Christianity Didn’t Save Me

If you could ask 12-year-old me what the absolute worst possible thing was, I would have said ‘pornography’.

Let me set the stage: the year is 2006. I’m a month shy of 13. Within the last two years I have discovered first, masturbation, and second, pornography. I have a prolific circle of ‘online’ acquaintances, some Christian, some not. I have no other friends, and in the family and social settings where I am involved I feel overlooked and unseen. I don’t know what the word ‘depression’ means yet–but I am; I question the value of my life. I know something is wrong. I have a feeling in my gut that it has something to do with my new-discovered habits that I don’t even have the vocabulary to describe. The only word that I know is ‘lust’, and lust is bad.

Some of my family used to attend an event called ‘Worship Fest’, a weekend of live Christian music and ‘messages’. Pardon the Christianese. It happened most years, sometime in August. I–a 12-year-old with barely the vocabulary to describe what was happening in my body–spent an entire weekend begging God that if he could just help me stop… you know the line. I remember feeling a feint hope coming home, but mostly just exhausted expectation that nothing was going to change for me. Remember how I said I didn’t know what depression was? I heard Joyce Meyers use that word sometime in the remainder of that same year, and I said ‘That couldn’t be what I have…could it..?’

I did. And it got much worse.

2006 was monumental for me. I learned that God wouldn’t help me. I learned what depression was. The following year I learned some of the vocabulary words that I was lacking, namely, ‘masturbation.’ And I became more–and more–depressed, because I couldn’t get out of what I called a rut. I actually believed that what I was going through was an act of the devil allowed by God to somehow maintain my humility. I actually believed that. And I spoke it to others as truth.

My dad got me a book called ‘Every Man’s Battle’. It was an insightful book. I got both sequels. I don’t recommend it; it didn’t save me. I started an online course–and restarted–and restarted; because you have to be honest to your accountability partner, and they make you start over every time you ‘slip up’. I don’t even mention its name; it didn’t save me, it left me even more hopeless. And when I went to a movie night out and someone put on a steamy rom-com after I had been ‘clean’ cold turkey for a month? It ended me.

I got married. I won’t mention any more to the purposes of this post. I don’t recommend it; it didn’t save me. I grew up, became a well-respected and admired leader in my Church circles. Christianity didn’t save me. But I did stumble partially on the truth when I stopped trying to stop and let myself be.

I’m writing this because there is no other Christian out there who will tell you that Christ will not save you from pornography. I don’t believe there is a Christian out there who will tell you that pornography is not a moral, ethical dilemma to be solved by increased devotion to religion. I don’t believe there is a Christian out there who will tell you that you can stop and not want it again–that there is a satisfaction and an end outside of Christianity for that ugly L-word.

Because I’m here telling you that I’ve reached Christianity’s elusive freedom, and I don’t wrestle with continued craving. From the age of 11 to the age of 26 I craved pornography almost every day of my life. And I’m here telling you that I don’t any more. I’m here, I’ve made it, and I’m going to tell you what few Christians would have ever told me: pornography isn’t the problem.

“Sure,” you say, “I know that; I am the problem.” False. I have over 15 horrible self-defeating years behind me to emphatically tell you that no, you are not the problem, your sexuality is not even the problem. In fact, there is nothing wrong with you.

Sexuality and intimacy are complex. The problem with Christianity is it isn’t prepared to deal with these complexities, and neither are most Christians. I say Christianity didn’t save me because I had to go to ‘secular’ sources to learn that my sexuality is okay–good even. Or that Christianity had silently taught me that I had to suppress my sexuality until marriage (which, by the way, is the reason you are struggling with pornography and masturbation so much: you can’t suppress your sexuality, and you shouldn’t). Here’s how it might happen: you hit puberty, and start experiencing these new changes and feelings; your body starts responding to things in a whole new way. Maybe by this time you’ve already stumbled on something pornographic, but it doesn’t really matter because you’ll be drawn by a deep curiosity in that direction anyway. Maybe you’ve also discovered that you can elicit some very pleasurable sensations by touching yourself, too. If you’ve been brought up in a Christian community you’ll probably already know that this curiosity is “wrong” and that anything of a sexual nature is for marriage only–but this isn’t sex…is it? You may feel gross and shameful especially if you’re a young person who’s looked at pornography, thought it was completely disgusting but for some reason couldn’t stop going back. You might spend some doubtful months or years wondering if what you’re doing is wrong, or you might already know. You try to stop, to control it, but you can’t, and the harder you try, the harder it becomes. No one has much to say to you about it, no way to help you, even after you come out as a self-diagnosed sex addict. The expectation for you is that you just stop doing it. ‘Rely on Jesus,’ some might say, ‘He will satisfy you.’

What Christianity and, I think many people at large, have misunderstood is that addiction is often a symptom only. We want to call it a disease and treat the symptom, but it comes from deeper roots. I began to understand this when my draw toward porn shifted toward people on live cam. They didn’t even have to be doing anything, it was canned intimacy. But also it is a symptom of the fact that at 12 I was begging God to help me suppress my own sexuality–a very real, fundamental part of who I am. You can’t suppress sexuality, it is too powerful, too prevalent in your being. Instead it will crop up in uncontrollable urges–addictions (and these will not stop at just action against your own body but will go on to ripple out to others as you grow and reach positions of power)–because your sexuality wants to be known by you. I didn’t learn this from Christianity, I learned it from psychology–a study Christianity I think often gives too little credit to. You need to integrate. This is the last time I will say it because my focus is not simply on what Christianity has done wrong or failed to do, but Christianity has spent so long veering away and avoiding sexuality and keeping it behind closed doors that it doesn’t know how to help a 12-year-old boy integrate his blossoming sexuality; the answer is ‘suppress’ and ‘repress’. And honestly I don’t think this problem stops at Christianity, because I look around at a culture that is so detached from its sexuality.

I wish I had time to say it all. It would take a book; maybe one day I will write it. But for now I want to speak to that 12-year-old who is now 17–18–23– and is still living defeated by their sexuality: let go. You are not gross or disgusting. You’re not a monster, but you are doing monstrous things to your development right now. The reality is your sexuality is not defeating you, you are defeating yourself. You have to accept your sexuality, because if you don’t you will never be free of this burden. Your sexuality is complex but it is not the all-powerful force for evil you may have been made to believe; it is beautiful, it is powerful, it is a doorway to an intimacy you will never know with another person if you do not stop trying to block it off. Instead you will know shame, guilt, disgust and self-loathing. It’s okay if you don’t believe pornography or masturbation are morally right, but you can’t keep repressing your body’s only known way of sexual expression and expect it to be okay, or to learn how to be sexually healthy and complete. You need to let go of the stigma you keep supporting so that you can meet and accept yourself as a sexual being with legitimate sexual needs to be met.

The problem is, there aren’t a lot of answers, especially within Christianity–yet. We are blazing a trail here for our younger generations, for our children–I’ll be damned if my sons and daughters grow up believing their sexuality is a sin. But I know that there are answers, I know there are ways to address the complexities of sexuality because I’ve done it. And those of you who know me personally might say ‘Well of course you have, but you’re in a sexual relationship.’ Yes, I am. But I was married before and it didn’t save me, remember? It isn’t as simple as just getting married, or just getting to have sex finally, because I was married, and I had sex, and I still needed porn and masturbation and girls on live cams because I did not know how to meet my own sexuality and intimacy needs even in marriage and sex. My unhealthy marriage was absolutely a factor–or rather, my inability to meet my own sexuality and intimacy needs were a huge factor in my unhealthy marriage; a relationship–even a good one–will not take the onus off of you to know yourself and know how to meet your deep inner needs, and because you are dealing now with the deep inner needs of two people instead of just yourself, the symptom will grow to your relationship. I’m telling you, you have to deal with your sexuality as a good and highly critical–and huge–part of who you are. Meet yourself.

There are a lot of things in my past history I used to care about that I don’t carry forward anymore–a lot of fights and arguments that I championed. Most of them don’t matter any more. But this one? This one I’m not quitting on because it’s personal to me to see peers toting the typical Christian lines about sexuality that I used to, and knowing that their picture is only a small portion. I wish I’d known back then what I do now, it would have changed my life. Let’s talk about it. Please let’s talk about it, let’s dare to reconsider and reshape the way we think about sexuality, for the sake of our wholeness, for the sake of our relationships, and for the sake of our children.

The Untold

I was eleven–or ten-going-on.

I remember certain details of the day clearly; I remember that it was probably the last time I ever cut the legs off my jeans (because that’s just what you did when your knees wore out).

I wonder if my older siblings remember; most of the family was out for the evening somewhere and the rest of us sat down to watch Along Came Polly. I was eleven–or ten-going-on, and the question was briefly queried as to whether I should be watching such a movie with them, but without any action taken. It seems silly now, it was a strictly PG-13 all-under-the-covers rom-com, but it was the first sex scene I’d ever seen.

And it caused something to stir within me.

After the movie that night, I wanted more than anything to explore this mystery, to know it and be known by it. Being the imaginative and artistic young soul, I sallied several attempts to fill in the blanks on paper, to capture the essence somehow of the longing I was experiencing. I had no inkling of what was taking place–what I could make take place–in my body, but I was keen to explore it. My sexuality had awoken.

I’d only ever heard the term pornography used once. Upon asking what pornography was, I was told that it was pictures of people naked. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to have their picture taken naked, nor why it would be at all interesting to have a ‘porn stash’ under your mattress, as the initial joke insinuated. But as my curiosity and desire grew, and after a misspelled web address faced me with a page with a link entitled simply ‘Pornography’, one quiet evening I decided to finally uncover the mystery for myself.

I was surprised–and disgusted–by what I saw. To the credit of my own innocence I did not understand intellectually that looking at pornography might be wrong–even though I might have jumped at the slightest noise anywhere in the rest of the house–it was simply a matter of discovery and understanding for me. But pornography was too great a substance, an overload to my shrouded understanding. I felt dirty, and deep gui lt, or shame. I don’t recall what brought me back after that initial click, but this isn’t really about pornography.

At first it was innocent enough; I figured out how to reproduce what I had first experienced, and continued to do so regularly. And then doubts began to filter in; what if this is wrong? How could it be? But in my mind I decided that what I termed ‘simulated sex,’ was at least borderline. What if I am sinning? At my age and level of understanding, sexuality was nowhere near being on the sin-spectrum taught in Sabbath-school class, but I still began to beg and plead with God to forgive me every time, assuring him even with tears at times that I was sorry, and that it would be the last time.

And so I began to banish and demonise my sexuality. I built the belief around me that I had to find the off-switch and turn it off until I was older, married and ready to be sexual; then I could turn it on, and everything would be fine because I would be married. 

If you’ve followed my writing for long, you know the rest of the story: I wrote my first testimony outlining my ‘lust problem’  and depression in the spring of 2007 when I was twelve and had fought to repress my sexuality for over a year. I became spiritual–and it was a genuine, albeit immature spirituality–to further fight my ‘lust’ and growing depression. I remember going to a conference in 2006 and vowing to God there, ‘I’m never going to give in to my lust again.’ Of course I failed my expectations. One day I found the recounting of Paul’s thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12 and I adopted it as my own struggle against my sexuality–this is just a messenger of Satan, something to keep me lowly and humble, to let God be strong for me.

I want to tell you how wrong I was.

I want to tell you that I mourn the day I began to think that my sexuality was unacceptable. I want to tell you that because I repressed my sexuality, and in combination with desensitising myself with a regular porn habit, when I did get married and figured I was in the free and clear finally, I didn’t find sex exciting, or good, or intimate because by then I had buried my sexuality so deeply that I didn’t know how to get it back, and the shame I felt in my sexuality kept me from wanting it back.

But I want to tell you something even more important: I’ve come to the understanding that because I repressed my sexuality, my sexuality acted out. Because I outlawed all sexual expression, my sexual expression became uncontrollable. My sexuality is and always has been an integral part of me, because I am a human, created to be a sexual being. I thought it was all about being pure and not doing anything deemed by the church and society as gross, unacceptable and sinful, but in pursuit of purity I disowned part of me. I’ve never been fully able to wrap my brain around the wording Jesus whispered to me years ago saying, ‘It’s not about your purity, son, it’s about Mine,’ but they burn in my mind now with the understanding that growing up whole was more important than any person’s idea about purity. am his purity, there is nothing so foolish as for me to think I could have tarnished his image by sexual expression.

Pornography is another story, but as I said; this isn’t really about pornography. It began as purely biological curiosity for me, but became simply another device by which my ever-constricted sexuality dared to be known by me. I have always been your friend. 

I mourn the intrigue I taught myself to distrust; I mourn the discovering I never allowed myself to take properly, and the mess that came of trying to disown Myself. I mourn not being able to experience the wonder of sexuality after repressing my sensitivities and blaming it on pornographic saturation. I mourn the years spent believing myself a monster, and the countless nights in moral and ethical despair; it’s no wonder to me now, understanding just what I was doing to myself, why I was deeply depressed. I mourn never knowing boyhood sexuality as a wonderful and beautiful thing to be celebrated and explored.

And now you know the story as it has never been known before. I did not know it myself until just recently when a dam somewhere way back in my subconscious broke and it all came flooding out with an all-but-forgotten memory of the first sex scene I ever saw. My sexuality is no longer a problem. Pornography is no longer a moral issue but an intimacy issue. I now understand why not fighting my sexuality’s pornographic outlet actually helped me to need it less, and why trying to stop was actually a hopeless attempt to thwart the Genuine Me, my own Beloved. I now understand–albeit only a little more than before–Myself.

The Hid [A Shadow Narrative]

I was a boy when the stranger appeared. It came as a veiled mystery, beauty and passion emanating through the folds of an only almost opaque cloak. I was instantly intrigued; I set out to Know the mystery, and she began to take vague form beneath the pen of my imagination, teased by glimpses through the veil.

I experimented, searching out ways to awaken her, to coax her from her divine mystery, but one day I cheated; I approached the veil and took hold of her folds; I parted the veil, just ever so slightly–and found myself dazzlingly blind. I reached in my hand, and jerked it back again at the pricking of wicked thorns against my fingers.

I left her there for a time; I was bewildered by the enmity of the thorns so that I forgot the beauty and had only the image of needle-sharp spears. But my ears were attuning themselves to her song, and so I returned.

I went deeper the next time–ignoring the scratches of the thorns, for I told myself that was all they were, determined as I was to caress the Mystery. Yet I still could not reach her, and the wonder was so unrelievedly great that eventually I had to retract my reach for hopelessness.

When I removed my hand from the folds it was torn and bleeding bright red. I felt the ardour of mystery; I had never seen my own blood before, warm and metallic on my skin. But the aroma was immediately nauseating, and my stomach was in knots with it. My innocence had surfaced and I could not undo it.

The next time I tried to part the thorns with both hands, still determined to her mystery, but when I attempted to retrieve my reach the thorns became barbs and tore gaping wounds.

And I could not help but return.

After only a few trespassed visits her brilliance became dark to me. The light pulsed deeper and deeper within, brighter and brighter, but more distant with every visit. The thorns became dark claws which first drug me in, and then regurgitated me, cut and bleeding back without the veil. I blamed her for seducing me to her beauty and mystery, and she became a demon, black as death within the veil. I cried for deliverance from this foe but deliverance came not, and now I wore her like a blood-soaked cloak, her barbs sinking ever deeper.

I heard a voice that intimated friendship with her, but what I believed I heard was merely a distant promise that her power would be wrested from me if I could only last that long. I held a hindering hope, and maintained my animosity.

I fought against her for what seemed lifetimes; and she fought back for mere survival and recognition. But my vision was filled with only monsters and demons, black terrors in the night which engulfed and ravaged me. I banished her to the very depths, but found that I lived in the depths with her–but for rare moments when I found myself rising the great stair to a life without her, only to stumble in the middle and find myself back in the dark and slime of the depths again.

I survived only by continually defining myself intentionally as her opposite, and by emphasising our separateness, and she survived by the thorns she lay in my flesh, and the blood which issued from each fresh wound. Who will deliver me from this body of death? I wailed endlessly. How will I ever be the same again?

I feared her always, reaching out as she did from behind her black shrouds. You’re dead to me, I would scream, Remain in your grave, foul fiend! Often I would tire, and she would cloud my mind in despair.

And then one day I stopped fighting. I thought that I had truly won, for when I stopped fighting, she ceased to grow stronger, and was contented to the shadows. I saw less of her, and when I did her fury was less vile and shorter-lived. My mind was no longer filled with her, and the wounds and scars covering my body began to heal and fade faster than the fresh ones were appearing. But she was not finished with me yet.

You see, I awoke one day, and I found that there was no mystery where I knew there had been. There was no longer tender discovery, but only dried decrepit vines and sword-like thorns. I knew then that I had lost the mystery, desensitised in my trespass, and because I no longer saw her mystery, I no longer tasted her wonder or smelled the scents of discovery.

And I mourned. I mourned the death of wonder, my ignorant vanquishing of mystery.

And then I heard a whisper: Always has she been your truest friend.

The Christian (A)Gender

I’m about to broach a delicate subject. Gender. I don’t say homosexuality, or even LGBTQ+, because while I am going to talk about those, what I have to say is much broader than those labels.

​For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26‭-‬28 NKJV

I’ve never been overly vocal on the gender/sexuality debate, as you might have noticed if you’ve been following the blog for a while. I’ve at times been tempted to chime in, the promise of a spike in page views entering my mind (just to be honest!). I have occasionally written on the matter but I have never taken any sides and to be constructively critical it breaks my heart to see the Christian response on the sexuality issue, and that is the number one factor in my hitherto silence. Because if I’m going to say anything, I definitely do not want my heart to be misrepresented by the discompassion of religion.

It also breaks my heart to see young, open-minded open-hearted Christians embracing the world’s sexuality agenda–not because they do not think like I do but because they seem to understand so little Father’s better–that the life of Jesus runs deeper than the physical body and its nuances in this world, and that the restoration of all things means all things made new. Following Jesus does not mean the death of individuality and self-expression.

I’ve never been comfortable with the Biblical proofs (or lack thereof) against homosexuality–particularly in the new testament. I’ve heard enough proofs and counter-proofs to know that honestly, the only thing that stands up on its own two feet is that in the beginning YHWH created man male and female, and he made woman specifically for man.

But I’ve picked a side: I choose love.

I don’t mean that like you think.

Some time back I read an article and I wasn’t too sure at the time what I thought but I have to admit, the writer had a valid point. It was about Galatians 3:28 (above).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

I am amazed at how easily anyone would gloss over a third of this verse. No more Jew vs Greek? Fine. Undefining slavery? Sure. But nondescript sexuality? Perposterous.

But look at it. In Christ, you no longer have a national identity, you no longer have an identity of slave or free (which was much more relevant in Paul’s day, I might add)and according to the next statement the same is true of sexuality; there is no male–there is no female.

Think about that.

And now tell me, what bearing does that have on the sexuality issue? I can tell you right now the grey areas seem a lot less important to me because Jesus is not concerned about the gender of your body. 

I’ll say that again: Jesus is not concerned about the gender of your body. The new covenant life concerns your life in his body, not your own. There are a few other passages I’ve been studying lately that talk about dieing to your body because your physical body is not in alignment with the reality of the life of Jesus–your body is still in alignment with a marred world because that’s where it lives. 

That means it doesn’t matter if you’re a certain way from birth or because something happened in your upbringing to make you that way; it doesn’t matter–dare I say it–whether you are a man in a woman’s body or a woman in a man’s body–or a man in a man’s body or a woman in a woman’s body: it is all external to who you are in Christ, and what your body is now may not be what it is when it is remade in the renewal of all things.

And that means, your sexuality–and all forms of so-called ‘sinful tendency’, really–is as much a non-issue as injury and disease because it is not the fullness of Christ’s reality, and it may never be until the renewal of all things–but your spirit is new already, and that is why you deserve to hear the good news free of any Christian’s condemnation: you are already perfect! (Hebrews 10:14) 

And while we’re on the subject of non-issue, what about the legalization of gay marriage? But here’s the thing guys; (and it doesn’t make sense to me that Christians are getting so mad about this) governments can amend their definitions of marriage, but the government’s marriage contract and Father’s marriage covenant are two totally different things and the government has no input on the covenant Father designed. It shouldn’t surprise any Christian if the world gets…worldlier.

So to the church I say, be gracious; choose love. Because it’s true when they say love has no gender – they just don’t realize that Father is love, pure and ungendered.

And listen church, a father had two sons. He went to the first and he said “Son, I want you to work in the vineyards today,” the son said “Naw Pops,” but later he regretted saying no, and he went. And the father went to his second son and he said, “Son I want you to work in the vineyards today,” and the second son said “Yes absolutely! I’ll go right away Sir,” but he didn’t go. Sound familiar? Jesus (Matthew 21:28-32) was describing the social outcasts of his day–the tax collectors and the prostitutes–by the character of the first son because they may not have seemed the part, but they had hearts open and vulnerable to Father, and they were the ones who did what he desired.

But particular people come to mind who perhaps are rejoicing at my apparent coming around–it’s not like that. I can’t support the LGBTQ+ agenda because it’s not Father’s agenda, it’s the world’s and it is not the ‘better’ that Father has destined his children for. But what I can do is love as unconditionally as Jesus loves me, because I am in Him, and in Him gender doesn’t matter. I do not expect you to change, for me or for anyone else. What I do expect is that when you know Jesus, you will be changed, and I can promise you this; the ‘you’ deep inside you will be freed and come alive like no amount of self-expression could ever accomplish. But do not require you to change for me, and I never will.

And don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying sexuality–or even gender–doesn’t matter. Father has a white stone for you with a name written on it that only he knows and your identity and your sexuality as an integral part of your identity are secure in that stone and in the heart of Father. And the gracious heart of Father says, “It’s okay if you’re confused right now; we’ll walk this out together, and at the end I’ll restore your identity, and I’ll recreate your body in perfect alignment with who you really are, completely free from the affects of a twisted world, and I’ll place a white stone in your hand and I’ll whisper in your ear, ‘This is who you were created to be my child!’ And I will set you free to Be and to create with Me the way I always intended!”

But mostly, Church, my heart aches for you. You’ve made this into such a Big Deal. You’ve protested, you’ve boycotted, you’ve refused to make wedding cakes. You’ve overreacted. You’re painting scarlet letters over sawdust in the eyes of Father’s precious children and this must not go on. It doesn’t matter how people identify their physical gender any more than it matters whether a person is physically or mentally disabled, it really doesn’t. It doesn’t matter, because Father created their spirit, and he created it true, and he made it holy and righteous and perfect through the death of his son Jesus on the cross and you, Church, have no right to nullify the death of Jesus for such as these. ‘Properly-assumed’ gender is not a condition for grace, or salvation–or righteousness–or holiness. If you understand the gospel you know this already. What matters now, is love. Because love wins; love has won for you, and love has won for the ‘them’s, too.