Recently we had a commenter post a question on this video:
The question was this:
“Dear Al, it troubles me that you are loosing focus as to what homosexuality really is as well as conversion. Homosexuality has varying degrees that go from hormonal imbalances to a lifestyle being the latter whats rapidly spreading in our culture. One has to do with medical treatment and the second with, I’ll say it, conversion, and what is to convert? well the word say it: To become something you are not. In either case there has to be some kind of change. No wonder our Lord used the term “conversion” to imply to what extent that change could be.”
I may have missed your point. So my response is tentative. Homosexuality is a multi-faceted phenomenon. But I don’t expect state, professionally licensed therapists to do the work of pastors or evangelists or spiritual directors. Conversion, in the sense that I think you mean it, has to do with the moral and spiritual transformation that enables one to turn to God and away from sin. Is that what therapists should be promising? I don’t think they should nor do I think they are making such promises. President Obama and his cohorts seem to think that is what Christian therapists have been promising. I don’t think so.
I am unaware of any large movement of professionals claiming “conversion” therapy. This is a straw man that ends up discrediting those individuals who claim to have experienced some measure of change or at least freedom from unchastity. The “conversion” language originates from non-professional Pentecostal groups who used to commonly promise conversion from homosexual desires when one was born again and became a new creation. Eventually, those who had claimed “conversion” sought to help other same sex attracted people. Prayer, deliverance, and biblical counseling got supplemented by neo-Freudian counseling that relied upon the belief that homosexuality was the result of a deficit in the relationship with the same sex parent. Sometimes this counseling helped, sometimes it didn’t. (To this day, there are four schools of thought on how same sex attraction originates. If we don’t know where it comes from, it’s not likely we know how to change it.)
In the 1980s, I served on the board of an ex-gay ministry and asked lots of questions and saw lots of mixed results. What I found was that most people, whether through prayer or therapy, didn’t experience a 180 degree turn from homo to hetero. At least half, frankly confessed continued struggling with same sex temptation. Many also gained significant mastery over behavior. I do know those who claim significant to complete change and are married with children. I know others who claim significant change but who retain tempting memories of same-sex stimulation. I know others who have resigned themselves to dealing with same sex temptation for the rest of their lives and yet are committed to chastity. I know others who lied to themselves and others about change when none occurred and became victims of wishful thinking- their own and that of their “counselor”.
By forbidding professionals to offer the possibility of some degree of change is unscientific. The research is not settled. At the moment, far more people experience benefits from the these therapies than suffer harm if the actual studies are to be believed. While the self-reports of people are not the best way to settle the science behind the problem, it certainly isn’t a bad way to proceed on the availability of therapies.
My key points are:
1. Politics are polluting much of the research on homosexuality.
2. Christian therapists don’t promise extravagant conversion. If the client wants it, a humane therapist should be able to offer the possibility of some degree of change or behavior, based on the current science. Pastors, evangelists, deliverance counselors should be able to pray for miracles. Just as some alcoholics are freed from alcoholism at conversion, so too some homosexuals are freed. We don’t, however, license substance abuse therapists who charge people good money claiming their therapy will turn an alcoholic into a non-alcoholic through prayer alone. Professional Christian therapists should not be coerced into silence by a law that denies the full range of scientific studies.
In summary, gay politics is distorting science and harassing Christian therapists.