Multiple pathways to sexual orientation, Part 2

I have referred to this story several times. Seems like a fitting parable for our discussion.

The Blind Men and the Elephant
John Godfrey Saxe
It was six men of Hindustan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind)
That each by observation
Might satisfy the mind.
The first approached the Elephant
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side
At once began to bawl:
“Bless me, it seems the Elephant
Is very like a wall”.
The second, feeling of his tusk,
Cried, “Ho! What have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear”.
The third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Then boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake.”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”
And so these men of Hindustan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right
And all were in the wrong.
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

Multiple pathways to sexual orientation, Part 1

On other threads, we have discussed why reparative therapy vignettes and ex-gay testimonies are so often alike. I have suggested that there are different causal pathways which lead to different sexual orientation outcomes. Also, therapists like Joe Nicolosi and Richard Cohen have strong public positions which promote a particular causal narrative. Clients who may have histories in line with those narratives seek counseling from those therapists. The same dynamic likely occurs in Exodus ministries where unhappy people seek help based on reading or hearing public testimonies.
People seeking help for unhappiness might be more likely to have life circumstances which they view as causal. Therapists looking for such causes ask questions which validate the hunches. It seems easy enough to imagine how therapists and clients can arrive at a common narrative without even trying to do so.
Same-sex attracted people who have not been traumatized in some way often react with puzzlement and frustration when, like palm readers, therapists go through a litany of questions about non-existent past trauma, seeking some confirmation of the predicted narrative. Eventually small, forgotten hurts and deprivations are identified as evidence for the expected patterns.
While I believe this occurs often, I have no idea how often. I also am pretty sure that the histories of some people are relevant to their sexual attractions. The research on the variability of pathways to sexual orientation is sparse but there is some and it demonstrates that on average same-sex attracted people who seek help of some kind (therapy or Exodus) recall more troubling relationships with parents than same-sex attracted people who have not sought therapy or ministry help.
The primary reference in this regard is Bell, Weinberg & Hammersmith (1981) Sexual preference: Its development in men and women. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. An important section on the differences between clinical and nonclinical groups is reprinted here from pages 202-203.

Homosexuals in Therapy
More than half of the WHMs [white homosexual males] (58%) said that at one time or another they had sought help for a personal or emotional problem from a professional counselor such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Most previous studies of the development of male homosexuality have been based on the reports of homosexuals “in treatment,” and many scholars have tried to generalize their findings to other homosexuals as well. When our own findings failed to support so many widely held clinical views, we were curious to see whether the reports of respondents who had been in therapy would differ from those made by respondents who had never sought professional counseling or therapy.
What we found was that those respondents “ever in treatment” did indeed have the kinds of paternal variables in their model that were consistent with what clinicians have always thought to be typical of homosexual males. The path model of those “never in treatment,” on the other hand, either did not contain such variables or showed their influence to be weaker. For example, as the literature suggests, the “therapy” group tended to have Detached-Hostile Father (t.e.= .29), a variable that is tied to the son’s gender nonconformity and early homosexual experiences. This variable does not even appear in the model for the men who have never been in therapy, however. Moreover, although the “nontherapy” group had more Negative Relationships with their Fathers, this variable (t.e.= .11) did not influence their gender nonconformity at all. In addition, two other variables that were important for the therapy group — Cold father and Negative Image of Father — do not appear at all for the nontherapy males. Although the rest of the path model is much the same for both groups, clearly the model for the therapy group corresponds much more closely to the way fathers have been considered in theories about the etiology of male homosexuality.
How might this discrepancy be explained? On the one hand, it could be supposed that cold, detached fathers make for troubled sons who are likely to seek psychological treatment at some point in their lives. Likewise, it could be argued that “therapy” often involves an “education” of client by the therapist in which the client comes to believe what the therapist supposes must be true of the client’s parents. Alternatively, it could also be argued that fathers tend to withdraw (become detached) from psychologically troubled sons, who are later to seek psychological counseling.
Whatever the case may be, at least on the basis of what our respondents could remember about their parents, Cold or Detached-Hostile Fathers cannot be regarded as important in the development of male homosexuality in general, since their alleged influence does not even appear among those who neve sought therapy or counseling. Finally, it should be noted that the differences between the therapy and non-therapy groups do not stem from differences between these two groups in terms of effeminacy or bisexuality. We found no significant correlations between being exclusively homosexual and having been in therapy, the more effeminate WHMs were only somewhat more likely than the non-effeminate WHMs ever to have been in therapy (64% versus 54%).

Bell et al, also compared WHMs and WHTMs (white, heterosexual males) who had and had not been in therapy. The findings regarding these comparisons are not drawn out in the same manner as above. However, there is a footnote on page 202 briefly describing the analysis.

The path analysis on which these findings were based included all the white heterosexual males, whether or not they had been “in treatment.” Separate analyses, one comparing only those WHMs and WHTMs “ever in treatment” and and one comparing those WHMs and WHTMs “never in treatment” replicated the results reported above.

For women, the picture was somewhat different. The authors noted that 2/3rds of the WHW had been in therapy and then on page 209, they wrote:

We do find some differences between the path model for the women who had been in therapy and those who had not. Notably, Childhood Gender Nonconformity appears to have been a more important factor for the respondents who had been in therapy or counseling (t.e.= .71 versus .52 for the women who had never been in therapy or counseling.)
In addition, the path model for the homosexual women who had in therapy or counseling includes two variables pertaining to a sense of estrangement or unhappiness while they were growing up: Unhappiness in Adolescence (B=.14) and Felt Different from Other Girls in High School (B=.11). The path model for the nontherapy group contains no comparable measures.
Finally the path model for the women who had been in therapy or counseling includes two variables pertaining to an unhappy recollection of the mothers: Negative Relationship with Mothers (t.e. = .24) and Unpleasant Mother (t.e. = .22). The nontherapy group on the other hand, appear to have been slightly more influenced by their fathers. Their path shows significant — but weak — paths from Weak Father (t.e. = .20), Aloof Father (t.e. = .14), Controlling Father (t.e. = -.10), and Mother Dominated Father (t.e. = .14). Otherwise, the differences between the women in therapy or counseling and those with no such experience show little pattern.

In the path analysis procedure used in Bell et al’s research, the “t.e.” you see repeated throughout this passage refers to the “total effect” of one variable on another, in this case sexual preference. Think of it as a measure of the strength of effect of each variable mentioned and sexual orientation, with the larger numbers representing a larger effect. While there are many points we could discuss here, the primary reason for this series is to examine the possibility that multiple paths exist which yield the direction of sexual attractions. A practical implication is that therapists who frequently counsel those who are seeking help probably get a skewed picture of same-sex attracted people in general. Another implication is the effects noted by the reparative drive theorists are not huge and must rely on other pre- and post-natal factors. Also, those who take a solely biological perspective should expand the complexity of their model to consider that the sexual behavior of some people are influenced by certain environment experiences.
The next posts in this series will include additional research as well as more results from Bell et al. Some research does find differences between gay and straight groups on developmental recollections. What do these differences mean? Stay tuned…

Christianity, homosexuality and the law

I am repeating in full a post from August, 2008 regarding religious arguments for the separation of church and state. I do this in response to the calls from Stephen Langa, Caleb Brundidge and Scott Lively to maintain laws criminalizing homosexuality in Uganda (and elsewhere). First the post:

Sally Kern, with help from my friend and colleague at Grove City College, T. David Gordon provides today’s open forum discussion.
Mrs. Kern is in the news today about a speech she gave in Norman, OK about her entrance into government and her role as a “culture warrior.” She says:

“I started praying about whether or not the Lord wanted me to run,” Kern said. “And the more I prayed, the more I felt He did.”
Kern said she expected to “run, lose and just be a much better government teacher.”
“But lo and behold I won,” she said. “And so here I am, and I’m not the typical legislator. The Lord showed me right off the bat that I’m not supposed to be. As a matter of fact, my Lord made it very clear to me that I am a cultural warrior. And you know I tried to say ‘no’ to that, too, ’cause that’s pretty hard. But, anyway, that’s where I am.”

I cannot discern however, what Mrs. Kern believes government should do. On one hand, she talks about preserving the founders reliance on “one true religion” and on the other she indicates that

“Government cannot force people to change, and yet we see that’s what government is doing,” she said. “Every time government passes another law, they are taking away some of our freedoms.”

I do agree that government cannot force people to change, but I am unclear how government is making people change. If homosexuals pursuing the democratic process to elect legislators and pass laws is more threatening than terrorism, then what would winning the culture war against homosexuality look like? I have a clearer picture in my mind about winning over a foreign aggressor would look like. But if homosexuals are using the democratic process (elections, laws, courts) to pursue their interests, then how will the Christian culture warriors win? What will victory look like?
I fear that many colleagues on the religious right want the coercive power of the state to enforce a particular view of morality, one that comports with their understanding of Christianity. I might like others to believe like me but I surely think it is futile to seek the state to bring it about. Closer to the therapy world, where I usually labor, I do not believe that counselors should use the coercive power of the counseling relationship to attempt to inculcate religious fruit. We can provide information but the results are not in our hands.
On this point, last school year, Religion prof at GCC, T. David Gordon presented a paper titled, “Religious Arguments for Separating Church and State” at our annual Center for Vision and Values conference. I was edified by this presentation and link to it here. A couple of excerpts gives the tone and direction of the paper:

In the so-called “culture wars” of the late twentieth century, one commonly hears allegations that the separation of church and state reflects and promotes a “secularist” agenda. It is certainly true that most secularists (such as Paul Kurtz, in the 1973 Humanist Manifesto II) wish to separate church and state. However, many religious individuals and societies favor such separation also; therefore it is misleading to refer to separation of church and state as a secular or secularist idea. The purpose of this brief survey is to list some of the religious arguments that have been presented in favor of separation, so that religious people may consider those arguments as “friendly” to their faith-commitments, rather than hostile to them.

and regarding individual liberty:

For Protestant Christianity, the doctrine of the conscience plays a very important role. Unlike the Baltimore Catechism of the Catholic Church, where conscience normally appears only in sections dealing with Penance or Confession, some Protestant confessions have an entire chapter devoted to it, such as the Westminster Confession’s chapter on “Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience.” Within this understanding, an action or belief is only morally approved when it is a sincere act, an act that accords with conscientious faith. The conscience is thus “free” from false authority to serve God, the true Authority. Any professed faith or outwardly religious act that is merely done to avoid civil penalties is not an act of any true moral worth. When the beliefs and practices of the church are prescribed by the State with its coercive powers, this does not promote true religion, but hypocrisy. For many Protestants, therefore, one of the best ways to preserve true liberty of the individual conscience is to leave that conscience entirely free, in religious matters, from considerations of civil consequences.

Some laws which coerce moral behavior are needed to protect us all from each other. I am very glad when going to my car at night at the mall that the threat of punishment from the state might prevent some would be attackers from carrying out the desires of their evil hearts. However, as T. David states so well, some (many, which ones?) matters of personal liberty should be off limits from the state.
With that background, I will turn it over to the forum. I encourage you to read Dr. Gordon’s well-crafted paper. What is the proper role of a Christian in governance? How are legislators to govern in a plural society? Given that Christians were so involved in the founding of the nation, why did they create such protections for pluralism of belief, including the ability to believe nothing and pursue happiness via that worldview? How do we best advance the mission of the church? In which vision of governance is personal and religious liberty best achieved?

Here is another quote from Dr. Gordon’s paper which speaks to how religious people ordinarily confuse criminality and immorality.

Confusion on this point often centers around a misunderstanding of Paul’s comments about the civil magistrate in Romans 13, where he refers to the magistrate as one who is a terror to evil conduct. Many religious people conclude, therefore, that the magistrate’s duty is to punish all evil conduct, as the Bible describes “evil”. In its historical context, however, this interpretation is unlikely. The particular magistrate to whom Paul refers is the Roman authority, who knew nothing of the law of Moses or the commands of Christ, and yet Paul referred to this pagan Roman magistrate as a “minister of God for your good.” The “evil” spoken of by Paul is societal evil, evil of a public nature that threatens the well-being of the commonwealth or its
individual citizens. From what we know of first-century Roman law, it appears that Paul rightly assumed that the magistrate would punish crimes against persons and crimes against property. If the magistrate did this, Paul was content that he was serving his divinely-instituted role fine.
Many other behaviors might well be sinful and immoral, but they are not and need not be criminal. In the late eighteenth century, John Leland, the Massachusetts Baptist, addressed this important distinction:

What leads legislators into this error, is confounding sins and crimes together — making no difference between moral evil and state rebellion: not considering that a man may be infected with moral evil, and yet be guilty of no crime, punishable by law. If a man worships one God, three Gods, twenty Gods, or no God — if he pays adoration one day in a week, seven days or no day — wherein does he injure the life, liberty or property of another? Let any or all these actions be supposed to be religious evils of an enormous size, yet they are not crimes to be punished by laws of state, which extend no further, in justice, than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.

Leland reflected common views in his day: That states exist to preserve the natural or inalienable rights of humans, frequently considered to be life, liberty and property as referred to by Leland. Thus, an act is criminal when it harms another’s person or property, or restrains his liberty; but other acts are tolerable by the state.

It will not impair the Church for homosexuality to be legal but nations which attempt to coerce moral sexual behavior will impair the free exercise of conscience by same-sex attracted people. To repeat from Dr. Gordon’s paper:

Any professed faith or outwardly religious act that is merely done to avoid civil penalties is not an act of any true moral worth. When the beliefs and practices of the church are prescribed by the State with its coercive powers, this does not promote true religion, but hypocrisy. For many Protestants, therefore, one of the best ways to preserve true liberty of the individual conscience is to leave that conscience entirely free, in religious matters, from considerations of civil consequences.

Oprah scores the Haggard interview

Today, Oprah and Mr. & Mrs. Ted Haggard on Oprah. If you can’t watch, check out the pics and narration on the Oprah website.
Not sure I’ll see it. Let’s make this an open forum on the program and all things Haggard…

Sexual abuse and sexual orientation: A prospective study

Online now ahead of publication is a report from H. Wilson and C. Widom of a prospective study of the relationship between sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect and sexual orientation in men and women. Published to subscribers January 7, 2009 on the Archives of Sexual Behavior website, the abstract provides a glimpse into the many findings reported here.

Existing cross-sectional research suggests associations between physical and sexual abuse in childhood and same-sex sexual orientation in adulthood. This study prospectively examined whether abuse and/or neglect in childhood were associated with increased likelihood of same-sex partnerships in adulthood. The sample included physically abused (N = 85), sexually abused (N = 72), and neglected (N = 429) children (ages 0-11) with documented cases during 1967-1971 who were matched with non-maltreated children (N = 415) and followed into adulthood. At approximately age 40, participants (483 women and 461 men) were asked about romantic cohabitation and sexual partners, in the context of in-person interviews covering a range of topics. Group (abuse/neglect versus control) differences were assessed with cross-tabulations and logistic regression. A total of 8% of the overall sample reported any same-sex relationship (cohabitation or sexual partners). Childhood physical abuse and neglect were not significantly associated with same-sex cohabitation or sexual partners. Individuals with documented histories of childhood sexual abuse were significantly more likely than controls to report ever having had same-sex sexual partners (OR = 2.81, 95% CI = 1.16-6.80, p = .05); however, only men with histories of childhood sexual abuse were significantly more likely than controls to report same-sex sexual partners (OR = 6.75, 95% CI = 1.53-29.86, p = .01). These prospective findings provide tentative evidence of a link between childhood sexual abuse and same-sex sexual partnerships among men, although further research is needed to explore this relationship and to examine potential underlying mechanisms.

Beyond the result reported above there is much of interest here. I want to describe some how sexuality was measured and then make some general observations. This study will get more than one post.
One of the weaknesses of research on sexual orientation and social factors has been the lack of long term prospective studies. Most research into abuse and sexual orientation is based on retrospective self-report. This study is a significant improvement in that the authors had documentation of childhood sexual and physical abuse and neglect regarding 908 children from juvenile and family courts in a midwestern metropolitan area. The cases were reported and processed between 1967 and 1971. The authors then interviewed as many of these individuals as possible and included interviews with a matched set of control participants. The control group was matched with the abuse group on age, sex, race/ethnicity, and approximate social class at the time of the abuse. The average age of participant reports for all cases was 6.3 years.
At follow up, when the participants were in their late 30s and early 40s, they were asked if they lived (at the time of the interview) with a person of the same sex in a sexual relationship, whether the person had ever cohabited in a same-sex relationship, had ever had a same-sex sexual partner and whether the person had such a partner with the past year. Attraction was not directly assessed which is an unfortunate aspect of the study. Primarily the authors were interested in sames-sex sexual behavior, which may or may not indicate enduring attractions.
Among males, 2.9% reported a same-sex partner within the last year and 6.4% saying they had such a partner at some time in the past. Percentages were similar for women (2.1% and 6.8% respectively). Similar differences were reported for cohabitation and any prior same-sex relationships. Nearly all participants reported sexual partners of both sexes. Only five men (1.3%) and one woman (.24%) reported exclusively same-sex relations. It is highly likely that some of these individuals would identify as straight but had engaged in same-sex relations at some point in their past.
The main significant finding was reported in the abstract: “men with histories of childhood sexual abuse were significantly more likely than controls to report same-sex sexual partners.” There was no relationship between child sexual abuse and sexual behavior for women. Also, “child physical abuse and neglect were not significantly associated with increased likelihood of same-sex cohabitation or sexual partnerships” (from paper, pg 7). While sexual abuse is associated with an increased likelihood of same-sex behavior, this is not a study that shows homosexuality is caused by sexual abuse. Also, the study does not indicate that sexual abuse leads to homosexuality. In the control group, 5.3% said they had engaged in same-sex relationships, whereas in the sexual abuse group, 27.3% did. More on this in the next post.
This study is a significant challenge to reparative drive theory. Reparative theory, on display recently on the Dr. Phil Show, proposes that gender disturbances are caused by a poor relationship with the same-sex parent. Although this study does not directly test a specific set of family dynamics, it is plausible based on reparative concepts to predict that abuse and neglect might be more frequent in homes where dad is uninvolved or hostile to the children. Dr. Nicolosi frequently says he has never met a gay man who had a good relationship with his father. One would expect a significant elevation in these circumstances but none shows up here. Regarding parenting and sexual orientation, Wilson and Widom write:

These results were consistent for men and women and support the conclusions of Bell et al (1981) that early parenting experiences, positive or negative, play little direct role in the development of sexual orientation. Among women, we also found no associations between childhood sexual abuse and same-sex relationships.

This study, along with the recent work from Andrew Francis casts more doubt on reparative drive theory as a general theory of same-sex attraction. In a future post, I want to address additional implications of this study, especially regarding the complex question of how sexual orientation may be related to sexual abuse. The pattern of findings in the Wilson and Widom study can be interpreted in several ways. More about that soon.

Can we believe ex-gays and ex-ex-gays?

Peterson Toscano makes a curious comment about ex-gays and ex-ex-gays in an email to Box Turtle Bulletin

In sharing ex-gay survivor narratives, I see the importance of digging up the many non-religious reasons people go ex-gay. For too long Focus on the Family, Exodus, etc, have been hiding behind a religious curtain. Similarly many ex-gays and former ex-gays I meet express that their ONLY reason for going ex-gay was their faith. Warren Throckmorton capitalizes on this sort of thing claiming that the struggle is an incongruence between faith and sexuality, when in reality for many it is primarily a conflict between society and sexuality.

First, Peterson says the ex-gays and former ex-gays express that the only reason for seeking to be ex-gay is related to conflicts over faith. And then he says I, in some way “capitalize” on this claim when in fact, the conflict is not really with faith but derives from conflicts with society. Maybe it is just me, but it appears he is saying those congruence seeking ex-gays and former ex-gays are wrong. They really weren’t motivated by religious conflicts at all. Apparently, I am wrong as well when I believe them. Perhaps, he is suggesting that I know that they and I are wrong but I ignore that. I am not really sure. But the message I get here is that he knows the real motives.
Seems like you find confirmation bias all over. Those ex-gays and ex-ex-gays are mistaken, the real reason they seek ex-gay is social conflict, Peterson asserts, even if they don’t know it. He needs to dig for what he knows is there.
I am sure in some cases, that social disapproval is more motivational than religious issues. Religious disapproval is a metaphor for disapproval from all sources. However, on the other hand, I think you risk missing the individual factors by “digging up the many non-religious reasons people go ex-gay.” Sure those who minister and help should be open to those reasons. However, those who dig should be prepared to find little else but what the conflicted person said in the first place.

Year in review: Top ten stories of 2008

As in year’s past, I have enjoyed reviewing the posts from the year and coming up with the top ten stories.

1. Cancelation of the American Psychiatric Association symposium – Amidst threat of protests, the APA pressed to halt a scheduled symposium dedicated to sexual identity therapy and religious affiliation. Whipped up by a factually inaccurate article in the Gay City News, gay activists persuaded the APA leadership to pressure symposium organizers to pull the program. Gay City News later ran a correction.

2. The other APA, the American Psychological Association, released a task force report on abortion and mental health consequences. Basing their conclusions on only one study, the APA surprised no one by claiming abortion had no more adverse impact on mental health than carrying a child to delivery. I revealed here that the APA had secretly formed this task force after a series of research reports in late 2005 found links between abortion and adverse mental health consequences for some women. New research confirms that concern is warranted.

3. Golden Rule Pledge – In the wake of Sally Kern saying homosexuality was a greater threat to the nation than terrorism, I initiated the Golden Rule Pledge which took place surrounding the Day of Silence and the Day of Truth. Many conservative groups were calling for Christian students to stay home. This did not strike me as an effective faith-centered response. The Golden Rule Pledge generated some controversy as well as approval by a small group of evangelicals (e.g., Bob Stith) and gay leaders (e.g., Eliza Byard). Some students taking part in the various events were positively impacted by their experience.

4. Exodus considers new direction for ministry – At a leadership training workshop early in 2008, Wendy Gritter proposed a new paradigm for sexual identity ministry. Her presentation was provocative in the sense that it generated much discussion and consideration, especially among readers here. It remains to be seen if Exodus will continue to move away from a change/reparative therapy focus to a fidelity/congruence ministry focus.

5. New research clarifies sexual orienatation causal factors – A twin study and a study of brain symmetry, both from Sweden and a large U.S. study shed some light on causal factors in sexual orientation.

6. Letter to the American Counseling Association requesting clarification of its policies concerning counseling same-sex attracted evangelicals. Co-signed by over 600 counselors (many of whom were referred by the American Association of Christian Counselors), I wrote a letter to the ACA requesting clarification regarding how counselors should work with evangelicals who do not wish to affirm homosexual behavior. The current policy is confusing and gives no guidance in such cases. Then President Brian Canfield replied affirming the clients self-determination in such cases. He referred the matter back to the ACA ethics committee. To date, that committee has not responded.

7. Paul Cameron’s work resurfaces and then is refuted – Insure.com resurrected Paul Cameron’s work in an article on their website about gay lifespans. The article was later altered to reflect more on HIV/AIDS than on homosexual orientation. Later this year, Morten Frisch produced a study which directly addressed Cameron’s methods.

8. Mankind Project unravels – This year I posted often regarding the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. Recently, I reported that MKP is in some financial and organizational disarray.

9. Debunking of false claims about Sarah Palin’s record on support for social programs – I had lots of fun tracking down several false claims made about Sarah Palin during the election. Her opponents willfully distorted her real record to paint her as a hypocrite. I learned much more about Alaska’s state budget than I ever wanted to know but found that most claims of program cuts were actually raises in funding which not quite as much as the agencies requested. However, overall funding for such programs increased.

10. During the stretch run of the election, I became quite interested in various aspects of the race. As noted above, I spent some time examining claims surround Sarah Palin’s record. I also did a series on President-elect Obama’s record on housing, including an interview with one of Barack Obama’s former constituents.

I know, I know, number 10 is an understatement. (Exhibit A)

Happy New Year!

Top ten posts by number of comments and page views – 2008

Time to wrap up 2008 with a review of the stories told and topics covered. I also will give the top ten posts based on page views.
By far the election was the broad topic which generated the most page views. Aside from the Berg vs. Obama thread, readers prefer to comment on the sexual identity related posts. As in past years, I will pick out my top ten themes in a later post.
Top ten by number of comments (fluctuation should be minimal since most of these threads are quiet now)
1. Berg vs Obama: Response to Supreme Court due December 1 (796)
2. New study casts doubt on older brother hypothesis and reparative drive theory (460)
3. Gay City News prints letter clarifying sexual identity therapy (282)
4. New Direction for Exodus? (277)
5. Day of the Golden Rule? (264)
6. Sally Kern: What should she do? (248)
7. Study examines brain differences related to sexual orientation (239)
8. Multiple factors involved in sexual orientation, part 2 (221)
9. Sexual orientation theorizing: Is change possible? (219)
10. 60 Minutes Science of Sexual Orientation: An update from the mother of twins (217)
Top ten by page views are:
1. Berg vs Obama: Response to Supreme Court due December 1
2. Hey Florida, is this ok with you?
3. Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher talks about his dialogue with Obama and spreading the wealth
4. Berg vs. Obama: Update and current status
5. Michelle Obama likes upscale clothes too
6. Donofrio vs. Wells: NJ Obama citizenship case slated for SCOTUS conference
7. What Might Have Been – The Man Who Could Have Reversed Roe v. Wade, Part two
8. Some light on Sarah Palin’s church affiliation
9. Did Barack Obama vote to withhold treatment to infants surviving abortion?
10. Day of Silence and Golden Rule Pledge on Appalachian State University
The top post has been viewed over 15,000 times with the other posts gradually decreasing from there. These numbers are constantly changing.

Now Obama is a bigot?

We are most likely at an impasse of sorts in the culture. The Rick Warren prayer is the kind of event which brings into bold relief the issues which divide. We have discussed on this blog before whether or not the gay-evangelical divide is a zero-sum situation — for one side to prevail, the other side must be defeated. John Cloud at Time magazine gives me evidence to think the divide continues to be wide. About Barack Obama, he writes:

Obama has proved himself repeatedly to be a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot. He is far too careful and measured a man to say anything about body parts fitting together or marriage being reserved for the nonpedophilic, but all the same, he opposes equality for gay people when it comes to the basic recognition of their relationships.

John Cloud here redefines bigot. Bigot means someone who is intolerant of others opinions and actions. Seemingly unaware of the contradiction, Cloud calls Obama a “very tolerant sort of bigot.”
I am thinking out loud here, but I wonder if the impasse comes down to beliefs and how these are properly lived out in a democracy. I don’t think it is about “being” gay/straight or being wired to experience opposite- or same-sex attraction. I say this because one may experience same-sex attraction and find that experience something unacceptable for reasons of morality, or for more pragmatic reasons. One may not value some impulses which rightly or wrongly are believed to lead to undesireable consequences. Thus, the divide may be more about ideology than ontology.
If I am right about the basic difference being ideological, then how do we regard people who disagree with us on matters of belief? Do we call them bigots? Do we say you disagree with me so you hate me and all that I am? Let’s leave “do” and go to “should.” Should conservatives say to liberals, you are bigots because you disagree with my beliefs? I do not think so. When John Cloud (who in my contacts with him seems quite tolerant of those who he apparently considers bigots) calls Barack Obama a bigot, does he not invite the same treatment? John you are a tolerant sort of bigot, I might say, when you come to an Exodus conference and converse cordially with the ex-gays.
In the newspeak, bigot means someone who disagrees with me. I doubt this will be good.

International Healing Foundation releases infomercial; ready to heal the world

Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation has released an infomercial describing their services and claims. Roll the tape…

In the video, he features his three part program designed to help people go straight, help their kids go straight, and help their clients go straight. He thinks pretty highly of these resources as is apparent in his Fall, 2008 newsletter:

WE HAVE THE ANSWERS
I am proud to announce that I have completed 21 years in public service and ministry. God called me in June 1987 to reach out and help those with unwanted SSA and their loved ones, and to spread the truth throughout the world that no one is born this way, no one chooses to have SSA, and that change is possible. I have been faithful and even more so, successful in helping thousands change their orientation and parents reconcile with their SSA loved ones. Furthermore, I have trained and educated thousands of professionals, equipping them with a systematic approach to helping SSA strugglers and their families. The International Healing Foundation (IHF) is the first organization in the world to create three landmark proven successful protocols:
Coming Out Straight–book and CD/MP3 series
Gay Children, Straight Parents–book and CD/MP3 series
Counselor Training Program–manual and CD/MP3 series
These are our three Olympic Gold Medals to help heal the world! I spent a lifetime preparing and training for this moment. I fought my way out of homosexuality. Against all odds I came out straight! That was indeed a miracle of God.

And you can have this miracle too if you sign up for the three Gold Medals. The world could use a little healing but I am skeptical it will come through IHF.
Richard has big plans for 2009. In his newsletter, he details them. Here is perhaps the most ambitious:

Loving Gays the Right Way: Exposing the Homosexual Myth is the title of a new book that I will write next year. Please read more about this in the 2009 Goals and Projects section. Together we can make a difference, saving one life at a time. Thank you for all your support this year and please contribute generously and/or purchase multiple copies of our books and CD series to donate to public and church libraries. For a contribution of $40 or more, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of the school DVD upon its completion.

He also wants to produce a video for schools which he mentions in the last line.

Over the past year I have shared about our ambitious project to create a film for use in public schools. This year we have already filmed two powerful stories of change—one youngman and his parents from the Midwest, and another from the East Coast. We will film a young woman either by the end of this year, or the beginning of 2009. Each of thesemen and woman came out of homosexuality! Their stories are powerful and will speak directly to our young people in public schools that they do have a choice—either to live a gay life, or to seek change and come out straight. We will promote true tolerance, real diversity, and equality for all!

Richard appears to have a love-hate relationship with the media. He seems to love being involved in it but it has not always been friendly to him. In the latter category is his appearance on the recent documentary, Chasing the Devil. In it he walks off camera twice when asked difficult questions about asking clients to raise money for IHF and his practice of bioenergetics. In a future post, I will review that video.