Yesterday, the information arm of the American Family Association, OneNewsNow published an article about my views on change of sexual orientation. The information on the matter came from Peter LaBarbera who said
“But in the last few years, he’s basically become a pro-gay advocate who discredits the idea of change for most homosexuals,” LaBarbera explains. “He grants the idea that they can change, but he says change is very rare.
“So effectively, Warren Throckmorton has become a very useful advocate for the homosexual side because he can claim to be an evangelical and yet he’s undermining scriptural truth.”
As I understand this argument, I am wrong to claim to be an evangelical because I believe that categorical change in sexual attractions, especially for men, is rare. In addition such a belief is in itself “pro-homosexual advocacy.”
LaBarbera adds that
Christians know people can leave the lifestyle, and that through Christ, many thousands have. So he says Throckmorton’s message — that change is near impossible — is contrary to Christian thinking.
Here we have a test of orthodoxy – something that must be believed in order to be considered a Christian. In my tradition, faith in the redeeming mission of Christ is the test of faith. However, in the new orthodoxy of some in the Christian right, one must believe certain things about gays in order to be consider a Christian.
On the points raised by the ONN article, I observe that LaBarbera conflates behavior and inclination. He says I don’t think people can “leave the lifestyle” because I think categorical change of sexual attractions is rare and complex. While his description of behavior change is crude and stereotypical, I disagree with his assessment of me. I do believe that people change their behavior. They do so for a variety of reasons but in the context of this controversy, some do in order to seek conformity to their religious beliefs. That this happens is not in doubt by any researcher, pro-gay or not, that I know. The APA in their 2009 Task Force report acknowledged this and even noted that finding congruence can lead to certain positive outcomes.
However, gay and bisexual people who change their behavior infrequently lose their same-sex attractions, no matter how earnestly they pray. In my work as well as other studies, heterosexually married gay and lesbian people do not demonstrate change in attractions on average, even as they demonstrate devotion to their marriages. My critics can keep on criticizing but they have not been able to address the evidence which does not cut in their favor.
If I need to apologize for something, it is that I misled evangelicals for several years on the matter of sexual orientation. I did not intend to do so. When I made the documentary I Do Exist, I really believed the stories told. I know the people making the video did as well. I believed my clients; I believed people who told me they changed completely. In hindsight, I acknowledge that my work was complicated by the culture war. I now think the culture war is a significant stumbling block for the church.
From that time, there are a handful of people who continue to say they have changed in a comprehensive way. Many however, have acknowledged that their attractions have shifted within a range but have not really changed from one category to another. My view is that these stories are all interesting and that I desire to take people where they are and just work out a way that helps them live with integrity.
Who knows, maybe I will shift my views in different ways in the future. However, I hope it will be in response to evidence, not in order to fit into a man made definition of orthodoxy. In the mean time, I invite critics to simply deal with the evidence.