Written by: Lemuel Teo (Photo by: Whole Life Singapore)
Interview with Ben KC Lee
I first met Ben KC Lee at a conference where he was speaking as the head of Sexual Wholeness with Focus on the Family Singapore. Ben’s openness in sharing his struggles with sexuality was striking and a refreshing change from the muted euphemisms I often heard about sex and pornography. I could sense his desire to engage with church leaders and to encourage them to teach about Godly sexuality in a holistic manner.
Ben’s new book, Unmasked: Being Authentic about Sexuality, rings loud in today’s hyper-sexualised culture, providing handles on how we can view and talk about sexuality in a right manner. In an interview with SELAH, he shares his thoughts on the power of being real about our sexual struggles in the Singapore church.
What has your greatest challenge been in championing authentic sexuality among Singapore churches?
It would be that church leaders presume that sexual wholeness is about homosexuality. Then almost every believer whom I meet equates “sexuality” with “homosexuality.” This happens probably because no one talks about Godly sexuality enough, combined with the fact that homosexuality is a current hot-button cultural issue.
How do you remain authentic with your audience even with a growing public ministry?
Whenever I speak, I make it a point to be open with the audience about a current struggle, such as a recent moment of attraction at the supermarket, rather than just speaking on a past struggle like masturbation.
I also journey with four other men. We commit ourselves to being authentic about sexuality and to walk together towards sexual wholeness. My wife who ministers with me and our young adult children who often accompany us at conferences ensure that I stay away from impression management.
What are some recent trends in the Singapore church that encourage or worry you? What do you think are the reasons behind these trends?
I am encouraged that more churches are stepping up to take the Whole Life Inventory [an instrument designed for churches to assess and understand the health of their congregation in the areas of faith, identity, relationships, sexuality, and values]. The findings are causing these churches to look at areas that they have never examined before. One such church did so and then went on to have their first-ever message series on sexuality in their 60-year church history.
I am concerned with churches that just focus on LGBT sexuality without addressing the wider context of holistic sexuality. It is fair to say that most churches are neglecting discipleship in sexuality. We got to obey our Lord to teach everything that He has commanded — this involves sexuality. In fact, I would argue for lifespan sexuality education rather than just the periodic sermon or seminar.
Why did you write Unmasked: Being Authentic about Sexuality?
Most people will not want to talk with another person about sexuality, but may be willing to read a book on it. Also, even though I speak regularly on sexuality, a book can be in many more places than I can — and be in all those places at once.
My hope is that is that after reading Unmasked, conversations will start in homes and in churches. How can we disciple our young in sexuality if we don’t even talk about it?
In Unmasked, you quote Meteyard and Alexander: “Human brokenness is often most painfully experienced through our sexuality.” Why does sexual brokenness seem to be a universal human experience?
We are created relational beings. Intimacy is a universal human need. However, we try to meet this relational need with a sexual experience.
We also have sexual desires. Living in an increasingly sex-saturated culture means that we are almost constantly stimulated even when we don’t want to be.
Culture has changed dramatically from when I was growing up. We have become much more fast-paced, more fragmented, and more isolated as a society. At the same time, the dominant message about sex in the media is that sex is the quick fix that will always ease one’s pain and loneliness. When it comes to dating couples, most are sexually intimate as soon as they are emotionally intimate.
On the other hand, the church has mostly kept silent on sexuality. Believers are left to our own devices when it comes to sexuality. Most of us grow up learning about sex either from internet pornography or from our equally misinformed friends. It is then no surprise that many in the congregation are sexually broken.
There is the spiritual shame that we experience as a result of the Fall. The damage from this is immense and it has affected the sexuality of every man and woman. The root of sexual brokenness is a distorted view of God, self, and others.
What is God’s idea of holistic sexuality?
Holistic sexuality is an expression of the desire for connectedness that God has created in us. We have a longing for human connection that goes beyond the physical. Also, sexuality is embodied in our identities as male or female. God created male and female differences for oneness. The model is the Holy Trinity with the Father, Son, and Spirit being one. This masculine or feminine nature is woven throughout every part of our lives: emotional (feelings in a relationship), physical (biological urges), social (friendships), intellectual (how we engage with our sexuality through the different stages of life), and spiritual (how sex in a marriage brings husband and wife into complete union of two beings — body, soul, and spirit).
In Unmasked, I also discuss single sexuality and marital sexuality.
What would you say to millennial Christians who are struggling with sexual sin in their lives?
You already know that porn use, masturbation, and sex outside marriage are incompatible with God’s Word. Guilt itself does not create change. I urge you to pursue healing. Speak with a mature believer from church that you trust.
For guys, ask that Godly man to journey with you. For girls, ask that Godly woman. Realise that healing is not the absence of struggle but it is when temptations no longer have the innate craving that it used to. Healing is being set free from the roots that make the compulsive behaviour attractive or addictive. Ultimately, pursue holiness which comes from pursuing Christ.
You wrote in the book: “Vulnerability is admitting our needs and our struggles. In the absence of vulnerability, we create a culture of perfectionism.” How can Christian communities eradicate perfectionism and be vulnerable to one another?
This requires a culture change. Church leaders are environmental engineers. We get to model vulnerability by talking about sexuality to nurture this culture. This is not an external or programmatic change but a heart change. Pastors, parents, and mentors need to reject pseudo-authenticity and take the lead in embodying genuine authenticity when discussing sexuality. If you are not a leader, offer to share your testimony on sexuality in the cell group. You can also be part of an accountability group.
In your experience, have you seen a Christian community change as they opened more vulnerably and authentically about their struggles with sexuality in a safe environment? What happened?
I am fortunate to be acquainted with one such church. The culture of this church is now beginning to shift after three years of careful nurturing. Their Lead Pastor started the process with authentic conversations on sexuality. They have an annual message series on God’s design for sexuality. Their age-level ministries including men’s ministries and women’s ministries address sexuality including sexual brokenness.
What are some changes you hope to see in the Singapore church in 5 years’ time?
There are three changes I hope to see. First, churches discipling believers in the area of sexuality. Help mentors discuss sexuality with their mentees. Equip parents to disciple their own children in sexuality.
Second, churches adopting a comprehensive lifespan sexuality education. Teach sexuality from cradle to grave in an age-appropriate manner.
Third, churches becoming a safe place where we can bring our humanness. This is a community in which brokenness is accepted, where we feel safe to talk about our messy pasts and embrace the fragile identities of those who have been rescued by Christ.
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Sexual brokenness is all around us. But when was the last time you had an honest conversation with a trusted friend, family member or your pastor about sexual brokenness? The truth is that we avoid talking about sexual brokenness because it brings us face to face with the parts of ourselves that we are most fearful of and shameful about… In this book, Ben KC Lee urges you to take off your mask and break the silence, so that you may experience healing and find freedom. Check out Unmasked: Being Authentic about Sexuality by Ben KC Lee.