This week we begin exploring spiritual crisis, in wives of sex addicts, that centers on the church and other Christians. Many of the women who responded to our June/July 2015 spiritual crisis survey relayed stories of pain and trauma induced by other Christians and church leaders. This is unfortunately an all too common occurrence worldwide. (See last week’s video interview with Amanda from Australia for an example.)
They Believe Him… Not Us
In Journey to Healing and Joy's spiritual crisis podcast, JHJ’s Coach Katherine tells listeners that sexual addiction is never the sole addiction in operation. There’s always an addiction as well to lies and deception. She goes on to challenge pastors that without training they are likely to get caught in the addict’s web of deception. When this happens our church leaders may then turn on us — because all too often our husbands are pointing a finger our direction.
Numerous women have been re-victimized because of the church’s inability to see through a sex addict’s lies. This double wounding can create intense bitterness toward the church. As one respondent put it:
“After 13 years of fake recovery, I left him and had two churches turn against me because they believed him. I’m considering joining a bar instead of a new church.”
My heart aches for those who feel like this: for the ones who have been abused by those who should have been supporting them. I once felt like this myself (after being beat up by my church leaders). What I came to realize was that many who call themselves Christians aren’t showing the face of Christ as often as He’d like.
I was right to become wary of my church after these events. However, God himself never betrayed me (and never will). He was supporting me. Moreover, He has children out there who get His nature and character better than some church leaders do.
Please explore this idea – with Him, and with others who are safe and who get Him. And do know that there are some safe churches out there. For now, that may just have to be information you file away for a better day.
They Are Too Embarrassed to Support Us
Sex is the last subject many Christians want to talk about. Thus, most of our churches have been silent on the subject for decades. The radical ones may have made the odd foray into issues such as abortion and homosexuality, but rarely (or never) have they addressed the personal and all-too-frequent struggle with lust and sexual sin common to those in the pews.
This has created a “don’t talk about it” culture that leaves very little room for sex addicts or their victims — principally, their wives and children.
Dr. John Townend, in an interview on New Life TV, brought up the fact that Christians often struggle with any kind of painful situation in others’ lives. He stated that we want the "victory" story – we don’t want to mourn with those who mourn. This is tragic. Jesus’ ministry began with him proclaiming his high calling (found in Isaiah 61) to bind up the broken hearted, set captives free…
It is heartbreaking to see how active church members go from being loved one week to being shunned the next, when news of their husband’s sin comes out. One survey respondent, who was about to enter seminary wrote:
“Because of my then husband's actions I was blacklisted and will never be allowed to enter seminary in that denomination. Within a couple of months there wasn't a place for me to serve in the local parish either, where I had been very active for over ten years. I was left wondering where God was in all of this, and why I was being punished for someone else's issues. I left that church about a year later, and no one has called to ask why.”
This respondent went on to say she doesn’t feel welcomed in any church now that she is single. This sentiment was echoed by a number of other respondents, and I suspect the reason lies in that phenomenon Dr. Townsend observed: we don’t want messy, painful stories, just good ones.
There’s never been a better day to work toward educating our spiritual leaders about sex addiction and partner trauma. There’s never been a better day to reflect the love of Christ to those in our broken, messy world. If this is something you're passionate about, but lack resources, see Covenant Eyes, (free) PDF: Fight Porn in Your Church.
Next week we’ll look more at what the Spiritual Crisis survey revealed about the suffering of ministry wives of sex addicts. I'll also give some thoughts on the issue of porn/sex addiction and church leadership.
Please note that Donna Meredith-Dixon is currently doing another survey on the topic partners of sex addicts' experiences of spiritual crisis. She will take her learning and apply it to her presentation at the Sexual Inegrity Leadership Summit this coming April in San Antonio, Texas.
Please consider participating in this anonymous, online survey.