Comment on reactions to the Jones and Yarhouse study

Reaction has been swift to the Jones and Yarhouse study. Many on this blog and elsewhere are questioning the ability of Jones and Yarhouse to fairly present their data because they are Evangelical Christians reporting on people supplied by Exodus International and funded by Exodus. While I understand the question, I believe that the book and their public presentations make it clear that, from the beginning, they intended to present the results of their prospective study no matter what the results were. And in fact, the results are not glowing endorsements of complete change, thus adding to the credibility of their promise and delivery.

Another criticism leveled is that Jones and Yarhouse should take public notice and offense at the misuse of their work. On this point, I have some experience given the concerns over the misuse of my documentary I Do Exist. Clearly, some critics and proponents have gone far afield of this study. Wayne Besen is perhaps the biggest offender, calling the study a “sham” before it was even out. And then an article in today’s Washington Blade quotes Chrisine Robinson as having problems with the study – which she hasn’t read.

Sociologist Christine Robinson, a professor at James Madison University who focuses on social control of deviance and sociology of sexualities, said she has two major concerns about the study, which she has not yet read. The first is that some will abuse its findings and the second is the methodology.

“The authors are right to say that one limitation … is the lack of independent/objective measures of sexual attraction beyond self-reports,” Robinson wrote in an e-mail. “This is a major weakness of the study. In addition, and even more problematic to me, is that the study is being touted as evidence to counteract the claim that reorientation therapies are not inherently harmful, but the study doesn’t examine reorientation therapies of Exodus ministries.”

The study would have been stronger, Robinson said, if it included an independent, in-depth assessment of the therapeutic methods themselves.

She notes one limitation already mentioned by the authors (and addressed in the book) and then faults the study somehow for how others will use it. And indeed it will be cited in a variety of ways — some misleading. For instance, Lifesite News wrote that Christian counseling helps people leave the “homosexual lifestyle.” Unless you consider Exodus involvement Christian counseling, this is of course incorrect. I suspect other types of spin on both sides will occur.

In all of this I am reminded of another study. The study of harm by Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder is one that has been advanced by critics of change therapies as proof that such therapy doesn’t work and is uniformly harmful. I have documented this error in previous posts, most notably when psychiatrist Alicia Salzer said on the Montel Williams Show that:

Science has shown us that 96% of people cannot change and along the way, absorb an enormous amount of self-loathing, a lot of confusion, a lot of family conflict, so I know the harm.

And then a PFLAG representative misrepresented the study in a replied to a Chicago Tribune article. No one on my blog or anywhere else I can find called on Shidlo and Schroeder to chastise the PFLAG speaker, or Alicia Salzer for misreprenting their work. Why not?

Anything alledged against Jones and Yarhouse about objectivity could be said about Shidlo and Schroeder. The authors are gay psychologists who started with a desire to find harm from change efforts. Their study was sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and funded by the H. van Ameringen Foundation (a frequent GLB benefactor). Their original call for participants was titled: Homophobic Therapies: Documenting the Damage” and included this description:

“You can be of help in the long process of getting the message out that these conversion therapies don’t work and do the opposite of healing by informing your l/g/b communities of our search for participants to be interviewed. Please announce our project in any upcoming lesbian and gay community meetings and spread the word. Help us document the damage!”

Sometime during the process of seeking participants, some people reported benefit and so they changed the title of the study and the call for participants to:

Changing Sexual Orientation: Does Counseling Work?

If you have taken part in counseling or psychotherapy that has attempted to change your homosexuality please give us a call. We are conducting a national study of individuals who have gone through such counseling. Did it work? Did it fail? We want to know how it affected you.

For a confidential interview please call: Dr. Michael Schroeder and Dr. Ariel Shidlo at 1.800.592.9815 or 212.886.3770. You can also E-mail us at therastudy@aol.com, or visit our Web site at http://www.jasperweb.com/therastudy.

Any quantification of their participants into categories is pointless because the sample was clearly non-representative and the study not prospective. Jones and Yarhouse’s made a good effort at representativeness (although not completely successful) and their study was prospective. Shidlo and Schroeder were anticipating and seeking their results in the call for participants.

Regarding misuse of their study, Shidlo and Schroeder noted as much in their study:

The data presented in this article do not provide information on the incidence and the prevalence of failure, success, harm, help, or ethical violations in conversion therapy. (italics in the original, p. 250).

So if critics want to discount Jones and Yarhouse based on perceptions of bias and limitations, then Shidlo and Schroeder must go too. And when advocates refer to their study improperly, I expect us all to call on Drs. Shidlo and Schroeder to take them on.

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  • David Blakeslee

    I think you have stumbled upon something here, Warren.

    Psychotherapy generally poses risks to clients, as all medical procedures do.

    There is an echo chamber after the research is published which quickly distorts the data and then disseminates it. This distorted data is quoted as fact ad nauseum by various advocacy groups.

    It is up to the original authors to speak boldly and clearly to correct misinterpretation of their data…something I have not seen S and S do.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    Thanks for the update, Dr. T., but I expect that your plea for fairness will fall on deaf ears.

  • http://www.transformingcong.org Karen Booth

    I want to apologize to anyone reading this blog who was involved in the Yarhouse/Jones study – and to Dr. Jones and Yarhouse, too – for comments I made on another blog about “less than stellar” results of the study. I was trying to make the same point Dr. T. was making above when he wrote “the results are not glowing endorsements of complete change, thus adding to the credibility of their promise and delivery.” He said it much better, and if I gave offense, please forgive me.

    I have nothing but the deepest appreciation and respect for Drs. Jones and Yarhouse’s work and for the courage and commitment of the participants involved.

  • Karen Booth

    Dr. T. … do you think anyone in the medical or therapeutic community takes Wayne Besen seriously? Outside pro-gay fundamentalism, does anyone really pay any attention to him? To me, he’s become something of a cliche, and perhaps we all get far too wound up about him. Do you have any evidence that the general media takes notice?

    My hope for the study is that once the book is solidly “out” and other researchers and “scientific” types have had a chance to read and digest it, it will begin to make a bigger impact. (Hopefully by the time The United Methodist Church holds its General Conference next spring. (That would be God’s delicious and perfect timing.)

    So again, kudos to you, Drs. Yarhouse and Jones. If Wayne Besen was that afraid of your study even before it was released, it must have something really big going for it.

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Did you also apologize on “the other blog” which you can’t seem to even name?

  • jayhuck

    David Blakeslee –

    When I was reading your post, I thought you were talking about Jones and Yarhouse – it wasn’t until I saw your mention of S & S that I knew you weren’t. Everything you said could easily be said and asked of the J & Y study as well. We don’t see them stepping up and correcting the misuse of their data by Christian advocacy groups.

  • jayhuck

    David Blakeslee –

    You also make it sound as if the problems with this therapy should just be shrugged off because all therapies pose risks to clients. What we need to find out first, before we go tossing aside those who have been hurt, is to find out if the risks are disproportionately high with this type of therapy as compared with others!!!

  • jag

    Warren –

    You stated that these individuals would not be taken seriously because of their affiliations. From what I have witnessed on this blog and elsewhere is that the majority of criticisms regarding the study and areas of concern are methodological and scientific.

    I have no doubt that there are objective christian scientists, gay scientists, and christian gay scientists…but they all have to do one thing – hold to the standard of science and methodological issues. Regardless of their affiliation, this study was poorly conducted with so many methodological problems that it simply cannot be taken seriously by any scientist reading it.

    Not to mention that out of that bad science came unimpressive results.

    At least they are standing by their work, but let’s not cry wolf when there are clearly so many other problems that need to be addressed.

  • Eddy

    Even with its deficiencies, I believe we can safely assume from the study that there appears to be no disproportionately high risk to ex-gay therapy. While I concede that there may be risks, I believe that, if they were out out of proportion on the high side, indications would have surfaced in the study. I also believe the authors to be honest enough that they wouldn’t have tried to conceal this if it were true.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Jag – Have you seen the book? Have you seen Shidlo and Schroeder? I am in awe of the willingness to dismiss this study when Shidlo and Schroeder is viewed as sufficient on which to base APA policy.

    I will say again — and anyone who might like to address the points in my post can do so — if Jones and Yarhouse are out, then we have basically nothing to talk about. Someone show me a study that could pass through the criticisms being offered regarding J&Y.

  • jayhuck

    Warren,

    I’m not knowledgeable enough of most of the studies in this discussion to make this statement – but I’d be willing to wager we have NOTHING to talk about!

  • Ivan

    Are you saying the methodologies of both studies are much the same?

  • http://nojam75.blogspot.com Norm!

    “. . . For instance, Lifesite News wrote that Christian counseling helps people leave the “homosexual lifestyle.” Unless you consider Exodus involvement Christian counseling, this is of course incorrect. . . .”

    I think you’ve stumbled on another potential problem with the J&Y study. Did J&Y define what exactly Exodus ministries actually provide to the participants? Exodus does not directly minister to participants, but only refers participants to its diverse and independently operated member ministries. I have never understood what specific training, credentials, or licensing, if any, Exodus requires its member ministries to have. Nor has Exodus specifically defined what curriculum or program it’s member ministries follow. How did J&Y demonstrate that the study’s participants received uniformly similar ‘counseling’, ministry, or whatever-you-call-what-it?

    From my experience with an Exodus-affiliated ministry and all other accounts I’ve heard from Exodus participants, it would be accurate to describe these ministries as “unlicensed Christian counseling”. In group and one-on-one sessions, Exodus ministry leaders do represent themselves as experts in the development and treatment of homosexuality (even charging fees for each session) and, in essence, act as Christian counselors.

  • Karen Booth

    David, the other blog, I think, was Disputed Mutability. I don’t remember if I apoligized there or not.

  • Marty

    Thank you Dr. Throckmorten.

    I’ve long pointed out that ALL RESEARCH into these questions is politically poisoned, whether from the right or the left. And given what you say about “self reporting” — that there is NO objective measure of sexual attraction — any future research is likely to be just as toxic.

    Without any objective criteria to measure either attraction or change of attraction, we are all at the mercy of the (potentially) biased activists who direct and participate in such studies.

    I still maintain that “sexual orientation” is just a social construct. Biologically, we are all heterosexual.

  • minty

    So if critics want to discount Jones and Yarhouse based on perceptions of bias and limitations, then Shidlo and Schroeder must go too.

    Amen! There are many reasons to be suspicious of this study, but the studies coming from the left are even more biased and not-to-be-trusted. They do nothing but discredit the impartiality of these researcher-advocates in general.

    On a tangent, I am equally wary of the research that purports to show that illegal immigration has negligible effect on the job market. Oh, really..? As our social services and working conditions are visibly undermined, you mean to say illegal immigration has no net effect. Surrrre.

    Going further… I am frequently shocked at the vapid nature of the discourse on many prominent gay blogs. I know Towleroad (for example) is just a gossip/entertainment site, but some of the comments wouldn’t pass muster on the Maury Povich show.

  • minty

    Also… the vicious, slanderous attacks by leading environmentalists on Bjorn Lomborg’s first book, “The Skeptical Environmentalist” – were very disillusioning. The attacks were printed in Scientific American, of all places.

    Obviously people can disagree with Lomborg’s conclusions – as many have pointed out, he doesn’t account for the possibility of catastrophic climate change. “We don’t know what we don’t know”.

    But obfuscating and lying about what he actually said, does nothing but reveal the biases of these so-called impartial researchers.

  • jayhuck

    Eddy,

    You said: “Even with its deficiencies, I believe we can safely assume from the study that there appears to be no disproportionately high risk to ex-gay therapy. While I concede that there may be risks, I believe that, if they were out out of proportion on the high side, indications would have surfaced in the study.”

    Because of its deficiencies and inherent bias we cannot assume anything of the sort Eddy. And when dealing with something as serious as harm to a client, I think we would need multiple studies, hopefully with less problems, before we could rule ANYTHING out. This one problematic study doesn’t prove anything really.

  • jayhuck

    Marty,

    We are not all heterosexual – THAT idea itself, is a construct of NARTH and other people who support the ideology of Reparative Therapy.

    As for political poison – I would argue that more bias exists with religious researchers than with others. While politics can and does poison both sides, when it comes to conservative Christians, you have the added element of religion effecting everything that is being done – on top of politics – and as I’ve said so many times before, religion and science make terrible bedfellows – history is full of the problems that have been created when these two ways of looking at the world meet and try and meld with each other. I have no way of proving or disproving this, it is just something I’ve been thinking about lately.

  • Eddy

    Jayhuck said: “religion and science make terrible bedfellows – history is full of the problems that have been created when these two ways of looking at the world meet and try and meld with each other.”

    Perhaps we can learn from history. Can you share just two examples of where science and religion tried to meld and what problems were created? How did these situations resolve? Did religion and science unmeld? When they did, did the problems disappear or did they linger for a generation or two? If they didn’t unmeld, can you point to specific problems today that are a result of the melding?

  • Marty

    Jayhuck, you are under the false impression that “heterosexuality” is nothing more than just another “sexual orientation”. In fact, it is fare more than that — as evidenced by the fact that you yourself are the product of exactly one man and one woman (regardless of either’s so-called “orientation”), and if you have children yourself, they will also be the result of a heterosexual union. This is as true for gay people as it is for straights.

    Heterosexuality is a much bigger concept than mere “orientation”.

  • jag

    Warren –

    “Jag – Have you seen the book? Have you seen Shidlo and Schroeder? I am in awe of the willingness to dismiss this study when Shidlo and Schroeder is viewed as sufficient on which to base APA policy.”

    I think you have to be careful here. A bad study is a bad study…Jones and Yarhouse have terrible methodological issues…that doesn’t change because others might as well.

  • Christine Robinson

    Dr. Throckmorton,

    You misrepresented me (though until I read the Blade itself, I won’t know whether that was intentional or not – I’m NOT inclined to assume it was intentional).

    I explicitly said in my interview with the Washington Blade that how people use the study is NOT the authors’ (Jones and Yarhouse) fault, but that it is of concern to me how this study will be used. I’m pasting below

    I have not yet received my copy of the Blade – so I don’t know what they printed and what they didn’t print from my interview (the media’s need for soundbites always concerns me – I gave them lengthy answers to their questions). But this is exactly why I answer questions from the media by e-mail – so that I can’t be misquoted and so that I can correct it when people unfairly (wittingly or not) criticize me – like you have (I hope unintentionally).

    In addition – even though I have not read the full study – I did read the methodology section and instrument posted at the intervarsity website – anyone with undergraduate training in social science methods understands the limitations of self-report data – this is not rocket science. You make it sound like I didn’t bother to inform myself about the study.

    I’m pasting here (this is verbatim, though I’m editing it for brevity) how I answered some of questions asked by the reporter from the Blade on the question of my concerns about the study. I don’t expect it, but I hope you’ll not be so quick to attribute “bad faith” on my part in the future.

    The reporter sent me her questions on Tuesday, September 18 and needed my answers by Wednesday, Sept. 19.

    Question from Blade reporter Katherine Volin:

    Based upon what you’ve read about and heard about this new study, what’s your reaction to it?

    My Answer:

    To be fair, I have not read the full study nor have I had the time to carefully read even what is available about the study at the InterVarsity Press website. However, from what I have read, I have some serious concerns. First, I’m most concerned about how this study, like Robert Spitzer’s study a few years ago, will be used in the culture wars over homosexuality. I’m concerned that because most of the public is unaware of what makes good social research, that this study will be misused to shame people into seeking out ex-gay therapy. That is not the fault of the authors, but I predict that is exactly one thing that will happen.

    The study itself also appears very limited in its methodology. The authors are right to say that one limitation (which they acknowledge) is the lack of independent/objective measures of sexual attraction beyond self reports. This is a major weakness of the study. In addition, and even more problematic to me is that the stud is being touted as evidence to counteract the claim that reorientation therapies are not inherently harmful, but the study doesn’t examine reorientation therapies of Exodus ministries….

    This study absolutely can not be used to make any statistical claims – but, of course, it will be used that way be people who do and do not know better. And those claims will be consumed by people who don’t know better. That’s dangerous.

    Question (by Blade reporter):

    Do you know of any organizations/people/groups studying ex-gays that aren’t pro-ex-gay or anti-ex-gay, but maybe come from a slightly less agenda-driven approach to the subject?

    No, I don’t – but I do believe that regardless of one’s personal beliefs about the intrinsic moral neutrality or the intrinsic immorality of homosexuality – it is possible that researchers can produce good work and carry it through with great integrity.

    I gave this reporter three pages of single-spaced answers to her questions – I’m sure she did the best she could to mine what she needed for the study.

    Dr. Throckmorton – what do you say – will you do the right thing and correct your statement that I “fault the study” for how others will misuse it? I deliberately did not fault the study or the authors – I went out of my way to tell the reporter that this is not the authors’ fault, but that it is a concern (and obviously one of yours too).

    Christine M. Robinson

  • Karen Booth

    With all due respect, Jayhuck, is it possible that the concept of homosexual orientation might just be a cultural construct as well?

  • Jamie Sartre

    Marty:

    So what’s your point? If we are all heterosexual biologically like you say, how does that impact on sexual orientation? Are gay and lesbian people just imagining things?

    I’ll assume that you’re saying that because we are made to procreate via male with female that means homosexuals are deviating from the norm. Though what do you say to a transgendered or intersex person who isn’t quite “male” or “female” in the traditional “biological” sense? Are they not allowed to have attractions either because you think it’s wrong?

  • Eddy

    LOL! We’ll be all talked out before ANYONE has even read the book! I’m hungering to get a bit constructive. What if a number of us agreed to actually read and discuss the book chapter by chapter…citing those areas where we felt they were, more or less, ‘on target’ and those where their methodologies fell short?

    These are, after all, uncharted waters. It’s not altogether suprising that the first attempt to chart them should be a bit hazy. Does this first attempt have anything to teach future attempts? Is there anyone out there who could/would undertake such a study without bias towards one side or the other? Could our little ‘mixed group’ impact the fairness/truthfulness of a future study?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Dr. Robinson – The link to the Blade article is in the post above. You can hit the link and read it for yourself. I quoted it above.

    So your issue is with how the Blade characterized your views. I am sympathetic to this since this has happened to me more than once. Thanks for including your exact answers to the Blade. If I were you, I would ask them to correct it in some manner. They have done the same for me in the past.

    While you are reading along, I do not understand why self-report is questioned here but not with Shidlo and Schroeder. The participants in Shidlo and Schroeder based their recall on experiences from many years prior and there was no check on whether or not the people involved had pre-existing mental conditions. S&S were not able to figure out (not in the design) what caused the harm reported by the participants. Everyone assumes the harm came from the various change interventions – however from a research point of view, there is no way to know what really caused the harm.

  • Marty

    Jamie, my point is simply that “heterosexuality vs. homosexuality” is a false comparison. One is a mere orientation or preference, the other is a law of nature regardless of anyone’s preference.

    Maybe it’s just a matter of terminology, but it sometimes bothers me when people refer to “heterosexuality” as if it were just another preference.

  • Jamie Sartre

    Marty:

    Thanks for clarifying. :)

    I would have to agree with you on that.

    My dilemma comes when I wonder if that is an arguement against homosexuality. Eg. because it isn’t natural homosexuals must all convert back to heterosexual desires.

    Most Christians would probably agree with that and also cite some of Paul’s writings in the New Testament.

    To my dilemma, how is it that there exist transgendered, gay, intersex etc people all with varying issues? Some may say that they are the result of a sinful world. That they ‘convert’ or stay celibate, and one day God will make us heterosexual (orientation) again.

    That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t seem that “heterosexual biology” will be exactly the same in heaven. I know I’ve kinda said all this before, but no one’s really given an answer. Before you all say there are no theologians here, the whole point of J&Y’s study was to see if change works or not. This site, all the discussions, exist because some feel they need change – usually because of Christian beliefs.

    Though why must I change if in heaven it’ll all be different anyway? Just so in the short term people here on earth don’t get rubbed up the wrong way cause I’m gay?

    Note: my apologies Warren, I’m straying off topic >_

  • http://nojam75.blogspot.com Norm!

    Warren:”. . . Everyone assumes the harm came from the various change interventions – however from a research point of view, there is no way to know what really caused the harm.”

    Tobacco companies, polluters, abestos makers etc. commonly use this same defense. ‘Cause and effect can’t be proven therefore there the effect is unrelated to the alleged cause.’ No doubt ex-gay ministries have and would argue that any alleged harm to partipants is pre-existing. Therefore, ex-gay drop-outs are blamed for lacking faith and ‘successful’ ex-gays are used to demonstrate how harmless and effective Exodus ministries are.

    Yes, the S&S study (which I participated in) was far from perfect, but it was the first attempt I’m aware of to substantiate Exodus & co. claims about change. I see S&S as no less valid than Dr. Robert Spitzer’s bias telesurvey. In fact, Tanya Erzen alleges in her book, Straight To Jesus, that Spitzer admitted to skewing his study (p. 130):

    “Over lunch, he [Dr. Spitzer] had admitted to experiencing difficulties in finding respondents for his study, and he had warned ex-gay leaders that if they did not refer more people, he would be unable to write a positive study for them”

    What is most surprising is that it has taken Exodus 30+ YEARS to take the first meager step in researching whether or not their ministries are helpful & effective or harmful & ineffective. Exodus has always claimed that its primary mission is to minister to those with same-sex attractions, but one would think they would want to track and research their efforts from the beginning. And yet soliciting money, running ads, and forming political alliances has always been a higher priority for Exodus than actually doing the basic research about its own ministry.

  • Karen Booth

    Eddy … if no one else agrees to it, I’m willing to discuss the book with you. My copy arrived today from Amazon. Much, much thicker than I expected.

    Dr. T. – I hope you’ll either keep this thread open or start another one for further discussion of the book.

  • Karen Booth

    Dr. Robinson, thank you for posting your interview responses. It was far more helpful and elightening than reading the Blade article.

    Could you please clarify one statement for me?

    Your wrote … “In addition, and even more problematic to me is that the stud(y) is being touted as evidence to counteract the claim that reorientation therapies are not inherently harmful, but the study doesn’t examine reorientation therapies of Exodus ministries….”

    I think you mean that Exodus support groups are ministries and not reorientation therapy, meaning a more specific type of secular, professional therapeutic approach. If that’s what you mean, then I wholeheartedly agree with you, as I think would most of the Exodus member mnistries. I also think that Jones and Yarhouse are very clear about the difference in their research and book.

    Are there other individuals or groups out there that are blurring the lines between the two and making the claims you state? From my vantage point, I have seem more of that generalizing come from the gay-activist or ex-ex-gay camps in their attempts to discredit Exodus.

  • Karen Booth

    Jamie writes,

    “That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t seem that “heterosexual biology” will be exactly the same in heaven. I know I’ve kinda said all this before, but no one’s really given an answer. Before you all say there are no theologians here, the whole point of J&Y’s study was to see if change works or not. This site, all the discussions, exist because some feel they need change – usually because of Christian beliefs.

    Though why must I change if in heaven it’ll all be different anyway? Just so in the short term people here on earth don’t get rubbed up the wrong way cause I’m gay?”

    Jamie, I’m going to take a shot at trying to answer this, but they certainly aren’t going to be really detailed responses. So, if you want to continue the discussion, maybe we could do it by email and not take the thread way off topic. (And if you know all this stuff already, please don’t take offense.)

    First of all, classic Christianity doesn’t teach that our ultimate destination is heaven, at least as most people commonly understand it – somewhere “up there” with the angels. Our ultimate destination at the end of time is as resurrected beings in the “new heaven” and “new earth.” We’ll have glorified bodies like Jesus did post-Easter. He was able to teleport and walk through walls, but also still ate food and had the marks of the nails in his hands.

    It isn’t clear whether or not we’ll be gendered, male or female. But as you stated, Jesus did say there won’t be marriage. Most traditional scholars interpret that to mean we’ll somehow be “beyond sex,” and that our face-to-face relationship with Jesus will be sufficient. (That’s kind of putting it mildly.)

    But Christianity also teaches that while we may not be sexual creatures in the resurrected life, it still matters what we do sexually while here on earth. The choices we make about how we respond to and live out our desires either draw us closer to God or push us away, and make us more – or less – Christ-like.

    Christians obviously disagree about how homosexuality fits into that picture, but most of us agree that our sexual lives here and now matter.

  • Ann

    Karen,

    Whether one is a Christian or of another faith, or perhaps no faith at all, they can certainly feel in their heart what you have articulated so well. It certainly settled into mine. Thank you.

  • jayhuck

    Marty –

    You said: “In fact, it is fare more than that — as evidenced by the fact that you yourself are the product of exactly one man and one woman (regardless of either’s so-called “orientation”), and if you have children yourself, they will also be the result of a heterosexual union. This is as true for gay people as it is for straights.

    Heterosexuality is a much bigger concept than mere “orientation”.”

    Homosexuality is ALSO a much bigger concept than just a mere orientation – so I’m not sure what your point is here.

    I’m also not sure what you point is by brining in the concept of conception – there are many couples who can’t have kids, who won’t have kids, and whose health is at great risk by having kids – being heterosexual doesn’t mean you can have children and it most certainly doesn’t mean you are FIT to have children –

    Karen,

    If homosexual orientation is a societal construct, than so to is heterosexual orientation. The idea of orientation itself may be a construct – or perhaps it is just how, through science, we’ve come to understand a great deal of human behavior?

    Eddy,

    As for science and religion – I don’t have time to look everything up – but the things that immediately spring to my mind are the imprisoning of scientists by the Church when the scientists disagreed with that Christianity believed – Galileo is an example. You have the Intelligent Design/Creationism construct of some conservative Christians where they try very hard to bring science in line with their beliefs – although it keeps getting shot down by the majority of the scientific community and the courts. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that science is irreconcilable with faith, I just think we have to understand both and their limitations – they are two different ways of looking at the world. Science can say a great deal, but it can’t really say anything about the metaphysical – Theology and religion can also say a great deal, but they can’t really do what science does.

    There is a great Wikipedia article on the subject – I recommend you read it when you have time:

    Click here to read article

  • Marty

    Jamie,

    For me it’s not even about attraction. It’s about adults who think it’s just fine to deprive children of either a mother or a father, because of their own attractions.

    As if attraction has anything to do with having kids…

  • Eddy

    Norm said–

    And yet soliciting money, running ads, and forming political alliances has always been a higher priority for Exodus than actually doing the basic research about its own ministry.

    That statement is so misinformed that it’s hardly worth commenting. I was a key player in Exodus for a little more than it’s first 10 years…we solicited funds to pay the bills and to publish our monthly newsletter (a lifeline to many). Staff salaries were meager…less than $15,000 a year for more than full time work.

    I don’t believe it was until after their 15th year that Exodus got involved politically. You and I must define ‘always’ differently.

    The reason we didn’t do the research is that we were, almost without exception, lay people. We offered support and counsel but we did not provide pyschiatric therapy. We saw homosexuality as a ‘sin problem’ not a psychiatric disorder; the assistance we offered was that of a fellow sojourner or a paraclete.

    We simply didn’t have what it takes to undertake any research that would remotely satisfy those who questioned our sanity. I personally challenged several detractors to come up with a study. For my part, I submitted to taking the MMPI to assess my own integrated personality. Others within Exodus took similar stands.

    And, LOL, get real! Even if we had done the research and produced a work of genius, all would be for naught since the research would be pre-branded as hopelessly biased.

  • jag

    Karen –

    “My hope for the study is that once the book is solidly “out” and other researchers and “scientific” types have had a chance to read and digest it, it will begin to make a bigger impact.”

    Let’s make a bet. I’m waging the book will have absolutely no impact. And you?

    You see, researchers and scientific “types,” look for solid research and peer-reviewed methodologically solid science. People in the broader circle don’t really take it seriously…did you see the press it got? Virtually non-existent. Unless you include groups like FOF, etc…

    It looks to most scientists (at least to those I’ve talked to at work, etc..) that it is just more “preaching to the choir,” and after seeing what others have said about it in distorting the numbers for particular audiences (see the many comments – I believe lynn david has some good ones – throughout the postings on this and other threads), I tend sadly to agree.

    I would love to see more solid research on orientation across the board. However, as I have stated before, why does the research always go one way (from gay to straight)…why not investigate heterosexuality? Why does orientation matter at all? Why not allow people to simply be themselves? It always strikes me as odd, that no matter what I do for work, how well I do it, and where I live, there is someone out there who cares who I sleep with. She’s quite attractive…but gheesh folks, it’s not enough to deny me basic rights in housing, etc.

    In the end, no matter what is discovered about the malleability or not of orientation, the likely biological predispositions (see hundreds of species, and people across virtually all cultures and time periods), etc..in the end, we are all people. Gay and lesbian people will have equal rights, marry, have their already existing families recognized and legally connected, and further meld into the fabric of our diverse nation.

    While I am interested in this research, I am often put off by the motives and how it is distorted to support some sort of overall “cause” that works against my everyday life. Too often the same people interested in orientation are those who speak not only against same-sex marriage, but against many basic rights – like ensuring one cannot be discriminated in housing and employment (like religious beliefs are protected) and other issues. Ring a bell, Warren?

    What really makes me smile? Those like many here who I think genuinely want to know the truth, who work hard in their own lives to live consistently with their beliefs and who would simultaneously support me and my wife in our marriage and life together – because I am living consistent with mine.

    There are far too few out there.

  • Jamie Sartre

    Karen:

    Thanks, that was a nice explanation. Yeah sorry I meant to say New Earth, but many Christians nowadays always refer to ‘heaven’ and I didn’t know if I was going to sound weird to some people.

    So would it matter what I do in platonic relationships? Do I really need to “reorientate”, can’t I just live with this and not have sex? Honestly I feel so messed up now, I’m starting to view sex as something disgusting and sinful.

    Before you say anything! I know, God created it to be somthing beautiful between Adam and Eve. But it’s too confusing for me, how incest was once ok, then it becomes an abomination (I know the explantions given), people being polygamous and God saying nothing, homosexuality, transgender and then to top it all off in the New Earth there is no ‘sex’ per se. All these issues which complicate things.

    And through all this Chrisitans are making absolute judgements usually coloured by the cultural norms of their particular groups/churches etc. Why shouldn’t I hate sex like I’ve hated myself if one day it’s not even going to exist? I mean why not start now? Why not start reorientating to hate sex?

    I’m not being sarcastic or having a go at anyone. I’m just confused. Karen, you gave a good explanation, it’s not about that, it’s all these other questions that make it hard. And while in my heart I trust God enough that many things will be explained in the New Earth, I can’t help but feel that we are all still rational beings who want to use our minds and come to logical conclusions.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Ivan – I am saying there are similarities, but the Jones and Yarhouse study design is far superior.

  • concerned

    JAG,

    I am also very interested in the biology of this and I know there are many in the field of biology that do not see this issue as you have described. Yes there are other species that demonstrate homosexual behaviour for a time, but it is rare that it is continued on a long term basis. Stress is an important factor in this. It may play some role in population regulations, but there is no way we can benefit from comparing the complexity of the human condition with that of even our closest animal cousins.

    You continue to believe what you want, but my experience is telling me something very different these days, because the science has moved on. The human brain does not mature and totally stagnate, it continues to adapt to the changing world around it. It may become more difficult with age, but it is still maluable. Maybe their is a need for some in biology to begin to experience this.

  • Karen Booth

    Sorry, JAG, but Methodists aren’t allowed to bet. That’s at least one of the things we don’t argue over – that and the evil of cigarettes and oppressive pickle factories.

  • jayhuck

    Warren,

    With all due respect, you are really far from being a non-biased voice concerning this study. The only people I have seen jump to defend this study in any respect are Conservative Evangelicals. This doesn’t necessarily mean the study is without merit, but this fact also doesn’t give it too much support either!

  • Jamie Sartre

    Oops didin’t see all those posts before, even though I was refreshing the page.

    The whole concept of Science vs Religion can so polarise a debate…..which is why I’ll dip my toe slowly into it.

    The Galileo issue is a lot more complex than is usually explained. I mean even kids cartoons get it confused by saying Galileo was burned at the stake for saying the earth was round?!? That’s one extreme example how historical fact has turned into urban myth.

    I’m not going to explain it here, there’s plenty of info on the web about it. But just to say that Galileo got into more trouble with the church back then because he tried to find biblical proof for stating that the sun was at the center of the solar system.

    Remember, it was heresy to try and decipher a personal interpretation about what the Bible said. Only the church and its tradition could tell people what to believe. And it was the scientific community who was initially cynical of Galileo’s continued work on his theory. The Geocentric or Ptolemaic Model of the solar system was embraced not because it was Biblical, but it was a long held theory back from Greek Astronomy. The Heliocentric Model of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler was a radical new (not that new, Aristarchus of Samos circa 3rd Century BC had argued this too) theory which upset the scientific and religious traditions. Yet it was not because it was different to what the Bible said.

    Hmm I wonder how this all compares with people’s interpretations today of homosexuality in the Bible? 😉

    In my personal faith I believe that the Word of God is inspired but isn’t the dictated ‘actual words’ of God. It needs prayer and contextual study to find out what its saying. I also believe in the literal account of Genesis *GASP* yet would be considered a “left wing liberal” by US standards and I’m gay *gasp?* 😛

  • Eddy

    Jayhuck said ealier “religion and science make terrible bedfellows – history is full of the problems that have been created when these two ways of looking at the world meet and try and meld with each other.”

    When I asked for examples of this attempt to meet and meld, you provided examples of how they were at odds with each other. I’ll follow the wikipedia link when I have time but I’ve got a feeling it isn’t going to talk about science and religion trying to meld…but rather, it’s going to show that they never have. It’s a valid point but is not the one you made that I questioned.

  • jayhuck

    Eddy,

    The meet and meld statement had to do mostly with Conservative, often Evangelical, Christians who try to use science to justify their religious beliefs. Creationism/Intelligent Design is just one example. In this case, they don’t meld well.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Francis Collins is an evangelical who is also a brilliant scientist. It is not science or religion as entities or enterprises that comprise the problem, it is how one does them. I personally have nothing to fear for my faith from science. My faith is a given, it is a perspective on the world and the issue of existance. Why are we here? Why is anything here? Having settled this, I do not reject what is observed to preserve what I hope. I make meaning of what is observed through the grid of faith. I recognize that for some that means different conclusions. I have heard some evangelicals say, no one can be born gay because God wouldn’t make someone attracted to same sex and then ask them not to act on it. In a related narrative, I have heard LDS people say that no one can be born gay because they were in the spirit world prior to birth and could not have come to earth if they were destined to be gay. But is this really consistent with what we observe in either the real world or the Bible or the Book of Mormon? I am no scholar on the Book of Mormon so I cannot comment there. However, I do not think the Bible offers this teaching.

    When there are explicit teachings that seem to be contradicted by scientific work, my attitude is to learn as much as I can about the teaching and the research. If there are contradictions, I live with them, waiting and being tentative, holding them both in mind. My view is that the Christian must be humble in approaching the unknowns, and tentative. I do not think I have been flawless in this; I suspect I have taken a stronger stance at times on various issues than is appropriate. My point is that I advocate religious students to become scientist and scientists to become religious. I believe with a humility toward knowing, we get the benefits of both approaches to knowing.

  • jayhuck

    Warren,

    You said “I personally have nothing to fear for my faith from science.”

    I think this is great, but there ARE plenty of religious people who do fear science, who do want tailor it to suit their needs – or who want to silence it because it teaches them something that might contradict their faith. I wasn’t really talking about just you in this instance, but I do appreciate you explaining your own view on the subject.

  • jayhuck

    Warren,

    For the record, I absolutely agree that there are real benefits to both approaches – as long as we understand the abilities and limitations of each

  • jag

    Karen –

    “Sorry, JAG, but Methodists aren’t allowed to bet. That’s at least one of the things we don’t argue over – that and the evil of cigarettes and oppressive pickle factories.”

    I’m a reconciling methodist, and I’ve never heard such a restriction on betting…

    Oh well, I suppose we have one thing in common – we’re both Methodists…

    Thanks for the humor.

  • jag

    Concerned –

    “Yes there are other species that demonstrate homosexual behaviour for a time, but it is rare that it is continued on a long term basis.”

    Well, since many species don’t pair with any partner for life or are monogamous…that’s not a huge stretch. However, some do have long-lasting relationships and have intense bonds – as this is also true with homosexuality in nature. Some are shorter lived, and others last….like heterosexuality.

    Some examples:

    – The Japanese Macaque “form intense, exclusive pair-bonds with each other based on mutual sexual attraction…they are characterizedd by a number of distinctive affectionate, sexual and social activities.” The average number of lesbian relationships in this species is 9%.

    “while paired with a female they remain faithful to their partner, ignoring or rebuffing any advances made by males toward them.”

    There are many references for this one…Vasey, P.L. (1998). “female choice and intersexual competition for female sexual partners in Japanese Macaques.” Behavior. 135:1-19.

    – many others by Vasey as well…”interventions and alliance formation between female japanese macaques during homosexual courtship.”….etc….

    2. Some male black swans form stable, long-lasting homosexual pairs…overall, male couples form 5-6% of all pairing in Black swans…in any given year, an average of 13 % of the birds are in homosexual pair-bonds.

    Braithwaite, L.W. (1981). Ecological studies of the black Swam, Behavior and social organization. Australian Wildlife Research. 9: 261-75.

    3. Lifelong homosexual pair-bonds sometimes develop with Humboldt Penguins. It has been documented that some have remained together until the death of their partner. They live in the same nest they built together and spend much of their time close together, often touching.

    Scholten, C.J. (1992). “choice of nest site and mate in Humboldt penguins” SPN 5: 3-13.

    and there are hundreds of species who show this variation…that have portions of their species that are homosexual in orientation.

    Concerned, if you don’t think there are scientists that agree with me..at least on this…then they wouldn’t be scientists at all. Almost everyone concedes that homosexual behavior occurs in nature in hundreds of species, in a variety of ways…like heterosexuality.

    You further state:

    “You continue to believe what you want, but my experience is telling me something very different these days, because the science has moved on.

    Concerned…experience has never been seen as a very reliable form of determination. I support most of my beliefs through science, because I want objectivity as much as it is possible for me. I want the truth, even if I don’t like it.

    So while you are going with your “experience telling” you…I’ll stick with science.

  • Mary

    When looking at paintings, the observer’s eye will often be drawn to a certain point on the canvas. This is done intentionally by the artist through a technique called forced perspective. Science, while it has its’ virtues, has also been shown to do the same thing, whether or not a scientist is aware of this. Looking at similar subjects from several viewpoints seems to offer a better picture of “the elephant” if you will. We all need to struggle to get around such a huge animal of study as sexuality. Not anyone has the entire big picture and there is truth to what we all say – experience is part of the perspective – (let’s talk to the elephant)

  • Concerned

    JAG,

    I am also sticking with science and what it is telling me is that our behaviour and attraction can change because the mind does not stagnate. There are some that still want to believe that you are what your genes dictate, but the genetics and neuroscience are showing us that the environment (not just chemical or hormonal) does influence the turning on and off of certain genes and that the brain chemistry and neuropaths that dictate who we become are largely influenced by the choices we make today. That gives me cause to be concerned with the defeatest attitude of some in the biology field who seem to want to stick solely to the genetic influence on homosexual behaviour.

  • jag

    Mary –

    i agree, but if the science is good science, it should also consider the “experience” of the individual. The great thing about science as a barometer of experience rather than particular individual reports, is that we can look at a sample or breadth of experience – not just isolated individuals reporting one thing or another as fact.

    I also agree that we are not solely biological creatures. We know that even the most stubborn genetically influenced traits can be altered a bit…like height. Largely hereditary, but can be influenced by diet – an external and environmental factor.

    But truth is, no matter how much you eat or how nutrititous your diet is, you’re never going to grow to 6 feet tall if your genes are telling you that the probability is around 5’2. You might be able to tweak it a bit…but it’s truly hard to completely shift what nature gives you.

    So, I’m not hard-lined, but I am a realist. Perhaps the genetic component of sexual orientation is what makes it so darn difficult to change. We can tweak it a bit in one direction or another…but a “complete change” from homosexual to heterosexual is rarely reported…with no thoughts or inclinations.

    My hope is that many can find ways to live in accordance to their beliefs – gay, straight, and anywhere in between. And we do find that some are able to add heterosexual inclinations to their existing homosexual ones enough to do this.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Norm,

    Eddy is quite correct. During Eddy’s involvement period Exodus was primarily a religious organization. It has only recently become primarily a political organization (on the national level). I would suggest that on the local level, many ministries are still religious in nature.

    Exodus could probably be best described as two separate organizations that are distantly related – the national group that serves as an anti-gay political advocacy group – and the local ministries that serve those who struggle with same-sex attractions. I suspect that most strugglers haven’t the slightest support for national Exodus’ political efforts but they have no voice and no power to influence them (or have much time or energy to do so). Instead they are used as a power base (“we represent hundreds of thousands…”) to prop up the goals of those at the top – and their political allies.

    In my humble opinion.

  • Mary

    Isolated individuals (or a minority group) when added together begin to make a quantifiable group. It is difficult to see a red dot in a sea of orange but when you begin to put those red dots together they are easier to see, measure, identify etc.. Suppressing that and/or saying it does not exist or only exists rarely (without measuring it) is misrepresentative of that group.

  • Karen Booth

    Hi JAG – glad you took my post as humorous because that’s how it was meant. Don’t have my Discipline in front of me, but I think our Social Principles come out strongly against gambling. Didn’t realize you were a United Methodist. Thanks for sharing that.

  • Mary

    Remember forced perspective JAG. Whatever you mention or fail to mention to your clients directs them down a path (or tunnel) of vision.

    Example:

    See all the orange dots! You can’t even see the red (rarely) – they are insignificant.

    or

    See among the orange dots – there are some red ones. Why do the red ones continue to exist?

  • jag

    Karen –

    I’m a reconciling methodist, and I’m not sure if our churches have similar beliefs on things such as gambling (although I know we vary on issues, like those described in this forum)…

    You’ve got me curious to look it up.

  • jag

    Mary –

    I think I would simply say to your analogy, that red dots are rare.

    That’s not perspective or a value judgment, it’s fact without bias. We could see the red dots as “gay individuals in a sea of straight ones,” or “ex-gays in a sea of those who attempt to change,”….but either way.

    The red dots are rare.

    See my thoughts on the other forum about leading perspective…I addressed your thoughts, and I appreciated your comments.

  • Karen Booth

    I noticed something today that I’d seen before but failed to fully register. On the IVP webpage about the Yarhouse/Jones book, it states in the section “About the Book” …

    “Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse present social science research on homosexuals designed to answer the questions: Can persons who receive religiously informed psychotherapy experience a change in their sexual orientation? … ”

    I doubt many of the folk in Exodus would describe what they do as “religiously informed psychotherapy,” nor do Jones and Yarhouse describe it that way (at least what I’ve read so far in the book.)

    We’ve had more than one discussion on this blog about blurring the lines between ministry and therapy. Anyone know why IVP chose to use that kind of terminology? Warren?

  • Karen Booth
  • jag

    Interesting Karen…thanks.

  • Mary

    I don’t chase comments throughout other blogs so if you want then reference and link.

    Rare – yes, but it is not up to you to leave out that information when dealing with a client. Niether you nor I knows what makes a red dot red. And we should not dismiss the discussion of such – even if it is rare – it is never insignificant or not worth the effort for someone to discover their “true” color.

    Gays are a small portion of the total population. Ex gays are even smaller.

  • Concerned

    JAG,

    The other problem I have with your interpretation of sexual orientation being fixed is that it is not so black and white as some would have us believe. As has been discussed here in the passed there may be many levels of attraction to the opposite or same sex, therefore, if there is some flexibility, then it is not fair for someone on one side of this issue to dictate how those in between should live their live. I know you will jump on the ex-gays for doing this, but my own experience is that pro-gays have been very vocal in this area as well. I do not know how many times I have read that you are either gay or straight there is no inbetween. Not so!

  • Eddy

    Timothy–

    I’m in 98% agreement with your assessment of Exodus…and I won’t quibble with you about the 2%! (I’m feeling generous–and the disagreements were minor!)

    Karen–

    Excellent point about the use of the word ‘psychotherapy’ in the ‘About the book’ link on the IVP webpage. Now that you’ve brought it up, it puzzles/troubles me too.

    Warren, JAG, other professionals: Does ‘psychotherapy’ have a precise meaning that would make it an inaccurate word to use for Exodus-style support and counsel?

  • Jamie Sartre

    Okay this discussion has started to cover all angles of the debate almost and now it’s kinda back to where we started. That is, what this ‘change therapy’ can do, is it successful and any ‘side effects’ etc.

    Though I’m curious how this all fit in with what Dr. Throckmorton is doing? Would Warren agree with all the methods used on the individuals in the study?

    Because it’s not like this study was research into Warren’s SIT framework, or was it??

    Can anyone clarify, maybe I’ve missed a post somewhere where it might have been mentioned.

  • Eddy

    Jamie–

    The research was only with Exodus affiliates. Some of them are familiar with Warren’s SIT framework but I don’t believe anyone is using it yet as their counseling/therapy model. One important distinction is that Exodus would require a ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ’ and a ‘personal conviction that homosexuality is sinful’ in order to continue in its therapies; SIT makes no such demands. (With SIT, you could actually freely examine your beliefs in Jesus Christ and/or your beliefs re homosexuality being sinful without fear of reproach.) I’m guessing that SIT doesn’t have enough of a history (or practitioners) yet to be a viable resource for research studies.

  • Mary

    Yeah Karen. Good point. Me personally would stay far away from EXODUS because of their lack of guidelines on “therapuetic” support for the individual. I don’t think I would call it psychotherapy. Warren? Jag? Thoughts?

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Karen said:

    That would be God’s delicious and perfect timing.

    Assuming of course that you happen to be correct about just what God thinks about all of this. In any event, I don’t see this study making a very big different other than perhaps to spur on more legitimate research. Who knows, that might even have been worth more than if their research had been more significant.

    (and yes Karen, I’ve read it – had my copy in hand on 9/13)

  • jayhuck

    David,

    Here’s to hoping that God’s delicious and perfect timing will spur on more legitimate and less-biased research. That is definitely something to hope and pray for, and would make all of this worth it.

  • jag

    Concerned –

    You state:

    “The other problem I have with your interpretation of sexual orientation being fixed is that it is not so black and white as some would have us believe.”

    I never said it was fixed. Please do not misrepresent my views. I did say there was likely a genetic predisposition, etc…which makes it difficult to alter.

  • Mary

    Jag,

    But a genetic predispostion does not mean unalterable attractions. I have a genetic predisposition to longevity but that can be altered by bad habits. Habits I enjoy and of my choosing. It can also be altered by a personality trait to be rebellious and not wear a seatbelt (which has been proven to save lives)

    In the J&Y book they talk about two different ideas of homosexuality 1) Essentialist and 2) Constructionist

    If you have the book maybe a discussion of these terms and definitions will help clarify some of the different views people hold about homosexuality. I personally do believe that it is in part genetic (having more to do with personality traits, needs etc…) and part environment (having to do with our response to our surroundings etc..) Sort of a lot of mxiture of things going on. I would fall into the constructionist view more so.