Monday, February 11, 2013

The Homosexual Debate: Separating Fact from Fiction GLBT Series 2013

There are very few topics that polarise people like the subject of homosexuality and related topics.  It is a topic that sparks emotional reactions in people on both sides of the debate.   Such emotion tends to make reasoned debate on the subject very difficult.  For many people, to even consider another side of the argument means going against beliefs and ideologies that strike at the very core of who they are.  In short, for many people, to even engage in discussion results in challenging who they are as an individual.  It presents not only a crisis in faith, but a psychological crisis of identity.

However, much of these beliefs are learned.  We are not born with a pre-disposed understanding of Theology or psychology etc.  We learn it.  We learn right from wrong.  We learn what our views are on various topics.  We attend to various stimuli which educate our opinions.  Based on these, we develop a sense of who we are, and what we believe.  When we encounter something that challenges our past experience and learning, we are forced to challenge our perception of who we have come to believe we are.

Before we even begin to engage in this debate, we need to step back and re-examine much of the information we have inculcated over our lives, honestly looking at its authenticity, relevance, and accuracy etc.  With this in mind, this article seeks to briefly look at some of the common conservative arguments and perceptions against homosexuality, hopefully shedding light on the background of this very divisive debate.

1.    There is a plethora of research that supports the conservative position: Whilst there are a number of research papers that refer to findings that seem to support the conservative position, there has only ever been one actual study conducted in this area.  That study is ‘Sexual Gradualism: A Solution to the Sexual Dilemma of Teen-agers and Young Adults’ (1978), commonly referred to as ‘The Cameron Report’. It was written by Paul Cameron, who established the Institute for the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality (ISIS), now known as the Family Research Institute (FRI).  Since then, every article and research paper that has produced findings consistent with those found in the Cameron Report has used the Cameron Report as its source, or used the data from the Cameron Report in its analysis.  The problem with this is that this report has been very soundly discredited.

There are two main problems with this report. 1) Paul Cameron changes his definition of homosexuality part-way through the report.  At the beginning of the report, he defines a person as homosexual only if they are currently in a long-term, monogamous same-sex relationship for a minimum of 2 years.  If you do not fall into that category, no matter how you define yourself, for the purposes of his study, you are heterosexual.  Part-way through the report, when investigating the behaviours of homosexuals, he re-defines homosexuals as anyone who has engaged in same-sex sexual activity of any description.  This alone nullifies any of his findings on the subject, and nullifies any of the findings of subsequent research that either uses his research for support of their argument, or re-analyses his data to confirm his findings. 2) Much of his data was falsified.  It was discovered that much of the ‘research’ (questionnaires, interviews etc) collected by Cameron and his research team was made up.  The people never existed.  He and his research team made up fictitious responses to questionnaires, and fictitious interviews, in order to ensure their results were consistent with what they wanted to show.  As a result of these ethical allegations into his research, an inquiry was established by the APA.  Cameron refused to produce any evidence to contra these allegations, or even respond to them.  The APA subsequently disbarred him from membership in 1983, effectively meaning he can no longer professionally refer to himself as a Psychiatrist or Psychologist.

There is no credible research that supports the common claims of conservatives. It is important to note here that almost all of the research from the FRI is similarly problematic. As such, any argument that uses research from the FRI to support its claims will generally be dismissed.

2.    The percentage of LGBT person’s in the population is extremely small, proving that it is a minority choice: This is a very difficult question to examine.  It has only been very recently that Governments have been gathering statistics regarding the sexual orientation of individuals in Census documents.  These documents do suggest that the population of LGBT persons in any given country is around 2 – 5 per cent.  However, we need to acknowledge the difficulty in gathering such information. 

3.    Only those who are openly LGBT, and who do not fear retaliation (either in the form of social, work, or family pressures) will admit on a Census that they are LGBT.  It is important to note that there are a lot of closeted married persons, as well as other closeted individuals who feel they must remain closeted in order to protect their family, job, financial, and social standing etc.  Other research that is more anonymous, consistently suggests the figure is closer to between 10 – 25 per cent of any given population (depending on the population sample used), with an understanding among social and health care workers that a 20 per cent figure is closer to reality.  This indicates that the LGBT population is very large.

The Cameron Report (mentioned above) came up with the statistic that around 2 per cent of the population was gay.  However, given his definition, he showed that 2 per cent of the population was in a monogamous, long-term same-sex relationship for a minimum of 2 years.  If we assume that the same percentage of homosexuals are in long-term relationships as heterosexuals, then the actual number of homosexuals (not including those that are Bisexual or Transgender) is considerably higher.  One could estimate on this basis, the number of LGBT persons in any given population is between 20 – 25 per cent.

4.    All homosexuals are extremely promiscuous, engage in degrading and perverted behaviour, and are incapable of long-term relationships: No one is denying that a part of the homosexual population engages in promiscuous behaviour, or even fetish behaviour.  However, we also need to acknowledge that heterosexuals equally engage in such behaviour. 

Based on point 2 above, promiscuity is no more rampant among the homosexual population as it is among the heterosexual population.  In fact, when we look at divorce statistics for heterosexuals, it would seem that homosexual relationships are more likely to last longer, and survive harder trials, than heterosexual marriages.  In short, homosexual relationships (at least statistically) are more stable than heterosexual marriages.  This possibly has to do with the adversity that homosexuals face almost daily, and need to overcome, which makes them and their relationships stronger.  However, there is no research in this area.  Research would shed light on this.

5.    Homosexuals are more likely to be paedophiles – proving that they are deviant: This is an outright lie.  Looking at the number of convicted paedophiles in the prison system, approximately 99 per cent of them are heterosexual.  For it to be evenly distributed between the LGBT and heterosexual populations, you would have to have a percentage of approximately 80 percent being heterosexual.  For this point to have any credibility, we would have to have a much lower percentage being heterosexual.  This shows that statistically, if you leave your child with a heterosexual, there is a much higher chance they will be exposed to paedophilia than if you leave them with an LGBT person.

6.    Homosexuality is a choice – it can be cured, proving that it is a mental disorder: It’s difficult to know where to begin in answering this question.  No-one would consciously choose to be gay given the amount of discrimination and difficulty which is encountered when one comes out, and subsequently, for the rest of their lives.  The number of people who spend years trying to rid themselves of their homosexuality, with no avail, should be proof enough that no-one chooses to be LGBT.  It is no more a choice than choosing to be heterosexual.  Engaging in actual sexual activity of any description however, is a choice.  Homosexuality though is more than just engaging in physical sexual activity.  Likewise, ‘repenting’ of homosexuality is more than just abstaining from physical sexual activity.

There are no recorded incidents worldwide of anyone having been cured of homosexuality.  Various leaders of Exodus International (the worlds’ largest ex-gay movement) have all stated that there has been no-one in the history of their organisation who has ever changed from being gay to straight.  What has happened, is that LGBT persons have forced themselves to deny that part of themselves in an attempt to find acceptance, and have all (without exception) found themselves developing chronic mental illnesses such as chronic depression etc. 

In short, attempts at curing homosexuality ALWAYS end up causing severe mental illness, and destroying the lives of people around them.  It is no more a mental disorder than being heterosexual is a mental disorder.  It is important to note that all professional psychological and psychiatric bodies around the world have long ago removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, recognising that it is not a mental disorder.

7.    Homosexuals are they way they are because they were sexually abused as children: Again, an outright lie.  No more needs to be said.  No more LGBT people were sexually abused as children than heterosexuals were.  If we make this claim, we may as well say that heterosexuals are heterosexual because they were sexually abused as children.

8.    Legitimising homosexuality and legitimising same-sex marriage would undermine the fabric of society and bring about the downfall of society: This is a very complex question.  To begin with, we need to understand that legitimising homosexuality or same-sex marriage does not mean it will become mandatory that all people become gay.

The marriage debate is very complex.  Marriage has different legal definitions in different countries.  It is a legal concept – not a religious concept.  However, it can have religious significance attached to it.  When we look at the history of marriage throughout the history of the world, we see that the modern understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman is a very modern concept (less than a couple hundread years old).  A major article is required to explore this concept more deeply.  Here are some dot points on the subject of marriage:
a)    Legal definition of Marriage is country specific. Eg, Australia specifically defines marriage as between a man and a woman.  The UK has always legally defined marriage as between two persons.
b)   Different cultures have historically had different understanding of marriage.  For example, Before white people came to the Americas, many native American tribes maintained a fluid concept of sexual identity and marriage.  Children were neither male nor female until they reached puberty – where they chose for themselves whether they were going to take ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ roles.  An anatomical male could chose to take a feminine role in the tribe, and marry any of the ‘males’ in the tribe.  Likewise, an anatomical female could chose to take a masculine role, and marry any of the ‘women’ in the tribe.
c)   The Old Testament had a number of definitions of marriage.  It included concubinage (taking a slave girl as a wife for various reasons), Leverite (where a brother married his dead brothers childless wife, and had children on behalf of his dead brother who were not considered his), polygamy (multiple wives), paedophilic (arranged marriages of young girls – as young as 8 – with older, often widowed, men).  The list goes on.

The point here is that the view of traditional heterosexual marriage as the only acceptable view of marriage is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Challenging this view will not undermine society per se.  It will destroy the world of those who cling to it, but it will not destroy society.  It will only build society up as it fosters more loving relationships.  It will also reduce the prevalence of mental illness as a vast number of people are not forced to hide who they are.  As a result, it will also result in a drop in suicide statistics as people no longer feel they have to end it all because they cannot live a heterosexual life.  Discrimination will decrease, along with incidents of hate crimes.  All of these things will support and build up society.  It will not bring about its’ downfall.

9.    Accepting homosexuality forces discrimination on to those who disagree: This is difficult to answer.  Where there are diametrically opposing views which both require action, there will always be disagreement, and one side will always feel like they are being discriminated against.  There are only two ways forward here.  Either one side changes its views (this is where historically much of the debate has centred), or we separate belief from civil responsibility.  If you have a public role, you must adhere to the code of the organisation and/or country that you work for or receive funding/pay for.  This does not prevent you from having your own views or beliefs.  However, it does dictate how you can express those beliefs.  For many people, this is what is unpalatable.  For this reason, we need to seriously examine what we believe and why we believe it.  Examining this question begins to get at the very heart of the homosexual debate, and why it is so divisive.  Everything else is peripheral and can be easily argued against with little consequence.  This strikes at the heart of individual and corporate identity, and strikes blow upon blow to individual and corporate psyche.

One way around this problem (as I have argued in previous articles), is to accept that what is right and just for one person, is not right or just for another.  What is sinful for one person, is not sinful for another.  We need to see everyone as individuals, with an individual and unique relationship with their creator God, which is different for everyone.  There is no one-size-fits-all relationship with God.  Here, a person can easily maintain that homosexuality is wrong and sinful for themselves, and that they should never engage in it, but it is OK for someone else, and for them to engage in heterosexuality would be sinful.  Here, both sides maintain their integrity, while respecting the uniqueness and individuality of each person.

10.The Bible explicitly rejects homosexuality: It is only tradition which maintains this view.  There are numerous books, articles, research, documentaries, etc, which highlight a more accurate way of interpreting ancient language.  When interpreted in that light, we find that there is not a single verse in the entire bible which speaks against homosexuality, or even implies that it might be improper.  What we do find however, is a number of God blessed relationships which with today’s understanding of homosexuality, would be considered homosexual relationships.  The only way we can maintain a stance that the Bible speaks against homosexuality is to maintain a traditional interpretation of the ancient languages that it was written in, which is completely inaccurate.  This has the effect of nullifying the Bible, and its message of Salvation, as it reduces the Bible to a fictional book, written in a fictional language.
Again, this is linked to personal identity.  If a person came to salvation, and develops a particular understanding of themselves as a Christian from receiving a particular interpretation of scripture, then contemplating anything else will spark a crisis of faith and identity.  It will cause them to question their salvation, question their life, question their ministry, etc, etc, etc.  This also begins to get to the heart of the homosexual debate.

The current debate is about more than just whether homosexuals should be fully included in every part of church life, or whether society should fully accept LGBT persons.  It is about identity.  Not just the identity of LGBT persons, but about the identity of those who maintain traditional views.  It is not just about the rights of the LGBT persons.  Any parent who holds a traditional view of sexuality, and has a child come out as gay, will understand the blow this delivers to their sense of identity.  Focussing on other issues such as; marriage, equality, right/wrong, will only end up in the debate continually going around in circles.  We will never reach consensus on any of these issues if the real issue is our own sense of identity.  Only when we understand that it the personal and individual identity of people on both sides of the debate that is in question, will we ever begin to move forward in this discussion.  Every other argument is nothing more than a smoke screen, obscuring us from seeing the true nature of the debate.  Identity.

Graeme Randall
Former SA Officer
Australia East

residing in London


Anonymous said...

A researched and well written article; my hope is that it will be read and well received. There is the possibility however, that it will be dismissed as being biased, simply because of your own stated orientation.

That would be a pity, because no one either straight or gay in that case would move beyond their present thinking. Thanks for the information about Cameron. It is amazing to what length people will go to fortify their own prejudices.

When I read your posts I think how sad it is that people with such intellectual ability as yourself are not only shut out of ministry but in some cases shunned. Surely present day LGBT people in many places in the world are being treated like the equivalent of New Testament lepers.

Graeme Randall said...

Thank you for your comment.

You are right - although the world has come a long way, even today, people are still treated in many spheres like NT lepers or worse. There are various organisations (such as the 17-24-30 No to hate organisation) which exist to highlight modern examples of discrimination and hate crimes of all types (not just against LGBT persons), however, the majority of what they find is homophobic.

I believe that when the church as a whole embraces inclusion, then it will have more than a significant impact on hate crimes and discrimination around the world - just like it did when the church embraced blacks and no longer discriminated against them. (By the way, for the older readers, 'Blacks' is the current politically correct way to refer to non-whites. I say this because a few decades ago, to use the term 'black' was itself discriminatory. How times and language change so quickly. Highlights the need to continually change ourselves to be relevant)

Sven Ljungholm said...

My (our) next step, lies in yielding to Him with whom all things are possible.

What is the Spirit saying to the Army?

Substantive responses, any length, welcome: recommending our next step.

Anonymous said...

The Army is obviously split into various fractions on this issue, but to what extent and in favour of?

The next step?

Is it inconceivable that we establish "Welcoming Congregations", corps who are welcoming and inclusive of LGBTQ people in all levels of local church/corps life? The mission would be to cultivate an inclusive corps and society and to minister to both Salvationist GLBT members and the allied community. Inclusion: fully living out Christ’s radical love toward all people, especially toward those in the margins.

Active officer

Anonymous said...

"If God is calling his Salvation Army to follow him, here, there and everywhere, then follow we must, for parasites (critics-denyers of new truths) find it much easier to feed on and irritate that which is stagnant (for which read dying).

It might not be comfortable to follow a moving God (in fact it will probably be extremely uncomfortable at times, according to Matthew 8:20, in which we read of a transient Jesus), but if the alternative is to abandon his leadership and huddle ourselves away in our little caves of personal preference and routine, then I don’t see we have any choice. We follow, and live, or we go our own ways, and slowly but surely, the life that we have drains away."

Captain Stephen Poxon JAC 2007
SA Toronto

Anonymous said...

As I began to read this blog series, I realizing quickly that many different views are being presented, analyzed, at times totally disagreed with, or totally agreed with, questioned, and challenged. For me and perhaps others, I am trying to read and understand at least the views of the different authors. I do not have to make a decision based on any one opinion/belief, but I am trying to remain open to the wide diverse discussion that is taking place. This open discussion is in itself amazing in many ways.
At this point, for me, I want to read, understand or question if I don't, and perhaps with prayer and patience see where God leads myself and all those who take a moment out of their firmly set values/beliefs to try to see what these writers feel and know to be their value/beliefs.

Sven Ljungholm said...

"At this point, for me, I want to read, understand or question if I don't, and perhaps with prayer and patience see where God leads myself and all those who take a moment out of their firmly set values/beliefs to try to see what these writers feel and know to be their value/beliefs."

Thank you for your comments. They are a tribute to the incredible efforts expended in researching and writing the many articles.

Many blessings, and please keep reading and sharing your comments.

Anonymous said...

Why separate congregations? Then the MCC will suffice. As a single I have always struggled with single adult Sunday school. And now senior adult SS. Why? Why not simply adult? We certainly passed the days of male and female. My friends are not only single or women or senior. They are single and married, with children and without, with adult children and babies, gay and straight, black and white and Hispanic and Asian, college grads and HS drop outs (fortunately for the country not too many of those), old hippies and doctors and dentists. In other words global. Churches should be global. Not separate but equal. What are we thinking?

Anonymous said...

Oh...and male and female and all ages.