In an article in Crosswalk magazine, Dr. Warren Throckmorton has further demonstrated his shift in focus away from reorientation efforts and towards a values determination for those who find a conflict between their sexual orientation and their religious convictions.
In this article, Throckmorton discusses a friend, Jim, who was unable to achieve a shifting in his base attractions away from men generally and towards women generally. Jim did not find the advice of ex-gay ministries to be useful and his observations suggested that their insistence on set models of psychological causes were not supported by reality. What Jim stated that he did find useful was an evaluation of his values and the crafting of a life which was consistent with those values:
I began working with a counselor had lots of experience in helping people change behavior. He correctly pointed out that it’s not about “being cured” from homosexual attractions, but rather, it is about how I live. That major paradigm shift has been so helpful, I cannot begin to fully describe it. As we have explored issues, things have gotten better, but I still have very difficult moments. Does that mean God is unable to fix me? Hardly. What it means is that this life is difficult, and my difficulty is just different from, not worse than, the “average” next guy. That’s just the way it is.
Dr. Throckmorton closes with some observations that it may well benefit the ex-gay community to consider:
Truth is, the research does not allow for certainty about why sexual attractions occur. Despite the media hype over research relating pre-natal factors to later sexual orientation, there are many contradictory findings. Research pointing to family factors offers a piece of the puzzle but does not apply universally to those are homosexually attracted. Because homosexual attractions may mean different things for different people, counselors should be extremely cautious with promises of change. Likewise, counselors uniformly inclined to promote gay acceptance should understand that devout people cannot switch their religious beliefs on and off any more than people can consciously change their sexuality.
Many same-sex attracted persons are raised in a faith that declares that such attractions are an abomination and forbidden by God. Others are raised to believe that while having attractions cannot be faulted, any same-sex behavior – or even accepting the attractions as natural – is a sin. Both of these attitudes may be, depending on geographical or cultural ideologies, reinforced by society’s collective stigma. Consequently many young people have religious or moral convictions that are incongruent with the attractions that they find in themself.
I can see four possible responses that a person raised with conservative Christian theology can have to unwanted same-sex attractions (other than outright rejection of their faith), though there may be more:
1. Recognition of one’s attractions and a reevaluation of religious assumptions resulting in the conclusion that same-sex relationships can be permissible or blessed by God within certain parameters. (Side A gay Christians)
2. Recognition of one’s attractions and conclusion that same-sex sexual activity is not permissible, resulting in a life of chosen celibacy. (Side B gay Christians)
3. Neither accepting nor rejecting an identity consistent with one’s attraction but instead seeking to live a life consistent with one’s values, regardless of one’s attractions. (this appears to me to be Throckmorton’s new approach)
4. Building an identity based on the rejection of one’s attractions, focusing efforts on a shift in attractions, and declaring that options 1 and 2 above are “a sinful lifestyle”. (the Exodus approach)
Of the above, I believe that approach 4 is the least likely to result in a successful and happy life.