Al Mohler and Exodus: Agree or disagree?

As noted last week, Southern Baptist Seminary’s President Rev. Albert Mohler recently told a reporter that evangelicals have “lied about the nature of homosexuality” and reinforced his sentiments at the recent Southern Baptist Convention conference. I think it is going to take awhile for Rev. Al Mohler’s words about evangelicals and homosexuality to sink in – even for those who say they agree with him.
In this Baptist Press article, Exodus International President, Alan Chambers, came to Rev. Mohler’s defense against critics who say Mohler is going soft on gays, saying

“I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, and I am eternally grateful for what I learned there — the truth that I learned and the biblical foundation that I have,” Chambers said. “But there was no way that I was ever going to tell anybody in my church growing up that I struggled with these things. I am very thankful to say that that has changed [in that church]…. But we’ve still all got to do better.”

Alan correctly identifies his church as a problem. Although he doesn’t say exactly why, he is clear that he could not be open about his situation in his church. Apparently, they would not have handled it in a loving, accepting way. Chambers then says, we need to do better. I agree and I think one great example of that is a recent post – of all places – on the Exodus blog.
In a June 21 post, Matthew Walker says:

I felt like killing myself as a teen not because of the church, but because of a very real spiritual enemy that was trying to destroy me anyway that he could.  His whispers and lies twisted the Bible into a condemnation of me, not of the sin that was overtaking me.

Sounds to me like this man attended a church like Alan’s. However, Walker seems to think that his church was just fine, even though he was bothered enough to consider suicide. Reading this article, I am confused. Is Walker’s narrative an illustration of the church getting it right, or is this the kind of church that kept Alan silent and struggling?
Walker’s entire article, to me, seems like an illustration of just the kind of approach that Mohler critiques. Mohler wants evangelicals to be honest about homosexuality. Instead Walker stereotypes gays as miserable, and in denial about why they are gay.

I was honest with myself about how homosexuality developed in my life.  Many gay men and women use the act of “coming out” as a great dismissal of the developmental history that shaped their gay identity.  Genetics becomes the great enabler that keeps many bound to a life of destruction.

According to Walker’s narrative, gays have been crafted by some kind of knowable “developmental history” which they repress via coming out. Genetic research is not scientific inquiry but a devious means of keeping gays in denial.
In 2007, Rev. Mohler wrote that evangelicals should be prepared to acknowledge that biological factors may operate in forming same-sex attraction. By taking seriously biological factors, is Mohler facing facts honestly as he calls evangelicals to do? Or is he improperly enabling gays as described by Exodus’ Mr. Walker?
I am glad that Rev. Mohler voiced his views about evangelicals and honesty when it comes to sexual orientation. I have been raising these issues for several years now, but it takes someone of Mohler’s stature to keep the conversation going. Despite Mohler’s influential position, his views are not universally accepted in SBC circles. Furthermore, it appears to me that even those who generally agree with Mohler need to work out, practically speaking, what that agreement means.

How much change is enough?

At risk of raising blood pressure and snark readings to risky levels, I want to say a word about orientation change. I am this morning working on a journal article about the survey of same-sex attracted, heterosexually married people I conducted with the help of Gary Welton between 2008-2010.
We asked loads of questions about attractions, fantasies, behaviors and sexual identity with lots of interesting results. One of the most striking results was the rarity of dramatic orientation change. We asked about opposite sex and same sex sexual attraction at 18, time of first marriage and currently on a scale of 0 to 100. only 4/245 men and 2/59 women rated themselves less than 10/100 at age 18 and then 90+ currently on the opposite sex attraction scale.  The numbers did not increase dramatically as I examined a more relaxed assessment of change (e.g., less than 30 at 18 and more than 70 now). Overall, the sample shifted more toward the gay side of the spectrum from ratings of self at 18 and currently, although religious affiliation tended to mute that effect some.
One of the strengths of the survey is that I was able to connect with the largely hidden group of men and women who are SSA and married via word of mouth. I also suveyed people from the Exodus member ministries and the Straight Spouse Network. The sample, while convenience, was drawn from a very wide range of sources.
The title of the post relates to the fact that the marital satisfaction for the SSA partner was pretty high. This makes me think that even a little bit of change in one aspect of sexuality (behavior, fantasies and/or attractions) seems to be enough for a large number of people to redefine themselves in ways that give themselves permission to seek opposite sex relationships.
Stay tuned…
PS – Two men went from completely straight at 18 to completely gay currently.

Roots of reparative therapy – Sandor Rado and the reparative adjustment

This week I am surveying some roots of reparative drive theory – the view that homosexuality is a reparative, but pathological, response to a broken attachment with one’s same-sex parent. For reparative therapists, same-sex attraction is an attempt to gain connection to the appropriate sense of gender lost or defended against due to poor attachment with the same sex parent.
While Freud had several things to say about homosexuality, he often wrote about sexual departure from heterosexuality in terms of failure during the Oedipal phase of psychosexual development. In the case of homosexuality, a young boy might come to identify with mother due to unwillingness or inability to give up the mother’s love. He may identify with her to the degree that he wishes to possess what she possesses, a man. There is more to Freud’s views on this but my point here is not to offer a comprehensive account. I want to move to those who revised his views of sexuality, today in particular, Sandor Rado.
In objecting to Freud’s views of bisexuality, Rado introduced the concept of non-heterosexual behavior as a “reparative adjustment.” In a 1940 paper, Rado wrote:

The basic problem, to state it briefly, is to determine the factors that cause the individual to apply aberrant forms of stimulation to his standard genital equipment. Following up this line of inquiry, we find that the chief causal factor is the affect of anxiety, which inhibits standard stimulation and compels the “ego action system in the individual” to bring forth an altered scheme of stimulation as a “reparative adjustment” (12, IJ).
Both the inhibitory and thereparative processes begin far back in early childhood, leading up to the picture which we encounter in the adult. The reparative adjustment may allow the individual several alternatives of morbid stimulation, or may take the form of a rigid and inexorable pattern on which he depends for gratification. This approach, of which we can give here only the barest suggestion, has in practice unfolded a wealth of clinical details leading to a theory that is free of inconsistency and that serves as a reliable guide to treatment. (p. 466)

In this paper, Rado does not drawn out what kind of reparation takes place in various forms of non-heterosexual behavior. He does conclude that whatever they are, they start in childhood and they in some way increase anxiety which requires a reparative adjustment. Anxiety is the culprit that make gays. Nicolosi has his “Grey Zone” which sounds like Rado’s anxiety. And as we all know, straights are relaxed and anxiety free.
On the other hand, Rado does not completely discount “constitutional factors,” which apparently open the door for biological influence. In fact, Rado seems more open minded to these factors than his heirs at NARTH.

It also demands a change in outlook toward the underlying problem of constitution. If we assume, as we must, that constitutional factors may have an influence on morbid sex developments, we are now justified in considering this influence to be of two kinds: one preparing the ground for the inhibitory action of anxiety, the other modulating the course of the reparative adjustment. In considering the factors so involved we must not overlook the possibility of general, i.e., non-sexual factors, as well as innate defects of the sexual action system of as yet unknown character. It is well to recall, lest we underestimate this eventuality, that we are still in the dark even as regards the physiological mechanism of such an elementary phenomenon as sexual attraction. Still another possibility is of course the presence of elements of the action system of the opposite sex such as reflexes, or rather chains of reflexes, susceptible to resuscitation by hormones or other agents. However, not until somatic research has disclosed such elements shall we be able to determine by psychological methods their role in shaping morbid sex behavior. (p. 467)

Rado here shows much more respect for biological influences than demonstrated by today’s reparative therapists. Rado assumes (without empirical evidence) a reparative mechanism but to his credit, he recognizes that biological factors would have to mediate the response. In other words, homosexuality, even for Rado, is more complex than a set of family dynamics or a specific kind of attachment break. If environmental factors have any relevance, they would surely be mediated by nature.
Rado also noted that at the time almost nothing was known about brain and sexual attraction. He seemed open to being corrected in his thinking based on what he called somatic research. He also called upon psychoanalysts to give deference to researchers in discovering and elucidating the biological elements of sexuality.
We do know much more about sexuality and have brain studies which demonstrate significant differences associated with sexual orientation. In my view, NARTH supporters only incorporate one aspect of Rado’s suggestions.

Roots of reparative therapy – Philip Wylie and megaloid momworship

For WWII and post war mom blamers such as Edward Strecker and Philip Wylie, moms were not just responsible for individual immaturity in their sons, they were, by extension, the ruination of democracy. Strecker (who referred to this book by Wylie in his book) made that case very directly in his book, Their Mothers’ Sons, which I reviewed briefly Monday and Tuesday.
In his book, Generation of Vipers, Philip Wylie aims his rhetorical gun at just about everyone; mother blaming was not his sole purpose. However, to best understand why mother blaming could take root so deeply in American culture, one needs to review Wylie’s chapter in Generation of Vipers, titled “Common Women.” I will give a few portions here.

Wylie apparently thought Freud cogent on matters of mother blame, writing:

Freud has made a fierce and wondrous catalogue of examples of mother-love-in-action which traces its origin to an incestuous perversion of a normal instinct. That description is, of course, sound. Unfortunately, Americans, who are the most prissy people on earth, have been unable to benefit from Freud’s wisdom because they can prove that they do not, by and large, sleep with their mothers. That is their interpretation of Freud. Moreover, no matter how many times they repeat the Scriptures, they cannot get the true sense of the passage about lusting in one’s heart–especially when they are mothers thinking about their sons, or vice versa. (p. 185)

Wylie thinks mothers and sons are just sickening, creepy close. Americans however, are behaviorally oriented, he says. Since American men are not actually sleeping with their mothers, they can excuse their stifling emotional closeness. Wylie says instead that it is the thought that counts — men are too concerned about their moms, to the point of worship. He continues:

Meanwhile, Megaloid momworship has got completely out of hand. Our land, subjectively mapped, would have more silver cords and apron strings crisscrossing it than railroads and telephone wires. Mom is everywhere and everything and damned near everybody, and from her depends all the rest of the U. S.  Disguised as good old mom, dear old mom, sweet old mom, your loving mom, and so on, she is the bride at every funeral and the corpse at every wedding. Men live for her and die for her, dote upon her and whisper her name as they pass away, and I believe she has now achieved, in the hierarchy of miscellaneous articles, a spot next to the Bible and the Flag, being reckoned part of both in a way. She may therefore soon be granted by the House of Representatives the especial supreme and extraordinary right of sitting on top of both when she chooses, which, God knows, she does. At any rate, if no such bill is under consideration, the presentation of one would cause little debate among the solons. These sages take cracks at their native land and makes jokes about Holy Writ, but nobody among them–no great man or brave–from the first day of the first congressional meeting to the present ever stood in our halls of state and pronounced the one indubitably most-needed American verity: “Gentlemen, mom is a jerk.”

Mom is something new in the world of men. Hitherto, mom has been so busy raising a large family, keeping house, doing the chores, and fabricating everything in every home except the floor and the walls that she was rarely a problem to her family or to her equally busy friends, and never one to herself. Usually, until very recently, mom folded up and died of hard work somewhere in the middle of her life. Old ladies were scarce and those who managed to get old did so by making remarkable inner adjustments and by virtue of a fabulous horniness of body, so that they lent to old age not only dignity but metal. (pp. 185-186)

According to Wylie, moms stifle men and reduce them to compliant boys.

Mom had already shaken him out of that notion of being a surveyor in the Andes which had bloomed in him when he was nine years old, so there was nothing left to do, anyway, but to take a stockroom job in the hairpin factory and try to work up to the vice-presidency. Thus the women of America raped the men, not sexually, unfortunately, but morally, since neuters come hard by morals. I pass over the obvious reference to the deadliness of the female of the species, excepting only to note that perhaps, having a creative physical part in the universe, she falls more easily than man into the contraposite role of spiritual saboteur. (pp. 187-188)

Much of the chapter is a full on attack on what Wylie perceives to be the ways of mom, comparing her at various times to Hitler and Satan, with most societal evils laid to rest at her door. Along the way, Wylie returns to the greatest achievement of mom, emasculating sons.

“Her boy,” having been “protected” by her love, and carefully, even shudderingly, shielded from his logical development through his barbaric period, or childhood (so that he has either to become a barbarian as a man or else to spend most of his energy denying the barbarism that howls in his brain – an autonomous remnant of the youth he was forbidden), is cushioned against any major step in his progress toward maturity. Mom steals from the generation of women behind her (which she has, as a still further defense, also sterilized of integrity and courage) that part of her boy’s personality which should have become the love of a female contemporary. Mom transmutes it into sentimentality for herself. (pp. 195-196)

Wylie goes on to develop the concept of mom as barrier to manhood (I imagine Wylie is god at the Mankind Project). The close-binding-intimate (CBI mother) mom of Irving Bieber, direct influence on Nicolosi and NARTH is a psychiatric incarnation of Wylie’s momistic mom. As an aside, Bieber was described in saintly tones during my brief sojourn in the NARTH wilderness with presentation after presentation blaming smother mothers and inept, cranky dads for the “condition” of homosexuality. Wylie, predating Bieber, ridicules men but blames moms for his plight.

The mealy look of men today is the result of momism and so the pinched and baffled fury in the eyes of womankind…we will first have to make the conquest of momism, which grew up from male default. (p. 197, 203)

In reparative drive theory for male homosexuality, the relationship with the father becomes more of a focus. Cultural and early psychiatric opinion focused on mom the usurper, but reparative therapy extends the fault lines to include the weak or aggressive but surely distant father who allows mom to conquer the triad of mother-son-father, with the son becoming the defensively detached pre-homosexual. The Strecker-Wylie-Nicolosi fix is simple and if you don’t understand why or how it works, trust them, they know.