Thursday, March 7, 2019

Seeking miracles and Michael Brown's obsession with gay people

Image: YouTube
Thursday, between kneading bagel dough and other pastimes I received an email from Restored Hope Network. The missive is titled: Appeal From Dr. Brown and the appeal is for donations to Restored Hope Network.

Restored Hope Network is one of the successors to Exodus International which ceased operation in 2012. Exodus' president, Alan Chambers, who just the prior year was named “Daniel of the Year” by World Magazine for his stance on Christian issues, stated that conversion therapy does not work and is harmful. Seven years later, conversion therapy still does not work and is still harmful.

Conversion therapy is used as pretext to support prejudice and discrimination. Michael Brown is more specific in his support of the discredited practice:
You see, if there is such a thing as “ex-gay,” if it is really possible for someone to leave homosexuality behind, if a person can truly overcome their same-sex desire, if this can happen…

then the whole “innate and immutable” narrative goes out the window. The whole idea that, “I was born this way and I cannot change” argument disappears. And with that, a major foundation for gay activism is undermined. In reality, gay is not the new black.

That’s why the Restored Hope Network is such a threat to the establishment.
Innateness and immutability do not constitute a “narrative.” That represents the overwhelming consensus of science. Nor is it an “argument” to claim that sexual orientation is innate and immutable. If Michael Brown wants to change what constitutes an issue of fact then research published to a respected, peer-reviewed academic journal is required. That research does not exist and that settles the matter. The only threat is to my patience for crackpots.
Miracles:
There is ample proof from twin studies, the fraternal birth order effect and other research that sexual orientation is, at least in part, genetic. Changing someone's chromosomes would require a miracle and I do not believe in miracles. Moreover I will not believe in miracles absent proof of existence.
Children as subjects:
Earlier in the same email, Brown writes this:
All across America, there are thousands of young people struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, yet in state after state (including New York and California), it is illegal for them to get professional help. Illegal!
Let's be clear that some states and municipalities ban juvenile conversion therapy because it lacks scientific support and has the potential to be harmful. However, people are free to obtain religious counseling. The California law, for example, bans mental health providers from administering conversion therapy to minors:
“Mental health provider” means a physician and surgeon specializing in the practice of psychiatry, a psychologist, a psychological assistant, intern, or trainee, a licensed marriage and family therapist, a registered marriage and family therapist, intern, or trainee, a licensed educational psychologist, a credentialed school psychologist, a licensed clinical social worker, an associate clinical social worker, a licensed professional clinical counselor, a registered clinical counselor, intern, or trainee, or any other person designated as a mental health professional under California law or regulation.
Priests and pastors are not included. Not that a clergyman practicing conversion therapy is any less harmful or any more successful but religious practices are protected by the First Amendment.
The larger problem with kids and conversion:
The simple fact is that no young person should be “struggling” with their sexual orientation if they happen to be gay. Parents need to accept the reality of sexual orientation regardless of their religious beliefs. All of us are guilty of selective observation. No matter how pious one claims to be they cannot be 100% compliant with scripture. Such conformity is, in many cases, illegal, immoral and unethical. Fortunately, religious conservatives, at least in North America, don't seem to be whacking insolent children or brides who are not virgins.

Some gay people might be willing to give up marriage and sex in order to conform to religious dogma. Most will not. I suspect (but don't have data) that most gay kids with religious conservative parents are hiding their sexuality. In effect they are forced to live a lie. They live a greater lie if subjected to conversion therapy and are shamed into lying about their sexual orientation. Again, unless or until someone can prove otherwise, it is a scientific fact that conversion therapy is ineffective and possibly harmful.

Yes, we all know about the handful of people who claim to be ex-gay. They all seem to be hyper-religious and they all seem to have an economic interest in claiming to be ex-gay. In 2009, the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation concluded that conversion therapy can enable a gay person to pretend to be straight. That doesn't sound very healthy. To put it another way; if being gay and pretending to be straight doesn't make someone neurotic, nothing will.

Later on, according to Michael Brown:
A message of hope needs to be shouted to the nation. Resources need to be developed and disseminated. Counselors need to be multiplied. Testimonies need to be shared.

But all this costs money, and if there is any area of ministry that is neglected by the Church today, it is this ministry – the ministry of helping the sexually broken; the ministry of helping those with unwanted same-sex attractions; the ministry of helping those confused about their gender identity. Yet what an important ministry this is!
People whose sexuality does not conform to ancient texts are not “sexually broken.” We do not have access yet to the 2017 tax return of Missouri Restored Hope Network (which is now in Colorado Springs). However receipts were $201,218 about double what they took in during 2016. Even in 2016, about 60% went to salaries and on a cash (non-accrual) basis, the remainder went unspent, improving their cash position.
Cynicism:
It is just my opinion but I think that the entire appeal is dishonest. Restored Hope Network was formed to provide a means of funneling “clients” to about 40 affiliates. In other words, the nonprofit purpose is to provide revenues to other nonprofit and for-profit ventures which eventually make their way to personal compensation.
Jesus approved:
Parents are looking for answers. Teens are looking for solutions. Pastors are looking for resources.

And time after time, I point these people to the Restored Hope Network.

If it wasn’t there, I’d be at a loss – and these precious strugglers would be at a loss too.

That’s why I’m appealing to you, as a friend of the Restored Hope Network, to make a significant contribution today. Your generosity will be rewarded, not only in this life, but in the life to come.

Your gift will bring hope and liberty to many. Can we count on you today?
The best answer is for parents and teens to learn about sexual orientation and gender identity and then to accept their sexuality. No real mental health provider is going to offer conversion therapy. If people believe that they can pray away the gay then they are hoping for a miracle.

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