UNDERSTANDING HOMOSEXUALITY meets STRAIGHT INTO GAY AMERICA, a conversation between pastor/author David Glesne and pastor/author Lars Clausen. Today Glesne writes about studies of early factors leading to homosexuality. Glesne includes some of his pastoral view of God and faith, including: all people are equally worth in the sight of God, we live in a broken world, and our identity is in God and we must not be careful to confuse this by basing our identity in our sexuality.
I am grateful for the tone of this conversation and am hopeful because of it that we and our readers can benefit from the discussion.
In the spirit of narrowing our focus and proceeding step by step (a good idea!), I’ll respond here to the first of the two points in your response, that having to do with early childhood development. I intend to take up your second point in the next post.
Responding to comments regarding early factors leading to homosexuality:
The question that is being asked in chapter 2 of Understanding Homosexuality is, “What can we say about the cause(s) of homosexuality?” In addition to what is written there, let me add some additional thoughts here.
As one looks at the literature, the two main candidates for cause are 1) constitution which some call Nature, and 2) environment which some call Nurture. So here is the old Nature vs. Nurture controversy that enters into so many discussions.
Constitution, as we know, has to do with genetics, with being born that way. To put it very simply, there have been many studies and suggestive papers written saying there may be some evidence towards people with exclusive homosexual orientations having some genetic abnormalities. But if I understand correctly, most people have now come to the conclusion that there is no current conclusive evidence for chromosonal abnormality. Gay-activist researchers themselves (see Dean Hamar and Simon LeVay, for example, on pages 24-25, and Camille Paglia’s comment) have been desperately searching for a genetic element to homosexuality and have openly admitted to their failure to do so.
Steinbeck, an associate professor of medicine at New South Wales and head of the division of endochronology and metabolism at Prince of Wales & Prince Henry hospitals has written a paper entitled, “Of Homosexuality, the Current State of Knowledge,” in which he reviews quite a lot of the genetic and hormonal evidence and he concludes that there is no firm evidence to support any constitutional disposition. His conclusion fairly represents, I believe, most people’s views at this time.
On the Environment Side there is considerable evidence pointing to some influence of family life and early relationships. Though still inconclusive, yet certainly the psychoanalysts and others have come up with a pretty consistent picture.
Bieber in 1962 did a study with homosexual males who were in psychoanalysis compared with heterosexual males in psychoanalysis.
Evans in 1969 did a study with non-patient homosexual males vs. non-patient heterosexual males.
Sander and Robins in 1974 again did a study with non-patient homosexual men and women.
The picture they produced is fairly similar. It is essentially this picture I try to accurately portray on pages 34-38 which I will not reiterate here.
But I want to turn to your more specific concerns, Lars. The concern is voiced that in spite of the qualifications in the text (i.e. that honest researchers are not really sure what causes homosexuality and that early destructive family dynamics is not the only or even necessarily the greatest contributing factor to the development of homosexuality), sources are quoted in my book that argue strongly for evidence of these early family dynamics. You are then concerned that fathers (and mothers) may feel terrible that they had done something wrong upon hearing about this evidence.
Let me respond with a number of thoughts. When I spoke about this in a sermon to my congregation, being very sensitive to this very issue, I made clear that this was not to place blame on anyone. One does need to be very sensitive when talking about the evidence. I would always point out here that the human being is a very complex creature. We are each one of us a cluster of our biology, our physiology, our hormones and our social relationships. We are each different and unique individuals influenced by different combinations of many factors. With regard to homosexuality there are those who become homosexual who had a healthy relationship with parents while growing up. Others may have a certain amount of genetic predisposition. Others may have family relationship factors. For others it may have been teaching about sex in their family. For still others factors may have included the attitudes in the church about sex mixed in with family relationships etc. etc. So a strong word of caution, it seems to me, must always be given that these contributing factors are not 100%. There are some homosexuals without these background factors as well as certainly some with these background factors who do become homosexual.
Since the complexity of the matter in my estimation is captured best by Jeffrey Satinover (page 39), I’ll quote him here:
“Like all behavioral and mental states, homosexuality is multifactorial.
It is neither biological nor exclusively psychological, but results from an
as-yet-difficult-to-quantify mixture of genetic factors, intrauterine influences, postnatal environment, and a complex series of repeatedly reinforced choices
occurring at critical phases of development.”
So as one inquires into possible causes of homosexuality, these strong qualifications need to be made as one follows where the evidence leads. The sources used in the book do point to strong evidence for factors but the qualifications are there as a strong word of caution that these contributing factors are not 100%.
The intention in pointing to the evidence must never be to hurt someone or to make them feel bad. But having said that, our therapeutic culture does us no favors with its insistence on always having to feel good. Reality is much more real than that. As a Christian I look at the world and see a world now that is abnormal and broken and sinful of which I and everyone else is a part. That is what is. In the midst of my brokenness there is pain and hurt that I inflict upon myself and others, including my children. That is why I am so thankful that Jesus Christ entered into my broken world and into the hurt that is caused by my brokenness, to bring forgiveness and healing of those hurts and pain. As a Christian I can actually embrace the brokenness and hurt without them crushing me because Christ is there facing them with me. If we as parents in our sinfulness and brokenness bring pain upon our children – including the pain of homosexuality because of negative relational dynamics - then the Good News is that Jesus came for both us and them - and that reality is our hope.
I would like to comment also on a point that comes to light at the end of this section in the dialogue with your lesbian friend. We may be running ahead of ourselves here but I believe it is worth commenting on here. The comment is made that your friend will not be taking part in these discussions because of past frustrations with having to try to convince others of the worth of her being.
My heart aches when I hear this, especially if in past discussions, people have in any way seemed to lessen her worth as a person. Lest there be any reader of this blog who like her is wavering with similar thoughts about remaining in this conversation, let me say as clearly as I can that I believe every human being has equal worth in the eyes of God and should therefore have equal worth in our eyes. Whether heterosexual or homosexual or bi-sexual or transgendered, we have equal value and worth in God’s eyes.
But I would go on and say that this value and worth is not drawn from our sexuality. Let me speak personally here. My identity is found in God’s view of me, and if I understand Scripture correctly, God sees me as a human being made in His image and likeness. My identity then is not that of a heterosexual man. For me, drawing my identity from my sexuality would be to shift the ground of my identity subtly and idolatrously away from God. Rather, my identity is drawn from God. My identity is derived from having been created in God’s image and then that broken image (because of sin which separates me from God) being restored in Christ. Let me assure you from my side of the conversation that no one in this discussion will have to try to convince me of their worth or value. In my mind, that is already a given.
I’ll press pause here and pick up my response to your second point which has to do with the use of data and statistics on my next post.