Cape Town, South Africa [ANN]. Family dysfunction, 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 California.
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” reparative therapy.
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 tend to 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.”