Monday, June 09, 2008

Matt 24 Watch, 57: Is biology destiny, or is that now widespread claim a delusion, one destructive to freedom and responsibility?

Is mere accident of biology moral destiny, or do we make real, though sometimes difficult, significantly free, moral choices?

This is the underlying issue raised by a major theme of much contemporary homosexualist advocacy, namely the "scientific" claim that there is a gay gene or the equivalent that more or less determines one's sexual attractions and resulting behaviour.

Such deeper issues are particularly connected to an underlying theme in Mr Sackur's challenge to Mr Golding of Jamaica, wherein homosexuality is seen as a genetically rooted, unchangeable -- thus morally neutral -- integral component of personal identity. On such an assumption, to challenge homosexual behaviour and advocacy is to attack persons based on who they inevitably are, thus to manifest bigotry.

In short, the voltage on the discussion on such matters in our civilisation has been turned way up; indeed to potentially lethal levels. That makes it very hard to speak in civil tones, and even harder to be perceived as so speaking -- very dangerous in a situation where there are now increasing numbers of cases where civil rights law is being used to try to shut down questioning of or concerns about the roots, morality of choices involved in and consequences of homosexual behaviour and agendas, such as so-called same-sex marriage. [Indeed, I note a recent headline which speaks against "anti- Gay Marriage" advocacy; which simply turns upside down the plain facts of the history of the nature of marriage; through the tactics of turnabout accusation -- those who seek to preserve the classic and well-tested status quo on marriage are presented as if they are the radicals trying to overturn the long-standing consensus of the civilisation. A sadly classic propagandistic technique that too often finds its way into today's news and views coverage.]

So, we first must pause and plead for a turning down of the voltage, as there is another side to the story!

In so doing, we must also continue to try to walk a delicate balance: addressing issues without condoning sin, while respecting the basic dignity of the person, the struggling sinner. [Which last is what we all are!]

Several observations will help:
1] Contrary to common claims, there is significant and credible evidence that homosexuals who so choose and persist in change efforts can significantly change not only their sexual behaviour but also their pattern of attractions; on a sustained basis. (In short, our common experience of mind, that we can make choices, though some of them are hard to make and make work out [especially where earlier choices have landed us in life-dominating patterns of behaviour, thought and feeling] is real.)

2] For instance, Dr Robert Spitzer of the American Psychiatric Association [APA] -- one of principals in the 1970's declassification of homosexuality as a listed mental disorder -- has gone on record:
"Like most psychiatrists," said Dr. Spitzer, "I thought that homosexual behavior could be resisted, but sexual orientation could not be changed. I now believe that's untrue - some people can and do change." In his new study announced May 9, 2001 at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Robert L. Spitzer released the evidence for his conclusions . . . . There is a professional consensus that homosexual behavior can be resisted, renounced or relabeled. However, homosexual orientation can never be changed . . . .

With the help of Dr. Richard C. Friedman, I developed a structured telephone interview . . . . About 90% of [our 200] subjects reported using more than one kind of change effort . . . The mental health professional was most commonly a psychologist (23%),or pastoral counselor (12%). Rarely a psychiatrist (3%). "Other" included repeated meeting with a heterosexual role model, often refer-red to as "mentoring," self help books or what some subjects called "spiritual work" - meaning changing one's relationship with God . . . . The vast majority said religion is "extremely" or "very" important in their lives . . . .

After two years into the change effort, they begin to feel different sexually. The vast majority of subjects reported this change as being gradual, and often starting with diminution of homosexual feelings and gradual emerging or intensification of heterosexual feelings. Three years later, after about five years of the change effort, it ends for 78% of the subjects. The remaining 12% report that the change effort continues up to the present time, usually referring to continuing to at-tend an ExGay support group or having a life-long struggle with the underlying issues that they believe caused their homosexuality . . . .

The gradual nature of the change, and the frequent pattern of less homosexual feelings followed by more heterosexual feelings , indicate it is not a simple made up story. The gender differences - e.g., the greater ease with which the women subjects were able to change, and the women's reports of often being more heterosexual to begin with - are consistent with the literature. It would be difficult to explain why, if no one really changed, the women subjects would report more change than the men.
3] In addressing the underlying mechanisms and results, Dr Spitzer notes:
In answer to the question, "How did you translate what you learned in the change effort to changing your feelings?" subjects reported the following change strategies that are generally recognized in the literature as components of effective psychotherapy efforts: Narratives linking childhood or family experiences to sexual fee-lings. Building on an intense emotional relationship to effect change in sexual feelings, e.g., many men reported that they only developed heterosexual arousal after they became intensely emotionally involved with a wom[a]n. Group or individual support, as in Exgay support groups. Thought stopping, e.g., "when I get such thoughts, I don't go down that route." Avoiding situations that triggered homosexual feelings. These are techniques that are commonly considered effective in psychotherapy, lending plausibility to their claims. We can imagine the mechanisms by which the-se techniques might work.

We conclude that, contrary to conventional wisdom, some highly motivated individuals, using a variety of change efforts, can make substantial change in multiple indicators of sexual orientation and achieve good heterosexual functioning. Subjects that made less substantial changes still believed that such changes were extremely beneficial.

Complete change - which is generally considered an unrealistic goal in psychotherapy - is uncommon, particularly in male subjects.
4] In short, the results of such studies on overcoming unwanted sexual attractions line up surprisingly well with the longstanding, classical biblical teachings on spiritual struggle and the overcoming of life-dominating sin and sins, e.g. in Rom 7 - 8:
RO 7:14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me . . . .

RO 8:2 . . . through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

RO 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

RO 8:9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ . . . . RO 8:12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
5] In short, a multi-year, spiritual disciplines- and decisions- based effort -- especially one surrounded by a circle of love and understanding -- has reasonable chances of helping people who find themselves to be trapped in unwanted same-sex attractions. And, the key understanding that such attractions and behaviour are unnatural, self-destructive and/or wrongful before God would be a key motivator for such a sustained effort and for the hope that it will ultimately succeed by God's grace. (In short, the evidence points out that this case fits a very familiar pattern of personal and spiritual growth. Doubtless, it is also the case that such efforts, ideally, should be started in the early stages of finding oneself facing such patterns, as it is much easier to overcome habits and attitudes while they are a-forming, than it is to break and reform long established life-patterns.)

6] When it comes to the gay gene claims, we should first note that, even if there is a genetic predisposition involved in part -- as there is in for instance alcoholism -- predisposition is not destiny. For by God's grace, we have the power of choice. (Contrast how one who is married is expected to remain loyal to his or her spouse, even in the face of temptations to stray. Indeed, we see here the principle that true love is a commitment and indeed eventually a habit much moreso than it is a feeling.)

7] Also, there are significant scientific challenges to the claims that have been advanced. So much so that as Dr Dean Byrd of NARTH cited from a recent APA bulletin:
There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles...
8] Indeed, Byrd goes on to note that Dr. Scott Hershberger, in reviewing Spitzer's findings, declares:
The orderly, law-like pattern of changes in homosexual behavior, homosexual self-identification, and homosexual attraction and fantasy observed in Spitzer's study is strong evidence that reparative therapy can assist individuals in changing their homosexual orientation to a heterosexual one.
The bottomline is plain.

Namely, at length, the much-maligned Apostle Paul -- painful though the following scalpel-like words are --stands vindicated (and not just in regard to homosexuality!):
1CO 6:9 . . . Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. 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.

1CO 6:12 "Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"--but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also . . . .

1CO 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
In short, there is hope, hope by way of tough decisions about our relationship with God and through the spiritual-moral surgery of making tough decisions on our direction in life, and post-surgical work of sustained, tough, disciplined love that follows after the good, the right and the truth. Hope for classical fornicators as well as homosexuals. Hope for former slave traders [I think here of John Newton, author of Amazing Grace, in light of 1 Tim 1:8 - 11], drunkards and swindlers.

Indeed, hope for just plain ordinary sinners -- sinners just like you and me.

So, let us at least listen to the experience-based advice of one who has come out of the world of ultimately unwanted same sex attraction and found release in God:
1. Establish and accept for yourself that God’s Word is true AS-IS.

2. Seek the truth within the scriptures about homosexuality

3. Do not resist God’s call on your life

4. Know with certainty that you are loved by God exactly where you are and that your experiences are of great value for kingdom work

5. Say Yes. That’s really all it takes to accept the truth which is accepting Jesus Christ.

6. Make your salvation real . . . We must believe with our hearts AND confess with our mouths.

7. Experience paradise NOW! Consult God first, then go ahead and live your life! . . . Enjoy your life to a new degree, without the burden of sin AND with the confidence of ALL of God’s promises on your side!

8. Walk Carefully or ‘circumspectly’ as the scriptures describe. This is about being careful to keep your spirit clean and fresh.

9. Have fellowship with believers. We know that the church has largely failed gays and lesbians by not being a welcoming place for those who have sought spiritual change. The invitation to ‘come as you are’ seems to be extended to everyone but us. However God has people everywhere who are open, real and willing to walk out with you. Ask the Lord to lead you to a loving, caring, bible-believing fellowship where you can be nurtured, be blessed, grow AND be a blessing. [Hebrews 10:25]

Thanks be to the amazing grace of God!

So, now: why not now? Why not here? why not us? END

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