Sponsor: CA Conversion Therapy Bill Won't Ban Books or the Bible

Some conservative pundits are worried that a bill moving to the California State Senate will ban the Bible or at least some Christian books. Upon examination, I don’t see a basis in fact for that claim.
The bill is AB 2943 and would amend state law on unlawful business practices with a prohibition on performing sexual orientation change therapy for a fee. A fact sheet for the bill provided by bill sponsor Assemblyman Evan Low can be viewed at the link below.

Fact Sheet on AB 2943

Liberty Counsel has been spreading the view that the Bible would be banned by the bill and National Review’s David French has made a serious case that the bill would lead to a ban on certain Christian books.  Essentially, they say that the current law prohibits the sale of “goods” which result in harm from being sold. They argue that books which promote changes in behavior away from homosexual behavior even if the goal is celibacy might be considered within the reach of the statute since the statute defines sexual orientation change as including “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions.”
Since the entire bill is about sexual orientation change, it seems clear to me that the reference to behavior change is due to the practice of some change therapists to get gay clients to engage in heterosexual behaviors even when it doesn’t seem natural as a kind of behavior therapy. This isn’t a reference to celibacy – which by the way doesn’t reflect a change in orientation.
In fact, the next section of the bill says that sexual orientation change efforts as defined by the statute don’t include interventions which:

(A) provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (B) do not seek to change sexual orientation.

Clients who decide to live a celibate life can count on a counselor’s help as long as those interventions are neutral regarding change of orientation.

Does the Bill Ban Books?

I wrote Assemblyman Evan Low to ask if AB 2943 prohibited the sale of books or videos promoting conversion therapy by therapists. I also asked if the amended law would prohibit the sale of religious books or videos which advocate that gays should change their sexual orientation by religious means. Finally, I asked if AB 2943 prohibited the sale of books or videos promoting celibate behavior for gays as a way to adhere to religious beliefs.
Low’s Communications Director Maya Polon wrote back to answer all three questions negatively. According to the sponsor, the bill doesn’t relate to books or speech. I followed up by asking if any of the unlawful business practices has ever led to the banning of any books or speech. She wrote back to say that she wasn’t aware of any instance where books about any those practices have been banned. I also asked Mr. French via Twitter if he was aware of books banned in CA due to the unlawful practices law but have not heard back from him as yet.
A few days ago Evan Low responded to this issue via Twitter:


I haven’t decided what I think of the bill yet but unless this part of the law has ever been used to try to ban books before, then it doesn’t seem to be a serious reason to oppose it now. There is a lot wrong with conversion therapy but generally I favor more freedom not less. What makes me think this could be a reasonable response to the harm reparative therapy can do is that there is nothing in the bill that stops a person from trying to make personal changes outside of a professional context. Furthermore, I don’t see how the bill prohibits counselors from helping clients who pursue celibacy. However, it does remove the stamp of approval of the mental health professions for change therapy.

Uganda: Members of Parliament Call for Another Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Yesterday members of Uganda’s Parliament called for legislation akin to the failed Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014. Beginning in 2009, Uganda had the world’s attention as the nation’s Parliament debated a bill which would have implemented the death penalty for repeat instances of same-sex behavior between consenting adults. A slightly modified bill finally passed in 2013 only to be struck down by a Ugandan court in 2014.

In protest, nations around the globe cut off aid to Uganda and President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the bill at the 2010 prayer breakfast. Evangelicals were divided over the bill with some giving quiet support to the evangelical parliamentarians in Uganda. Others, like Rick Warren, criticized the bill and urged Ugandan pastors to come out against it. See the end of this post for more reading on the issue. I wrote scores of articles about the bill and came out strongly against it.

A New Anti-Homosexuality Bill?

After speaking out against same-sex marriage at the March Inter-Parliamentary Union conference, members of Parliament passed a commendation of Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.


Here is Kadaga at the IPU meeting:

The recognition of Kadaga Wednesday led to other members of Parliament making statements about a need for a new law against homosexuality.


That homosexuality spreads “like a wild fire” is just one of many misconceptions which members of Parliament use to generate support for their efforts. As a response to a request from President Museveni for scientific information relating to homosexuality, Jack Drescher and I wrote a scientific consensus letter in 2014 which was signed by over 200 scholars and sex researchers. I would like to think it helped but he signed the bill anyway. Furthermore, when I read these statements from the Parliament, I can see we have more work to do.

Additional Reading

Scientific Consensus Statement

History of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill – NPR

Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill Inspired by American Evangelicals  – Daily Beast

My Salon series about a Nevada church who dropped support of a Uganda missionary over the bill

Straight Man’s Burden – Harpers

The Bill Inspired by American Evangelicals – The Atlantic

All posts about Uganda

Family Policy Alliance Misleads Public on Conversion Therapy Legislation

To hear Focus on the Family’s public policy arm, Family Policy Alliance, talk about it, the opponents of forcing teens to go to sexual orientation change efforts (aka conversion therapy) don’t want kids to go to counseling. Listen to Stephanie Curry use the phrase “basic talk therapy” like it is her job (which in this case it is).

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Stephanie Curry and I’m a public policy manager with Family Policy Alliance. I’m here today to talk to you about a series of bills that we’re seeing across the country that would seek to ban basic talk therapy for our children. Family Policy Alliance cares about this issue because we care about our children and that they’re able to have access to basic talk therapy if they are struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction and gender identity issues. We believe that families and parents know what’s best for their children and they should have the ability to find licensed therapists that support their moral and religious principles.
Some bills we’re seeing that are cause for concern are for example a bill in Massachusetts that said it was child abuse for a family to take their child to a therapist to get therapy for their unwanted same-sex attractions or gender identity issues. We also have seen a bill in Massachusetts that equates this type of basic talk therapy to torture. Now we know that this isn’t true. Because we love our children, we want them to have access to compassionate and ethical basic talk therapy that is open to change. Thank you so much for joining us today.

The Basic Talk Therapy Bill

In fact, the only bill I could find in MA did not refer to therapy as child abuse or torture. The bill does not prohibit basic talk therapy. The 2017 bill — H1190 — specifically forbids interventions which serve sexual reorientation or gender identity change. However, the bill does allow a neutral exploration of sexual and gender identity issues.
Read the the bill below:

SECTION 1. Chapter 112 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official addition, is hereby amended by adding following new section:-
Section 266. (a) Definitions.
For the purposes of this section, “licensed professional” means any licensed medical, mental health, or human service professional licensed under Chapter 112, including any psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, psychiatric nurse, allied mental health and human services professional, licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed rehabilitation counselor, licensed mental health counselor, licensed educational psychologist, or any of their respective interns or trainees, or any other person designated or licensed as a mental health or human service professional under Massachusetts law or regulation.
The term “sexual orientation” shall mean having an orientation for or being identified as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality.
The term “Gender identity” shall mean a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity; provided, however, that gender-related identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” means any practice by a licensed professional that attempts or purports to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including but not limited to efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex. The term “sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” does not include practices:
(A)(1) to provide acceptance, support, and understanding of an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression; (2) facilitate an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development; or (3) that are sexual orientation-neutral or gender identity-neutral including interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and
(B) Do not attempt or purport to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
(b) Under no circumstances shall a licensed professional advertise for or engage in sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts with a patient less than 18 years of age. Any licensed professional violating this prohibition shall be such subject to discipline by the appropriate licensing board, which may include suspension or revocation of license.
(c) Whoever violates this section shall be considered to have violated section 2 of chapter 93A. Any such claim brought under this section shall be subject to sections 5A and 7 of chapter 260.
SECTION 2. (a) Subsection (a) of Section 51A of chapter 119 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official addition, is hereby amended by inserting after the words “chapter 233” the following words:-
or (vi) being subjected to sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts as defined by section 169 of chapter 112
(b) Section 51A of chapter 119 is further amended in subsection (i) after the word “family.” by adding the following words:-
Any report including licensed professionals engaging in sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts as defined under section 169 of chapter 112 shall be filed within 30 days to the appropriate licensing board for review and possible suspension or revocation of license.

Therapists Should Be Neutral

Religious right pundits have been distorting these bills since they first came along. The MA bill clearly allows “basic talk therapy” which “provide[s] acceptance, support, and understanding of an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression” and “facilitate[s] an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development” or “that [is] sexual orientation-neutral or gender identity-neutral including interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices.”
Therapist should facilitate coping, social support and identity exploration and do so in a neutral manner. Therapists should not try to push sexual reorientation.
As a result of supportive therapy, some teens will determine that they are straight or cisgender and others will come out as a sexual minority. Such therapy is legal under this bill. Religious therapists should be perfectly fine with this arrangement. Therapy should not be a platform for spreading religious beliefs or making clients into Christian disciples.
What the state of MA is trying to prevent is for a therapist to use the cover of a state license to pursue sexual orientation or gender identity change. Therapists may do many things to support families who are traditional in their beliefs, but under a law like this, they may not actively use techniques or prescribe methods which have the intent to change orientation. Given that those techniques rarely, if ever, work, this would be beneficial for teens on balance.

Yesterday, Liberty Counsel Celebrated Christian Freedom Day

Yesterday, like presidents before him, President Trump issued a proclamation commemorating Thomas Jefferson’s work in writing Virginia’s

Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission
Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission

Statute for Religious Freedom (full text here) which was adopted by the Virginia legislature on January 16, 1786. The law ended the establishment of the Anglican church in Virginia and recognized freedom of conscience in the state.
Jefferson meant for that freedom of conscience to extend beyond Christian denominations to all religions or none. However, ultra-conservative Liberty Counsel does not appear to recognize the breadth of Jefferson’s work. In their press release, the Statute on Religious Freedom is described as follows:

Religious Freedom Day is celebrated in America each year on January 16 to commemorate the 232nd anniversary of the passing of the 1786 passage of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom that ended the state-established church in Virginia, finally protecting religious rights for all denominations. The Anglicans had fined, persecuted, jailed and murdered Christians who were not part of the state-established church. However, Jefferson, a lifelong fervent advocate for the rights of religious liberty and religious conscience, worked hard to protect and defend those Christians. (emphasis added)

Liberty Counsel’s presser refers to denominations of Christianity and to Jefferson’s work to defend Christians. In the past, Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver has questioned the status of Islam as a religious worthy of First Amendment protection. Staver is also of the David Barton school of thought regarding the First Amendment — that the purpose of it was to prevent a Christian denomination from being established. In other words, when the First Amendment says religion, it means Christianity.

What Did Jefferson Mean?

In fact, there was an effort in the Virginia legislature to limit the scope of Virginia’s statute to Christians during debate on the bill. Jefferson wrote about it in his autobiography:

The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally past; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Islam], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.

According to Jefferson, the effort did not succeed. He meant his religious freedom bill to cover all people, of all religious ideas or no religious ideas.

What Religious Freedom Really Means Now

Ultimately, religious freedom at this particular time for this particular group means the freedom to discriminate against people, usually GLBT people in providing public services. In general, I think those who provide services to the public should provide them to GLBT people, even if they personally disagree with some aspect of those they serve.
But that’s just me and my beliefs. I know others believe differently, and the beauty of this nation is that they are free to believe it. What we will find out over the next few years is if they are free to discriminate based on that belief.

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2017

In 2017, the following ten posts received the most page views:
10. K-LOVE’s Pledge Drive: Money Behind the Music (2017)
9. Former Newsping Pastor Perry Noble Incorporates Second Change Church (2017)
8. American College of Pediatricians v. American Academy of Pediatrics: Who Leads and Who Follows? (2011)
7. After the Demise of Mars Hill Church Mark Driscoll Landed on His Feet with Over One Million in Donations (2017)
6. IRS and Postal Service Agents on Scene at Benny Hinn’s Office (2017)
5. Mark Driscoll Spins the End of Mars Hill Church (2017)
4. A Major Study of Child Abuse and Homosexuality Revisited (2009)
3. Former CFO at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists (2015)
2. What’s Going on at Harvest Bible Fellowship? James MacDonald Resigns as President of HBF (2017)
and the #1 post is:

  1. Open Letter to Gateway Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church (2014)

 
Some past posts have aged well. The 2009 post regarding child abuse and non-heterosexuality has been in the top ten nearly every year since 2009.counseling image 2 Readers continue to be interested in Mars Hill Church and various players surrounding the demise of that church.
Although the page views don’t show it, the story that continues to be covered here and almost nowhere else is the Gospel for Asia saga. The target of federal scrutiny and two RICO lawsuits in the U.S., GFA has also initiated and been involved in various legal actions in India. Although the scope of the GFA empire dwarfs other organizations I have examined, it continues to fly along under the radar.
For a profile of my work and the role blogging has played in it, see this lengthy article by Jon Ward in Yahoo News earlier this month.

To follow the blog on social media, check out and like

Facebook
Twitter
To like the Facebook page dedicated to the book Getting Jefferson Right, click here.
The learn more about the sexual identity therapy framework, go here.

New Studies Point to Biological Basis for Male Homosexuality

A study out yesterday lends support to the fraternal birth order theory of male homosexuality. Also called the older brother effect, the effect has been hypothesized to relate to an immune response in mothers of sons. The more sons a woman has, the more likely her younger sons will not be heterosexual. Although without support up to now, supporters of the immune theory believe that having sons for some women create antibodies which react against proteins which effect brain development. Presumably, the brain development would be an areas which effect sexual orientation.
From the press release:

Groundbreaking research led by a team from Brock University has further confirmed that sexual orientation for men is likely determined in the womb.
In the first-ever laboratory study of mothers of gay men, the research was prompted by more than two decades of statistical data examining the ‘older brother effect’ which shows that biological older brothers — but not older sisters — increase the odds of homosexuality in later-born males.
The study, “Male Homosexuality and Maternal Immune Responsivity to the Y-Linked Protein NLGN4Y,” was published Monday, Dec. 11 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Brock Health Sciences Professor Tony Bogaert, lead researcher on the project, said the new study has produced some of the most significant findings in men’s sexual orientation research in the past 10 or 15 years. The team included researchers from Harvard and the University of Toronto.
“The implications of this study, especially if and when it is replicated by an independent team, are profound,” said Bogaert. “Along with more deeply understanding the exact origin of the older brother effect, it helps solidify the idea that, at least in men, there’s a strong biological basis to sexual orientation.
“This is the culmination of more than 20 years of research where we started looking at the older brother, or fraternal birth order, effect. The current study adds to the growing scientific consensus that homosexuality is not a choice, but rather an innate predisposition.”
Bogaert, an internationally recognized expert in human sexuality, said the study is groundbreaking for at least two major reasons:

  • It supports the conclusion, suggested by previous studies, that genes alone do not completely account for homosexuality.

  • It suggests that immunological factors should be considered along with genetic and hormonal factors as possible biological influences on sexual orientation.

The study did not link the proteins with specific neural outcomes but did find that mothers of gay sons demonstrated a different immune response than mothers of straight sons.

The team of psychologists and immunologists tested 16 women with no sons, 72 mothers with heterosexual sons, 31 mothers of gay sons with no older brothers, 23 mothers of gay sons with older brothers, and a control group of 12 men.
The women’s antibody reactivity was measured to two proteins (PCDH11Y and two forms of NLGN4Y) found only in males, both of which are expressed in the male fetal brain.
The team found that mothers of gay sons, especially those with older brothers, had significantly higher antibody levels to both forms of NLGN4Y than did the control samples of women, including mothers of heterosexual sons.
“It seems that some women during their first male pregnancy, or just after their first male birth, begin to detect this foreign substance (the NLGN4Y protein) and start to develop an immune response. And then later, with further male pregnancies, the high levels of antibodies directed toward this substance may change brain development in these later born males,” Bogaert said.

If the work is replicated and it can be demonstrated that these antibodies influence brain structures associated with non-heterosexuality, e.g., the hypothalamus, then the evidence for the immune connection would be even stronger. Since antibodies in response to multiple male births would only effect a small number of gay males, there must be other pathways to non-heterosexual brain development. As I review several lines of research, I believe there are other ways in addition to the immune hypothesis (e.g., hormones, epimarks) that the neural basis for non-heterosexuality could come to be.

Genetic association study

Just last week, a genome association wide study found yet more ways in which the DNA of gay males differ from straight males. Alan Sanders andphoto-1456434893711-6a909e9cd81d_opt his team reported that they found those differences in a gene which is involved in helping to form the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus repeatedly shows up in studies where gay and straight males differ.
Charles Roselli has studied the hypothalamus in rams and found that “gay rams” (male oriented rams) demonstrate size differences in the preoptic area of the hypothalamus. Here is a 2013 video where he described his research:

My Journey Away from Reparative Therapy

Over the past few weeks, I have written about the Nashville Statement. In doing so, I realized that many readers here haven’t followed this blogclass2
since the beginning (2005) and aren’t aware of my work in the area of sexual identity. In fact, I would say a significant number of readers came along in 2014 when I wrote about Mars Hill Church.
On Saturday, Yahoo News published a profile of my work by Senior Political Correspondent Jon Ward. In the well written piece, Jon focused on my prior support for sexual orientation change efforts. However, he also connected the dots from that work to my opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill and later opposition to Christian nationalism and megachurch exploitation. I appreciate Jon’s careful attention to the nuances in the story.
If you are interested in more information about how I went from being a supporter of reorientation therapy to being a vocal opponent and how that journey connects to current interests, I encourage you to go read Jon’s profile.

Mixed Orientation Couples and The Nashville Statement: What Would I Do?

Last week, I wrote about advice given by Nashville Statement signer Rosaria Butterfield to a heterosexually married woman who fell in love with acounseling image 2 woman. In addition, this woman had come to dislike her husband greatly and had not been intimate with him for over a year. Butterfield’s answer to the intimacy problem was for the woman to submit to sex often, even though she said she couldn’t bear it. My strong criticism of this generated intense discussion and questions about what I would do in such a situation. This post addresses those questions.

I don’t have to speculate since I have encountered scores of these counseling situations over the years with both straight and mixed orientation couples. Let’s review Butterfield’s scenario:

Sitting across from me at the kitchen table this afternoon, you poured out your heart. When you married your high school sweetheart at 19, you never once suspected you would be in this place. Now, at 39, after twenty years of marriage, you call yourself gay.

In tears, you tell me that you have “come out,” and that you’re not looking back. You haven’t had an affair. Yet. But there is this woman you met at the gym. You work out with her every morning, and you text with her throughout the day.

Even though you are a covenant member of a faithful church, sit under solid preaching, and put up a good front for the children, you have been inwardly despising your husband for some time now. Hearing him read the Bible makes you cringe. You haven’t been intimate with him for over a year now. You tell me you can’t bear it.

Apparently, according to Butterfield, the kitchen table woman is considering an exit from the marriage to be with the gym woman. Butterfield denies that the woman is gay since, in her mind, sexual orientation isn’t a category of existence. She cautions the woman against destroying the family, urges her to repent, submit to her husband’s leadership, and have sex often. It is the last bit of advice that I called the worst advice ever. Butterfield said:

Second, embrace the calling that God has given to you to be your husband’s wife. Your marriage is no arbitrary accident; God called you to it in his perfect providence. And God’s providence is your protection.

Your lot has fallen in pleasant places (Psalm 16:6). Pray for eyes to see this. Recommit yourself to one-flesh love with your husband. Pray together that your hearts would be knit together through Christ. Make time to talk honestly with your husband about how your body works. Show him. Make time to preserve your marriage bed as a place of joy and comfort and pleasure. Have sexual intercourse often. This is God’s medicine for a healthy marriage. One-fleshness is certainly more than sex, but it is not less than sex. Your husband is not your roommate. Treating him as such is sin.

Based on my experience, I think Butterfield’s advice, if followed by the woman in her current emotional state, would hasten the demise of that marriage.

What is a Better Approach?

The first thing I would do in this case is to determine who the client is. Is it the woman or the marriage? If she came in to see me alone then I would work with her to pursue her goals in accord with the sexual identity therapy framework I developed along with Mark Yarhouse. We work within the value framework of the client after a vigorous process of clarifying values and beliefs.* This might mean the marriage might never be the focus.
Even though I would focus on her values and beliefs initially, I would certainly ask if she had any interest in saving the marriage. If she did, I would recommend that the husband come in as well. If he agreed, then the couple and relationship would become the focus.  For the sake of discussion, I will assume she has some interest in saving the marriage.

Intimacy is always a focus on marriage counseling but can never be forced. Especially in the church, there is a power differential between men and women. Counselors must be sensitive to this and treat each member of the couple with dignity and equal respect. No one is to be shamed for sexual desires nor should anyone be shamed for lack of sexual desire. The partner who is more interested in sex must understand that intimacy cannot be forced or coerced from the partner less interested in it. This truth applies to so many situations in marriage, not just the one in the Butterfield scenario.

Full personal histories and a history of their relationship would need to be fleshed out with all of the triumphs and failures. Circumstances surrounding courtship, marriage and births are critical to the development of their story. We want to figure out how the current crisis fits into the ongoing narrative. This is standard counseling work but it sets the stage for making intelligent recommendations tailored to the couple in the room.
I have worked with dozens of Christian couples who have implemented some form of Butterfield’s advice prior to seeing me. When women have done this against their will, the results have been resentment and anger. The marriage deteriorated to the point that counseling was a last resort before seeing the lawyer. I recall one case in particular where the a woman not only left her husband but left her church and lost her faith. Her husband had required her to see the elders on more than one occasion because sexual frequency wasn’t to his liking. Even after he realized how degrading the whole thing was, it was too late. She had enough.

Another woman complained of pain in intercourse but was forbidden by her husband of seeing a gynecologist. After she went anyway, it turned out she had a medical reason why intercourse was painful. When this information was shared with her husband and the pastor, it didn’t matter. She was still required to fulfill her wifely duty because it couldn’t be that bad. She had children after all. That was it, the marriage was over. There are too many more stories.

In the context of mixed orientation marriages, some marriages have stayed together and some haven’t. Some women are bisexual, decide that the family is irreplaceable and worth more than another relationship. Other women determine that they lied at the beginning, were never straight and feel horrible about it. The couples decide it would be best to end the relationship for everybody concerned. Some gay people (I call them spousosexual) have sufficient fluidity in their orientation that they fall in love with one member of the opposite sex without losing their general attraction to the same sex.  Although I don’t think it is common, some of those marriages survive.  The point is that the one-size-fits-all advice offered by Butterfield to women who have resentment against their husbands would almost never fit anyone and should be removed from the web. I can only see pain and destruction coming from it in the context it was offered.

What About I Corinthans 7?

Let me close by saying a word about those who protest by appealing to I Corinthians 7. Here is the passage:

Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

First, Paul said that he wrote this as “a concession, not as a command.” Now, I am not a theologian, I am not from Nashville, nor have I ever been a theologian in Nashville signing important documents, but it seems like it is important to note that this instruction isn’t a command. Those are not my words, but Paul’s.

As an aside, Paul said he wished everyone could be single. Does that mean God’s design is singleness? He said everyone has their own gift. What does that say about the person who never has had an opposite sex attraction?
Back to the passage, I recognize that this sounds like marriage is a kind of a transaction, each person has a duty. There is a sense in which this is true in a normal marriage. When people are basically happy with each other and want to have sex, then Paul said they should not deprive each other. Paul started off the instruction by saying he didn’t think it was good for a man to touch a woman (is that God’s design?), so he had to make it clear that for those who are married and want to have sex, he would make a concession and say it was fine for this occur. And so, in the face of some killjoy saying “no sex,” Butterfield’s advice is great.

However, a little later in the passage, Paul gets to the situation Butterfield encounters in her article.

10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

Butterfield’s kitchen table lady might leave her husband according to Paul but she shouldn’t remarry, nor should he remarry. I know mixed orientation couples who have an uneasy separation along these lines because living together was too confusing and painful. Of course, that result is not ideal, but it appears to be one envisioned even by a literal reading of I Corinthians.

In short, I don’t think Butterfield’s advice is a proper application of I Corinthians 7 to a marriage where both partners are not invested in the marriage.

*For more on sexual identity therapy, see these articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal as well as the SIT website.

Wishful Thinking, Forced Intimacy, and The Nashville Statement

photo-1474367658825-e5858839e99d_optI started counseling LGB people and mixed orientation couples about two decades ago. Initially, I had high hopes that counseling might regularly assist same-sex attracted people become straight or bisexual. In a story that has been told elsewhere, I have since changed my mind.

Part of what helped form my current views of sexual orientation was the experience of counseling and researching mixed orientation couples. I concluded: If heterosexual responding did not happen for same-sex attracted people in that context, it probably wasn’t going to happen at all. For couples already married, I decided to work with them to maintain their marriage if that is what they believed was right. However, I don’t make unrealistic promises. And if people decide to part, I certainly understand the pressures which lead to that decision.

Due to my work, I read a recent article at John Piper’s website by Nashville Statement signer Rosaria Butterfield. In it, she gives some of the worstNashville logo advice I have ever read to a woman in a mixed orientation marriage. Below I respond to it. My response to the article is not theological. Instead, I respond as a clinician and researcher.

In essence, Butterfield denies people are gay:

A mixed-orientation marriage combines one spouse who “is” gay and the other who “is” straight. This new language for sexuality and humanity has become our post-Christian world’s reigning (and godless) logic. Gay may be how someone feels, but it can never be who someone inherently is. Because all human beings are made in God’s image, we are called to reflect God’s image in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. We are a Genesis 1:27 people, born male or female with a soul that will last forever, and a body that will either be glorified in the New Jerusalem or suffer unspeakable anguish in hell.

After working with LGBT people for two decades, I believe some people are inherently gay. They have never been attracted to a member of the opposite sex, even while married to one. They have tried everything to change, but nothing changes.

Some people are bisexual and seem to fluctuate without warning or conscious choice. Others are basically gay, but fall in love with one member of the opposite sex. If that love is dashed or ceases for some reason, then there is nothing left of their straightness.

Butterfield says there is one size because of the Bible. Even though that’s not exactly what the Bible says, that’s how she and her Nashville Statement interpret it so that’s how anyone she talks to has to be. I used to look at people that way. I won’t do that anymore. There are many things in this world I wish were different but wishful thinking won’t change how things are.

She continues:

Being born male or female comes with ethical and moral responsibilities, blessings, and constraints — by God’s design and for the purpose of image-bearing. Because creation is an identity issue, my feelings — no matter how deep, abiding, or original to my conscience — are not my identity or descriptive of what kind of Christian I am.

In other words, no matter how real reality is, it isn’t really real unless it matches up with her understanding of the Bible. What Butterfield overlooks is that she is basing her argument on her feelings about the Bible. She is confident that her interpretation is the right one. She feels strongly about it. Her feelings are more right than the feelings of the woman she is talking to. She believes that God’s design for most people is normative for all people. No exceptions are allowed or are possible. However, the fact is that some people are naturally different than the norm. No matter how strongly she feels that such exceptions shouldn’t exist, they do.

No, friend. I am not in a mixed-orientation marriage and neither are you. This false category banks on modernism’s magnetism to personal pain as proof of purpose. Like Frankenstein’s creature, modernity’s identity is piecemealed from the unconverted woman that you once were. But gospel identity calls us to the future. Jesus always leads from the front of the line. If you are in Christ — and I believe that you are — then you are a new woman. You have a Galatians 2:20 identity. If you are in Christ, then you are in the process of being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). You truly are who you will become when you are glorified one day.

The denial of sexual orientation leads to a denial of the present. The woman Butterfield is talking to is living in a body and brain right now, not “one day” by and by. She has a husband she can’t bear to be with and a conflict that is real in the present. She needs something more than it will be well someday.

I do agree with Butterfield’s caution about ending a marriage. What I advocate for in this post is honesty and reality, not broken homes. Many couples I have worked with keep their marriage but with real and honest expectations. Furthermore, they do so after an extended period of examining their beliefs to determine that they want an intact marriage more than anything else. If they don’t have those beliefs, then they may peacefully and amicably part ways.

Worst Advice Ever

However, probably the worst advice I have ever read for same-sex attracted people is what comes next:

Your lot has fallen in pleasant places (Psalm 16:6). Pray for eyes to see this. Recommit yourself to one-flesh love with your husband. Pray together that your hearts would be knit together through Christ. Make time to talk honestly with your husband about how your body works. Show him. Make time to preserve your marriage bed as a place of joy and comfort and pleasure. Have sexual intercourse often. This is God’s medicine for a healthy marriage. One-fleshness is certainly more than sex, but it is not less than sex. Your husband is not your roommate. Treating him as such is sin.

Forced intimacy is not intimacy. I can only imagine the horror of a person hearing these words. I have counseled numerous survivors of this kind of advice. What this does is ruin a person for any kind of intimacy, same-sex or opposite-sex.  Maybe some people can hear this, but to me, this sounds cult-like. Channeling early Mark Driscoll, Butterfield instructs this woman to allow her integrity to be violated in the name of God.

The Nashville Statement is supposed to be all about rightly ordered sexuality. I can’t see how a person entering into coerced intimacy reflects this. Butterfield very clearly tells this woman she sins if she doesn’t have sex against her will. This advice doesn’t even pass the test of her fellow Nashville Statement signer and Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood president Denny Burk’s criteria for ethical sexuality. In his book What is the Meaning of SexBurk wrote:

We ought to evaluate the ethics of any sexual act on the basis of its ability to encompass the four purposes [of sex]: consummation, procreation, love, and pleasure.

Butterfield’s kitchen table friend said she didn’t love her husband and derived no pleasure from the experience. How then is sex against her will an ethical act?

I hope DesiringGod.com reconsiders this article and removes it before anyone takes it seriously.

The Canons of Elvira and The Nashville Statement

Since the church has been making statements, church leaders have been telling people in the pews what to do and not to do in their beds. In theNashville logo context of talking about the Nashville Statement, a Grove City colleague recently pointed me to the Canons of Elvira as an early (303 AD or so) instance of this. Just for fun, here are some of the rules, called canons, that the church in Spain expected the people to live by. Before I provide a few of them, here is a description of the Synod of Elvira from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Held early in the fourth century at Elliberis, or Illiberis, in Spain, a city now in ruins not far from Granada. It was, so far as we know, the first council held in Spain, and was attended by nineteen bishops from all parts of the Peninsula. The exact year in which it was held is a matter of controversy upon which much has been written. Some copies of its Acts contain a date which corresponds with the year 324 of our reckoning; by some writers the council has accordingly been assigned to that year. Hardouin suggests 313, Mansi 309, and Hefele 305 or 306. Recent opinion (Duchesne, see below) would put the dateconsiderably earlier, from 300 to 303, consequently previous to the persecution of Diocletian. The principal bishop attending the council was the famous Hosius of Cordova. Twenty-six priests are also recorded as sitting with the bishops. Its eighty-one canons were, however, subscribed only by the bishops. These canons, all disciplinary, throw much light on the religious and ecclesiastical life of SpanishChristians on the eve of the triumph of Christianity. They deal with marriage, baptismidolatryfastingexcommunication, the cemeteries, usury, vigils, frequentation of Mass, the relations of Christians with pagansJewsheretics, etc.

Not all of these have to do with sex but they give some insight into how views of sin and morality have changed within the church. They don’t seem to be in an order and were not all decided at one time. Generally, it appears that the Christian leaders then didn’t think highly of sex, even in marriage. Becoming a leader meant giving it up.

33. Bishops, presbyters, deacons, and others with a position in the ministry are to abstain completely from sexual intercourse with their wives and from the procreation of children. If anyone disobeys, he shall be removed from the clerical office.

For non-leaders, punishments for violations were severe:

7. If a Christian completes penance for a sexual offense and then again commits fornication, he or she may not receive communion even when death approaches.
8. Women who without acceptable cause leave their husbands and join another man may not receive communion even when death approaches.
9. A baptized woman who leaves an adulterous husband who has been baptized, for another man, may not marry him. If she does, she may not receive communion until her former husband dies, unless she is seriously ill.
10. If an unbaptized woman marries another man after being deserted by her husband who was a catechumen, she may still be baptized. This is also true for female catechumens. If a Christian woman marries a man in the knowledge that he deserted his former wife without cause, she may receive communion only at the time of her death.
11. If a female catechumen marries a man in the knowledge that he deserted his former wife without cause, she may not be baptized for five years unless she becomes seriously ill.
12. Parents and other Christians who give up their children to sexual abuse are selling others’ bodies, and if they do so or sell their own bodies, they shall not receive communion even at death.
13. Virgins who have been consecrated to God shall not commune even as death approaches if they have broken the vow of virginity and do not repent. If, however, they repent and do not engage in intercourse again, they may commune when death approaches.
14 If a virgin does not preserve her virginity but then marries the man, she may commune after one year, without doing penance, for she only broke the laws of marriage. If she has been sexually active with other men, she must complete a penance of five years before being readmitted to communion.
15. Christian girls are not to marry pagans, no matter how few eligible men there are, for such marriages lead to adultery of the soul.
16. Heretics shall not be joined in marriage with Catholic girls unless they accept the Catholic faith. Catholic girls may not marry Jews or heretics, because they cannot find a unity when the faithful and the unfaithful are joined. Parents who allow this to happen shall not commune for five years.
17. If parents allow their daughter to marry a pagan priest, they shall not receive communion even at the time of death.
30. Those who sinned sexually as youth may not be ordained as subdeacons. This will guard against their being promoted to higher offices later on. If they have already been ordained, they shall be removed from their office.

Some canons are frightful:

5. If a woman beats her servant and causes death within three days, she shall undergo seven years’ penance if the injury was inflicted on purpose and five years’ if it was accidental. She shall not receive communion during this penance unless she becomes ill. If so, she may receive communion.
41. Christians are to prohibit their slaves from keeping idols in their houses. If this is impossible to enforce, they must at least avoid the idols and remain pure. If this does not happen, they are alienated from the church.
50. If any cleric or layperson eats with Jews, he or she shall be kept from communion as a way of correction.
80. Slaves who have been freed but whose former masters are yet alive may not be ordained as clergy.
68. A catechumen who conceives in adultery and then suffocates the child may be baptized only when death approaches.

Some are just odd:

35. Women are not to remain in a cemetery during the night. Some engage in wickedness rather than prayer.
62. Chariot racers or pantomimes must first renounce their profession and promise not to resume it before they may become Christians. If they fail to keep this promise, they shall be expelled from the church.
67. A woman who is baptized or is a catechumen must not associate with hairdressers or men with long hair. If she does this, she is to be denied communion.
81. A woman may not write to other lay Christians without her husband’s consent. A woman may not receive letters of friendship addressed to her only and not to her husband as well.

With my tongue in my cheek, I tend to agree with the part about mimes renouncing their miming. Those Elvirans were on to something there.
I have a feeling it won’t take 1700 years for future Christians to look back at the Nashville Statement and question dogmatism of these authors. We now let mimes (should we?), chariot drivers, hairdressers, and men with long hair in the church. Pastors aren’t removed from office for sex with their wives. Maybe someday, it will not be fashionable for evangelical Christians as a group to question the salvation of LGBT Christians.
Some things change and some things don’t. My point isn’t to suggest everything changes or that everything should change. I am saying that we should be open to the possibility that tradition plays a role in our moral reasoning and that what we know and don’t know about LGBT issues makes them candidates for issues which should be reexamined in light of current science and experience.