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Posts tagged ‘sexual orientation’

Orienting on Homosexual Orientation

SOURCE:  Nick Roen /Desiring God

I remember a particular conversation I had one evening with a good friend about my struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA). He asked me, “Attractions are messy, complicated realities. How do you deal with them toward other guys?”

The real issue underneath this question is how those who experience SSA should orient on their orientation. Should a homosexual orientation be embraced, but not acted upon? Is it neutral? Or is it of such a nature that it must be fought against in toto? The answer to these questions requires careful thought and nuance if the discussion is going to be helpful for those living within the complicated reality of a homosexual orientation.

What Is Orientation Anyway?

A good place to start would be to define sexual orientation. However, this proves to be a difficult task. Sexual orientation is fundamentally something that is experienced, and since no two people are the same, there may be as many experiences with sexual orientation as there are people.

Speaking from my own experience, I have found resonance with this particular statement from the American Psychological Association. According to the APA, sexual orientation is “an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes.” Notice the nuance that is involved here. For many, sexual orientation does not simply refer to sexual desires. Rather, it refers to which sex an individual is oriented toward emotionally and physically. In other words, sexual orientation isn’t so much about the verb “sex” as it is the noun “sex” or “gender.” Which sex is a person oriented toward?

Also, notice the word “attraction.” Attraction is an ambiguous word because it happens in a variety of ways. We might be attracted to someone’s personality or character. We could be attracted to a certain lifestyle or pattern of behavior. We might feel an attraction that includes the desire to be emotionally connected with an individual. Or we might be physically or sexually attracted to a certain someone.

Distinguishing Kind and Degree

Therefore, the question becomes, “Which type of attractions can rightly be said to be a part of a sexual orientation?” My answer is both sexual and non-sexual attractions. But why is that? After all, these non-sexual attractions are felt all the time within platonic friendships, right? That is true. The distinction that must be made is between “kind” and “degree.” For many, there is a specific kind of attraction that is experienced, and a certain degree of attraction that is experienced.

So when I say that I experience a homosexual orientation, I mean that there is a “kind” of attraction that is exclusive to my orientation; namely, I am exclusivelysexually attracted to the same sex. In addition, I also mean that I experience other non-sexual attractions to the same sex with a “degree” of intensity that I do not toward the opposite sex. Therefore, when I experience an “attraction” to a man as the term is commonly used, the kind of sexual attraction and the degreeof non-sexual attraction are both in play. In this way, the non-sexual attraction is linked to my sexuality in a way that is experientially impossible to separate.

A Complex Relationship

We intuitively know this to be true, though we rarely think about attraction in these terms. Let me illustrate through a common experience. When I was in college my best friend and I did everything together. We were emotionally invested in one another, and supported one another in our walks with Christ. Then, one fateful day, he met his future wife and our friendship took a serious hit. Now, not only was he physically attracted to her in ways (kind) that he never was toward me, but he was also attracted to her in other “whole person” ways with an intensity (degree) that he did not feel toward me or any other man. This led him to spend considerably less time with me, and more time with her. In all of these sexual and non-sexual attractions, he experienced his sexual orientation.

Let me summarize:

  1. For many, sexual orientation is the experience of a pattern of attractions toward one or both sexes.
  2. These attractions include sexual and non-sexual attractions.
  3. Sexual attractions are the “kind” of attractions that are experienced exclusively within a sexual orientation. Non-sexual attractions can also be experienced to an exclusive “degree” that also makes them a part of a sexual orientation.
  4. Therefore, both sexual and non-sexual attractions are often inseparably linked to sexual orientation.

Now, back to the original question of how someone with SSA should deal with his or her experience of orientation. In my opinion, the different aspects of attraction should be addressed separately.

The question should now become, “What type of desires are these different types of attractions causing to rise up inside a person’s heart?”

Kill Same-Sex Sexual Desires

It seems clear that a sexual attraction, if left unchecked, will lead to a sexual desire. With regard to this type of desire, the answer is simple: “Kill it!” Same-sex sexual desires are disordered and broken, owing to our sinful natures that we possess as fallen humans. The Bible refers to our sinful nature as “the flesh,” and we are told, “if you live according to the flesh, you will die” (Romans 8:13). Indeed, if these evil desires are not killed at the moment of conception, they will give birth to active sinning which leads to death (James 1:15).

Whenever my flesh asserts itself in this manner, my only option is to fight by turning from temptation toward the promises of superior satisfaction in Jesus. When it comes to same-sex sexual desires, the way forward is to make war!

What about Non-Sexual Desires?

But what of the exclusively intense non-sexual attractions that are often experienced within a homosexual orientation? What is someone to do with those?

Again, the question should be, “What type of desires is this non-sexual attraction producing in the heart?” Often, these attractions lead to desires to be a good friend, love someone with acts of service and hospitality, and point them to Christ. These desires are not inherently disordered, and therefore do not necessarily need to be rejected altogether.

However, it becomes tricky because the sexual and non-sexual attractions are often experienced simultaneously and therefore it becomes difficult to sort out the desires that accompany them. This leaves us with two options. The first is to flee all attractions altogether and to never pursue any sort of friendship with anyone toward whom an attraction is experienced. For an SSA man, this option would put all friendships with guys in a state of flux depending on whether or not a certain type of attraction has occurred or not. This does not seem preferable.

In Community, with Prayer, by the Spirit

The alternative would be to prayerfully sort through the types of attractions and accompanying desires, and to deal with them accordingly. Whenever a sexual desire is experienced, kill it as fast as possible. But when a non-sexual attraction leads to a good, God-glorifying desire toward intimate friendship and service, there is the potential to proceed in a wholesome way.

This is important because oftentimes when those of us who struggle with SSA hear people tell us to fight all of our attractions, it feels like a death sentence of loneliness, void of any real intimacy. However, if we began to talk about orientation in the above terms, this would not be the case.

Yes, it will require wisdom, prayer, and careful distinctions. But we can’t afford oversimplifications in this discussion. The stakes are simply too high.

Where Is Our World Going? STOP Sexualizing Our Children

THE COUNSELING MOMENT EDITOR’S NOTE:  

The below article from the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) is alarming and also prophetic — a preview of more of the unthinkable to come.  At the last AACC World Conference I attended in 2011, this information was presented as the next emerging “watershed” issue we will face as Christians.  An aid to this down-hill societal slide was when God largely was removed from schools and increasingly from society.  Then, there was (is) the abortion issue.  From there we see ever-increasing lax moral views, the redefining of family, and legalization of same-sex marriages.  Now, this next issue (as brought out in the article) is to regard  “pedophilia as just another ‘sexual orientation.'” 

 Where will this downward slide finally and ultimately end?  

 “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. ComeLord Jesus. [Rev 22:20) 

In due course, when the Lord Jesus returns to bring completion to His redemptive work in creation, all things will be made right — according to God’s original creative intent.  However, until that time, we — as followers of Christ — must continue to seek His grace and ability to do what is right, loving, and pleasing to the Lord.  

Jesus makes it clear (Mt 5:44) that we are to love our enemies (i.e., those entirely opposed to and antagonistic toward us and God) and pray for those who would mercilessly persecute us for our beliefs about what is right as we understand and apply God’s Word.  At the same time, we are to seek the Lord’s help to obey His command for us to be holy as He is holy (1Peter 1:15-16) and have nothing to do with evil/darkness, but rather to expose it (Ps 101:4; Eph 5:11).  May the Lord give us His Divine wisdom, understanding, knowledge, discernment, heart, perspective, protection, strength, and resolve to be and to live as the men, women, and children of God to His Glory.

Stop Sexualizing Our Children

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors/Matt Barber [http://www.aacc.net/stop-sexualizing-our-children/]

In “Batman,” the Joker rhetorically asks a young Bruce Wayne: “Tell me, kid – you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?” Well, I have. Not by the pale moonlight, but in a brightly lit Four Points Sheraton in Baltimore, Md.

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, I – along with the venerable child advocate Dr. Judith Reisman – attended a conference hosted by the pedophile group B4U-ACT. 

Around 50 individuals were in attendance, including a number of admitted pedophiles (or “minor-attracted persons” as they euphemistically prefer), a few self-described “gay activists” and several supportive mental-health professionals. World renowned “sexologist” Dr. Fred Berlin of Johns Hopkins University gave the keynote address, saying: “I want to completely support the goal of B4U-ACT.”

Here are some highlights from the conference:

• Pedophiles are “unfairly stigmatized and demonized” by society.
• There was concern about “vice-laden diagnostic criteria” and “cultural baggage of wrongfulness.”
• “We are not required to interfere with or inhibit our child’s sexuality.”
• “Children are not inherently unable to consent” to sex with an adult.
• “In Western culture sex is taken too seriously.”
• “Anglo-American standard on age of consent is new [and ‘Puritanical’]. In Europe it was always set at 10 or 12. Ages of consent beyond that are relatively new and very strange, especially for boys. They’ve always been able to have sex at any age.”
• An adult’s desire to have sex with children is “normative.”
• Our society should “maximize individual liberty. … We have a highly moralistic society that is not consistent with liberty.”
• “Assuming children are unable to consent lends itself to criminalization and stigmatization.”
• “These things are not black and white; there are various shades of gray.”
• A consensus belief by both speakers and pedophiles in attendance was that, because it vilifies MAPs, pedophilia should be removed as a mental disorder from the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), in the same manner homosexuality was removed in 1973.
• Dr. Fred Berlin acknowledged that it was political activism, similar to the incrementalist strategy witnessed at the conference, rather than a scientific calculus that successfully led to the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder: The reason “homosexuality was taken out of DSM is that people didn’t want the government in the bedroom,” he said.
• The DSM ignores that pedophiles “have feelings of love and romance for children” in the same way adults love one another.
• “The majority of pedophiles are gentle and rational.”
• The DSM should “focus on the needs” of the pedophile, and should have “a minimal focus on social control,” rather than obsessing about the “need to protect children.”
• Self-described “gay activist” and speaker Jacob Breslow said that children can properly be “the object of our attraction.” He further objectified children, suggesting that pedophiles needn’t gain consent from a child to have sex with “it” any more than we need consent from a shoe to wear it. He then used graphic, slang language to favorably describe the act of climaxing (ejaculating) “on or with” a child. No one in attendance objected to this explicit depiction of child sexual assault. There was even laughter.
(In fairness, Dr. Berlin did later tell Mr. Breslow that his words might “anger” some people and that he [Berlin] is categorically opposed to adult-child sex with “pre-pubescent” children. When asked about the propriety of adult-child sex with pubescent children, Dr. Berlin did not provide a clear answer.)

So, am I just an intolerant, “pedophobic” bigot? Apparently so. In fact, Dr. Berlin says pedophilia is just another “sexual orientation.” Some of the “minor attracted” conference-goers insisted that they were “born that way.” Sound familiar?

This is sexual anarchy – fulfillment of the moral relativist dream.

In the 1940s, homosexual psychopath and secular-humanist messiah Alfred Kinsey’s stated goal was to destroy, in society, the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic. He has largely achieved that goal.

Indeed, during his sexology “research,” Kinsey facilitated the rape of thousands of children – some as young as 2 months old – placing stopwatches and ledgers in the hands of “minor-attracted persons” to document their “findings.” He then recorded everything in what is generally referred to as the “Kinsey Reports.”

Kinsey determined, among many things, that children are not harmed by sex with adults and that it can be a positive experience. Old Al even earned his very own Kinsey Institute, still in existence today at Indiana University.

As recently as 1998, the APA seemed to agree with Kinsey’s assessment, releasing a report that suggested harm caused by child rape was “overstated” and that “the vast majority of both men and women reported no negative sexual effects from their child sexual abuse experiences.”

Furthermore, the APA report suggested that the term “child sex abuse” be swapped with “adult-child sex,” indicating, as did Kinsey, that such “intergenerational intimacy” can be “positive.” Isn’t “tolerance” wonderful?

Oh, and the “progressive,” political-activist APA has also seen fit to join an amicus brief in favor of so-called “same-sex marriage.” What does this have to do with psychiatry? Your guess is as good as mine.

Make no mistake: Children are the target of what I call the “sexual anarchy movement.” Whether it’s the movement’s pedophile wing that seeks to literally rape children, or its radical pro-abortion, homosexualist and feminist wings, which seek to rape the minds of children, the larger sexual anarchy movement has a shared goal: Attack, corrupt and destroy God’s design for human sexuality. Children are just collateral damage.

Sexual anarchists know that to own the future, they must own the minds of our children. Hence, groups like B4U-ACT, GLSEN (The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network), Planned Parenthood and the like utilize academia from pre-school to post-graduate to brainwash and indoctrinate. Still, sexual anarchists are not restricted to the world of not-for-profit perversion advocacy. They also permeate the Obama administration.

Consider, for instance, that the official website for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently linked to “parenting tips” that referenced children as “sexual beings” and suggested that they should experiment with homosexuality and masturbation.

Small surprise when you consider that radical feminist and pro-abort Kathleen Sebelius was President Obama’s pick as HHS secretary.

You may also recall that Mr. Obama appointed Kevin Jennings, founder of the aforementioned GLSEN, to the post of “safe schools czar.” The position is now defunct, ostensibly due to national outrage over Jennings’ appointment.

In keeping with the thinly veiled goals of B4U-ACT, GLSEN seems to be “running interference” for pedophiles, having tacitly advocated adult-child sex through its “recommended reading list” for kids.

Again, not surprising when you consider that one of Jennings’s ideological mentors is “gay” activist pioneer Harry Hay. “One of the people that’s always inspired me is Harry Hay,” he has said glowingly.

What did Mr. Hay think? I’ll let him speak for himself. In 1983, while addressing the pedophile North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), Hay said the following:

“[I]t seems to me that in the gay community the people who should be running interference for NAMBLA are the parents and friends of gays. Because if the parents and friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what 13-, 14-, and 15-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world. And they would be welcoming this, and welcoming the opportunity for young gay kids to have the kind of experience that they would need.”

(Oddly, there’s another “gay” activist group, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, that frequently partners with GLSEN. I wonder where they came up with the catchy title.)

Bolstered by support from the National Education Association, GLSEN has access to your children through sex education curricula it provides thousands of public schools across the country, and via adult sponsored “Gay Straight Alliances,” hosted in those same schools.

Alas, we live in a post-Kinsey America wherein our culture, along with our Judeo-Christian heritage, rots in the heat of the day. The stench of sexual anarchy is masked by the soaring, disingenuous rhetoric of “tolerance,” “diversity” and “comprehensive sex education.”

Sick to your stomach? I am. Why can’t these sexual anarchists leave our children alone and let kids be kids?

————————————-

[Matt Barber is an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. He serves as Vice President of Liberty Counsel Action. (This information is provided for identification purposes only.)]

Change in Sexual Orientation is Possible

The Counseling Moment EDITOR’S NOTE:  Given all that is taking place in society along with all the information available via the media, much confusion exists about whether one desiring to explore and/or seek change from unwanted same-sex/homosexual desires and behaviors can ever hope for change.  One position emphatically says, “No Way!”  Another position says change is possible.  A Christian position lays claim that nothing is impossible for God who wants those who have a faith-relationship with Him through Christ to progressively continue to be transformed by Him into the very likeness of Christ.  This transformation includes movement toward holiness in thought, emotional responses, behaviors, and relationships.  Furthermore, this transformation includes aspiring to a holy, blameless, righteous, and pure life that increasingly exhibits the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  God desperately wants what is best for us as He loves us each so much–so much that He sacrificed His own Son on our behalf.  Our becoming like Christ is the best that God can offer us.  There is nothing better or of greater value.

Even a casual reading of Scripture makes clear that as God enables us to move toward Christlikeness, He empowers us to move away from a host of things that He declares counter to His plan for us and destructive to us.

These things counter to His will for us, as called out in Scripture, include anything that would “gratify the desires of the flesh” such as:  any hint of sexual impurity, homosexuality, sexual immorality, adultery, extra-marital sex, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, bitterness, anger, brawling, slander, malice, greed, filthy language, unforgiveness, idleness, love of money, deceitfulness, pride, lack of self-control, loving pleasure over God, enslavement to passions, conceit.  

God loves us and chooses to be in a personal relationship with us knowing that we are challenged with these types of issues in our lives.  And, He loves us too much to allow us to continue to embrace these things.  Therefore, God wants us to depend on Him to help us move away from any and all of these types of hindrances to becoming more holy like Christ.  And, He promises that freedom from these things is possible in His way and His timing.

So, yes, change is possible whether it is change from homosexual orientation or change from any of the other issues of life that God highlights as detriments to our being made into the likeness of Christ.  God wants change to take place concerning ALL of these!  We are all involved in God’s change process concerning whatever things we find in us that are on His “list.”  He will work uniquely and lovingly within each one of us to accomplish change in His way, in His timing, to the extent He determines until He carries it on to completion (Phil. 1:6).

As a result, it should be no surprise that solid, credible, truthful research as summarized in the below article supports what God, the Author of all truth, says and desires about change.

Finally, as Christians, it is important that we do not respond to those dealing with homosexuality (or any other less than Godly life issue) with ignorance and fear.  Nor should we ignore or uphold any lifestyle or life issue which is counter to God’s desire and will.  Either extreme fails to convey the divine balance of grace and truth which is so pleasing to God.  Blessings……..

ARTICLE SOURCE: NARTH/Reviewed by Christopher H. Rosik, Ph.D.

(October, 2011)

Change in Sexual Orientation is Possible, Harm Unlikely, according to New Evidence of Long-Term Outcomes

The best-designed study of sexual-orientation change efforts (SOCE) to date, has just concluded in a follow-up report that some people can indeed move from homosexuality to heterosexuality, and that harm is unlikely to result from such efforts.

The original study was published in 2007 by Stanton Jones, Ph.D., of Wheaton College, and Mark Yarhouse, Ph.D., of Regent University, in their book, “Ex-Gays?”. The follow-up study has just appeared in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.

In the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapythe authors conclude:

Evidence from the study suggested that change of homosexual orientation appears possible for some and that psychological distress did not increase on average as a result of the involvement in the change process” (Jones & Yarhouse, 2011, p. 404).

Study methods

The authors followed 98 individuals (72 men and 26 women) who undertook SOCE through the assistance of a variety of  Christian ministries over a period of 6-7 years. The authors’ motivation for conducting this study was, in part, that the American Psychological Association had gone on the record indicating that change in sexual orientation was not possible, and that risks to those who engage in such efforts could be significant.

The authors note that the APA has moderated its viewpoint somewhat since then, fluctuating between statements that sexual-orientation change is “uncommon,” to the view that science “cannot yet” make conclusive statements about such change from the available literature.

The rigor of their own research standards, Jones and Yarhouse indicate, in fact meets many of the requirements that the APA itself has asserted are necessary in order to make reasonably definitive conclusions about the actuality of such change.

Participants in the Jones-Yarhouse study were first assessed at the beginning of their involvement in SOCE (from 1-3 years); again at 3 years, and again at the 6-7 year mark. Findings from the first two assessments were published earlier in the book, Ex-Gays? (2007).

Standardized and widely accepted measures of sexual orientation and psychological distress were administered at each assessment period. At the final time of assessment, attrition had reduced the available sample to 64%, which is not unusual for longitudinal studies.

Study findings

The results after 6-7 years of SOCE involvement, presented below, indicate that change does indeed occur, although not for
everyone.

  • Success: Conversion:  23% (n = 14) of the sample reported substantial reductions in homosexual attraction and subsequent conversion to heterosexual attractions and functioning.
  • Success: Chastity: 30% (n = 18) reported that homosexual attraction was still present, but only incidentally or in a way that did not seem to bring distress, allowing them to live contentedly without overt sexual activity.
  • Continuing: 16% (n = 10) reported modest decreases in homosexual attraction, but were not satisfied with their degree of change and remained committed to the change process.
  • Nonresponse: 7% (n = 4) reported no significant sexual orientation change; they had not given up on the change process, but some were confused or conflicted about which direction to turn next.
  • Failure: Confused: 5% (n = 3) reported no significant sexual orientation change, and had given up on the change process, but without yet embracing a gay identity.
  • Failure: Gay identity: 20% (n = 12) had given up on the change process and embraced a gay identity.

Jones and Yarhouse observed that from the point-of-view of the ministries involved in their study, 53% of the sample therefore had self-categorized as achieving “some version of success,” and 25% had self-categorized as failure.

As regards harm, the study participants on average did not report experiencing harm due to SOCE during the course of their pursuit of change.  In fact, two of the indicators of psychological distress actually improved significantly over the time of the study.

Discussion

Jones and Yarhouse conclude that “the findings of this study appear to contradict the commonly expressed view that sexual orientation is not changeable” (p. 425).  and that attempts to change are not likely to be harmful.

While the authors believe their research clearly contradict the pessimism regarding SOCE that has been promulgated by the APA, they do acknowledge that their study has limitations.

First, the average change in sexual orientation was modest, although they noted that this is likely to be an artifact of average change scores including some participants who made dramatic shifts away from homosexual orientation and fewer participants who reported dramatic shifts to a gay identity.  In other words, the dramatic changes toward heterosexual response clearly made by some participants may have been offset by changes toward homosexual response in others, so that the overall average change in sexual orientation for the sample appeared to be modest.

Second, participants who had begun the change process prior to the start of the study appeared to have disproportionately positive outcomes compared to participants inducted into the study early in their pursuit of change.  This may indicate that some weeding-out of individuals who were not successful in changing sexual orientation occurred in the time between the onset of pursuit of change and the initial collection of data.  Although there is no way to know this for sure, Jones and Yarhouse imply that it is probably wise to view their study’s success rate for the change process undertaken in Christian ministries as a somewhat optimistic figure.

A third limitation is the relatively small sample size, which makes any generalization of these findings to the population of individuals pursuing SOCE tentative.  That said, the size of the sample is not uncommon in the longitudinal research that has been widely accepted as representative of samples in other subject domains.  Finally, the authors note that, given the study design, it was not possible to determine which components of the participants’ change process were responsible for the outcomes reported.

Comment

No doubt this study will be dismissed by skeptics who for ideological reasons remain dogmatically unwilling to acknowledge the reality of sexual orientation change in some people. However, Jones and Yarhouse’s study of SOCE should go a long way toward putting to rest two extreme positions:  i.e., that change always occurs and is simply a choice, or that change never occurs and is generally harmful.

It is also worth remembering that this study did not examine SOCE’s  that occur in the context of psychotherapy.  The subjects in this study received their counseling in Christian ministries. It is certainly within the realm of plausibility that the inclusion of professional psychological care, over and above participants’ involvement in Christian ministries, would increase positive outcomes.

The hallmark of a scientific organization that is not beholden to socio-political interests is a heightened curiosity at unexpected findings, and a subsequent dedication to understanding how such findings came to be.  In the case of change in sexual orientation, which had been purported to be impossible, this implies a dedication to study those individuals who report change in order to identify the active ingredients of change and thereby maximize its potential among SOCE consumers.

Unfortunately, however, the major mental-health associations appear to be moving further away from a purely scientific approach and toward one apparently directed by activists, whereby the purpose of their science does not seem to be understanding those who report change, but rather debunking, dismissing, and ignoring them.  Thus while Jones and Yarhouse will win no accolades or awards from the APA, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that their research exemplifies the best in scientific curiosity and courage.

Reference

Jones, S. L., & Yarhouse, M.A. (2007). Ex-gays? A longitudinal study of religiously mediated change in sexual orientation. Downers  Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Jones, S. L., & Yarhouse, M. A. (2011). A longitudinal study of attempted religiously mediated sexual orientation change.  Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 37, 404-427. DOI: 10.1080/009263X.2011.607052

Reparative Therapy, Homosexuality, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

SOURCE:  Article by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr

Each U.S. presidential election cycle brings its own set of unexpected issues, and the 2012 race already offers one topic of controversy that truly sets it apart — a debate over forms of therapy that attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation.

Known as reparative therapy or sexual orientation conversion therapy, these approaches seek to assist individuals in changing their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. The cultural and political debate over reparative therapy emerged when a clinic run by Marcus Bachmann, husband of Republican candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, was accused of offering treatment and counseling intended to change sexual orientation.

Virtually all of the secular professions that deal with sexual orientation are stalwartly opposed to reparative therapy, or to any attempt to change one’s pattern of sexual attraction. Indeed, these groups hold to an inflexible ideology that insists that there is absolutely nothing wrong with homosexuality. These groups include, for example, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Association of Social Workers, among many others.

In 2008, a number of these groups released a statement on sexual orientation and youth that began with the stated premise that “both heterosexuality and homosexuality are normal expressions of human sexuality.” Thus, the groups argue that any attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation is likely to be harmful. The “Just the Facts Coalition” also included groups such as the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. A statement adopted in 2000 by the American Psychiatric Association declares that the APA “opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation.”
 

This controversy will inevitably demonstrate the basic worldview divide that separates the secular therapeutic community and evangelical Christians. The politicians, the mental health industry, and the media will have their own debate on the matter, but Christians now face the urgent challenge of thinking about these issues in a way that is fully biblical and theological — and thus faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

First, we face the fact that the Bible clearly, repeatedly, consistently, and comprehensively reveals the sinfulness of all homosexual behaviors. This truth is set within the larger context of the Bible’s revelation concerning the Creator’s plan and purpose for human sexuality — a context that is centered in the marital union of a man and a woman as the exclusive arena for human sexual activity. This flies in the face of the contemporary demand for the full normalization of homosexuality. As the joint statement of the “Just the Facts Coalition” declares, “both heterosexuality and homosexuality are normal expressions of human sexuality.”

The normalization of homosexuality simply cannot be accepted by anyone committed to biblical Christianity. The new secular orthodoxy demands that Christians abandon the clear teachings of Scripture, and Christians must understand that the sinfulness of all homosexual behaviors is not only a matter of biblical authority, but also of the Gospel. To deny that sin is sin is to deny our need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christians cannot accept any teaching that minimizes sin, for it is the knowledge of our sin that points us to our need for atonement, salvation, and the forgiveness of that sin through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Second, we must recognize that every human being is a sinner and that every sinner’s pattern of sexual attraction falls short of the glory of God. There is no sinner of physical maturity who will be able to say that he or she has never had a sinful thought related to sex or sexuality. Taking the Bible’s teachings about sin and sexuality with full force, we understand that every sinful human being is in need of redemption, and that includes the redemption of our sexual selves.

Actually, the Bible speaks rather directly to the sinfulness of the homosexual orientation — defined as a pattern of sexual attraction to a person of the same sex. In Romans 1:24-27, Paul writes of “the lusts of their hearts to impurity,” of “dishonorable passions,” of women who “exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature,” and of men who “gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another.” A close look at this passage reveals that Paul identifies the sinful sexual passion as a major concern — not just the behavior.

At this point, the chasm between the biblical and secular worldview looms ever larger. The modern secular consensus is that an individual’s pattern of sexual attraction, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is just a given and is to be considered normal. More than that, the secular view demands that this pattern of sexual orientation be accepted as integral to an individual’s identity. According to the secular consensus, any effort to change an individual’s sexual orientation is essentially wrong and harmful. The contemporary therapeutic worldview is virtually unanimous in this verdict, but nothing could be more directly at odds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The New Testament reveals that a homosexual sexual orientation, whatever its shape or causation, is essentially wrong, contrary to the Creator’s purpose, and deeply sinful. Everyone, whatever his or her sexual orientation, is a sinner in need of redemption. Every sinner who comes by faith to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved knows the need for the redemption of our bodies — including our sexual selves. But those whose sexual orientation is homosexual face the fact that they also need a fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions. About this, the Bible is clear. At this point, once again, the essential contradiction between the Christian worldview and the modern secular worldview is clear.

Third, Christians understand that sinners are simultaneously completely responsible for their sin and completely unable to redeem themselves from their sin. Sinners may improve themselves morally, but they cannot mitigate to any degree their need for redemption. Indeed, moralism is a false gospel that suggests that we can please God by moral improvement. As Isaiah warns, the only righteousness of which we are capable amounts to “filthy rags.” [Isaiah 64:6] The law reveals what is good for us and what is sinful, but the law is powerless to save us. [Romans 8:3]

The law of God reveals our sin, and our sin reveals our need for a Savior. Paul’s own testimony about the law, his knowledge of his own sin, and the redemption that was his in Christ is clear when he writes to the Romans: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” [Romans 7:24-25] This is every Christian’s testimony.

Thus, we recognize that, without redemption, there is no eternal hope for the sinner. Even in terms of moral improvement in this earthly life, the non-Christian lacks union with Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the means of grace that alone can conform the believer to the image of Christ. Thus, for the non-Christian, the most that can be hoped for is a responsible determination to cease practicing an immoral behavior. The Bible holds no hope for the sinner’s ability to change his or her heart.

In other words, 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.

This is where the Gospel-centeredness of the Christian worldview points us to the cross of Christ and to the sinner’s fundamental need for redemption, not mere moral improvement. The Bible offers no hope for any human ability to change our sinful desires. As the modern secular worldview generally acknowledges, the alcoholic who stops drinking remains an alcoholic. The secular world affirms that this is so. The Bible explains why it is so.

Fourth, the Christian cannot accept any argument that denies what the Bible reveals about the sanctification of believers — including the sanctification of our sexuality. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ receives the forgiveness of sins, the gift of eternal life, and the righteousness of Christ imputed by faith. But the redeemed Christian is also united with Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and given means of grace through, for example, the preaching of the Word of God. The Bible reveals that God conforms believers to the image of Christ, doing that work within the human heart that the sinful human himself or herself cannot perform. The Bible reveals that believers are to grow into Christlikeness, knowing that this is a progressive process that will be completed only with our eventual glorification at the end of the age. In this life, we know a process of growing more holy, more sanctified, and more obedient to Christ. In the life to come, we will know perfection as Christ glorifies his Church.

This means that Christians cannot accept any argument that suggests that a fundamental reorientation of the believer’s desires in a way that increasingly pleases God and is increasingly obedient to Christ is impossible. To the contrary, we must argue that this process is exactly what the Christian life is to demonstrate. As Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” [2 Corinthians 5:17]

The Bible is also honest about the struggle to overcome sin and sinful desires. Paul writes about this in Romans 7, but the exhortations of the entire New Testament also make this clear. Christians with same-sex sexual desires must know that these desires are sinful. Thus, faithful Christians who struggle with these desires must know that God both desires and commands that they desire what He wills for them to desire. All Christians struggle with their own pattern of sinful desires, sexual and otherwise. Our responsibility as Christians is to be obedient to Christ, knowing that only He can save us from ourselves.

Christians cannot avoid the debate over reparative therapy, nor can we enter the debate on secular terms. We must bring to this conversation everything we know from God’s Word about our sin and God’s provision for sinners in Christ. We will hold no hope for any sinner’s ability to change his or her own heart, and we will hold little hope for any secular therapy to offer more than marginal improvement in a sinner’s life.

At the same time, we gladly point all sinners to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, knowing that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. [Romans 10:13] We hold full confidence in the power of the Gospel and of the reign of Christ within the life of the believer. 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.

And, even as Christians know that believers among us struggle to bring their sexual desires into obedience to Christ, this is not something true only of those whose desires have been homosexual. It is true of all Christians. We will know that those believers who are struggling to overcome homosexual desires have a special struggle — one that requires the full conviction and support of the body of Christ. We will see the glory of God in the growing obedience of Christ’s redeemed people. And, along with the Apostle Paul and all the redeemed, we will await the glory that is yet to be revealed to us.

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Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.,serves as president of  The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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