sexual trauma and other environmental factors are often identified as triggers
of homosexual conduct, but the reality may be more nuanced than some faith
communities are comfortable acknowledging, a Seventh-day Adventist behavioral
scientist said this morning at the church’s sexuality conference.
“We tend to see things
in terms of black and white. The shades of gray between them provoke a lot of
anxiety,” said Curtis Fox, professor and department chair of Counseling and
Family Sciences at the church’s Loma Linda University in the U.S. state of
Fox’s presentation at
this week’s “In God’s Image: Scripture. Sexuality. Society.” summit offered a
social science perspective on the challenges facing the Adventist Church’s approach
to the gay and lesbian community.
“Reality is complex,”
Fox said. “Simple explanations will not suffice, and will be seen as less than
helpful by those who are dealing with this nature,” Fox said.
So-called “reparative therapy”
Fox said, assumes that sexual orientation for every individual is exclusively a
matter of choice that can be reversed through the exercise of willpower in a
supportive, Christian environment.
While some people say
they have found personal transformation through such therapy, others report no
change in same-sex attraction and, in many cases, exacerbated psychological and
emotional trauma, Fox said. Such outcomes have raised “serious concerns” and prompted
major health and mental organizations in the United States to “denounce”
Fox also outlined the
effects of “societal prejudice” against LGBT youth. Marginalized gay and
lesbian young people are more likely, he said, to attempt suicide, have high
levels of depression and drug abuse and are more vulnerable to HIV and STIs.
He went on to counter
widespread myths about members of the gay and lesbian community, among them
that most pedophiles are gay; that gay relationships are transient; and that gay
parents typically raise gay children.
“My role as a behavioral
scientist is to get people to think, inspire dialogue and be inquisitive in the
pursuit of knowledge,” Fox said, acknowledging that he brings his own “set of
assumptions” to the discussion table.
“My biblical worldview
takes into account creation by God and the fall. Hence chance, variation,
anomaly and degeneration are now part of human reality,” he said. “God works
with humans in their imperfections, but the [Adventist] Church needs not be
apologetic for its stance on [gay and lesbian] relationships.”
Rather, it should become
“skillful in interpreting and declaring truths as revealed in a highly
defensive, politically charged and radically individualistic environment.”
The church’s approach,
then, Fox said, “should be characterized by humility—not bigotry, hatred and
marginalization. We must adopt not just the message of Jesus, but the ministry
methods of Jesus as well. It is the high calling of the church to love homosexuals
as our neighbors, no less than we do our heterosexual neighbors.”
news bulletins for the summit provided by Adventist Review and Adventist News Network (ANN) will be
available at adventistreview.org and news.adventist.org.