Thursday, April 02, 2009

Upside Down

Via Andrew Sullivan, I came across this essay by Richard Grant on the relationship of faith and science. As a recovering creationist myself (an old-earth creationist since college, but a creationist all the same), I thought these two points were especially pertinent:

I’m not saying that faith fails to be faith if there’s proof. I’m saying that if your ‘proof’ is shown to be false then you’re utterly screwed. So if you tie your faith to a ‘proof’ you actually end up trying to prove that your proof is true, rather than seeking out ‘truth’. Which is the cleft stick Creationists find themselves in.


What happens when those you trust are shown not just to be wrong, but deceitful? Those people who told you that the creation story in Genesis is literally true, that there really was a global flood that killed every living being, that the Revelation is a literal account of the end of the world — and who make those things necessary items of faith — what do you do when you realize they were lying to you (intentionally or otherwise)?

Interestingly, the ex-gay movement finds itself in a parallel dilemma. Rather than remaining open to the possibility that it might not already know it all, the evangelical church attached itself to a psychological theory that seemed to explain the phenomenon of homosexuality in a way that validated all of its dogma related to human sexuality.

Elizabeth Moberly's rehash of old Freudian ideas allowed the church to continue thinking itself compassionate as it reinforced the notion (based on a questionable interpretation of Gen. 1:27) that everyone is, at their core, heterosexual. Any deviations from that God-ordained norm were simply psychological issues that could be cleared up through proper counseling, and any evidence that this might not be accurate has been summarily dismissed and denounced as evil propaganda. No further reflection on the matter was (or would ever be) needed.

Thus the ex-gay movement was founded on the assumption that all homosexuals could develop heterosexual attractions, given the right tools. Since homosexuality was defined as an unnatural twisting of an individual's true nature, it followed that same-sex relationships could never be healthy or stable, and that gays could never be truly happy unless they renounced that 'false' identity in favor of naming and claiming their God-given heterosexuality.

As time has shown that the vast majority of homosexuals cannot change their attractions, and as the scientific evidence has increasingly pointed toward biological factors as the predominant determinants of one's sexual orientation, Exodus and its allies have found themselves trapped between a rock and a hard place. Having tied their theology so closely to a specific theory about the cause and mutability of homosexuality, many within the the ex-gay movement have come to conflate discarding those mistaken ideas with rejection of the Christian faith altogether.

Thus we now witness the spectacle of ex-gay spokespersons engaging in rhetorical acrobatics to deny that "change," "heterosexuality" and the rest of their catchphrases mean what they seem to mean, even as they stubbornly refuse to plainly state what they actually mean. To do otherwise would require admitting that they were wrong about some very significant things - and humility has never been an abundant commodity within American evangelicalism.

Nonetheless, there are ex-gay leaders who have publicly acknowledged their error without abandoning their faith. Some of them have even maintained a more traditional Christian stance on sexuality even as they have adapted their programs to better reflect the realities of what it means to be a gay Christian living under that belief system. That the leadership of Exodus is too proud to do the same suggests that they have invested far too much in being right to effectively help those they claim to be here to serve.


Adam Steevens said...

Hey, great blog.

I'm an author working on a book about American Evangelical Christianity, and I was hoping to interview you about homosexuality/GBLT issues in North American faith.

Send me an e-mail if you're interested, I'd really appreciate it.

-adam ( / )

wendy said...

Thanks for this post Eugene. Insightful as usual.