Is The Christian Concept of Gay Conversion Therapy Fundamentally Flawed?

Following my earlier post on an upcoming Christian seminar pushing the validity of ‘Reparative Therapy’ or ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ I received the following Tweet:


This set off a lightbulb within me and a chain of thoughts.

If Christians regard homosexuality as a spiritual issue – and the practice as a sin – then why turn to ‘gay conversion’ psychological therapy.

Is it that some Christians believe homosexuality to be a mental disorder that can be treated? This explanation is the only reason I can think of to advocate psychological therapy.

If not a mental disorder, then continuing this line of reasoning, if psychological therapy is appropriate for this particular ‘spiritual problem’ then why not all spiritual issues?

Why is psychological therapy not advocated for all sinful temptations?

Could it not be equally argued that all sinful temptations are environmentally produced – as opposed to hard-wired – and in need of rectification through psychological therapy, as is posited for sexual orientation.

If sexual orientation is a mental disorder to be ‘cured’ through therapy, can we confidently even consider the practice of homosexuality as sin any longer?

Are sexual orientation temptations in some way qualitatively different to any other temptations of the flesh?

Of course, the irony is that those Christians pushing for Conversion Therapy are usually to be found most ardently in the anti-psychology camp.

These thoughts have only just occurred to me and so I’m thinking on the fly.

Feel free to chip in.

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3 Responses to “Is The Christian Concept of Gay Conversion Therapy Fundamentally Flawed?”

  1. Marc Says:

    Of course, the irony is that those Christians pushing for Conversion Therapy are usually to be found most ardently in the anti-psychology camp.” – Stuart

    Thanks for that observation Stuart. A valid point to be considered – even if only on the sidelines of the discussion/debate over gay issues, amongst Christians .

  2. Peter D Says:

    Webmaster – that was partly my intent in my comment about the use of ‘science’ to give credibility to the ‘therapy’ and of course the views of Core Issues Trust, Christian Concern etc. It is curious that they dismiss the ‘science’ of the Royal College of Psychiatrists – because it is not saying what they want it to say; yet happily embrace the ‘science’ of those interested in using psychology to ‘cure’ homosexuals of their wicked ways – such as Dr Berger, who has ‘successfully treated a number of such people who have become heterosexual, have married, and have had children, in fulfilling relationships.’ Which I’m very pleased to hear – a goodly number of cradle-heteros don’t manage the latter…

    Tho’ when I hear of these ‘wonder workers’ I’m always reminded of my contact with True Freedom Trust in the late 1980s – at the time I was engaged to be married and thought I’d better do something about the fact I loved my fiancé, but loved and sexually desired my male best friend even more… Proof was shown me that homos can change in the shape of one of the ‘therapists’ (at that time dovetailing counselling and prayer in what even then (before I’d studied theology) I thought was treading a fine line (if not crossing it) between therapy and heresy). This therapist was himself a former homosexual, but was married, with children… For many years all was wonderful for this post-gay… until he ran off with a man and four lives (wife, children and counsellor) were ruined…

    I must be honest and say that if someone is gay – or has same-sex attraction (call it what you will) – and they are unhappy about this because of religious reasons or (more likely) because today, even outside of churches, homosexuality is still something that can attract condemnation, ridicule or worse – then counselling could be helpful. But ‘gay conversion’ therapy seems (from what I have read of it – and how Core Issues Trust are promoting their jolly little, invitation only, jamboree) seems to be about becoming ‘heterosexual. That is fundamentally flawed from a theological perspective – if we are created in the image of God, then our fullness is found in Christ – not in whether we’re gay or straight. Although Peter Ould and I disagree on many political issues, I fully support his stance with regard to the issue supporting people even if they remain ‘gay’ within a church.

    A few years ago, as part of some research I was involved in, I spent time with the Jesus Army. I can’t say their own brand of ultra patriarchal Charismatic Christianity floated my boat, but I was impressed by how the church supported single people. Not for them a mid-week men’s or women’s group where friendless, moustached women and acrylic cardigan wearing Billy-No-Mates 40 something men tried to pretend they were there though choice; no, the Jesus Army presented the chance for singles to live together with fellow singles in (what we’d call in Catholic teaching) a consecrated life. Being single was seen as something to celebrate – whereas in many a church, singles (after the age of say 30) are often pitied and certainly marginalised.

    ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ could in fact be seen as idolatrous in that the object of veneration is an idealised worldly state – i.e. marriage with kids. Again, as often seems to be the case with much contemporary Christian thinking, a certain pattern of behaviour and life is seen as the ‘ideal’ which has a curious similarity to the secular ideal of success.

    Moreover it needs to be remembered that sexuality itself can be fluid – Tom Robinson, a great stalwart of the 1970s Gay Liberation movement, settled down with a woman and had a family – and I know he didn’t sign up with a ‘gay conversion’ therapist. I also know of several men who have been married for years, have had large families and have then ‘come out’, left their wives – or significantly changed their relationship with their wife (the ones I know who have done this have all been conservative Christians for much of their lives).

    Whatever, from a Christian perspective, I don’t think the aim of someone who is gay or troubled by same sex attraction is to become a happily married heterosexual. That could just be a case of wanting to build an idealised self – which is idolatrous and self-seeking. As with many of these issues, perhaps if churches themselves were far more friendly places for gay people, they could embrace celibacy (if they felt so called) with the love and support of their church. But as I know from personal experience, if you’re daft enough to tell someone at church you’re gay, you will be watched, you will be marked out as different – and standards many at church don’t apply to their own lives, will be applied to yours. You can tell people you’re celibate till you’re blue in the face, but you’ll often be treated as the last and least among equals.

    Yes, I think you are quite right, ‘gay conversion therapy’ is highly suspect on so many levels…

  3. Goy Says:

    Maybe it is time for christians to force the obsession with homosexuality back into the church closet before the entryism of gay politics redefines christians and the church as nothing more than a militant gay advocacy movement.

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