On Gay Conversion Therapy Pt. II

(Part I)

Your Parent’s Made You Gay?

For a number of years I believed that homosexuality is most often caused by a disintegrated relationship with the same-sex parent. As Tomazin points out, that’s a common and fundamental interpretation for reparative therapy groups. Three years ago it started to become clear to me, from research, from observation of my life and others, that that’s unlikely.

Farrah, in her undercover interactions with Living Hope Ministries, found herself “profoundly unsettled” as she was told that her same-sex attraction came from a deficit of the three A’s (affirmation, attention, and affection) in her relationship to her parents. I suspect this is a view that is still floating around Christian circles.

There may be some merit to this but it’s a massive assumption to base a life-altering therapy on. It has also meant that same-sex attracted Christians have pinned unhelpful, disproportionate blame on their parents, which just creates more distance.

Too many people have poor relationships or experience some form of trauma in relation to their folks but most of them don’t end up gay as adults. Also, not all gay people (including Christian same-sex attracted people I know) can look back to their childhood and identify instances of abuse or a general quality of neglect and absence.

The reality is that we don’t know why some people are gay. No line of investigation has uncovered a definite answer. It could have some genetic grounding, it could be pre-natal and hormonal, it could be nurture, it may well be all of the above and then other factors.

Frankly, most people don’t really care if there is an answer, meaning that research looking into this question doesn’t get funding, especially not research looking into the social development of sexuality (the nurture approach).

Whatever the case may be, it wouldn’t change the biblical approach to sexuality all that much. We believe that everything in a fallen world is damaged: relationships, genes, hormone quantities, and everything else that forms a person. This affects everyone, not just gay people, and expresses itself in myriad ways. It doesn’t make one person more broken than another and brokenness itself isn’t a sin. To poorly paraphrase Alain de Botton, the Christian doctrine of fallen humanity is a strangely warm and inclusive doctrine.

It’s all Conversion Therapy?

I’ve said a lot in agreeance with the article, however I do have some criticisms.

First of which is that organisations that hold to biblical teaching on homosexuality are automatically lumped in with Conversion therapy. Academician Tim Jones is quoted saying,

“If you’re in a Protestant church or you’re in any other form of conservative religious community, it’s likely that community will be linked into a network in which you’ll be able to be referred to someone for conversion therapy. They won’t call it that, but the ideas around it are widespread.”

This is problematic on two levels.

My biggest problem here is that this is a springing leap in reasoning. To say that basically all evangelical churches will always have traceable lines to available conversion therapy is the equivalent of saying that gay communities will always have connections to people who affirm child sex. It’s gross, it’s unhelpful and not especially true.

Perhaps the reason for this parallel is because we live in a world where it’s very easy to trace one thing to another. Everything is networked. Stacked on top of that, Christians aren’t in the habit of throwing other Christians under the bus. We don’t believe it’s our right to say who and who isn’t truly Christian. I’m sure that most evangelical churches would say that conversion therapy, as it has been practiced, an abominable thing. But they likely wouldn’t say that the people running those groups aren’t Christian. If they are saved by God, then they are a part of the same body, whether we like it or not.

As someone within the network of evangelical ministries in Australia, particularly as someone who is gay, I don’t believe that there is an epidemic of harmful therapy to freak out about.

Tomazin goes on to write,

Gay conversion is an umbrella term for a range of approaches designed to change or suppress a person’s orientation or gender identity. But much of it can’t be captured under existing laws because it takes the form of “spiritual” guidance.

In Melbourne, Courage International helps people “live chaste lives”; in Brisbane, Liberty Inc. addresses “unwanted same sex attraction,” and Liberty Christian Ministries, which is backed by the Sydney Anglican Archdiocese, teach a “biblical perspective” on same sex attraction.

Groups like these believe they are doing the right thing: helping people who seek support to live in accordance with their faith and values. Some have changed their message over the years, focusing less on changing sexual orientation than on suppressing it through celibacy. Others insist their work should not be classified as conversion or “ex-gay” practice at all.

“Liberty is not an ex-gay ministry,” says spokesman Jackson Stace in a statement. “Liberty does not encourage Christians to change their sexual orientation – nor do we refer to people or counsellors who would. We primarily seek to support a sub-group of Christians that can feel under-supported in church life as they seek to live out their faith.”

My issue here is with the language of suppression. It seems to imply that the practice of celibacy is enforced upon Christian gay people. But gay people come into contact with Liberty Christian Ministries (the group I’m most familiar with) of their own volition seeking resources and support because they want to be faithful to Christian teaching as a minority within the church.

For me personally, my love of God and receiving His kindness to me is more important than finding sexual expression, a sentiment I know to be shared by many others. I can vouch for Liberty Christian Ministries in being true to the statement from Jackson Stace.

Is it not a fair and good thing in a country with religious freedom for there be resources to assist you living in alignment with your genuine, thought out convictions?

Still dealing with this idea of “suppressing sexuality through celibacy”. What does that statement imply about people who aren’t having sex, even outside of religious communities?

Does the 20+ year old virgin have anything to be ashamed about? Is the single widow lacking something in their humanity? Is the asexual individual a funny but kind of sad exception?

This is the cruel implication we put forward when we establish a link between suppression and a lack of sexual activity.

Gay People are Victims of Culture…

…not just conversion therapy. Let’s remember that the church isn’t solely to blame for the victimisation and harm of gay people. It has certainly made some significant errors in its approach to sexual minorities; so has everyone.

Parents who submitted their children to reparative therapy weren’t primarily directed by biblical teaching and concern or good pastoral theology; they were driven by social stigma pervasive in Australian culture at the time. We’re all responsible for the culture we build/allow to develop, and we cannot but stand on the history of the land on which we establish ourselves.

 

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