Rev. Al Mohler, who lately has been calling evangelicals to speak honestly about homosexuality, seemed to defend religiously based orientation change yesterday in a column on his website.
Much of what he writes about sin and redemption most evangelicals would agree with, but then he says this about Christians and same-sex desire.
Christians with same-sex sexual desires must know that these desires are sinful. Thus, faithful Christians who struggle with these desires must know that God both desires and commands that they desire what He wills for them to desire. All Christians struggle with their own pattern of sinful desires, sexual and otherwise. Our responsibility as Christians is to be obedient to Christ, knowing that only He can save us from ourselves.
Earlier in the column, Mohler said that “…those whose sexual orientation is homosexual face the fact that they also need a fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions.” Correct me if I am misreading him, but he appears to be arguing that orientation change is required for believers who are attracted to the same sex.
This appears to be at odds with Mohler’s statements that evangelicals have “lied about the nature of homosexuality” and that same-sex attractions is “not something that people can just turn on and turn off.”
I sense a problem.
Last Friday, I pointed to a study Mark Yarhouse’s team at Regent University in the Christian journal Edification which found no change in orientation on average for married gay and lesbian people. Behavior changed modestly, but same-sex orientation remained the same. Gary Welton and I are now writing up a report of a study that found same-sex attraction actually increased on average in a similar group of married GLB people. Religious affiliation is associated with a smaller increase in SSA but these changes could not be considered a “fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions.”
At this point, I can’t satisfactorily reconcile what counseling and study participants* are telling us with what Rev. Mohler teaches in this column. Perhaps we are dealing with semantics when it comes to defining what orientation is, or what “a fundamental reordering” looks like. When Rev. Mohler says that God commands that gays desire what He wills them to desire, that sounds a lot like turning desires on and off - in short choice. I hope he will address this in a future column. I feel sure that the emphasis on orientation in Mohler’s column will be discouraging to GLB men and women who have entered heterosexual marriage, but remain attracted to the same sex.
I suspect this will not be the only column on this matter, but for now I wanted to raise what looks like a conundrum for evangelicals raised by research and Mohler’s column.
*Here I refer to my recent study, Yarhouse’s report and the longitudinal study by Jones and Yarhouse. Even in that study of Exodus participants, reports of a “fundamental reordering of their sexual attractions” were infrequent. Even the small number of people who reported categorical changes reported ongoing SSA.