Was Michael Brown Right About Sexual Orientation and Secular Counseling?

David Barton on history. Ken Ham on science. Joseph Nicolosi on psychology and sexual orientation. Now Michael Brown on sexual orientation counseling.
In a Christian Post op-ed Michael Brown takes Al Mohler to task for his assessment of sexual orientation. Mohler now acknowledges that sexual orientation is a useful descriptive category, even as he appears to consider same-sex orientation to be inherently sinful. The former opinion seems to be self-evident, the latter position confusing. How can a set of givens be any more sinful than another set of givens? Isn’t what one does in response to our impulses the key?
Because of his shift in views, Mohler rejects reparative therapy, or any secular approach to curing sexual orientation. Minister and commentator Michael Brown enters the fray at this point. He says:

People find themselves attracted to the same sex for many different reasons, some of which can be unpacked through counseling, including secular counseling. In fact, as countless gays and lesbians have shared with counselors, their attractions can often be traced back to sexual abuse or serious family crises.
Cannot a secular counselor deal with these issues too? Must we put homosexuality into a special category of its own?

Surely there are many other areas of our lives that are deeply affected by our sinful nature, yet we do not say that counseling cannot help us make progress in those areas, do we?

It is amazing to me that evangelicals who reject so-called secular science on one hand, embrace Sigmund Freud and theories of sexual orientation derived from Freud’s fictions. Brown promote the discredited view that same-sex attraction arises because of sexual abuse and/or “serious family crises.” This was cutting edge a century ago, and even then Freud despaired that cure could come through analysis and didn’t think the effort was necessary. Freud, who believed that childhood trauma could lead to homosexual desires, wasn’t a strong advocate of therapy to change it. In 1935, a mother wrote Freud about help for her son. Freud interpreted the letter as a request to help the young man overcome homosexuality. Freud wrote back and said:

Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them. (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime – and a cruelty, too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis.
By asking me if I can help, you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish homosexuality and make normal heterosexuality take its place. The answer is, in a general way we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of heterosexual tendencies, which are present in every homosexual in the majority of cases it is no more possible. It is a question of the quality and the age of the individual. The result of treatment cannot be predicted.
What analysis can do for your son runs on a different line. If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency, whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed.

Incredibly, Brown refers people to JONAH, a group being sued right now by former patients because their techniques did not produce change in orientation but rather shame and depression. In his article, I wish Brown would have explained what a client of JONAH might do to rid himself of his gayness. For instance, in court documents, former clients describe getting naked:

According to Plaintiffs, JONAH’s conversion therapy required them to engage in various individual and group activities. For instance, during a private session, defendant Alan Downing (“Downing”), a JONAH-affiliated counselor, instructed plaintiff Chaim Levin (“Levin”) “to say one negative thing about himself, remove an article of clothing, then repeat the process.” Levin submitted to Downing’s instructions until he was naked, when Downing directed Levin “to touch his penis and then his buttocks.” Plaintiff Benjamin Unger (“Unger”) and plaintiff Michael Ferguson (“Ferguson”) engaged in similar disrobing activities with Downing. Downing instructed Unger to remove his shirt in front of a mirror and requested that he “continue,” but Unger refused. Ibid. In addition, Unger participated in a group exercise in which Downing instructed him and other young men to remove their clothing and stand in a circle naked, with Downing also nude.  As with Unger, Downing instructed Ferguson to undress in front of a mirror and “repeatedly urged [him] to remove additional clothing,” but Ferguson refused.

JONAH clients are instructed to fight their way through group therapy clients to grab two oranges and take their “balls back.” Many of the techniques are taken from the decidedly pagan Mankind Project’s New Warriors Training Adventure. Those processes are based on a loose reading of and curious amalgamation of Gestalt therapy and psychoanalytic assumptions.
I hope Brown means well, but he isn’t doing well. Recommending JONAH to evangelicals is irresponsible.
Oh, and the “Alliance” Brown invokes? That is Freudian inspired National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) warmed over.  It sounds like a respectable scientific group. However, they are supporters of JONAH, and leaders within the group also recommend that techniques used by JONAH and the New Warriors Training Adventure.
We don’t know for sure what causes same-sex attractions, but we know that abuse and traumatic relationships aren’t general causes for homosexuality any more than they cause heterosexuality. Both gays and straights experience difficulties in childhood and both gays and straights experience loving, healthy childhoods. Thus, curing wounds, or finding non-existent woulds to cure, won’t dramatically alter sexual attractions for the vast majority of people. While a few people do show some change, for many of them the change was spontaneous and related to factors other than therapy or intentional efforts to change.
So to answer the question in the title: No, Michael Brown is about as wrong on sexual orientation and secular counseling as one can be.
 
 

Two Mars Hill Universes: Repentant Pastor and the Christian Post

Over at the Repentant Pastor website yesterday, 18 former Mars Hill elders posted a letter of confession to Paul Petry and Bent Meyer. In the letter, the pastors confessed being complicit with an authoritarian structure which wronged Meyer and Petry for raising valid concerns. They wrote:

We now believe our decisions were invalid and wrong. The entire investigation and trial process was skewed by the implication that your termination was above reproach and for just cause. If there had been sin in your life that might have warranted a warning about possible disqualification from eldership, we should have patiently, carefully, and directly addressed it with you before the matter became so extremely escalated. By reporting our wrongheaded assessment to the church, we put doubt about your character in the minds of church members, though you had done nothing to warrant such embarrassment and scrutiny. By doing this, we misled the whole church, harmed your reputation, and damaged the unity of the body of Christ.

In this universe, the past with Mark Driscoll generates remorse and repentance.
At the Christian Post today, Alex Murashko focuses on Mars Hill Portland pastor Tim Smith and spokesman Justin Dean. Both Smith and Dean view the past with Mark Driscoll as something to celebrate. In this universe, both had praise for Driscoll and glossed over the investigation of charges and the reasons for his resignation.
When Petry and Meyer were fired, they didn’t get due process like Driscoll did. After they were fired by Driscoll, they were unfairly tried by their peers and found guilty of “displaying an unhealthy lack of trust in, and respect for, the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church.” Petry was considered disqualified and shunned and Meyer was put on probation.
When Mark Driscoll was the subject of a lengthy process of investigation and found guilty of abusing his leadership, he was allowed to resign voluntarily with severance rather than enter a restoration process.
In one universe, Tim Smith voted to find Petry and Meyer guilty and in another universe, Smith lauds Driscoll and fails to sign on to the letter of confession.
 
 

Mark Driscoll and Tyndale House Release Statement of Apology to Christian Post

Read the article here.
Driscoll told CP:

“Mistakes were made that I am grieved by and apologize for,” stated the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church pastor. “As a Bible teacher, I know that Jesus loves us and uses everything for good. I know he cares very much that we do things in a way that reflects his glory. As a result, I have been praying that he would help me learn through all of this to become more like him and more effective for him.”

Tyndale House then released a defense of Driscoll which includes an admission by Driscoll that he is responsible for the errors in the Peter study guide. Driscoll also indicated that other books would be reviewed. He could start here.
Here is the full statement:

Tyndale House Publishers Regarding Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Call to Resurgence
Dec 18, 2013

          On November 21, 2013 Pastor Mark Driscoll participated in a radio interview via phone to promote his new book, A Call to Resurgence. The interview was arranged by his book publisher, Tyndale House. During that interview, the talk show host accused Pastor Driscoll of plagiarism in his new book, claiming that he had not properly cited ideas that originally came from Peter Jones, Director of truthXchange and Adjunct Professor at Westminster Seminary in California. In the days following the interview, the talk show host posted on her blog further allegations of plagiarism against Pastor Driscoll, complete with screenshots of other books where she alleged he had committed plagiarism. She later removed all of those posts and issued a public apology.
Since that time, both Mark Driscoll and Tyndale House have been asked to make statements addressing this issue. While Tyndale has made two brief statements, it has spent much of the past three weeks looking carefully into these claims, as has Pastor Driscoll. Tyndale House and Mark Driscoll take any claims of plagiarism seriously. Tyndale does not condone it in any of its works, and if discovered, the company takes action to correct it immediately.  Driscoll has consistently spoken out against plagiarism in his writing and publishing.  If any mistakes are ever made in that regard, he is equally committed to correcting such errors as soon as they are discovered. Pastor Driscoll has fully cooperated with Tyndale and both have worked together to carefully investigate the issue with respect to A Call to Resurgence. 
After taking the necessary and important time needed to investigate all aspects of this issue, Tyndale House Publishers has concluded the following:
1.   Pertaining to his Tyndale book, A Call to Resurgence, Tyndale believes that Mark Driscoll did indeed adequately cite the work of Peter Jones. While there are many nuanced definitions of plagiarism, most definitions agree that plagiarism is a writer’s deliberate use of someone’s words or ideas, and claiming them as their own with no intent to provide credit to the original source. Both Mark Driscoll and Tyndale completely agree that the above definition describes an ethical breach and therefore work hard to provide proper citation and to give credit where credit is due in all their works.  Tyndale rejects the claims that Mark Driscoll tried to take Peter Jones’s ideas and claim them as his own. Moreover, at Pastor Driscoll’s invitation, Peter Jones has written on the Resurgence website, and spoken at a Resurgence event, as well as a Mars Hill workshop. Quite the opposite of trying to take Peter Jones’s ideas, Mark Driscoll has provided several opportunities for Peter Jones to publicly express his ideas to a large audience.
2.   In a separate issue unrelated to any Tyndale title, the radio host also made an allegation with regard to a study guide that was published in-house at Mars Hill. In this instance, Pastor Driscoll agrees that errors were made. He says:
In recent weeks, it was brought to my attention that our 2009 Trial study guide on 1&2 Peter contained passages from an existing work for which no proper citation to the original work was provided. The error was unintentional, but serious nonetheless.  I take responsibility for all of this. In order to make things right, we’ve contacted the publisher of the works used in the study guide, offered an apology, and agreed to work with them to resolve any issues they had. Also, I personally contacted one of the editors of the work that was not rightly attributed. Thankfully, he and I have a longstanding relationship, which includes him teaching at Mars Hill and publishing a book with us through Resurgence. He’s a godly man who has been very gracious through all of this. I am deeply thankful for his acceptance of my apology, as I deeply grieve this mistake with a brother in Christ whom I appreciate very much.
Our Full Council of Elders and Board of Advisors and Accountability have all been thoroughly informed, as I am gladly under authority both internally at Mars Hill to a team of Elders, and to a formal leadership team from outside of Mars Hill.
We’ve removed the free PDF version of Trial from our website, and we are reviewing the rest of our self-published materials to ensure that no similar mistakes have been made elsewhere. We are also making changes to our content development process to avoid these mistakes in the future. In addition, we are working with all of our past publishers to review other books we have published. If other mistakes were made, we want to correct them as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, when we removed the Trial PDF from the Mars Hill website, we replaced it with a statement that claimed the book was never sold. That study guide was originally created for in-house small group use at Mars Hill so we gave it away at our church. We first believed we did not receive any revenue from this, but we later discovered that Trial was in fact previously sold on the Resurgence website and by Logos Software. To the best of our knowledge, total profits to Mars Hill from these sales are $236.35. We have corrected the previous statement on our website, and apologize for this error as well.
Mistakes were made that I am grieved by and apologize for. As a Bible teacher, I know that Jesus loves us and uses everything for good. I know he cares very much that we do things in a way that reflects his glory. As a result, I have been praying that he would help me learn through all of this to become more like him and more effective for him.”
“To his credit, Mark Driscoll has moved quickly to make all necessary changes where mistakes were made in the study guide” said Ron Beers, Senior Vice President and Group Publisher for Tyndale. “Moreover, he has assured us that he has personally spoken with the primary editor of a commentary that was inadvertently used in the study guide without adequate citation, and all parties spoken to have told Pastor Driscoll that they are satisfied with the steps he has taken to correct the errors. Because of the biblical manner in which Pastor Driscoll has handled this situation, Tyndale strongly stands behind him and looks forward to publishing many additional books with him. Tyndale believes that Mark Driscoll has provided a significant call to Christians to unite together in translating the message of Jesus faithfully to a post-Christian culture, to proclaim clearly, loudly, and unashamedly the Good News of Jesus.”

A good beginning but there are other issues which were not addressed by this statement.

Why is there no coverage at the Christian Post about Richard Land’s troubles?

UPDATE: Christianity Today, Religion Dispatches, and Christian Century (via Religion News Service) have stories on the SBC investigation. Nothing so far from CP.

Richard Land has been in the news a lot lately and not for reasons one would want to be in the news.

Land apologized for remarks made about the Trayvon Martin case on his radio show and then Monday apologized for his statements and for using content from a Washington Times article without verbal attribution. Wednesday, the SBC said they would investigate his remarks.

Continue reading “Why is there no coverage at the Christian Post about Richard Land’s troubles?”

Christian Post blog removed over reaction to article on Mitt Romney; Can Romney get fair coverage from Christian media?

The following is an article I wrote on August 16 and posted on The Way I See It Blog hosted by the Christian Post. Within a few hours, the post was removed from the website and I was denied access to my blog. You can still get to my articles on Christian Post if you use their search engine. However, all of my blog posts on The Way I See It blog have been delisted from the blog page.
The reason given by Michelle Vu, managing editor, for removing my article, dropping me as a writer, and delisting all of my past blogs was that I had disrespected their news staff by writing about the August 15 article before they had a chance to address it. I did contact them prior to writing the article but the editors felt I had not given them adequate time to response. Since then, I have been in contact with the CP managing editors to resolve the situation but there has been no change.
This is distressing to me. I have written for Christian Post since near the beginning of the website. In 2004, I wrote a benediction for the initial print run of CP. Until recently, I was listed on their website as a senior editorial consultant.
I will acknowledge that the title of the piece was more inflammatory than necessary. However, the editors of CP did not disagree with my analysis or that the Romney campaign or a Romney supporter should have been allowed to comment.
Having read additional coverage of the campaign at CP since mid-August, I do wonder if CP leans toward Perry (or at least away from Romney). In a fairly balanced piece on Wednesday, CP Executive Editor Richard D. Land was quoted raising Romney’s Mormonism as a concern for voters to consider. The article did not disclose that Land is the Executive Editor of CP but cited instead his role with the Ethics and Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptists. And Perry’s Ponzi Scheme comments about Social Security were sympathetically analyzed in this piece. As far as I know, the piece attacking Romney on social issues has not been addressed.
I suspect many readers will see this as inside baseball. I decided to go with this because of a broader question: Will Mitt Romney be able to get fair coverage from Christian media? Some evangelicals support Romney (at this moment in time, myself included) but he is battling a considerable establishment that may include the sources from which many Christians get their information.
Some readers may disagree with my approach; I encourage you to speak your opinion. Here is the blog in question. To evaluate this piece you will also need to read the original article:
……
Christian Post runs hit piece on Mitt Romney
(posted on CP August 16, 2011)
Yesterday, the Christian Post’s politics editor, Paul Stanley posted an article sharply critical of current GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney based on a book by Mass Resistance’s Amy Contrada. The book purports to uncover Mitt Romney’s positions on social issues which, according to Contrada, demonstrates that Romney is “not a constitutionalist nor is he a man of deeply rooted values.”
In my view, the article comes across as an attack on Mr. Romney and did a disservice to CP readers in several ways. First, the article presented Contrada’s book as a new release, when in fact the book was released in February of this year. Why is CP just now running an article on the charges Contrada makes, implying that these are new or newly discovered?
Second, CP does not provide any context to help readers assess the stance of the author or the actual positions held by Romney. Amy Contrada is a writer for Mass Resistance, a group that has been at odds with Romney politically for years and one that is listed as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to their incendiary rhetoric towards gays as a class of people. Many conservatives dismiss the SPLC but nonetheless, in an objective article, the fact would be noted. Romney would not be considered pro-gay by any gay activist, but because he is not sufficiently anti-gay for Mass Resistance, he has been a target of their ire.
An illustration will help. Contrada contends that Romney has not condemned same-sex marriage as immoral. Quoted by Stanley she says,

I examined every statement I could find that he [Romney] made about homosexuality and nowhere could I find where he condemned same-sex marriage. He will never call it immoral. Every Mormon I know personally … the rank and file Mormons … I know … are very clearly opposed to homosexuality and see it as a moral issue. The church on the other hand seems to be a bit wishy-washy on the issue. I think Romney is the same way and wants to please everybody by playing every issue down the middle.”

Contrada wants Romney to not only oppose same-sex marriage, she wants him to morally condemn gays who want to form unions. Romney spoke to this issue to the Associated Press several years ago, saying

“I don’t think that a person who’s running for a secular position as I am should talk about or engage in discussions of what they in their personal faith or their personal beliefs is immoral or not immoral,”

In the same interview, Romney repeated his opposition to gay marriage but believes that all should be treated with respect.

“I oppose discrimination against gay people,” Romney said. “I am not anti-gay. I know there are some Republicans, or some people in the country who are looking for someone who is anti-gay and that’s not me.”
He said he is opposed to gay marriage because it’s not in the best interest of children.

Shouldn’t CP readers have this context?
Romney’s position is similar to the stance that Ronald Reagan took as California governor and then later as President. In California, Reagan opposed the Briggs Amendment which would have allowed schools to fire or refuse to hire gay teachers. As President, Reagan was on record opposing job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Finally, the CP article does not bring in any contrasting view of Romney’s positions from any other observers, nor as far as I can tell, sought comment from the Romney campaign.
In short, this article, if published at all, should have been better placed in the Opinion section of CP. As it is, the piece probably hurts Romney with evangelical voters unaware of the context of his views and definitely hurts the perception of CP’s objective reporting with those who do. Through the campaign, I hope that CP will do a better job of providing balance in future articles.
………
 

Christian Post reports on Golden Rule Pledge

Actually, the article reports on various responses from evangelicals to the Day of Silence with mention of the DOS, Day of Truth, Golden Rule Pledge and the proposed DOS walkout.

Students Encouraged to Skip School on ‘Day of Silence’
By Lawrence Jones
A national coalition of pro-family groups are urging parents to keep their students home this coming Friday in protest of the annual “Day of Silence,” when students vow silence to bring attention to the discrimination of gay students.
Over 20 Christian-based conservative groups have called for the massive walkout from middle and high schools participating the April 17 event, arguing that the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)’s sponsored event politicizes the classroom to support the belief that homosexuality is moral. They include state chapters of American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Illinois Family Institute, Liberty Council and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays.
“This day is not about ‘tolerance’ as it claims, but about forcing propaganda and acceptance of high-risk behavior into the schools with no opposing views allowed,” said Linda Harvey of Mission America, which also supports the walkout.
Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute said that while “all of civilized society must oppose bullying,” she opposes the “illegitimate means of using public education to affirm volitional homosexual behavior.”
Campaign for California Families said the demonstration will serve as financial “leverage” to get the message across, saying public schools in California lose $100 a day for each child absent.
The groups have encouraged parents and teens who are not willing to risk teacher retribution or missing school to send a letter to schools officials expressing their objections to Day of Silence.
The coalition has also called attention to a resolution sitting before Congress that would urge the federal government and public schools to officially recognize and celebrate Day of Silence. The legislation also requests that “the President issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe the National Day of Silence with appropriate ceremonies, programs, and activities.”
House Concurrent Resolution 92 was introduced on April 1 and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
GLSEN claims that over 8,000 students participated in last year’s Day of Silence. The organization says the observance is needed, pointing to its 2007 survey showing 86 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation while 44 percent report being physically harassed.
The band of pro-family groups, meanwhile, says that by opposing the event they are in no way endorsing the bullying and harassment of those in the LGBT community.
One Christian professor, however, has come against the walkout, saying it’s not very productive.
“How can we get anything accomplished if we leave the field?” Dr. Warren Throckmorton, professor of Psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, wrote last week on his blog on Crosswalk.com.
The expert in mental health and sexuality issues contends that students taking part in Day of Silence have a point, saying he has spoken with Christian students who have admitted to bullying or harassing gay students.
Throckmorton has created an alternative response to Day of Silence, asking Christians to take The Golden Rule Pledge and show up at school to live out the teaching of Christ to treat others as they want to be treated.
When Day of Silence students hand out cards asking, “What will you do to help end the silence?” Christian students should respond: “This is what I am going to do. I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated. ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.'”
Meanwhile, several other Christian-based conservative groups are promoting the Day of Truth on April 20, the following Monday, as a direct response to Day of Silence. According to Day of Truth’s Web site, it was established to “counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective.”
Alliance Defense Fund and Exodus International, the promoters of Day of Truth, are encouraging students to speak the “truth in love” and engage in conversation about homosexuality.
Participants are also asked to hand out cards reading: “I’m speaking the Truth to break the silence. True tolerance means that people with differing – even opposing – viewpoints can freely exchange ideas and respectfully listen to each other. It’s time for an honest conversation about homosexuality. There’s freedom to change if you want to. Let’s talk.”

For the record, I do not see the GRP as counterprogramming, but as an appropriate response to a request for respect and fair treatment. I simply cannot find any teaching in my religious tradition for walking away from people who are asking for respect.

Christian Post covers MRSA controversy

Today’s Christian Post has an article by Lillian Kwon regarding recent responses to the Annals of Internal Medicine article regarding MRSA among gay men. Yours truly is quoted:

While Throckmorton believes it’s good to give warning to groups at greater risk of infection, he said the latest study to him is “just a warning about sexual purity” in general.

Referencing a comment made on his blog, Throckmorton said, “When you single out one group, the unintended consequence is people in other groups would say ‘it’s not a health hazard for me’ when it’s the behavior that’s the issue, not the social group identified with.”

The discussion on this issue has been vigorous and I hope helpful to inform an accurate picture of the situation.