Medicalizing the Absurd

“Now the problem becomes clear: The structure of this definition provides the grounds of removing moral evaluation from any morally deviant action (sin) whatsoever.”

(Joseph E. Torres – truthXchange)  In 1973, Karl Menninger wrote Whatever Became of Sin? He was responding to a cultural move away from any concept of moral transgression. The sociologists and psychologists of the day redefined what Western Christianity had always considered as sinful fruit of dark and hardened hearts. Instead, they argued that those effects, whether individual or corporate, were due to physical hardwiring, societal conditioning, or poor childrearing.

New Classification for Old Sins

Menninger’s concerns were fully justified. Since then, our culture has rapidly medicalized sin. USA Today published an article by Caroline Simon entitled, “Sex addictions are deeply misunderstood. A new classification could change that.[1] That “new classification” is the World Health Organization’s definition of sex addiction as a mental disorder or a “compulsive sexual health disorder.” This disorder is defined as a “persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior.” The diagnosis is based on several characteristics: “repetitive sexual activities becoming the focus of a person’s life, numerous unsuccessful efforts to reduce sexual behavior and continued sexual activity despite deriving little satisfaction from it.”

Simon understands the motivation behind this redefinition. “Experts also hope,” she writes, “the new classification will chip away at a larger goal: destigmatizing sex addiction.” The key is to change moral perceptions. Simon cites Robert Weiss, an addiction specialist and author of the book Sex Addiction 10: “There was a time when alcoholism was a fatal illness, and there was no cure, and you were going to die of alcoholism because you were a bad person.” Today, in what can only be taken to be an improvement in perspectives, Weiss say, “We don’t look at alcoholics and drug addicts and say, ‘You’re a bad person,’ we say, ‘You have a problem.’” View article →