A Happy New Year to you! We enjoyed Christmas with two of our children home with us and a trip to northern Minnesota to visit family there. Between Christmas and New Years I took a week of vacation. However, when one does not leave town for vacation, one runs the risk of being called on for deaths and funerals and that week we had four deaths and three funeral!. So I’m really not feeling as though I had much of a vacation.
But life goes on and I need to respond to your latest post. You invite me to respond to some of our readers and their concerns. What I will do is respond first with some thoughts from your most recent post and then look at some of the comments by our readers to my Tuesday, December 19 post.
Robert Spitzer’s Data & Reparative therapy
You commented on reparative therapy and Spitzer’s data in your latest post. Perhaps you and our readers will note that in our conversation, I have neither used the term reparative therapy nor have I advocated for it. One reason is, I don’t like the term. Repair a person? In my mind, that is not good or helpful language. A few years ago, I was present in a conversation which included Dr. Warren Throckmorton and another Christian psychologist in Minneapolis and remember both of them saying that they did not like nor use that term.
Is there evidence that same-sex persons can and have indeed changed? I believe the answer to that question is “yes.” On pages 28-33 of Understanding Homosexuality I address this matter and give evidence from biblical teaching, from scientific studies, and from human experience that homosexual persons can and have changed. It is within this section that I speak of Robert Spitzer’s testimony that some same-sex persons can and do change. As to Spitzer’s added comments that the “likelihood of altering sexual orientation is probably rare” I am not at all surprised. Those who carefully read the book and this section of the book in particular will note that I am very careful to be a realist here. I acknowledge “the limits and problems” (page 30) of change, that change is not easy and there are varying degrees of change (page 30), that it is very unlikely that one for whom same-sex impulses run deep within their being and who are in any way pressured into treatment will benefit (page 30). I say that for the one who wants to move away from the orientation “change may and probably will be a long, difficult and painful challenge.” (pages 31-32)
Outside the Christian context, I would suspect that Spitzer is right – that change is probably rare. Within the Christian context, it is undoubtedly just as difficult. I cite that ministries which find that individuals who are being successful in their attempts at sexual reorientation, or at least sexual control, seem to hold three values in common: 1) a strong, unswerving commitment to Jesus Christ, 2) the establishment of a long-term relationship with a professional therapist, and 3) an accepting environment in which progress and healing toward sexual wholeness can be made.
A conversation over lunch a few weeks back with a friend who lived as a lesbian for 14 years but who is no longer living as such, confirmed again for me the difficulty such a one has in moving out of the lifestyle. There is a lot of pain involved. A woman in the congregation I serve, with the help of a loving Christian community and a ministry of inner healing, has struggled but has successfully left her lesbian life of 10 years and is now experiencing a different reality. The testimony of an ex-gay man who now is married to a good friend of my daughter bears witness also to the difficulty but success in moving away from the homosexual life.
For those interested, a documentary by Dr. Warren Throckmorton entitled “I Do Exist” might be helpful. From this website: “This documentary looks into the lives of five people who struggle with being attracted to those of the same sex and addresses many contemporary questions surrounding the issue of change. I Do Exist describes individual perspectives regarding the development of same sex attractions. Participants describe their journey thus far in living in accord with their personal values and beliefs. Those who tell their experiences on I Do Exist describe changing perspectives on their sexual identity and personal beliefs.”
Change is difficult, painful, and in Spitzer’s words probably rare, but the testimony of an increasing number of persons who are exiting the same-sex life are telling us it is not impossible.
Trivializing the experience of same-sex persons
Dan asks me how the Law causes me huge damage and rather believes that if I am honest, would acknowledge that it “rather provides me with a great deal of comfort and direction, that it provides me with self-discipline and fulfillment.” I would respond by saying that the Law has both effects on me.
When I state that the Law causes me and all people huge damage, I am speaking – in classical Lutheran usage – of the first use of the Law. The Law’s first and primary use by God in my life is to show me that I am a sinner. I am guilty before a holy God. In this way the Law kills me and shows me that I am spiritually dead apart from Christ. It kills my pride. It is in this sense that I say it causes me huge damage. Since we all are sinners and fall short of the glory of God, as sinners we are all equally damaged or killed by the Law. Why does the Law does this work on us? So that I find no hope in myself and am then open to help from outside myself. As Luther says, the Law is my schoolmaster that drives me to Christ. And it is a relentless task master as it whips me mercilessly as it drives me to Christ. If the Law did not do this work in me, I would not see my need for Christ and if I did not see my need for Christ, I would not turn to him for salvation and if I don’t have salvation I am lost. So even in this strange work of the Law it is good, for it points me to the need for a Savior. Heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, Trans gendered, etc. – all of us without exception stand in the same place under the Law – condemned and guilty and in need of a Savior.
The second use of the Law has to do with ordering society. And the third use of the Law (disputed by some) has to do with the living of the Christian life. It is this sense that I believe Dan speaks of, that once one is in Christ, obedience to the Law is the road to remaining free and not falling back into bondage to sin. What Dan says about the Law giving me comfort and direction, etc. would be quite true when understood in this third use of the Law. I speak of this use of the Law on pages 161-162 when I say that after rescuing His people Israel from bondage in Egypt, God gave them the 10 Commandments. Why? Because God wanted his children to remain free. So too we have been rescued by Christ from bondage to Sin and he gives us the Law of love, the moral law so that by living a life of obedience to that law, we might remain free and not return to slavery to sin. Disobedience to God’s Law returns us to bondage and slavery, and eventual death. Obedience to the Law brings us freedom. No wonder Paul could say, “I delight in the law of the Lord!” for it is the law of freedom.
Dan also asserts (as well as other readers) that my entire approach trivializes the experiences of same-sex people. I do not believe that anyone who reads my book carefully can honestly come to that conclusion (and I realize that perhaps Dan has not read the book). As my book indicates time and again, I am well aware of the tremendous pain and hurt and confusion etc. experienced by same-sex persons and I do not underestimate the depth of the pain. I am going to take the liberty to quote sections of my book that speak to the issues Dan raises in his comment:
“These questions bring us face to face again with the very difficult question, ‘Can a homosexual change?’ There are extremes of view on this matter. Even within the church you have some who maintain that asking a homosexual to change is like asking a leopard to change his spots. They can’t do it. It is impossible. The orientation is too innate and fixed for there to be change. They come close to using deterministic language to describe the homosexual orientation. Therefore, it is argued, there are only two options for the homosexual person. Either, he has to accept the innateness of his condition, adjust, live with it and enjoy it, or not enjoy it but take a vow of celibacy and accept celibacy as a way of life.
There is great danger in defining homosexuality as unchangeable and fixed. The minute one does so, it almost precludes the possibility of change. The reality is that we don’t really know how much change is possible for each individual. And when we come to look at how we can help people change, there is increasingly strong evidence that homosexuals can change, that homosexual orientation may not be as fixed as we once might have thought. (page 164)
The objection is raised that the bible’s sex ethic is unfair to homosexuals. God is charged with being cruel in prohibiting homosexual acts to those whose orientation is not of their own choosing. The Christian faith is unthinkable for many in that it allows for no morally legitimate way to express homoerotic identity. How do we respond to these objections and charges?
If in fact God is cruel and unfair to homosexuals, then it must be said that he is equally cruel and unfair to all of us. Beginning with the fall into sin, every person has been born with a predisposition or orientation to sin which is not consciously or freely chosen. The Apostle Paul puts it very strongly when he says we are born slaves to sin (Rom. 6:17). Heterosexuals and homosexuals alike are born with fallen natures, a disposition to sin that we did not choose. God allows us to be born in bondage to sin and yet holds us morally accountable for our actions. It is a bondage
from which we cannot set ourselves free. That is why we need Christ’s redemption, that is, emancipation from slavery. The heterosexual and homosexual are in precisely the same place with regard to God’s prohibiting immoral sexual acts as those whose orientation is not of their own choosing.
There is in the Christian’s life this ongoing [Romans 7:15] battle with sin. It goes on
throughout the duration of the Christian’s life for both heterosexual and homosexual Christians. There is no basis in Scripture for treating the process of growing in Christian maturity for a homosexual Christian differently than for all Christians, as if homosexual Christians are in a totally unique category. All of us are fallen people, living in a fallen world and therefore predisposed to sin in different ways.
Is the Christian faith uncharitable because it does not allow for homoerotic expression? The argument is put forth that whereas heterosexuals who are single (unmarried, widowed, divorcees) are under the same admonitions as homosexuals to honor God with their bodies by remaining chaste, there is at least the hope and possibility of one day enjoying sex within legitimate marriage. But such a hope is not a possibility for the homosexual person. It needs to be acknowledged that this may be true for some homosexually orientated persons whose orientation runs deep within their being. But it must be pointed out that the unmarried woman who has strong sexual desires, whom no one asks to marry, is in the same place. She too is denied sexual expression. Both situations are a part of the abnormality of the fallen world. What is needed in both cases is compassionate understanding which moves the church to help the individual in every way possible.” (Pages 180-181)
Loving God? and Data
Nadine asks a question regarding Jesus’ words, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments?” She wonders if I am implying that GLBTIQA people do not love God if they do not follow my views of God’s commands. First, it needs to be said, that my views are not at issue here. What one is faced with are Jesus’ words about obeying his commandments. If we take Jesus straightforwardly here and in the normal meaning of words, it seems to me Jesus is saying that when we obey his commandments, we are expressing love for him and if we are not obeying his commandments, we are not expressing love for him. In other words, when I am disobedient to Jesus’ commands (which is far too often in my case) in those instances I am not loving Christ. That is why I confessed to Ronald (in the Prologue of my book) individually and why I confess corporately on Sundays with other believers that I do not love God as I ought – and I ask for forgiveness. Yes, as with myself, I do believe that GLBTIQA people who are disobedient to Jesus’ commandments likewise are in those instances not loving Christ. I see no biblical grounds to say something different with regard to GLBTIQA people than all other persons.
Nadine also comments on my use of data: “Rev. Glesne is saying give us better data or he’ll use what he has. BAD DATA IS NOT WORTH USING.” Then I appreciate her next comment – question: “If data is collected to find out about risky behavior to try to address that risky behavior, how can you then use that data to describe the entire group?” I feel as thought I have been heard here. Thank you, Nadine. There is only one purpose for bringing to light the risky nature of same-sex behavior, and it is not to demean people, or to make them feel bad, or to cause them hurt or pain, or to degrade people. I find no delight in directing attention to these behaviors. The purpose for doing so is to point out the health risks of such behavior in the hope that people will make different choices in their behavior. In my mind, that is expressing love for my neighbor, for love desires the good of the neighbor and there is same-sex behavior that is not good for one’s health.
Let me use anal intercourse of gay men as an example. The rectum was not built for intercourse. When that occurs, the rectal mucosa is torn and, in many cases, the sphincter muscles are stretched with can lead to fecal incontinence. It is not a healthy activity because tears in the rectal mucosa result in such a high incidence of disease. Now I suppose one can simply deny that this takes place. To me that is turning a blind eye. I am rather persuaded that this is what can happen. It is a risk of the activity. I would go on to say that it is a risk of the entire group of gay men who engage in such activity. (Yes, yes, heterosexuals who engage in such behavior run the same risk.) But while I can describe this activity as risky for the entire group, do all individuals within that group end up with some disease? I don’t know, but I would guess not – happily. All people who smoke cigarettes engage is risky behavior health-wise. Does that mean they all die of lung cancer? Again, happily not! I think, however, it is legitimate to speak of the risky behavior and activity of an entire group while acknowledging that not all individuals within the group will experience the results of the risky activity.
Regarding bad data is not worth using. I don’t think it is going to move the discussion forward by going over this ground yet one more time. At face value, who could really disagree with that statement? But unfortunately it is not quite that easy in my mind. Is it indeed bad data? How does one know it is in fact bad? How bad is it? If we are back to talking about Cameron and Jay & Young’s studies, I have responded to the concerns. If newer studies have been done on the kinds of behaviors and frequency of those behaviors in the gay subculture (so we are comparing apples with apples), then they can be brought forth and we can all look at these studies and evaluate them. If they are deemed better and more accurate than Cameron and Jay & Young’s, then we have improved statistics that we all welcome and are looking for.
Discredited Sources, Data, and Studies
Tim Fisher strongly criticizes the data put forward by Dr. Stanley Monteith (Paul Cameron) and the Gay Report by Jay & Young as junk science. We have gone over this ground before so I’ll only reiterate some central points. If the criticism is that these two studies are not representative of the overall population, it is a misrepresentation of what I am saying because I am making no such claim. These are studies done in what I refer to as the gay subculture and are not meant to be representative of the gay population as a whole. As such I doubt that the kinds of behavior are being denied (I may be wrong) and the percentages are always open to better data. What I have been missing from Tim and others is the bringing forth of scientific studies of the gay subculture that can then be brought along side the studies by Cameron and Jay & Young to challenge or confirm their reliability. I have always said we are open to better and improved data if further studies so warrant.
To answer Tim’s question of whether I have read all that he has written, the answer is “yes.” To refresh my thoughts, I just went back and quickly read over all the correspondence I have had with Tim (I hope I did not miss any, but that is a possibility). What I find is an impressive litany by Tim and many people of criticism of Cameron’s work and the conclusion that his work has been totally discredited. The line of thinking then follows that because Cameron’s work has been so totally discredited, therefore, the specific study I refer to in my book (the only reference made in the book to any of Cameron’s work – through Monteith) and which is in line with Jay & Young’s work is equally discredited – which may not be the case. What I do not find are studies of the gay subculture being brought to the table. Not to belabor the point, but let’s bring forth other studies of the gay subculture to see if these conclusions are confirmed or need to be modified.
NARTH Reference – Discrediting Science – Sexual Orientation – Holiness Code
Dr. Chapman is surprised that I once again use a Narth reference - and I am assuming he is speaking of referencing the Cummings article on the NARTH website on the Tuesday, December 19 post. I don’t believe you can be saying this but is the article by Dr. Cummings less credible if referenced and read on the NARTH website over against another website where it could be located – like Throckmorton’s for example? You undoubtedly realize the article is not a Narth writing, but a writing by Cummings that is made available for reading on their website. You have been respectful of me and I in turn want to be respectful of you. So please read this in the spirit in which it is written: dumb me for pointing eyes to the NARTH website rather than another one.
Dr. Chapman speaks of evangelical Christianity spending a lot of time discrediting science. My response is that when evangelical Christianity does so it needs to be criticized. There is no reason why evangelical Christianity should be criticizing science. Modern science grew up within a Christian context, it was birthed within that context, for Christianity provided the view of God creating an orderly cause and effect world outside of Himself which gave confidence that if one started an experiment today it could be continued tomorrow. Modern science arose in the West and not in the East for very good reasons. Speaking for myself, then, I am on the side of science. There is an objective world out there and we have the adventure of exploring that world through science. Now naturalistic science is a different issue, that is, science that is done within a view of the uniformity of causes in a closed system. But … that would be a different discussion which we cannot have here.
I am glad to know that you have not read my book (that didn’t quite sound right, but you know what I mean) because if you had done so, you would not have misrepresented what I am saying when you say that I do not believe homosexual orientation exists. I acknowledge the reality of homosexual orientation throughout the entire book. I make it very clear that I do not believe the great majority of same-sex persons choose their sexual orientation. Individuals choose their sexual behavior, but they do not choose their sexual orientation.
Dr. Chapman asks of me two specific questions: First, why is lesbianism never mentioned in the Old Testament? I am not sure. Robert Gagnon has much deeper study than myself and so I’ll share here what he says in this regard. He too is not sure but offers these possibilities (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, pages 144-145): “The primacy of penetration for defining sexual intercourse may partly explain why the Holiness Code leaves out lesbian relationships….It may have been thought of as a transgression of the covenant but one meriting a punishment less severe than death….Possibly lesbianism was unknown to the Israelites and/or Canaanites (it goes unmentioned in other legal materials from the ancient Near East) so there was no need to legislate it out of existence. We hear of male homosexual cult prostitutes in ancient Israel but not female homosexual cult prostitutes. In a society dominated by men and with a high view of chastity it might have been impossible for a sustained lesbian relationship to develop….In the end one cannot know what the precise reason for its exclusion from Lev. 18:22; 20:13 was.”
Second, why are the only two Old Testament references to male-male sex found in the Purity Code? Perhaps the primacy of the Holiness Code in the life of Israel gives us a hint at why it is found here and not elsewhere. God’s people in the land of Canaan were to be distinctively holy with respect to other peoples. The Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26) was a law code which urged all Israelites to keep the land unpolluted through holy obedience to the commands. It was to govern and regulate the behavior of God’s people. So in addition to the 10 Commandments and specifically Commandment 6 which speaks directly and indirectly to all the issues and behaviors of human sexuality, the Holiness Code reiterates God’s moral code as well as speaking of civil and ceremonial laws of Israel.
Thank you to all the readers that have been with Lars and me on this journey.