Having become acquainted with Jay Stringer, I was able to receive a copy of his book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing. It is published by InterVarsity Press. It can be purchased from Hearts and Minds Books, which is where I first learned of this book.
Let’s just be honest: I did not want to read this book and I didn’t like it. For that reason, I highly recommend it. I even think I need to read it again. I certainly believe that pastors, counselors, school teachers, and many other folks should read it as well.
Here is why I didn’t like it: I would really like to think and believe that sexual brokenness (which includes pornography use, sexual addiction, abuse from the past, marital unfaithfulness, etc.) didn’t exist. Or, at least I would like to think that it only hits a few folks, especially those who are far from having any semblance of Christian or traditional values. I prefer for such talk and topics to be out of sight and out of mind. Let’s just think of good things instead.
But I have served as a pastor and elder in a church. I have taught students. I have family, friends, and community. I have been awake and sometimes brutally awakened. People you and I know have been broken by sexual problems. Damaged people, hurting families, fill our churches, sit in our classrooms desks, gather with us on holidays, cross paths with us daily, and live next door to us. Some of the sexually broken and hurt people look at some of you from the mirror each day.
This is not a “some are weak and some are strong” issue. We are all fragile pottery. It you have not been cracked, broken, chipped, or shattered, it is only because God has graciously protected you on the shelf. But some who are whole are perilously close to the edge of the shelf. There is not falling and surviving.
I often say and truly believe that Sigmund Freud was one of the greatest blessings given to the Christian church. I believe that he was wrong in his presuppositions, wrong in his overall worldview, badly wrong in his rejection of God, and wrong in his prescriptions. But he did awaken the world to the impact of the subconscious, the role of memories, the impact of experiences (particularly bad and sexually warped experiences), and the connection of the psyche to the body and soul.
Jay Stringer “is a licensed mental health counselor, ordained minister, and nationally requested speaker on the subject of unwanted sexual behavior (i.e., extra-marital affairs, pornography, buying sex, and others).” The book is based on many experiences in dealing with counselees and on research he conducted using responses from around 3,800 people. He has not sat in a tower thinking through these matters, although he has given the contents lots of thought. This man speaks from the trenches.
I wish I could compare this book with others on the same problems and compare its pro’s and con’s. Dr. Dan Allender says that this book is “without rival, the best book on broken sexuality I have read.” For me, and this is public confession of a pastoral sin, this is the first book I have read on this topic. But again to call on church and Christian leaders, we need to be reading these kinds of unpleasant books. Sure, there is someone in the church who is wanting some theological advice about the end times, but there are many people, I would venture to say, in every church who is or has been or will be damaged by sexual problems.
An emphasis of this book is that the church or community has to do more than just call down judgment on sinful behavior. That being said, yes, we have to be faithful to the Scriptures and call sin what it is. We have to preach repentance, a changed life, confession of sins, and restoration. But the damaged people need more. People with bad marriages or who have children running wild need more than an exhortation or rebuke from the pulpit. Christian living is more putting on than putting off. It may take 10 years to correct 5 years of bad marriage. If a married couple both grew up in bad marriages, it might take longer. The same is true for sexual brokenness. It is not a case of “one repentance fits and cures all.” Discipleship is a not a one-time treatment.
Much is often said about accountability partners for people struggling with sexual sins. While there are benefits to such approaches, Stringer emphasizes how more is needed than someone to be your personal priest for confessional (that is my description). People have to find renewed life, involvement, goals, dreams, and action pulling and pushing them toward these changes.
There is no way I would set up myself as one ready to help others in this field. Anytime when I was a pastor and we were dealing with brokenness, I felt so empty and helpless. But being unequipped is unacceptable for the pastor, the teacher, and the concerned Christian.
As long as we are in a sinful world, we are going to have to confront books and topics we don’t like. Yes, I didn’t like this book. It is really good. Get it and read it.