People magazine on Ted Haggard and reparative therapy

The February 26 issue of People magazine has a story on Ted Haggard and reparative therapy. The article references the comments or views of Rev. Haggard, his overseers, Richard Cohen, Joe Nicolosi, Bob Spitzer, Jack Drescher, Peterson Toscano, and Dan Gonzales.

As with most pieces on the subject, this one oversimplifies the intersection of faith and sexuality. I do note that psychiatrist Jack Drescher is getting more creative in his characterizations of change programs — “it’s a giant infomercial,” he says. But this article, like so many before it, comes down to the same opponents saying about the same thing: one side says change doesn’t work and the other side saying homosexuality is a reaction to being wounded in childhood, thus requiring lengthy therapy to undo. Sure seems like deja vu all over again.

It is sad and frustrating to me that this polarity is generally all that people in conflict ever hear about.

10 thoughts on “People magazine on Ted Haggard and reparative therapy”

  1. JAG: My pleasure. EXODUS has a long history of an idiosyncratic reworking of the English language to obfuscate rather than elucidate the “change” process. That’s why I applaud Alan Chamber’s decision to dump the term “ex-gay”. By the way, “obfuscate” means: “to make something obscure or unclear, especially by making it unnecessarily complicated.” Or, to quote Robbi Kenney (one of the OTHER founders of the ex-gay movement): “EXODUS has ALWAYS had a problem with definitions….”

  2. A thank you to Micheal Bussee, for taking the time to answer that question thoroughly…indeed, it is the best differentiation I have seen/read.

    Much appreciation.

  3. This update from Beliefnet:

    Last week, overseers at New Life Church disclosed some of their findings from their investigation of Ted Haggard and the congregation’s current leadership. “Numerous individuals … reported to us firsthand knowledge of everything from sordid conversation to overt suggestions to improper activities to improper relationships,” Larry Stockstill, who pastors a church in Baton Rouge, told New Life during Sunday morning services. “These findings established a pattern of behavior that culminated in the final relationship in which Ted was, as a matter of grace, caught.”

    The overseers also corrected widespread reports that Haggard had been “cured.”

    “There should be no confusion that deliverance from habitual, life-controlling problems is a journey and not an event,” Stockstill said. “Ted will need years of accountability to demonstrate his victory over both actions and tendencies.”

    Another overseer, Tim Ralph, earlier said Haggard was “completely heterosexual.” What he had meant to say, Ralph explained, was that Haggard “received a lot of good tools and wisdom to embrace completely the heterosexual man he is. We all know he has some problems. He’s on the road to recovery.”

    As for the current church leadership, the overseers said, “We have found a few staff members struggling with unrelated sin issues. Each such person has been confronted and has submitted to discipline. To our relief, we are finding no culture of immorality among the staff here as we might have initially expected.”

  4. Marty, I don’t know what such honesty would “accomplish”, but it’s still the right thing to do because it’s the TRUTH. Proponents of “change”ministries have misled the public for too long by calling themselves “ex-gay” or “former homosexuals” — when in fact their sexual orientation has not changed. I consider that bearing false witness and that’s a sin.

    In terms of the difference between “orientation” and “identity”, here’s the way I see it. Orientation refers to the prevailing DIRECTION of the sexual attractions. It’s like the compass needle that is “oriented” northward. I have always been ONLY attracted to males, so my orientation is homosexual. My brother has only had attractions to females. That means he is heterosexually oriented. My friend, Stewart, has had persistent attractions to both sexes so he is bisexually oriented. Orientation refers only to direction — not to one’s “identity” or the label one applies.

    Encarta English Dictionary defines orienation as: (1) the position or direction in which something lies, as in “the hill slopes in a southerly orientation”, (2) leaning: the direction in which somebody’s thoughts, interests, or tendencies lie — as in “my sexual attractions are homosexually oriented.” Orientation seems automatic. It just IS — and for most folks it changes very little over time (with the possible exception of bisexuals).

    Identity is much more complex. It has to do with one’s values, self-concept, sense of personality and self-definition. Wikipedia defines identity as “the essential self: the set of characteristics that somebody recognizes as belonging uniquely to himself or herself and constituting his or her individual personality.” it goes on: “In addition, “sexual identity” may be used to describe a person’s perception of his or her own sex, rather than sexual orientation.”

    I think this is why Dr. Throckmorton refers to his approach as “sexual IDENTITY” therapy and not “sexual ORIENTATION” therapy. These are important distinctions, not semantic nitpicking. When the general public (or a self-loathing gay person) hears “ex-gay” they wrongly assume that this means the ministry can make them heterosexual. But some time ago, under pressure to define his terms, Joe Dallas admitted “ex-gay does NOT mean ex-homosexual” and “ex-gays” are really just “Christians WITH homosexual tendencies who would rather not HAVE those tendencies.” In other words, their identity had changed but not their orientation — and that’s quoting EXODUS.

  5. MB: But that’s NOT a change in sexual orientation and the “other side” needs to bite the bullet and admit it.

    Why? What would this accomplish, in your estimation?

    And in addition, can you explain the difference between “orientation” and “identity” for me?

  6. My feeling is that NARTH and EXODUS might both cease to exist (at least in their current manifestations) if they decided to be “too reasonable to be interesting.” If either organization said, “look, our clients do not become heterosexual — we just help them live in harmony with their faith” it would be a total yawner.

    By the way, I have said for years that if EXODUS dropped the term ex-gay and got honest about the fact that they help change behaviors, attitudes and “identity” (not orientation) then I would quit criticizing them. But that’s not very exiciting, is it? Honesty isn’t glammorous. It’s much more interesting to mislead people with vaguely defined terms — and much easier to attract the gullible and hurting.

    Let’s face it. “Adapt” and “abstain” are pretty boring. People want miracles, “change”, “ex-gays”, “freedom from homosexuality” and three week cures! It’s not that “our side” believes that “change doesn’t work”. Of course people change — attitudes, behaviors, habits, etc. Some Christian bisexuals even “change” and act only on their straight feelings. Others may discover some latent heterosexual feelings in addition to their gay ones. But that’s NOT a change in sexual orientation and the “other side” needs to bite the bullet and admit it.

  7. I think if the majority of christian circles adopted a more tolerant perspective, this would likely not make the news.

    Who doesn’t want viewers? There are still plenty of churches and others who truly believe that orientation stems from events in childhood. Some are even treating it like an “addiction.”

    what happens when science is left by the wayside, I suppose.

  8. Well sadly it isn’t sexy and doesn’t sell newspapers to say, “Ted Haggard will most likely be attracted to men for the rest of his life but he can choose to value his family and his faith and abstain from acting on his attractions.”

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