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Faith Leaders: When We Blame Lust, We Intensify Sexual Sin

Last Updated: December 3, 2019

Jay Stringer

Jay Stringer is a licensed mental health counselor and ordained minister who has spent the last decade working on the frontlines of the demand for pornography and sexual exploitation. Stringer holds an MDiv and Master in Counseling Psychology from the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and received post-graduate training under Dr. Patrick Carnes and Dr. Dan Allender. His book, Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing, includes original research on over 3,600 men and women struggling with pornography. Visit Jay's website to learn more, and follow Jay on Twitter: @_jaystringer

To be sure, lust is one of the most important contributing factors to sexual brokenness. But in our excessive focus on lust, we have lost sight of the other interrelated factor that drives sexual sin more than all the rest: anger.

Despite the potential damage lust and anger cause, they are not holistically something to condemn. Lust points to a great desire for a good thing like beauty and belonging. Anger aims at our longing for justice and restoration. Sin enters when lust is hijacked by covetousness or demand and when anger is hijacked by entitlement, contempt, or dogmatic control. Sexual brokenness can never be redeemed through futile attempts to stop lust and ignorantly disregarding the insidious role anger plays in fueling it.

By aiming at their partnership, however, beauty, belonging, and restoration can indeed become the foundation of our sexual life. Let me show you why.

How Lust and Anger Work Together

In Matthew 5, Jesus addresses the nature of sin. He says that anyone who looks at another woman lustfully (epithumeo: to covet) commits adultery in his heart. Often overlooked, however, are Jesus’ remarks on anger that appear first in Matthew 5:22. Jesus says that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. According to Jesus, sin is a confluence of lust and anger. His words are a tough pill to swallow. In our sin, we are not only adulterers, but murderers too.[1]

Lust and anger are the primary tributaries to the river of unwanted sexual behavior, be that the use pornography, an affair, or buying sex. The #MeToo movement was proclaimed to the nations precisely because it named what most faith leaders consistently miss: the misuse of power, control, and anger in the sexual lives of men. We cannot transform sexualized anger in our churches, counseling practices, or organizations when have so little language to, or willingness to, name that it exists.

Too often, faith leaders have been loquacious in discussing purity, lust, and even sexual addiction, but largely silent on the issue of anger and power as it relates to male violence against women. Our preoccupation with lust and our continued silence on misogyny (or blaming sexual assault on sex addiction) are central to why we have lost credibility in the world, and in our silence, may well be condoning it. As faith leaders, we can stem the tide of our irrelevance by inviting those we lead to engage both their anger and their lust.

As a licensed mental health therapist and ordained minister, I have never met someone who struggles deeply with sexual lust that is not also battling with unaddressed anger. Consider the following examples:

  • A husband makes a bid to his wife for sex. She declines. He escalates the conflict and his wife turns away to fall asleep because she knows sex is largely about curbing his anger. The husband remains upset. Later that night or the following day he pursues porn.
  • A single man is frustrated and ashamed when his boss gives him a poor year-end review. He feels that his progress has been grossly overlooked. He arrives back at his apartment and immediately finds himself scrolling through a social media site to find porn to override the experience of betrayal.
  • A woman has endured years of her partner consistently abdicating emotional availability to her. She pursues an affair with a friend of his from college.

It is easy to see each of these scenes through the lens of lust. But if we fail to identify the anger, we miss the fuel that drives the sexual arousal forward. Focusing on lust and accountability will only go so far in maturing men because it is an incomplete paradigm. Men also need to be invited to develop integrity with their anger. They must be challenged to consider the type of man they are becoming through the choices they make in the face of adversity.

The Importance of Recognizing Anger’s Role

Exclusively focusing on lust, instead of recognizing lust and anger as equal contributors to unwanted sexual behavior, will lead to dramatically different outcomes. Let’s take the example of pornography. In the first example above, the conventional wisdom is that the man who makes an unsuccessful bid to his wife for sex will go to porn because he is lusting for erotic material that allows him to release his frustration from unmet sexual needs, self-medicate stress, or escape the pain of rejection. The logic here is fairly simple: the man is lonely and rejected and therefore seeks out porn to soothe himself.

If the assessment of the husband’s struggle with pornography is a “lust problem,” the treatment plan goes something like this: get him accountable with other men to talk about his lust and pursue a therapist or pastoral counselor to address the underlying pain. Though this assessment contains dangerous “partial truths,” it’s incompleteness sets the man up to continue to sexually fail because the other half of the equation is left to fester in hiding.

Now let’s see what happens when we recognize the role anger plays in the husband’s porn use. From this standpoint, the use of pornography exists because of the two tributaries that feed it: lust and anger. To begin, we see the husband’s longing for sex from the standpoint of dignity—his desire to be connected to his wife. Catholic theologian Ronald Rolhieser notes that the word sex is taken from the root word, secare, which means to amputate or sever from the whole. According to Rolheiser, foundational to sexuality is the awareness of how disconnected we are and the way we go about reconnecting.[2]

Though the husband’s initial desire for sex contains dignity, he quickly turns to anger in his unsatisfied desire. The meaning of the sex he is pursuing involves connection, but its infused with entitlement. He is essentially saying, “Want me. Desire sex with me or there will be conflict between us.” The question must be asked, “How is it possible for the wife’s desire to grow for her husband, much less for sex, when the meaning of it is to satisfy his entitlement?” How many accountability or faith communities actively point out to the husband that his wife’s decision to say “no” to his entitled bids makes her the healthiest one between them? Recognizing the role anger plays will take you to a radically different vantage point.

Moments or days after his wife declines his bid for sex, the husband finds himself lusting after porn in which a beautiful woman enthusiastically wants to be with him. The storyline is not too difficult to follow: the wife will not give him what he wants, so he will find someone who will, even if just in fantasy.

This is one of the reasons why pornography appeals so much to men: it offers them escape and revenge simultaneously.[3] In pursuing porn, the husband gets to escape the painful experience of rejection, but he also gets revenge against his wife for her refusal.

If We Want to See Culture Transformed

While unwanted sexual behavior is evidence of lust, there will be no transformation until we see it also as evidence of hostility. As faith leaders, we will remain baffled by how much sexual brokenness persists in our world until we open our eyes to the role anger plays in perpetuating that sexual brokenness.

Beyond the sexual misconduct of those we lead, we are largely blind to the misuse of sexual power in the most overt forms of sexual exploitation like sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation (prostitution). Our culture refers to women, even teenagers, in the life of prostitution as “sluts” and “whores.” But what do we call the men who buy and rape them?  They are “lonely,” “johns,” and “horny.” Our language reveals not only how far men distance themselves from their entitlement, but also the real gender we wish to blame for sexual brokenness: women.

If faith leaders want to see sexual brokenness transformed, it’s time to say, “Time’s up on our love affair with lust.” We need to be honest about how we have painfully oversimplified, even perpetuated, horrific sexual sin by failing to name anger alongside lust as the partners in crime they are.

In my therapy practice, I work primarily with men who buy sex and compulsively watch pornography. There is a glut of information that tells us how prevalent these issues are. For instance, we know that over 50% of us as faith leaders use (or formerly used) pornography.[4] As a clinician, I wanted to understand the “why” behind our pursuit of pornography. To do that, I recently completed research on over 3,600 men and women who were involved in a sexual behavior they wanted to stop, be that pornography, an affair, or buying sex.

My research showed that the use of pornography and the particular type of sexual fantasies men pursued could be predicted by the stories—past and present—that have marked their lives. Men can certainly find freedom from their unwanted sexual behavior, but to do so, we need to help them identify the unique reasons that bring them to it.

One of the most common pornography searches for men in my study had to do with wanting to have power over women. In this fantasy, men pursued pornography where women were younger/teen/college, had a smaller body type, and had a particular race or appearance that suggested (to them) subservience.

What predicted this type of sexual fantasy in men? My research found three key drivers:

  1. His level of shame
  2. A lack of purpose
  3. Growing up with a strict father

Men with the highest levels of shame wanted the most power over women. The writing on the wall shows that men find power over women arousing precisely because it gives them an arena to find dominance amidst a life filled with shame and futility. The ability to find control, not merely hormonal release, keeps them returning day after day.

Pornography gives the common man and over half our faith leaders the ability to be Weinstein or Louis CK for the day. Pornography holds a mirror to the heart of man. It shows us we do not merely lust for beauty; we believe it is our right to search for it, grab it, use it, possess it, and eventually discard it when we are ready for our next person to objectify. As faith leaders, we can either choose to be on the front lines leading men to engage their sexualized anger or continue to hide behind the language of lust that anesthetizes men from their violence.

I am convinced that one of the reasons we have not seen more progress in addressing sexual brokenness in our world is that very few people outside of Jesus and pornographers recognize that the heart of man is seduced by behaviors that allow for both lust and anger to be indulged. I am also convinced that this can change. We can be the light of the world by shining it upon our own need for repentance.

Proclaiming the Heart of the Gospel

At the heart of the gospel we proclaim the belief that God is neither surprised nor ashamed of our brokenness, but understands it to be the very geography of his arrival. God arrives in our story not to condemn us, but to invite us to deeper questions as to how our lust and anger came to be. He is always asking questions to people in the Bible: Hey Adam, where are you? Jacob, what is your name? Hagar, where do you come from and where are you going? The voice of God is curious and kind, inviting us to deeper reflection of how our lust and anger came to be.

We know too many people watch porn. But the sheer numbers might alarm you. One porn site alone received over 28 billion visits last year. Yes, 28,000,000,000+ visits. This equates to almost 4 visits per person on the planet to one website. As faith leaders, we need ask ourselves and those we guide, “What is our lust and anger ultimately about?” As we explored, lust aims for good things like beauty and belonging. Anger aims at our longing for justice.

The genius of evil is that it uses unwanted sexual behavior to offer imitation versions of the beauty and justice found in Jesus alone. In pornography, the porn user chooses a victim to direct their lust and anger towards, thus offering him catharsis. In the gospel, humanity chooses an innocent victim to suffer death. In Jesus’ atonement, we are paradoxically offered the justice and belonging we most desire. Both pornography and Jesus appeal to the deepest longings in our hearts. Only one offers freedom.

As faith leaders, our role is not to convict people of sin or expose their lust. The Spirit of God is far more graceful and competent in doing this than we could ever imagine. Image bearers of God, human beings know in their bones when they have chosen a sexual life that comes back void of meaning and beauty.

As faith leaders, we can set the table and ask questions about what our collective lust and anger might be pointing towards. Porn offers one answer to these questions, but so does the gospel. The God we follow is an indiscriminate host who invites all to come to the table, share a meal, and join in some kind and curious questions. As faith leaders, we have the privilege of partnering with God to curate the conversation.

Resources and Suggestions for Leaders

  1. Get a free chapter of my upcoming book, Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing. The book comes out this fall, but you can pre-order it now.
  2. Next time you preach or discuss lust or sexual sin, take time to also explore the role of anger and power with your church, organization, or university. Matthew 5 is an excellent passage to begin with or there are numerous Old Testament stories full of examples of the convergence of lust and power. In 2 Samuel 13, Amnon’s rape and subsequent hatred of his half-sister highlights two pertinent realities to our discussion: 1) the issue of male lust and 2) the occurrence and cover up of sexual abuse and sexual violation within family systems.
  3. Download Covenant Eyes’ free ebook, Fight Porn in Your Church.

Jay Stringer

Start Your Journey to Freedom

To help men and women on the recovery road, Stringer, The Heart of Man movie, and Covenant Eyes are working together to provide support. Journey Into the Heart of Man with Jay Stringer provides a five-month course that includes inspiring presentations, a self- assessment for people to see how their story shapes their sexual choices, and exercises to bring change. Stringer said, “Just as our sexual brokenness is not random, our journey to freedom is not either. In the Journey Into the Heart of Man, I wanted to equip accountability partners, small groups, and faith communities in a way they have not been equipped before to find healing.”

The recovery journey takes time and focus…to grow, learn, have fun, explore, and discover. How long? Stringer said most of his clients find freedom in two to five years. That doesn’t mean they are acting out during that time, but it takes time to shake off the debris of the past and live free.

Start Your Freedom Journey Today

This post contains affiliate links. Covenant Eyes receives a portion of the profits of purchases made as a result of the links above.


[1] Dan Allender. The Healing Path: How the Hurts in Your Past Can Lead You To A More Abundant Life.  (Colorado Springs, CO, Waterbrook Press, 1999). P. 53.

[2] Ronald Rolheiser. The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality (New York: Double Day, 1999), 193.

[3] Dr. Dan B. Allender in his work, The Wounded Heart, writes, “All compulsions, no matter how bizarre or destructive, provide a context to find relief and work out revenge.”

[4] Barna. The Porn Phenomenon, April 2016. https://www.barna.com/the-porn-phenomenon/.

  • Comments on: Faith Leaders: When We Blame Lust, We Intensify Sexual Sin
    1. "Nnan" on

      Possibly the most profound (and logical) insights I have found yet. This resonates truth at every angle in my own personal experience, both from my own struggle in youth, and as evidenced by my perpetrators. Thank you so much for sharing.

      Reply
    2. Daniel on

      Fresh. Deep. Thank you!

      Reply
    3. Andrew on

      Hello Jay,
      I have a question. You say that, “A husband makes a bid to his wife for sex. She declines. He escalates the conflict and his wife turns away to fall asleep because she knows sex is largely about curbing his anger.”
      The bible mentions sex and sexual relations quite often. It’s a great thing between a husband and a wife. There are many important reasons for it- intimacy, creating children, the list could go on. I’ve never heard before that it is for curbing HIS anger. Not only that but sex is largely for this purpose. While I’m sure that could be a reason in certain situations, it is hard for me to imagine that this is the large role sex plays. So it’s to fix us men? I also can’t find that in the bible. I do find in the bible in 1 Cor 7:5 that married people are not to deprive each other except for a time by mutual consent to devote to prayer. Is the women’s initial declining supported by the bible? Is her declining him really make her the healthiest one between them, or is it because she just wasn’t in the mood? This would seem to be a poor reason to decline his advance. I understand that if a wife turns a husband down then it is best that he takes it to the Lord in prayer and not act in anger towards her. I wouldn’t justify this husbands actions. However, this seems to me that in this scenario the husband is being held accountable for his unbiblical actions while the wife is justified in her unbiblical actions.

      Sometimes i can come across argumentative when i don’t intend to, so please understand i am willing to adjust my thinking. I would just like to hear this explained.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Using the Bible to justify sexual coercion is spiritual abuse. A woman should never be coerced into having sex for any reason whatsoever, but especially so that her husband won’t be angry! Men are capable of being responsible for their own emotions, and they must. Using sex to make him calm down is a despicable idea to begin with, and using the Bible in an attempt to bring even more coercion to bear is just horrifying. A woman who is being coerced in this way has every right to leave this abusive situation.

      • Andrew on

        Kay,
        So would you say that sex is not largely about curbing his anger? It seems that Jay is saying that this is what sex is about.

        And what is your interpretation to 1 Cor 7:5? Let me quote it: “Do not deprive each other (speaking of sexual relations) except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

        Still waiting to hear from Jay…

      • JDD on

        Andrew,

        I think you may have mis-read the author’s meaning in that sentence, (and it could have been worded more clearly.) He’s saying that the wife in this example turns away because she knows that [his request for sex, in this specific case, with his unhealthy emotions] is largely to curb his anger. The writer isn’t saying that’s actually what sex is for.

      • Paul Horn on

        Well said Andrew great comment. The woman who rejected her husband is at fault here. As you so correctly pointed out the mans body does not belong to himself but to his wife and vice cersa. That is we as loving partners should always be available to our spouses on an intimate level excluding sickness or other ailment.

        I know how angry women get when their sexual desires are spurned.

        Whereas I agree entirely with this article regarding anger and lust fuelling sexual sin I am so sick of the constant man baiting that goes on. Why do women create hyper sexually provocative environments and bear no responsibility for their acts of deceit? Why is provocation acceptable whereas harrassement is not?

        Western men are despised by western women. Having travelled and worked in many countries I can categorically state that feminism has done more to destroy relationships between men and women than any other political or activist philosophy. Women in other nations who are far more oppressed and mistreated by their male counterparts have far greater regard and adoration for them than their American sisters.

      • Deb on

        Hello Andrew,

        I hear you saying that Jay seems to say that sex is largely for the purpose of curbing the husband’s anger. Please note that Jay did state in his article that the husband’s longing for sex comes “from the standpoint of dignity—his desire to be connected to his wife.” That’s a good thing.

        Where the wife was refusing sex, it was only an example, and no doubt is a common theme heard from many of the men Jay counsels. In no way was Jay saying that sex was largely for the purpose of “curbing the husband’s anger.”

        If the wife has rejected the husband’s advances, it’s his next step that reveals more of his heart. If he (as you suggested) goes away, prays about it, and doesn’t take his anger and frustration out on his wife, then he is acting in the healthiest way. However, if he badgers her or turns to porn, then it seems likely that he is acting out of selfishness and anger. Thus, it is possible that anger is a real component of porn usage.

        You asked, “Is the women’s initial declining supported by the bible? Is her declining him really make her the healthiest one between them, or is it because she just wasn’t in the mood? This would seem to be a poor reason to decline his advance.” Let’s take a look at that for a moment. Jay made it clear that anger WAS an issue in his example. Did the husband’s anger do anything to put her “in the mood?” If she had submitted to his advances after he verbally attacked her, is that a healthy situation? Or might she be possibly appeasing his anger? Think about it: How well do you respond around an angry person? Is it reasonable to expect that man’s wife to act any better than you? Suppose your wife was nagging you to do something, would you gladly do it? You already said you wouldn’t justify THIS husband’s actions. So, is there a question behind your question?

        Like you, I don’t see the Bible explicitly addressing women who decline sex. However, one related issue that is addressed is the hardness of men’s hearts. When Jesus was asked about divorce, He replied that it wasn’t God’s original design, but Moses did write divorce laws because of the hardness of men’s hearts (Matt. 19:8). I suppose one could argue that women may refuse their husbands’ advances because of a hardness of their hearts.

        One may ask, though, what causes a wife’s heart to become hard? After all, women were created to connect through relationships. They don’t typically go into marriage intending to make their husbands’ lives miserable. So, let’s consider a second related issue: We reap what we sow. If a husband is angry, abusive, insensitive, or neglectful, a wife will often shut him out. Likewise, if a husband is kind, nurturing, encouraging, and attentive, a wife will often open up in ways he could never have imagined.

        Again, the husband’s desire to connect with his wife through sex is a good thing. The problems often begin when the husband has failed to live with his wife in understanding (1 Peter 3:7), when he demands sex as “his right,” when he treats her as his sex toy–rather than a person with dignity, created in the image of God. In such a case, it is understandable (though possibly sinful) when the wife rejects his advances.

        Many women can sense whether their husband’s “love” is sincere and selfless like Christ’s love for the church. When a husband leads his household with Christ-like humility, it tends to awaken a wife’s desire for him; in which case, sex would probably not be an issue. That’s not to say that she’ll be interested every time he is, but his genuine tenderness and love would make it easier for her to meet his need to connect physically. When a man disrespects his wife, when there is an on-going break in unity, it makes it incredibly difficult for the wife to respond to him sexually.

        You’ve focused quite a bit on 1 Cor. 7:5. Yes, it’s true that husbands and wives should maintain normal sexual relations, unless they mutually agree to abstain so they can devote themselves to prayer. What I’m seeing here, though, is a healthy relationship between a man and his wife. Not only have they experienced physical unity, they continually experience spiritual unity as well.

        When using 1 Cor. 7:5, please consider the many other passages that speak to the marriage relationship (and to relationships in general). We read in Eph. 5:25, that husbands are to love their wives, “just as Christ loved the Church.” To add to our understanding of this verse, consider Matt. 20:28, where Jesus said He “came to serve, not to be served.” I would expect that most husbands would take a literal bullet (die) for their wives, but many of them will not take five minutes (die to self) to listen to their wives talk about their day. Such husbands aren’t grasping the depths of the commitment God has called them to in a marriage relationship.

        Lest you think I’m holding the husband completely accountable for his actions and absolving the wife of all responsibility, I know it is possible for a wife to behave just as abusively and just as sinfully as any man. However, Jay’s article wasn’t designed to address every possible scenario in the husband-wife relationship. He was just trying to bring attention to a facet of porn usage that isn’t often addressed, namely, anger. In that regard, his article gives us all food for thought.

        Sorry this post is so long. I’m not sure if I explained things well enough, but I hope it makes sense.

      • Jay Stringer on

        Andrew,

        Thanks for your questions. Yes, I would agree with JDD’s reply (thanks JDD!): “I think you may have mis-read the author’s meaning in that sentence, (and it could have been worded more clearly.) He’s saying that the wife in this example turns away because she knows that [his request for sex, in this specific case, with his unhealthy emotions] is largely to curb his anger. The writer isn’t saying that’s actually what sex is for.”

        Re: 1 Corinthians 7, yes married couples are not to deprive each other. But I would disagree that a woman not being in the mood is a poor reason to decline his advance. Marriages need to be able to work through natural tensions like that and learn to respect one another being “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4). When the request for sex becomes fused with anger and entitlement, it is near impossible for desire to grow in those types of marriages. I find that many men do not know how to keep integrity and regulate their disappointment when their spouse turns down their bid for sex. In Jewish tradition, sex is one of the three basic rights of a woman and the husband is to ensure that all forms of sexual engagement are pleasurable for her.

        In the type of marriage I described above, I’d suggest the growth for the man is to grow in his ability to regulate his disappointment, become curious with his wife about what it is like for her to bear his anger, and continue to embrace the beauty of his longing for connection.

        I address some of this in more detail and nuance in my upcoming book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing (in the conflict and repair chapter).

        Paul Horn – I am curious how you agree that anger fuels sexual sin for men, but in the example above, the woman is at fault for declining his entitled advance? I find no fault in her, but see it as an essential mark of maturity to be able to say no to something that does not bear honor or beauty. I am not saying that is a healthy place for the husband and wife to remain, but the patterns in the marriage will need to be addressed in order for them to move towards a kind and passionate marriage.

        Also – Kay thanks for your excellent thoughts. There is often so much fear and entitlement in men that keeps us from seeing the reality of our coercion.

        Jay

    4. Lisa whitbeck on

      Very interesting viewpoint. I was previously involved with someone struggling with cross dressing and lust towards other men using strangers from Craigslist and pornography as his outlets. I would be interested in sending material to him.

      Reply
      • Andrew on

        Responding to Deb,
        You did a tremendous job in explaining your thoughts in your response. Yes, you did explain it well enough. Let me give a short response to what you say.

        I would agree that once a man has turned to anger it would not seem right for a women to proceed with intercourse. It would actually seem awkward at that point, so I have no problem with her decline. However, the starting point was that the man made a bid for sex and she declined- apparently before he ever showed anger, at least from the way it is written. This is obviously a hypothetical situation so I am making that assumption. If she initially declines it makes me wonder why she declined. If there are obvious marital issues that exist outside the bedroom it would obviously make it difficult to her to be emotionally engaged for sex. We don’t really know in this situation. So are starting points may be different.

        This initial declining by the wife is why i brought up 1 Cor 7:5. I would whole-heartedly agree there are many other verses, including the ones you gave, that can apply to these situations. I am learning that i need to be less apt to point out faults in my spouse and just talk to God about it, trusting him to provide for my needs and shepherding my wife. Only in appropriate moments is it best to bring up issues. i think that is something both husband and wife can learn to more of.

        Perhaps you should write some blog posts.

      • Andrew on

        Jay,
        I appreciate your response.
        I do think there is some misunderstanding with a few readers here with what I am suggesting. In your hypothetical the woman turns down her husband for sex for some other reason than his anger. Initially you showed the wife turning him down before any anger is shown (A husband makes a bid to his wife for sex. She declines….) I do understand that there may be definite reasons that a wife turns down her husband. And no matter how bad the reason is, I need to trust the Lord as the husband that he will redeem the situation and not turn angry and belligerent towards her. I think the point those of us on the other side are suggesting is that it just appears that she is turning him down without her giving reason to him such as, “I’m sorry honey, i’m feeling sick, overly tired, hurting, etc. any number of reasons she could at least offer him and explain herself. His advance does not appear to be an entitled advance the way you have described it, just an advance. He only became angry AFTER she turned him down. How does that make his initial advance wrong? Not looking at the second half where he clearly acted improperly.

    5. Timothy Henry on

      This blog post is outstanding and spot on!! In fighting the porn compulsion, I knew it was linked to my problem with my temper and this post so accurately and clearly explains the connection!!!
      God bless you for all your hard work in this fight. Thank you for standing up for and speaking the truth!!!

      Reply
    6. Inspektor on

      Thank you I will check it out!

      Reply
    7. Paul Cochran on

      I checked with several leading commentators and none make the link between murder and anger in Matthew 5. 20 – 26 and following verses on sexual sin in Matthew 5. 27- 30. I have no doubt that being a fallen person in a fallen world with Fallen parents and Fallen spouses leads to frustration that is “satisfied” in sinful ways. I’m a psychiatrist but I see no reason to make the reaches that are counterintuitive with regard to these verses which simply have to do with two entirely different topics other than they are categories of our sinfulness. I for one, prefer pornography that is a depiction of two people deeply passionate and loving and not as you suggest an expression of anger with male dominance. Nevertheless, it’s wrong wrong wrong and destructive destructive destructive.

      let’s call it what it is – it’s sinful, it’s lust, and probing your past will only do what the Bible does not do which is giving you an excuse to avoid just saying no to sin! ( oh and by the way, there are plenty of verses about anger too, and guess what, those verses don’t have anything to do with sex or lust but they have everything to do with anger. Kind of neat the way the Bible is straightforward huh? )

      Reply
      • Chris Maier on

        Well said. In addition, it seemed that the author was suggesting that the broad sweep of how the church addresses sexual sin should include this focus on anger. I do not doubt that misogyny and lust find a confluence in sexual aggression, but I question whether this is broadly representative of the problem that many men have with lust and pornography.

      • Jay Stringer on

        Paul,

        Thanks for your thoughts. What I am claiming is sin can be a confluence of a lot of different dynamics. The evangelical community focuses the most on “lust”, which has often blinded us from seeing other dynamics that shape our sexual life. As some of the other men have commented here, their temper and anger is significant “trigger” for them to pursue pornography.

        If our sexuality is central to who we are as human beings, how would it be possible for anger to not impact our sexual lives? To me, that is pretty straightforward.

      • George on

        I’ll stay out of the theological debate here and Judy at that with me as an addict, I Hesse learned that anger is actually more of the problem for me than lust. One of the reasons I know this is that if I don’t do good 10th step work I more likely to slip back into unhealthy sexual behaviors, in my case meaning addictive sexual behavior. That’s just the plain truth of it. That’s when the lust will kick in.

    8. Albert on

      Excellent article; profound and observant of an overlooked issue underlying the sexual immorality in particular porn. I have worked on my anger and prior wounds and it did reduce my compulsion for pornography for a time. But, I felt the Lord pushing me to look deeper and came across this passage about Sodom:

      “As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “Sodom, your sister and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.”
      ‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭16:48-50‬ ‭NASB‬‬

      I have found pride and haughtiness are often a precursor to anger and lust. For example, I become enraged when I think I “know” something as a fact and corrected. Additionally, Idleness and over abundance of time and material wealth seem to contribute to the lust as well. I become lazy and let my guard by doing the necessary healing work for the day or seeking to make peace with others which leads to resentment.

      What do you think?

      Reply
    9. Ken on

      As a s inner, the article touched on two of my porn triggers – rejection and job recognition. If I tried to initiate sex, there was often an excuse. I would roll over, feeling frustrated, falling asleep angry and wondering why my wife did not desire me. Lack of recognition at work also led to the cycle. Despite professional accomplishments, I received no recognition for all that I did. Rejection, frustration, low self-esteem, anger; a vicious cycle that often resulted in seeking comfort in digital fantasy.

      THESE ARE NOT EXCUSES: by viewing pornography, I broke the covenant I had made with my wife. I SINNED, not my wife My porn addiction cost me my job, and I have been trying to rebuild for the past year. I not for a praying wife and the grace and mercy of our Lord, I am not sure what I would have done.

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    10. Ron C. on

      I am a researcher/clinician and would like to see Jay provide some citations for his points. Have his interpretations been reviewed by peers who know the “ins and outs” of research? An MDiv or a Masters in Counseling rarely prepare one for analyses of a data set numbering in the thousands. Quantitative research deals with averages based on samples and distributions. I think the push back against his points may be due to his extrapolating from data on men seeking therapy for a sex addiction to men in the general population or a different subset of men (e.g., 50% of religious leaders). This is an inappropriate way to talk about research findings and can be very misleading.

      There are also several unsubstantiated assumptions on which he bases his conclusions. First, as mention by Paul, I don’t see the confluence of anger with lust in Jesus’ statements in Mat 5. Neither do I see this teaching in other places in the Bible. Being an MDiv, I think Jay could do a much better job explaining his rationale for this position, if in fact it is a accurate interpretation of Jesus’ statements.

      Second, the issue of power in our culture is also a prickly one. Our culture assumes that men hold all of the power in society. Power, however, is situational. If a wife has the right to deny her husband the sex he desires (which I believe she does), who really has the power – at least the power over sex? If the husband in turn were to use physical force to assault his wife, making her to satisfy his desire, then he would be usurping her right through the use of power. She on the other hand, could respond with the power allocated to her by the state and have the police arrest and imprison him. This is a power struggle and who has the ultimate power depends largely upon where you arbitrarily begin and end the story. This can be seen in a more germane illustration. If a man were to desire a day off of work to take his child to the doctor and approached his boss asking him to grant his desire, who has the power? Obviously the boss does, which is evidenced by the mere act of requesting permission. What happens next might develop into a power struggle if the boss were to deny the man’s request and the man were to respond by appealing to a higher power or in some way hurting the boss. Depending on the situation and the contractual arrangement, both may be in their right. However, as Andrew points out, this does not necessarily mean that either are acting in love and concern for the other. Vilifying one sinner while exonerating the other misses the point of the Gospel – we are all sinners that need to learn new ways of treating each other from our creator. The use of power to achieve one’s desire is the antithesis of love.

      Another assumption made by Jay is that men look at pornographic images of younger women (please notice I said women) as an expression of power. Some men may, but to extrapolate this to all, or even most men is what is referred to in research as reading too much into the data. Younger women are simply more attractive to many men and women. Many of the myths regarding male use of power promoted in our culture by popular psychology and talk show hosts have been debunked in the research. For example, most all population level data sets show that women initiate violence more frequently than do men. Men on the other hand, commit more severe acts of violence causing more physical harm. Men hold more responsibility for violence because of their greater physical strength. And, just like adults should not use their greater power to inflict violence on children, men are responsible for the violence they commit even when provoked by the sin of another. Two sins can never make a godly act. Other studies on same-sex relationships have also clearly demonstrated that violence is not an exclusively male to female phenomenon.

      The apostle Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 4 that there is righteous anger and sinful anger. When a man is upset because his wife is not satisfying his sexual needs or a woman is upset because her husband is not satisfying her need for equitable care of the home and the children, both are doing so as a result of unmet expectations stemming from a contractual arrangement. Both men and women need to be instructed how to manage their anger so that it does not lead to sin.

      Sinful anger may lead to the use pornography for some men, and if so, then I applaud Jay for this discovery. There is certainly plenty of violence in the pornography industry. However, asserting that resolving anger is the missing silver bullet that when addressed will eliminate all men’s use of pornography, in my informed but incomplete knowledge of the topic, is misleading and mistaken.

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      • Jay Stringer on

        Ron,

        Thank you for taking the time to write your response and interact with my article. I will try to address what I see as your three main points/challenges.

        1. Research. You are completely correct that an MDiv and MACP does not prepare me to do in depth analytics for a research study of this kind. This is why I hired a world leading analytics team connected to NYU. The research statements I formed with other clinicians were submitted to a series of rigorous exploratory factor analyses with a principal components analysis and a varimax rotation. Various factor solutions were reviewed from there to assess the dimensionality of my survey. An 18 factor solution was formed and a confirmatory factor analysis was performed on them. THE CFI, TLI, SRMR, and RMSEA all provided a good basis to proceed with the 18 topics.
        2. Anger and sexual sin. As a clinician who has worked with hundreds of men and who has been reviewing significant amounts of research data, yes I do see anger as a central component of many people’s sexual struggles. Two initial quotes that come to mind: “Nothing, I maintain so constantly gives the Devil an opportunity as loss of control in anger.” ( Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones) “The bottom line reason for much of our sinful anger is related to the fact that we have an agenda and someone or something I standing in the way of fulfilling that agenda.” (Dr. Wayne Mack).

        Additionally, It is also overwhelmingly accepted in the sex addiction recovery field that eroticized rage is a dynamic in the life of many addicts. I certainly did not intend to assert that “resolving anger is the missing silver bullet that when addressed will eliminate all men’s use of pornography.” I’m not quite sure how you reached that interpretation. In my article, I was attempting to point out how the evangelical preoccupation with lust blinds us from addressing other factors/ streams that converge into sexual sin, like anger.

        3. Power & Fantasy. As you know better than I do, correlation does not mean causation. In healthy sexuality, yes, pursuing younger women (or in many cases peers) is a completely natural and beautiful desire. I am not saying those sexual desires have any pathology in them at all. What I am saying is that the research showed that those who had maladaptive childhoods (strict fathers for one), experienced a lack of purpose, and had high levels of shame disproportionately pursued that type of pornographic fantasy. Men who were depressed and had experiences of childhood sexual abuse tended to seek out older women or those who had power/authority over them (https://www.covenanteyes.com/2017/09/28/what-sexual-fantasies-might-say-about-you/ you can see part II for the latter example).

        As a clinician I have seen how pornography becomes very appealing in people’s lives because it gives them a sense of control that they do not have anywhere else in life. The way I interpret that data is that sexual fantasies (the type people are trying to stop) are roadmaps that pinpoint the location of past harm and reveal to us the present-dynamics we are being invited to transform. My intent was not to miscorrelate these. If you have any recommendation of how to say this better, I’d be grateful for your input!

        Jay

    11. Rob on

      Wow. Jay’s response to the (respectful) critiques is really impressive – humble and thorough. That’s a huge encouragement, regardless of the subject matter. Thank you Jay, and all others, for a rigorous conversation that brought some good clarity. Praying God uses this to bring the joy of purity to all who struggle with lust.

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    12. Jim on

      Could you expound more on the #metoo movement what does this have to do with the topic. What are your thoughts on #metoo

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    13. Wysteria Veritas on

      No way, will I ever take any ownership, responsibility or blame of any measure, for my husband’s anger, or his actions. Whether I said “no” to sex, once or 12 times, my husband is completely responsible for his own emotions, and whatever behavior stems from them.

      Anger is a common, but secondary emotion, that acts as a protection from feelings of grief, inadequacy, fear, or trauma. My grownup husband has to learn to say, “I’m feeling (what his emotions are.)” Then we can talk it out.

      He doesn’t have a “right” nor is he “justified” to act out in anger. His anger, is not my responsibility. He has other, healthy, spirit led choices in how he responds to hearing, “no” from his wife.

      I’m deeply concerned with the idea being spread by the enemy, that a wife is to “serve” her husband sexually for the purposes of manipulation of his emotions. Sex is not a “need”. That’s not what God intended.

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      • Kay Bruner on

        Thank you so much for this wise and beautiful expression of boundaries!

        I only wish we could blow this up to billboard size and send it personally to every wife who writes in here, believing that they are somehow to blame for their husband’s choices.

        Oh, and to all the husbands who are gaslighting their wives with this idea that if they just have enough sex, they won’t have to be angry and behave badly.

        Every single abuser tells his victims this: “It’s all your fault. If you just _______ then I won’t _____.”

        This is just sexual, emotional, and spiritual (when it’s wrapped in Bible verses) abuse.

        Thank you so much.

    14. Tracy on

      Sorry, many and many things you say to retro-fitting secular ideas to explain the Bible. Who says lust is about power? Eve lusted after the fruit when she did not have power. You cannot just say what you want and use the Bible to justify it, let alone use something that the secular world is doing (MeToo Movement) as basis to say Christian pastors are missing something. Hello? You have to learn to do better hermeneutics than this. You don’t freely interpret the Bible and teach it however you want. That is false teaching. The reason that someone may sin can be many reasons, but primarily because they are NOT WALKING BY THE SPIRIT AND IN TRUST OF GOD. When we are not abiding in God and leaning on our own methods to satisfy ourselves, we are sinning. Only by trusting God and the ways He offers help that we can do right. The Bible is full of ways to instruct us how to do this. You don’t have to write up some MeToo movement philosophy and falsely claim it is somehow compatible with God. I just do not find your writing biblical at all.

      Reply

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