Sexual Addiction and the Church

cycle of sexual addictionThe church today is becoming more and more like the world around it.

One area that seems very obvious is in the area of sexual addiction.

Every year or so we hear about some high profile Christian leader who has been accused of some sort of sexual behavior that is not becoming of a pastor such as adultery or sexual abuse of a minor.

Why are we hearing so much about sexual addiction today?

The root of almost all of these sexual issues is sexual addiction and more specifically, pornography addiction.

Sexual addiction can be defined as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts.

Sexual addiction can be any sexually related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment.

The behaviors of sexual addiction may include: compulsive masturbation, compulsive heterosexual and homosexual relationships, pornography, prostitution, exhibitionism, voyeurism, indecent phone calls, phone sex, child molesting, incest, rape and violence.

How did we get here?

Sexual addiction usually begins very innocently, getting aroused by images of people partially undressed and then progresses to more and more extreme images or behaviors.

The images that once repulsed a person are now the images that excite them. They no longer are satisfied with just looking at images, they now want to act out their fantasies.

There is a desensitizing to the old images and behaviors that goes on and an adaptation to the things that are needed for that feel good high that was once easy to attain.

There are various surveys that report that about 50% of the men and 30% of the women in church are struggling with sexual addiction in one form or another. Most of these people were first exposed to pornography in or before their early teens.

Sexual addiction knows no socioeconomic boundary. I have spoken with people from 15 to 85 years of age. Some are from meager upbringings and some are very affluent.

Sexual addiction affects single and married people; conservative and liberal people; opposite sex and same-sex attracted people and people from every ethnic background.

People struggling with sexual addiction usually don’t seek help until their dirty little secret gets out. They rationalize their behavior as just a little pleasure from looking at some pictures. Eventually this spins out of control and destroys a family ,a church or a community.

If you haven’t run into a person struggling with sexual addiction in your church yet, you will. Some reports say that about 25% of the pastors struggle with pornography addiction.

What is at the core of sexual addiction?

Idols of the HeartIdols of the heart

We have within ourselves a heart that generates idols for it to worship.

In Old Testament times the idols were objects made of wood, metal or stone and represented some god they were trying to either get a favor from or to appease so that some disaster would not happen.

They worshiped nature such as the sun, moon and stars.

Idolatry is very different today. Our idols are mostly of the heart. We feel some sort of pain in life and want relief.

We use alcohol, drugs, food or sex to make us feel better. Our idols are pleasure, self esteem, self, courage, wealth, possessions, admiration from others and relief from pain.

At times we worship the human body. We view more and more images looking for that perfect one we have in mind. Sexual idolatry elevates the nude body to a level of a god.

In sexual addiction we replace God with an image or a feeling and put our entire time and energy into seeking that feeling or image. Hours and even days are spent in search of that next sexual high.

The problem with lust in sexual addiction is that it is very selfish and is in opposition to love. Love in the Bible is a selfless act. Lust is a selfish act.

We are told in 1 John 2:15-17

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Porn appeals to the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes. We engage in an activity that gives us great pleasure when we watch porn and engage in masturbation.

The images are stored in the minds of a person struggling with sexual addiction  and they view the people in our environment through the lens of pornography. They objectify everyone we meet.

Brain chemistry

There are powerful neurochemicals and hormones that are released during sex that help us to store the experience in our memories better than any other experience we can have. Dopamine is a chemical that is released in the brain that creates the desire for an orgasm.

This chemical is released in a portion of the brain called the limbic system which focuses on avoidance of pain and repeat of pleasure. There is a small portion of the limbic system that can be called the reward circuit and is activated when we engage in activities that further the human race such as sex, eating, bonding, taking risks and achievement.

Dopamine is released and works in this reward circuit and can be called the “I’ve got to have it” chemical. Desire of orgasm releases the highest level of this chemical in the brain of any activity. Whatever you are looking at or doing gets paired with the huge dose of dopamine. This is the chemical of any addiction.

Opiates are released when we experience an orgasm. This is the chemical of pleasure. Dopamine leads us up to the point or orgasm giving us the desire. It is the desire that is caused by dopamine that we become addicted to and not necessarily the pleasure we receive from the opiates.

The problem with porn use is that it leads to a rewiring of the brain circuit and a numbing of this reward circuit.

Basically you build a super highway to the pleasure center of the brain that only works for porn and you need more and more porn to satisfy your desire. The more you use this reward circuit the stronger the urge to use it becomes and the weaker your ability to control becomes.

God designed us to reserve this experience for our spouse only. He wanted us to be committed to our spouse for life and uses these chemicals and hormones to accomplish that. The person struggling with sexual addiction took what God meant for good and have used it for our their pleasure and evil.

Sexual addiction can lead to irritability, sexual dissatisfaction, divorce, perversions, fear, guilt, shame, depression, spiritual oppression, loss of hope or promiscuity.

What can we do about sexual addiction

Sexual addiction is an issue that the church must address today. The church must provide a solution for the half of the church who are slaves to sexual sins sitting in their pews today.

The solution to sexual addiction is a combination of biblical counseling, accountability groups and software solutions that can help prevent access to porn on the internet. New habits need to be formed in place of the old habits.

We must remember that a person will only change when they decide that they will put all they have behind the change. They must be sick and tired of being sick and tired or being sick and tired.

Christian Sexual addiction resources

Pure Desire

The Nathan Project

Be Broken Ministries