Saturday, June 16, 2007

EMB: A Father's Love

Every Man's Battle: pt 1, ch 1, pg 11-14

On Page 11, we hear from Steve's good buddy and co-author, Fred Stoeker:

It happened every Sunday morning during our church worship service. I'd look around and see other men with their eyes closed, freely and intensely worshiping the God of the universe. Myself? I sensed only a wall of separation between the Lord and me.

I just wasn't right with God. As a new Christian, I imagined I just didn't know God well enough yet. But nothing changed as time passed.

When I mentioned to my wife, Brenda, that I felt vaguely unworthy of him, she wasn't at the least bit surprised.

"Well, of course!" she exclaimed. "You've never felt worthy to your own father. Every preacher I've known says a man's relationship with his father tremendously impacts his relationship with his heavenly Father."

"You could be right," I allowed.

I hoped it was that simple. I mulled it over as I recalled my days of youth.

He then goes on to speak of his father and the kind of man he was while Fred was growing up, referring to him as "handsome and tough", "a national wrestling champion in college and a bulldog in business". He tells us of his typical boyhood desire to be like his father leading him to join his junior-high wrestling team.

Now, I don't think Fred meant to do this, but what Fred writes next sounds to me like a cry for help. He describes one incident in the ring where his opponent, before the start of a match, blew his nose on his gym-shirt. Fred, while attempting to grab him, felt the snot and as a reflex let go, a move that cost him the match.

We then see another side of Fred's father:

Dad, seeing him escape so easily, dressed me down. "What kind of man are you?" he roared. Staring hard at the mat, I realized that if I had a wrestler's heart, I would have cranked down tightly and ridden out my opponent, maybe grinding his face into the mat in retaliation. But I hadn't.

I still wanted to please Dad, so I tried other sports. At one baseball game, after striking out, I remember hanging my head all the way back to the dugout. "Get your head up!" he hollered for all to hear. I was mortified. Then he wrote me a long letter detailing my every mistake.

Fred then tell us that he "read some books" and "counseled with" his pastor. He tells us that his "feelings toward Dad improved", but he "continued to feel that distance from God during the Sunday morning worship services".

So no, Freddie's inability to have a completely subjective religious "experience" (dependent on factors running from the type of music being played to his upbringing to what he had for breakfast that morning to the history of epilepsy in his family tree) had nothing to do with his poor relationship with the primary authority figure from the part of his life when he was his most impressionable and vulnerable (He knows this because he "read some books" and "counseled with" his pastor). Nope, not that at all:

The true reason for that distance slowly dawned on me: There was a hint of sexual immorality in my life. There was a monster lurking about, and it surfaced each Sunday morning when I settled in my La-Z-Boy and opened the Sunday morning newspaper. I would quickly find the department store and begin paging through the colored newsprint filled with bras and panties. Always smiling, always available. I loved lingering over each ad-insert. It's wrong, I admitted, but it's such a small thing. It was a far cry from Playboy, I told myself.

Now, before we continue, I'd like to take this time to explain something about the Christian faith (particularly the protestant branches). Here is a simple rundown* of what is known as the atonement* in Christianity:

  1. Our sins separate us from God (some would use the symbol of a "wall of separation" or a "void").
  2. God the Father, out of his love for us, sent his Son, the Messiah, lord of all creation, and second person of the Trinity -try to guess his name (come on, you can do it)- to die shitting himself while nailed to a pair of sticks. This act act of status-degradation propitiated the wrath of the Father and reconciled us unto God.
  3. Now, because of God's honor being satisfied, anyone who places their trust in Christ's payment will be forgiven for their sins and can now enter into a "patron-client" relationship with God (with God being the Patron, the man as the client, and Christ serving as the "broker" with his sacrifice closing the void.
  4. This gift cannot be lost (some would say unless one intentionally decides to reject it later on) as the sacrifice of Christ cannot be undone.
  5. That man should do good not as a way of scoring brownie-points with the Big-dude, but out of gratitude to God and compassion for others. Likewise, one should not do wrong out of fear of loosing said relationship with God, but out of same reasons as for doing good.
And now, onto my problem with what Fred wrote:

I sensed only a wall of separation between the Lord and me.

That "wall" was broken when Christ died on the cross atoning for his sins and Fred accepted the gift of his grace. Christ's sacrifice, judging from what Fred writes later, was undone because he looked at partially-covered boobies in a newspaper's ad-insert.

Blood of Christ { Boobies.

As I examined myself more closely, I found I had more than a hint of sexual immorality. Even my sense of humor reflected it. Sometimes a person’s innocent phrase–even from our pastor–struck me with a double sexual meaning. I would chuckle, but I felt uneasy.

Why do these double entendres come to my mind so easily? Should a Christian mind create them so nimbly?

Now, I partially agree with Fred here on the dangers of wordplay. I happen to believe that usage of puns can destroy a marriage.

But seriously, for double entendres to come to mind easily, you need a good knowledge of how certain English terms are used throughout our society. I actually think this is a good thing for Christians to have, otherwise they end up writing books with that have weird-sounding chapter-titles like "The Swapping Place" and creepy metaphors like "Pornography's tentacles are reaching for your young son's throat".

So once again: Blood of Christ { Snickering when the pastor talks about being "on your knees before the man from Galilee".

I remembered that the Bible said that such things shouldn’t even be mentioned among the saints. I’m worse…I even laugh at them!

The passage he's thinking about is Ephesians 5:4. Which raises questions in what constitutes obscenity considering how Paul himself laid some rather foul rhetorical smackdown when expresses his wish that those who promote adhering to "purity" codes (circumcision) as a pre-requisite for entering the reign of God would chop their dicks off. (Not to mention the vulgarity of certain passages in the Old Testament as well) .The passage in Ephesians isn't about certain words and subjects jokes being taboo simply because they are "dirty", it's about consideration for others and the first century church maintaining a good reputation among the pagans as to avoid persecution.

And my eyes? They were ravenous heat-seekers searching the horizon, locking on any target with sensual heat. Young mothers leaning over in shorts to pull children out of car seats. Soloists with silky shirts. Summer dresses with d├ęcolletage.

Blood of Christ { Soccer-moms dressed for warm weather.

Not to mention how, as a child, he stumbled across his dad's collection of nudie-magazines, and then there's this gem:

Once I came across a nude photo of his mistress. On another occasion I found an eight-inch ceramic dildo, which he obviously used in his kinky “sex games.”

Easter was always interesting at the Stoeker house. ^_^

"Disgusting Pervert!" Fred's god roars at him,"What kind of man are you?" But by grabbing onto slippery snot-covered "purity" and holding tight, Fred is able to make it on his own steam and earn the approval of his Heavenly Father (and Jesus helped a bit too, holding Fred's bottle of Holy-Ghostorade)

Now, I'm not a psychiatrist, but neither is Fred Stoeker and I'm not sure if co-author Steve Arterburn is either (and if they can spout off like experts without citing sources, I don't see why I can't), but judging from what I've read, Fred Stoeker has severe father issues that result in problems with guilt regarding his sexuality. What I find even more disturbing is that Steve Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life ministries, an evangelical organization whose mission it is to provide counseling services for Evangelical Christians...:

Our Mission


Our Core Values



Basically, Arterburn is the "Dr Phil" of Christianity. Wait, Dr Phil says he's a Christian, my bad. Arterburn is the "Dr Phil" of "be ridiculously vague about your credentials on your own website" Christianity.

Seriously though. Why did Steve choose to co-author a book with Fred Stoeker? Shouldn't he have recommended actual psychiatric help to Fred and instead have co-written a book on sexual-addiction with a sexologist, psychiatrist, or some other person with actual qualifications. He even has some head-shrinks on his staff, why not use those guys?

What's even sadder is that Fred Stoeker, a man who admits to having no training** in psychiatry, counseling, or Biblical studies in the introduction to this book (see page 5 of Every Man's Battle), has founded a ministry for the purpose of helping men "struggling" on their "path to sexual integrity".

Blind leading the blind, man. Blind leading the blind.

Long story short: My opinion is that when Steve Arterburn decided to write this book, dealing with this kind of subject matter, with a man like Stoeker, he was either being very foolish or just plain unethical.

*It probably is more complex than that, but I don't have all the time in the world and tend to agree with C.S. Lewis statement in his Mere Christianity in this respect:

We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ's death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself. All the same, some of these theories are worth looking at.

**On his site's "About Fred" page he says he reviewed "his studies on Human Sexuality at Stanford" before writing this book. I find this very hard to believe as he makes no citations or references to anything like that in EMB. Not to mention that he promotes common misconceptions about sex ("women don't masturbate" ect.).


Geds said...

Mr. Sage:

I found you when you linked yourself to the comments over at Slacktivist.

I like what you're doing over here. As a recovering fundamentalist, former Christian book store employee and a sarcastic jackass, I truly appreciate the nature of your review of Every Man's Battle.

I've known all about the books for years, but I never had any real urge to read them, either for their intended purpose or for sarcastic review purposes. Thank you for filling in that particular gap in my knowledge.

Although you might not be quite as civil as Fred is in dealing with the World's Worst Books(TM), you generally manage to be a hell of a lot funnier. Kudos.

The Cynic Sage said...

Thanks for the encouragement. It means a lot.

Salamanda said...

Well, I was content to merely lurk, but when I saw your last footnote there about Fred promoting certain misconceptions, well...I just couldn't resist. :)

I seriously hope you keep this up. I'm enjoying it immensely.