Surfing for Porn . . .er. . .I mean God: a book review

Cusick book cover Pornography is a real problem. Consider these statistics:

  • 25% of search engine requests are for pornography – 68 million per day.
  • 70% of the hits on Internet sex sites occur between 9-5 on business computers.
  • Over 50 percent of evangelical pastors report they viewed pornography last year.
  • Over 70% of Christian men report viewing pornography in the last year.

And I would say, that as a whole Christians have responded rather poorly to what amounts to a sin epidemic in our culture.  So I am happy to recommend a book which gets at the heart of some of the issues which are tangled up with pornography.  Michael John Cusick is an ordained minister, licensed professional counselor and spiritual director. He is also is a recovering sex addict (living in freedom) who had an addiction to pornography, strip clubs, masturbation and prostitution. He sees the bankruptcy of a life in bondage, but he also knows that men act out in sexual sins because they are broken and wounded.

But before I tell you about this book, let me briefly tell you where I think other Christian approaches get this wrong. One popular Christian book seems to say:

  • Objectifying other women is wrong, just objectify your wife. She is there primarily for your sexual pleasure(based on a reading of Job’s famous ‘covenant with his eyes in Job 31).
  • Women who are not your spouse are sources of temptation and should be avoided at all costs.
  • You should also avoid places like parks, the beach, roads that women jog on, supermarkets, hair salons and shopping malls.

The problem with this advice is that it basically gets guys to modify their behavior, but does not touch the wounding and longing that led them to a pornography addiction in the first place (although to be fair, this approach takes serious the idea of sexual sin and the need for accountability). It is also unrealistic. Only stay-at-home dads can avoid women, who are increasingly colleagues and men’s bosses in all walks of life.

Cusicks approach is much more holistic. He sees pornography and other sexual sins as symptomatic of the deep longing for connection and reality (and yes, ultimately God). By sharing the story of his own struggle (and victory), he  addresses the root issues of pornography, the empty promises and real idolatry, personal brokenness and the cycle of shame, but also the real freedom that is ours in Christ and transformation that is possible and the disciplines which care for your soul. He is also attentive to a very real, spiritual dimension to this struggle and the dynamics of temptation (and its relationship to idolatry). As a counselor he is aware of the ways in which pornography (and other online habits) affect the brain, but also draws hope from the brain’s plasticity. His advice for those lost in sexual temptation online is to unplug, pay attention to your desires and cravings to find out what is happening in your heart, and to practice solitude and centering prayer. Ultimately he wants people to journey from their self medicating numbness, to a relationship with God where desires are rightly ordered and they are attentive to their own soul care (in community, of course).

Nevertheless I think this book has two limitations which I think are significant:

  1. It treats sexual sin and pornography as a personal, individual sin. This needs to be addressed but he never addresses the other side of the equation. Men who go to prostitutes victimize women; men who view pornography, go to strip clubs and seek out adult entertainment,  have participated in an unjust system which truncates the humanity of women (and men) and causes tremendous psychological, physical and sociological damage. I applaud Cusick’s efforts to address the ways sin and acting out come from personal brokenness. I just want him also to address the significant justice issue that is wrapped up with this.
  2. This book is also limited in terms of audience. This is a book written by a man for men, and speaks most meaningfully to men who are married.  Single guys can read this profitably while making adjustments in a couple of places; however, I have friends who are women who also struggle with an addiction to pornography. While much of this advice is applicable to them (solitude and centering prayer, the need to pray through and address woundedness and idolatry), they will find themselves unaddressed by Cusick. When you consider the real shame that comes with sexual sin and that pornography is considered by many Christians a ‘man’s sin, the cycle of shame is compounded for women who are stuck in addiction to porn and sex. This book could have easily been inclusive of both genders in addressing a real struggle which affects both sexes.

But for the particular niche of  ‘men who struggle’ working through their own personal issues, I think this book is one of the best.  This is a book I would use pastorally and found a lot of it personally helpful. So it gets a solid recommendation from me.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

8 comments

  1. Michael J. Klassen

    Thanks for your review. I found it through Michael Cusick.

    One of the challenges in writing books (I’m finishing my 16th book) is trying to avoid saying too much. If you say too much, you end up saying nothing at all and you lose your audience.

    The focus of his book (which I’ve already read) is men who struggle with porn. Not women who struggle with porn. Not the injustice of porn and what it does to women. Cusick actually participated in a video entitled “Somebody’s Daughter” which addresses your first concern. Hopefully he’ll address the other issues in future books. However, as a writer, I wouldn’t recommend that he make his focus any broader than it already is.

    Nevertheless, I agree that your other concerns need to be addressed and are often overlooked. Thanks for reviewing it and bringing the issue into the light.

    • Wayne Park

      If you think the “injustice of porn and what it does to women” is an extraneous side-issue (“saying too much”) that is rightly redacted from this book I would say there is something messed-up with your worldview. If we guys persist in thinking porn is a private, moral struggle that doesn’t involve latent mysogyny then we are blind, indeed – and from a counseling perspective, not really getting anywhere in terms of progress.

    • matichuk

      Michael thanks for your comment. I gave this book a great review on amazon (5 stars) and realize that it is impossible for authors to say everything about an issue. I really think this is a fine and helpful book. But the limitations I identified are not raised by most books in the genre and worthy of attention. The use of pornography by women is a growing concern, and no where does Cusick say his book is just for men (and his actual advice is not particularly male specific). I think he could have easily opened it up with a couple of examples and a few connecting paragraphs. I am not talking about radically altering the book

      The video, “Someone’s daughter” is mentioned in the book, but the theme of this video is not explored or even briefly explicated (other than what you can gather from the title). Understand I come at this issue with friends that are deeply involved in advocacy work with sex workers and I really feel their frustration that the issues of porn and sex on demand, is treated by the wider Christian community as a private vice, which of course is bemoaned for how it affects the family of the victimizers but not those victimized directly.

      I raise these limitations with two very specific groups in mind, because I know them and have seen the visceral pain that they face. By all means use this book with men and help them journey toward wholeness. I plan to!

  2. newheavenonearth

    I see the biggest problem with pornography is the absence of real Love. Porn is sexuality separated from the higher love of God. It is genitals cut off from the deeper heart where our connection to God resides in the secret heart (Psalm 51). True spiritual awakening and becoming one with the Father as Yeshua was one with the Father is sorely lacking in the religious Christian today.
    Secondly, pornography is not a victimless sin or crime. Women who are in sex industries or porn are usually girls who have been sexually molested or abused as children. They are victims of post traumatic stress disorder, shame, guilt, repressed rage, premature sexualization, wounded hearts, souls, minds and body, and suffer from a lack of self worth, self esteem and self mastery. Their sense of self is warped and they may unconsciously believe that they are only as good as their sexual attractiveness to men. Men cannot continue to re-traumatize these women and perpetuate the wounded, warped, traumatic reenactments of their early childhood wounding. Even if they didn’t experience the trauma in this lifetime, I have discovered that it can be passes down from generation to generation in the emotional body. Shame can be a generational trauma issue.
    Sexual human slavery or sexual trafficking is an increasingly prevalent problem and I believe pornography is fueling this crime. I pray that the Light of Christ will expose all things that are hidden in the darkness. I pray that all children, girls and women are freed from sexual slavery or bondage.
    The answer is what Yeshua taught: healing, deliverance from unclean spirits, deliverance from bondage, and the Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit in the body. Only the Holy Spirit can wash, cleanse, purify, refine, heal, regenerate, rebuild and make whole. The sex industry is like a virus that is infecting the software of many human beings and it can only be killed by the Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit. The wounded hearts of men and women are the root cause and it is caused by separation from God and the real Love that is more powerful than any disease, addiction or sexual sin. The elders of the church must learn how to heal as Yeshua healed and delivered. Altar calls for pornography use, anointed oil, and praying for all to be baptized by the Holy Spirit would be a good start to healing hearts, marriages and the wounded earthly church.

    • matichuk

      Thank you for your comment. I certainly agree with your read on the sex industry and the Spiritual component to this (the author of the book I’m reviewing here, sees the spiritual component) There is defiantly a need for more of God’s healing.

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