Marnie Ferree’s (2010) story is honest. No Stones is real and powerful to any reader, but Marnie’s book is written specifically to women coming out of or struggling with sexual addictions themselves. This becomes clear on nearly every page as Marnie relates, responds, and shows genuine concern for her hurting readers. No Stones is divided into three main parts, addressing first the problem of sexual addiction, second the root of sexual addiction and finally, the solution to the problem of sexual addiction. This is my review, reaction, and ponderings about the book No Stones and how sexual addiction has been and should be handled by the church.
It should be noted from the start that Marnie Ferree’s story is a story that began with sexual molestation when she was a minor (Ferree, 2010, p. 19). I do not think that Ferree’s molestation as a child negatively impacts the book in any way, but I did think it is worth mentioning.
The Problem of Sexual Addiction
There are too many problems with sexual addiction to cover in one book but Ferree covers many of them. Problems range from secrecy, loneliness, shame, disease, sin, neurological difficulties, and even cultural messages. Ferree addresses each of these in some detail and more.
Secrecy and Loneliness
Sexual sin is typically by nature and nearly by necessity a secret sin (Ferree, 2010, p. 29). The problem of keeping sin secret cannot be overestimated. Proverbs 28:13 in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (NASB). The writings of Solomon in Proverbs seem to me to have really stood the test of time and the words within Proverbs seem to be pretty reliable. There are plenty of logical reasons that hiding things inhibits a person from prosperity, including the simple but overwhelming fear of getting caught. The constant fear of getting caught or found out as some may say, clouds everything else in the life of any person with a secret.
Secrecy and loneliness go hand in hand. When someone hides a secret from someone who should be his or her closest companion, like a spouse, then loneliness is a natural result. Loneliness breeds secrecy and secrecy results in more loneliness. The problem is cyclical.
Ferree mentions, “When you think of King David, the sin of adultery usually comes to mind before his sin of murder” (2010, p. 29). Historically this has been true in my mind. I am sure that up until a few years ago I would think of David’s sin with Bathsheba before I thought of his murder of Uriah. That changed for me when I began to think about how oddly I had been taught about sexual sin, military support, and the message of Jesus. As I began to believe that God was essentially non-violent and that Jesus had come to show us that God was not mad at us I began to realize that I had learned to look at many things backward.
Do not misunderstand me; I am thankful and respectful of those who have served in the military. I am thankful because they were willing to do what they believed was right. I am respectful because I want to be respectful of every human being, but I do not believe that I could with good conscious serve in any military action where the taking of life was seen as necessary. I know that I would not be happy in least bit if any of my children choose to enter the military. During and through this journey into non-violence for myself, I have thought quite often about why we overlook David’s sin of murder and focus on his sin of adultery. The answer seems clear to both Marnie and I. Our Christian culture sees sexual sin as one of the most, if not the most horrendous and shameful of sins. I grew up during the True Love Waits era. During this era one of the major benchmarks of Christianity among teens was the ability to remain a virgin. It is my prayer that my children will be both virgins and nonviolent followers of Jesus Christ on their wedding day.
Sin and Disease
Ferree wrote, “If they would only try harder and be more intentional in their Bible study and prayers, they wouldn’t sin sexually. These beliefs are inaccurate and only compound an addict’s shame” (2010, p. 31). Ferree goes on to explain that sexual addiction is both a sin and a disease. Sexual addiction is extremely difficult to overcome, in fact many people who suffer from both chemical addiction and sexual addiction report that the sexual addiction is more difficult to overcome (Ferree, 2010, p.53).
I agree with Ferree that sexual addiction is both sin and disease. Proper treatment for a Christian sex addict must include both grace for sin and treatment for disease.
While a non-addict may not see the neurochemistry of the brain as a problem, I certainly do see it as a challenge at least if not a problem in addition. Understanding that oxytocin is released into the brain when skin to skin contact occurs is quite interesting (Ferree, 2010, p. 51). Beyond that, the intense ecstasy that is felt during sexual activity involves the release of opiate-like substances called catecholmines. This simple information makes it clear to me that sexual addiction is very much like chemical addiction but the chemical that is entering the system is from within and totally natural. Ferree mentions that, “Researchers have proven what addicts have known for a long time: that sexual activity can provide a high equal to crack cocaine” (Ferree, 2010, p.51).
The problems of sexual addiction are plenteous. From the secret nature of sexual addiction to the neurochemistry of sexual addiction the problems are many, real, and extremely powerful. Understanding the problems and learning about the roots of the addiction may be extremely important as a person approaches the place of cure, healing, and recovery.
Family Dynamics and the Root of Sexual Addiction
Ezekiel chapter 18 verse 20 says, “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself” (NASB). Ferree chose a different passage to open up her section about the roots of sexual addiction. Ferree quoted from Deuteronomy chapter 5. I think this reveals that Ferree and I look at the bible differently. Where she sees the bible as the infallible and inerrant words of God, I see the bible as the inspired by God words of man. This leads Ferree to imply that sexual addiction is not a choice for some, but rather a judgment, curse, or inheritance passed on from a previous generation (2010, p.100). Despite our disagreement on this fundamental view of scripture, I believe that our reaction, treatment, and response to sexual sin and addiction are very much the same. For example I totally agree with Ferree when she says, “In simple terms, unhealthy families are the breeding ground for later unhealthy, unholy behavior, including addiction” (2010, p.104).
One form of emotional abuse which specifically caught my attention was mind rape. I was familiar with many forms of emotional abuse and I have ministered to families where emotional incest was taking place but I have never been exposed to the term “mind rape” until reading No Stones (Ferree, 2010, p.125). I have seen this over and over in highly religious homes. The parents nearly force beliefs on the children and more often than not the child at least for a season appears to have bought in to whatever theological system they were force fed. The problem though involves the fact that the child never had the opportunity to think, discuss and consider his or her personal thoughts before being told what they were not allowed to even consider. One might argue that it is impossible to hinder thought, but thought that is not given a platform for discussion can really hinder true growth. Ferree’s quotes, “You shouldn’t think that way. That’s crazy.” perfectly illustrate the problem of mind rape (2010, p.125).
Addicts Core Beliefs
In No Stones, Ferree mentions four core beliefs of all addicts. “I am a bad, unworthy person.” “No one would love me as I am.” “No one will meet my needs.” and “Sex or a relationship is my most important need.” (2010, pp. 147-149). The first of these four core beliefs is the one that bothers me most. As a child and young adult, I was part of a Calvinist influenced church family. While my congregation never seemed to talk about the ideas of Calvinism directly the ideas were subtly taught and oozed out of nearly everything that we learned about. Total Depravity was probably the most heavily supported piece of the puzzle. The theology of total depravity teaches that everyone is bad, unworthy and desperate to the point of completely spiritually dead without Christ.
The truth is that God sees you and me all as worth His love. Lest anyone get overly pumped and even arrogant, we are not worth His love because of anything that we do or did but rather we are worth His love because we were made in His image. We are worthy not based on our behavior but based on His breath that was breathed in us upon our physical birth.
Family roots are real and our parents, grandparents and especially our environment do each play a role in our life, but those things do not automatically determine our future, or our behavior. We determine our own future, and by leaning on Christ we can do and accomplish anything that He wants us to.
Treatment of Sexual Addiction
Once again, Ferree and I disagree on an interpretation of scripture but agree on the application. Ferree seems to imply that she believes that the waters were magical in John 5. The addition of verse four in John 5 is the origination of that idea. Don’t get me wrong, I do not doubt for a minute that there were people who believed that getting in the water at a certain time would heal them, but I do not believe that those beliefs were founded in truth. The story just does not sound like the one true God. If the story was true, think about it for a moment. The one person who was the fastest and could get into the water the quickest was to be the one that was healed. Logic tells anyone who is willing to think and has not been “mind raped” that the one who could get in the water first was the one who least needed healing. I do believe that Jesus healed a man there, but I do not believe that either Jesus or the original author of John’s gospel actually believed that the waters were magical and worked the way the added verse four implies.
Now despite the disagreement about the text, Marnie Ferree and I do agree on her application. There is no doubt that the first step to overcoming addiction is the desire to get better (2010, p. 161).
I love and support Narcotics Anonymous on a regular basis, and I believe in the system. But there are two specific parts that I do not fully embrace and would like to change. First of all, I do not believe that we are powerless over any addiction. I am not a member of any anonymous support group, I have never struggled with alcohol or drugs but I have struggled mightily with sex and food. But I am not powerless over these two addictions. Because I am a creation of God and He has overcome, I believe that we are powerful and able to control ourselves. I think we would be better to recognize that we need help to overcome, but we specifically need the help because we have trouble believing that we can overcome without the help. I recognize that may sound circular and counterproductive, so I should elaborate.
I believe that God is the ultimate source of all life, healing, redemption, grace, and love. If I simultaneously hold that belief and hold the belief that we are powerless over our addictions, then I in turn have to believe that there are powers out there that can help people aside from the power of God because we see non-believers getting free from addictions through twelve step programs. In Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and the other programs that share the AA brand, the “higher power” can be anything. Since I believe God is the ultimate source of all healing, then it stands to reason to me that He is ultimately the source regardless of what someone leans on for their support. Jesus said over and over that the key is faith. When someone begins to believe that they can stop the addictive behavior, that belief then lends the necessary strength to the one believing. God may or may not get the credit on earth despite the fact that He deserves it. I simply believe that God created the Universe in such a way that belief is powerful.
I appreciate all of the tools of recovery listed in chapter fifteen of No Stones (2010). Daily prayer is important, but being legalistic about it seems to me to steal the value from prayer. I appreciate the phrase “conscious contact with God” over “pray daily” (2010, p.198-199). Attending twelve step meetings, working the steps, and using the chip system has clearly proven to be valuable many, but I think the key is not in the program as much as the keys happen to be found in the programs. I would recommend twelve step programs, not for the materials or the steps but rather for the people, who can help, understand, support, and lead you toward helping, understanding, and supporting others. The importance of the steps 10-12 of the twelve step program cannot be overstated (Ferree, 2010, p.201). Accountability is important, but I typically find that it quickly dissolves and does little to zero good if the relationship is merely built on or around accountability. Real accountability is done best in real relationship, genuine friendship.
Sexual Addiction and the Church
Churches have got to become real places of healing, and open places where anything can be discussed. I could not agree more with Ferree about how churches must refuse to “shoot their wounded” (2010, p. 249). Ferree’s minister is also right on track when he speaks of silence as the great sin of the church (2012, p. 249). Providing resources like this book, hosting groups like Sexaholics Anonymous, and bringing in speakers like Marie Ferree or Mark Laaser would be great places for churches to start.
No Stones is not only a great read for female sexual addicts, but it is an interesting and informative read for anyone interested in better understanding addiction in general and female sexual addiction in general. I cannot state enough how much I enjoyed and appreciate this book. One final thought that I believe is worth pointing out, many women who appear to suffer from sex addiction do not actually suffer from and addiction to sex but rather from an addiction to love, relationship, approval, romance, etc. These addictions lead toward what appears to be sexual addiction because women often trade sex for their real “drug” of choice which is love. I sincerely believe the majority of all problems on planet earth can be solved by sharing and believing the real good news. The real good news is God is not mad, He is love. 1 John 1:5 says, “And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (NASB). 1 John 4:7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (NASB).