I just came across an interesting blog from an unbeliever's perspective. (Read at your own risk...) She had apparently come across a 'fundie' site which had an interview about men dealing with lust and sexual sin. Even more interesting were some of the comments. Here are a few to give you an idea:
"Has it ever occurred to them that if they stopped fixating on sex acts and who is doing what that perhaps they can concentrate on more important matters, like say, helping those less fortunate?"
And in response to this comment:
"But, but, but, then it wouldn't be all about ME! How can I possibly do anything if I'm not pure first?"
"Ah, but fixating on sex acts allows them to think about sex constantly, albeit with a negative twist that is an acquired taste, but still enjoyable for many. Helping others would mean addressing misery that they didn't even get to enjoy causing, and that's no fun either. Nope, better to wallow in dirty sexual imaginings, all in the name of God, than to wrestle with the ambiguities and inconsistencies of other human beings"
"I, for one, have seen no evidence of this wish to help the less fortunate in any of the local fundie churches. Their tithing appears to be dedicated to building ever larger and more tasteless temples of and for Pharisees, sending useless objects to countries which actually need food and medicine and not Bibles and propaganda and calling it 'missionary work,' sending large sums of money to various winger think tanks which don't need it and use it to maintain the talentless spawn of ruling class families in imperial splendor and sinecure glory, and buying a new beemer for their pastors every year"
"Of course, there's also the mortification route, where you starve yourself out of a sex drive. I'm sure that's the more popular way for the Christian nutters to handle "unwanted lust"."
"Oh sorry about not being clear earlier when I talked about mortification and starving I didn't mean to death. From what I understand, a drastic drop in caloric intake will decrease your sex drive significantly, and was a popular way for medieval monks to "purify" themselves. This along with other mortifications such as not bathing and wearing hair shirts, as well as corporal mortifications like self flagellation, was pretty standard practice for some orders. The entire idea was that the body was to be beaten into submission to the needs of the spirit, an idea that is still popular today with groups like Opus Dei."
While of course these aren't all resounding with truth, I think there's something to be learned sometimes from getting an outside perspective. There is some truth to our preoccupation with sin being self-centered (and ineffective too), and the last quote kind of surprised me. How much of our pursuit of holiness takes on a kind of beating our body into submission--that is, behavioural disciplines to change ourselves? If we take a step back, how many of our discussions about sin and advice about conquering it sound utterly foolish and pathetic? What about all these 5 or 7 step plans for change? I'm not sure there's anything particularly Christian about coming up with steps for change, just about every religion does that, so what makes us any different? Do we offer real hope for change or not...