Eight Christian men gather for a barbecue around a fire pit on a crisp November evening in Franklin, Tennessee. While conversation may touch on baseball, country music, or theology, it will certainly hit on a topic most evangelical gatherings avoid: sex addiction.
Some 15 churches in the city of 56,000 support Samson Society meetings, and these men represent a wide spectrum of denominations. Like the biblical character Samson, the men come broken by some failure. "Most of us have been trapped in some kind of compulsive activity, but our addictions do not define us, and we do not segregate our membership by behavior," says its website. Ultimately these men have come together for healing and mutual discipleship in Christ (see samsonsociety.org for more details).
They say they are not an accountability group, nor a 12-step group, nor a men's group. ("Okay, so there are no women," says its website, "but that doesn't make us a men's group, does it? Please. Most of us have had it up to here with men's groups.") Samson is different from most recovery groups in that it doesn't have a centralized office, hierarchical structure, dues collecting, or property ownership. Rather, Samson is simply "a fellowship of Christian men who are serious about authenticity, community, humility, and recoveryserious, but not grave."
But past sexual failure is what binds many of these men together, and their fellowship provides the primary avenue to sexual freedom.
Eric Brown, a 39-year-old accountant, started attending Samson Society meetings because his girlfriend insisted.
"I walked out of that first meeting thinking, These guys are really screwed up," Brown recalls. "Two weeks later, I understood that my sin was no better than anyone else's."