Sins of the Fathers?

Given the volume of unhelpful literature published on the topic of homosexuality and Christianity, I should perhaps not have been surprised to find Dale O’Leary’s latest piece at Crisis Magazine distinctly unimpressive. I did expect, however, that an article entitled “Homosexuality: A New Approach is Needed,” would at least attempt to articulate an approach that was actually new, instead of simply regurgitating the pop Freudianism and New Age psychobabble that forms the standard conservative Christian approach to gay issues.

The central pillar of this approach is that homosexuality is an “attachment disorder” brought about by failure to identify with a same-sex parent. This failure is invariably presented as the fault of the parent. In a much older article published by Crisis, which, again, falsely bills itself as offering “a new approach,” we read the following:

Aardweg notes that most homosexuals report lack of masculine influence from their fathers, ranging from lack of involvement in the child’s education to open hostility … Bieber found that 75 percent of his sample described their fathers as detached and 45 percent described their fathers as hostile …  Aardweg quotes homosexuals’ descriptions of their relationship with their fathers: “My father was interested in my brother and not me”; “My father was a weak person; he was frequently ill”; “I only met my father on Sundays when he was not working… for me he was no more than a visitor.”

I don’t want to dismiss the experiences of gay men who failed to bond with their fathers, and I don’t doubt the truth of the claim that many (perhaps the majority) of homosexuals who enter psychological therapy have had a troubled childhood. After all, everyone who enters therapy—gay or straight—does so as a result of a mental or emotional disturbance which can very often be traced to childhood causes. Certainly, in specific cases where the fathers of gay sons have been poor parents, repentance and healing needs to occur. But to extrapolate from the experiences of homosexual therapy patients to create a general theory of homosexuality that “blames” parents for their child’s sexual orientation is gravely irresponsible reasoning which says more about the hidden assumptions of those doing the extrapolating than it does about either gay and lesbian people or their (often devoted and loving) parents.

It is even more irresponsible, and frankly bizarre, when these petulant psychological theories that blame all of the world’s problems on parents are “baptized”—as they frequently are—by the same conservative Christians who, on any other day of the week, are busy promoting traditional marriage, family values, and the command to “honor your father and mother.”

A prime example of this was Fr. Derek Lappe, a Catholic priest and pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea in Bremerton, Washington. Fr. Lappe denounced the decision of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to cease discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation—a decision accepted by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting. He then publicly endorsed the ex-gay junk science of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA), which, despite the name, is not an official apostolate of the Catholic Church, saying: “we are going to redouble our efforts to create a community that is supportive of happy, healthy holy marriages.  In our marriage preparation, we are going to try to get women to stop marrying such loser men who will never be capable of being good dads and husbands, and vice versa.”

Fr. Lappe billed his rant against the BSA’s decision to welcome same-sex attracted boys as a defense of “the truths about sexuality and humanity that are revealed to us, first of all by natural law, and confirmed in Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Catholic Church.” Yet his lengthy letter includes zero scriptural references, zero references to any work by any moral theologian or any Catholic natural law philosopher from any period of Christian history, and zero references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church or any other magisterial document ever issued. Naturally, it does include a lengthy citation from a CMA pamphlet, the opening gambit of which is to blame homosexuality on “alienation from the father in early childhood, because the father was perceived as hostile or distant, violent or alcoholic.”

It’s true, of course, that some gay men had fathers who can only be described as “losers.” Some of them were hostile, distant, or—what is worse—altogether absent from their sons’ lives. But many heterosexual boys have the same problems in their home life. The crisis of fatherhood in our culture has reached such proportions that it is now a national problem that the current President has felt the need to address frequently, in strong terms.

At the same time, many gay men also have wonderful fathers. In particular, many gay Christian men have had fathers who have taken their sons to church every Sunday and instructed them in the faith, as well as having spent years working to ensure their sons had food, shelter, medical care, and money to pay college fees. To stigmatize these fathers as “loser men” simply because their sons turned out to be attracted to other men’s sons cannot be interpreted as anything other than calumny.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that divorce “is a grave offense against the natural law” which “introduces disorder into the family and into society” (2384-5). If this is what the Church believes about the gravity of rupturing the marital contract, voluntarily entered into, how much more severely should we judge the rupturing of gay children’s flesh-and-blood relationship with their parents by Christian endorsement of highly dubious Freudian psychology which blames fathers for their sons’ homosexuality, poisoning the latter against the former.

When Alan Chambers announced the decision to shut down Exodus International, one of the many sins he repented of on behalf of the organization was the shaming of parents by blaming them for their child’s sexual orientation. Perhaps those Christians who are tempted to dabble uncritically with modern atheistic pyschology would do well to contemplate the biblical blessings attached to honoring parents, and the curses attached to dishonoring them.

Aaron TaylorAaron Taylor is a Ph.D. student in Ethics at Boston College. He previously studied at the Universities of London and Oxford, and worked for a London-based research institute dedicated to raising the quality of thinking about public policy in civil society.

34 thoughts on “Sins of the Fathers?

  1. There appears to be a lot of hostility in this post, which kind of puzzles me. I can understand disagreeing with the psychological claims of these theories, certainly, but rhetoric that says it is “regurgitating the pop Freudianism and New Age psychobabble” is awfully strong stuff. You also call this psychology “atheistic”, a term which applies no more to psychotherapy than it does to brain surgery. You ignore the fact that the people you are criticizing sincerely care about helping men and women attracted to people of the same sex.

    There is also a logical mistake here, in my estimation. You say that one of the awful things about the ex-gay phenomenon is that it blames parents, which (presumably) makes the parents feel bad. Why do they feel so very bad? It is not, I would claim, simply because they are blamed for some undesirable trait in their child: this is common enough. My mom knows she’s partially responsible for my messiness and attention problems — she doesn’t feel like a terrible person because of this.

    The thing that makes blaming parents for homosexuality so bad is that we Christians think of homosexuality as something peculiarly awful. THAT hurts people, and THAT is wrong. Once we see homosexuality as normal enough — even though we maintain that acting on it is sinful — parents “blamed” for it would not need to feel such shame.

    None of my post is meant to imply that parents necessarily do have a role in the development of homosexuality. But I do think that there’s nothing spooky about the idea. Moreover, it’s certainly imaginable that homosexuality develops for different reasons in different persons.

    • I think the hostility for this specific post was a bit much, as was referencing a second article over 20 years old (although the “new approach” O’Leary advocated is really outdated)

      That being said, however, I checked Dale O’Leary’s own blog and many of her posts certainly DO deserve tremendous of hostility. She has a tendency to use studies and research which, on the surface, seem to support her case without investigating the source material – the NARTH paper she referenced when speaking about gay Boy Scouts was especially sloppy.

      Further, in the context of her other posts, it is obvious that her “new hope” is for “change of orientation” rather than support against temptation and loving community in the Church. In the end her blog tends to be essentially unexamined research, supporting preconceived idea harmful to both ssa Christians and the Church.

      She seems to be yet one more straight Christian talking about SSA (of gay, if you prefer) Christians without actually talking WITH us.

    • I can understand disagreeing with the psychological claims of these theories, certainly, but rhetoric that says it is “regurgitating the pop Freudianism and New Age psychobabble” is awfully strong stuff. You also call this psychology “atheistic”, a term which applies no more to psychotherapy than it does to brain surgery.

      To say that reparative therapy is Freudian is simply to state a fact. Elizabeth R. Moberly’s Psychogenesis: The Early Development of Gender Identity is the earliest statement of the basic ideas of reparative therapy, and is consciously and explicitly Freudian throughout. The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is the primary professional organization promoting reparative therapy. It’s highest award is the Sigmund Freud Award (sometimes called the President’s Award).

      Freudian psychology is atheistic in a much deeper sense than brain surgery is. I teach Medical Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, and Philosophy of the Human Person. I therefore have some claim to have thought through these questions in some depth. It is difficult to see how any of the assumptions behind or practices of brain surgery would be affected by belief or disbelief in the existence of God. It is thus of little interest whether a particular pioneering brain surgeon was an atheist or not. Freud, on the other hand, explicitly incorporates atheistic assumptions into his writings about psychotherapy (we believe in God, he thinks, because we want the illusion that the comfort we found from our father’s protection in childhood).

      I think it’s just naive to ignore the significance of atheism for Freud’s thought, or to ignore the pervasive influence of Freud on reparative therapy.

      • I don’t dispute that Freud is bound up in psychoanalysis, nor that Freud was an atheist. But that does not mean that every insight he had is false. There is a long tradition of Christians using the questioning method (which is the core of psychoanalysis) to help one another grow in their relationship with God, and work through patterns of selfishness and sin. The real work is done between the self and God, however, not between the self and a therapist.

        I don’t think this method deserves disdain, although I would listen to arguments against the method. And — as I think I’ve mentioned — I think pursuing this method with the goal of changing orientation is unhelpful.

      • Daniel,

        I agree with you that the work of non-believers can contain truth, and that where it is true, it should be received.

        However, a couple of things need to be said here. First of all, if a certain theologian devotes the foundational chapters of a book on economics to Marx’s writings, it is legitimate to describe his work as “Marxist,” and to think that that label is not merely descriptive, but evaluative: it reflects poorly on a Catholic theologian to approach a problem from within a dominantly Marxist perspective. This is because, although there are some truths in Marxism, Marx was wrong about enough things that a Christian can only appropriate his legitimate insights with great care, and this means that a responsible Christian writer who wants to draw from Marx does so from within a larger framework that not only draws on but also is able to be critical of Marx.

        Have you read Psychogenesis? I have, I’ve also read a large amount of both primary and secondary literature on Freud, and it is clear to me that Moberly uses a dominantly Freudian framework, without the critical distance required when approaching a thinker who John Paul II lumped in with Marx and Nietzsche as the “Masters of Suspicion.”

        Second, you agree that using this method for promoting orientation change is “unhelpful.” I’m not entirely sure what that means, but since the central claim of reparative therapy is that homosexual desire is caused by failing to receive adequate love from one’s same-sex parent, and that receiving appropriate same-sex affirmation will help one to develop heterosexual desire, it must involve some sort of deep disagreement with either the etiological theories or therapeutic practice of reparative therapists.

        This seems to involve the belief that, at least some very central claims of reparative therapy are false.

        It’s one thing to recognize that, for example, Aristotle was able to see some real truths about the human condition without relying on Christian revelation. But the fact that non-Christians can sometimes teach truth doesn’t seem to be a reason to be friendly toward non-Christian claims which are false.

        I agree that Freud has some true insights; but I’ve read a lot of his work, and I think you have to be extremely critical of how you appropriate him: his theories are all-encompassing and it is not easy to separate his false ideas out from his legitimate insights.

        In particular, reparative therapy is not built on the stronger parts of Freud. To cite just one obvious example: Freud presumes that the libido is the central, most important human drive. If you believe this, you will tend to downplay Christian teaching on celibacy, and focus only on marriage as the legitimate outlet for libido. This will simultaneously distort your understanding of the New Testament and produce a far greater emphasis on changing orientation than learning to be celibate. Also, if you are influenced by Freud’s belief that the libido is the central defining human drive, you will tend to think that sex is far more important for human identity than, in fact, it is.

        If you look at the record of Christian reparative therapists over the last few decades, you see a movement which is practically defined by these problems.

        Thomas Aquinas appropriated aspects of Aristotle’s virtue theory, and was thereby able to give a more sophisticated account of Christian virtue. However, the fact that a secular thinker can be appropriated does not mean that every effort to do so will be equally successful. The attempts by liberation theologians to offer a Marxist analysis of Christian theology have not given a deeper understanding of the deposit of faith. They have, instead, tended to distort the faith in important ways.

        There was no a priori reason to imagine that Freudian psychology would be more likely to give insight into Christian faith than Marxist economics. Both systems are atheistic in a deep and pervasive way, and both are systems in which the practical applications depend in important ways on the larger theoretical world views.

        Among orthodox Christians, if a Christian writer wants to draw deeply from Marx, the burden is assumed to be on the writer to show that her use of Marx is orthodox, not on her readers to show that it is not. On most topics, the same is true of Freud: if a Christian writer wants to draw heavily on Freud, the burden of proof is on her to demonstrate that her use of Freud is orthodox. Yet, when the subject is homosexuality, Christians have inexplicably embraced an uncritically Freudian account. Note, too, that Freud’s theory of sexuality is at least as problematic from a Christian perspective as his atheism. So it would be surprising indeed if a deeply Freudian account of sexuality turned out to be helpful from a Christian perspective. Yet, despite all these sources of implausibility, an account—which you yourself recognize as “unhelpful”—became almost accepted dogma in Christian circles.

      • Ron,

        I’m in the midst of working on my dissertation, so I don’t have time (sadly) to give you response the full attention it deserves. From my perspective, I am trying to defend something that was around a long time before Freud: the idea of identifying sources of hurt in our lives, forgiving those who have hurt us, taking responsibility for our own roles in our dysfunctions, and allowing God to transform our desires so that they are holy. Many methods to do these things, in the modern day, are influenced by Freud. I don’t have a problem with that.

        I also don’t have a problem with the fact that many methods of caring for the poor in our society are influenced by Marx. I think we can evaluate these methods without evaluating their origins. I do not think that ideas carry the infections of the ideologies which spawned them. Or rather, when they are infected, I think we very quickly can see the harmfulness of them. (One harm of Freudianism is the creation of fabricated memories, which can lead to very harmful accusations. The best therapists today don’t encourage such memories.)

        “Freud presumes that the libido is the central, most important human drive. If you believe this, you will tend to downplay Christian teaching on celibacy, and focus only on marriage as the legitimate outlet for libido.”

        I’m not sure. Plato also believed that eros was the most central human drive, and he certainly made a place for celibacy, in the notion of Platonic love. (Sorry, I’m a Plato scholar, so I bring him up all the time.) Freud also focused on the notion of sublimation, which seems especially relevant to the task of celibacy.

        As for the claim that my opposition to reparative therapy entails an objection to psychotherapy, I disagree strongly. Psychological pain could cause some people’s latent character to develop into homosexual desires, but that does not mean that the resolution of pain will resolve the desires. If a man has spent most of his life looking at other men as objects of attraction, psychological healing will not suddenly change his attractions. Habit has a power of its own, independent of psychological wholeness.

        At any rate, thanks for the invigorating discussion!

      • As for the claim that my opposition to reparative therapy entails an objection to psychotherapy, I disagree strongly.

        Where did I say this? I only said that your claim that reparative therapy is unhelpful “must involve some sort of deep disagreement with either the etiological theories or therapeutic practice of reparative therapists.” This is nothing like a rejection of psychotherapy as a whole.

        Also, Freud’s libido is very different from Platonic eros. Libido as Freud defines it is the pleasure principle. If you are a Plato scholar, I assume you can pretty easily see that the Platonic understanding of eros is quite far removed the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake.

        Anyhow, good luck on your dissertation.

      • “If you are a Plato scholar, I assume you can pretty easily see that the Platonic understanding of eros is quite far removed the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake.”

        Not *extremely* far removed — the lover in the Symposium and the Phaedrus pursues the forms because the possession of them can allay his pain and fill his soul with the pleasures of learning. How this motivational schema lines up with the far less apparently hedonistic motivations of the Republic is a very interesting question. So interesting I think I’ll write a dissertation about it! 🙂

        OK, we are seriously off-topic now…

  2. Dan, thanks for your comment. I do appreciate the fact that the people I’m criticizing are probably well-intentioned and genuinely care about helping people with same-sex attraction. However, psychologists in the 1940s who gave gays electro-shock treatment and chemicals to induce vomiting were probably well-intentioned and trying to help, too. Does that mean we can’t name the enormous harm these practices did to gay people and their families? I don’t think so.

    The psychological theories I’m referring to don’t merely hold that homosexuality is caused by parenting, but that it is caused by particular patterns of *bad* parenting (distant fathers, overbearing mothers, etc). That is why parents are being made to feel guilt — not necessarily because they are told they are responsible for their child’s homosexuality, but because they are told they were awful moms and dads. Now, of course it is true that some parents are bad parents, as I mentioned. But many parents of gay children simply don’t fit the models that are being proposed by these psychologists, yet are still stigmatized as “losers.”

    I agree that, in and of itself, there is nothing spooky about the idea that parenting plays a role in the development of a child’s sexuality (however it develops). But I’m not criticizing that general idea. I’m criticizing a set of specific psychological theories.

    • I certainly agree that nothing is to be gained by calling anyone a loser, much less alleging that all fathers of gay men are losers! And so, I agree with you that much harm has been done by these techniques. But I’m not sure that the techniques are intrinsically harmful; they might only be harmful when misused.

      The mere fact that a parent is made to feel guilty does not seem like it is necessarily a harm, *unless* the parent did nothing wrong. As a father myself, I am quite sure that I am doing a lot of things wrong, despite my best attempts. I am scarring my children, through my sinfulness. I am not opposed to feeling guilty, later in life, for the things that I am right now doing wrong. And I mean, let’s talk honestly — Christian parents of gay children feel guilty, in the current climate, whether or not psychotherapists imply that they are guilty.

      I’m not saying that reparative therapy is a good idea. I generally think it’s a very bad idea. But I don’t feel like we should say anything dogmatic, for example, about whether homosexuality is a psychological disorder. Who knows, maybe sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. If it ever is a psychological disorder, then I don’t see anything wrong with making parents feel guilty where they actually do bear some responsibility.

      Personally, I had an extremely close father who had a closed head injury (and was essentially gone) when I was six. And my mother was a somewhat smothering presence, at times. So the psychological theories of the development of same-sex attraction definitely resonate in my case. I don’t blame my mother, though she admits she could have done a lot more to help me. I do reassure her, whenever possible, that it’s not some awful thing to be attracted to men, and that I experience God’s grace in the midst of any challenges.

      • You still have to account for the pathetic generalization of this Freudian theory to ALL gay people, which is what Dale O’Leary is doing. Just because it resonates with you, doesn’t give people like O’Leary or the NARTH therapists the right to unfairly & forcefully apply that theory to every single household w/ at least 1 gay child. Let’s say that in a home of a smothering mother and a distant father with several children, only 1 is gay. How does one explain all of the other straight siblings? How does one also account for gay children who have wonderful relationship with their loving parents, consisting of a non-smothering mother & a close father, even if they’re not perfect parents? If the Freudian theory fits some gay people’s developmental experiences with their families, then so be it. However, when the theory fails to explain how OTHER gay people become gay, then alternatively reasonable & testable theories should be examined. Or the scientists should admit that they haven’t found a way to explain it (i.e., be honest they don’t know).

      • Avery,

        I agree with you entirely. I was not defending Dale O’Leary. I was just saying that SOME people may have core wounds that (to whatever degree) account for homosexual desires, and that these people would benefit from psychotherapy. I am not saying that we should impose this framework on everyone.

      • Neither do I criticize gays that benefit from Freudian ex-gay therapy, but it’s the ex-gay therapists that often insist out of foolish confirmation bias that the therapy is efficacious for ALL gays.

  3. You suggest: ‘At the same time, many gay men also have wonderful fathers.’

    Really I haven’t met them! But yes I’m sure their must be some.

    However this is misunderstands both reparative therapy, and the underlying causes of same-sex attraction.

    According to the Catechism homosexuality’s ‘psychological genesis remains largely unexplained’. So although the Catechism refrains from entering into a firm statement about what the psychological causes of homosexuality are it does clearly state that it is ‘psychological’.

    Reparative therapy is actually incredibly helpful for all inclinations that are ‘objectively disordered’ and by no means just sexual ones.

    Reparative therapy at it’s essence proposes that people ‘act out’ because of a sense of inadequacy, which is brought about by not having grown in confidence as a person. This effects everyone: homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual. We all do things and have desires that are sinful or ‘objectively disordered to compensate for a lack of sense of identity formed through relationship with others: friends, colleagues, siblings, enemies and above all our parents or whoever raised us in childhood.

    Reparative therapy is ultimately radically Catholic because it chimes with the reality that ultimately our identity is formed by God our Heavenly Father but in intimate relationship with Him and ever since the sin and fall of the first man Adam, our first ancestor, the relationship with God has become detached. Above all our ‘detachment disorder’ is that we fail to cling to the love of our Heavenly Father.

    All our brokenness, woundedness, anxieties, hang ups, you name it comes down do the broken relationship with God. So whether it’s our mother smothering us too much, or a lack of emotional affirming intimacy with our father. Or the abuse and bullying we received at school. Whatever it is; it comes down to broken people in a broken world.

    Reparative therapy it seems to me seeks to take some of what we learn in the confessional and put it into every day psychological practice.

  4. Dan, I think the problem is what I would call the “Kafka effect.” Basically, Kafka proposes that an innocent person becomes guilty by being accused — a psychological phenomenon that most of us have experienced at one time or another. It’s a very different kind of guilt from actual guilt: with actual guilt you become aware of having done some specific thing wrong, you accept your responsibility, you apologize and you seek to make amends. With Kafka-esque guilt, the guilt doesn’t have a clear object that it can attach to. You are accused, and that accusation can call anything and everything in your life into question. It’s really destabilising. I’ve done e-mail counselling with parents of LGBTQ children who were perfectly good mothers and fathers, but who had internalized the reparative therapy tropes to such a degree that they sincerely believed themselves to be horrible parents — even though they couldn’t concretely express any fault or failing. In one case, a woman actually thought that her daughter’s lesbianism was God’s way of telling her that it was selfish of her to have wanted to be a mother in the first place.
    Responsible therapy should address childhood injuries, including those inflicted by parents, and listening and redress is often necessary in those cases in order to heal the family. Blanket psychological theories which apply blame generally rather than on a case-by-case basis are harmful because they will inevitably convict the innocent.

  5. Melinda,

    I definitely understand the experience you’re talking about, of having guilt thrust on you, rather than of experiencing guilt for yourself — ideally, through the action of the Holy Spirit moving in you. And I don’t think there should be public relations campaigns, for example, blaming parents for kids who have psychological issues. Insofar as any organization has been shouting this sort of blame from rooftops, I think they have been doing a very bad thing.

    However, there are ways that such guilt can arise, without being thrust upon a person. Intimate conversations between parent and adult child, when handled gently and without accusation, can allow for guilt to land squarely where it belongs. And surely it does not belong solely on the parent: whenever we are hurt, it is our decision how to handle our hurts.

    So, yeah, I’m not defending the current practice of reparative therapy. For one thing, the current practice tends to encourage hiding one’s attractions like they are in themselves shameful. For another thing, I’m not sure why we should care much about changing sexual attractions.

    But I do take seriously the idea that homosexuality is a distortion of healthy manhood or womanhood. How would such a distortion arise? Well, probably through human sin. OK, maybe not the sin of parents, but the sin of somebody. And it does seem like getting to the root of that woundedness and sin could help people to heal.

  6. Dan you say: “The thing that makes blaming parents for homosexuality so bad is that we Christians think of homosexuality as something peculiarly awful. THAT hurts people, and THAT is wrong. Once we see homosexuality as normal enough — even though we maintain that acting on it is sinful — parents “blamed” for it would not need to feel such shame.’

    I realize homosexual people who haven’t yet rid themselves of hanging onto their need to cling to calling themselves homosexuals just would like for us to tell you that the attraction to the same sex is ‘normal enough’…..but that just isn’t so. It isn’t ‘normal’ in the same way that crossed eyes are not ‘normal.’ It is a disorder that needs attention through being helped to overcome the pull to this disorder the same way a smoker or a drug addict or a kleptomaniac needs help in overcoming their addictions. Homosexuality IS an addiction that needs curbing. And with therapy prayer the sacraments repentance it CAN be overcome.

    One other thing: you said that ‘the truth is hurtful to the homosexual’ but keeping the truth away from someone who needs to have the truth pointed out to him is more damaging than the appearance or even the knowlege you may have of his mom or dad be so ashamed of having a disordered child. I would say though that rather than shame the parents feel sad their child has the disorder but still loves him…..same as any other crippling disorder. Where any shame or guilt would come in properly so is should they NOT point out his need for help in overcoming it.

    • “Normal” is irrelevant. The Bible, however, never condemns a person for experiencing a temptation and no where condemns specifically experiencing same sex temptation as opposes to opposite sex temptations.

      Lev. 18 & 20, 1 Cor. 6 and 1 Tim specifically condemn behavior, the actual act of a man having sex with another man.

      Romans is the only one that mentions desire and there are three things about Romans 1:26-27 that are constantly overlooked:

      1: The early Church Fathers were about evenly split as to whether Romans 1:26 even referred to Lesbianism at all. They also listed anal/oral intercourse and prostitution as falling under “unnatural” relations.

      2: in verse 27 Paul CAN NOT be contrasting heterosexual relationships as “natural” with homosexual relationships as “unnatural” as he says they “gave up natural use of women.” The problem is he would have to have been blind as a bat and as stupid as a post to think Roman men “gave up” heterosexual sex. Adultery and prostitution flourished at the time. So making the first part of the verse refer to heterosexuality in general is doing supreme violence to the text. (what they did give up, by the way, is respect for sex within marriage and for the sake of children)

      3: The flow of the verse is similar to that of 1 Cor 7:9 in which he states if the unmarried can not control themselves they should marry for it is better to marry than to “burn with passion.” Here and in Romans it is not the mere existence of desire but the fact it is uncontrolled and becomes action. So in Romans, like the rest of the passages, it is BEHAVIOR which is condemned.

      Further, one must point out that IN EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE in which the Bible references homosexual behavior, it pairs it with and equalizes it to adultery and a variety of heterosexual behaviors.

      It is quite clear the Bible does not contrast heterosexual as normal with homosexual as unnatural but, rather, sex faithfully practiced in marriage (yes, between a man and a woman) as natural and everything else, including both homosexuality and heterosexuality, as unnatural.

      it is the height of hypocrisy that the church labels us “homosexual” and “gay” from the time we are little kids, condemns us without forgiveness, refuses to defend us against those who torment us and beat us up, and then complains when we finally admit we are attracted to our own sex but ask for respect that we have faith in Christ and are committed to celibacy by telling us how unnatural and disgusting we are to them.

      Gay kids have a 49% suicide ideation rate (twice that of straight kids) As the severity goes up the scale, gay kids are 3 times as likely to make a suicide attempt and 4 times as likely to make an attempt requiring medical treatment. But what is seldom mentioned is that the ones most at risk are those who believe homosexual behavior is wrong and are making an effort to remain sexually pure. Once a kid makes contact with other gay kids and finds a pro-gay support system, that suicidality (suicide ideation + depression) rate drops to almost normal for his age. Among adult men, those with the highest suicidality rate are celibate gay males at 46%, just a few points lower than they were as teens. The suicidality rate of active gay males is actually fairly close to that of straight men. In other words, those most at risk of killing themselves are THOSE DOING WHAT WE ASK THEM TO DO – RESTRAINING THEIR BEHAVIOR!!!!!!

      In the Bible Christ directly threatened with hell and damnation only one group – the pharisees who refused to forgive the tax collectors (who were actually blatant sinners). I shudder what will happen to a church today who condemns and refuses to forgive teens merely for enduring a temptation! I also fear that if the Church does not repent of her abysmal twisting of the bible to condemn those faithfully facing the battle against homosexuality then God will surely bring her to ruins as the whore of Babylon rather than the bride of Christ – and i fear I shall not mourn.

    • Reta, very few people do call themselves homosexual these days. If they don’t use SSA to make a distinction between attraction and behavior, they call themselves gay. Homosexual is an archaic word (like negro) which is no longer used by the people it refers to.

  7. Reta,

    First of all, homosexuality (defined in terms of attraction) cannot be an addiction, because addictions involve actions. Some homosexuals resist temptation, and thus do not act in any compulsive ways.

    Secondly, to say that something is normal is not to say that it is acceptable. It just means that LOTS of people experience it. What is normal depends upon culture. Masturbation is just about as normal as it gets. The Church acknowledges it as normal, but does not say that it is normative. There is a huge difference.

    Third, I’m not sure what you’re saying about shame, but being ashamed of one’s own child’s TEMPTATIONS is never appropriate. You are not in a position to judge another person’s temptations as sinful. None of us are.

  8. Dan, when you say

    ‘You are not in a position to judge another person’s temptations as sinful. None of us are.’

    I find that astounding, if I am tempted to punch someone violently in the face, anyone with an understanding of sin is in a very clear position to judge such a temptation as sinful.


    • riverflows77,

      False. You can judge the ACTION as sinful, if I were to punch someone. But you cannot judge the TEMPTATION as sinful. The temptation is a temptation *to* do something sinful. Only actions can be sinful.

      • Daniel,

        Not really. But I did phrase my comment incorrectly.

        Let’s be clear exactly what we mean. Obviously temptation itself is not a sin since: ‘we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin’. But Christ himself says very clearly:

        ‘But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.’


        ‘But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’

        We know very well that both acts and omissions can be sinful, and that sinful desires are just that sinful: anger and lust being the obvious examples. I can sin by being angry and/or lustful without doing anything. Scripture is very clear temptation is not sinful but giving into to sinful desires even if we don’t do anything per se does not mean we have not sinned.

        So when I say:

        ‘if I am tempted to punch someone violently in the face, anyone with an understanding of sin is in a very clear position to judge such a temptation as sinful’, the temptation itself is not sinful in the sense of being a sin, but it is sinful in the sense that the temptation is to sin. Hence in the Lord’s Prayer we pray: ‘Lead us not into temptation’.

        Therefore it doesn’t do to simply say being in a state of temptation is perfectly fine and not subject to a judgement by others, (if indeed that is what you are saying, I’m not sure that it is). If I admit my temptation to a friend and he judges that the temptation of mine is to sin, or he judges that the temptation was not in fact towards sin, either way he is perfectly entitled to do so.

        I sense we may have been speaking at cross purposes but I hope the point I’m making is clear.

  9. The Lord’s Prayer has us ask not to be tempted. That’s just sensible. It does not imply that enduring the test of temptation is blameworthy. I *think* you agree, but then you also seem to conflate, for example, desire with lust.

    Lust is the result of a choice. It is the indulgence of desire. Example: If I see a good looking man, I might immediately — reflexively — experience desire. Now if I continue doing what I was doing, and do not dwell upon the man or my desire for him, I have not lusted after him. I am tempted, but I do not sin. My action is most certainly not subject to negative judgments from others (though it may be subject to positive ones).

  10. Yes, but an essential point is that judgement has two meanings, one in which we are commanded not to judge, two where it simply means a discernment. As in I judge that certain thoughts, actions or choices as sinful, contrasted with judging the person who has such thoughts.

    On another important point you say I *seem* to conflate desire with lust.and yet we read in Proverbs 6:

    ‘For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
    and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,
    to preserve you from the wife of another,
    from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.
    Do not desire her beauty in your heart.

    And in the Catechism: we are told that ‘Lust’ is a ‘disordered desire’

    And Christ’s words; ‘But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ what else can ‘in his heart’ mean other than a desire?

    • OK, so let’s make some distinctions…

      If I glance a person and, immediately, on that glance, I want to have sex with them (or to possess them), I am committing a presumptuous sin. That is, I have made no decision *at that time* to lust, so I am not choosing to sin — this makes my sin presumptuous. The reason my glance is lustful is that I have a badly developed character — that is, as the CCC says, I have a disordered desire.

      (So many straight men would commit a presumptuous sin upon glancing at the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue).

      But I might also glance at a person and find them appealing, without lusting. And, at that moment, I might be tempted to lust. Here I am committing no sin at all.

      And of course, if I ogle a person, I am committing the sin of lust, and my sin is subject to judgment.

      It is not useful to judge a person’s presumptuous sins; rather, point them toward healing. It is useful to judge a person’s blatant (non-presumptuous) sins. It is morally wrong to judge a person’s temptations.

      Are we on the same page here? I hope so!

  11. On the same page certainly, but not sure I entirely agree with your earlier comment:

    ‘First of all, homosexuality (defined in terms of attraction) cannot be an addiction, because addictions involve actions. Some homosexuals resist temptation, and thus do not act in any compulsive ways.’

    Much in the same way a recovering alcoholic/porn addict doesn’t act out but in some sense is still an addict.

    Not being deliberately argumentative here just think these things are worth teasing out.

      • No obviously not, but even ‘hetero’ sexual desires easily become addictive. But I am saying that same-sex sexual attraction ‘can’ be an addiction, as can other-sex sexual attraction can be.

        We need to (and I believe have been) making a distinction between actions of the heart and physical actions.

        You and I could both be completely inactive sexually but do things that are acting out in relation to our sexual attractions that are not healthy, like porn or fantisizing, or indeed regularly falling in ‘love’. There is a reason it’s sometimes called ‘sex and love addicts anonymous’ its not just the sex per se we’re addicted to.

        Hope that makes sense.

      • You have put this very well…..thanks I wanted to say what you did but it didn’t quite come out like I wanted it to…….

    • Hmm. There are plenty of gay Christian virgins, but probably no alcoholics that never drank a drink, or porn addicts that never looked at porn.

      Sex can be an addiction. Sexuality can’t, I don’t think.

      • Aaron, see my answer above. Comparisons always fall down. I think sexuality can be an addiction, and certainly addictive, as acting out doesn’t necessarily involve physical sexual contact with another person.

  12. Pingback: Orientation vs. Addiction | Gay Asian Christian

  13. Pingback: Gay Boys and Their Evangelical Parents | Spiritual Friendship

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