Politico on David Barton: What Will Evangelicals Do, Part Two

Yesterday’s Politico article by Stephanie Simon on evangelical support for David Barton could have been subtitled: Evangelicals Choose Pragmatism Over Truth.
In the last year, over 70 scholars (over 700 if you count the 650 votes The Jefferson Lies received for Least Credible History Book in Print) have expressed concerns about David Barton’s history.  Most of those 70 scholars teach history or social science at conservative Christian colleges.* Yet, the Politico article reveals an approach to historical scholarship that is disturbing.
Stephanie Simon told the tale. Although I have some skepticism about Barton’s sunny disposition, he says he is back and better than ever. Evangelical Senator, and probable contender for the GOP presidential nomination, Ted Cruz said he was not in a position to opine on academic disputes. However, there is really no dispute about which to opine. The verdict has been in for some time. Thomas Nelson delivered it just over a year ago. As noted, multitudes of scholars have united to send the same message. Where are the scholars defending The Jefferson Lies, or the claim that Congress printed the first English Bible, or that the Constitution quotes the Bible “verbatim?” We don’t need Mr. Cruz to opine on a dispute, we need him to open his mind to reality. About Barton’s lessons, Cruz said:

David’s historical research has helped millions rediscover the founding principles of our nation and the incredible sacrifices that men and women of faith made to bequeath to us the freest and most prosperous nation in the world.

Doesn’t it matter that much of Mr. Barton’s “historical research” has been deemed to be off the mark? Mr. Cruz, aren’t you concerned in the least that these millions are now seriously misinformed? The same questions can be posed to Christian right organizations which use Barton’s work even though they know it is off the mark.
There is not even a question about the accuracy issue any longer. To their credit, the Family Research Council acknowledged that they removed the Capitol Hill video due to errors. And Focus on the Family felt the need to stealthily edit error-filled portions of Barton’s speeches. There are other aspects of the Focus broadcast (of which they are aware) that are incorrect; those remain a part of the broadcast.
Instead of integrity, accuracy, correction and stewardship, evangelical groups are openly discussing the value of content and consultants in utilitarian terms. If Mr. Barton can deliver a certain segment of evangelicals then the standards will be different for him. Mr. Barton gets a pass because he has a big audience and is perceived to be helpful politically.
In February of this year, I reflected on World magazine’s coverage of the Barton controversy and asked how evangelicals might respond. Now, I rephrase slightly.

World Magazine Politico has now put these matters on the front burner. My question is what will evangelicals do about it?

 
*Many more than 70 scholars have expressed concerns but some did not want to sign a letter or write an essay. Some were told not to do so by their college or university administration; others said they did not believe Christian political groups would listen. Perhaps they were right.

Get Religion discusses media coverage of the APA report

The Get Religion blog has two entries up today discussing media coverage of the APA sexual orientation and therapy report. The first one deals with the articles by the Associated Press, Washington Times, and Baptist Press.

The second one hearts the Wall Street Journal article by Stephanie Simon which discusses the sexual identity therapy framework and the APA report.

FYI

Wall Street Journal covers APA task force report and sexual identity therapy

The Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Simon has captured well the application of the APA task force sexual orientation report in an article out this morning. Of course I would say that…

The men who seek help from evangelical counselor Warren Throckmorton often are deeply distressed. They have prayed, read Scripture, even married, but they haven’t been able to shake sexual attractions to other men — impulses they believe to be immoral.

Dr. Throckmorton is a psychology professor at a Christian college in Pennsylvania and past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. He specializes in working with clients conflicted about their sexual identity.

The first thing he tells them is this: Your attractions aren’t a sign of mental illness or a punishment for insufficient faith. He tells them that he cannot turn them straight.

But he also tells them they don’t have to be gay.

For many years, Dr. Throckmorton felt he was breaking a professional taboo by telling his clients they could construct satisfying lives by, in effect, shunting their sexuality to the side, even if that meant living celibately. That ran against the trend in counseling toward “gay affirming” therapy — encouraging clients to embrace their sexuality.

But in a striking departure, the American Psychological Association said Wednesday that it is ethical — and can be beneficial — for counselors to help some clients reject gay or lesbian attractions.

The APA is the largest association of psychologists world-wide, with 150,000 members. The association plans to promote the new approach to sexuality with YouTube videos, speeches to schools and churches, and presentations to Christian counselors.

According to new APA guidelines, the therapist must make clear that homosexuality doesn’t signal a mental or emotional disorder. The counselor must advise clients that gay men and women can lead happy and healthy lives, and emphasize that there is no evidence therapy can change sexual orientation.

But if the client still believes that affirming his same-sex attractions would be sinful or destructive to his faith, psychologists can help him construct an identity that rejects the power of those attractions, the APA says. That might require living celibately, learning to deflect sexual impulses or framing a life of struggle as an opportunity to grow closer to God.

While the report doesn’t use my exact words (e.g., I don’t say ‘you don’t have to be gay’), she does catch important aspects of the APA report and the stance I use within the sexual identity therapy framework. Furthermore, I don’t show the video at the same time in the same order of things to clients and then they make a decision about their direction. I do however, do extensive informed consent and answer lots of questions which involves videos and slides to answer. Thanks for Michael Bailey for those vids.

This report captures the essence of the novel findings in the APA report in contrast to the AP report which continues to present a polarized picture. For sure, as long as the dialogue around change is important to people, we keep talking past each other. However, when you look at what both sides actually claim, they are not that far apart. According to the AP report, Jones and Yarhouse are going to report over half of 61 subjects either changed or are celibate. Whatever the percentage, it is clear that change cannot be promised to clients as a predictable function of therapy or ministry. We should be able to agree about that and then place emphasis on belief and value congruence. From there, see what happens.

I will have other posts on the media reaction and additional analysis…

Sexual identity therapy: A blast from the past

In light of conversations on the Exodus-PFOX thread, I thought it might be good to review a past mainstream media article that brought SIT more into the mainstream conversation.

The LA Times article now titled “Approaching agreement in debate over homosexuality” by Stephanie Simon (now with the Wall Street Journal) was published on June 18, 2007 with the title, “New ground in debate on ‘curing’ gays.”

The article begins with some familiar ground to this blog:

Alan Chambers directs Exodus International, widely described as the nation’s largest ex-gay ministry. But when he addresses the group’s Freedom Conference at Concordia University in Irvine this month, Chambers won’t celebrate successful “ex-gays.”

Truth is, he’s not sure he’s ever met one.

With years of therapy, Chambers says, he has mostly conquered his own attraction to men; he’s a husband and a father, and he identifies as straight. But lately, he’s come to resent the term “ex-gay”: It’s too neat, implying a clean break with the past, when he still struggles at times with homosexual temptation. “By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete,” Chambers said.

His personal denunciation of the term “ex-gay” — his organization has yet to follow suit — is just one example of shifting ground in the polarizing debate on homosexuality.

I am not sure if I am correct, but I think Alan later nuanced the remarks about not knowing ex-gays, but I do think he has made efforts including the recent article regarding Bryce Faulkner, to paint an accurate picture of his personal situation.

This article brought to a wide audience conversations that we have been having here for quite awhile — and continue to have. The ex-gay conversation is a recurring one here. Some newer readers may want to review this post (Ex-ex-gay?) and this one ( What does change mean?) and this one (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy).

The LA Times article quoted several people who approved of the framework, including commenter Michael Bussee.

“Something’s happening. And I think it’s very positive,” agreed Michael Bussee, who founded Exodus in 1976, only to fall in love with another man — a fellow ex-gay counselor.

Now a licensed family therapist in Riverside, Bussee regularly speaks out against ex-gay therapies and is scheduled to address the Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference at UC Irvine at the end of the month.

But Bussee put aside his protest agenda recently to endorse new guidelines to sexual identity therapy, co-written by two professors at conservative Christian colleges.

Other notable folks gave a thumbs-up to the framework as well.

He and other gay activists — along with major mental-health associations — still reject therapy aimed at “liberating” or “curing” gays. But Bussee is willing to acknowledge potential in therapy that does not promise change but instead offers patients help in managing their desires and modifying their behavior to match their religious values — even if that means a life of celibacy.

“It’s about helping clients accept that they have these same-sex attractions and then allowing them the space, free from bias, to choose how they want to act,” said Lee Beckstead, a gay psychologist in Salt Lake City who uses this approach.

The guidelines for this type of therapy — written by Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College and Mark Yarhouse of Regent University — have been endorsed by representatives on both the left and right. The list includes the provost of a conservative evangelical college and the psychiatrist whose gay-rights advocacy in the 1970s got homosexuality removed from the official medical list of mental disorders.

“What appeals to me is that it moves away from the total polarization” common in the field, said Dr. Robert Spitzer, the psychiatrist.

“For many years, mental-health professionals have taken the view that since homosexuality is not a mental disorder, any attempt to change sexual orientation is unwise,” said Spitzer, a Columbia University professor.

Some therapies are widely considered dangerous, and some rely on discredited psychological theories. “But for healthcare professionals to tell someone they don’t have the right to make an effort to bring their actions into harmony with their values is hubris,” Spitzer said.

Just over two years later, we continue to discuss very similar concerns and the tension remains.

Activists on both sides caution that the rapprochement only goes so far.

Critics of Exodus note the group still sponsors speakers who attribute homosexuality to bad parenting and assert that gays and lesbians live short, unhappy lives.

And though Chambers has disavowed the term “ex-gay,” his group’s ads give the distinct impression that it’s possible to leave homosexuality completely behind.

Haven’t we just been discussing this topic?

The article concludes with a reference to the APA Sexual Orientation Task Force.

The American Psychological Assn. set up a task force this spring to revise the group’s policy on sexual orientation therapy. The current policy is a decade old and fairly vague; it states that homosexuality is not a disorder and that therapists can’t make false claims about their treatments.

The new policy, due early next year, must help psychologists uphold two ethical principles as they work with patients unhappy about their sexuality: “Respect for the autonomy and dignity of the patient, and a duty to do no harm,” said Clinton Anderson, the association’s director for lesbian, gay and bisexual concerns. “It’s a balancing act.”

In fact, the Task Force will report soon, in August, sometime during the APA convention. Stay tuned…

Although we will soon migrate the website, more on the SIT Framework is now here.

Wall Street Journal previews APA Mental Health and Abortion task force report

Today’s Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Simon has an article regarding the APA Mental Health and Abortion Task Force. Titled “New Front on the Abortion Battle,” the article previews the APA committee’s report due to be considered tomorrow (Wed. 8/13/08).
The article begins:

For decades, the cultural battle over abortion has been about what goes on inside a woman’s womb. But more and more, the focus is shifting to what goes on inside her head.
Activists on both sides are awaiting a comprehensive report reviewing two decades of published research on mental health and abortion, to be presented this week at the American Psychological Association’s annual conference in Boston.
The report comes at a pivotal time as some judges and lawmakers have begun to make decisions in part based on peer-reviewed studies suggesting women who have had abortions are at higher risk of anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

The article also refers readers to an annotated list of some studies relevant to mental health and abortion.

Changing Abortion’s Pronoun – Men and abortion

LA Times writer, Stephanie Simon, has an interesting article today about how some men experience negative reactions to a wife or girlfriend’s abortion. The article begins:

SAN FRANCISCO — Jason Baier talks often to the little boy he calls Jamie. He imagines this boy — his son — with blond hair and green eyes, chubby cheeks, a sweet smile.

But he’ll never know for sure.

His fiancee’s sister told him about the abortion after it was over. Baier remembers that he cried. The next weeks and months go black. He knows he drank far too much. He and his fiancee fought until they broke up. “I hated the world,” he said.

Baier, 36, still longs for the child who might have been, with an intensity that bewilders him: “How can I miss something I never even held?”

These days, he channels the grief into activism in a burgeoning movement of “post-abortive men.” Abortion is usually portrayed as a woman’s issue: her body, her choice, her relief or her regret. This new movement — both political and deeply personal in nature — contends that the pronoun is all wrong.

We had abortions,” said Mark B. Morrow, a Christian counselor. “I’ve had abortions.”

Morrow spoke to more than 150 antiabortion activists gathered recently in San Francisco for what was billed as the first national conference on men and abortion. Participants — mostly counselors and clergy — heard two days of lectures on topics such as “Medicating the Pain of Lost Fatherhood” and “Forgiveness Therapy With Post-Abortion Men.”

Simon then interviews some in the mental health community who are skeptical but the article mostly allows the men at the conference to describe their experiences. It is impossible to judge how prevalent such reactions are; however, I can say that I experienced grief over my wife’s miscarriage some years ago. I have worked with a few men who describe this grief over abortion. As with other issues we have dealth with here, I hope counselors do not impose their views of how an event should or should not impact a person, but at the same time, counselors should not discount those who want to explore their reactions to an abortion.