How evangelicals’ flip-flop on ex-gay therapy can actually improve their credibility (COMMENTARY)

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Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaks with the press on Oct. 5, 2015. Photo by Emil Handke, courtesy of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaks with the press on Oct. 5, 2015. Photo by Emil Handke, courtesy of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

(RNS) Galileo would be proud. Sort of.

Earlier this week, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, condemned “reparative therapy” that aims to make gay and lesbian people straight. But he added that homosexual orientation can change through divine intervention.

Other prominent conservative Christians have also changed their thinking on reparative therapy in recent years, including Alan Chambers, the erstwhile leader of America’s largest ex-gay ministry.

These hopeful developments demonstrate that conservative Christians are not content to live in the Dark Ages on important matters such as sexuality, but they are also cautionary tales. That’s because these leaders once drew unequivocal lines in the sand about issues such as reparative therapy and stamped them with a “thus saith the Lord.” Their current enlightenment on these matters should warn Christians about sounding certain on matters where Scripture is not clear and where they are not experts.


READ: No ‘therapy,’ but Jesus can change LGBT lives, say evangelical leaders


Mohler’s comments mark a clear pivot in his thinking. In 2004, the theologian lamented the American Psychological Association’s condemnation of “’reparative therapy’ and ‘transformational ministry’ intended to lead persons out of the homosexual lifestyle and into heterosexuality.”

In 2005, Mohler decried some mainline Protestant denominations’ condemnation of orientation change therapy. He claimed that these Christians were driven by a “psychological worldview that is directly at odds with the worldview of the Bible.”

But Mohler’s mind on the matter began evolving as early as 2011 after former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s husband was accused of performing reparative therapy. Mohler wrote that “a biblical Christian will have no fundamental confidence in any secular therapy’s ability to change a sinner’s fundamental disposition and heart, and this includes every aspect of the sinner’s life, including sexuality.”

At the same time, Mohler stated, God “can save us from ourselves” and our “own pattern of sinful desires.” He said gays “need a fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions. About this, the Bible is clear.”

“We hold full confidence in the power of the Gospel and of the reign of Christ within the life of the believer,” Mohler wrote. “We know that something as deeply entrenched as a pattern of sexual attraction is not easily changed, but we know that with Christ all things are possible.”

The seminary president once believed that “sexual orientation” was a cultural construct rather than a reality inherent in all humans. But in 2014, he announced that his thinking on this matter had also evolved. At a conference on sexuality hosted by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Mohler admitted that he needed to “repent” that he once “felt it quite necessary, in order to make clear the gospel, to deny anything like sexual orientation.”

“Put simply, most people experiencing a same-sex attraction tell of discovering it within themselves at a very early age, certainly within early puberty,” Mohler said in 2014. “As they experience it, a sexual attraction or interest simply ‘happens,’ and they come to know it.”

“One of the things we should not be embarrassed to say is that we are learning,” he stated. “One of the embarrassments that I have to bear is that I have written on some of these issues now for nearly 30 years, and at a couple of points I have to say ‘I got that wrong,’ and we have to go back and correct it, correct it by Scripture.”


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The evolution of Albert Mohler calls to mind the now infamous trial of Galileo Galilei by the Roman Catholic Inquisition in 1633. Using a newfangled invention called a “telescope,” Galileo endorsed Nicolaus Copernicus’ heliocentric theory that the Earth revolves around the sun. The Catholic Church believed the Earth was the center of the universe, a view it believed was evident in the Bible. The Inquisition deemed Galileo a heretic, placed him under house arrest and banned heliocentric books and teaching. He was later vindicated by overwhelming scientific consensus.

Evangelicals are, to borrow a cliche, often wrong but rarely in doubt. They speak about scientific, cultural and sociological matters with a high degree of certainty. They claim that their views are supported by the clear teachings of Scripture and are central to the Christian gospel. Their views are not just presented as truth but as God’s truth. Science be damned.

Mohler and others claimed “for nearly 30 years” that the Bible had settled the issue of sexual orientation and reparative therapy. But it turns out, the Christian Scriptures are silent on both matters.

We should celebrate the humility and courage it takes for Mohler and others to say “I got that wrong.” And yet, Christian leaders must ask how this situation might help them become more prudent in expressing their opinions going forward. When the Bible speaks clearly, leaders should speak clearly. But when the Bible is unclear — for example, on the reality of sexual orientation or the effectiveness of reparative therapy — leaders should embrace an appropriate level of uncertainty.

The stakes are high. For when Christians invoke the Bible to push forward their cultural and political agendas and then turn out to be wrong, it compromises their credibility on the many other matters they claim to know for certain.

YS/MG END MERRITT

  • There have already been “scriptural” attempts to change gay sexual orientation, some of them pretty scary and medieval, akin to “driving out demons” in the pop movie The Exorcist. It simply puts gay people at risk, and when it doesn’t work, just like reparative therapy, it engenders guilt, self-loathing, and depression. So this guy thinks he’s “evolved” by going from secular “cures” that don’t work to “pray away the gay” cures that don’t work. Maybe he hasn’t prayed hard enough or believed strongly enough to see the truth.

  • Stan

    The evangies need to do a bigger flipflop than that to get to the truth. They need to understand that their entire Jesus-god story is bogus and that there is no god coming to swoop in and save them.

    After that, they have a lot of old biases to get over. Here’s faint hoping.

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  • Ted

    God created the world, and gave us our minds to understand and our hearts to nurture his creation. Can we please ALL grow up and respect these gifts?

    Bible-cultists are an embarrassment to the faith.

  • Ben in oakland

    I’m glad to see you took my facebook comment to heart.

    They are trying to improve their credibility, all right. but they are selling the same old story, the same old quackery, the same old message, to the same people, with the same results.

    “There is something wrong with you. and because of that, we still demand dominion over your life.”

    We’ll call it love. If you don’t think so, it’s because you are too corrupted by your sin to know the real love of God we’re selling, to the fake love of yourself that you want to buy.

  • Ben in oakland

    So, one more time:

    A group of so-called Christians get together and parade their ignorance and hubris on a subject they clearly know nothing about. Their own illogic continues to escape them.

    1) A conference on treating homosexuality with no accepting gay people present.

    2) A conference on treating homosexuality with a call to prayer, because non-prayer methods DON’T WORK. But prayer works so well for everything!

    3) The part you left out from Smilin’ Mohler’s speech: ““By God’s grace, (change to hetero) MIGHT happen over time as a sign of God’s work within the life of that individual. But … for many, many people struggling with these patterns of sin, it will be a lifelong battle.”

    In other words, PRAYER DOESN’T WORK EITHER.

    In other other words: we’re losing the battle in the public mind, and we don’t want to continue to look like ignorant, prejudiced yahoos. so Double down on the love message.

    And don’t interrupt our income stream.

    What a tool.

  • Ben in oakland

    More on Smilin’ Al’s Clueless Proclamation to the Clueless. sorry for not being quite so polite.

    “”Christians have sinned against the gay community by “ignoring their presence among us, by remaining silent …” I’ve been in this fight for 44 years. When have they ever ignored us or remained silent? And of course, does he mention the decades/centuries/millenia of lies, slander, and reviling engaged in by him and his sanctimonious ilk?

    2000 Babtists making there way to St. Louis to obsess/pray/titillate over the alleged sex lives of people they know nothing about.

    I guess there are just not enough starving children in the world. Peace has broken out in the middle East and Africa. Heteros have reduced the divorce, adultery, and illegitimacy rates to .001%. Antisemitism has finally disappeared. Environmental destruction is feeding and housing more people than ever. No more drug addiction.

    what a tool. But there is still money and dominion in antigay bigotry.

  • Ben in oakland

    “Obedience for the Christian is either marriage between a man and a woman or a lifetime of celibacy, he said, pointing to 2,000 years of Christian teaching.”

    Practice what you preach, Al. Walk a mile in a gay person’s shoes. Don’t have sex with the wife for FIVE YEARS– you know, have a deep loving non sexual friendship with the wife for FIVE YEARS. No pornography, either. Bonus: you don’t have to hate yourself to do it. It’s just so that you can speak from experience.

    Reconvene in five years. If you and your fellow travelers are sincere about being better Pastors, then you all should have experience with friendship as a replacement for sexual romance in your own lives. That way you can heartily recommend it to the self-hating gay people who come to you for help. See if the Bible alone can sustain you.

    Here’s a shorter version of Smilin’ Al’s speech;

    Don’t waste your money on psychoquackery. It doesn’t work.

    Give it to us instead!

  • To Ben,

    You’ve nailed it all right. The irony of this new position of this preacher, which is not new, but old and tired, and worn out, and sad, and dangerous…all this to say nothing new.

  • Ben in oakland

    So, in conclusion: Mr. merritt, I suspect that you are far too close to the evangelical Christian world to be entirely objective about it. You could argue that I am too far away to be objective. Possibly true, but I really don’t think so.

    What Mohler has done is recognize reality. Absolutely. But what he is trying to do is maintain relevance, remain a part of the conversation, and most important of all, retain dominion over both the lives of gay people AND the discussion about homosexuality.

    As the evangelicals have noted more and more, the culture is leaving them behind upon the subject of gay people and their place in society. This interferes with their cash flow, obviously. But worse, it removes one of the pillars supporting their whole house of cards. Because if the society realizes that they were wrong on this oh-so-goddam-central subject of homosexuality, what other teachings of the church are going to be discarded?

  • Stan

    Religion is an embarra​ssment to hu​man​ity.

  • Jack

    Both sides on this issue are extreme and lack humility. The truth is that the results of identical twin studies going back decades should utterly perplex honest human beings no matter where they line up in the so-called culture wars.

    Here’s why:

    On the one hand, in up to 80% of instances where one twin is gay as an adult, the other isn’t.

    At first glance, this destroys the “nature” argument about homosexuality. But — and this is a significant but — I have yet to read of even one researcher who has successfully identified exactly which environmental or “nurture” factors are decisive……None seem to be….not one.

    So to my mind, what we have is a mystery, with the “nature” argument seemingly refuted by the twin studies, but the “nurture” argument — the seeming winner by default — coming up with absolutely nothing remotely explanatory.

    Science has hit a stone-cold wall, with neither side able to use science to prove anything on this score.

  • Jack

    What is a “Bible cultist,” and what has that to do with reparative therapy, which is a quirky technique that in the end managed to be neither scientific nor biblical in its approach?

  • Jack

    Human beings are an embarrassment to humanity, Stan.

  • Jack

    Ron, there is nothing wrong with prayer, but there is plenty wrong with quack medical or psychological cures.

  • Jack

    I’m trying to figure out what the connection is between the quackery of reparative therapy and whether or not the Gospel is true.

    It must be some purportedly mystical or deeply esoteric or gnostic connection accessible only to an anointed few — those under the influence of powerful mind-altering substances.

  • Jack

    Actually, Ben, since you’ve chosen to bring up other subjects, which is fine, let’s go to them.

    The Middle East is a disaster…..agreed.

    But the divorce rates have leveled off and may even be lower than decades ago.

    Anti-Semitism has spiked, largely in Europe, and mostly due to the rise of radical Islamism. But in America, it has declined, although you will always find clusters of bigots in various places, including the US.

    On the environment, the west is doing far better than decades ago, and the worst offenders are China and a few other Asian nations who are major polluters.

    On feeding and housing people, within the past generation, across the world, more people have been freed from utter destitution than in the entire history of humanity. Over a half billion are no longer in poverty.

    Drug addiction in America, while probably higher now than a few years ago, is still way lower than at its height in the 1970s and 1980s.

  • Jack

    In other words, to the chagrin of both sides, sexuality remains more fluid than we think. A century ago, this would scandalize heterosexual conservative people in polite society. Today, it scandalizes gay activists & their supporters. Both have a vested interest in maintaining that heterosexuals & homosexuals are two separate nations.

    While the vast majority of both heterosexuals and homosexuals have never crossed the obvious lines, that does not mean they can’t, given the right circumstances.

    As a heterosexual, I’ve never had an interest in doing so, but I still believe human sexuality is nowhere near as neat and tidy as we think it is.

    Again, if anyone said that a century ago, he’d be tarred and feathered by heterosexual polite society as a corrupter of morals, but if anyone suggests that today, that person would get the same treatment from the so-called pro-gay side.

    Again, the research shows that this whole issue is incredibly complex.

  • Ben in oakland

    All of that is true, Jack. But nevertheless, the issues listed still affect families. The other issues listed still affect the entire world.

    And they are obsessing over what I do with my dangly bits– whether I can. Whether I should, and whether their particular and peculiar version Of God is obsessed and upset about it as they are.

    And that doesn’t affect them in the slightest, except to offend or titillate them.

  • Ben in oakland

    I may respond to this. But my first comment didn’t show up, and unless it does I’m not going to waste much time.

    Twin studies don’t take into account epigenetics. They don’t take things like handedness that are not gene based. They don’t take into account bisexuality. And as Francis Collins has noted, the incidence of both twins being gay is still higher than in the general population.

    You’ve set up a straw man about rigidity. I don’t know anyone who would claim that sexual orientation is not fluid– except for Christian fundamentalists and antigay bigots–at least for some people. Perhaps many, but not all. And fluidity does not mean that volition is a part of the matter.

    People who don’t know me or anything about me, but will tell me all about my life, are the ones who are extreme And who luck humility. I resent being put into the same class as them.

  • Larry

    Ben already discussed in detail that these people are living in a fantasy land. Willing to come together to spew on about a subject they chose to know nothing about. Their goal is to justify discrimination. Nobody needs them. 🙂

  • Larry

    “While the vast majority of both heterosexuals and homosexuals have never crossed the obvious lines, that does not mean they can’t, given the right circumstances.”

    So what circumstances would turn you gay? Please do tell.

  • Neon Genesis

    The problem with this article’s thesis is that Mohler did not actually change his mind on ex-gay therapy nor do I see what Mohler did that was so courageous he should be praised for it. The only thing Mohler did was re-brand ex-gay therapy with perhaps even kookier and more extremist religious language that justifies bigotry and violence. I would like Merritt to explain what is so courageous about Mohler telling parents they should reject their LGBT kids’ identities or that gay Christians should just pray to Jesus for a cure. And it seems a bit rich for this article to compare Mohler to Galileo who faced actual persecution for standing up for truth as opposed to Mohler who seems to be trying to repackage bigotry for a new generation because even the SBC recognizes they’re losing the youth.

  • Ben in oakland

    According to the UN, 18,000 children die of hunger every single day.

    378,000 people die from war every year.

    As far as I’m concerned, that ends the discussion, Jack.

  • cken

    You can’t change a gay from being gay any more than you can change an alcoholic to a nonalcoholic. You can sometimes change behavior if it is deemed detrimental to yourself or others. Are gays detrimental to themselves or others like alcoholics are? I personally don’t think so. Being gay is not a choice. Being bisexual may be a choice but being gay is not. Furthermore the 3 or 4 scriptural passages most frequently cited as being against gays need to be taken contextually and in light of the times they were written. Full disclosure, I am straight, but I have numerous gay friends and family members and clearly for them being gay was not a choice.

  • larry

    Don’t be getting all self righteous on me now Doc. It doesn’t suit you. I may be a tad malicious here, but at least I am not being a l1ar. Ex gay therapy has never worked. Yet you still pretend it does. You even cited to a well known fraud. Funny how my previous post linking to such things disappear, but my inflamatory remark stayed.

  • Jerry Reiter

    Joe Nicolosi’s “therapy” cured nobody and harmed many, per all the medical experts from the AMA and APA who testified against the reparative therapy he created. google it. You will find that in a court of law a few months ago, the jury, after reviewing all the evidence, unanimously ruled that “reparative therapy” is CONSUMER FRAUD.

  • Jerry Reiter

    The irony in all this is that JESUS CHRIST NEVER SPOKE A SINGLE WORD AGAINST GAYS DURING HIS LIFE, per the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Yet, evangelicals have made their political witch hunts the core of their gospel of prejudice.
    The Southern Baptist denomination was created to promote prejudice, segregation and slavery. They have admitted they were wrong on African-Americans. The time is going to come when they will have to admit they were wrong on sexual orientation.

  • Jerry Reiter

    Doc Anthony, the Restored Hope Network is evil. They promote the failed ex-gay garbage in places around the world where people are killed for being LGBT.
    RHN is a tiny group of the most pathetic bigots who refused to face reality when the organization they were part of, Exodus International, admitted publicly that after 40 years of creating “change” testimonials, the reality was that NOBODY CHANGED FROM HOMOSEXUAL TO HETEROSEXUAL.
    RHN is led by a very bitter faker, Anne Paulk, selling her “miracle marriage” books when she is in the midst of divorce from her “ex-gay” husband, John, who had been the most famous ex-gay until he was photographed cruising in a gay bar. John Paulk was outed again a year ago, and he apologized for promoting the ex-gay lies. Anne, who was always bisexual, uses her leadership of RHN to damn her ex-husband every chance she gets. Yet, she herself admitted she continues to experience same-sex attractions. RHN is a scam that harms people and helps nobody.

  • Skeegan

    Does reparative therapy work? Maybe not. If not, it is right to abandon it.
    This changes nothing about the moral nature of same-sex sexual activity; it simply has no bearing.
    What Christian morality teaches is that the only permissible sexual activity is between a married man-and-wife couple. Celibacy is the moral choice for everyone else.
    Might God change your orientation with prayer? Perhaps, He acts as He wills. But it is by no means certain He will, and lifelong celibacy may be exactly what He intends for your life.
    Is it difficult? Undoubtedly. Bearing our crosses frequently are, but the more difficult it is to carry out a righteous task, the more praiseworthy he who completes it.

  • Sam

    Jack,

    Twin studies are inherently problematic. For one, the sample size is not statistically relevant. Even the best twin studies I’ve seen on the subject are well under 32 pair. Second, the statistical relevance of twin studies has itself been debated ad nausea in the genetics community; there is no such thing as genetically identical twins. Which is to say, that even in monozygotic twins there are genetic variations that arise post zygote split due to copy-number variation or just random mutation.

    What little we do “know” and it’s highly subjective due to selection bias and other inherent survey errors is that homosexuality in males is roughly twice as common as it is in females and bisexuality is roughly twice as common in females as it is in males. These rough approximate values have been sustained across hundreds of surveys across dozens of countries. This implies that sexuality is “likely” tied to a recessive allele(s) on the X chromosome.

  • Ken Crow

    God is very clear about his view on homosexuality, read his Word. The question for us is, do we believe God and put our faith in Him or not. If we put our faith in Him and study His Word, then we can be changed, whatever the sin. Our views are not important, being transformed by the Spirit of God means everything and is all important. We can all have these meaningless discussions but if we haven’t trusted Him, there is no hope.

  • Jack

    Ben, we agree there is terrible suffering in the world that must be discussed. And as you know, I’d prefer talking about those issues than the plight of transgendered electricians in Outer Mongolia who are snickered at for wearing Rockport shoes and using the wrong fork for their salad at dinner parties.

    I was just correcting the widespread perception that everything in the world is worse today than yesterday. Credit it to my natural aversion to doom-and-gloom spin.

  • Jack

    Larry, I have no idea — and that’s the point.

    Again, reread what I wrote about the nature/nurture impasse….in the end, neither explanation fits even though logically, it has to be one or the other or both. Again, at first it appears from the identical twin studies that there’s a huge nurture component. But….but….nobody has ever identified what that component is. It appears totally elusive. They have come up empty.

    So we are left with…..nothing….nada, at least as of now. Maybe tomorrow there will be some breakthrough study. Manana…..

  • Jack

    Ben, anyone who thinks they have a handle on this after looking at the research does lack humility in this arena. It is quite a mess and I have given up — at least as of now — trying to figure it out.

    That’s why I have absolutely no idea on how to answer the question of whether someone is born gay or straight. My gut says probably, the science appears at first glance to contradict my gut, but when we dig further, we find that nobody has identified just what environmental or nurture factors account for the allegedly non-genetic element. And as Collins says, there’s no clear evidence that environmental changes in the womb account for all or most of the paradox.

    So yes, any honest person who’s confronted with this should be humbled by the complexity and even the mystery of human sexuality.

  • Jack

    Sam, what you’re saying is that identical twin studies are far from perfect. Very true. But they’re still considered the gold standard for nature-vs.-nurture questions on many thing.

    My only point is that when it comes to sexual orientation, identity, or preference (choose the noun or nouns you favor), identical twin studies on the one hand cast deep doubt on the “nature” argument, while on the other hand, nobody has come up with what “nurture” factors are in play.

    I don’t want to sound pessimistic when it comes to the advance in knowledge, but in terms of this issue, we truly have hit the proverbial wall, at least for now.

  • Jack

    cken, I’m straight, too, and also have gay friends and acquaintances — I have had numerous conversations with two of them, well into many a night, on these issues as well as tons of completely unrelated issues.

    I have successfully convinced both that at least for now, at least, neither side knows what it thinks it knows on this matter.

    I certainly have my strong opinions on nearly all issues, but since I’m not an activist on either side, I don’t have a stake in either side being right or wrong. I just want to know truth in all arenas of life. That’s what drives me in my best moments….even if it goes against my presuppositions.

  • Jack

    Well, there are numerous people who have claimed they were changed from gay to straight. A huge number of them in the end weren’t but reverted to homosexuality.

    The question is what to make of those who show no evidence of reverting.

    Are some of them bisexual? Undoubtedly.

    But is every single one of them bisexual? Well, that depends on your presuppositions.

    If you start with the premise that literally not a single person who is gay can change to being straight, then you will conclude that anyone who’s changed is probably bisexual.

    But how do we know that for sure?

    We don’t.

    And what about identical twin studies?

    Again, they show a huge non-nature component, but again, there’s a twist — Nobody knows what it is.

    In the end, the answer scientifically is that there is thus far no clear-cut answer scientifically. We are at an impasse and anyone who says we aren’t either is lying through their teeth or hasn’t thought this thing through.

  • Jack

    Jerry, that doesn’t get us anywhere, because Jesus lived in a society dominated by leaders whose greatest temptation apparently wasn’t sexual but spiritual — ie the sin of self-righteous pride. So His silence on homosexuality tells us nothing about anything, except for the fact that it wasn’t exactly a raging issue of that time.

  • Jack

    But to be fair, Skeegan, how would you or I like it if the shoe were on the other foot? Think about it.

    Asking for life-long celibacy from anyone is asking for an enormous sacrifice.

    People have made it for God throughout history — priests and nuns being the obvious example. I personally don’t believe that God demands celibacy as the automatic price of full-time spiritual service to Him and the church, but that’s another matter.

    But if I were a betting man, I would bet that over the past 20 centuries, a fair number of people who were gay did travel the same path of priests and nuns and quietly embraced celibacy, without ever telling anyone about their deepest feelings and desires and how they were giving them up for something they considered higher and greater.

    So yes, it’s doable at least for some people, but what a sacrifice.

  • Jack

    Ben, chances are, your initial comment will eventually show up. There appear to be some glitches in the posting system here. I’ve had posts that showed up, then disappeared, only to reappear a day or two later.

  • Ben in oakland

    So we’re back to the original point. With all of the terrible things happening today, hundreds of people Have traveled hundreds if not thousands of miles in order to discuss what I do with my genitalia, whether they approve or not, and whether religious quackery is more effective than the psychological quackery– which was supposed to be more effective than the medical quackery, which was supposed to be more effective than the criminalizing quackery, which was an expression of the old religious quackery– in expressing that disapproval and working as a possible cure for THEIR discomfort.

    And that’s MY whole point.

    BTW, a new study came out today about the epigenetic origins of homosexuality. Interesting reading.

  • Ben in oakland

    Jack, let me give you some personal evidence.

    I’ve known I was gay since I was THREE. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know what it meant, I didn’t know a thing about sex, but I sure as hell knew that I wasn’t supposed to talk about it, not even then. I didn’t know that there was a word for someone like me until I was about 10, when I found the word homosexual in the dictionary.Though I had a couple of heterosexual experiences around 40 years ago, they were in the nature of experimentation, and I have absolutely no desire to relive them. By no stretch of the imagination would I call myself bisexual. exactly what could my parents have done to produce this particular effect on me? One of the research critics said that he felt there were environmental factors, but could only cite “life experience.”. What life experience could I have had at three years old?

    No one needs to make up stuff about why I’m gay. I just am. Many friends have exactly the same story.

  • Ben in oakland

    Thanks, Jack. I appreciate what you wrote.

    Skeegan, as I noted above…

    how about you advocate for people who think like you do to all take a five year break from sex, love, and romance? jUst live your life with a deep friendship towards your life partner, but no sex, physically intimacy, or romance.

    You can comfort yourself with your bible.

    I advise all Christians who think like you do to live exactly that lifestyle. Have At it! But as long as laws give you advantages over me and dominion over my life, as long as gay kids kill themselves, as long as the church continues to corrupt itself by equating antigay prejudice with sincere religious belief, expect a fight from me.

    conservative religion’s issues with homosexuality all strictly theological concerns. Keep them inside your home and church and I have objection to them. I don’t share them. My freedom of religion is every bit as important as yours

  • Ben in oakland

    Jack, your point about bisexuality is nonsense.

    Bisexuality exists. There is no Doubt of this. People who are capable of responding to both sexes are bisexual. Sexuality is not either/or, it is a continuum. Even I have had heterosexu, and I’m one of the biggest ‘mo’s on the planet. Alan Chambers, Rollo Lopez, and Doug Mainearing all claim to be gay men married to women. They are bisexuals– assuming they’real truthful.

    Not so many people have claimed to change, but change can mean a great many things. and as you say, we don’t know what’sh going on inside people’s heads. What we do know is a great many people who claimed to have changed from gay to straight didn’t. At best they stopped being gay, except for the part about being just as gay as they ever weRe.

    David pickup claims he’s getting more heterosexual by the minute. when you question almost any of these people closely, they are still gay. and they still don’t want to be.

    oR they’re making money off it

  • Skeegan

    Of course it’s difficult. Morality wouldn’t be worth much if it was always easy. But it’s no more than is called for for unwed heterosexuals. Being allowed to have sex isn’t a right – the concept has no meaning towards God – and for those who aren’t in the type of relationship in which sex is morally permitted, abstinence is the only moral option. Celibacy is the default – marriage is the exception.

  • Skeegan

    And no one’s forcing you to accept the religion. If Christian morality is something you reject there are plenty of other options. But I will not “keep it inside my Church or home;” a faith that is tucked away into a merely private sphere is one with no efficacy or real devotion. You have no right to not be exposed to views with which you disagree.
    As for abstention for five years, since married heterosexual relations are the only form of permissible sex, there is no moral imperative to abstain, so the only real benefit to such would be pedagogical, to demonstrate either possibility or solidarity. If someone wants to do so, they are free, but such a decision is not morally required so I see no compelling reason to advocate it for anyone, let alone most.

  • Neon Genesis

    What happened to a post I left in the comments here last night? It seems to have vanished….If RNS deleted it, it’d be nice for them to explain why. I recall Jonathan Merritt deleting a post I left on an article he wrote before that was critical of his claims. If RNS is going to start censoring anyone who disagrees with their authors, I’ll find somewhere else to get my news from.

  • Ben in Oakland

    “And no one’s forcing you to accept the religion.”

    really? Because every single antigay campaign for the past 38 years has been promulgated, funded, manned, promoted, and pounded on by conservative Christians, bleating “Sin! Sin! Sin. Ickeeee gays! sin! Danger! Threat! God’s wrath!”

    And send money.

    “You have no right to not be exposed to views with which you disagree.” Absolutely. But we’re not talking about that, are we? We’re talking about the use of the democratic process to force your purely theological concerns on people who don’t share them.

    And it’s never stopped so called Christians from try to shut us up.

    There is no moral imperative for gay people to abstain, except coming from dominionists.

  • Ben in Oakland

    There is a real difference. Heterosexuals can get married. And unless YOU are willing to undergo a mere five years of celibacy, just to prove your point, I see no reason why I should.

    But again, all of your “points” are simply your purely theological concerns. The first amendment means nothing if it enforces them.

  • Skeegan

    Ben: nowhere did I reference any political action or standpoint advocated. The political matter – what should be allowed by law in society – is an entirely separate matter.
    The issue at hand is moral in nature, and in this it is entirely appropriate for Christians to denounce as sinful the practice of same sex sexual activity.
    And, insofar as Christian morality is to be considered, gays do in fact have a moral imperative to abstain. If this displeases you, you may of course abandon Christian morality altogether, but the fact remains that Christianity offers two possible options when it comes to sex: between a man and woman united in marriage, and abstinence.

  • Skeegan

    So don’t. I’m not arguing for forcing gays to abstain, I’m merely arguing that this is the only morally permissible option available. For married heterosexual couples, another option is available, so abstinence is unnecessary.
    Again you trot out political issues, and again they are irrelevant to the discussion at hand. I have not made any argument here in favor of enforcing Christian morality in the political sphere.

  • Stan

    While I might laughingly agree with that in specific cases Jack it sure isn’t true in general. Humanity is definitely not embarrassed overall by Einstein and many other Nobel Laureates, and many other great people we can be very proud of. However, religions in my view generally don’t have a single good thing going for them that couldn’t have happened better without them.

  • Jack

    Yes, Ben, we are definitely back to the original point. We both agree that there is an obsession about sexual issues, but I include the media, as evidenced by the avalanche of articles on this site alone which talk about nothing else but sexuality, especially on gay issues — although not restricted to them by any means.

    There are so many issues pertaining to religion that have nothing to do with sexuality, such as people getting beheaded for being of the “wrong” religion. I wish this site spent more time on those kinds of issues.

    As for me, while I have strong opinions on moral and social issues, I am far more interested in talking about issues that are less emotional and more intellectually challenging. It’s not that I don’t care….I do. I just think that when it comes to these hot-button issues, people reach an impasse quickly, with intellect not much help since the arguments are about values, as opposed to just facts and logic.

  • Jack

    I get it, Ben. I’ve always gotten it. The moment I learned what homosexuality was, and that there were kids who clearly were, my gut reaction was that they must be just like me, in that as a heterosexual, I don’t recall a single moment in my life where I chose to be straight. I just was, that’s all. I just woke up one fine day drawn to the opposite gender — a day they call puberty.

    So that’s not the issue here……the issue is the science, which says to my gut, “not so fast.” The identical twin studies contradict the notion that people are born gay. And yet, as I’ve said, every attempt to isolate environmental factors have failed miserably.

    So again……as I’ve just said, science leaves us in this case only with riddles. Not primarily genetic, but on the hand, no clue on what “nurture” factors come into play.

    And so…..if it’s not genetic or environmental, then what in the world is it?

    I have absolutely no idea.

    Do you?

  • Jack

    Ben, you are dodging big-time.

    If you truly believe that literally not a single human being can change from being homosexual to being heterosexual, you paint yourself into an impossible corner. Why? Because there are people who not only claim to have done just that, but have lived their lives accordingly.

    Reread my post. No matter how many people we find who have reverted, there are those who have not and probably will not.

    To deny or explain that away is to do exactly to such people what you would not want done to you. That is, you are denying the authenticity of their experiences and their feelings.

    We ought not sweep them under the rug…..we need to be fair-minded.

  • Ben in oakalnd

    That’s not what I’m saying at all. I question whether change is possible, but in a world where carpenters can be resurrected, anything is possible.

    What I’m saying is that people are bisexual. They’re not changing from homosexual to heterosexual, they’re exercising a choice much as I did 40 years ago when I had sex with a woman. The difference is I could not continue to choose to do that because it in no way satisfied me.

    What I am also saying is that a lot of people who claim to have changed clearly never did. I would say the vast majority of them never changed. Given the high failure rate of any kind of change therapy, psychological or religious, I think it is fairly safe to question the truthfulness, motivations, politics and sexuality of people who claim that they were homosexual and are now heterosexual.

    I’m not saying it’s not possible, but as you said, we can’t know for sure what is in people’s heads. I’m not dodging anything.

  • Ben in oakalnd

    Of course I do. Jack. I’ve been telling you about them in different posting,and it is like I shouldn’t have bothered.

    The identical twin studies do not contradict the notion that one is born gay. They contradict the idea that it is strictly genetic. I suspect that genetically, we are all bisexual, but tend to lean more one way tha the other. That’s my whole point.

    As usual, Jack, you are so close and so far. Your recognize that it is not chosen,but you are not willing to recognize that it is ingrained in the fibre of every gay person in exalt the way heterosexuality is in yours.

    Not very subtly, you’re claiming you are normal, and we are not.

    But there is a great deal more to who you are than genetics. As I mentioned TWICE, there is epigenetics. There are non-genetic, hard wired things like handedness. Francis Collins says this. He isboth evangelical and a world-famous geneticist. So argue with him, not me.

  • Jack

    Obviously we agree, Stan, on the first part of your post…..if I meant literally everyone, it would be a tautology.

    But I couldn’t disagree more with the second part, where you say that there’s nothing good about any religion that wouldn’t have happened absent that religion.

    The practical problem you have is you can’t prove that. If a good thing is the effect, and the teachings of a religion the cause, it’s your burden to prove the effect would have occurred absent the teaching.

    A second problem is that there are certain ideas and beliefs most of us endorse, such as the idea that human rights are universal and absolute, which not only emerged from the religious view that God granted humanity inalienable rights, but which could not possibly have emerged absent such a belief. Take away God and you’re left with cultural relativism — ie who are we to tell other countries and rulers how to treat their people?

  • Jack

    Ben, reread my posts. You don’t have to explain that many if not most people who are gay have felt gay their whole lives. I get it. I told you I get it.

    That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about whether being gay, or being straight, is or isn’t immutable. And the science simply doesn’t nail that down. Bring in epigenetics or bring in environmental changes in the womb…..even when taken together, there’s no way in the world they compensate for the whopping 80% of cases where one adult twin is gay and the other isn’t.

    You yourself posted, perhaps inadvertently, something from Collins some time ago where he was scratching his head as much as I am about the whole puzzle. He knows as well as anybody what the dilemma is scientifically.

    And let me add that identity-politics-driven appeals to victimhood don’t work with me. I caught that little line you slipped in. Sorry….you’re a smart man and should know better.

  • Ben in oakland

    Jack, I have to disagree with the statement as well. Both sides are arguing values: absolutely. The only one side is using facts and logic, not to mention experience, As well as values. Here is the perfect example:

    You have stated repeatedly that the environmental factors which allegedly contribute to homosexuality are not known.

    1) The factors that contribute to heterosexuality are also not Known. You simultaneously assume that heterosexuality is the default, when it is obviously not; it’s simply the majority orientation, and whether people are supposedly always and everywhere heterosexual is a disprovable assumption.

    2) if the legendary environmental factors that contribute to homosexuality are unknown, then all of the “secular therapies” are based upon supposition and hearsay, not fact. And certainly not sound theory.

    We gay people simply say this: we’re gay and we always have been. So who exactly is parading around valuesONLY.

  • Ed

    “So don’t. I’m not arguing for forcing gays to abstain, I’m merely arguing that this is the only morally permissible option available.”

    And you don’t find that a teensy, weensy, tiny bit internally conflicting? Really? Seriously? Honestly????

  • Larry

    “Larry, I have no idea — and that’s the point”

    But you think others would be “turned” in such a fashion. Even though you can’t imagine what would make it possible for yourself. So you are just spouting off on something which is not actually true or has evidence to support it .

    You don’t know what causes something, but you are sure it can be changed due to environmental conditions, which you don’t know what they could be. Whatever.

  • Jack

    Ultimately, Ben, it’s an endless and dreary argument about values, which is precisely why I’ve deliberately chosen to talk the small sliver of it that is connected to facts and logic.

    But even in that arena, we just don’t know what we think we know.

    Again, on the nurture/nature question, we are nowhere.

    The fact that we are nowhere is strange, but it is what it is.

    Call it nature and identical twin studies deal a hammer blow to it. Assume by default that it must be environmental and that gets us nowhere, either.

    Say it’s a simple conscious choice and that’s self-evidently false.

    So there is no proof that it’s nature, nurture, or free choice.

    And that means we are literally out of options.

    Welcome to the mysterious world of human sexuality — I guess we can’t study human sexuality scientifically as easily as we thought.

    And maybe that’s ultimately true of human behavior in all of its aspects.

  • Jack

    Ben, I think the answer is to try to give everybody the benefit of the doubt as to honesty until proven otherwise.

    When a gay person insists they have felt that way from the get-go, I believe them. Why should I not believe them, when, as a heterosexual, I have felt heterosexual from the get-go? That’s been my policy even before I ever met or befriended a gay person.

    And the same is true of a person who claims they no longer feel gay. I’m going to assume they’re not lying, either. Even if they go back to being gay, I’m going to assume that they were truthfully reporting to us their feelings when they insisted they no longer felt gay. Why? Because, again, I accept that human sexuality is complex and I can’t read minds or hearts.

  • Jack

    Wrong, Larry. May I suggest you leap at the chance to take remedial reading courses, if they offer any, at your local college?

    My whole point is that the outcome of studies — identical twin studies plus others — is that (1) it doesn’t appear to be nature and (2) while that would seemingly point to nurture, nobody has isolated any specifics regarding nurture.

    So I am championing neither nature nor nurture (nor free will in any sense). I am saying that science truly is at an impasse on the issue.

    Thus we cannot say anything that is science based either for or against the idea of someone changing. We have literally no guidance from science on that matter.

  • Jack

    Ed, please explain how Skeegan’s view compels him to advocate for imposing it by law.

    People’s ignorance of the basic tenets or outline of biblical Christianity is as deep, broad, and consequential as their ignorance of history.

    What a wonderful educational system we have……ugh.

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  • Lived It

    I am ex-gay, but I don’t believe in reparative therapy. When I came back to faith in Jesus Christ, God healed my identity. It is not a process that any therapist or therapy could accomplish, in fact that method would have hurt me. Matters of identity are deep. Instead, I followed the Lord’s prompting when I came back to my faith. The healing process that I went through was completely due to the power of God. He was gentle and kind and understood me. It was not an easy process, but I am glad that I trusted him to carry me through it. I have been restored and I have no regrets. I hope this encourages someone. Trust in God and he will show you HIS truth, not mans.