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Using dialogue to resolve people's conflicting LGBT beliefs

Other items: Resistance to change;
prejudice & intolerance; resolution via prayer.

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The term "LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals

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Resistance to change:

Christian faith groups generally develop their beliefs, creeds, policies, etc. from some mixture of the following seven sources:

  1. Individual biblical passages.
  2. Biblical themes.
  3. Actions by religious leaders in the Bible.
  4. The denomination's historical traditions.
  5. Continuing revelation by the Holy Spirit.
  6. Scientific findings, surveys, etc.
  7. Personal experience.
  8. Their group's culture and world view(s).

Religions other than Christianity typically have their own holy books in place of the Bible to which they refer.

Conservative wings of most religions tend to emphasize the first five sources; liberal and progressive wings tend to give much greater emphasis to sources 6 and 7:

  • The views of conservative Christians and Jews: Many, perhaps most, conservatives are extremely confident that their beliefs are correct. Part of their certainty is derived from a literal interpretation of the direct Word of God which they consider to be inerrant. In the case of same-gender sexual behavior, the "clobber" passages from the Hebrew Scriptures -- and in the case of Christians, the Christian scriptures as well -- are considered of greatest importance. For example, they interpret:

    • Moses, in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 as clearly condemning all same-gender sexual activity.

    • Paul, inspired by God, described in 1 Corinthians 6:11 that homosexuals will see their abnormal, unnatural sexual desires evaporate once she or he becomes saved. They will become heterosexuals.

Conservatives are very resistant to change. In 16.5 years of answering E-mails to this web site, we do not recall having been able to change the belief of a single conservative about even one item related to homosexuality.

  • The views of liberal or progressive Christians and Jews: Many, perhaps most, are also extremely confident that their beliefs are correct, partly because of the hard data from replicated human sexuality and genetic studies. For example:

    • Studies done on identical twin males who were separated at birth and raised apart from each other showed that when one is gay, the other is probably gay as well. This establishes that male homosexuality has a genetic root cause. If it were purely caused by environmental factors, like abuse or poor parenting, then only about 5% of the other twins would also be gay.

    • Studies of reparative therapy have shown that sexual orientation in adults is fixed in all or almost all cases.

      Behavior can be changed:
      • If sufficiently motivated, many lesbians and gays can decide to remain celibate.
      • Persons with a bisexual orientation can decide to restrict their relationships to the opposite gender.

    But one's sexual orientation remains unchanged. Professional associations of psychiatrists and psychologists are convinced that chances of altering one's orientation through prayer,  reparative therapy or other counseling methods is miniscule or zero.

Liberals and progressives are very resistant to change. In 16.5 years of answering E-mails to this web site, we have not been able to change the belief of a single liberal about even one item related to homosexuality.

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Prejudice and intolerance:

Some commentators have suggested that religious and social conservatives are prejudiced against gays, lesbians and bisexuals because they are in favor of discriminating against them.  Whether this is so depends upon one's beliefs about homosexuality.

If one sincerely believes that homosexuality is:

  • A mental illness,
  • A disorder that can be cured through reparative therapy and/or prayer,
  • Dysfunctional, and leads to emotional and physical problems,
  • Sinful, immoral, and prohibited by God,
  • Condemned in the Bible and in the holy books of other religions, and
  • A behavior that will cause the individual to spend eternity being tortured in Hell,

then it could be argued that one's stance in opposition to homosexual rights is based on a loving, caring response to homosexuals and a desire to see them cured. It is not based on hatred, prejudice or a desire to oppress them.

A logical development from these beliefs is that Conservatives have a duty, as an act of love, to persuade homosexuals to leave the "gay lifestyle." To do otherwise is to withhold vital information from gays and lesbians.

Bob Knight, a spokesperson from the Family Research Council, said that what some call "intolerance," the Bible calls "truth." He continued:

"It's disturbing to see so-called religious leaders tell pastors that they cannot be clear and Biblical because someone may misinterpret it and do something bad. ... If you stop telling the truth, you stop loving people and treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve. They deserve the truth." He concluded: "These groups are saying, 'If you stand for sexual morality, you're, in fact, a hater.' And that's a pretty hateful thing to say." 1

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Can differences be resolved through prayer?

Clergy frequently suggest that Christians resolve conflicts through prayer. If a liberal and conservative have conflicting views on LGBT topics, or disagree about how to react to LGBTs, then one might consider seeking God's will through prayer. This would be a simple solution to the conflict. The two individuals or groups with opposing beliefs need only pray to God to assess his will. Then both or all sides would agree to implement God's wishes.

Unfortunately, this does not seem to work in practice:

  • We have received numerous E-mails from very confused visitors to our web site whose marriages are in difficulty. Both spouses have prayed to God to assess his will. Both feel that they received a definite response. But one spouse sincerely believed that God was telling them to attempt an amicable separation, while the other suggested that they stay together and work harder on the relationship.

  • Numerous mainline Protestant denominations have developed an internal conflict over a matter of doctrine. The obvious solution to the dispute would be to have representatives from each side pray to God to determine which side, if any, is correct. Then the entire denomination could agree with God's truth. Some believe that precisely this process worked at the 1988 General Council of the United Church of Canada. A survey had shown that only 28% of the church membership at that time agreed that a non-celibate homosexual should be eligible for ordination. But at the General Council meeting, after lengthy prayerful consideration, many of the approximately 200 clergy, 200 lay members and 5 representatives from the denominational headquarters changed their mind. The majority of delegates voted in favor of considering sexually active homosexual candidates for ordination.

    Such a phenomenon appears to be extremely rare. Some mainline denominations in the U.S. have been debating whether to allow homosexual ordination and the ritual blessing of same-sex committed couples for decades without any significant resolution. It may have happened in this case because a number of life-long members of the United Church were allowed to give their personal testimonies. Their pain at being rejected by their church home swayed the delegates.

  • We conducted a pilot study to determine if people can assess the will of God through prayer. Seventy-five volunteers recorded their initial belief about same-sex marriage (SSM). They then prayed to God to assess his will. They kept on praying until they believed that they had received a definitive answer, or until it was obvious that no answer was forthcoming. Of the 75 subjects who participated, 50 believed that they had assessed the will of God. Almost all of the 50 were certain or very sure that they had received an answer. The results were surprising:

    • All of the subjects who personally favored SSM before praying about the question found that God agreed with them; he favored SSM.

    • All of the subjects who were opposed to SSM found that God agreed with them as well; he was not in favor of SSM.

    • God apparently did not disagree with any of the participants' beliefs, even though the latter are in diametrically opposed to each other.

We have concluded that prayer is not a reliable method of assessing the will of God. Religious conservatives and liberals/progressives may have to figure out a solution to this one for ourselves.

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References:

  1. "STOP THE HATE OR STOP THE TRUTH? -- Is opposition to homosexuality hate speech, or just the Truth?" Citizenlink™, Focus on the Family, 1999-OCT-12. Online at: http://www.family.org/

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Copyright © 2003 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-SEP-4
Latest update: 2011-SEP-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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