The other day I listened to a podcast and the question came up to an evangelical from a mainstream Protestant and former Catholic. The question is why is sex such a huge deal for you guys? The question drew me back to my false accusation mess. I observed how a member of Jordan Kauflin or Eric Simmons Redeemer Arlington was so focused on avoiding sexual sin, but other situations such as the false accusation I endured were not sinful. The hyper focus on sexual sin makes evangelicalism toxic as people end up downplaying other sin. I hope this post makes sense as I have been working on it for a day now.
“I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex, and rich food. He was healthy right up to the day he killed himself.“
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 NIV
Earlier today I was listening to a Phil Vischer podcast that discussed the issues behind the Atlanta shooter. This blog has written a couple of articles about that topic. You can read those posts in, “The New York Times Looks at the Atlanta Shooter and the Male Purity Programs He Did in Evangelical Christianity” and “Learning to Hate Yourself. A Reflection on the Forever War Against Lust and Pornography Among Men in Evangelical Culture and the Destroyed Lives Left Behind.” In listening to the podcast at about 30:00 one of the individuals talks about interacting with a former Catholic who is mainstream Protestant. In a conversation about sex he turns and asks his friend, “Why is sex such a huge deal for you guys?” The comment in the podcast led me to want to write a post about the warped take of sexual sin and how its greatly distorted in evangelicalism. In the view of this blog this approach is one of the reasons why evangelicalism fails and can not be redeemed.
An Unhealthy Worry About Falling into Sexual Sin Within Fundamentalism
I spent a lot of time in evangelicalism, and even when I experienced my first faith crisis the warped views of sexual sin kept coming from the culture. There is one thing I noticed in my time inside this movement but I saw it especially clear with a guy from a former Sovereign Grace Ministry church which is today Acts 29. His name is a pseudonym at this blog and is called Andrew White. He was a Captain in the United States Air Force and graduated from the Air Force Academy. Our paths crossed in the Washington, D.C. area in the fall of 2011. From the beginning there was one thing Andrew feared more than anything else. It was falling into “sin” and making mistakes with lust, porn or other issues. In a strained relationship he came to me and talked about how he masturbated in the shower and would beat himself up psychologically. He spoke about how he found his Dad’s pornography and how he used to look at it. Andrew talked about how in different churches he always was in “sex addiction” recovery groups. In the process he also spoke about his sexual relationship with his wife occasionally and how he thought it was her duty to help him sexually satisfied. One time he dropped a hint in a conversation that left me to wonder if in their marriage they were fighting about sex. He was obsessed with the concept of sexual purity and in a former Sovereign Grace Ministry church it seemed to be purity on steroids. I wonder if the Puritan theology which people like John Piper love and adore makes churches like Sovereign Grace hyper focused on legalism and sexual purity. And it was like this over the year 2012 into 2013. In our discussions or fights over faith he often went back to lust, sex, and porn. Toward the end of of the relationship Andrew asked me to change the password to his computer so he could not access porn when his wife was out of town.
A Warped Take on Sexual Sin and How Evangelicalism Is Undermined and Harmful
I’m not going to spend time talking about it. The relationship between Andrew and myself fractured when he triggered a false accusation about stalking to break the relationship. I was baffled and psychologically wounded through the trauma and could not understand how a guy who asked me to come into his house and change the password to his computer could give birth to a claim that I stalked him. Who invites a stalker into their home to change their computer password so they can’t access porn? If you want to read more about it in more detail go to, “How I Managed a False Accusation Given Birth to by a USAF Captain and Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington for 408 Days” and “Unless You Experience Spiritual Abuse Then You Won’t Understand How Painful it is.”
What I learned in a horrific way is how warped evangelicals are about sin. So in the case of Andrew White he was more focused on not falling into sexual sin. But the false accusation which threatened to destroy my reputation, my ability to be employed and led me to seek counsel from an attorney, and also hurt my family; just was not a sin. What I learned from the situation is that if the situation involves sex its always sinful. But and I’ll get into this below child sexual abuse doesn’t qualify as being sexual sin for many evangelicals. It you commit sexual sin as an evangelical there is no possibility of redemption and its often game over in this system. But if you cheat, bully, lie, commit fraud, steal, drink, gossip, slander, etc… well that’s not as much of a sin. Some evangelicals will ask is it sin? Chances are you will get off light and it will be forgotten. They will emphasize grace and downplay the issue. It wasn’t just Andrew White who struggled to understand this issue, but it was also Jordan Kauflin who was a pastor at Redeemer Arlington who failed to understand how serious the situation ultimately was that I was dealing with at the time. This hyper focus on sexual sin and downplaying other sin contributes to the many evangelical scandals this blog continues to write about. Its one of the many reasons why evangelicalism can not function. When some sins which involve crimes are downplayed and sexual sin is overwhelmingly stressed the lack of balance for a healthy organization or movement cannot be attained. Its why scandals like Mars Hill Seattle and so many others happen. Mark Driscoll’s bullying, and anger issues and emotional abuse was not sin for many people. Now if Driscoll had a problem with porn, had an affair with someone or the sin was homosexual it would have been game over.
What is Sexual Sin Anyway?
But even among evangelicals the question needs to be asked what is sexual sin anyway? Sexual sin is looking at pornography, masturbation, having sex with your girlfriend or boyfriend, having an affair or anything that is homosexual. What doesn’t qualify as sexual sin for many evangelicals? Child sex abuse or sex abuse that many evangelicals can’t comprehend. When that sex abuse is an adult abusing a person of the same sex there is an additional stigma. An 18 year old male abusing a 12 year old male, or a 19 year old female sexually abusing a 15 year old female for some reason is not as serious as two high school teenagers engaging in sexual activity as boyfriend and girlfriend. Child sex abuse seems to be downplayed by many evangelicals for some reason. I don’t exactly know how or why, but when I consider how many evangelicals react to sexual abuse many just do not get it. Its the reason why the Southern Baptists keep having this issue over and over and will continue to have this situation play out. Evangelicals can’t agree on sexual sin, and when you can’t agree on that then what happens when other events such as bullying, fraud, etc… happen in that context? In a way that is what I dealt with. A guy hyper focused on sexual sin who didn’t think a false accusation was sinful. Even when confronted he downplayed the situation. When you have such a distorted view of sin, it begs the question what is sin?
I hope this post comes across as I am intending it. I worked on it last night and spent this morning re-working it and wordsmithing this post to try and make it clear. The evangelical hang up on sexual sin is beyond toxic. Its a shameful weapon that haunts people for the remainder of their lives. This is part of the reason why Josh Harris programs caused so much harm. Its the reason why people long after their youth can’t sexually perform as an adult. They are burdened with shame. The other aspect is that evangelicals are a movement that is incapable of adjusting or change. They can’t correct their error because they are reactionary as a movement. When all you do is stand to oppose culture or life how can you adjust to change? And this is one of the many reasons why evangelicalism cannot be redeemed.