When faith and sexuality collide

27

Right to the end, Damien Christie feared that the God he worshipped did not love him back.


Rejected by his Pentecostal church for his sexuality, he underwent gay ''conversion'' therapy at a Christian ministry in Melbourne. If the program's aim was to ''pray away the gay'', it failed. He remained a homosexual man with a strong faith, and found a new church that embraced him.

Yet the turmoil of trying to reconcile the warring parts of his identity left an indelible mark.

On March 27, Damien took his own life. Nobody can know with certainty what triggered the decision, but those close to the 43-year-old personal carer believe ''reparative'' therapy at Mosaic Ministries in Melbourne's south-east scarred him deeply.

''It troubled him right to the end,'' said friend and counsellor Matt Glover, a former Baptist pastor sacked from his Lilydale church in 2011 for publicly supporting same-sex marriage.

Written By: Jill Stark
continue to source article at theage.com.au

27 COMMENTS

  1. And this is why I vehemently oppose the whole ‘reparative therapy should be open to those who want it’ sentiment.

    It’s not a placebo like homeopathy , but a harmful practice maintained only out of greed and religious zealotry. It’s not just the telling people that who they are is inherently evil and deserves disgust and eternal damnation. It’s the telling them they can change this while they can not, it is doomed to fail.

    The entire process is bound to hurt.

  2. “[If a person wants to be cured] they can be cured of anything. I’m not saying they can be cured completely but they can overcome it, like alcoholism.”

    I don’t agree. Firstly, when it comes to psychological dysfunctions†, you can’t cure shit. You can help them resolve some things and manage those things that cannot be resolved, but nothing gets cured.

    Secondly, treatment is not necessarily helpful. You might be able to work on an addition to food, but you won’t be able to fix a requirement for food, and a man’s need for intimacy with someone else, in his case another male, is not going to respond to treatment.

    † by dysfunction I mean something that affects the person’s life negatively. It’s an intentionally vague term.

    Given how celebates such as priests and monks are proving to be not so good at handling solitude and lack of intimacy, I would suspect that parishioners wouldn’t be very good at it either, gay or straight.

  3. If you ‘can be cured of anything’ if you only wanted or at least overcome it in some small way, maybe I can get those brown eyes I always desired. Oh, if that ‘spirit of Jesebel’ only left me…

  4. Gay conversion therapies are snakeoil by any other name.
    Ineffective at best, damaging at worst. Discredited by most mainstream phychiatric organisations.
    For gay people who’ve already spent half their life in the closet due to peer pressure, religious dogma and parental expectation, going through the motions of a sham marriage or projecting a straight image in public is convincing to some, but the failures of those involved with running the ex-gay movement to practice what they preach, and those who’ve undertaken it to commit to hetero livestyles longterm are well documented.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/13/gay-conversion-therapies-bullies-missionary?intcmp=239

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/19/health/dr-robert-l-spitzer-noted-psychiatrist-apologizes-for-study-on-gay-cure.html?_r=3&

    http://gayhomophobe.com/

    George Rekers from that last link is a case in point – a man who’s theories on making people straight were adopted by ex-gay ministry NARTH, and who later made headlines after being photographed at an airport with a rentboy he’d hired from a subscription male escort site for the purposes of “Lifting his luggage” (which has since become a catch-all euphamism for ‘rentboy services rendered’).

  5. Counselors such as this Mrs. Hardy should be sued (or more) and she should be brought to shame. This is what happens when people value their beliefs and traditions over science and common sense. Governments should make such practices illegal so that no resulting deaths could occur and prosecution should be easier. No secular counselor comes from the position that homosexuality is wrong. These religious “counselors” have not been trained to properly deal with issues surrounding sexuality. No matter how many times they tell someone that God loves them, the gay person realizes that the counselor comes from the position that the s/he is wrong and should change (whether it is said or not, the intention is apparent.) With no God to show any compassion, what is a person to do when no one around them is showing any compassion either?

    ”It troubled him right to the end,” said friend and counsellor Matt Glover, a former Baptist pastor sacked from his Lilydale church in 2011 for publicly supporting same-sex marriage.
    ”I saw him every two weeks for counselling and he would often ask the question, ‘Does God still love me, Matt?’ Despite me reassuring him every time, it just couldn’t stick.

    I hope this clergy member suggested this man see professional help. Seeing someone every two weeks for severe depression is not enough. A properly trained one would see the person at least once a week or even hospitalize the individual to get concentrated help.

    When will the religious open their eyes and see what is so obvious to others? Being gay is not a choice and at most times can be identified physically.

  6. I’m actually a bit confused about the whole “religions vs gay” thing…as far as I know, the mainstream christian dogma is that we’re all sinners, ‘fell short of the glory of God”, we all deserve Hell, no good or bad deed can save or condemn us, and the only thing that matters is whether a person confesses his faith that Jesus is god, his personal saviour, and that he was crucified to atone for the sins of humans. Am I wrong in this? With that thinking, even if gay sex is a sin, it’s a sin among million other sins which, according always to the church, can be wiped out only by faith in christ and not by any amount of “good deeds”. If that’s so…why is it presented as a “bad” deed, amongst all bad deeds, that can, by itself, condemn you even though you actually have faith in christ?

  7. In reply to #7 by JoxerTheMighty:

    I’m actually a bit confused about the whole “religions vs gay” thing…as far as I know, the mainstream christian dogma is that we’re all sinners,

    To play devil’s advocate I imagine the theists might respond by saying that only in cases like gay sex and abortion do people who disobey God’s laws claim they are acting moral and have a right to do so.

    But IMO the real reason lies in looking at the roots of religion. One thing religion does is help humans identify in-groups and out-groups. In fact, at least according to some people like anthropologist Scott Atran, one of the reasons that religious practices often are so bizarre is that only by making extreme and counter intuitive displays (like mutilating their penis or other bodily parts… ouch) can people clearly show their commitment to being part of the in-group.

    Sexual identity is one of the major ways humans get their own personal identity so it seems logical that identifying people who have alternative sexual practices is an obvious choice for an out-group that can be hated and can unite the in-group.

    • In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

      In reply to #7 by JoxerTheMighty:

      But IMO the real reason lies in looking at the roots of religion. One thing religion does is help humans identify in-groups and out-groups. In fact, at least according to some people like anthropologist Scott Atran, one of the reasons that religious practices often are so bizarre is that only by making extreme and counter intuitive displays (like mutilating their penis or other bodily parts… ouch) can people clearly show their commitment to being part of the in-group.

      Speaking of bizarre, especially in light of the above tragedy, with all that Scott Atran knows after all his study of religion it is truly flabbergasting that he came out with this gem of a proclamation “I think religion is basically a neutral vessel… and there is nothing intrinsic about religion for the good or for the bad.” 3 minutes into his talk at the Beyond Belief 2007 Conference, “Enlightenment 2.0.”

      If what happened to Damien Christie is not a clear cut example as something intrinsic about religion for the bad I don’t know what is.

      • In reply to #10 by godsbuster:

        In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #7 by JoxerTheMighty:

        But IMO the real reason lies in looking at the roots of religion. One thing religion does is help humans identify in-groups and out-groups. In fact, at least according to some people like anthropologist Scott Atran, one of the reasons that religious practices often are so bizarre is that only by making extreme and counter intuitive displays (like mutilating their penis or other bodily parts… ouch) can people clearly show their commitment to being part of the in-group.

        Speaking of bizarre, especially in light of the above tragedy, with all that Scott Atran knows after all his study of religion it is truly flabbergasting that he came out with this gem of a proclamation “I think religion is basically a neutral vessel… and there is nothing intrinsic about religion for the good or for the bad.” 3 minutes into his talk at the Beyond Belief 2007 Conference, “Enlightenment 2.0.”

        If what happened to Damien Christie is not a clear cut example as something intrinsic about religion for the bad I don’t know what is.

        What he means is that religion per se is neither intrinsically good nor bad. That doesn’t mean people can’t do very bad things in the name of religion. And one example of a terrible thing done in the name of religion doesn’t prove that religion is intrinsically bad any more than one example of someone doing something good in the name of religion proves its intrinsically good. I agree what happened to Christie was terrible and religion is to blame. But there are also many cases — Martin Luther King for example — of people who do very brave and noble things in the name of religion.

      • S. Atran may have a point that a religion could be neutral or entirely beneficial. It’s like you could win the lottery, but won’t. That a religion has teachings that don’t conflict with evidence will only happen by chance, and even if that did happen for some isolated tribe for some stretch of time, there is an even lower chance that such teachings are going to avoid conflicts with new facts as new facts are found.

        You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but to keep fooling a large number of people over a large span of time, it takes religion.

        In reply to #10 by godsbuster:

        In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #7 by JoxerTheMighty:

        But IMO the real reason lies in looking at the roots of religion. One thing religion does is help humans identify in-groups and out-groups. In fact, at least according to some people like anthropologist Scott Atran, one of the reasons that religious practices often are so bizarre is that only by making extreme and counter intuitive displays (like mutilating their penis or other bodily parts… ouch) can people clearly show their commitment to being part of the in-group.

        Speaking of bizarre, especially in light of the above tragedy, with all that Scott Atran knows after all his study of religion it is truly flabbergasting that he came out with this gem of a proclamation “I think religion is basically a neutral vessel… and there is nothing intrinsic about religion for the good or for the bad.” 3 minutes into his talk at the Beyond Belief 2007 Conference, “Enlightenment 2.0.”

        If what happened to Damien Christie is not a clear cut example as something intrinsic about religion for the bad I don’t know what is.

        • In reply to #15 by Quine:

          S. Atran may have a point that a religion could be neutral or entirely beneficial. It’s like you could win the lottery, but won’t. That a religion has teachings that don’t conflict with evidence will only happen by chance, and even if that did happen for some isolated tribe for some stretch of time, there is an even lower chance that such teachings are going to avoid conflicts with new facts as new facts are found.

          Atran would disagree with most of what you said. To begin with his theory about religion is that it does have to be counter-intuitive and involve counterfactual claims. Its part of his theory as to how religious ideas gain traction in human minds. If you could find an example of a tribe somewhere that had reigious beliefs that weren’t supernatural it would be evidence against his theory of religion. But I doubt such tribes exist. His work is based on anthropology and he’s studied many different ones and never found one.

          His point is that religion can have good or bad effects. It can bring people together. It can make them more likely to follow social norms. It can also be evil. As much as it unites people it does it by uniting them against out-group people of different religions. As much as it can cause people to follow social norms it can also inspire ridiculous and antiquated norms because its not grounded in reason.

          For him religion is something to explain scientifically and as a good scientist it doesn’t work well to approach your subject with a built in bias that it is nothing but evil.

          • Red Dog, I don’t think your reply is about what I wrote. I agree with most of what S. Atran says on the subject and did not call him out as in error. It is simply that what he says about what religion did for (or against) our ancestors does not inform us about what we should do about religion now. It does show the effectiveness of specific techniques religion uses to keep itself going, and from a marketing standpoint, yes, there is much to learn. That was then, and this is now when we have critical thinking and the Scientific Method to sort things out.

            We hear the faithful tell us things like “I believe it because it is so unbelievable.” I have no problem with the idea that being counter-intuitive is an asset to religion; just look at what it does for homeopathy. But no amount of how people are comforted by the counter-intuitive nature of homeopathy is going to make it cure cancer or AIDS, a fact that continues to erode the effectiveness of passing the faith on to the next generation. The same is true for the failure of “curing the gay” which is the subject of this article.

            In reply to #16 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #15 by Quine:

            S. Atran may have a point that a religion could be neutral or entirely beneficial. It’s like you could win the lottery, but won’t. That a religion has teachings that don’t conflict with evidence will only happen by chance, and even if that did happen for some isolated tribe for some stretch of time, there is an even lower chance that such teachings are going to avoid conflicts with new facts as new facts are found.

            Atran would disagree with most of what you said. To begin with his theory about religion is that it does have to be counter-intuitive and involve counterfactual claims. Its part of his theory as to how religious ideas gain traction in human minds. If you could find an example of a tribe somewhere that had reigious beliefs that weren’t supernatural it would be evidence against his theory of religion. But I doubt such tribes exist. His work is based on anthropology and he’s studied many different ones and never found one.

            His point is that religion can have good or bad effects. It can bring people together. It can make them more likely to follow social norms. It can also be evil. As much as it unites people it does it by uniting them against out-group people of different religions. As much as it can cause people to follow social norms it can also inspire ridiculous and antiquated norms because its not grounded in reason.

            For him religion is something to explain scientifically and as a good scientist it doesn’t work well to approach your subject with a built in bias that it is nothing but evil.

          • In reply to #20 by Quine:

            Red Dog, I don’t think your reply is about what I wrote. I agree with most of what S. Atran says on the subject and did not call him out as in error.

            In your original comment you said

            “That a religion has teachings that don’t conflict with evidence will only happen by chance, and even if that did happen for some isolated tribe for some stretch of time, there is an even lower chance that such teachings are going to avoid conflicts with new facts as new facts are found.”

            I thought you were saying that in response to what I said about Atran’s theory of religion. My reply was to say that your comment was not consistent with his theory. His theory predicts that religions must be counter-factual and if you could find a religion that contradicts that it would count as evidence against his theory. He does not think that its “only by chance” you will find a religion that doesn’t conflict with common sense he thinks its a very important distinguishing feature of religions that they DO ALWAYS in some way violate common sense and empiricism.

            It is simply that what he says about what religion did for (or against) our ancestors does not inform us about what we should do about religion now.

            I don’t completely agree. I do agree that Atran for the most part just tries to avoid the usual polemics about religion and focuses more on actual scientific analysis of it. Its one of the reasons I find him so much more interesting to read than people like Harris. However, having a scientific understanding of religion very much does have an impact on what we should “do about religion” now. Saying it doesn’t is like saying whether climate change is happening or not is irrelevant to what we should do about our energy policy.

            We hear the faithful tell us things like “I believe it because it is so unbelievable.” I have no problem with the idea that being counter-intuitive is an asset to religion;… The same is true for the failure of “curing the gay” which is the subject of this article.

            If you are saying that I’m taking the thread off topic by talking about Atran I suggest you look more carefully at the thread of comments. My initial comment was precisely about the article. Someone asked why do religious people feel so hateful to gays since they are supposed to hate the sin but love the sinner. My initial point was that such hatred is quite consistent with Atran’s theory of religion. That an important (not saying its good or bad) aspect of religion is that it helps identify in-groups and out-groups and being gay is a classic example of an out-group that the in-group can unite by attacking and degrading. Then someone bristled at the name Atran because Atran doesn’t conform to the PC standards of the New Atheists. He doesn’t spend his time repeating endlessly that religion is stupid. I would actually love to have a conversation with Atran about this some day because I think the way he regularly draws attack is also quite consitent with his theory. The worst kind of an out-group are the ones who are almost in the in-group but then do something that violates the in-group dogma. The Sunni Muslims tend to hate the Shia even more so than they hate the west and vice versa. Atran is a new atheist apostate because a lot of what he says supports the ideas of the new atheists, he believes in reason and he has many examples of the crazy things religion inspires people to do. But unlike most of you that post here he would rather continue to look at religion objectively rather than villify it. That makes him part of the out-group relative to the new atheist in-group.

  8. Surely, the best way to “cure” the world of homosexuality is to ban heterosexual sex, given that 99.9% (give or take the occasional test-tube baby) of gays are the product of male/female sex!

  9. we all deserve Hell, no good or bad deed can save or condemn us, and the only thing that matters is whether a person confesses his faith that Jesus is god, his personal saviour, and that he was crucified to atone for the sins of humans. Am I wrong in this? With that thinking, even if gay sex is a sin, it’s a sin among million other sins which, according always to the church, can be wiped out only by faith in christ and not by any amount of “good deeds”.

    Yes, there does seem to be certain “sins” that are more repulsive than others. Considering the pervasiveness of child abuse, I think homosexuality probably ranks higher in their view of offensiveness. It seems as if the religious focus more on other people’s genitals and reproductive health. They claim to be loving but don’t realize that their sugar coated intolerance is a big masquerade.

  10. “Now I know why god didn’t fix Bobby, it’s because there was nothing to fix

    A line from a guilt ridden mother in ‘Prayers for Bobby’.

    Good to see hot line numbers at end of article. Don’t know if u.s. has this.

    Damien Christie, I’m so sorry this happened – you look like a caring, cool guy.

  11. Instead of blaming themselves Gay Christians should start holding their religion and its claims to account as I did when I was dragged through an evangelcial church in my teenage years. If you are an evangelical and regard the bible as the inerrant word of god certain things follow inevitably e.g. the ability of christian to perform miracles is explicitly stated in the New Testament in multiple places. The bible claims christians should be able to raise the dead and heal the sick, that if any two come together and pray about one thing it will surely come to pass… the fact they were impotent in regards to my homosexuality showed me their entire belief system was a massive lie.

    If christians are supposed to be able to resurrect people changing my sexuality should have been piss easy. I refused to blame myself for what was obviously a failure to live up to the hype on my churches part. When jesus supposedly healed lepers etc he didn’t tell them to goto the Synagogue every saturday for the next ten years and pray and hopefully by the end of that time they would be cured… no the miracles were instant. I do not regard being told to run to the bible every time one is tempted by the devil as in any way miraculous, its just denial.

    At what point in short would it be ok for gay like me to say to evangelicals and their imaginary frioend, put up or shut up!

    If any gay Christians read this stop blaming yourself and tell your pastor, priest or whatever to perform a miracle as the bible says they can or be revealed as just another arrogant fantasist who fails to hold their own belief system to the same standards of proof they expect of every else and regards the bible as inerrant while reality, in the form of our sexuality, is frequently in error.

    • In reply to #13 by Typhon:

      Instead of blaming themselves Gay Christians should start holding their religion and its claims to account as I did when I was dragged through an evangelcial church in my teenage years. If you are an evangelical and regard the bible as the inerrant word of god certain things follow inevitably e.g. the ability of christian to perform miracles is explicitly stated in the New Testament in multiple places. The bible claims christians should be able to raise the dead and heal the sick, that if any two come together and pray about one thing it will surely come to pass… the fact they were impotent in regards to my homosexuality showed me their entire belief system was a massive lie.If christians are supposed to be able to resurrect people changing my sexuality should have been piss easy. I refused to blame myself for what was obviously a failure to live up to the hype on my churches part. When jesus supposedly healed lepers etc he didn’t tell them to goto the Synagogue every saturday for the next ten years and pray and hopefully by the end of that time they would be cured… no the miracles were instant. I do not regard being told to run to the bible every time one is tempted by the devil as in any way miraculous, its just denial.At what point in short would it be ok for gay like me to say to evangelicals and their imaginary frioend, put up or shut up!If any gay Christians read this stop blaming yourself and tell your pastor, priest or whatever to perform a miracle as the bible says they can or be revealed as just another arrogant fantasist who fails to hold their own belief system to the same standards of proof they expect of every else and regards the bible as inerrant while reality, in the form of our sexuality, is frequently in error.

      Well said. And well done! If more people within the ranks of the evangelical movement stood up and questioned the guff they were being fed from their pastors and peers then these churches would unravel and die quite quickly. There are signs this is what is happening to the Westboro Baptist Church for example – and there is no greater anti-gay church than that.

  12. one thing that’s always puzzled me about religious gay people who come out to themselves and society: they don’t abandon their faith; the faith of the oppressor or abuser. it’s a little parallel to scientists who still “believe”.

    • In reply to #17 by Net:

      one thing that’s always puzzled me about religious gay people who come out to themselves and society: they don’t abandon their faith; the faith of the oppressor or abuser. it’s a little parallel to scientists who still “believe”.

      Not all churches are homophobic.

  13. Let’s not forget that Lord Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury, supported a Christian counsellor who was kicked out of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists for being caught peddling her snake oil cures to gay men.

  14. When I was a teen I planned to kill myself by tying rocks to my legs with coat hangers and lowering myself into the icy Deeks lake if I could not become straight by my 21st birthday. And I was not even Christian — just influenced by the attitude of Christians around me who did not even know I was gay.

    Thankfully hormones had more sense that I did, and I decided I would sooner have sex than die. Some 6 months later when I finally met some gay people, I discovered everything I had been told was a lie, and I set about setting the record straight.

    I have met thousands of gay people in my life. I have never met anyone who was able to change their orientation by an act of will. There are people who get married later in life, basically tired of the hassle, when sex is not as important, craving respectability, a family etc.

    Ask the Christian, “who do you think the sexiest person in the world is?” “Who is someone for whom you have zero attraction?” Now, by an act of will flip your evaluations. You can’t do it without lying.

  15. Red Dog comment 23

    Then someone bristled at the name Atran because Atran doesn’t conform to the PC standards of the New Atheists. He doesn’t spend his time repeating endlessly that religion is stupid. I would actually love to have a conversation with Atran about this some day because I think the way he regularly draws attack is also quite consitent with his theory. The worst kind of an out-group are the ones who are almost in the in-group but then do something that violates the in-group dogma. The Sunni Muslims tend to hate the Shia even more so than they hate the west and vice versa. Atran is a new atheist apostate because a lot of what he says supports the ideas of the new atheists, he believes in reason and he has many examples of the crazy things religion inspires people to do. But unlike most of you that post here he would rather continue to look at religion objectively rather than villify it. That makes him part of the out-group relative to the new atheist in-group.

    Which also makes him rational, logical, realistic and far more reasonable than many in the new atheist in group. That is a view which would place him far more firmly in mainstream atheism as well. I don’t know who he is but he sounds far more enlightened than the higher profile ones who now refuse to look objectively at anything and are starting to attract criticisms from those who should be their natural allies. And I’d say he’d be far more likely to effect changes in religious belief.

    • In reply to #26 by atheistengineer:

      Red Dog comment 23

      Then someone bristled at the name Atran because Atran doesn’t conform to the PC standards of the New Atheists. He doesn’t spend his time repeating endlessly that religion is stupid. I would actually love to have a conversation with Atran about this some day because I think the way he regularly draws attack is also quite consitent with his theory. The worst kind of an out-group are the ones who are almost in the in-group but then do something that violates the in-group dogma. The Sunni Muslims tend to hate the Shia even more so than they hate the west and vice versa. Atran is a new atheist apostate because a lot of what he says supports the ideas of the new atheists, he believes in reason and he has many examples of the crazy things religion inspires people to do. But unlike most of you that post here he would rather continue to look at religion objectively rather than villify it. That makes him part of the out-group relative to the new atheist in-group.

      Which also makes him rational, logical, realistic and far more reasonable than many in the new atheist in group. That is a view which would place him far more firmly in mainstream atheism as well. I don’t know who he is but he sounds far more enlightened than the higher profile ones who now refuse to look objectively at anything and are starting to attract criticisms from those who should be their natural allies. And I’d say he’d be far more likely to effect changes in religious belief.

      Are the new atheists grossly remiss in trivializing or not acknowledging non-religious factors when assessing the causes of suicide or other forms of terrorism? Obviously. However, meanwhile, that does not make Scott Atran any less of a B, if not C list intellectual who attempts to boost his stature by maneuvering to be mentioned in the same breath as the big names by spuriously attacking them. His Wikipedia page (available in 3 languages – compare to Harris 29, Hitchens 42, Dawkins 71) is prefaced by the following announcement:

      “This article has multiple issues.
      This biographical article needs additional citations for verification.
      This biographical article relies on references to primary sources.
      The topic of this article may not meet Wikipedia’s general notability guideline”

      Atran furthermore labors under the illusion that anthropology or the social sciences in general share the methodological rigor and legitimacy of the hard sciences. “Trekking with mujahideen”, for example, is an activity that he misses no opportunity to ostentate as his badge of expertise along with pedantically pronouncing the Arabic.

      With his spittle spewing axe grinding review of Harris’ book The Moral Landscape, Atran
      discredits himself further. A pity really because the new atheists are in dire need of someone of repute to make them read their Chomsky.

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