Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Early Factors and Healing Homosexuality - Clausen

, a conversation between pastor/author David Glesne and pastor/author Lars Clausen.

Last time Glesne wrote about how early childhood developments can cause homosexuality. Today Clausen responds, including comments on article by Jeffrey Satinover from the NARTH website, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

Dear Dave,

At the beginning of this dialogue you wrote to me how busy you are these days with your building project at church and other endeavors. So I find it remarkable and wonderful that you find time for this extended conversation. Thank you. I got swamped with some projects at work this week (, but I realized what I most needed was to simply sit and spend some time with your post, and the 8 extensive comments that readers have offered us (if you’re new to blogs, you can read the comments by pressing the COMMENT link at the bottom of each post. That’s where you can also choose to add your own comment.). So, 4:00 a.m on Tuesday... Greetings and a good morning cup of coffee to you.

My goal in this post is to remain brief. You offered in your next post to take up the question of data and statistics. I’m looking forward to your words and to you helping with my concerns about the data you used to describe “the homosexual lifestyle.” In the COMMENTS, Tim Fisher is adding a lot to the conversation about data sources. It seems this topic is of general interest. I’m still concerned that the data you chose have gone out to 11,000 congregations as an incomplete and inaccurate description of the lives of people who understand themselves as lesbian or gay or bisexual.

I read three main subject areas in your last post.

  • Data about early factors on homosexual development and reiteration of Satinover’s quote that we really don’t know the causes of homosexuality.
  • Your pastoral concerns for LGBT people, and the inherent worth of all people.
  • Your understanding of God and of this broken world.

5:15 a.m… I’m looking forward to getting to our conversations on your second and third points about the inherent worth of all people, and understandings of God and world. I have hopes that these can be some very beautiful conversations. It’s rather a non-statement to say that our worldviews shape our view of the world, but I have a deep interest in what makes us adopt, hold to, and change our worldviews. I imagine you have a similar interest. I envision those conversations being still a couple of steps ahead of us.

Right now, I’m still sitting with your writing. And looking at the comments from readers. And looking at the NARTH website ( You’ve quoted Jeffrey Satinover both in your book and in our conversations, as one who writes of the complexity of the factors that cause homosexuality. (I’m in full agreement with the notion of complexity. I look at my own life and it’s filled with mystery. I know I’m glad my dad taught me to unicycle when I was twelve years old, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now!)

Following your lead, I found an article by Satinover on the NARTH website that I want to mention, and then I’ll sign off, because I really am looking forward to your next post about how we use data and statistics, and the statistics which you used that troubled me.

Note: I know very little about scientific studies on homosexuality, but I found the COMMENT of Nadine Anderson useful:

In one of the responses earlier, someone objected to the fact that the references Rev. Glesne uses are 13+ years old. Yes, that is a pity, but getting newer data is hard and not likely to be happening. I have a Ph.D. in social psychology -- that means I am trained to do that kind of research, though I am not now doing it. There is not a lot of support money out there for collecting recent unbiased data on homosexual behavior, so we are often left with the need to use very old data. Bell, Weinberg, and Hammersmith (1981) did one of the best studies on causes of homosexuality in that they interviewed around 3000 gay men and lesbians and about half as many straight people. They found that there is no simple answer to what causes homosexuality, but the psychoanalytic view of weak father / strong mother was not supported. They found a fair number of gay men with that combination, but they found more straight men with that experience. As they said, if you cannot differentiate homosexual from heterosexual development, you cannot say what causes either. Unfortunately, I've never seen and have been told they never published the data on heterosexual behavior. I would look at the studies he (Glesne) cites -- I think their sponsorship suggests a negative view of homosexuality. It is hard to collect unbiased data on socially sensitive issues. Thanks for the web page citation someone gave earlier on another psychologist's view, I will follow that up. Nadine

So…moving forward…Satinover’s article is entitled: The Complex Interaction of Genes and Environment: A Model for Homosexuality.

It’s full of data and graphs and I leave to others who know more than me to agree or disagree with the data specifics. What I do know is that Satinover’s conclusion raises a central point for me. I wanted to copy the last dozen paragraphs here, but the article is copyrighted at the NARTH website, so you’ll have to click to see the article for yourself. In setting out his “condensed and hypothetical scenario” for the development of a homosexual person he reaches the point of what should a person do about being homosexual, and he writes,

“The most important message he needs to hear is that "healing is possible."”

Satinover then writes:

“From the secular therapies he will come to understand what the true nature of his longings are, that they are not really about sex, and that he is not defined by his sexual appetites. In such a setting he will very possibly learn how to turn aright to other men to gain from them a genuine, nonsexualized masculine comradeship and intimacy; and how to relate aright to woman, as friend, lover, life's companion, and, God willing, mother of his children.”


“From communities of faith that turn to him in understanding, offering not only moral guidance but genuine healing, he will gain much in addition...”

There is much for us to discuss here, including your own section of UNDERSTANDING HOMOSEXUALITY titled “Helping Someone Change,” page 164ff.

What I’d like to suggest is the applicability of Nadine Anderson’s observation that it’s hard to collect unbiased data on socially sensitive issues. Satinover’s “most important” message of declaring that “healing is possible,” is very different from my own. Here’s “the most important message” I’d want to declare from the anecdotal summer I spent Unicycling Straight Into Gay America.

“A society of equal rights is possible. Removing the social, biblical, and legal stigmata against being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex, will likely create more social, psychological, and religious health. The question of Nature or Nurture will almost certainly become moot. Ex-Gay therapies may continue to exist for those who want to pursue these therapies. Importantly, though, these therapies will be offered without the social, psychological, familial, religious, and legal stigmas that serve as the pressure cooker by which many are motivate to seek change. Our sexual orientation would no longer be a categorical defining factor of whether individuals were living the good life. One wording of that good life that comes from the Judeo-Christian tradition is “doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8)

Satinover and I are looking for different things from the data of our experiences. And if I read UNDERSTANDING HOMOSEXUALITY right, you and I are also looking for different things from the data of our experiences. I look forward to exploring these worldviews of ours that lie behind the data, but first, I’m waiting expectantly for you to address my concerns about your data and descriptions of “the homosexual lifestyle.”

6:30 a.m. I’m signing off. Time to walk home from my office, wake up the kids, and get them ready for school. I’ll give this a proofreading sometime today and then post it for our discussion on Wednesday a.m. I appreciate this opportunity for our dialogue, and the comments we’re receiving from so many thoughtful people.

Blessings to you David, and for all of us who are participating,



Tim Fisher said...

Dear Bloggers,

Alcoholism is a favorite analogy of those who wish to argue that homosexuality is bad. (See Satinover's article, which Lars references in today's post of Oct. 18.) The point being made by Satinover and others is that just because someone may be genetically predisposed toward a certain mental state or behavior (i.e. homosexual orientation and homosexual sexual behavior), that doesn't mean such a state or behavior is good. I agree with this overall point. Whether we are born heterosexual or homosexual, or whether we choose to be either, or whether society prompts us to be either--all of these measures are, strictly speaking, completely useless in telling us what is good or bad.

(By the way, I note that, in the article mentioned, Satinover goes to great lengths to make the above point, using charts and graphs etc... But there is surprisingly little content to the article. Much of what Satinover says, as Lars seems to hint in the quotes he pulled, is entirely unsupported, even by these very same, and very speculative, charts and graphs. Just as an aside, it is interesting to note that Satinover is one of the people who popularized the "Bible codes" nonsense.)

But if we look very deeply at all, we note that alcoholism is not a very good analogy here. I don't know of anyone who is against gay or lesbian relationships who would agree that, like alcohol, a little homosexuality now and then doesn't hurt anyone. Or, a little bit of ritual homosexuality, properly presided over by the clergy and done mostly in the church, is okay. The point: Drinking alcohol in itself denotes neither a physiological nor a moral crisis.

What I see happening with much of the anti-homosexual behavior literature, including Dave's, is a kind of condemnation by causal association. If we can show that that the cause of homosexual orientation somehow correlates with something perceived to be negative--say, an absent father; or a over-involved mother; or, for males, too little "roughboy" play (to use Merton Strommen's term); or seduction by an adult--then we succeed in casting a negative light on homosexual orientation and behavior itself. Comparing homosexuality to alcoholism is a similar approach, with a similar effect.

When others object that none of these correlations have been demonstrated to be statistically valid (no, Dave, they have not), much less confidently identified as causes, the retort comes back that "well of course it is multi-factorial--so what is true as a cause for one person is not necessarily true for another." Indeed, homosexuality *may* have a multi-factorial cause, but if it does, those factors are not known.

It needs to be pointed out (as I have written before in another, similar context) how politically convenient the "multiple factors" approach becomes when stigmatizing (intentionally or unintentionally) the behaviors and relationships of a whole category of people. Here we see how "causes of homosexuality" can be found under every bed and in the obscurity of every shadow. This approach is far too loose and prone to misuse and misinterpretation.

For all we know, homosexual orientation is caused by too much good literature and classical music in the household. At least for boys. [grin]

Indeed, when we are presented with statistics as alarming as David's, even if they be used in a scientifically and rhetorically appropriate way (which in many cases they aren't), there arises a dangerous temptation to view the scientific information as proof of God's condemnation. In such an environment, the nicest of church ladies view the gay or lesbian as an abomination not because of Leviticus-although obviously Leviticus often provides the language-but rather because gays are killing themselves and other gays, gays are promiscuous and are therefore destroying the social fabric, gays and their supporters are creating more gays by their advocacy, etc. . . The parishioners respond with fear. In such an environment, a peculiar sort of unreasonable science supplants Scripture as the rule and norm of the church as it pertains to our discernment of homosexuality. I have seen it happen.

From a discussion of the "Causes of Homosexuality" and "The Gay Lifestyle and Agenda," (in Dave's chapter 2), where we hear of such things as a supposedly high rate of promiscuity among a poorly numerated *segment* of the homosexual community, Dave elides into a discussion of homosexuality *in general*, as a category. As Merton Strommen has written, "[I]t is important to say clearly that there is a strong tendency within the homosexual community toward promiscuity and very high-risk behavior. . . . Such risks cause us to question whether homosexuality should be endorsed without question" (pp. 56, The Church and Homosexuality, second edition). Dave, you basically do the same thing in your book, with even less scientific support than Strommen.

What results, I believe, is a confounding of the church's fundamental responsibility in this debate, which is to discern what is best for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in our midst. The scientific figures, as sketchily presented as they are--as speciously proven as they are--quickly become God's reasons as they percolate in the church's fearful mind. By conflating the categories of "homosexual" (a descriptive category) and "promiscuous" (a moral category) without sufficient evidence, it becomes far too easy to fall into a plainly illogical argument: that an individual person's sexual orientation (however he/she might come by it) is to be morally judged on the basis of a *group's* statistics.

Grace and peace,

Tim Fisher
Minneapolis, MN

Dr.Joe said...

The "gay liufestyle" I am most familiar wqith is my son's., which is hardly as described by the Religious Right literature. He and his partner have jsut bought theie own home. they both go to work int he morning on the light rail transport. They grocery-shop together, (something my wife and I do not do), they boougth a car and make short mini-vacation trips, they both like classical music and reading; my son is a MN Twins fan and doesn't miss many games;they have gone on a very pleasant vacation with us; they take care of their yard and garden in summer; they clean the house andc do the laundry. They both cook but one likes gourmet cooking more than the other. They seem to live within their limited means and they seem happy most of the time. I wlaked with my son along a major downtown mall and passed a Bible book store. He pointed out an anti-gay poster and remarked that this is common for him to experience. Otherwise, I don't see much difference in their lifestyle than in ours. What my wife and I do in our bedroom is neither his nor anyone else's business. And vice-versa.
From what I observe, the "gay agenda" is merely desiring the same rights of other citizens, and nothing more.
In comparing with alcohoolism, chemical dependency is considered, indeed, a disease. None of the major medical, psychiatric, pshychlogical, sociological, or pediatric professioanl societies consider homosexual orientation a disease. Comparing alcoholism with homosexuality is no less logical than comparing left-handedness with sarcoidosis.
I comparing promiscuity, one could compare singles bars with gay bars and Mardi Gras with Gay Pride Week and see similarities.
/as a father, with my first son, Steve, I was probably closer than with any of my other three because as a medical missionary in Tanzania I had the timew to have lunch and c\dionner and evenings at home to be with my first two children. Later, when in a busy practice in MN Ihad less time to be with our younger children and might have been "absent": more than with my son who learned quite early that he was gay.

Anonymous said...

My response is anecdotal, rather than scientific. My husband, a retired Seventh-day Adventist minister, and I learned 17 years ago that the youngest of our three sons is gay. Coming from a background of ignorance and prejudice, we were stunned and alarmed, but decided to show him unconditional love. And I began trying to learn more about homosexuality – to this day I read everything I can find about it.

He told us he “diagnosed” himself from reading a description in his 7th grade Bible textbook and immediately began pleading with God to change him. He dated girls, trying his best to be “like other boys,” and, determined to do God’s will, was engaged for 2 ½ years in college. When they were ready to order wedding invitations and God had still not given him the same kind of attraction his fiancĂ©e felt for him, they broke up and he turned his back on God.

He met a Catholic young man who invited him to sing in the church choir and they began living together. Three years later he decided to become a Catholic and they decided to be celibate. Six years later they parted as friends and he moved across the country to work for a Catholic foundation. A year later he entered a Carmelite monastery, where the prior counseled him about his homosexuality, but it was a very dysfunctional place and after 9 months he came home.

For the first time, we felt there was a wall between us. He was depressed and frequently seemed angry or irritated. He decided he had to change his orientation because, he told his brother, he couldn’t face a lifetime of celibacy and, as a Catholic, he believed homosexual relationships are sinful.

He began seeing a reparative therapist and soon began spouting their jargon, saying he had developed a “defensive detachment” from his father as a toddler because he sensed his father would never understand him. Utter nonsense! He was a lovable, sunny, outgoing child and his father absolutely loved him. He claimed I “used him as a surrogate husband” because during his later childhood and teens his father was frequently away traveling for the church. And he made much of one instance of “abuse” during his childhood when an older cousin tried to masturbate him.

For about a year he became very angry with us. I attended one therapy session with him and the therapist frequently said things like, “How did such-and-such make you feel? I know it would have made me very angry!” I felt like the therapist was trying to destroy our relationship and planting thoughts in his mind. Before his monastery experience we had many open and honest conversations and he never revealed any such feelings.

After four years of therapy he decided he has learned to “suppress those old thought patterns.” Less than five months ago he met a woman he likes. After dating about six weeks he told her about his homosexuality, but stressed that he believes he is “cured.” When she didn’t reject him, he was so thrilled he proposed to her three days later. They will be married in a couple of weeks. We pray it will work out, but have grave concerns because we have seen the tragic results of so many marriages of this kind.

A Concerned Mother

Tim Fisher said...

P.S. Lars: The blog comment box thingy just ate my comment! How annoying! I will have to recompose it, with little time. My apologies to “Concerned Mother” for my too brief response below.

Dear Concerned Mother,

Thank you for your story. I wish I could say something that would help your son or that would make things easier for you.

For what it’s worth, I am married, straight man who has done a lot of research on reparative therapy. I should say I am not a scientist or psychologist, although the literature on this topic isn’t exactly rocket science. I have read a lot, and I have corresponded with researchers--all I have learned convinces me that the therapy does not stand up to its claims. As you have intimated, often what happens is that the client gets indoctrinated into the preconceived theories of the therapist. These theories tend to be based on psychoanalytic notions that don’t hold water. They end up using the client’s desperation and guilt to cajole him into squeezing himself into the theory.

I can say that sometimes the therapy can be positive—-but only in SPITE of the stated aims of the therapy. Positive outcomes can occur when the client, through talk therapy, comes to learn more about himself and the many ways he has closeted himself. This can bring helpful insight. I have talked with a researcher who has documented this positive effect, along with the more prevalent negative effects. But it doesn’t sound like your son is at the point to receive benefit from this therapy. Similarly, I think marriages between gay men and straight women can work, but only if both are fully understanding that, sexually, things will very, very likely never change. Again, it doesn’t sound like your son is at that point.

There are many, many closets. One of them is the closet that people can put themselves in with the help of reparative therapists.

If you would like to correspond further, please contact me at

I pray for all your family.

Grace and peace,

Tim Fisher
Minneapolis, MN