Losing my religion? That’s news to me…

UPDATE 2: Is NARTH the next target for Peter LaBarbera? Since NARTH’s website also allows for client self-determination regarding goals and objectives, they are the next logical target. Also, Dr. Nicolosi, co-founder of NARTH does not discourage homosexual behavior in his clients.

UPDATE: Jim Brown at ONN published a follow up article to the one which is the subject of this post.

Dr. Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College says he has not lost faith in God’s ability to change people who are struggling with homosexuality, but believes most of those people are not likely to experience a “diminishment” in same-sex attraction.

“To say that because it appears from the research that change is infrequent in attractions doesn’t mean I’ve lost my faith in God’s ability to change people,” he states.


In an article from OneNewsNow this morning, Peter LaBarbera says that I have lost my “faith in God’s ability to change people.”

Strange that no one asked me what I thought about this. OneNewsNow did not ask me what I think of change. LaBarbera paraphrases something I did not say and they printed it. If you were doing an article about someone, wouldn’t you make an effort to get that person’s views? (UPDATE: I am glad to report that OneNewsNow reporter Jim Brown just called and did seek my perspective)

Regular readers of the blog will understand the difference between the change and congruence paradigms of sexual identity ministry. The change paradigm seeks change of orientation as a goal and a standard of success. Some who hold to this paradigm believe that such change is an indicator of spiritual growth and what is known in Christian theology as “sanctification” – i.e., becoming holy and without sin.

On the other hand, the congruence paradigm seeks alignment with one’s understanding of Christian teaching. Change in the direction of essential attractions is viewed as infrequent and may actually be better describe as better behavioral control. A smaller subset of those people may change their attractions in a more dramatic and abrupt manner. This latter experience may be more common among women than men. Whether it happens or not is not deemed important to the objective of congruence. An assumption is that essential human desires are not likely to change much in this life and so the objective is to align behavior and will to Christian teachings.

The congruence paradigm defines change in ideological terms with meaningful cognitive and behavioral implications. Being converted to Christianity or experiencing a recommitment to one’s faith is a profound change and from the perspective of my Christian tradition is the most important kind of change.

So this accusation that I have lost my “faith in God’s ability to change people” is flat wrong. It also ignores the body of my work and efforts to bring evangelical concerns to the professions. I have been working to make the professional bodies aware that religious identity is powerful and for many evangelicals so vital that it overwhelms all other considerations. The chair of the recent American Psychological Association task force on sexual orientation acknowledged this in an interview with the Wall Street Journal:

“We’re not trying to encourage people to become ‘ex-gay,'” said Judith Glassgold, who chaired the APA’s task force on the issue. “But we have to acknowledge that, for some people, religious identity is such an important part of their lives, it may transcend everything else.”

Earlier today I posted a more detailed rebuttal to attacks on the sexual identity therapy framework. Co-author Mark Yarhouse also posted today on the same subject.

ABC News: Anti-Homosexuality Bill causes global uproar

Tonight, Nightline is covering Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The preview is an article on the ABC News website, extensively quoting Martin Ssempa and Scott Lively.

First a catchy way to begin a news story:

Standing onstage in black velvet robes, despite the stifling heat in the open-air church, Pastor Martin Ssempa’s face is a mask of disgust.

“Anal licking!,” he shouts, directing the crowd’s attention to the images of hardcore gay pornography that he’s projecting via his laptop. “That is what they are doing in the privacy of their bedrooms.”

“Everything having to do with eating of poop…heterosexuals do not eat poop,” Ssempa said. “And if they do, they are misguided, they are not real heterosexuals. We don’t practice, that’s an abomination. It’s like sex with a dog, sex with a cow; it’s evil.”

Wow, where do you go from there? The story then weaves material from Ssempa, Scott Lively and Val Kalende, a Uganda lesbian.

The bill was introduced several months after a visit by several American evangelicals, who spoke at a conference called the “Seminar on Exposing the Homosexual Agenda.”

One of them was Scott Lively, a pastor from Temecula, Calif., who believes that countries like Uganda can still protect themselves from what he sees as the scourge of the gay agenda.

“These are good Christians; better Christians than there are here in the states,” says Lively. “They care about each other. And I think the reason they’re pushing so hard on this law is that they don’t want to see what happened to our country happen over there.”

He told the conference’s audience, made up of teachers, social workers, and politicians that “even though the majority of homosexuals are not oriented towards young people, there’s a significant number who are. And when they see a child from a broken home, it’s like they have a flashing neon sign over their head.”

Lively, who is the president of Defend the Family, is also the author of a book called “The Pink Swastika”, which argues that the Nazi Party was a homosexual movement.

Then David Bahati tries the same line he has used before: the bill doesn’t say what it says.

The bill also calls for seven years in prison for “attempt to commit homosexuality,” five years for landlords who knowingly house gays, three years for anyone, including parents, who fail to hand gay children over to the police within 24 hours and the extradition of gay Ugandans living abroad.

The bill’s sponsor, David Bahati, now insists the death penalty only applies to homosexual pedophiles.

“The whole thing has been distorted, ” he said. “And we know that some copies of the bill have been circulated on the Internet, which are incorrect.”

Bahati defends the bill’s stringency. “Well it can sound tough to some people but it’s acceptable to our community here. Remember that here in Uganda, 95 percent of our population does not support homosexuality.”

If anyone from ABC News is reading, please put the Uganda Gazette copy of the bill on your website. Here it is. This is the official copy. I asked Parliamentary research service staffer Charles Tuhaise if I had the official copy and he confirmed that I do. Tuhaise also confirmed that the bill is about more than punishing pedophiles when he said to me:

…you have read the Bill and know that its object is to outlaw all same-sex sexual conduct. The question of “consenting adults” therefore does not arise. All same-sex sexual conduct is proscribed under the Bill.

Can’t get much clearer than that.

Where is the situation now? ABC News is reporting that the bill will be debated later this month.

But the outrage in the West may mean the bill gets watered down or even killed. The Ugandan parliament will hold hearings on it later this month.

As for Lively, he says if they drop the death penalty, he’ll actually endorse it. Whether the bill passes or not, the culture wars – both at home and abroad – promise to continue raging on.

According to a source in the Parliament, the bill has not been reviewed by committees and is not scheduled for any action at this point. That could change of course, but clearly the bill has been slowed down.

On the application of the sexual identity therapy framework: An answer to critics

Recently a brief portion of the sexual identity therapy framework was attacked by Peter LaBarbera. More broadly, his criticism challenges Christians in counseling: Should a counselor who is Christian insist that clients conform to the counselor’s beliefs?

LaBarbera argues that Christians in counseling should suspend neutrality and require their clients to conform to what the counselor believes. In my view, this confuses the roles of professional counselor versus pastor, respectively.  

He faults the SITF because he says counselors who practice in line with it must affirm behaviors with which they disagree. However, he misreads the intent of the SITF, and in violation of professional ethics, urges professional counselors to act as pastors. If professional counselors acted in this manner then there would be no restraints on ideological coercion from counselors. Here I respond to his contentions and point out the proper application of the SITF. 

The portion in question is here (The entire framework can be read here):

The guidelines do not stigmatize same-sex eroticism or traditional values and attitudes. The emergence of a gay identity for persons struggling with value conflicts is a possibility envisioned by the recommendations. In addition, the recommendations recognize, as do many gay and lesbian commentators, that some people who have erotic attraction to the same-sex experience excruciating conflict that cannot be resolved through the development of a GLB identity (Haldeman, 2002). Thus, for instance, some religious individuals will determine that their religious identity is the preferred organizing principle for them, even if it means choosing to live with sexual feelings they do not value. Conversely, some religious individuals will determine that their religious beliefs may become modified to allow integration of same-sex eroticism within their valued identity. We seek to provide therapy recommendations that respect these options.

First, it is important to understand that the SITF applies to professional counseling and psychotherapy and not to ministry or pastoral counseling. Often when people seek a professionally trained counselor with a graduate degree, they seek an unbiased relationship to discuss their conflicting values and feelings. This neutral stance is provided out of respect for clients’ status as a free moral agent. This, I believe, is a God-given freedom and must be respected, even when the outcome is a choice which is contrary to the beliefs of the counselor. Recently, Saddleback Church pastor, Rick Warren, said it this way: 

The freedom to make moral choices is endowed by God. Since God gives us that freedom, we must protect it for all, even when we disagree with their choices. 

Consistent with this Christian view of persons, all health care codes of ethics require basic respect for the moral autonomy of clients/patients. For instance, the ethics principles of the American Medical Association as applied to psychiatrists state:

The psychiatrist should diligently guard against exploiting information furnished by the patient and should not use the unique position of power afforded him/her by the psychotherapeutic situation to influence the patient in any way not directly relevant to the treatment goals.

Health care providers can exert significant influence over patients and due to the power differential must take special care not to act coercively. This duty falls to all health care providers, Christian and non-Christian alike.

In addition, the American Counseling Association code of ethics reads:

Counselors are aware of their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors and avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants.

These ethics codes apply to health and mental health care providers who enter into professional contracts with clients, may be receiving reimbursement for services from third party or government payers, and are often regulated by state certifying agencies. In other words, these relationships are regulated by several state and federal laws which require sensitivity to activities which could be coercive and damaging to clients of all belief systems. Christians who are professionally trained and credentialed are not exempt from these considerations because they of their religious beliefs and loyalties. The sexual identity therapy framework was written with this professional audience in mind.

In the ethics codes and the SITF, there is provision for counselors who cannot take a neutral stance. As noted in the SITF, sensitive referral is an option:

The need for referral can arise for reasons involving therapeutic capability and value conflicts. Therapists who rarely conduct sexual identity therapy may find their knowledge and skill base challenged by the needs of some clients.

Therapists who find themselves disappointed by a client’s choices or who even attempt to dissuade a client from pursuing a particular integrative course should secure consultation and consider referral. Moreover, if a therapist’s value position or professional identity (e.g., gay affirming, conservative Christian) is in conflict with the client’s preferred direction, the referral to a more suitable mental professional may be indicated (Haldeman, 2004). Therapists considering referral must take care to consider the therapeutic alliance and any institutional difficulties which might occur due to the referral. Referral may generate charges of discrimination and trigger legal or clinical liability exposure in certain cases (Hermann & Herlihy, 2006). When referral seems clinically appropriate, legal counsel and consultation with one’s liability insurer should be considered.

Akin to the conscience clauses for medical and pharmacy professionals, the referral option acknowledges that counselors may not be able to work against their deeply held beliefs and commitments in their professional work.

Those who believe Christian counselors should be free to take a more pastoral role and direct clients should consider an implication of that perspective. Consider the case of a Christian client who seeks counseling with a moral conflict from a non-Christian counselor. Under the current codes of ethics, the counselor must be sensitive to the client’s faith. However, if coercion and imposition were permitted, then the counselor would be on safe ground to recruit the client away from Christianity and to another faith or no faith.

Much of my work in recent years has been to persuade the professions that respect for religious liberty requires that the professions respect the choices of religious clients. In the area of sexual identity, this means that clients who do not affirm same-sex behavior can be supported to live in accord with their conscience. In August 2009, the American Psychological Association released a task force report which supported such religious clients.

Consistent with respect to conscience and professional ethics, Wheaton College Provost, Stanton Jones, endorsed the SITF, saying:

Throckmorton and Yarhouse have advanced a masterful synthesis of best practice in the confusing and troubled area of sexual orientation, sexual identity, and personal values.  No one should be forced toward a resolution of personal identity that violates their personal conscience; our commitment to being guided by the findings of scientific inquiry and respect for client autonomy and religious freedom should lead us toward empowering individuals to make informed choices about their lives. These guidelines are consistent with the ethical principles of the major mental health professional organizations and are superior to any other existing guidelines for practice in this area. 

In contrast, ministers are able and expected to operate with a more directive stance. Religious leaders are expected to lead and guide according to their understanding of their faith system. When people seek help from them, they expect such guidance. Often people seek the services of both counselors and clergy and each has a role to play in working toward resolution.

To sum up, the SITF is written as a guide to professionals who operate in a legal environment which is open to people of all faiths and no faith. Mr. LaBarbera’s stance confuses roles and if applied to professional Christian therapists across the board would expose them to significant liability.

UPDATE: My friend and co-author, Mark Yarhouse, weighs in on this discussion on his blog. His treatment of this issue is more detailed than mine and well worth the read.

Sue-a-what? Lindsay Lohan wants her some E-Trade

Remember the E-Trade commercial that featured the girl baby asking the boy baby why he didn’t call her last night? And then we find out that the boy baby was dividing his time between the first girl baby and “that milk-a-holic, Lindsay?” In case you forgot, here it is. But near the end, don’t blink and see if you think “Lindsay Lohan” when the literal babe jumps out and asks the age old question, “milk-a what?”

Never occured to me but it did to Lindsay Lohan. She is suing E-Trade for unlawfully using her “likeness, name, characterization, and personality.” Her likeness?

You mean, like, say what?

Martin Ssempa on the lines: Nightline and Line of Fire

Martin Ssempa will get some significant face time on ABC’s Nightline tomorrow night. Ssempa confirms it and notes that he will also be appearing on Michael Brown’s radio show, Line of Fire, on Thursday. I will be teaching during the show and will miss most of it. There is a call in number at the link. If anyone calls in, ask him to post a copy of the bill on his blog.

Ssempa gives his preview of the Nightline show here…

Must see TV.

Uganda: What a difference a year makes

A year ago in early March, we were talking about Uganda. We are still talking about Uganda.

On March 2, I posted this:

I decided to post about this after reading an article about an upcoming (this weekend) conference in Uganda on homosexuality. The article begins:

Parents to train on how to handle homosexuality issues

Family Life Network and other stakeholders in Uganda have organized a three-day seminar to provide what they termed as reliable and up to date information so that people can know how to protect themselves, their children, families from homosexuality.

A year and many posts later, the effects of that conference reverberate.  The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is waiting committee action and has not had a second reading. To become law in Uganda, a bill must be read three times and be signed by the President. He could refuse to sign it and then it would go back to the Parliament who could pass it over his refusal.

The bill might languish in committee and not come out for months or years. However, in the mean time, vocal Ugandan clergy such as Martin Ssempa are out in support of the bill with regular rallies. I may be posting about Uganda a year from now.

Read all posts on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill here.

Doug Coe’s 1989 sermon to the Navigators

Doug Coe is one of the responsible leaders of the Fellowship Foundation, a non-profit organization which helps implement the National Prayer Breakfast. There are very few recordings of him speaking and he tends to eschew the limelight. With Mr. Coe’s permission, I have uploaded this almost 31 minute sermon to YouTube in four parts. The very beginning and end is clipped off unfortunately. This speech has been controversial because of Coe’s references to Hitler and Mao. In my view, he is not commending these tyrants or recommending their ideas, but using them as an illustration of complete devotion to a cause. By contrast, American Christianity expects very little from followers of Jesus.

Here I am providing the first part with the rest on another page. Watch the whole thing and make your own opinion.

Part One

Watch the rest…

I met Doug Coe at the February, 2010 National Prayer Breakfast and have an interview with him in preparation. Other articles regarding the National Prayer Breakfast and the Fellowship Foundation are also in the works. Just one note now. It became very clear to me that David Bahati’s involvement with the Fellowship Foundation did not influence him to write the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In fact, he had to ignore the core principles regarding finding common ground and the common humanity of all people in order to write a bill which so badly stigmatizes and attacks homosexuals.

Live Like We’re Dying – Kris Allen

Well, some people like to throw stones. I prefer to use them to build something useful. Time is flying by, love and live like we’re dying…

Yeah, we gotta start looking at the hands of the time we’ve been given

If this is all we got and we gotta start thinking

If every second counts on a clock that’s ticking

Gotta live like we’re dying

We only got 86,400 seconds in a day to

Turn it all around or to throw it all away

We gotta tell them that we love them

While we got the chance to say

Gotta live like we’re dying

How about an Anti-Sodomy Bill?

Reading an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof titled, “Learning from the sin of Sodom,” I was reminded of the biblical passage, written by the prophet Ezekiel where the nation of Israel was judged by God. Here is the paragraph from Kristof:

In one striking passage, Stearns quotes the prophet Ezekiel as saying that the great sin of the people of Sodom wasn’t so much that they were promiscuous or gay as that they were “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49.)

The Stearns he references is the CEO of World Vision, Richard Stearns, who last year published a book, The Hole in Our Gospel. The book calls Christians away from the culture war into a war on apathy and poverty. The passage in Ezekiel is well worth the read for evangelicals just sure that defeating homosexuality is the highest bullet point on God’s agenda.

Chapter 16 begins with a recitation of the sins of Israel with particular scorn for their idolatry and sacrifice of children. Then God through Ezekiel has an interesting commentary on the relationship between Israel and Sodom (Ezek. 16:46-48)

Your older sister was Samaria, who lived to the north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you with her daughters, was Sodom. You not only walked in their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they.  As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done.

On the scale of sin, Israel tops Sodom. But what sins are we talking about? The next verse may surprise those who are calling for a ban on sodomy.

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.

The real sodomite is the arrogant person, the overfed and apathetic person who ignores the poor and others in need. The sexual sins of Sodom are second rate compared to the sins of pride and greed. Ban Sodomy, anyone?

Sodomy, viewed from God’s perspective, is practically the American way. I guess we have been exporting sodomy to Uganda.

The sins of Sodom mark the American church in ways that are very uncomfortable to confront. Defined biblically, I hope we can unite against sodomy. Defined biblically, we have all been sodomites, have we not?

Ezekiel goes on to put things in perspective and offers hope (Ezek. 16:52-53).

Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.” ‘However, I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them.

We are all in this need-of-redemption thing together. Rather than pick out sins and sinners to protest, it appears we would do better to walk humbly, and take heed, lest we fall.