The Death of Pious Jack | A Cautionary Tale for Mormons with a Porn Problem

“Your writing style brings to mind Mark Twain.” No one has ever said that to me and I’m not holding my breath that anyone ever will. Every once in a while, however, someone will say, “Your writing style reminds me of that guy who writes stuff on the rowboat and marbles website.” Ah, well.

I like re-telling a tale as much as the next self-published author. What follows is my take on one of my favorite modern parables. As a Mormon addict in recovery who spent years trying to take care of my “little porn problem” on my own, in secrecy and isolation, I sigh and shake my head every time I recount this little fable.

The Death of Pious Jack

20130321-232654.jpgA devout Christian with more faith than any ten non-Bible Belt church congregations combined (we’ll call him Pious Jack) looks out the window of his humble but very tastefully decorated cottage. He realizes that the torrential rains of the past several days have become a river that now runs through his neighborhood where the road used to be. When he turns on the radio, a frantic reporter reads a news bulletin advising all residents to leave immediately and find safety before the deadly flood waters rise up and swallow everything.

As a man of renowned piety (he is frequently referred to as “the most pious man in Choctaw County, State of Mississippi” by admirers and detractors alike), he recognizes a great opportunity to exercise some of that massive faith he’s been storing up. Looking heavenward with all the piety he can muster, he cries, “Lord, I’m counting on You to save me here!”

Salvation by Rowboat–Not Interested

20130321-233252.jpgA few hours later, the flood waters have risen to the level of his porch. A couple neighbors happen by, huffing and puffing and straining on the oars of a sturdy little rowboat. “We’re headed to higher ground, PJ!” they call. “Come on! We’ve got room for you!”

“Thank you kindly,” responds Pious Jack, “but I’m just fine! God is going to save me!” The neighbors glance worriedly at each other, but then shrug and row off. Pious Jack thinks he might have heard one of them muttering something like, “Pious…another word…brain-dead!” But with the din of the pounding rain and the creaking and cracking of nearby structures as they collapse into the river of mud and debris, he can’t be sure.

“No matter,” he says to himself. “Rowing gives me callouses. Lucky I have this massive faith so I don’t have to do all that exhausting and sweaty work like my neighbors do.”

More hours pass and the flood continues to rise. Pious Jack has long since been forced to climb a trellis to get up on the roof. “There goes the wisteria,” he mutters, but immediately repents of this impious complaint. Eventually, the muddy waters are lapping at the lowest row of shingles. “Right now I’m wishing I hadn’t paid such a premium for the 30-year warranty when I re-roofed last year,” he sighs.

“No Pontoon Boat for Me!”

20130322-000331.jpgAt one point, a search-and-rescue boat from the Choctaw County sheriff’s office appears, fighting through what is quickly becoming a mighty deluge the likes of which have not been seen since Noah finished swinging in a hammock on the ark. A deputy calls out to Pious Jack, “Hold on! We’re coming to save you!” The boat cautiously edges toward our man who by this time is precariously straddling the peak of his roof.

To the deputy’s dismay, Pious Jack suddenly rises up in mighty power and, with a vigorous and dismissive wave of his hand, calls out in a distinctly Charlton Heston-esque voice, “No need, my good man! God is going to save me! Carry on!” The search-and-rescue boat changes course and picks its way through uprooted trees, half-submerged farm equipment and expired lifestock, moving on to save other lingering and now-stranded residents of the town.

A few more hours pass and Pious Jack finds himself perched trepidatiously on top of his chimney. He is soaked through from the rain and shivering and his loafers are stained with river gunk, but he remains resolute, even stoic. You know, “My head is bloody, but unbowed…,” and all that “Invictus” stuff. After all, a faith as massive as Pious Jack’s must not go to waste.

Last Chance

20130321-234412.jpgNow, a Coast Guard helicopter swoops down and a seaman drops a rescue harness. “Strap yourself into the harness,” he calls to Pious Jack, “and we’ll haul you up.” Sensing a test of his mighty faith, Pious Jack edges away from the harness, carefully so as not to slip off the chimney and into the dark, roiling waters. “Not going to happen! God will save me!” And the helicopter flies off.

The Pearly Gates of Heaven

The flood waters rise. Sadly, Pious Jack drowns miserably. A short time later, he finds himself hovering in the clouds before some beautiful pearly gates. Experiencing sudden mixed emotions, he sees that God Himself is manning the entry into heaven. With some indignation (mingled of course with a piety that only comes from years of practice), Pious Jack approaches God and demands an explanation. “I had the requisite faith–in fact, massive, blue whale-sized faith is what we’re talking about here–and I fully expected You to save me! What happened?”

With the tender love of a patient parent, God looks at Pious Jack and says, “Well, let’s see. I sent a rowboat, a search-and-rescue team and a helicopter. What more did you want?”

***

What If I Had a Similar Conversation with God?

So here’s the question I repeatedly ask myself: When it comes to overcoming my sex and pornography addiction, am I acting like Pious Jack?

Before finding recovery, I could have pictured a similar exchange between God and me at the pearly gates. I would have looked at Heavenly Father and said with dismay, “Hey, you know this porn problem I’ve had for pretty much my whole life? Well, I don’t get it. I prayed and I read my scriptures, and then I read my scriptures and I prayed, but I never seemed to be able to stay away from the porn for long–and certainly not permanently. What did I miss? I had the necessary faith–surely enough to move Mount Kilimanjaro–didn’t I? With that kind of faith, why didn’t I get what I asked for: strength to overcome my little porn problem?

And then in this imaginary conversation with God, I would hear Him sigh and tell me softly, “My son, I put the strength you prayed for into the people around you. I put well-informed priesthood leaders in your path who could have helped–if you had been willing. I inspired counselors and therapists with a knowledge and understanding of addiction recovery who also could have helped–had you been willing.

“And let’s not forget,” He would continue, “the effective 12 Step programs like Sexaholics Anonymous. There were wonderful and inspiring addicts in recovery in those groups who really could have helped you find lasting sexual sobriety and recovery–had you been willing to accept the help. But you weren’t. And here’s the most disappointing part: Because you never found recovery for yourself, you were never able to help any of the other addicts out there either. You couldn’t give what you didn’t have. Like Pious Jack in the fable, you drowned–and then so did they.”

I don’t ever want to have that conversation. I don’t want to be like Pious Jack.

Credits: river going over fenced banks: Walter Siegmund (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
two guys living dangerously: Walter Siegmund (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
Sheriff search and rescue: public domain
Coast Guard helicopter: public domain

About Andrew+

Latter-day Saint, sex and pornography addict in recovery, dealing with depression, returned missionary, father of a bunch of kids, graduate degree, self-employed, Book of Mormon reader, writer and thinker. Working on understanding and overcoming resentment, the number one killer of addicts.

Comments

The Death of Pious Jack | A Cautionary Tale for Mormons with a Porn Problem — 2 Comments

  1. Love it! A good story does a lot to illustrate your message. I like the part about how God puts strength into the people around us. I have seen that. Thanks.