Some thoughts on Reparative Therapy
Jay has some interesting things to say in response to this weekend’s conference:
It’s a rather odd subject, really. If I had to sum it up easily, I think I’d say that the majority of SSA men and women I’ve met and observed have a strong aversion to the idea that they were born with gay feelings. This isn’t because they simply disagree with the research done about it, either. To me, it seems like there’s this idea that, if you’re “born gay,” then it’s immutable and you can’t change it and you might as well go and “life the lifestyle.” Likewise, if environmental factors cause SSA, then it’s mutable and you can go through a 12-step process and change it or something. I know that’s quite a generalization, but those are the two more prevalent lines of thinking that I’ve seen. I find them really odd, firstly because biology doesn’t necessarily equate to immutability, nor does environment equate to mutability.
Many Christians have speculated over the years that even if a “gay gene” was found (and this is a very simplistic view, since biological causes don’t automatically have to be genetic), then the Christian position on homosexuality wouldn’t change. This is true. We’re born into sinful natures and none of us get to pick and choose which temptations we deal with, nor do we get to choose how firmly rooted they are, or how long we may have to deal with them. However, the same Christians who state that correct theological position often go to great lengths to say that homosexuality is not biological, and they seem to usually do it out of the presupposition that dealing with past wounds will “cure” homosexuality.
Now, before I go any further, I’ll say that I have no problem with someone who wants to deal with childhood hurts or abuses. I have nothing but respect for them and I wish them the best of luck. What concerns me is that these things are being dealt with not because the individual wants to become a healthier adult, but because he or she wants to live up to the American Christian expectation of a spouse and children. To be fair, I’m not saying that it’s all about keeping up appearances. Many people can’t imagine themselves being happy unless they’re normal. I certainly know all about that.
I think that’s a really interesting point and something that I might raise in the national media this weekend. Yes, that was a tease…
Back to Jay:
But don’t we sell ourselves short if we only see what everyone else has as our ultimate goal? I know celibacy is difficult, but it’s not a death sentence nor is it a proclamation that you’re going to be lonely and miserable. It all depends on what you make of it. The main problem I see with people who react very negatively against the “born that way” concept is that they want too much control. If you think that your SSA came from environmental factors, then you at least have the luxury of being able to think of ways to deal with those factors and change your feelings (even though the evidence for that is shaky at best).
You can’t do anything to deal with possible gene sequences or hormonal levels in your mother’s womb, though. You have to just be content with dealing with temptations day by day, and maybe developing an honest, trusting, respectful relationship with someone you might call your wife or husband one day. An unconventional relationship, maybe. They may be the only person you’re attracted to, and it may take time and patience, and it might not be a good idea at all and you might have to deal with being celibate and content in that way. Still, I find that option to be a much healthier one than spending extraordinary amounts of time, combing through childhood memories looking for the slightest hurt, just to rationalize away the concept that you might be born that way.
I think this is a fascinating argument and pushes us back to making our pastoral work in this area as much about living with temptation as it is healing wounds.