(Photo courtesy of Hope Generation)
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY
Taking a Different Path
An Interview with Ben Courson on Hope and Healing From Sexual Addiction
By Sarah Komisky
Hope is a four-letter word that needs to be spoken of more. While many have reverted to tolerance, acceptance, or sadly, apathy when it comes to the subject of sexual addiction, some have decided to take a different path, the path of hope. One who has decided to walk that path is speaker, teacher, and author Ben Courson. Having a global TV and radio program, written his own books, and traveled the nation and beyond on speaking events, Ben has made it his mission to spread the message of hope found in Jesus Christ. But his convictions aren’t just happy sentiments (although he is a pretty upbeat guy). Rather, his convictions stem from a deeper place of finding freedom from his own pain, one being finding healing from a longstanding battle with depression. As we began planning out the next issue devoted to providing hope to those struggling with sexual addiction, it was Ben who came to mind and I’m so happy he was eager to agree to chat! Here is a look at our dialogue on overcoming addiction, getting a healthy mindset, honoring females, walking in freedom, and what it means to have hope in the face of adversity. It is our hope you enjoy it, discover a hope that might have been lost, and even laugh with us along the way. Enjoy!
Sarah: How did you first get started with Hope Generation?
Ben: When I was in the third grade I gave my first Bible study believe it or not. It was probably the best study I ever gave because I stood up there read the book of Ezekiel from the passage of the dry bones then sat back down- no joke. So I read this random obscure story about the dry bones coming to life like in the scene in Lion King when Simba’s passing through the valley of bones. I talk about this story just reading it and I don’t even leave any commentary on it and then I sat down. So that was my first experience with public speaking in the third grade. Then when I was 16 I started speaking regularly at my home Bible study and by the end when I was 17 we had a couple of hundred people come out. After that I ended up becoming a full time speaker in a pastoral role when I was a senior in high school. And after that, I wrote my first book at 20, and then I started traveling around and then when I was in my mid-twenties. We started having a demand for a radio show to get put on other stations. And so I said, ‘Yo, yeah, lets do it!’ but they needed a name. And that’s when we came up with the name Hope Generation, which is a pun. And hope Generation is both we want our generation to be a generation of hope. But we also want it to be something that generates hope in an individual, Hope Generation also means creation. We wanted to be like a Hope generator. And so that came when we first started to put our radio show on stations around the nation. Then after that a scout found me on the Internet and asked me to do television. Global television, all over the world, mainly on the Hillsong Channel a couple of times a week and then on the Dove and some other channels as well around the world.
Really where the heart of it started is I struggled with chronic depression for ten years. So I think I had to go through that because the enemy was trying to destroy me but God was using it to redeem my message for this generation. Antidepressants are the number one best selling prescribed prescriptions pharmaceuticals in America today. We consume more pills due to anxiety and depression than the rest of the world 3 times over. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death. So in a generation that is wracked by depressions, I felt the need to meet it with hope. So when I went through ten years of chronic depression and God helped me to overcome that, that made me really preach the message of hope from the rooftops. Because if you felt like you found the cure from cancer you would shout it from the mountaintops. So I felt like saying listen, if I delight myself in the Lord he will give me the desires of my heart, which means I should believe in the power of the dreams that God gave me. I should throw gasoline on the power of my dreams. I realized that if I just go and follow my dreams, if I also go on prayer walks in city lights in areas that are super inspiring, and just pour out my heart to God like the Psalms says and just tell him about my dreams. If I would get around my friends to go on adventures with friends, adventures with God and adventures with squad because the only way not to give up is to squad up. Because the only way to go fast is to not go alone, but if you want to go far you should go together. When I have friends in my life and, fourthly, when I stop trying to show this image to the world that wasn’t who I truly was, which is always the cause of depression, when I decided to truly flesh out with integrity who God made me to be, then suddenly my despair started going away. My dreams started happening, mountains started being pulverized. It was then that hope generation kind of took off. So that is really the history behind it.
Sarah: I love that. And that ties in to what we are talking about with hope. Because a lot of people who struggle with the issue of sexual addiction have a lot of shame, have a lot of guilt, and depression, even because they are struggling alone in silence. So maybe you could talk about that. What would you say to those people? Because they can still relate to you struggling with depression and they probably are going through some similar things as well.
Ben: What we always have to remember, first of all, is hope. How do people have hope when they are suffering with addictions? So watch this, this is super interesting to me. In Luke 4:18, Jesus said, ‘The spirit of the Lord has anointed me. Firstly to preach good news to the poor.’ So he did not come to preach rules. So if anyone reading this is struggling with addiction ,needs to know that Jesus is not putting on you rules, regulations, guilt, or bondage. He is not preaching rules, he is preaching good news. That is the first thing that we have to understand. That our activity will flow from our identity. And out identity is that we are kids of the King. We will live up to who we already are as children of God when we get that we are sons and daughters of the divine, image bearers of the King, that we are the highest form of God’s creation, that we are not just Homo sapiens. We are hope-o-sapiens.
Secondly, Jesus came to open the eyes of the blind, he said in Luke 18. So, we once were blind but now we see. That whole amazing grace is considered one of the greatest poems of all times and it was turned into a song. But that is what he does. He opens the eyes of the blind. But then this next thing is super interesting. He comes to heal broken hearts. So, a lot of people fall into addiction when their heart is broken. So the reason people get addicted is because they are hopeless. So they are resorting to something else for some sort of cathartic and therapeutic outlet, whatever the addiction is. It is this shame factor of ‘I might as well give up and give in to whatever my addictions are because I have no hope.’ So, if your heart is broken, what you need to know, is that a lot of people do not care about your feelings, and nothing could be further from the truth. Hebrews said that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. The word sympathy comes from the word syn-, which comes from the word sync, which means the passion of the Christ suffering. It means in sync with other people. So He suffers in sync with you even when you are in bondage. He sees for your broken heart. In fact, 900 times, the Bible speaks of your heart. As the center of who you are, the center of your emotional existence. Not only that, but the broken heart has its origins back in ancient Hebrew literature. Which means that the Bible invented the phrase. That is where you first heard it. So the Lord cares about your broken heart. So he has come to heal your broken heart. God is close to the broken hearted. So when people say where is God when my heart is broken, that is like asking what color is yellow? You can’t get any closer to God. As a temple of the Holy Spirit, you host the presence of God. He is already inside you. So when he draws near to you and you draw near to him, that just means repentance. Which repent in Greek in metanoia, which means metamorphosis and think, to change the way you are thinking. Because if you still thought you were going to reap an action, if you sow an action you are going to reap a habit, if you sow a habit you are going to reap a character, with a character you are going to reap a destiny, the thoughts that you think and the words that you say, the words that you say become actions of the day, the actions of the day becomes the habit of your life, the habit of your life becomes your lifestyle. But it all begins with the way that you think. So you need to think about what we are thinking about. All that to say, when we change our mind and we realize we are kids of the King, when we realize our identity, out from that will flow activity that we want to suit our action to his word. But then there is a couple of more quick things in that, Luke 4:18.
The next thing he proclaims is that he has come to create the jubilee that debts are canceled. Also, these two are the ones I want to focus on real quick. He says I have come to liberate the captives and free the oppressed. Now, people think he is using literal parallelism. But he is actually not repeating himself, he is talking about two different things. To liberate the oppressed and to free the prisoners are two different things. So liberating a captive is someone who is innocent. You fought nobly, you fought bravely, and the enemy captured you. And now you are suffering unjustly. He has come to free you if you are suffering unjustly. So I spoke to some people last week about people who are really trying to come out of the sex slave trade. And these people, it is almost like they didn’t do anything wrong. They got caught up in something by oppressive bosses who literally are putting them in a sex slave trade and they are being carted around like cattle, without even being able to choose of their own volition. They are slaves. And Jesus says I have come to free you, you who are oppressed, who didn’t even really do anything wrong to get yourself into this situation. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And you got oppressed by people who were being ruled by the forces of evil. So that is freeing the captive, but he also said I have come to liberate the prisoner. Now a prisoner is someone who has done something wrong. They are in the prison because they have committed a crime. And Jesus said I have come to free you too.
So what I really want to convey to everyone I talk to is that the Lord, in Galatians 5:17 is that in the Lord we have been set free. So whether you are a captive or a prisoner guilty, he wants to set you free. But it is for freedom that you have been set free. Not to obey more rules and regulations that you have been set free. You are set free to experience a new balance of freedom, not to feel guilt. You are now free to eat Gushers, you are now free to ride the Matterhorn, you are now free to sing and dance to portable speakers as you adventure with God. You are free, free, free. And when you get that you are free, this does not mean go to where you hurt people, it allows you to help people and love them all the better. So people who are struggling with addiction, the message of Jesus is freedom. He said, “You shall know the truth, the truth shall set you free.” That freedom is embodied and personified in the body of Jesus, who got rid of rules, rituals, and regulations, and showed full freedom and what grace looks like.
Sarah: I appreciate your passion to be able to share that. I am kind of focusing in on the male audience for a moment. With pornography, it has opened the doors so much to objectifying woman. How would you address for guys, maybe some ways they can get back to honoring females when our culture says the opposite?
Ben: I literally talk about something called girly greatness. It is on YouTube. I literally go through the roots of the New Testament and the Old Testament and show how women were honored by the Bible in a day where a Samaritan woman was treated as having less value than a person’s donkey. And that was the very person that Jesus spoke the longest to. It was Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. As a Rabbi in that time, you were not even allowed to speak to women in a prolonged way. And that is exactly what Jesus did. He said, ‘Women, be thou loosed.’ That is one of my favorite phrases. He was speaking to a woman in the synagogue who was bent over for 18 years. But there is a metaphor in that. He is saying in an area where the Greek civilization crushes over woman, Jesus says, ‘be loosed woman.’ He came to free the woman. He said in John 8, ‘Woman, where are thou accusers?’ When he was giving a paradigm for giving he said, ‘Look at the widow who gave of her two mites. She has given more than these religious Pharisee males who are casting in large sums and trumpeting it. For Jesus, he has an amazing ability to esteem and honor woman in a time when not stoning a woman was very anarchic and antiestablishment and rebellious in that culture.
So in today’s culture, we tend to objectify woman and we treat woman as a body that just happens to have a spirit, when really woman are spiritual beings who just so happen to have a human experience. Women are daughters of the King. They are a masterpiece, a poema. A poema in Greek means poem. They are poetry in motion. Women are called royalty, a royal priesthood, Kings and Priests, Revelations says. Women are the head not the tail, Deuteronomy says, “They are above not beneath, ahead not behind, they are fearfully and wonderfully made. They are God’s jewels, Malachi 3:17 says. I think we understand that women are literal royalty in God’s eyes. That will help us to really shed light on the fact that we are dealing not with a carbon footprint but with a force to be reckoned with when we talk to women. When we talk to women, we are not talking to protons, we’re talking to a pronouns. We are not talking to a mere human, we are talking to a daughter of the most high. And so whenever we treat women, would we have an awareness of God’s likeness inside of them. That they host the presence of God. That will help us not to objectify them, or be chauvinistic, or treat them as lesser than.
Honestly, the Bible says we are to do the opposite. We are to honor the woman. And the criticism that I have accrued over the years is that I esteem woman higher than men. I am so tired of the chauvinism, the patriarchic paradigm, as they have been consumed by systemic oppression, that I have kind of gone on the other end and kind of bash my own gender a lot and esteem woman as higher than men. But honestly we are on equal footing. I just think woman need to have more of a voice. Because over the centuries, their voice has been drowned out by cavemen, and its so sad. And honestly I have been studying The Greatest Poems of All Time: Volume 1 and 2, and in one a woman writes a poem and it is so genius and she says, ‘And all my rhyme are just to show how I could never write as good as a male.’ And she is totally being satirical and mocking it because she knows she is waxing lyrical better than all the males. So that is kind of what I endorse. And I think if we objectify woman for too long, we are going to go down as the caveman generation. And posterity is going to be ashamed of us, and we need to be careful of that.
Sarah: Thank you for sharing that. I think it is going to be very powerful, just to share that with other people. As we are moving on, what I appreciate about your ministry is just the passion to be able to proclaim truth and proclaim hope and be unashamed of it. Maybe as we are talking about sex and sexual addiction. Our worldview as Christians is going to be very different and we might stand out and people might think we are weird. So what would you say and how can we walk in confidence even while receiving criticism and those types of things for what we stand for?
Ben: I want to explain what I really think is important. We are supposed to be people of conviction and not people of convenience. At the same time, I think we have to be aware that our goal is not to show people that Christianity is a stance on an issue. It is not supposed to be a religious, legalistic persuasion. In fact, the word Christian only appears three times in the New Testament and it was used to mock the way of the Nazarene and Jesus. Peter said, ‘If you are suffering because they mock you as a Christian, bear it nobly.’ I do not believe that Jesus died on a cross to make us safe, he died on a cross to make us dangerous. And that doesn’t mean our goal is to be Christian as much as to be children of God. So that is the emphasis of the New Testament. It is not be a better Christian. It is to realize your identity as a child of God. Over and over is gives the message that we shall be called Sons of God. The Bible says, we are heirs of God and heirs of Christ. We will suffer with and we will also be glorified together. So what I really want to emphasize is having our focus on how can I accrue criticism but having my focus by where I stand on the issues, say I don’t care if I get criticized because I am a child of God.
My message is not religion, my message is a grace friendship with the Father that will always take me further than the law ever could. And when people see this loving, gracious, symbiotic relationship that I have with the Father, that love is what is going to draw them in. Because we love because he first loved. Jesus said, “people will know his disciples by the love we have for one another. So my hope for criticism for our loving, symbiotic relationship with God is that that in turn makes people of conviction and not people of convenience, then we in turn should realize that people are not our dictionary and they do not define us. Our haters are our motivators. Tigers do not lose sleep over the opinion of sheep. If people are talking about you behind your back, they are behind you for a reason. And God doesn’t take you deeper to drown you, he just knows your enemies can’t swim. I hope that if we are gaining criticism, it is not from judging the world. But it would be because we are so loving, and we are so strong in what we believe and how we live in standing firm in the grace that God has given us, then when you see that without even trying we are confidently walking in the destiny that God has for us. Then people, no matter how much they try to criticize us, when they put curses on us they will not light. Because the fear of man brings trust in the Lord for their own safety.
I have seen so many Christians judging the world, but it is like they are trying to clean the fish before they catch it. Do not get criticized for being judgmental, get criticized for being loving and being super firm on your convictions without guilting others who don’t even know the Lord. When you know your identity as a child of God, people are not going to affect you no matter how much they make fun of you. When Jesus was ticked off, it was always at Pharisees. Always, always, always. How did he talk to the prostitutes? It was no one condemns you. It was the act of washing their feet because you have been forgiven because you love much and that will be remembered for all of posterity. Keep firm in the grace, be a person of conviction not of convenience. And people are not your dictionary, they do not define you-to sum up that whole thing.
Sarah: I like that, because we do have a lot of non-believers that look at Marked Ministry. And we are open to that. So what would be your hope for those looking at this that are not Christians?
Ben: I want to tell you that God is the God of hope. And the reason I walk with the Lord is because I need hope. And if you don’t have God, I would say it is really difficult to find hope. Because if you believe you are the byproduct of fortuitous events enough, you believe you are nothing more than the results of fortuitous happenstance. Then you believe that there is no architect of the universe and you are climbing up a stairway leading to nowhere. But the Bible says in Romans 13:15 that our God is the God of hope. And it says he wants to fill us with the joy and peace that we find in hope. So I am not a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of person, because I am a glass totally full kind of person. Because typically the glass is half full with nitrogen and oxygen and the other half is filled with hydrogen and oxygen. So, like David said, my cup runth over. I am not Mr. Pessimist, my glass half empty or full. I am a cup runth over kind of person. And the way I get hope is by walking with the origin and wellspring of life through which all life springs. And that is the God of hope. So if you are not somebody who knows the world, I want to tell you that what I am hawking is not religion, it is friendship with the creator. So that you can in turn be a creature and not a creature of your circumstances. So that your hope need no longer be dictated by your circumstances. When you know God, your circumstance will actually be the things that are dictated by your hope.
Sarah: That is such a good word. As we are tying things together, you can share with me what is next for you? Are you going to be doing any more books? I know you are always doing something new, so maybe you can talk a little bit about that.
Ben: So first I am just always gone and I love it. Right now I am in Sacramento making two short films with two of my best friends. That is going to go on our TV show. We are starting a station in New Zealand for TV. I am putting finishing touches on writing a hope book. And the hope is about being super rebellious and anarchic against the system. The rebellion I am talking about as we get it, as we send it, as we go on adventures with God, it is not a rebellion toward a deconstruction. It is not a rebellion toward overthrowing tyrants to set up a new tyranny like Animal Farm, it is a rebellion against the establishment of work forty hours a week, forty years to retire, forty percent of your income, get your 401K, retire to Palm Springs, die five years later with 2.5 kids and a wife and a white picket fence. The corporate system and also the system or religiosity that really actual creates what it is. It created the systems that killed Jesus. The book is about rebelling against the corporate system and the religious system and instead having a friendship with the God of hope. It is a rebellion towards beauty, towards sacred optimism, towards joy. It is toward building up an empire called delight. So I am really excited about that book coming out. It is a big thing for me. Then also I am doing tours right now with my buddy, a Grammy nominated singer Ryan Stevenson. We are doing hope tours. The new book will be coming out in about 11 months. A new tour will be coming out. We just got done with out tour, the West Coast tour. And then just continuing to travel and speak for our TV show.
Sarah: Well, I can’t wait to read that book. I am already sold. It sounds awesome. I had such a good time talking to you. Thank you for taking time out of your craziness to chat with me today Ben.
Ben: You’re killing it, you’re crushing it and I can’t wait for what’s ahead!
To find out more about Ben and Hope Generation visit bencourson.com