When it came out in 2000, Every Man’s Battle was an instant sensation. Written by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker, two evangelical Christians, it brought the subject of male lust into the open. Men, the book said—even Christian men—were dogs. They ogled women, they dreamed about cheating on their wives. They read porn. They masturbated. They cheated on their wives. To be the kind of men that Jesus wanted them to be, they had to stop it. All of it. Right now. “Our bodies were not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, who has both created us and called us to live in sexual purity,” said Every Man’s Battle. “His will is that every Christian be sexually pure—in his thoughts and his words as well as his actions.” Every Man’s Battle was important because it conceded, finally, that the stuff against which so many Christian churches had prohibitions was the same stuff that so many Christians actually did.
Every Man’s Battle was marketed directly to conservative evangelical pastors, who understood that if porn was a thriving industry, at least some of the people in their congregations were consuming it. They recommended the book, at a discount, to the men and boys in their pews. Sales spiked to 25,000 copies or more a month, up from an average of 5,000 in the first three months after the book came out, according to Dan Rich, who at the time was publisher of Waterbrook, the book’s small Christian imprint. It was a bonanza. There quickly followed Every Woman’s Battle, Every Young Man’s Battle, Every Young Woman’s Battle, and a half dozen other related titles. Today, the series has sold more than 3 million copies. “They were brown-paper-bag books,” says Don Pape, who worked in Waterbrook marketing at the time. “You’d buy them in a brown paper bag and hopefully no one would know about your problem.”