A Big Piece of the Helping Pie

Those engaged in helping folks with unwanted same sex attraction from a Christian perspective likely know of the 2019 book, Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing, by Jay Stringer.  Based on a research survey on over 3,800 men and women, and his own counseling, this counselor traces our sexuality, including unwanted sexual desire (all kinds) back to experiences in the formation of our identities. He makes a good case for this from how important our sexuality is to who we are.

 

As a Christian minister, the Rev. Stringer also avoids some secular pitfalls. He upholds the morality of desire, and how we must recognize pornography use and prostitute visits as sin to attain freedom from those destructive practices. But he argues that the depth of the problem means that we must address them with more than “just say no” instruction.

 

In fact, he writes the book to help the church move beyond the usual Christian charge to the addicted to simply join an accountability group and deny your desires. He points out how in many cases these practices, worthy as they are, do not by themselves result in change. This is because they don’t address the larger issues of connection and longing, or acknowledge the goodness of the desires that have been perverted.

 

The book has rightly had a big effect. It cuts down on the condemnation and shame which those seeking help must overcome. It promotes the celebration of what God has made, a need I often harp on. And it also includes one of the most harrowing stories of grooming by an extended family member you would ever want to read.

 

My sense is that the Rev. Stringer has captured a large piece of the pie of caring for the sexually addicted. In my recent book on addressing identity problems, I show how even Jesus looked back to understand a present problem (Mark 9:21–An excerpted version of my chapter expostulates on that verse). So I agree that this counselor is on to something important. As with transgender desires, there probably is some kind of trauma in there somewhere.

 

But it is not the whole pie. I find the Bible to present sin, and addressing sin, in different ways. Sometimes the writers speak of it as a disease to be healed (Psalm 38:3, Hosea 7:1, 1Peter 2:24). Other times the Scriptures call us to see sins of desire as an enemy to flee (2Timothy 2:22) or a war to fight (James 4:1, 1Peter 2:11). The prophets recognize the multiple dimensions and motivations of man, and use them all. Past trauma is there. The will is there also. Seeing the sins committed against us can be an important part of journey to righteousness. But overemphasis of that can offset the need to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14), or to put to death the sinful nature (Colossians 3:5). I find that different people respond to these other channels of thought the Bible provides.

 

In the end, I am glad for this book and the added insight it brings. It supplies an important tool in the toolbox of caring for those with unwanted desires.

 

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