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."
With his Samson brothers, Brown has found for the first time sincere friends, men he accompanies on weekend trips and hangs out with in their homes. He usually talks with three of them every day.
Samson Society meetings incorporate a faith dimension that other programs lack. Richard Roberts had attended Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) meetings in Las Vegas before moving to Franklin. "At SA, all you talk about is your addiction," says the 46-year-old manager. "But as Christian men, there is so much more to us. [They] remind me who I am in Christ."
Some participants come from the ranks of Christian leaders. Isaac, a teacher at a Christian school, says Samson Society has revolutionized his 10-year marriage.
"Samson became the missing piece for my family," says Isaac, 31. "Now I'm best friends with my wife, who knows my triggers."
Because of his ministry-related career, Isaac had resisted looking for help for his hardcore-porn addiction. He saw a repeated pattern at church of men confessing their sexual sin, then being ostracized. He would periodically confess his porn use to his wife, but he didn't make changes in his thought life. Weeks later, he'd be back in the old pattern.
Now, he often talks toor prays withhis "Silas" accountability partner twice a day on the phone. If his wife travels out of the city for the weekend, Isaac makes sure a buddy confiscates his computer. That's not weakness; it's a desire for purity. "I'm not a sex addict who will never get better," Isaac says. "I'm a restored son of the sovereign Lord."
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This article accompanies "Help for the Sexually Desperate."
Inside CT: Porn's Stranglehold tells more about what John Kennedy found about Christians and porn in writing about sexual addiction.
More articles on sexuality and gender are in our full-coverage section.
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