“And so were some of you”
If we are going to save our culture, it is important that Christians change their approach toward homosexuality. Fighting the GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) agenda in the legislatures and courts will not succeed as long as the GLBTQ activists define the debate. We must treat same-sex attraction and sexual identity disorders (the so-called transgendered and queer) as what they are –preventable and treatable problems.
Such a change in attitude has happened before with alcoholism and abortion and needs to happen again.
In the 19th century alcoholism was considered an untreatable and deadly condition that destroyed lives and families. Many people came to believe that prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages was the only solution. The 18th amendment passed, but failed to achieve its goal. After repeal, alcoholics were treated as a joke in films or even heroes, but a quietly growing movement – Alcoholics Anonymous, a 12 step program based on spiritual insights – provided the answer. There are still alcoholics and drunk drivers, but now there is hope and help. Millions of men and women are living full lives in recovery.
Before Roe v. Wade, pregnant unmarried women were treated as pariahs, hidden away in shame until they delivered and surrendered their babies for adoption. Such treatment drove some to seek illegal abortions. After the Supreme Court’s decision, the pro-life movement was formed. At first many pro-lifers categorized the women having abortions as selfish and heedless, but soon the movement’s attitude changed. The pro-lifers realized that the mothers were the second victims of abortion — driven by fear, pressured by others. They needed help. A network of pregnancy help centers sprang up across the country. Sidewalk counselors stand outside abortion clinics to be sure that every woman contemplating abortion knows that real, practical help is available. Post-abortion counseling groups minister to women traumatized by their abortions. Those involved in the abortion industry, those who saw the carnage and emotional damage first hand and repented of their involvement, are speaking out against it. The pro-life movement now presents a message of mercy and love, not condemnation and shame.
A similar change of attitude is needed as regards same-sex attraction (SSA) and sexual identity disorders. Before GLBTQ activists began to demand full legal and social acceptance for their agenda, including the redefinition of marriage, persons with SSA or sexual identity disorders were either ignored or treated as comic relief – stereotyped as limp-wristed fairies. Society saw the problem but didn’t ask and those with SSA were not supposed to tell. The Church told them very clearly that what they were doing was wrong, but didn’t offer a path out of their problem. This in spite of the fact that a small group of therapists were working on understanding the causes of same-sex attraction and using various types of therapy to help those experiencing these problems to change their behavior and in some cases their sexual orientation.
Had these efforts received the kind of attention they deserved a great deal of suffering could have been avoided, however instead the GLBTQ movement grew and now besides demanding the redefinition of marriage, they are pushing for legislation to prevent treatment.
However, in spite of the lack of support, progress in the understanding of SSA has been made. While there is no single cause for SSA or sexual identity disorders, there is no evidence that people are born that way and can’t change. Cases histories reveal similar patterns of early attachment disorders, failure to identify with same-sex parent or peers, traumas, and deficits, and a high rate of childhood sexual abuse. There is nothing compassionate about an attitude which just leaves such persons alone to act out, while their underlying problems go unaddressed. Those with SSA and sexual identity are far more likely to suffer from other psychological disorders, suicidal ideation, depression, substance abuse problems, relationship instability, victimization, and for the men sexually transmitted diseases. Although one hears about it less frequently and in spite of advances in treatment, the AIDS epidemic continues unabated among men who have sex with men. ‘Transgendered’ males, that is men who want to be or think they are women, are at the highest risk.
Therapy is not about pushing down same-sex desires and trying to stir up other sex attraction, rather therapists help their clients discover the roots of the problem. According to Joseph Nicolosi, a leader in the field and author of Shame and Attachment Loss: The practical work of reparative therapy:
“We do not accept the fatalism of the “born that way” concept. Instead we propose an alternative model – addressing and resolving the underlying conflicts that have, in our view, laid the foundation for the symptoms of same-sex attraction.”
Just as there are AA groups in every community, pregnancy help centers in every city, and sidewalk counselors in front of every abortion clinic, there need to be support groups and therapists in every part of the country dedicated to helping men and women with SSA and sexual identity disorders find their way to freedom.
Pope Francis sought to address the problem of how to deal with a priest with SSA. He said that he couldn’t judge. If a priest or indeed anyone is living chastely in though and deed, even if tormented by temptation, then we should not condemn him for his temptations, particularly when these spring from childhood traumas and deficits, but the problems faced by persons with SSA are not restricted to disordered patterns of sexual attraction. A man who is sexually attracted to other men will often have problems with authority. If he has not forgiven his father, he may have problems understanding what it means to be a father to all. He may be prone to non-sexual self-comforting behaviors. His attitudes to the Church’s teachings on sexual sin may be distorted.
While persons with SSA didn’t choose their temptations, there is nothing merciful about leaving them to struggle with such temptations alone, or pretending that resisting them is easy. Such men need specific help. If the Church has failed in the past to provide such help, we need to repent and remedy the situation. We should be praying for those struggling with this problem. They are not our enemies, but our friends, relations, and co-workers.
We can do so with assurance and if we do our part the grace will be given. In the 6th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul lists the various sexual sins including, but by no means limited to those promoted by GLBTQ activists. To those who committed such sins, he offers a sure hope:
“And so were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Published in Crisis , August 27, 2013