s rigid, moralistic sexual ethics amongst conservative religionists seem to have simply morphed to fit our kinder and gentler therapeutic age. It isn’t so much anymore that one wants to stay in the good moralist graces of Mrs. Grundy as he must bow the knee to the new therapeutic trinity of being “happy, healthy and whole.”
I fully realize it is politically incorrect to say all this in a cult and culture wooed by comfort and ease, personal completeness and all things therapeutic. It is also anathema to a wider conservative religious landscape that relishes moralizing that which is therapeutic and therapeuting that which is moral. But I’m still a huge fan of common sense: the problem is not big, bad e-zines roaming the earth seeking whom they may devour but people who refuse to throw the off switch.