January 23, 2021

Review and Recommendation: Samson and the Pirate Monks by Nate Larkin

samsonmonks.jpgIt’s a great book that needs a better title. Seriously good book. The title has gotta go.

Nate Larkin’s Samson and the Pirate Monks is a five star book. As far as men’s books go, it may be one of the best books I’ve ever read, far surpassing most of what comes out of the Christian “men’s” movement.. There’s a great story, tremendous insight into real life, humbling vulnerability, practical application and the kind of humility, humor and honesty that IM readers value.

Why is this book special? This is a gripping story of how a seminary trained pastor became involved and addicted to porn, prostitutes and the world of sexual immorality. Larkin’s story of growing up in evangelical revivalism and a pastor’s home will be familiar to many, but no one knows how many will relate to his descent into the dark side even while he was in the pulpit and in the ministry. I imagine it will be thousands upon thousands.

Nate Larkin tells his story of his journey into and out of sexual addiction with brutal honesty. It will be a rare person who won’t wince and then weep at what Larkin’s wife went through as he bounced between deception, efforts at recovery and religious enthusiasm. There are moments you will be angry at Larkin’s hypocrisy and arrogance. If you are like me, you’ll hate the kind of religious subculture that promotes this sort of double-life. There will be other moments when some will closely identify with Larkin as he keeps secrets and justifies his sin. And you will be excited as his journey takes him into a community of men who are bound together by addiction, grace and loyalty to Jesus. It’s a great story that will involve you on many levels, and if you have addictions and struggles, it will be a very hopeful book you’ll want to share with others.

If someone is looking for places to be offended, it won’t take long to find them. Larkin is brutally honest about his own failures, and he doesn’t use nice words. He describes the church’s failure in unblushing detail. He takes you inside the mindset of leaders who play the role of Christian while they fill their lives with lust and exist in broken families and relationships. Larkin’s positive experience in Twelve-Step groups will annoy some critics of AA, but he is up front about the deficit some groups have when it is difficult to speak of Christ.

This book uses the story of Samson as a paradigm for the kinds of addictions and brokenness that are present in the lives of many men who long to be men of integrity. Samson’s journey vacillates between sexual indulgence and usefulness to God, and Larkin believes that this complicated, tragic character can remind us of the realities many men live in just under the radar.

He also believes that Samson’s tragedy was his lack of community. He was unable to emerge from his addictions because he was alone. Larkin wants to create a community of contemporary Samsons who can foster honesty, accountability and Biblical recovery in a distinctively masculine community. If you’ve longed for the church to embrace some of the best aspects of the recovery movement, then Larkin’s book will be helpful to you. If you want the church to continue promoting “victorious testimonies” while hiding the real struggles of its husband, leaders and men, then don’t pick this book up. It will scare you, which I think would be a good thing.

The second half of the book details the specifics of “The Samson Society’s” beliefs, what a meeting looks like and how the “Silas” relationships within the society carry the ministry outside of the meetings. Interspersed through the latter chapters are helpful testimonies from men who have found the Samson community experience to be life-changing. These are a great addition to the book and I enjoyed them very much.

Do we really need another program in the church? Aren’t there enough men’s programs, like Promise Keepers and the “Wild at Heart” movement? Isn’t a church program the antithesis of what missional churches are trying to do these days? There is a danger here, no doubt, but Larkin’s description of the Samson Society- complete with endorsements of moving to an Irish Pub for more acceptance with the average guy- makes it clear that this is a step away from programs and toward real community. (Larkin has a section summarizing the true Biblical and historical position of the church on the moderate use of alcohol. Certain denominations may want to avoid these pages.)

Any normal man will benefit from reading this book. If you struggle with secret sins, addictions and destructive patterns of behavior, you will be encouraged that others have found their way out by coming into community, submitting to a godly friendship and being willing to walk a path that defeats the isolation and self-justification that lie at the heart of those sins. If you long to be part of a “Samson Society” right now, you may be disappointed, as the movement is just beginning and only exists in a few places. That’s a shame for someone like me, aware of my own sinful patterns of behavior, but caught in the role of ministering to others. I long for this kind of community, but find the level of honesty Larkin models impossible in my own ministry setting.

Men need to take this book to their pastors, and those same men need to be willing to take some risks in walking the road towards other struggling men, making beginning steps towards breaking the tyranny of silence that has so many men living in deceit and misery. If pastors and leaders read this book, they need to start praying for the kind of men who could make a Samson Society happen in the community with the encouragement of the church. More than anything else, pastors can preach and model a Gospel that speaks to Samsons, and not just a “victorious life message” for ideal, struggle-free believers.

This book is not, however, about a group. It’s about God and guys. It’s about the grip of sin, the lies we tell, the terrible waste and cost of addiction and the well-known, but seldom traveled way out. It’s about taking risks, opening up, seeing the Gospel as a message for sinners and trusting the community Jesus started to be about real life. It’s about realizing what Christ-formed relationships look like in the real world. There’s no more worthy quest, and none more needed.

If you want to learn more, visit www.samsonsociety.org.

And if you get a chance, mail Nate a better title. Like the men in Nate’s book, this one is in desperate need of help.


  1. Michael – thanks for the review. I will need to check this out. The shock of finding out about my pastor’s adulterous relationship this week has led me to a place where I know I need to deal with even the hints of lustful indulgence in my life. I will look for this one.

  2. Tom Hinkle says

    One good thing about the title–you can read it in a public place and nobody will know what you’re really reading about!

  3. I read the book on your recommendation (ironically, on a trip through Franklin, TN). Wow. It was really great and I would love to find a meeting like this. Sorry guys, but I find PK stuff to be pretty shallow, just a lot of macho, empty promises and big-name speakers. A lot of Christian things geared for men seem to be more about being manly than being Christ-like (I know how to be a man, that’s my problem). Great book, I love the openeness and honesty and have always thought that a good church would look a lot like an AA meeting.
    Thanks for the review.

  4. I have read the book and highly recommend it for any man who is ready to get real! Nate is a master storyteller…and the stories are real. The Samson Society is the best way I’ve found to create true authentic brotherhood. Living this earthly life is not easy and it is not pretty much of the time. I’ve found brutal honesty among real men of God is the key to making it through the extreme battlefield of life. Yep…the title is different, but I’ve met some of those ‘pirate monks’ and the title fits them well! Thanks!

  5. Great book, great testimony. Every single guy who struggles with lust, powerlessness and bouts of depression about one’s standing with God should read this book. It’s so honest that it made me cry, about Nate and myself.

  6. As a Pirate Monk myself, and a good friend of Nate’s, I can’t commend this book enough. Nate is the real deal. And if you have a Samson Society in your area, check it out. If you don’t, start one. It’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me. http://www.samsonsociety.org

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