Religious Bigots Gussied Up in Secular Scientific Clothing

The National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (with its sinister sounding acronym NARTH), purports to provide a secular and scientific approach to their work. They offer reparative therapy–those pesky treatment plans with high hopes and false claims to straighten out the gays (which never seem to work all that well and most often cause more harm than good.)

More and more we see people like Joseph Nicolosi, who had been long-time president of NARTH, and also Warren Throckmorton, who has criticized NARTH in order to make way for his own version of reparative therapy by another name, trying to influence credible scientific organizations like the American Psychiatric Association into acknowledging some form of the degaying process.

But under the psycho-babble we see all the same ole religiously fueled anti-LGBT rhetoric.
In a recent Christianity Today article, Warren Throckmorton waded into the gender waters by discounting the transgender experience. Where did he look for his authority? Not science, but the word of God (or at least select portions while overlooking whole Biblical accounts that actually affirm trans folks).

Throckmorton, past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, says he has advised transgendered people who are in absolute agony over their state.

Typically, such individuals are desperately in search of hope and acceptance, he says. It may be uncomfortable to tell transgendered individuals that their desires don’t align with the Bible, Throckmorton says, but pastors must do so. “Even if science does determine differentiation in the brain at birth,” Throckmorton says, “even if there are prenatal influences, we can’t set aside teachings of the Bible because of research findings.”

Warren Throckmorton has suggested that his words were misrepresented by CT, but he didn’t do too much to correct the flawed logic by referring to another article where he sought to give a straight answer to the trans question,

While transgender children can only be assessed on a case-by-case basis, Throckmorton recommends seeking not only medical or psychological specialists, but also theological ones. And even if it may seem impossible to draw one resolution when bringing all three opinions together, Throckmorton advises parents to try to find some common ground.

“What an evangelical Christian basically wants to do is order his entire life around his faith,” he said. “You can’t make decisions unless … the circumstance you’re in is evaluated from a theological point of view.”

Hmm, looks like he may need to adjust his gender lenses before he reads the good book. I mean from a theological point of view, the transgender folks turn out to be some of the most vital players in the most important Bible stories. (See Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible)

The other day after my presentation at the University of Rochester, a student gave me an anti-gay book someone at his Greek Orthodox Church passed onto him in order to help him with “his issues”. Father Thomas Hopko’s Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction covers the same ground that many of us have heard reheated over and over in ex-gay ministries throughout the years, but it also comes with a glowing endorsement from NARTH’s own Joseph Nicolosi, PhD, then president of NARTH International and a regular with the Exodus International Speakers Bureau.

Fr. Hopko explains why ‘gay’ can never be ‘who a person is’ in the deepest sense. Human nature was created good. Sexual union is meant to be complementary, unitive, life-creating, and life-enhancing. The corruption of this fallen world, however, causes us to misdirect our sexual energies into channels the Creator never intended. Same-sex eroticism is one of many expressions of our deformed humanity.

This book is full of sage advice to Christians struggling with homosexuality, advising men and women to seek wise counsel from a same-sex mentor, and–against almost all the advice of today’s popular culture–inspiring them to a holy asceticism for the sake of virtue.”

Misdirect our sexual energies? Deformed humanity? Corruption of this fallen world? Feels like aclassic religious bitch-slap to me with a little pseudo-science gut punch chaser.

So much religion and so little truth.

This post has 16 Comments

  1. paul on April 25, 2008 at 6:59 pm Reply

    Peterson,

    So is Warren Throckmorten destined to become the new NARTH Vader? Stay tuned.

    ” we can’t set aside teachings of the Bible because of research findings.”

    Well sure… “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” The earth is indeed flat, the center of the universe, and the sun rotates around the earth. You cannot deny “God” just because of science.

  2. Warren Throckmorton on April 25, 2008 at 7:53 pm Reply

    Peterson – I would be interested to know how empirical work could settle matters of what people ought to do.

    The Christian Post article is a much better articulation of my views than the Christianity Today piece. In it, I note that Christians consult theological advisers since what one ought to do is of great importance. Other advisors can provide information which is relevant to the decision but not tell what one ought to do. As articulated in the Christian Post article, one’s theological advisors might say that the Bible’s references to transgender experience indicates great freedom of action. Others may take a different view. Eventually, people decide what they ought to do based on gathering multiple perspectives.

    Are you suggesting that scientists can make prescriptions about behavior which derive somehow from empirical science?

    Einstein said this about the relationship between religion and science. I might quibble with a point or two but on balance, I think this statement articulates the distinction between is (what science is concerned with) and ought (what religion and philosophy covers):

    “For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary.”

  3. Lewis on April 26, 2008 at 6:43 pm Reply

    Dude, I have no comment worth posting with regard to your post…but I do have one question: WERE YOU ON MY FLIGHT YESTERDAY MORNING? Handsome man who looked EXACTLY like you flew with me from Portland to San Jose yesterday morning. I almost asked him….but he was asleep.

  4. Peterson Toscano on April 26, 2008 at 6:47 pm Reply

    Lewis, hmm, handsome guy sleeping on a plane out of Portland. It really sounds like me, or at least my body double. But alas I was on the other cost in a rental car in NY. But when you see me again, do feel free to wake me up. I fall back to sleep easily.

  5. paul on April 27, 2008 at 12:28 pm Reply

    Warren (and Peterson),

    Forgive me for jumping in here, but since I am in the room also…

    Warren, as I understand it, “empirical work” depends on experience or observation alone without due regard to science or theory. So, given the definition of empirical, “empirical science” seems a contradiction in terms.

    “Christians consult[ing] theological advisors” when it comes to “what one ought to do” is using the empirical to make such a determination. What is the Bible? Isn’t it a purported collection of peoples ‘experiences’ with “God?” A “theological advisers” advice is based on his or her interpretation of the purported experiences of others. Or, perhaps this theological adviser may have their own “experience” with God to throw into the mix (enter the “witness). Either way you slice it, the method of going to ones theological adviser to determine what one ought to do is using the empirical to settle matters.

    Does this settle matters of what people ought to do? As you note “Eventually, people decide what they ought to do based on gathering multiple perspectives.” Some would prefer to base their decisions on with some science thrown in vs. strictly empirical, but all require faith it seems, since there is nothing demonstrably absolute except math.

  6. Warren Throckmorton on April 29, 2008 at 5:04 pm Reply

    So Paul, are you agreeing with Einstein or not? I can’t tell.

  7. Anonymous on April 30, 2008 at 4:14 pm Reply

    Peterson,

    I am glad to see someone call a spade a spade when it comes to Throckmorton.

    He really is the kinder, gentler anti-gay activist. He tries to shroud himself with an academic/scientific veneer, but where is the science? Where is his evidence that his version of reorientation therapy (SIT) has any ability to change orientation?

    He works at a very anti-gay college (Grove City). My understanding is that openly gay students are not welcome there. So, how does he hone his gay expertise and advance this field of research, while working at a school that specifically excludes the subjects he is supposedly studying?

    I have been observing him for years, and I have to conclude that he is far more interested in advancing the pubic policy positions of the religious right than he is truely interested in investigating the causes of sexual orientation.

    He is smart, and far less obnoxious than many other anti-gay activists. Whoever hired him at Grove City made a smart investment. I think he is more effectively advancing the anti-gay cause than Matt Barber, NARTH, Nicolosi, or any particular ex-gay leader.

    John

  8. paul on April 30, 2008 at 6:25 pm Reply

    Warren,

    That’s because I wasn’t responding to Einstein’s assertion, but to your question. 🙂

    The topic of discussion is “the degaying process,” and I’m not sure if Einstein ever registered in on that one. I think few, if any, would dispute that the gay thing “is.” Some do question whether the gay thing should be. Einstein had this to say also:

    “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”

    I confess to being agnostic, leaning towards non-theist, but if there is a “God” I would find myself agreeing more with Einstein than those who wish to dictate what I should do with what is, and then tell me God told them so.

  9. paul on May 1, 2008 at 1:38 pm Reply

    Warren…a little more,

    As I ruminated on both of my entries, I realized I need to add a little more here. My first entry, well, I am often guilty of leaving people to read between lines. That doesn’t facilitate communication, sorry.

    My second response to you sounds a little tit for tat to me, and I don’t want to do that.

    Honestly, your question (” I would be interested to know how empirical work could settle matters of what people ought to do”) didn’t come across to me as a question, but more like a challenge. I wasn’t sure you really wanted an answer, that you were leaning towards rhetorical. Reading what Peterson wrote, and then what anonymous wrote, it seems to me that I am not the only person who reads you that way. I also understand that I could just be mis-reading you here and apologize for not giving you the benefit of the doubt. So, I am going to give a more thorough response to your query, assuming it is an honest question.

    Your initial question used the term “empirical work” and then later you replaced “work” with “science.” I am not trying to split hairs, I am just making a distinction between the use of theory (which I associate with “science” and Einstein) vs. observation or experience (which I associate with “work” or method).

    Okay, back to the question. I responded in my last answer that “few, if any, would dispute the gay thing is.” That’s really the crux of this. The fact is, there is a group of people who do dispute that the gay thing is, at least, that it is in the way I see it. These are the ex-gayers. Some say that gay is a “lifestyle” a “choice.” Others are a bit more delicate and say, “well, you didn’t choose it, but you can choose against it.”

    “Empirical work could settle matters of what people ought to do” by putting gay orientation on equal footing with straight. We put a group of people in a Petri dish and (to simplify) we observe that some are gay and some are straight. At this point, we have just established two groups of orientation. Empirical work has ‘established’ that gay “is.”

    Keeping all things equal, the religious should apply moral law equally to both “equal” groups. I.e., straights have a sex drive, gays have a sex drive, what “ought” people to do? Well lets see, the sex drive should be contained in marriage, so if straights or gays want to exercise their sex drive, they must marry.

    I used the example of the sun rotating around the earth vs. the earth rotating around the sun. There was a time when some religious considered the theory of the earth rotating around the sun to be heretical. Empirical work has pretty much wiped out that heresy, and it is no longer considered immoral to act on that understanding… even though it may go against the bible, or that groups one time held interpretation of the bible.

    It seems to me that empirical work can settle matters of what people ought to do, eventually. I say “eventually” because back in Copernicus’ day the evidence conflicted with the common held interpretation of the bible… “cognitive dissonance?” But, eventually the religious stopped throwing people into prison because they accepted the evidence that the earth rotates around the sun.

  10. Warren Throckmorton on May 5, 2008 at 2:40 am Reply

    Paul – Would you suggest empirical work or science could dictate choices about sexual behavior?

  11. paul on May 5, 2008 at 2:55 pm Reply

    Warren,

    ” Would you suggest empirical work or science could dictate choices about sexual behavior?” That’s pretty broad, Warren. I’m talking about the gay thing here, not heterosexual pederasts, rapists, etc.. They are a whole other topic. 🙂

    Do you suggest that a theological adviser could “dictate” choices about sexual behavior?

    I am suggesting that science has done much to diminish superstition throughout history.

  12. Warren Throckmorton on May 7, 2008 at 7:00 pm Reply

    So I will try another way – do you think there is a scientific way to arrive at the right moral view of homosexual behavior?

  13. paul on May 8, 2008 at 4:57 pm Reply

    Warren,

    I think I answered this question in my first response.

    “Does this settle matters of what people ought to do? As you note “Eventually, people decide what they ought to do based on gathering multiple perspectives.” Some would prefer to base their decisions with some science thrown in vs. strictly empirical, but all require faith it seems, since there is nothing demonstrably absolute except math.”

    I believe science is one of the “multiple perspectives” that one can use to help determine what one “ought to do,” often by debunking religious assertions and superstitions. It’s an important part of the “mix.” I don’t think science or religion determines the moral view on homosexual behavior. I think we agree that, ultimately, the individual makes that determination.

    Your turn. You didn’t answer my question. 🙂

    “Do you suggest that a theological adviser could “dictate” choices about sexual behavior?”

    I’m guessing not, based on what I’ve read so far, but I don’t want to presume. If not, do you believe there is an absolute way of determining how a homosexual ought to act?

  14. paul on May 12, 2008 at 1:27 pm Reply

    It’s been three or four days since I posted that last response Warren… and no answer, given the time frame of your previous response (usually within 24 hours), I am guessing you are done?

    Here is my sense of what’s going on here. I think I was right in my original read of you and your questions as not real inquiries about the topic. It seems you had already drawn your conclusions and you were asking me questions in an attempt to help me see as you do? There was only one right answer, and as I failed to give it, you tried “another way.”

    And, therein is my problem with some theological advisers, and their particular ilk, who take themselves so seriously that they don’t truly give consideration to another. There is no room for the notion that they could be wrong. They are not out to learn, they are out to instruct. Of course, pedants are not exclusive to religion, but the absolutism of fundamentalism makes it a given. The fundamentalist approach puts belief before people. Inclusion, acceptance and validation are based on conformity.

    It doesn’t take a theological adviser to figure out “first do no harm” (apparently, it takes a Greek 🙂 ) One can take that simple approach to morality vs. trying to follow laws of behavior carved in stone and enforced by an army of theological advisers. Okay, is that a little strong? 🙂 Not to far off, me thinks, when these people are lobbying in Washington against me.

    It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that there are birds and they have wings with which to fly. It doesn’t take a theological adviser to figure out if and how the bird ought to use it’s wings and fly, the bird does so instinctively. As long as the bird doesn’t harm another, what’s the problem?

    How is it “moral” to enforce a code that does harm to a group of people?

  15. Warren Throckmorton on May 13, 2008 at 6:32 pm Reply

    Paul – We are not birds.

    You are making what I would consider to be the naturalistic fallacy suggesting that what is natural is right.

    That is a moral view and you are entitled to it. However, for those who get their moral guidance elsewhere, determining what is right involves consulting their spiritual traditions, writings and advisors. These sources may indeed dictate but it is the free moral agent who may decide it is best to choose in opposition to what comes naturally.

  16. paul on May 14, 2008 at 6:00 pm Reply

    “Paul – We are not birds.”

    Really? Okay, never mind. 🙂 (just kidding)

    “You are making what I would consider to be the naturalistic fallacy suggesting that what is natural is right…. That is a moral view and you are entitled to it. .”

    So it seems you would disagree with moral standard based on “natural law.”

    “However, for those who get their moral guidance elsewhere, determining what is right involves consulting their spiritual traditions, writings and advisors.”

    Yet “those who get their moral guidance… determining what is right…consulting their spiritual traditions, writings and advisors” use the following reference to… nature.

    “… God gave them over to their shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged the natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another…” Romans 1:26,27

    So, do you believe the Apostle Paul is making “a naturalistic fallacy?”

    “These sources may indeed dictate but it is the free moral agent who may decide it is best to choose in opposition to what comes naturally.”

    The above Bible reference dictates (by many spiritual advisers interpretation) that gay sex is “sin” (immoral) because it is “unnatural.”

    Is the “free moral agent” you speak of a gay person choosing to go against “what comes naturally?”

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