HOMOSEXUALITIES: Faith, Facts, & Fairy Tales

Ralph Blair is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. He is also the founder of Evangelicals Concerned, a national organization of Christians addressing the integration of Christian lifestyle and homosexuality. This booklet is an expanded edition of continuing education lectures given by Dr. Blair to United Methodist clergy meeting at the Churches of God Center for Christian Ministries at Findlay, Ohio, November 11, 1991.


Last November 25th I wrote back to your committee saying that I’d be glad to accept your invitation to come to your Academy today to give morning and afternoon presentations on homosexuality and the “ex-gay” claims. But I hope that I’ll have a better reception than John Wesley did on that same date back in 1739. After having preached at St. Mary’s, Exeter, in the morning, he was disinvited for the afternoon. “Not that you preach any false doctrine,” he was told, “but it is … dangerous. It may lead people into enthusiasm or despair.”

Well, that’s true, of course, of the gospel of God’s amazing grace. It’s news that prompts enthusiasm or despair, depending on whether it’s received as good news or bad. It divides even families, as Jesus warned. But like anything important—and sadly, many things that are not so important—our topic today also divides, as United Methodists are painfully aware.

Like John Wesley, I too bring a message of grace. And my message of grace will be heard as dangerous by some of you. You’ll know how Wesley’s critics felt. But my message of grace will be heard with enthusiasm by some of you. You’ll know how Wesley’s supporters felt.

But each of us comes this morning already bringing with him or her a certain predisposition for enthusiasm or despair. And if each leaves with a little more or less enthusiasm or despair, it will be due to both what you hear me say and what you do with what I say. Each of us comes here today with a lifetime of experience filtered through the lense of common conditioning as well as through the eyes of our very private worlds. We come with our various sexual histories and different degrees of sexual literacy. We come as theologically more conservative or theologically more liberal. We come as younger or older, pastorally more or less experienced, married or single or divorced, female or male, wide awake or sleepy, teachable or not, hopeful or somewhat down, intelligent or somewhat dull. What you see and shear will depend on what you are prepared to see and hear. Each has his or her own agenda, expectations, distractions, prejudices. That’s as it is with all our thinking. There’s a hermeneutic of homosexuality as well. And whether you intended to or not, you’ll be tested today. Through the ink blot of what you hear me say, you’ll say more about yourselves than about homosexuality or homosexuals or the “ex-gay” questions we’ll be discussing. Questions and answers on these topics are Rorschach tests for the people of God today just as questions and answers about Gentile believers, slavery, or civil rights were the projective tests for faithers of other eras.

Some cautionary notes and a prayer to begin with. Modern psychological research confirms an observation Aristotle made over 23 centuries ago: the ability to doubt is rare. We tend to find it easier to believe than to doubt. Do you think so? And we find it easiest to believe what confirms what we already want to believe, what we think needs to be true. We find it easiest to doubt what confirms what we think we must not believe, what we think needs to be false. You know that. We tend to screen in what seems to be compatible with our way and to screen out what seems to be incompatible. We speak our own native language, as it were, and find it almost impossible to learn someone else’s. We love ourselves in our own way. We claim to love others but insist that it be on our terms. We find it almost impossible to love others on their terms—and in that case, is our display of love really love? So, forewarned, let us pray that God would grant to each of us—speaker and hearers—the grace to guard against a closed mind and to be open to the fresh breath of God’s Spirit rather than be overcome by the old bad breath of our own.

An Academy is a place where we might learn something new, something even strange to us, where we might replace misinformation and misunderstanding with solid information and true understanding. An Academy is a place for rigorous intellectual honesty and not a place to play-act the know-it-all. We need facts, no matter how unwelcome or inconvenient to old ideas. But, of course, we must keep in mind that there are no brute facts. There are only interpreted facts. There is no scientific study without interpretation of data. There is no Bible without hermeneutics. Neither science nor the Bible speaks. We interpret both with what we bring to both. So our understanding will be misunderstanding unless we look at the data—psychological, sociological, biological, biblical, theological—with an insightful perspective that sees the big picture, that carefully prioritizes, that knows wisely what really matters. In short, we need to pass all the data through the wide concern of a pastor’s heart.

We learn from the great Hebrew sages that the foundation of such wisdom is a proper awe of God. We learn from Jesus that proper awe of God is and can be expressed in practical terms mainly in love for neighbors—whether friends or enemies, whether we like them or not, whether they like us or not. And we learn from Jesus that we can know what that love for neighbors demands by looking at what we ourselves demand in our own self-interest. As we try to understand what our Christian response to homosexuality and homosexuals should be, let us be guided by Jesus when he said in no uncertain terms: “You shall love the Lord your God with everything you have and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. This love commandment sums up every bit of the law and all of the prophets.” He put it another way as well: “Do to others as you want them to do to you.” As Christians, whatever we learn from scientific inquiry and whatever we read in the Bible must submit to this test: Jesus’ love commandment.

What is it we ourselves value for ourselves? What in this life is precious to you? Is your calling to Christian ministry important to you? Of course it is. For homosexuals, that’s what ordination of gay men and lesbians is all about. So do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Take another’s calling as seriously as you take your own. Is your home important to you? Of course it is. For homosexuals, that’s what gay housing rights are all about. So do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Take others’ needs for safe housing as seriously as you do your own. Is your wife or husband important to you? Even the question itself is an insult, isn’t it. Of course one’s husband or one’s wife is precious. Well, for homosexuals, that’s what gay or lesbian lover relationship is all about. So do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Take another person’s needs for sexual intimacy as seriously as you take your own. How would you like to be told you’re going to hell for loving your wife or husband? How would you like to be told that your only church-sanctioned options for meeting your sexual intimacy needs are these: remain in lifelong sexual abstinence, convert to the opposite sexual orientation, or marry someone of the gender to which you are not sexually attracted? Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Is being understood important to you? Said Paul Tournier: “No one can develop freely in this world and find a full life without feeling understood by at least one person.” For homosexuals, that’s what today’s Academy is all about. Hear others as you yourself desire to be heard. Let them speak for themselves as you cherish speaking for yourself. Don’t put words in their mouths. You don’t want words put in your mouth, do you? Don’t impute motives. Don’t caricature. Take others’ personal testimonies as seriously as you wish them to take your own. Is loving and being loved important to you? For homosexuals, too, that is what all of life is really all about. So do unto others. Love others as you love yourself.

The best way to know what we homosexuals are all about is to look at yourselves. In the basics, we’re all more like each other than not. We have the same sorts of needs, the same sorts of gifts, the same sorts of human strengths and weaknesses, the same sin, the same Savior and Lord. Each of us needs to remember that, to paraphrase a Methodist hymn: “other hearts in other breasts are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.”

How is homosexuality best defined? Homosexuality is the naturally occurring ability to fall in love with a person of the same gender rather than with anyone of the other gender. As such, and as you know from your own experience of heterosexual orientation, it cannot be reduced to a matter of genital nerve ending stimulation and body parts. It’s the same un-asked-for experience for heterosexuals and homosexuals, only in the former case the person of affection is of the other gender and in the latter case the person of affection is of the same gender. Experientially, it’s the very same core need, the very same gift of God. It’s about an involuntary enthusiasm of romantic response in the presence of someone seen as wonderfully other, as mystery, as precious differentness from one’s own sense of self, as complementary beloved. And it’s about a deep longing for that person in his or her absence. It is a lack that nothing but the beloved can supply.

Does the name Elizabeth James mean anything to you? She was the wife of George Whitefield. Today, November 11, would have been their 250th wedding anniversary, but for the religious prejudice of the established church in 18th century Wales. When George and Elizabeth arrived at the little South Wales village church for their wedding on this morning 250 years ago, they were turned away because they were viewed as ecclesiastical deviants. So they rode on to another village where they were refused again. Then they pressed on to another church. Refused again. By evening, these outcasts had come to yet another parish. They were again refused. These two devout deviants were said not to be fit for sexual union under God. So what did they do then? They did what all good Methodists of the day did: they held an open air preaching service. The next morning they set out in search of a church where they would be permitted to marry. After two more days on horseback, they arrived at an old Welsh Chapel of Ease. Here, after three days, their union was given a Christian blessing.

Christians have often made trouble for the different ones, especially in terms of sex and marriage. The very same church proscriptions that have outlawed sex with a person of the same gender have also outlawed sex with a Jew. Roman Catholics have been forbidden to marry Protestants. Protestants have been forbidden to marry Anabaptists. Whites have been forbidden to marry blacks. Men are forbidden to marry men; women are forbidden to marry women. All of this has been and continues to be done in the name of somebody’s Christianity.

  1. S. Lewis saw through the Christian rationalizations against homosexuality when he wrote: “There is much hypocrisy on this theme. People commonly talk as if every other evil were more tolerable than this. But why? Because those of us who do not share [it] feel for it a certain nausea, as we do, say for necrophily? I think that a very little relevance to moral judgment. … Is it then on Christian grounds? But how many of those who fulminate on the matter are in fact Christians? And what Christian, in a society so worldly and cruel … would pick out the carnal sins for special reprobation? Cruelty is surely more evil than lust and the World at leist as dangerous as the Flesh. The real reason for all the pother is, in my opinion, neither Christian nor ethical. We attack [homosexuality] not because it is the worst but because it is, by adult standards, the most… unmentionable, and happens also to be a crime.”

Let’s now look at what is the best scientific data on homosexuality today. God gave us brains, let’s use them. And let’s use them to carry out the love commandment.

To begin with, how many homosexuals are there? Nobody really knows for sure. But scientifically speaking, the best estimate on the number of homosexuals is roughly 10% of the general population. This is a useful figure—1 in 10—and current research repeatedly confirms it while no research refutes it. It’s probably a little low if we speak only of men and a little high if we speak only of women, but it’s a reasonable figure for any practical purposes.

Life magazine published a cover story on “The 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century.” Though the editors presumably did not try to do so and did not call attention to the fact, 1 in 10 of these famous Americans was homosexual.

Now I understand that there are 8.8 million United Methodists. It is scientifically reasonable to assume therefore that there are well over 800,000 homosexual United Methodists—of both genders, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, ministers and lay people, bishops and organists, out-of-the-closet as well as living in secret. Add to these homosexuals their heterosexual parents, children, other relatives, friends, pastors, fellow parishioners, co-workers, neighbors, etc. and you can begin to grasp something of how many people in your congregations and communities are affected by what you think and do with our topics today.

What is known about the causes of homosexuality? In Wesley’s day, a volume entitled Plain Reasons for the Growth of Sodomy in England stated that homosexuality was caused by the drinking of tea and by the “pernicious influence of Italian opera.” As much as we might want some “plain reasons” today, some of the recent explanations seem not to be much more enlightened than were these 18th century notions about tea and opera. For example, one health guru writes that “the flouride in drinking water” could lead to homosexuality. He points out what he calls a “notorious” illustration of his theory by saying that the drinking water in San Francisco is fluoridated. But he fails to take note of the use of water in the steeping of tea, San Francisco’s fondness for opera, and the fact that gay people did not go gay after arriving in the City by the Bay but they moved there after growing up gay in Findlay and Fostoria and Freemont. Another theory on causation comes from astrology. This one has to do with the situation arising when, “in the natal horoscope, Uranus retrograde in Aries opposes the Sun, Mercury and Mars in Libra, with Mercury being in the critical 30th degree of that sign, or O degrees of Scorpio.” In the case of this astrological explanation, however, a specific disclaimer states: “Astrology being the vastly complex science that it is, it is foolhardy and dangerous to make generalizations and try to make them fit all individual cases.” The writings of some psychoanalysts and anti-gay preachers on homosexuality do not always show such hesitancy to extrapolate and to generalize.

The question: “What causes homosexuality?” should be put into a somewhat different perspective from that in which it is usually examined by asking another question: “What causes heterosexuality?” This question moves us further in our quest. As psychiatrist Martin Hoffman said: “Virtually all the literature on homosexuality is marred by the failure of its authors to take account of the fact that heterosexuality is just as much a problematic situation for the student of human behavior as is homosexuality.” He adds: “The only reason it does not seem to us a problem is because we take its existence for granted.” And do you know that we’ve been studying homosexuality longer than we’ve been studying heterosexuality? This is true for the same reason: homosexuality was seen to be a problem to study. Heterosexuality was “constructed” as distinct from the “construction” of homosexuality only after the idea of “homosexuality” was invented. The coining of the term “homosexuality” took place just less than a century ago—in 1892. But it is older than the term “heterosexuality.”

Even today, we are not yet in a position to speak with certainty of the causes of either heterosexuality or homosexuality. We’re probably safest in saying that either orientation is the biocultural product of the confluence of both heredity and environment, both biology and learning, both nature and nurture. It’s certainly not scientifically responsible to speak any more in terms of nature or nurture, heredity or environment. That either/or fallacy fails to appreciate the fact that there is a neurochemical equivalent to everything we do, think, or feel. Responsible statements about sexual orientation must acknowledge both prenatal brain hormonalization and idiosyncratically experienced postnatal socialization. The latter is, like native language, programmed into the brain through the senses and it may then become incorporated into the brain’s immutable biology at a very early age.

Notice that I’m trying to use exacting terminology here because the general media and lay versions of scientific categories are easily over-simplified and then are quite misleading and even hurtful. When we speak, for example, of environmental variables, we’re not speaking of easily observable family constellations of so-called “smothering mothers” and “distant fathers.” Not only does clinical and ethnographic research refute earlier caricatures of psychoanalytic theory but we must remember that every single person lives in his or her own personally defined world within the social unit of the family or wider community. We must remember that a father’s distancing, for instance, can be as much a reaction to what he sees in his son’s behavior as a cause for his son’s behavior. We must appreciate the subtle interacting influences of all members within a family—parents, siblings, grandparents—as well as persons outside the family. When we speak, for example, of biological variables, we’re not speaking of only one or a few or the most obvious biochemical or structural differences but also of very delicate and complicated mechanisms and influences from biochemistry in utero to biochemistry through adolescence and beyond.

Most of you probably have heard of the very recently reported hypothalamus study suggestive of a biological basis for sexual orientation. A world-class neuroanatomist at the Salk Institute has found and reported in the journal Science that in homosexual men a group of neurons in the anterior hypothalamus—a brain region already understood to govern sexual urges and behavior—has the anatomical form found in women rather than that found in heterosexual men. In heterosexual men it is more than two times larger than in homosexual men. In one of the homosexual men it was apparently altogether absent. Another study, published last year in the journal Brain Research, also reports a difference between the brains of homosexuals and heterosexuals. Now we can’t at this time say if these differences only correlate with homosexuality or actually contribute etiologically, but either interpretation suggest that, as another scientist puts it rather strongly, “some biological difference is at the root of homosexuality.” With ever-increasing sophistication, we’re getting better and better at investigating the brain, our largest sex organ. And as we do so, we’re building an ever-growing body of scientific literature pointing in the same biological direction as these studies. Obviously there are social and political implications to such research findings and they are being belittled by both fundamentalists and some gay activists. In another study, to be published next month in The Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers report that “52 percent of identical twin brothers of gay men also were gay, compared with 23 percent of fraternal twins, compared with 11 percent of genetically unrelated [adopted] brothers.” They point out that this is “exactly the kind of pattern you would want to see if something genetic were going on.”

I think that it would be revealing for each of us to monitor his or her own gut reactions to these findings to see how we are prone to interpret the findings to suit our own bias on homosexuality. What is it you wish to make of these findings? Do you greet them with enthusiasm or despair? Perhaps without knowing much more about them than what little I’ve said, are you already adding them to your arsenal or are you explaining them away? In either case, note how intellectually honest or not you are being. Note how you are or are not applying the love commandment. Note how you are or are not doing unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Now before moving on to what some Christians say are the relevant Bible passages on homosexuality, let’s summarize what we’ve said thus far. We all want to reinforce our preconceptions about everything including homosexuality. This always seems to us the safest course. And we tend to do this with practiced agility, screening in what fits our bias and screening out what does not. As Christians under God’s surprising grace, we should guard against this defensive posturing. We should filter everything we hear and see through the practical obligations of Jesus’ love commandment and the Golden Rule. The sexual experience of homosexual orientation is the same core experience as that of heterosexual orientation. It is deep-seated. Nobody chooses to experience either heterosexual or homosexual orientation. Sexual orientation is a given; or, if you like, a gift. Homosexual orientation is the strong and involuntary ability to fall in love with only somebody of the same gender instead of anybody of the other gender. This is the unasked-for sexual experience of probably 1 in 10 people—including, of course, United Methodists. Nobody really knows all that is involved in the etiology of either heterosexual or homosexual orientation, but it can be reasonably stated on sound scientific grounds that sexual orientation is the bio-cultural product of the confluence of both nature and nurture, biology and interpreted environment.

As we turn now to the relatively few Bible verses that some people still use to clobber homosexuals, we would do well to bear in mind that good Methodist hermeneutic that a former president of Asbury Theological Seminary put in these words: “Methodist theology centers in the idea of … the freedom of contrary choice in relation to spiritual decisions.” He says that “Methodism has sought always to make dogma subservient to life.” As another Asbury professor said, the Golden Rule requires “a reflective benevolence in which one finds ethical guidance in the imaginative placing of oneself in the position of another.” That’s what we need to do vis-a-vis homosexuals. As we examine the anti-gay interpretations of these Bible verses, let us try to hear the interpretations through the ears of someone who has just as strong and just as involuntary a need for sexual intimacy with somebody of the same gender as any heterosexual has for somebody of the other gender. See if we might then apply a principle of John Wesley’s: we’re to give to everyone, he said, “friend or enemy, what … [each] … really wants,” and Wesley meant, of course, in his 18th century English, what each lacks. We need not be all that imaginative nor listen all that intently to be able to catch the simple fact that what a single homosexual lacks is also what he or she wants today: a partner for loving intimacy. Nor do we have to be especially imaginative to imagine that what homosexuals lack and what they want is privacy, a need and a desire to be free of oppressive heterosexism.

After eighteen centuries of Christian history that found traditional biblical support for slavery, a man who knew what it was to have his heart “ strangely warmed” by unheard-of interpretations of scripture, fought with his dying strength for a reinterpretation of scripture in obedience to the love commandment. As you all know, the very last letter that John Wesley ever wrote was to urge William Wilberforce to “Go on, in the name of God, and in the power of his might, till even American slavery, the vilest that ever saw the sun, shall vanish before it.” Let’s not forget that even over half a century later, American Methodists split their church, north and south, because many Methodists were still using Bible verses to defend a system of slavery that Wesley had called “that execrable villany which is the scandal of religion.” Let’s not forget that the southern Methodists rationalized slavery with Bible verses but that their real motivation was greed and self-interest. I think we have a parallel situation today in the use of Bible verses to continue the oppression of homosexuals. In the last springtime of his life on earth, Wesley wrote to a bishop: “For God’s sake, for Christ’s sake, for pity’s sake, suffer the poor people to enjoy their religious, as well as civil liberty! I am on the brink of eternity! How soon may you also be called, to give an account of your stewardship, to the great Shepherd of our souls? May he enable both you and me to do it with joy!” Here in America, Francis Asbury penned these words: “The liberation of the slaves … is a very laudable design; and what the Methodists must come to, or, I fear, the Lord will depart from them.”

In turning to the Bible verses allegedly against homosexuality today, we should do so in the knowledge that homosexuality as we understand it today, as a sexual orientation, was beyond the understanding of any ancient people and therefore no biblical writer could have had it in mind as he wrote anything we find in the Bible that may be taken to refer simply to same-sex acts. According to John J. Winkler of Stanford, the study of sex and gender in antiquity suffers “from selective uses of evidence … and even more from the methodology of reading contemporary concerns and politics into texts and artifacts removed from their social context.” As the German evangelical theologian Helmut Thielicke puts it: Homosexuality today “can be discussed at all only in the framework of that freedom which is given to us by the insight that even the New Testament does not provide us with an evident, normative dictum with regard to this question. Even the kind of question which we have arrived at,” says Thielicke, “must for purely historical reasons be alien to the New Testament.” Biblical scholar Robin Scroggs writes: “Biblical judgments against homosexuality are not relevant to today’s debate. They should no longer be used … not because the Bible is not authoritative, but simply because it does not address the issues involved.” The ancients, as MIT’s David Halperin and other scholars have said, “conceived of ‘sexuality’ in nonsexual terms: What was fundamental to their experience of sex was not anything we would regard as essentially sexual: rather, it was something essentially social—namely, the modality of power relations that informed and structured the sexual act.” In the ancient world, sex was “not intrinsically relational or collaborative … It serves to divide, to classify, … it is conceived to center essentially on, and to define itself around, an asymmetrical gesture, that of the penetration of the body of one person by the body—and, specifically, by the phallus—of another. … The proper targets of [a male citizen’s] sexual desire include … women, boys, foreigners, and slaves—all of them persons who do not enjoy the same legal and political rights and privileges that he does. … sexual partners came in two different kinds—not male and female but active and passive, dominant and submissive.” According to historian of Greek antiquity Robert Padgug: “Sexual categories which seem so obvious to us, those which divide humanity into ‘heterosexuals’ and ‘homosexuals,’ seem unknown to the ancient Greeks.”

And it should be noted that even our experience of romantic love today post-dates biblical times, coming to us from the early Middle Ages. That’s why we call it Romance. And let’s not forget that most marriages in world history have been arranged by fathers; they have not been the result of two young people falling in love with each other. The Song of Songs is a celebration of sexual beauty rather than limerence. There are no homosexuals in the Bible. Ruth and Naomi were no lesbians. David and Jonathan weren’t gay. Neither were Jesus and John, the men of Sodom, cult prostitutes, slave boys and their masters, nor call boys and their customers. The Bible is an empty closet. With all of this in mind, let’s now turn to the seven biblical texts used to clobber gay people today.

The first is Genesis 1:27. “God created people in his own image, in the image of God he created them; he created them male and female.” This text celebrates God’s equal creation of men and women; God created both the males and the females. The text is Hebrew poetry; it isn’t modern science. It tells a story about the relationship between all people and God, the Creator. Unfortunately, the creation story has been twisted to abuse people. This is done, according to Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary scholar Douglas J. Miller, when “Crude natural law ideas are … read into … the early chapters of Genesis. … This view,” he asserts, supports “the ‘physicalist’ ethical model upon which heterosexism is built. … This view of creation is based upon the obvious anachronism of reading 13th century definitions of nature into ancient Hebrew texts.”

Those who use Genesis 1 against gay people should note Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:28 in which he is emphatic that there is now no theological significance to the heterosexual pair, “male and female.” Notice that Paul says that in Christ there is now neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, and then he changes his construction and does not say there is neither male nor female—as one might expect him to do following his phrasing so far and as we are used to making him say by overly familiar hearing of common mistranslations of his words. What Paul says is this: there is now, in Christ, no “male and female.” The two-sex pair is theologically irrelevant as Paul sees it. According to biblical scholar F. F. Bruce, a foremost Pauline authority: “Paul states the basic principle here; if restrictions on it are found elsewhere … they are to be understood in relation to Galatians 3:28, and not vice versa.”

The next text is Genesis 19. This is the story of Sodom and Lot’s duty of hospitality to his guests. Says John Boswell of Yale: “Sodom is used as a symbol of evil in dozens of places, but not in a single instance is the sin of the Sodomites specified as homosexuality.”

In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel (16:48) we read that the prophet declares the word of God, saying that a self-righteously religious Jerusalem had not only imitated the vile deeds of the Sodomites but had become even more corrupt. And then the prophet spells out explicitly what God calls the sin of Sodom. Listen: “As I live, says the Lord God, … This was the sin of your sister city of Sodom: she and her suburbs had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not help or encourage the poor and needy. They were arrogant and this was abominable in my eyes. Therefore I removed them when I saw it for myself.”

Here we have Bible commenting on Bible. We can hardly get better Bible commentary than that. Here we have what the prophet says is God’s commentary on the story of Sodom and on Sodom’s sin. It is this: “This was the sin of your sister city of Sodom: she and her suburbs had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not help or encourage the poor and needy.” I’ve repeated the text since it seems so little recognized. Notice that, contrary to what fundamentalists say, there is no mention of homosexuality in God’s commentary on Sodom’s sin.

In Genesis 18:20 we read that long before the attempted gang rape at Lot’s house in Sodom, the Lord had said: “‘How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.’” As it’s explained by evangelical Bible scholar William Brownlee: “The word used for ‘outcry’ … always (or at least usually) refers to the outcry of the oppressed,” and he notes that “this is exactly the situation of v.49; we are to think of the anguished cries to God of the ‘poor and needy’ to whom the wealthy Sodomites afford no help and encouragement.’ On this,” he says, “Ezekiel is a very good exegete! ‘Gave no help and encouragement’ is literally ‘did not strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.’ The verb ‘to strengthen’ means not only to give material assistance, but also to give encouragement. … the converse charge … [Jer 38:4] of ‘weakening the hands of the people’ … means to discourage, to demoralize. Thus the ‘poor and needy’ of Sodom and her daughters were so completely demoralized that they had no one to whom to turn, except to Yahweh. He heard their anguished complaints and came down to investigate the situation, since Yahweh is fully just and does not condemn on hearsay evidence.”

Brownlee states that “Hospitality to strangers was a virtue exemplified by Abraham (Gen 18:1-8) and Lot (19:lb-3), and a very important virtue expected of noble-minded people. Contrariwise, the oppression of the stranger as exemplified by [the incident of attempted gang rape at Lot’s house in] Gen 19:1-9 was, according to ancient Semitic custom, a very grave crime. Thus, ‘sodomy’ (so-called) in Genesis is basically oppression of the weak and helpless; and the oppression of the stranger is the basic element of Gen 19:1-9,” according to this scholar. Let’s hear Brownlee again: Sodomy in Genesis is basically oppression of the weak and helpless; and the oppression of the stranger is the basic element of the story of what happened that last night in Sodom so very long ago. The Sodomites’ attempt to gang rape Lot’s guests only proved once again how viciously uncaring they were. And now, these many, many centuries later, the sin of the Sodomites rages against new victims as Bible thumpers gang rape innocents they label “sodomites,” refusing to see them as the “strangers” they should welcome.

Jesus knew what the sin of Sodom was when he warned his disciples that some places would not treat them hospitably and said: “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” (Matthew 10:15)

The next text is Leviticus 18:22 (20:13). “You shall not lie with men as with women: it is abomination.” The Hebrew term for the English “abomination” is TO’EBAH, a technical religious term for that which is ritually unclean, such as pork (cf. Deuteronomy 23:18; I Kings 14:24). Here in the Holiness Code (chapters 17-26), the proscription against engaging in Sex with a cult prostitute is found between one against child sacrifice to the Ammonite deity Molech and one against bestiality of the ram cult of Egypt. Israel is to have no part in such abomination. The Fundamentalist Journal admits that the Holiness Code condemns “idolatrous practices” and “ceremonial uncleanness” and concludes: “We are not bound by these commands today.”

The next text is Deuteronomy 23:17-18. “There shall be no KEDESHA of the daughters of Israel nor KADESH of the sons of Israel.” These Hebrew terms literally mean “holy” or “sacred.” There is no Hebrew derivative of the term “Sodom” in this passage of scripture; King James’ committee erroneously supplied the English word “sodomite.” The Hebrew terms here reference the “holy” female and eunuch priest-prostitutes of the Canaanite fertility cults, of which Israel was to have no part. Modern translations correctly render the Hebrew as “temple prostitutes” (e.g. New International, New Revised Standard, Revised English Bible) or “cult prostitute” (e.g. New American Standard Bible).

The next texts are I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10. Here we have Paul’s reference to the malakoi and the arsenokoitai. Scroggs explains that “Paul is thinking only about pederasty, … There was no other form of male homosexuality in the Greco- Roman world which could come to mind.” Ancient sources indicate that the malakoi were “effeminate call boys.” Though Paul seems to have coined arsenokoitai, it probably refers to the call boys’ customers, though its original meaning is unknown. Evangelical New Testament scholar Gordon D. Fee says that both terms are “difficult.” He states that “one cannot be sure what [malakoi] means.” Of arsenokoitai, Fee says: “This is its first appearance in preserved literature, and subsequent authors are reluctant to use it, especially when describing homosexual activity.” Even The Fundamentalist Journal admits: “These words are difficult to translate.”

Paul’s main point, however, is crystal clear: Christians who slander and sue each other in pagan courts are just as shameful as the malakoi and the arsenokoitai, whatever these were. It’s ironic that today, fundamentalists who don’t think twice about taking each other to court, rush right on by Paul’s main argument against that in order to use this text to attack lesbians and gay men.

The other kind of pederasty in Paul’s day was that of the slave “pet boys” who were sexually exploited by adult male owners. Unlike male homosexual attraction today—in which perceived masculinity is prized—the desired feature in these boys was their physical resemblance to females. They were either pre-pubescent or at least without beards so that they seemed like “females.” At the same time they were not actually “inferior” females within the society of “superior” males in a male-dominated culture. The men were not running after men for sex but were using these boys as substitutes for women. Men of leisure had wives for dowries, procreation, and the rearing of heirs. They had “pet boys” and “call boys” for sex. In I Timothy 1:10, Paul lists male prostitutes (pornois), their customers? (arsenokoitais), and the slave dealers who procured the prostitutes.

The last text is Romans 1:26-27. “For even their women exchange natural use for unnatural and also the men, leaving the natural use of women, lust in their desire for each other, males working shame with males, and receiving within themselves the penalty of their error.” The Apostle is here ridiculing Gentile religious rebellion in typical Jewish polemic, saying that they knew God but worshiped idols instead of God. He illustrates with unnatural practices of fertility cults involving sex among priestesses and between men and eunuch prostitutes such as served Aphrodite on the hill high over Corinth, from where Paul was writing this letter to the Romans. Their self-castration rites resulted in a natural bodily injury or penalty. Says Thielicke: “Paul’s conception of homosexuality was one which was affected by the intellectual atmosphere surrounding the struggle with Greek paganism.” Says Victor Paul Furnish of SMU: “homosexual practice as such is not the topic under discussion.” Says Scroggs: “The illustrations are secondary to [Paul’s] basic theological structure.” (cf. 3:22b-23, Paul’s own summary).

Since those who claim that the Bible speaks against all homosexuality today take this Romans passage as their biggest weapon, we should go into more background here. But I warn you right now, you’ll need a strong stomach. It isn’t a pretty picture. Paul knew the Mediterranean world and he knew exactly what he was doing in selecting this illustration for his ridiculing of idolatry.

Writing on “The Apostle Paul and the Greco-Roman Cults of Women” in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Catherine Kroeger makes the following comments about “the deliberate sex reversal practiced in some of the cults.” She asserts that “sex reversal was a specific distinctive of the Dionysiac cult and by the second century AD was considered to be indispensable to the religion. Men wore veils and long hair as signs of their dedication to the god, while women used the unveiling and shorn hair to indicate their devotion. Men masqueraded as women, and in a rare vase painting from Corinth a woman is dressed in satyr pants equipped with the male organ. Thus she dances before Dionysos, a deity who had been raised as a girl and was himself called male-female and ‘sham man.’” Kroeger continues: “The sex exchange that characterized the cults of such great goddesses as Cybele, the Syrian goddess, and Artemis of Ephesus was more grisly. Males voluntarily castrated themselves and assumed women’s garments. A relief from Rome shows a high priest of Cybele. The castrated priest wears veil, necklaces, earrings and feminine dress. He is considered to have exchanged his sexual identity and to have become a she-priest.”

Both “prostitution and lesbianism were associated” with the Temple of Aphrodite above Corinth. Aphrodite was another name for Cybele. B. Z. Goldberg says of Aphrodite: “She is both male and female—a bearded face with full maiden breasts. … They who come to worship her must hide their sex. Males come in female attire and females in the clothes of males. The greatest glory they can bring to Aphrodite … is to physically efface their sex.” Says another scholar [Grant]: “Hermaphrodites congregated in [Aphrodite’s] temple.” Whether worshippers called her Aphrodite, Cybele, Astarte, or Ishtar, they practiced erotic flagellations, same-sex orgies, and climaxing castration rites in her temples all along the sea coasts of Paul’s missionary journeys.

Goldberg gives a colorful description of the rites of Aphrodite: “When the human being reaches the stage in which he is neither man nor woman, then he is in closest tune with the spirit of the great goddess of love. … [Priestesses of Aphrodite], deprived of sexual pleasures, … created for themselves tastes and desires that grew into passions for their very companions. The unnatural passions thus awakened … were fierce, over-powering, and implacable. … On the nights of the full moon, … They gathered in the innermost chamber where there were no windows and but two doors. Through one door they all entered; through the same door all were to depart, all save one…. [There were] mystic nights of love in which [they] sought, without men, to drink the cup of love to its very last drop—and to the final breath of one of them.”

Meanwhile, Attis—Aphrodite’s son and sometime consort—was said to have castrated himself and committed suicide. Goldberg describes the rituals of his Galli or young priests of the pine groves. At the beginning of the “erotic blood-letting” rites, one of the young priests resembling Attis or Adonis would be found stabbed to death. “The sight of the dead priest … aroused others to give of their own life fluid for the sake of the son of their goddess. The high priest drew blood from his arms and presented it as an offering. And the inferior priests, wrought to the height of passion by the wild, barbaric music of cymbal, drum and flute and by the profusion of blood around them, whirled about in furious dance. Finally, overcome by excitement, frenzied, and insensible to pain, they savagely thrust the knives into their bodies, gashing themselves in violence to bespatter the altar with their spurting blood. The frenzy and hysteria of the priests spread to the worshippers, and many a would-be priest fell into the wave of religious excitement. He sacrificed his virility to the goddess, dashing the severed portions of himself against her blood-besmeared statue. … [Onlookers joined in.] With throbbing veins and burning eyes, they flung their garments from them and with wild shouts seized the knives of the priests to castrate themselves upon the very spot. … They ran through the streets of the Sacred Ring, waving the bloody pieces and finally throwing them into a house they passed. It became the duty of the households thus honored to furnish these men with female clothes, and they, made eunuchs in the heat of religious passion, were to serve their goddess for the rest of their lives. … The priest … who castrated himself in religious frenzy assumed feminine dress not without a purpose. He continued in the service of the temple and like the priestesses served man for the required fee. There were,” says Goldberg, “male priests serving males in the temples of all the gods.”

Doesn’t all this sound like what Paul had in mind in beginning his letter to the Romans with an attack on pagan idolatry? What was it he wrote? “For even their women exchange natural use for unnatural and also the men, leaving the natural use of women, lust in their desire for each other, males working shame with males, and receiving within themselves the penalty of their error.” Doesn’t this better describe these cultic rites of his day than it does the mutual love and support in the everyday domestic life of lesbian and gay male couples today?

Well, at any rate, even in this illustration—whether of these sickening cultic rites of the pagan temples or, if you insist, homosexuality as such—we must be careful to note that Paul was just setting up his self-righteous readers for his theological kill that comes at chapter 2 verse 1: “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.” So, if the self-appointed heterosexist judges today want Paul to be preaching against all homosexuals in Romans 1, they must accept his verdict in Romans 2 that they themselves “are doing the very same things.” These homophobes become “homosexuals” in chapter 2! They don’t seem to recognize that. But Paul wants us all to know that we are not to condemn each other. We are all as guilty as the pagan idolaters—or, if you still insist, “homosexuals.” We’re all guilty of doing the same things we accuse others of doing, says Paul. But Paul’s great message of Romans is grace. Grace in exchange for guilt. Grace for living graciously with everyone. Grace to live the Golden Rule. Grace to love others as we love ourselves.

Do we really grasp this grace that is freely given when we try to dump ancient texts about gang rape, prostitution, and idolatry onto the heads of our gay and lesbian neighbors? If you were homosexual, would you want them dumped on you? The clear commandment is this: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Why? Not just because we’re under orders to do so. We’re to love our neighbors as we love ourselves because we’ve already been loved by God. We love because God first loved us and gave his very self for us. Yet too often we try to deprive others of their very selves. Are we to help them or hinder them from having what we ourselves desire and even take for granted? If we value the love we’ve received, wouldn’t we want others to know such love? If we’ve been accepted by God just as we are, why do we so resist accepting others just as they are? If we know how wonderful loving sexual intimacy can be for ourselves, wouldn’t we want our neighbors also to know that gift?

Do you love to sing the old gospel hymns of Fanny Crosby? She wrote “Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine” and “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” and so many, many more. She was a Methodist. You know that she was blind—from when she was little more than a baby. In pre-Civil War America it was easy for those around Fanny to be so busy with their own lives that they could overlook the sexual intimacy needs of a blind young woman. In their self-centered pursuits, they may have carelessly assumed that a devout Christian woman—especially one who was blind—didn’t really have a need for a lover. The thought of a sex-life for Fanny Crosby may have been unthinkable. But Fanny thought about it. Hear her own poignant words: “Some people seem to forget that blind girls have just as great a faculty for loving and do love just as much and just as truly as those who have their sight.”

For Fanny Crosby it wasn’t enough that she could sing only “Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine” or “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.” Fanny needed somebody besides her blessed Jesus and she needed to be held also in other arms than his. And though mid- 19th century Christians seemed to be oblivious to Fanny’s sexual needs, her Maker was not. It was God who, at the dawn of human history, took note that it was not good for a person to be alone. God knows that each of us needs someone other than our Creator and Redeemer with whom to live and “walk in the cool of the day.” There are people in our midst with sexual needs that at first seem to many today to be as strange as a blind girl’s sexual needs seemed to Victorians. Will we hear the outcry—often no more than soft weeping in the deep night—and will we care, as Jesus told us to care for them as much as we do for ourselves?



Even after everything I said this morning, some of you still insist that it is a sin to engage in any physical form of homosexual affection whatsoever. By the way, did you arrive at that idea this morning or did you arrive with it? You may even agree with me on some of what I said about the scientific data, or some of what I said theologically or about some of the biblical data, but you still cannot condone any physical expression of homosexual affection. You will not accept even a monogamous, committed and deeply loving sexual union between two persons of the same gender. Some are stuck in a mindset of theological fear and wish you could get unstuck but it doesn’t seem possible. You’re uncomfortable with your position vis-a-vis the Golden Rule. Maybe you feel even a little guilty. Others are prevented from changing your minds due to economic and social considerations. You just don’t see how you could realistically become outspokenly “pro-gay” in your particular congregation or in the denomination generally. Others may be rigidly committed to a specific theological presupposition, to a wooden interpretation of Natural Law so-called, to an idolatrous homogeneity and heterosexism, and you refuse to budge—even for Golden Rule living. If you are among any of these people, you’re no doubt interested in the “ex-gay” promises. After all, if there is a proven and effective way to change homosexuals into heterosexuals, whatever conflicts there may be in the interpretation of etiological factors, biblical material, or gay rights become non-issues. “Let’s just get these homosexuals fixed,” you may say. “Let’s get them turned into former homosexuals and the problems of homosexuality will be over.” To you, the “ex-gay” solution sounds like a constructive alternative to a bad lifestyle. There are also those of you who are in much more agreement with me. And by the way, did you arrive at your position this morning or did you arrive with it? You, too, are interested in the “ex-gay” response. But you’re interested from a different angle. You’re interested in my critique of the “ex-gay” movement because you see it to be a hoax. To you, the “ex-gay” solution is a destructive alternative to a good lifestyle.

During this afternoon’s session, we’ll closely examine “ex-gay” intervention, concentrating on its changing course and claims over the past fifteen years. But again, let me say, that in terms of the Golden Rule and the love commandment, it is one thing for a gay or lesbian Christian to sincerely think that homosexual behavior is wrong and to seek to change by entering into an “ex-gay” program. It’s quite something else for a heterosexual Christian, enjoying the fruits of sexual intimacy, to reinforce this negative view of homosexuality and push such a Christian homosexual into an “ex-gay” program.

As we look at “ex-gay” intervention, it would be very helpful if the heterosexuals here would try to put themselves in the positions of homosexuals seeking to change sexual orientation. Do this by imagining that you are told that it is your Christian duty to change from the heterosexual orientation you’ve experienced for as long as you’ve had sexual feelings, to a never-experienced homosexual orientation. Picture Christian friends and family praying for you to do this, all counting on you to do this, all saying that many other heterosexuals all across the country have already changed, that God demands that you change and that God’s power is wonderfully available to make the change, if only you are willing and have faith. Picture your prospects for falling in love with someone of the same sex. Let’s see the hands of those heterosexuals here who think you’d be able, through the “ex-heterosexual” process, to fall in love with someone of the same gender. Now picture the prospects for setting up house and having sex with a gay person of your same sex. Let’s see the hands of those heterosexuals who think you’d be able to do that. Picture the prospects for never again having any heterosexual desires. Let’s see the hands of those who think you’d be able to do that. Now, failing all of this, picture the prospects of remaining with your heterosexual desires in life-long celibacy in a predominantly gay and lesbian world in which, lesbians and gay men pursue the fruits of homosexual intimacy, encouraging you to do the same. And you’re to avoid all heterosexuals. Under those circumstances, who here thinks that he or she would be a happy camper? Are you thankful that the churches are not pushing an “ex-heterosexual” movement?

In my review of the “ex-gay” claims, I’m omitting claims of change by the ministrations of Christian Science, the Moonies, and other cults to which you probably don’t look for believable testimonies. But know that whether the claims come from Moonies or Methodists, they’re all claims of “change.” I have seen many changes in the “ex-gay” movement over the past fifteen years of its existence. The changes I’ve seen are not in sexual orientation and behavior. The changes are in testimonies, claims, promises, a turnover in personnel, and programs and agencies that come and go, are here today and gone tomorrow. Even “ex-gay” movement promoter Sharon Kuhn admitted: “most [“ex-gay”] ministries to Christian homosexuals soon die out.” Indeed, all of the early movement leaders who claimed to be changed to “ex-gay” have now dropped out. These include Guy Charles of Liberation in Jesus Christ, Roger Grindstaff (alias Roger Dean) of Disciples Only and Teen Challenge, John Evans (alias Ted) of Love in Action, Jim Kasper, Michael Bussee, and Gary Cooper of Exit of Melodyland and Exodus International, Greg Reid of EAGLE (which meant “Ex Active Gay Liberated Eternally), Rick Notch of Open Door, Jeff Ford and Ed Hurst of Outpost, Doug Houck of Metanoia, and many others. Alan Mediger of Regeneration and a director of Exodus International, the “ex-gay” umbrella organization founded by Bussee, Cooper and others back in 1976, acknowledges that his group has had “problems with ministry leaders who return [as he puts it] to a gay lifestyle.” More and more, the leadership is being assumed by what are called “everstraights,” that is to say, men and women who have always been heterosexual, they never were homosexual in either orientation or behavior. These include Ron Highley, Joseph Nicolosi, Elizabeth Moberly, Robbi Kenney, Leanne Payne, and others. This approach is meant, apparently, to insure that at least the leaders won’t be falling into homosexual temptations and bringing further disgrace upon the “ex-gay” movement. But if the “ex-gays” who were change-motivated enough to found and lead “ex-gay” programs sooner or later drop out through continued homosexuality, you can just imagine the tremendous drop-out rate among the troubled homosexuals more or less forced into these programs by anxious parents and zealous preachers. The “ex-gay” movement has been the movement of a revolving door. Why? The plain answer to that is the continuing homosexual feelings and behavior of the “ex-gays.” The reason for all the changes in personnel and promises and programs among the “ex-gays” is that there are no changes in sexual feelings and behavior among the “ex-gays.”

Let’s turn first to evidence for the continuing homosexuality among the “ex-gays” and then turn to the changes in promises and rationalizations that are devised to explain away the continuing homosexuality that eventually leads to the changes in personnel and the demise of programs.

When you first heard that homosexuals were changing through what is called the “ex-gay” ministry, what did you think was happening? Did you think that homosexuals were becoming heterosexuals through spiritual intervention? Is that what you wanted to believe? An intellectually honest examination of the evidence will disabuse you of that idea. Did you expect one of the most prominent “ex-gay” leaders to say, as Frank Worthen, director of Love in Action, does, that “One of the most difficult battles ex-gay men and women face is working through attractions we often have to members of the same sex.”? He says that “ex-gays” often are sexually attracted to people of the same sex they see while out shopping or at church and that it is especially hard when “ex-gays” are sexually attracted to “someone we work with or are required to interact with on a regular basis.” Worthen, who finally married a woman who sought his help for homosexuality in her family, suggests that his fellow “ex-gays” should, “if possible, cut down the number of times you are seeing the person [of the same sex to whom you are attracted]. Using the telephone rather than visiting the person helps,” he says. He advises that “ex-gays” should seek out “the physically unattractive.” Worthen warns that “When the sun [comes out] and the clothes [come] off, [“ex-gays” have] a full blown problem” and that even “during the winter months,” the “ex-gays” have only “a measure of victory.” Is this what you thought was meant by the “ex-gay” change?

In view of this, it follows that “ex-gay” leaders working closely with homosexuals coming to them for the “ex-gay” deliverance might be attracted to some of them. Indeed, Alan Mediger of Regeneration and Exodus International notes that “when an ex-gay is trying to help a struggling homosexual, the temptation to fall is great.” Andy Comiskey, founder of the “ex-gay” Desert Stream program notes in his newsletter: “we’re fearful of falling hopelessly in love with another of the same sex. … we can rush unwisely into friendship and find ourselves enmeshed in an emotional and sexual death grip.” Comiskey’s concerns have been a constant battle in the “ex-gay” movement from the beginning, where the biggest worry at every “ex-gay” Exodus convention is that the “ex-gays” will “fall”—as it’s put—during the convention. As ex-“ex-gay” leader Rick Notch has put it with some sense of humor after his experiences of those conventions: “You pick a prayer partner the first night of the convention, you pray with him the second night, and by the third night your prayers are answered.” Psychologically speaking, the social contexts of these “ex-gay” meetings are ripe for deep-seated needs for intimacy to emerge and seek fulfillment. It should be no surprise when, in a community with homosexual needs for each other, in the midst of turning to each other for understanding and support, these needs are felt and, in some cases, expressed in genital contact. It’s “catch as catch can” when the whole mind-set of the Exodus convention forbids the promise that one day, in due time, the conferees can expect to meet their real sexual intimacy needs within a warm and loving gay relationship.

Sadly, there is a long history of homosexual sex and seduction within the “ex-gay” movement—from the very beginning and at the very top. Guy Charles had claimed to be “delivered” from the “lusts, the desires, the fantasies, [and] the acts” of homosexuality. But in 1977, after many complaints about his having sex with the young men coming to him for the “ex-gay” experience, the Episcopal church that sponsored his Liberation in Jesus Christ “ex-gay” program withdrew its sponsorship. Charles had been telling these young men that what he was doing with them was not homosexual but “David and Jonathan” relationship. Ironically, the rector of the sponsoring congregation is now an Episcopal bishop who still pushes the “ex-gay” claims. Colin Cook’s “ex-gay” book, Homosexuality: An Open Door, was heralded by Richard Lovelace of Gordon-Conwell Seminary as an “authentic theological masterpiece … a jewel … a theological pearl … a silver bullet against evil.” I had called it “junk jewelry and a blank” in my review. Well, Cook was found to have been having sex with at least fourteen young men coming to him for the “ex-gay” experience over a period of six years. After being caught five years ago, Cook was pressured into resigning but he maintained that such “sexual improprieties between leaders and counselees occur” throughout the “ex-gay” movement. Cook, a Seventh-day Adventist, is still in the “ex-gay” business, advertising his tapes for the “healing for the homosexual” in evangelical publications such as Christianity Today and speaking around the country. Once again this year, his ministry is recommended under “Homosexual Intervention” in the 1991 Christian Herald Action Guide. “Ex-gay” leader Doug Houck’s continued “homosexual acting out,” as it was put, prompted his resignation a year ago. For the past year, the official explanation for his “sabbatical” from Metanoia Ministries, the “ex-gay” program he founded in Seattle, had been put in terms of “rest, refreshment, and regeneration.” The Metanoia board took the most recent action after what were termed “recurring difficulties … within the three years prior to October of last year” were not resolved. It is reported that Houck’s “sabbatical will continue for ‘an as yet undetermined length of time,’” and a new director already has been named. Houck claims that it was his “heavy workload” which “consumed” him that led him to not “fully understand my actions.” He assures “ex-gay” supporters that he has “not had a moral lapse” during his sabbatical and that God “has freed us and continues to free us from the bondage of … homosexual sin.”

The point of our attention to these misdeeds is not only that sex between counselors and their counselees is unethical and morally wrong, not to mention illegal in some jurisdictions. Nonetheless, some anti-gay preachers continue to point to these leaders as model “ex-gays.” The point is that these sexual acts and affairs are always between “ex-gay” leaders and persons of the same sex. In spite of their “ex-gay” claims, they never “fall” into sexual misconduct with a person of the other sex. They are clearly above heterosexual temptation.

Sexual misconduct by “ex-gay” leaders is not the only evidence of continued homosexual feelings and behavior among “ex-gays” in general. Far more usual evidence is the testimony of former “ex-gay” leaders, not only to their own continuing homosexuality—which they’re now accepting—but to the continuing homosexuality of all of those who ever went through their programs. For example, Michael Bussee, a co-founder of Exit and Exodus International (with the man who would later become his life partner) spoke at this spring’s general convention of the Episcopal Church and said that after counseling hundreds of people who tried to change he never saw any of them change. Bussee says: “The bottom line is, the ‘ex-gay’ process doesn’t work.” Jeff Ford, formerly of Outpost “ex-gay” ministry in the Twin Cities, now says that nobody became a former homosexual during his five years as director of the agency, from 1980 to 1985. Speaking at Luther Northwestern Seminary in St. Paul, Ford said that though he used to say he’d been “healed” of homosexuality and was helping others to be “healed, … I honestly say that I did not see that happen in my work with over 300 gay and lesbian people.” Ford now counsels gay men and lesbians to accept their homosexuality. After two years in the Dallas-based Alternative Identification [“ex-gay”] Ministry, Mario Rodriguez reports: “I never saw anyone ‘cured’ of their homosexuality. Instead, I saw many people hurt by AIM’s message that a fundamental part of their being was immoral.”

Faced with all of these scandals, defections, and acknowledgments of continued homosexuality in the “ex-gay ranks, there is increasing acknowledgement of continued “ex-gay” homosexuality by even the current leadership of the “ex-gay” movement. Most of them don’t any longer claim, as Guy Charles once did, that the “lusts, the desires, the fantasies, [and] the acts” disappear. Nonetheless, some heterosexual advocates of the “ex-gay” solution do try to do so. For example, Dallas Seminary professor Kenneth Gangel claims that the “propensity can be changed by the power of Jesus Christ.” He says that those Christian leaders who do not promise complete change “stop short of the real power of the gospel.” He cites as his evidence the testimony of a man who has since left the “ex-gay” movement and who, even in the testimony Gangel cites, readily admitted that he continued to masturbate thinking of “fond wishes” for homosexual sex.

The typical “ex-gay” testimonies today carry caveats of continuing struggles with homosexuality throughout life and offer only two options: marriage to someone of the other gender or celibacy. But even “ex-gays” who do marry someone of the other sex do not become heterosexual. For example, John Freeman of the Philadelphia “ex-gay” group called Harvest speaks of “daily struggle with temptation,” and although he himself is now married to a woman, he speaks of “the chastity lifestyle” instead of what he labels “children and a house with a white picket fence.”

In his new book on so-called reparative therapy for homosexuals, Joseph Nicolosi admits that reparative therapy is no “cure” for homosexuality. Rather, he says, it’s “a lifetime process” in which treatment goals are either marriage to someone of the other gender or “a commitment to celibacy.” But how is either of these goals “reparative” of homosexuality? As married “ex-gay” leader Sy Rogers has often warned: “marriage doesn’t prove freedom from homosexuality.” Another “ex-gay” tells readers of The Presbyterian Survey that he should marry a woman but, he says, “the tension will remain with me until death.” The Los Angeles Times quotes an “ex-gay” man, speaking of his feelings for his fiancee: “It’s not burning lust—I know what that is. I used to have that with guys …. We won’t [have sex] until we’re married. … I haven’t kissed her yet, either. … One of my gay friends said, ‘You’re kidding yourself, Bill—you’re gay and you’ll always be gay.’” This “ex-gay” then admits: “I wouldn’t go to a gay bar as an ex-homosexual. The spirit could always come back. It’s a choice to do warfare and fight it off. I refer to it as warfare—it really is a war.”

The movement’s Robbi Kenney has always been a heterosexual woman. She became a leader in the “ex-gay” movement when the man to whom she was engaged told her he was a homosexual and called off their relationship. She was devastated. She has long lamented her loneliness and her hopelessness about finding a husband in the “ex-gay” movement. She proves that “ex-gays” are not good candidates for heterosexual marriage when she explains: “Being in ex-gay ministry often has meant that I’ve only met and fallen in love with men from gay backgrounds, … I finally asked God to bring a man into my life who could appreciate me as a woman.” To check on how you honestly feel about heterosexual marriage as a viable option for an “ex-gay,” just ask yourself this simple question: Would I want my daughter to marry one? If you would not think it a good idea for your daughter to marry an “ex-gay,” why push “ex-gay” men on other parents’ daughters or “ex-lesbians” on other parents’ sons? And why push “ex-gay” men on women who need and deserve heterosexual husbands or “ex-lesbians” on men who need and deserve heterosexual wives?

Well, what about the option of lifelong celibacy? A homosexual committed to such celibacy is a celibate homosexual just as a heterosexual committed to celibacy is a celibate heterosexual. Celibacy does not render one sexless.

Christians who today demand lifelong celibacy seem to forget that throughout the Old Testament, as the evangelical International Standard Bible Encyclopedia puts it, “celibacy was considered abnormal” and “Instances of a lifelong state of celibacy are rare in Scripture.”

According to Notre Dame theology chair Richard McBrien, celibacy is “unrealistic and it’s counter-productive.” Celibacy for religious became mandatory in the Roman Catholic church in 1139, largely through the intrusion of Greek dualism. But in the past 25 years, 19,000 American priests and 110,000 worldwide have resigned and married. These figures don’t count those who are sexually active within religious life. These priests are supposed to have the “gift” of celibacy. Are we to believe that the 10 percent of persons who develop homosexually also have this “gift?”

It was, he said, from his own personal experience, that a lusty Luther knew that “the state of celibacy is great hypocracy and wickedness.” Writing to his friend Spalatin, he asserted that “not one in a hundred is suited [for] the hell of celibacy, totally unclean and condemned as it is through its burning and pollutions.” But today, heterosexist Christians claim that one in ten must be so suited!

Evangelical psychiatrist John White, in his IVPress book, Eros Defiled, advocates total abstinence from homosexual activity for those who remain homosexual in desire. He admits that such a prescription will produce “pain” and even “profound depression” in the life of the abstaining Christian. White tries to assure that he understands the plight of even those Christian homosexuals he insists leave their life-partners. He says that “straight friends may find it hard to understand that you may deeply love someone of your own sex and that to break up with your lover will wound you.” He grants that after the forced break-up the “ex-gay” will experience “lots” of loneliness. Nonetheless, White is out-of-touch enough to pose this unnecessary dilemma: “Would you despise intimacy with the Almighty in insisting on more of human intimacy?” White fails to take seriously the fact that, as we are told in Genesis, it was the Almighty who was the first to acknowledge that a person created in God’s image needs intimacy that is other than what is to be enjoyed with God.

Kent Philpott is a heterosexual Pentecostal preacher who, along with now ex-“ex-gay” John Evans, helped to organize the “ex-gay” Love in Action program. Philpott then wrote a book about it called The Third Sex?, in which he features the testimonies of “ex-gays.” Philpott says he knows that we ask “the homosexual to give up all for Christ—give up sex, a secure lifestyle, friends, maybe even his job. This is quite a lot to leave behind,” he says. Indeed, it proved to be too much for all of the “ex-gays” in his book. None of them remained “ex-gay,” though this fact didn’t prevent the publisher from going into another printing even after the ex-“ex-gays” came out publicly as still homosexual.

David Field, in his IVPress book, The Homosexual Way, demands celibacy for all homosexuals and admits that this not only sounds harsh, he says “It is harsh.” He recognizes that “it is pointless to advise … ‘You will grow out of [homosexuality]’” and concedes that as “the condition turns out to be permanent,” the permanent condition of homosexual orientation means a demand for permanent abstinence. He says that the homosexual is in for “a very cold and gray” life without romantic intimacy, and continues that “However convinced he (or she) may be that the Holy Spirit will more than fill the empty spaces left by old habits and relationships, human loneliness can be something particularly hard to bear.” Field remembers that “At the dawn of creation … Eve was created to relieve Adam’s loneliness. But,” he wonders with good reason, “how can a modern Adam’s loneliness be relieved if no Eve satisfies him and if he is denied the intimate relationship with another Adam that his heart craves?”

Helmut Thielicke well recognizes that this cultic demand for homosexuals to deny the opportunity to “achieve the optimal ethical potential of sexual self realization” means “a degree of harshness and rigor which one would never think of demanding of” those who are heterosexual. Evidently it is easy for heterosexuals to utterly fail to appreciate how they are turning the Golden Rule around in their selfish demands that homosexuals remain without sexual or romantic intimacy throughout their lives. Heterosexual power structures lord it over the homosexual minority according to a caricature of the Golden Rule, one in which, as one wag has said, those with the gold get to rule.

Can there be a legitimate Christian asceticism? Yes. And as church historian Margaret R. Miles reminds us—albeit without the deepest evidence—Antony emerged from 20 years in the desert none the worse for all his austerities. But she cites Cassian’s observation that some engage in the misuse of ascetic practices, “instigated by the devil himself’ and thus, in Cassian’s words, effect nothing but “useless fatigue of body, and worse, a fatigue which would harm the spirit.” Cassian went on to warn that “Some times [the devil] suggests excessive or impossible” ascetic tasks “and so brings us to a bad end.”

Today, what sort of “bad end” can we understand that to be? James J. Lynch, scientific director of the Psychophysiological Clinic at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has stated: isolation and lack of companionship are the greatest unrecognized contributors to premature death in the U. S. today.” Lynch reports that “Those who live alone—single, widowed, divorced—have premature death rates that are anywhere from two to 10 times higher than individuals who live with others.” These figures do not include those single people who have died of AIDS. Lynch says: “There is virtually no disease I know of that does not differentially attack those who live alone and those who have companionship.” Bell and Weinberg of Indiana University, in the most wide-ranging sociological study ever done on homosexuals, made some very sobering discoveries in this regard. They studied approximately 1,500 persons and reached these conclusions: The “asexuals” were the ones who “described themselves as lonely and (among the men) unhappy … they had the highest incidence of suicidal thoughts.” In contrast to the “asexuals,” Bell and Weinberg found that those “who have come to terms with their homosexuality” and were in on-going gay relationships somewhat similar to marriages, i.e., the “close-coupleds,” were the ones who “had fewer sexual problems … less regret about their homosexuality … [were] more sexually active … less tense … more exuberant … more self-accepting and less depressed or lonely…. the happiest of all.”

So much for celibacy. Is it what you would want for yourself? Why, then, push it off onto our homosexual neighbors? Is that Golden Rule living?

Being straightforward is hard for many people in “ex-gay” leadership. This is especially true when what their heterosexual sponsors demand is “deliverance” without the fine print. Although they have tried to back-track on some of what they’ve claimed in the past, especially in the wake of continuing homosexual scandal, defection, and homosexual feelings and behavior of “ex-gays,” coping with the contradictions between what is expected and what is delivered has called for acrobatic rationalization.

Some have seemed to want to retire the term “ex-gay.” At one point, for example, Robbi Kenney issued the following directive to other movement leaders: “Know what you are offering. … You are NOT offering heterosexuality … [but] the power to come into celibacy.” She even advised: “avoid calling them ex-gays.” Nonetheless, in the very same mailing she sent this declaration: “There IS an ex-gay reality!”

Some rationalize continuing homosexuality as a kind of proof of healing, as strange as that may seem. “Ex-gays” who say they still have the “old feelings” of homosexual desire, even after “accepting] the Lord,” are told in the Love in Action newsletter that the Lord “reintroduces the specific issue of homosexuality when He sees that [“ex-gays”] are mature enough in Him to properly deal with it” and that such continuing homosexual desires do not mean they have “lost their healing.”

Other “ex-gays” redefine terms to suit themselves. It’s like Humpty Dumpty saying to Alice: “When I use a word, it means what I want it to mean.” For example, according to Joe Dallas, the president of the Exodus International board, “ex-gay” does not mean “ex-homosexual.” He made this explicit on a KKLA radio program in Los Angeles on January 25, 1991. He did so while responding to a challenge that the term “ex-gay” was deceptive. Dallas explained that “ex-gay” is more convenient than having to spell out each time that “ex-gay” is a quick way to speak of “Christians who have homosexual tendencies who would rather not have those tendencies.” Said Dallas: “It just rolls off the tongue better.”

According to Outpost’s Joe Hallett: “Ex-gays [are] people who choose not to act out homosexually and yet feel its pull.” It’s simply a matter of obeying God, he says. He grants, though, that “it is not easy to be obedient to God when your whole heart cries out against it.” Jack Hickey writes in the Exodus Standard: “Heterosexuality is our God-given identity, not what we feel” as “ex-gays.” Indeed, according to Nicolosi, “In reparative therapy the client… commits himself to [a lifetime of] treatment with the belief that ‘irrespective of how I feel, I am a latent heterosexual.’” Kevin Linehan puts it this way: “Truly, I was no longer a homosexual in God’s eyes. … I had a new identity…. All this was certain in spite of what temptations from my lower carnal nature might still remain to plague me and cause me to cry out.” Colin Cook advised that instead of looking for emerging heterosexual desires in oneself one should rather name and claim “the heterosexuality of Jesus Christ” for oneself. Obviously such silliness was not enough to keep Cook from having homosexual sex with his clients over many years.

Along with the misuse of the term “gender identity,” the “ex-gay” leadership tries to define sexual orientation out of existence—just by the “ex-gay” vocabulary. In the Exodus document, Homosexuality and the Truth, Sy Rogers and Alan Medinger say that the idea that homosexuality is innate and unchangeable is nothing but “pro-homosexual propaganda.” Since the fact of innate homosexual orientation does not square with the “ex-gay” rationalization, it is said not to exist. This typically slippery use of terminology is illustrated when Bob Davies of Exodus International writes of the “homosexual desires” and the “homosexual activity” still experienced by what he calls the “former homosexual!” Joanne Highley of LIFE Ministry in New York says that Christians must “see homosexual orientation for what it is—a lie. We are,” she insists, “truly heterosexual” in the first place. With such flip-flop argumentation she finds it easy to promise “a transformation of one’s orientation”—though we might ask what the need is for such “transformation of one’s orientation” if the homosexual orientation is really just “a lie” all along. At any rate, she says that such “transformation of one’s orientation” is done through a “change of identity—recognition of being a new creation.” This is not unlike changing one’s name or the label on a bottle of beer—neither the person nor the beer has been altered. Highley’s husband Ron, a so-called “everstraight,” repeats his wife’s argument in an interview in the fundamentalist World magazine. He says that an “ex-gay” is “a new creation; you’re not a homosexual anymore. But someone who’s come to Christ still experiences temptation … the ungodly thinking patterns haven’t completely disappeared, the emotional wounds haven’t entirely healed,” he admits, but “Now [the “ex-gay”] has a new identity, and that’s what he has to keep remembering; this is where the Word of God must be stronger than our feelings.” When The New York Times asked Highley about statistics on change from homosexuality in the “ex-gay” movement, he told the reporter: “When it comes to matters of truth, numbers don’t count.” At the 1990 Exodus convention, while the headline read: “Homosexuality can be overcome!,” the fine print in the conference brochure said that Exodus “enables the homosexual to shed the old identity.” By the way, neither of the keynoters nor the other three special speakers at the 1990 Exodus convention was an “ex-gay.” They are and always have been heterosexuals, i.e. “everstraights.”

Another way “ex-gay” advocates try to get around dealing with the fact that orientation does not change is simply not to talk about the current sexual feelings or behavior of the “ex-gay.” For example, in an article entitled “Showing Homosexuals a Way Out” and published in the fundamentalist Methodist magazine, Good News, James Robb relates the story of a man who “was once a practicing homosexual. Now he’s set up in ministry.” How that man’s change of career indicates any change in sexual orientation or behavior is left to the wishful thinking of the readers. In another issue of Good News we find another testimony of “A Former Homosexual,” now said to be a “musical evangelist.” But a close reading indicates that, however more musical he might have become, this “former” homosexual’s homosexuality is continuing in the form of repeated homosexual temptations. Another evangelical magazine, Message, published the “ex-gay” testimony of Tim Youngblood. He claims that “after accepting Christ I began changing.” But what began changing? Youngblood says that “The way I moved my hands and arms changed. Even my walk changed. My voice lowered. My laugh changed.” He doesn’t say his desire for men changed. He doesn’t say he now desires women instead of men, sexually. Youngblood advises other “ex-gay” men to “find a Spirit-filled man of God who is secure in his own self-image … You need someone to go to when things get difficult.” How is this not a description of a homosexual attraction? He warns the “ex-gay”: “Allow yourself the freedom to fail…. You’re going to stumble.”

One of the really insensitive rebuttals within the leadership of the “ex-gay” movement is the charge that those who do not change never really tried to change. Some time ago some pastors in the Champaign-Urbana area brought Elizabeth Moberly to town to hold “ex-gay” seminars. Not only did she not present convincing evidence that she knew of any successful changes but now, after many months, these pastors are still waiting for her to refer one changed person to them for further discussion. She finally wrote a letter to the local paper, in response to public criticism that she failed to produce the testimony of anyone claiming to be changed through her approach. “I did not guarantee anything,” Moberly protested. “I did not promise to continue my search” for someone to refer to them. She charged that her critics “were not sympathetic to change.” But one of these men replies: “If I have not been sympathetic to change, why am I thousands of dollars poorer at the hands of Christian counselors and ex-gay conferences? If I’m not sympathetic to change, why have I burned vocational bridges and moved across the country to intern with a now defrocked ‘ex-gay’ counselor? If I have not been sympathetic to change, how do you explain my involvement in two different Homosexuals Anonymous groups with one involving weekly commutes of 180 miles? It is with full knowledge of my extensive 12 year quest for change that Moberly says I am ‘not sympathetic to change.’”

One final way to try to avoid the embarrassment of clear evidence of “ex-gay” homosexuality in a veteran “ex-gay” is to do what Joanne Highley did recently on national TV. She introduced, as her co-panelist, a man who claimed to be “ex-gay … as of two weeks ago.”

When we began the day I invited you to keep an honestly open mind. There is, after all, much yet for all of us to learn about sexuality. We should not prematurely close our minds on many matters in our ever-expanding understanding and wonder in these good gifts of God.

But, of course, we can keep our minds open long past the time when honesty demands that we close them. Indeed, it is vital that we close our minds around sound conclusions. It is our Christian duty to do so. To do otherwise would be to rationalize as an open mind what is really rather a big hole in the head—or worse. So at the end of the day, I’m inviting you to close your minds around some self-evident truths as you’ve discovered them. I’m asking that you do so as honestly and as lovingly as you know how.

We need to close our minds around the Golden Rule and the love commandment. There should be, for Christians, no room for an open mind here. It’s straightforward love in action to which we’re called. We are to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. We’re to love others as we love ourselves. And when it comes to our homosexual neighbors’ needs for loving sexual intimacy, we need to filter every one of our own responses through Golden Rule love. We need to interpret their desires by the same love with which we interpret our own. We should not demand that they be forced into anything that we would not want to be forced into. We should want for them the meeting of their felt needs as we want ours met. Otherwise, we are hypocrites.

We need to close our minds around the evidence that, like it or not, homosexuality is as strong, as involuntary, and as immutable for homosexuals as heterosexuality is for heterosexuals. We need to close our minds around the evidence that homosexuals experience attraction to same gender people in the same way heterosexuals experience attraction to people of the other gender. We need to close our minds around the evidence that nobody qualifies as an ex-homosexual. We betray, not an open mind, but a sieve, when we refuse to deal honestly with the cruel hoax that is the “ex-gay” phenomenon.

There is much yet to learn about both heterosexuality and homosexuality and we do need to keep open minds about that. But our open minds concern what is academic. The love commandment and the Golden Rule must be lived out now, without all the information we’d like to have or one day may have. For all practical purposes of Golden Rule living and loving, we already know enough about sexuality to say that it is a given that cannot be ignored, its orientation is a given that cannot be redirected, and it is a given that can be constructive and loving or destructive and loveless. May we, as Christians, do everything we can to affirm in this gift given, what is constructive and loving and do everything we can to combat what is destructive and unloving—whether in sexuality or in pastoral intervention.

In closing, let me say that though few of us will change our minds about homosexuality, and though none of us will change sexual orientation, hopefully and prayerfully, all of us will have our hearts changed toward an even kinder and more practical love for our homosexual neighbors. Aware of how easy it is for us to misunderstand outward appearances and how impossible it is to see the heart, let us say with Wesley: “If thy heart is as my heart, give me thy hand. “

We may not be able to agree in theory but hopefully theory will not get in the way of our active expressions of love. Wesley put it this way in his Character of a Methodist: “For the sake of mere opinions … let us not destroy the work of God.” What is the work of God if not those gay brothers and sisters who, with us all, are made in God’s image? We should not destroy them in the name of our theological or sexual literacy. We may be illiterate and not know it. Wesley preached that “It is certain, so long as we know but in part, that all men will not see all things alike. It is an unavoidable consequence of the present weakness and shortness of human understanding,” he said, “that several men will be of several minds in religion as well as in common life. So it has been from the beginning of the world, and so it will be ‘till the restitution of all things.’” He then approved the Latin saying which he translated thus: “To be ignorant of many things, and to mistake in some, is the necessary condition of humanity.” He went on to say that one “knows, in general, that he himself is mistaken; although in what particular he mistakes, he does not, perhaps he cannot know.” Wesley explained that he said ‘“cannot know;’ for who can tell how far invincible ignorance may extend? or (that comes to the same thing) invincible prejudice?—which is often so fixed in tender minds, that it is afterwards impossible to tear up what has taken so deep a root. And who can say,” asked Wesley, “unless he knew every circumstance attending it, how far any mistake is culpable? seeing all guilt must suppose some concurrence of the will; of which He only can judge who searcheth the heart.” Wesley concluded: “Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He bears with those who differ from him, and only asks him with whom he desires to unite in love that single question, ‘Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?’”

Let us ask with Wesley: “What will [our opinions] profit us in that day? What will it avail to tell the Judge of all, ‘Lord, I was not as other men were; not unjust, not an adulterer, not a liar, not an immoral man [and, is it too much to add, not a practicing homosexual]?’ Yea, what will it avail, if we have done all good, as well as done no harm,—if we have given all our goods to feed the poor,—and have not charity?”


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