Open Thread: Anderson Cooper’s look at Sex and Salvation

The second half of the CNN two-part series, “What is a Christian?” aired tonight and examined abstinance, homosexuality, pornography and marital sexual relationships. Given the broad scope, I will open a thread for reactions related to any topic covered by the segment.

Comment away…

29 thoughts on “Open Thread: Anderson Cooper’s look at Sex and Salvation”

  1. All of the participants in this conversation agree that same-sex attraction is not chosen. Arguing that there is some question about the morality of same-sex attraction suggests that a person can be immoral without choice.

    I’d like to say that I believe in my case, I chose to be homosexual in the womb. I also chose to be almost 6 feet tall, athletically built and not develop male patterned baldness. I chose my blue eyes and fair complexion and I even remember choosing to never have acne- not even during adolescence, like most of the teens I knew. Every time I go to the Love Won Out page I can’t help but wonder why these ex-gay men didn’t choose to keep their hair, they have such high foreheads, especially that Alan Chambers- perhaps they forgot that they could choose to not lose it?

  2. “Homosexuality is uncommon and natural…the morality of it is under debate.”

    David, I’m troubled by this statement.

    If by “homosexuality” you mean sexual behavior, well obviously that is under debate. You and Warren would find it Scripurally immoraly, Michael and I would not. But if by “homosexuality” you mean same-sex attraction, then I believe you are taking a position that is theologically unsupportable.

    All of the participants in this conversation agree that same-sex attraction is not chosen. Arguing that there is some question about the morality of same-sex attraction suggests that a person can be immoral without choice. Such a notion would require a God that whisically dooms a soul to condemnation without there being any hope for salvation.

    Surely that isn’t your religious belief?

  3. Gordo – Alas, I fear you are correct. I am concerned that psychology’s venture into public policy is not often about science. Exceptions that come to mind are the APA’s advisories on video game violence and the recent task force on sexualization of girls.

    In principle, I am glad to see APA attention to therapies that have questionable utility but I would like to see them look at attachment therapy, bioenergetics, body psychotherapies, etc. as well.

  4. What causes monogomy?

    What causes compassion?

    What causes sadism?

    What causes curiosity?

    Same-sex attraction is one of many human behaviors that create curiousity.

    No AXE necessary.

  5. Here’s my theory” God causes it! It’s just another one one His MANY creative variations. It is morally and psychologically NEUTRAL — just as heterosexuality and bisexuality are. These variations are not biology or environment — although they may certainly shape it. I believe that homosexuality is part of my essential SOUL.

    It is not just (or even mainly) who I am attracted to sexuality. It is part of my spiritual essence, part of my eternal self. I view heterosexuality and bisecuality the same way. Because I see them all as psychologically and morally neutral, I am “curious”, but I really don’t care.

    It would be interesting (on a purely intellectual level) to know the exact mechanism, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t think it needs to be (or CAN be) prevented or fixed. I care much more how people live — and accept the variations as part of God’s grand, incredibly diverse plan for His universe.

  6. I actually hope Nicolosi keeps talking to the press. He and Richard Cohen are the best thing we have going for us – if you want to see the ex-gay movement put out of business that is.

  7. “So why does sexual interest take the direction it does is, as I read the research, still an open question.” (Warren)

    Thanks, Warren, that is really the point I was trying to make. We may know many of the factors that influence sexual DESIRE, but we still don’t know what causes sexual ORIENTATION. People who claim they know (like Nicolosi) are overstating the facts.

    I don’t know of many gays (who are HAPPY being gay) who really care what “causes” it. The ones who REALLY seem to care are (more often than not) the same one’s who already have a strong negative opinion of it.

  8. I am somewhere between Michael and David on the cause issue, probably shading toward David’s view. I do think Clinton’s comment was closer to correct than anything Dr. Nicolosi said about causation. At the same time, we do know more about heterosexual desire than we do about homosexual desire. What causes desire seems fairly clear (hormones, brain responses associated with imagery, etc.) but why some people like blonds, redheads, short, tall, hairy, or not is still quite interesting to study. So why does sexual interest take the direction it does is, as I read the research, still an open question.

    Regarding interest in causes of homosexuality, I think we will just have to agree to disagree. Much of the research into homosexuality is done by those who are themselves homosexual so it is hard to sustain an argument of bias for their work. For myself, I just like X-Files of all sorts. The whole thing is a puzzle which interests me.

    Given a choice between reparative drive theory and saying we don’t know, I think we don’t know is a more research consistent answer. What I really think to repeat myself is that different factors operate differently for different people.

  9. David: I am not talking about scientific “caution” or how research money ought to be spent.. I am talking about scientific FAIRNESS — and the importance of trying to understand the BIG picture — not just the part we think is “normal”. “moral” or Biblical. What about the BIG picture — like what causes some to be hetero, some bisexual and some gay? I am deeply suspicious of the motives of those “scientists” who only ask the questions that fit their concept of “sin”.

    When we only ask “why causes gay”” we reveal our presuppositions and prejudices. We START, not from “curiousity” and “exploration”, but with an AXE to grind. That is NOT science — no matter how hard you try to defend it.

    It seems to me that you have already concluded there must be something WRONG with it, so you look for “evidence” or “correlations” that prove your prejudice. That strikes me as BLATANTLY UN-scientific. And, most of the “correlations” may have NOTHING to do with cause at all. “Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc” is the intellectual downfall of the ex-gay/reparative therapy/change/reorintation movement. Nicolosi is the perhaps the biggest offender in this regard.

  10. Regarding Joe Nicolosi,

    I have talked to him on mulitple occassions and he is clearly a very bright and articulate man. I have found him to carry very strong opinions which I have found he has in common with some other analysts I have known. I have found him to be uncautious and therefore inaccurate in his public statements on multiple occassions. The abruptness he demonstrated on the segment was something I had seen before with his colleagues at NARTH.

    He is published in journals and in publishing houses which are not religious in their orientation. For those who find that their SSA is related to environmental factors he provides a useful theoretical framework as well as a traditional psychotherapeutic intervention.

    As he becomes global in his assertion of the origins and treatment of unwanted SSA he discredits himself, NARTH and the profession. As he advocates as a professional for unproven, unvalidated techniques, he looks more like Richard Cohen.

    As his temperment and opinions inflict themselves on others, people will rightly be alienated.

  11. He makes psychology look goofy with that statement.

    And we all know how low the bar has been set for that!

  12. What do you make of the question put to the family (paraphrase) “Did you have a poor relationship with your son; was you Dad a bad father?”

    Dad seems more than willing to bear some responsibility (as would I) but the son is quick to dismiss this…I hope there is a way to post the video to review it all again.

    Regarding Clinton Anderson, his comments about the origins of homosexuality and heterosexuality are uselessly vague. There is plenty of useable research to support assertions like genetics, in utero experiences and socialogical events. As we do not experiment on gays or straights to learn cause and effect of certain clusters of traits we cannot talk in terms of “cause;” But we can talk in terms of strong correlations.

    Mike, you and I really disagree here…his caution brings the whole uselessness and power of social science inquirey into question. If that is the best millions of dollars of research into sexuality can provide, why should we spend it?

    Moreover, why should we teach human sexuality as a scientific course?

    We don’t know what causes heterosexuality?

    No, Clinton Anderson has a different agenda than scientific caution and rigor, and in keeping that agenda (whatever it is) he discredits the efforts and work of hundreds of researchers.

    He makes psychology look goofy with that statement.

  13. David, you said, “Uncommon behavior of all kinds often invites curiosity and exploration.”

    I COMPLETELY agree. The uncommon ALWAYS attracts more attention. It is completely natural to ask “why” when we encounter the odd or unique. And, if it were simply “curiousity and exploration” ALONE that prompted the “why” question about gayness, I would have no problem at all. But its’ not, and therefore I DO object..

    That’s the point of scientific inquiry — the desire to understand HOW and WHY God’s creation works — ALL OF IT, not just those things we find repulsive or aberrant. Shouldn’t we, as scientists and seekers of truth, also strive to understand what makes the God’s commonplace “common”?

    For example, WHY are most leaves green, but some are purple? WHY are most animals brightly colored and some albino? Why are MOST people immune to a certain disease, and some are not? To understand the variation from the norm, one should be equally “curious” and “explore” both norm AND variation. Understanding what makes the “common” might finally explain the UNcommon!

    My experience is that the vast majority of people who ask “what causes homosexuality” couldn’t care LESS about the roots of heterosexuality — and yet trying to understand the “causes” of BOTH would probably reveal something closer to TRUTH — and not just a confirmation of one’s religious bias.

  14. “Nicolosi said that gay men lose their gayness when they begin to trust men. Made me wonder…”

    It made me wonder, too, Dane. I came out first to my brother, because I care about him more than any other peson I’ve ever met. I haven’t had the time to tell my parents but I know for a fact that my dad will find out before my mom, because I trust him more and I think he’ll be more accepting. My closest friends are guys. Guys are the ones who, generally, I get “deep” with.

    So, I have a very conservative view of Scripture, I trust men, I’m self-confident, and relatively athletic…yet the “gayness” is still there. Oh, well.

  15. Homosexuality is uncommon and natural…the morality of it is under debate.

    I believe the recent kerflufle surrounding the comments of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shows the morality of homosexuality isn’t up for debate in the public arena. Corporate America arrived at this point 10 years or more ago.

  16. something can be natural, but not morally superior.

    Heterosexuality is common and natural but not necessarilly morally superior.

    Homosexuality is uncommon and natural…the morality of it is under debate.

    People ask what causes same-sex attraction for a variety of reasons, some to prevent, some out of curiosity, come out of compassion to help those who experience it understand themselves better.

    Uncommon behavior of all kinds often invites curiosity and exploration.

  17. Or, more simply, function and cause are not synonyms. I believe it’s a very important distinction in science and one that often gets blurred by those with a particular (usually right-wing, socially conservative, straight-is-morally-superior-to-gay) religious bias.

    For example, we know that certain markings provide a survival advantage, functioning to camouflage an animal from predators. But that is NOT the same as saying that we know what “causes” the particular pattern of stripes or dots.

  18. Mr. Blakeslee: I beg to differ. Saying that we don’t know what causes heterosexuality is in NOT “pushing scientific caution to the extreme” It’s a simple statment of fact. We don’t know.

    We DO know the reproductive FUNCTION and IMPORTANCE of heterosexuality, but that is NOT the same as saying the we KNOW the mechanism that “causes” it. is it biological? Genetic? Inborn? Learned?

    The fact is that most people don’t ASK because they don’t CARE. They have already made up their minds that one is “natural”, “morally superior” or for the “survival of the species” and the other must be an illness, disorder or sin in need of a “cause”.

    They don’t even ask the “causation of heterosexual orientation” question. They only ask what “causes” gayness so that they can prevent it, fix it or eliminate it. That’s bias, not science. I really want to KNOW. What “causes” people to be straight? If I knew that, maybe I could become heterosexual. If you have some special scientific knowledge in this area, would YOU be so kind as to share it??

  19. I’ll bet it will be a long time before focus on the family lets Nicolosi get near a microphone again…

  20. Saying that we don’t know what causes heterosexuality is pushing scientific caution to the extreme.

    Anderson is using the same caution to describe heterosexuality as he does homosexuality…and putting 80 years of science in a locked drawer.

    Very dishonest.

    Caution in describing the origins of homosexuality is sound scientifically and compassionate also.

  21. …and did Mike Haley really say that anyone absolutely could leave homosexuality? If he meant anyone can avoid doing sexual things, then I suppose a celibate straight person has walked out of heterosexuality (like priests). If he meant what most people would think he meant, that was probably more outrageous than anything Nicolosi or Fryrear said.

  22. Nicolosi walked off screen because of a simple question that was answered right in the love won out program. He does claim that being artistic goes along with the effeminant male that is caused by lack of father figure. Why would he get mad about those questions? Everyone has a bad day I guess but it seems like it should have taken more than that to cause such a reaction.

  23. I thank God you left NARTH, too. I deeply respect all of you, including Warren, who made that difficult choice. But the fact is we DON’T know what causes heterosexuality. Even though I am not heterosexual, I do believe it is God’s design, necessary for the survival of the species — but that doesn’t tell us what “causes” it.

    Is there a particular gene that is makes the brain feel attracted tot he opposite sex? If so, why didn’t I get one? Is it learned through social interaction? Do our parents model it for us? If so, why isn’t my brother gay? And why does my best gay friend have a brother who is?

    God made us, but what actually “causes” us to desire or not desire something is still a huge mystery. We don’t know why people are straight. Until we know that, I don’t think we have much business claiming that we know what causes the opposite outcome.

  24. Dane, great comment. For me trust and safety lead to curiousity and excitement…lack of trust and safety decreases sexual interest.

    What about CLINTON ANDERSON!?!?!?!?

    “Psychology does not know what causes heterosexuality”? How useless is this profession if it cannot speak authoritatively about the most basic human behavior, necessary for the continuation of the species?

    Just goofy, and by someone with even more credentials than Nicolosi (which reminds me, thank G-d I resigned from NARTH)

  25. Nicolosi said that gay men lose their gayness when they begin to trust men. Made me wonder…

    If gay men distrust men but love them, then do straight men distrust women? I wonder if a straight man begins to trust a woman, will his attractions to women go away? Maybe that is why so many “straight” men are on the down low — they have learned to trust women.

  26. The Love Won Out conference they showed was the one I attended in Phoenix. I noticed the camera crew and reporter (who I didn’t recognize), but didn’t know what they were doing there. Someone mentioned something about CNN, but I wasn’t sure if they knew or were just speculating.

    The kid with his two parents … I think that was the same kid Rene Gutel interviewed for her NPR piece.

    For the most part, it was deja vu all over again.

    And could Nicolosi possibly be more arrogant?

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