Fred Stoker goes on to describe descent into his "sexual pit", describing his intense, life-destroying pornography-addiction thusly:
I actually memorized the dates when my favorite soft-core porn magazines arrived at the local drugstore.
Wow! he makes his pornography-addiction sound almost as bad as my addiction to LittleKuriboh's YuGiOh Abridged series on Youtube.
Moving on. Fred goes into one of spiels about how in his early days the ladies were, as Strongbad would say, "all up ons" him (but of course, he is only telling us this to warn us of the dangers of teh sex), describing how when he first had sex it was with a woman he thought he would marry, and from there he turned into a man-whore (not the kind that writes poorly researched yet well-marketed books dealing with serious relationship issues that are loaded with empty anecdotal filler and decontextualized Bible-verses. That came later).
You know how in my last entry in this series I mentioned how I pitied Fred Stoeker. Well, if you are anything like me, and happen to be reading Every Man's Battle like I did, you will start off the book with a sense pity for Freddy and what he has gone through growing up with with a verbally-abusive father who abandoned his mom. But as you turn the pages, the pity will eventually be drowned out by slowly yet steadily growing dislike of him as a person.
After five years in California I found myself with four "steady" girlfriends simultaneously. I was sleeping with three of them and was essentially engaged to marry two of them. None knew the others. (These days, in my class for premarital couples, I often ask the women what they would think of a man with two fiancées . My favorite response is "He's a hopless pig!" And I was hopeless, living in a pigsty.)
Don't you just hate it when you find yourself with multiple girlfriends. You think that your "one" girlfriend either has multiple personality disorder or simply has some kind of kink where she likes to disguise herself in one of several alter-egos when she's with you. And then BAM! You spot both "Charlene" and "Sandra" at the same grocery store. It's not like anyone actively tries to obtain multiple girlfriends through deception. I mean just look his face, with looks like that he can just sit there and passively accumulate girlfriends (chicks really dig the "potato with Downs-syndrome" look).
So at the beginning of the second chapter we see Fred Stoeker, like all evangelicals that have been "delivered" and have founded their own ministries with websites that have photos of them smiling while wearing neckties with their wives standing behind them (in Fred's case, a victim from when the Joker poisoned the water-supply of the town of Stepford), has filled out his obligatory "Personal-Testimony" Mad Lib sheet:
Despite the deepening pit I occupied in my single days, I didn't notice anything wrong with my life. Oh, sure, I attended church sporadically, and from time to time the pastor's words penetrated my heart. But who was he? Besides, I loved my girlfriends. No one's getting hurt, I reasoned.
"I loved my girlfriends"? Yup, loved them enough to go behind their backs on each other. Good thing that at the part where he has his encounter with Jesus the Freshmaker he'll tell us of his realization of how badly he hurt those women.
My dad had eventually remarried, and when I visited back home in Iowa, my stepmother occasionally dragged me across the river to the Moline Gospel Temple. The Gospel was clearly preached, but to me the whole scene was clearly ludicrous. I often laughed cynically. Those people are crazy!
"The Gospel was clearly preached" you know, the one where Jesus died on the cross to give us "stop masturbating"-powers so we can finally be good enough for God to accept us. Oh well, at least his being "born-again" will cause him to realize how his deception and manipulation hurt those women.
And let's just fast forward to the office-sunset, just in time for the money-shot:
That evening as the sun dipped beneath the horizon, I suddenly saw in full clarity what I had become. What I saw was hopelessly ugly. Where once I was blind, now I could see. Instantly, I saw my deep, deep need for a Savior. Because of the Moline Gospel Temple, I knew who to call upon.
My prayer that day was born out of the simplicity of a certain heart: "Lord, I'm ready to work with you if You're ready to work with me."
I stood up and walked out that office, not yet fully realizing what I'd just done. But God knew, and it seemed as if all heaven moved into my life. Within two weeks I had a job back in Iowa and a new life ahead of me. And no girlfriends!
Wait a minute! The guy goes through four very messy break-ups involving lies and betrayal he calls that "all heaven" moving into his life?
Wait! Umm... I have a feeling something is supposed to happen here but I can't figure out what... Oh well. At least he put in that important part of how he was finally rid of those contaminating harlots.
In EMB, Fred doesn't really tell us that much about these four femmes from his B.C. days in California (although he doesn't really shut-up about the others), but Preparing Your Son for Every Man's Battle contains a a mentions of one of them that he maintained a long-distance relationship with (she in California and he in Idaho) after he had become a Christian. On page 224-225 in chapter 17 in the "For Son and Dad" section Fred says that he "heard the pastor say that Christians shouldn't be unequally yoked with unbelievers" (the pastor was probably alluding to 2 Cor. 6:14-16 which, according to L.W. Countryman in Dirt, Greed, and Sex, had little if anything at all to do with intermarriage* and is most likely an "exhortation to the Corinthians to withdraw from rival teachers, for it is preceded and followed by appeals to 'make room for' Paul in their affections (6:11-13; 7:2)") and writes:
If two different animals were yolked together to pull the plow, such as a donkey and an ox, you'd have your hands full trying to work that plow. The yoke would weigh heavy on one animal while choking the other, or the animal with the longer stride would drag the other painfully by the neck. This is a great word picture of what it would be like if you got romantically involved with a young girl who doesn't believe in God. You'd be working against each other instead of for each other. Believe me, in your desire to stay sexually pure, you want to be associating with someone who's on the same spiritual level as you.(Emphasis mine).
Wow. Too bad that 2 Cor. 6:14-16 doesn't refer to marriage* and the term "unequally yoked" was a metaphor in the Old Testament referring to the cross-breeding of two different species of animals to produce mules, and Paul was using the metaphor of "uncleanliness" to refer to false teachers.
He then tells us that after uncritically swallowing what was spewed to him that Sunday, he called up "this young woman", as Fred refers to her, and they cut a deal. She would read the Bible for one month and if she did not have a Freshmaking encounter with Jesus Christ and accept him as her PLAS, she would be rewarded by not having a relationship with Fred Stoeker.
"Okay, I'll read my Bible for thirty days, and we'll see," she promised. A month later, I heard from her, right on cue. "I've done what I promised, she said. "But I can't buy into this stuff at all."
"I'm sorry to hear that," I responded. Then I quietly suggested that we should go separate ways.
Thank God she was able to dodge that bullet. Normally I'm not for the decontextualization of Bible passages (it tends to lead to things like teenage girls being burned alive, pointless wars being fought in the middle-east, and Christian bestsellers being published) but here it actually did some good. It would've been pretty horrible if "this young woman" ended up "unequally yoked" with Fred Stoker, a Christian at the "spiritual level" of "self-loathing yet pompous enough to look down one's nose at unbelievers and fellow Christians that don't share in one's purity code".
And for entertainment purposes, some more tidbits of "Stoeker's Girls" from Preparing Your Son:
If you read Every Man's Battle, then you probably remember all those stories I told you about my sexual sins. Brian knows the names of nearly every girl in every story. Then again, I know how the term "Mack Truck" applies to a girl he once knew. He knows which girl of mine we affectionately dubbed Woodhead. If he was making out in the front seat of the drive-in, he was in the backseat doing the same.
"Mack Truck"? "Woodhead"? Did this guy date women or Autobots?
If you remember from Every Man's Battle, it would be two years and one wedding later before God dealt with those simmering feelings I had for Polly. But that story Dad shared rooted deeply in me, and it was a great encouragement to me as I struggled to crucify my memories of Polly a few years later.
I seriously hope that this is an instance of "Christianese-gone-horribly-wrong" and he means something along the lines of "put the past behind me." Seriously, some of this shit is scary. It also seems odd how his "crucified" memories of ex-girlfriends seem to pull a Jesus whenever he writes a book.
And to top things off, a very special booty-call he made, shortly after his conversion, to an old high-school flame named Janet (page 194):
I soon tracked her down and -what luck! She was single and living in Omaha. I called her, and after some cheerful banter, she invited me to meet her at her favorite dance-bar. Need I say more? After closing time, we found ourselves alone in her apartment.
"Found" again? First accidental polygyny, now random teleportation?
One thing led to another, and we slipped out of our clothes into her bed. We began kissing, but a strange thing happened: I couldn't get an erection! That had never happened before, deeply humiliated, my head spinning, I slunk out to the parking lot and slumped into my car.
Then I clearly heard the Spirit whisper into my heart, "By the way, I did that to you. I know it hurt you, but this practice can't be tolerated anymore in your life. You are Christ's now, and he loves you."
Although I believe that Fred Stoeker should not be writing books on sexual and relational health, I do believe a complete autobiography of him would be rather interesting read. He could call it Too Much Information: The Fred Stoeker Story.
PYSFEMB has got some pretty hilarious stuff in it. I recommend you check it out, but not buy the book as not to provide these guys with financial support. What I recommend doing is search the newspaper for headlines that read something like "Adolescent boy uses rusty scissors to hack off own penis" then try to contact the father of the boy mentioned in the article. Chances are he'll have of copy of either Preparing Your Son or Every Young Man's Battle or Every Young Man's Battle that you can borrow.
Now, I don't believe in "grading" personal testimonies, but here's my beef with what Fred wrote, and the role the Personal Testimony plays within modern Evangelicalism as well:
Fred Stoeker seems to model (whether intentionally or not) his testimony after those of recovering alcoholics/drug-addicts. The problem with this is that someone's daughter is put on the level of a bottle of vodka; someone's sister becomes a rusty crack-pipe, and Fred, like the new, regenerated man that he is, thanks God that he was able to leave those horrid things that ruined his life in the gutter he rose from.
My other problem lies in the notion of the "personal testimony" itself. First of all, all movements/ideologies/religions have "Personal Testimonies", so most of the time it's not a very good way to present a case either for or against something (I wonder how Fred Stoeker and twice-divorced Steve Arterburn would react if they met some couples that credited their long and happy marriages to things like swinging and porn).
More often than we like to admit, "Personal Testimonies" are often nothing more than our own narcissism impersonating piety. "I used to be a horrible person like you are, but if you accept Jesus as your Personal Lord and Savior he will change you into a wonderful person like I am now". I myself prefer to wear my narcissism on the outside, and that makes me better than you. ;)
As I have noted earlier in this entry, despite Fred's constant self-loathing he has a ridiculously high opinion of himself. For crying out loud, the man thinks he's so virile that it can only be due to being smote by the Hand of the Almighty that the Mighty Staff of Stoeker be rendered powerless (even though it is a rather common condition among men and is even brought on by psychological factors such as depression, guilt, stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem - some things I bet Freddie here had in spades during this sexual-encounter following his recently becoming "born-again").
And finally, this: Despite openly admitting in the introduction to his first book (EMB) that he has no qualifications in any fields relevant to the subjects his books deal with, Fred Stoeker, according to the back-cover of PYSFEMB, "has counseled hundreds of men and married couples". People actually listen to this man's scare-tactics ("When we look at women without clothes on, there is a chemical reaction that happens in our brains that is much like the reaction the brain has to taking cocaine.**" PYSFEMB pg162) and even bad theology ("God, through Jesus Christ, fulfilled his responsibility to help us with our sexual purity at Calvary." PYSFEMB pg179) and these people barely raise an eyebrow. Why, because by blathering on and on about past instances while using the proper Christianese lingo, Fred Stoeker "Brings Glory to God" through his ministry of misinformation and fear. "God is glorified" by Fred Stoeker being a narcissistic douche doing a half-assed job at writing books that people are depending on to save their marriages.
Glory to God in the fucking highest!
*Paul's treatment of intermarriage of the New Testament dealing with intermarriage with non-Christians is found 1 Corinthians 7. The relevant passages are highlighted:
12To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
15But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
17Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. 20Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. 23You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.
25Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. 26Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. 27Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
39A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. 40In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
According to Dirt, Greed, and Sex, marriages were pre-arranged by families back then; they didn't have our concept of "dating", where you would move on from one "step" in a relationship to another. The crux of the matter here is that Paul's goal for the Corinthians is to keep the distinctiveness of the Christian community, yet Paul also has a rather significant concern that those already married stay with their unbelieving spouses as to maintain a good reputation among pagans. Countryman interprets this passage to our culture in such a way as to allow Christians that are already involved in serious relationships with unbelievers to remain in them (except in cases of abuse and other such factors) as this would fulfill the principle Paul was going for (not to mention Paul's "stay as you are"). Simply to dump him/her giving no other reason than "I met a man from Galilee" will have pretty much the same effect Paul was trying to get that church to avoid. And BTW: Flirt to convert doesn't work.
**I take it both cocaine and "hot nekkid chicks" both cause the brain to produce endorphins***, but then again, so do chocolate and mountain biking. The way Fred phrases it (in the context of a conversation about pornography he had with his son) he makes it sound like porn will make you think that there are bugs under your skin. Speaking of which, if looking at naked women has a coke-like effect on the brain, how can he have sex with his own wife without being subject to these toxic effects? His wife is a woman, right?
EDIT: Sept 26, 2007
***My bad. Dopamine is the neurochemical involved in the reward system of the brain. This does reinforces behavior and plays a part in addiction, but keep in mind that not all reinforced behavior caused by dopamine reactions is a harmful addiction. Keep in mind that sex is a drive. I'm not saying that sex-addiction does not exist, but keep in mind that if you ejaculate while conscious outside of marital intercourse, Fred Stoker believes you have a serious problem and Steve Arterburn can hook you up with a "Professional Masturbation Counselor".