Thursday, August 06, 2009

An Unexpected Development in the Culture Wars

A celebrated/deplored event in the history of the Culture Wars was the American Psychological Association's removal of homosexuality from its list of psychological disorders a generation ago.

In that light, the development recorded in today's WSJ is just as significant. We quote our favorite news daily:

[I]n a striking departure, the American Psychological Association said Wednesday that it is ethical -- and can be beneficial -- for counselors to help some clients reject gay or lesbian attractions. . . .

According to new APA guidelines, the therapist must make clear that homosexuality doesn't signal a mental or emotional disorder. The counselor must advise clients that gay men and women can lead happy and healthy lives, and emphasize that there is no evidence therapy can change sexual orientation.

But if the client still believes that affirming his same-sex attractions would be sinful or destructive to his faith, psychologists can help him construct an identity that rejects the power of those attractions, the APA says. That might require living celibately, learning to deflect sexual impulses or framing a life of struggle as an opportunity to grow closer to God.

Against those who argue that this glass is not even half full, we note that for the APA this marks a departure from a trajectory of many decades. We will also say to the dismay of some that we believe that all the APA's disclaimers are true. The boundaries and objectives of therapy named in their statement appear to us to be exactly realistic.

Impressive in this is the legitimacy accorded to religious faith, and here we are concerned with Christian faith. Our colleagues tell us that awhile back the APA affirmed that "spirituality" is a key element of a healthy mental and emotional existence. It seems that the association is living up to that in this startling affirmation.

Now we put people of Christian faith on notice. It is past time to stop stigmatizing those who are attracted sexually to members of the same sex. This is not to endorse behaviors that act on such experiences but to affirm humbly and honestly that we are all deeply flawed humans who struggle against impulses and desires that we understand lead us away from what God wants for us. We hold those who are honest about such matters in the highest esteem, and we note that many of them are people who struggle with exactly the impulses that are most widely stigmatized--like same-sex attraction and alcohol or drug addiction.

Such honesty deserves esteem, not to mention imitation. For more on this subject, we recommend one of our favorite writers.


Bryan D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bryan D said...

It is good that the APA have at last recognized in part the deep tension between the still affirmed reality which runs deep in psychological theory that sexuality is in fact a psychological construction and that of the relatively new social narrative which attempts to cast homosexual behavior (and identity constructs around it) as something other than socially dysfunctional.

I still maintain that the most entertaining vantage from which to criticize homosexual identity is Darwinian humanism. Try it some time in a conversation where there is nothing to lose, you won't regret it!

Chief Grinder said...


JB in CA said...

Does speaking out against the legalization of gay marriage count as "stigmatizing those who are attracted sexually to members of the same sex"?

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

JB: no. We refer to jokes, ridicule, dehumanizing rhetoric, and propagating the notion that people are morally responsible for having the experience of same-sex attraction in the first place. Of course, many would insist that our denial of the right to "marry" a member of the same sex is somehow stigmatizing.