The first to hit the radar in a big way was Michael Douglas, now ‘sex addicts’ are spreading like E-coli. Tiger Woods had his adulteries emblazoned on our televison screens for weeks. More recently we have had the politician Anthony Weiner whose risible escapades have hogged the headlines in the USA. Just before that in the UK there was Ryan Giggs who according to his loyal wife, “Has an illness and he needs my help.”
It’s not only the rich and famous. Sex addiction and consequent referrals to clinics for treatment are said to be on the rise throughout Europe, America and Australia. The American Association on Sexual Problems claims that more than 15% of the US population is addicted to sex. Treatment for this condition is apparently vital. Referring to Giggs one expert in the field told Associated Press, “He needs treatment,” because without medical intervention “sex addicts can go completely out of control and destroy their lives.”
The re-branding of promiscuity as a psychological condition or illness is harmful. Not so much in itself but because it is symptomatic of our increasing failure as a society to grasp the importance of personal responsibility. Whenever we reduce personal responsibility we reduce human dignity.
We are in a situation where it is increasingly difficult to make moral judgments concerning the actions of human beings. That this failure is prevalent in trendy society should come as no surprise, at one stroke it absolves the individual of guilt and sometimes even confers status. “Alcohol addict” or “Sex addict” which do you think some guy would rather be?
Instead of being sexual predators or self-centred lechers such people can regard themselves as ‘victims’ of an addiction, and as we supposedly know addicts are powerless until they have hit bottom, admit their inability to conquer their addiction and seek help outwith themselves. Personal powerlessness becomes the defining attribute of their lives. They are helpless victims beyond their own control, in the grip of something bigger than themselves.
The ‘aholics’ are spreading like tryffids, consuming the population. Workaholics, shopaholics, chocaholics, helpaholics, exerciseaholics, addiction to mobile-phones, cream buns, the internet, controlling behaviour, any bad habit or anti-social behaviour can and will be recast as an addiction and medicalised.
We have accepted as a given the concept that individuals are unable to control their own urges and behaviour. This destroys the very notion of personal responsibility and moral independence. The only way in which a predatory lecherous male on the make can be held to be irresponsible is if he fails to seek treatment for his condition. To seek to take charge of one’s own life and exercise self-control is now re-cast as being irresponsible and in denial.
What is alarming is that in the Church we have largely accepted the way of the world and moved into a situation where we are increasingly reluctant to describe immoral behaviour as sinful in case it causes feelings of guilt and shame. Instead, even in the Church, we employ the language of therapy rather than the language of Scripture. The therapeutic fatalism which teaches that we are personally helpless before our psychological conditioning means that what were once deadly sins are now regarded as personality disorders deserving treatment rather than transgressions demanding repentance.
Christian theology until recently has always held that individuals were responsible before God for their own actions, good or ill. Instead of being harsh and condemnatory as caricatured by progressives this gives the individual dignity and status, not merely a helpless victim but a responsible participant in life. When we abandon biblical principles we find we abandon respect for humanity.