Do you believe in reparative therapy?
“The Christian is one who admits that the statements and the demands of the gospel are impossible, but thanks God that the gospel does the impossible for us and gives us salvation as a free gift.”
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones
[Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Kindle Locations 1213-1214)]
Hello, Michael, I appreciate your question. I’ll do my best to answer, but that is a challenging question because there seem to be so many ideas of what “reparative therapy” is.
Because of popular cultural accusations, the idea evokes painful ideas of public shaming, physical abuse, self-hate and rejection, and especially lasting and unnecessary trauma. Many of my gay friends have experienced horrible abuse and disingenuous approaches to their experiences of sexual orientation, which impacts my understanding of efforts to curb or control same-sex sexual expression. You may feel the same.
My own experiences of rejection, humiliation (even by pastors and congregations), years of psychotherapy, and unhealthy approaches to myself all color my understanding of “reparative therapy.” But, I have never undergone such therapy myself and I’ve never spoken to any therapist or practitioner of reparative therapy. I have found articles written by well known reparative therapists, such as Joseph Nicolosi, quite interesting and very valuable as they have described experiences and ideas that I resonate with. In some cases I have gained insight into my own life, such as with attachment issues.
Everyone I know personally (here at Bethel or otherwise) addressing “change” for gay people approach the idea out of their own experience of homosexuality. In my understanding, it is one thing for a straight person to impose their therapeutic ideas upon a gay person, but it is entirely different for an individual to lean into their personal experience for guidance. I know things about lesbianism and the LGBTQ community that few outside that lifestyle could ever authoritatively address. And, my own need for grace and mercy colors my attitude toward people in their particular struggles. If I am unable to engage other people through the lens of compassion and humility that Jesus has offered me, I do not desire to minister.
Women and men come to me for wisdom and insight into life experiences, not only relating to sexual orientation, and I prioritize connection to Jesus and discipleship. He facilitated my self-understanding: why I am the way I am, what has been behind many of my disordered (and distorted) feelings, and who I am uniquely destined to be. He has the power and authority to address (and change) what I believe about myself—or what you believe about yourself.
No one else can claim to have that much power, and no one else has the right to be so invasive.
Behind your question is the more obvious one: do you practice reparative therapy? No, I dedicate much energy to ensuring people hear 1) what Jesus is saying (mainly through listening prayer), or 2) hear what Jesus has said to me so they may know His loving character. Ultimately, it is only through His power (the Holy Spirit) working in us that we are transformed, and this happens to every Christian, not just those seeking clarity on their sexual orientation.
Christ draws us into wholeness. Any effective approach to lasting internal change (no matter the issue) requires His power, not merely the logic or inspiration of a therapist. This is the nature of redemption through salvation. It is a process involving communion with Christ and other believers that we are ALL on as disciples. Only He has the last word for any of us (whether we walk “free” or embrace our “orientation.”) I simply walk with others as Jesus addresses their inner-most world, the kingdom within, because that is where He has impacted me most. I am changed, and changing, by His participation in my life and I am honored to see Him do that in others. Amazingly, in the process we see and experience Him, and that is all that matters.
© 2018 Kathryn Elizabeth Woning. All rights reserved.