The War Within
Driving through Wisconsin on vacation, a Leadership staff member passed a huge sign in the middle of the bucolic countryside. "Naughty Things for Nice People," it proclaimed, and as if to prove it, a gigantic cuddly bear peered out from beside the words "Adult Novelties."
"What's that mean, Dad?" came the question from the 10-year-old boy in the back of the station wagon. "Yeah," piped up the siblings, "what's that all about, Dad?"
Such questions abound these days, as media penetrate our homes and station wagons with not just sleazy sex but carefully packaged titillations. One report has it that a recent convention of youth pastors prompted the most rentals of adult movies in the hotel's history. More than 80 percent of all customers signing up for cable TV opt for the erotic films. The availabilitythe near-ubiquityof so much sexual enticement, the constant barrage of innuendoes, and the nonstop polemic for indulgence inevitably attracts.
Many rationales tempt the mind of the Christian leader: "I have to know what's going on. Voyeurism is better than adultery. I need moderationtotal deprivation isn't necessary."
Admittedly, there are no easy answers. We cannot shut off either our brains or our glands. But consider the following chapters by individuals in full-time ministry. The chapters are blunt. But we felt it important to be just this blunt and realistic. Sexual temptations in many forms have always lured Christians, but today's opportunities and climate make this article especially relevant to all of us.
Chapter 1, "The War Within," is written by a Christian leader who prefers to remain anonymous so he can speak more personally and with more candor. This chapter was originally published as an article in Leadership in 1982.
Chapter 2, "Perils of the Professionally Holy," offers some thoughts about why those in ministry are particularly susceptible to sins of the body. It is written by Bill D. Hallsted, who ministers at the Truman (Minnesota) Church of Christ.
Chapter 3, "The War Within Continues," is written by the same anonymous writer who penned chapter 1, but was written five years later. It updates the continuing but hopeful battle against lust.
Chapter 4, "After the Affair," is the story of a pastor's wife whose husband confessed to a series of adulterous relationships. Heather Bryce is a pen name for this woman, who continues to live with her husband in the midwestern United States.
Marriage does not remedy lust. If anything, it complicates the problem by introducing a new set of difficulties.
Lust is the ape that gibbers in our loins. Tame him as we will by day, he rages all the wilder in our dreams by night. Just when we think we're safe from him, he raises up his ugly head and smirks, and there's no river in the world flows cold and strong enough to strike him down. Almighty God, why dost thou deck men out with such a loathsome toy?— Frederick Buechner Godric
I am writing this anonymously because I am embarrassed. Embarrassed for my wife and children, yes, but embarrassed most for myself. I will tell of my personal battle with lust, and if I believed I were the only one who fought in that war, I would not waste emotional energy dredging up stained and painful memories. But I believe my experience is not uncommon, is perhaps even typical of pastors, writers, and conference speakers. No one talks about it. No one writes about it. But it's there, like an unacknowledged cancer that metastasizes best when no one goes for x-rays or feels for lumps.