Thursday, April 26, 2007

Everyman's Bungle

I’ve just finished reading Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker’s Everyman’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time. Boy was I ever surprised. I was surprised the authors were being serious. Honestly, this book reads like the author is satirizing the recent “Purity” and “Christian Masculinity” movements sweeping across churches today in the same manner Stephen Colbert satirizes the Conservative Talk-show pundits on FoxNews. But the scary thing is that the authors aren't.

Now before I get things started, I just want to that I am a Christian and I actually partially agree with the authors of the book (waiting until marriage=good, porn=bad, adultery=bad) but this book actually makes me want to hop on a plane to Thailand and bang cheap hookers until I’m covered head-to-toe with herpes. Yes, it’s that bad.

In my opinion, the success of this book and its series is a symptom of a more serious condition, that there is a rather significant difference between what constitutes someone to be an authority in the eyes of many evangelicals as opposed to, how shall I say, sane people.

Now the subject of EMB is sex. Mostly it deals with "conquering lust", but there’s also some stuff on sexual biology, sexual ethics/morals, biblical teaching on sex ect. Some good people to go to for information on those subjects would be a medical doctor, sex therapist, a psychiatrist/psychologist, a Bible scholar ect. Now, look at the information given on the author's website:

Stephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries—the nation’s largest faith-based broadcast, counseling and treatment ministry—and is the host of the nationally syndicated “New Life Live!” daily radio program heard on over 180 radio stations nationwide. Steve is also the founder of the Women of Faith conferences attended by over 3,000,000 women.

Steve is a nationally known public speaker and has been featured in national media venues such as Oprah, Inside Edition, Good Morning America, CNN Live, New York Times, USA Today, US News & World Report and most recently ABC World News Tonight, GQ magazine and Rolling Stone.

As a best-selling author, Steve has written over 60 books, including the bestselling Every Man’s series and his most recent book, Healing Is A Choice. He has been nominated for numerous writing awards and won three Gold Medallion awards for writing excellence.

Steve has degrees from Baylor University and The University of North Texas as well as having obtained two honorary doctorate degrees.

Now check out this article, written by a former research librarian, on how to critically assess sources of information.

Check their credentials! I've beaten this one into the ground that you probably guessed it, but I'll beat it some more and some more. Most sources will have some kind of short biography giving a person's credentials. It should tell you what their education has been, give a highlight of publishing credits (you can look for someone's vitae if you want a full list; with many scholars, they won't fit on a book's cover or flyleaf), and maybe name some prominent associations. If these are either:
  • Missing (the publisher may not have had room, or if your book is missing a paper cover, it may have been there -- but assuming otherwise...)
  • Not relevant (i.e., a book on Biblical scholarship written by someone with a Ph. D. in aerodynamics!)
  • Unclear (i.e., it says they "got a Ph. D. at Vanderbilt" but does not say in what)'ll need to think about that source a bit. Obviously such credentials are not required to be an author in the right (especially if one uses sources of such credit to compose a book) but they can help you decide whether an author is likely to have credibility.

“‘Nationally known public speaker’. The guy can talk without stuttering. Good for him, but there’s still no way of telling if this guy’s a real doctor.” I thought to myself, “What the heck, he probably used some good sources”.

Damn was I wrong. The book has no bibliography and the author makes vague references to some literature put out by Focus on the Family, and some information on “wet dreams” that obviously came out of a “What’s Happening to Your Body Right Now” pamphlet, but other than that and a few other tidbits, it’s just personal anecdotes and bad advice coupled with war and football metaphors.

Now, when a non-retarded person wants to get some information on a subject, he looks for something written by a doctor/professor/expert-in-his-field or someone who at least cites the work of doctors/professors/experts-in-their-fields. Upon examining EMB and other books found in Christian bookstores and church libraries, I have discovered that things are different in the evangelical world. These are the things that most evangelicals look for when it comes to credibility regarding information found in books:

  • No matter what the subject, the book must be sold in Christian bookstores and by a Christian author, because it‘s not like a Wiccan, Muslim, or secular humanist can write a decent book on raising children, overcoming depression, or losing weight.
  • The book’s content must consist mainly of personal anecdote as opposed to hard data and facts. Statistics cited should not include a footnote leading to the source of the statistic but should instead be accompanied by a personal anecdote. (“75% of men who watch porn turn into rapists. I know this is true because there was a rape in my friend’s hometown and he told me the cops found porn in the guy’s house.”)
  • Bonus points if the author has a fucked up past but managed to turn it all around thanks to Jesus the Freshmaker*.
  • If it’s a book on parenting, the author must be married and have produced children that have not committed suicide or ended up gay. However, if any of his or her children do end up gay** or committing suicide, the author is now also qualified to write a book on dealing with the pain of a child committing suicide or being gay. Similar to when an christian-book author writes on “how to have a successful marriage” and then “how to deal with a painful divorce”.
  • Bonus points if the author has a ministry, radio show, and/or really big building. Much like Fred Phelps, Howard Stern, and/or Hugh Hefner.
  • If an evangelical parent or youth leader thinks that the book could benefit an adolescent they know, they must not simply buy the book and give it to said adolescent. They must find a “for teens” version of the book, which is just like the “regular” version but has a picture of a BMX biker going over a jump on the cover. Otherwise the information contained therein would become completely null and void.
  • The author must cite Bible passages that, when you examine their context, have nothing to do with the subject at hand (Jewish dietary laws in Leviticus with regards to weight-loss, the Beatitudes with regards to advancing in the workplace, ect.).
  • It has “changed countless lives”. Much like Scientology, Dr Ho’s Miracle Bracelet, and NAMBLA.

Right now I’m thinking of going through sections of the book in the style of Fred Clark’s “Left Behind Fridays”, discussing certain topics, sharing my opinion, and downright MST3K-style riffing. I will also occasionally compare it to John White’s Eros Defiled: The Christian and Sexual Sin, which is like Every Man’s Battle in that it is a book written from a conservative Christian standpoint dealing with the subject of sexual sin, but unlike EMB it deals with it in a significantly healthier, and better researched, way. Enjoy the show, folks.


*From reading his website and the book, co-author Fred Stoeker’s credentials can be summed up as “My dad never played with me and left porn and dildos around the house, I wanked to playboy when I was young, and I had LOTS and LOTS of premarital sex with many beautiful women (which I definitely am not bragging about but am really trying to warn you young men about the dangers). Then I went to church for awhile and later felt guilty while watching a sunset through my office window. Blah blah blah Jesus the freshmaker. Now thanks to quoting Bible-verses out of context, I’m happily married and I avoid hardcore porn films like Forrest Gump, smutty magazines like Reader's Digest, and I‘ve finally managed to stop viewing the woman at church that wears that slutty oversized-sweatshirt and body-accentuating baggy jeans as a sex object (she is instead a weapon Satan uses in the battle between good and evil that is constantly being fought inside my pants). And that‘s why you should listen to me when I talk about what healthy Christian view of male sexuality is.”

**Now I know that there are some of you out there that are probably saying “But Cynic, people don’t become homosexual because of their upbringing.” That’s a load of crap. Everybody knows that people end up homosexual because they have monsters for parents. Just look at Dick Cheney’s daughters.

1 comment:

Generic Cialis said...

The more they try to bring some moral consciousness to try and keep people (teens perhaps) into having sex like the world was ending will do no good. When something is prohibited the chances of someone or a group of people to do it is only going to increase.