More on the APA, religion, and homosexuality

The Christian Post’s Lillian Kwon writes this morning about the call from Richard Rothstein to criminalize conversion therapy. She extensively quotes Tim Wilkins about the controversies surrounding the matter.

Tim Wilkins asks a question near the end of the piece that I want to briefly address:

“Since when did the church of Jesus Christ delegate its responsibility to healing people’s hurt to some source outside the church?”

While Wilkins doesn’t negate the benefits of counseling or therapy, he pointed to the Church as “God’s primary source of healing” the hurt.

“In one sense, it is easier for evangelical Christians to passionately pound the APA right now regarding this possible move (to ban therapy) than it is to recognize and to implement our responsibility as Christians to share the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ,” Wilkins stressed.

I ask in reply: What hurt are we talking about? The gospel changes lives but as I understand orthodoxy, it may not change inclinations. I agree that the APA is not the Church of APA and I resist their efforts to take sides in religious debates. However, the mission of the church as I understand it is not primarily a therapeutic one. Health and wellness gospel adherents may take exception but I submit that a change in sexual inclinations is not an inevitable by-product of Christian conversion. I believe many people have been promised this to their eventual great frustration.

I may be misunderstanding Tim here. My reaction is based in concerns that much ex-gay ministry tries too hard to be therapeutic changers of orientation and not ministers focused on support for congruence with church teaching.

Here is a question that I hope to address and expand on in time: What is the proper focus of sexual identity ministry? Change of sexual inclination or loving support for participants to develop congruence with church teaching?

10 thoughts on “More on the APA, religion, and homosexuality”

  1. Warren,

    Thank you for the description between sexual identity “therapy,” and sexual identity “ministry.” I appreciate that.

    I was also wondering, since you stated that you work outside of your worldview (when answering a question posed by another), would you help an individual “coming out” who is a christian (who feels that his christianity and same-sex attractions are not in conflict), actualize his potentials as a gay man? Assisting him as he navigates through the “coming out” process, etc…with his christian family?

    It’s a difficult situation, and I’m wondering your thoughts.

  2. NICKC,

    I think you will begin to see a shift of those in the ministry camps from that of it is not genetic to there may be dimensions of sexuality that are genetic. I have seen a shift – slow, small but it is beginning. I doubt we will see a full swing until science unquestionably provides information either way. From my perspective, homosexuality, as well as many variations of sexuality, are a bit both nature/nurture.

  3. Warren,

    Yep – we all go about our business doing either the best we can or not and letting others make decisions that are not always (in our own view) the best ones. We can advise, counsel, provide information from our experience etc… but ultimately people will decide what action they will take. Some days I just shake my head and do my job. God must do what God does – taking people on the path he decides (or they decide) not me, not you, not anyone else decides that for a person.

  4. Some disjoint thoughts that came to me after reading this….

    I’m glad you made this post, because it is exactly what i was thinking about, were a therapy to become reparative or conversional in a religious ministry settting. Exodus is wedded to NARTH reparative therapies at this point, the defective-daddy/masterful-mother principal. They have ministerial meetings which delve into these reparative attributes in a group therapy setting.

    So does this mean that Exodus should completely revamp its ministries? Cohen seems to have been a sign-post in thar respect. Should a counselor/therapist/psychologist/pscychiatrist turn their secular scientific knowledge into a ministerial activity? Well, yes, of course they should. But the when it comes to homosexuality we seemingly have problems…. like Richard Cohen. We have a religious dogma driving a ministerial objective through the use of psychological practice.

    In such a ministry we get people wedded to a dogmatic understanding that seems to be unscientific or at most only partly scientifically correct (in maybe 3-5% of cases). At the very least it denies the very real personal testimonies (subjective and anecdotal though they may be) in which homosexuality cannot be denied as most basic to a person’s psyche.

    But at the same time it is an APA point of consideration that deeply-held religious principals are not delusional. Is the idea that homosexuality has no natural aspect, no innate quality, nor an intrinsically natural quality of which the person cannot divorces themself, a belief to be deeply held and not delusional in terms of the APA. So does that give the ministry/therapist an out as long as the person holds that belief? A therapist doesn’t have the right or even the obligation to tell the person that he is likely wrong?

    In those terms what else can the APA do? Ministries and therputic counselors seem to be too closely wedded. Psychologists should not be inculcating themselves in ex-gay ministries, it messes with their objectivity.

  5. Sonja – Do it all the time Sonja. I suppose your physician does as well, probably your real estate and insurance agents and I suspect the operator of the movie theatre where you see movies (if you do that) does as well. I help people know themselves better, provide advice about mental health and illness, teach classes and let God be God.

  6. Warren, you wrote: “…some therapists are so unable to work outside of their worldview that they should only work with clients where an informed agreement to work within a worldview exists.”

    Are you able/comfortable/willing to work outside your (presumably traditionally Christian) worldview? If so, how do justify helping a person become more comfortable with sin?

  7. Warren,

    Why can’t scientists take sides in what might be termed “religious disputes?” They do on many other issues that some people of faith disagree with!

  8. Warren-

    I’m only surprised by your surprise at Wilkin’s comments.

    Most of the evangelical/fundamentalist organizations in the ex-gay camp—including, as I’m constantly reminding you, many signators to your APA appeal—share the view that no one is naturally homosexual in orientation or inclination. All humans are created by God as heterosexual. Someone who feels homosexual attractions has either been damaged or misdirected while growing up, or has been seduced by sin. Either way, the only possible Christian response is to seek to restore the person to his/her true nature as a heterosexual.

    The latest ex-gay poster boy, Michael Glatze, is a perfect example of this world view. Glatze maintains that, at age thirteen, he falsely identified as homosexual due to disenchantment with the model for masculinity he saw in his father. He did not need therapy to change from homosexuality to heterosexuality; he only had to rediscover his true nature by conversion to Christ. This leads him to assert that all homosexuals are deluded about their identity. More than that, he now views homosexuals as a “cancer” because they spread their false identity to others, and he calls for more social stigma and legal restrictions on homosexuality to prevent this cancer from spreading. To quote from his interview in Gay City News:

    “If it was a world where no gay identity existed and if you had same-sex behavior punished, then a) I would not have done it, b) I would not have had a gay identity that does not exist, and c) I would have seen myself as a normal heterosexual and sought the help of the numerous support groups to deal with my feelings.”

    Can you show me where Exodus and NARTH, to say nothing of Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist church, differ from Glatze in their fundamental position? This is why they cannot be content with just “helping people live in congruence with their religious values,” but also actively campaign against every legal and social right for homosexuals, right down to the de-criminalization of sodomy.

  9. Yes, jag, thanks for asking.

    They are most often different and I think you captured the distinction. I say most often because some therapists are so unable to work outside of their worldview that they should only work with clients where an informed agreement to work within a worldview exists (e.g., feminist therapists, gay affirming, Christian counselors) and then refer others.

  10. “Here is a question that I hope to address and expand on in time: What is the proper focus of sexual identity ministry? Change of sexual inclination or loving support for participants to develop congruence with church teaching?”

    I agree Warren, that these questions need to be answered. Perhaps you can clarify something for me…in the above phrase you write about the focus of sexual identity “ministry”….do you see this as different from sexual identity “therapy?” I do. The therapy would seem to indicate that you would strive to help a client align with their believe system – whatever that may be. The ministry would seem to imply that one strives for individuals to align with a pre-existing interpretation of God’s word.

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