The recent rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon in Melbourne has highlighted again the problem of male violence in our culture, particularly that directed towards women.
The public outpouring of sympathy and the increasing feeling that this has to stop, has been addressed in a number of articles in the weeks since. Early in July, women and girls’ advocate, Melinda Tankard Reist, wrote that addressing sexual violence must include confronting the epidemic of pornography that saturates our culture.
Something that hasn’t been addressed as much, but which is inseparably linked to Tankard Reist’s concerns, is the problem of addiction.
The culture we live in encourages isolation and lack of community. The result is that we have a breeding ground for addiction. We are encouraged to live for experiences, to purchase, to get rich, to have. Unfortunately we also see this in much of the church. A church that is more concerned about the afterlife and escapism than it is about dealing with the social and psychological conditions that afflict people here is a church that is not confronting what is important to God.
One of the problems in the way that porn and sex addiction is treated in Christian circles is that it is still seen primarily as a moral issue. It certainly is a moral issue, but we often treat it in a way that increases the shame that the addict already experiences. As a result, we exacerbate the problem.
In society, if you are a porn addict or other type of sex addict, you are generally seen as a pervert or some type of disgusting human being. And if you are a Christian with such an addiction, you often have the added burden of being seen as a hypocrite.
All these responses actually make the addict more likely to go back to their addiction. In our disgust and judgment of porn addicts and other sex addicts, little do we realise that we are actually enabling the addiction.
This is of course not to deflect responsibility from the addict. The addict’s behaviour is selfish, hurtful and destructive. To deny that will also not help the addict recover and their loved ones be helped.
The addict is both a victim, and an agent
The addict is both a victim and an agent. Addictive behaviour is a coping mechanism. To merely moralise it is to avoid the real issue.
The author, Johann Hari, refers not so much to addiction as to bonding. We bond to a substance or a behaviour to help us cope with our inner pain. The antidote to this is accepting community. As Hari says. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety but connection.
If you look at the life of Jesus, we see this in the way he brought people back into community. We see it in his treatment of the woman caught in adultery and the woman who anointed him with oil, to give just a couple of examples.
It is through this loving acceptance that we regain our identity. Over time we can emotionally divorce ourselves from whatever it is that has given us an image of ourselves that is untrue, that says we are shame-worthy, that we are never good enough. Jesus never shamed anyone. He touched something deeper with his divine love.
Our addictions are not our core problem. Our addictions are what we use to deal with our core problem.
Our core problem is the God-shaped hole within us. Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that the line separating good and evil doesn’t run between nations; it runs through every human heart.
Jesus attracted the outcasts, the “sinners” and prostitutes because they found unconditional acceptance in him. They found an answer to the shame they already felt. Love does that. If we have all been made by a loving Creator, as I believe we have been, then our destiny is wrapped up in finding our identity in that Creator.
Our culture is crying out for love and connection. Shaming people only exacerbates the problem. But love frees us from that, from the fear and hatred of the “other”. God help us to love the addicts among us, just as Jesus does.
Nils von Kalm is from Melbourne, Australia and has a passion for showing how the Gospel is relevant to life in the 21st century. He can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/nils.vonkalm and at http://soulthoughts.com/
Nils von Kalm’s previous articles may be viewed at