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Religious Tolerance logo

Reparative therapy:

Does it work? Beliefs of evangelical
Christians and the rest of the public.

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What does the public believe?

There is an enormous difference between the beliefs of conservative Christians and the beliefs of the rest of the public. which include more mainline and progressive Christians, secularists, Humanists, etc:

bullet Among the general public: During the week of 1998-JUL-17, the McLaughlin Group 1 conducted a public opinion poll via the Internet on the effectiveness of "love, understanding and the word of God" in converting a gay or lesbian to heterosexuality. The results are somewhat unreliable, because only those individuals who were sufficiently motivated to take part in the survey responded. The results were:
Age Range Ineffective Effective
Less than 21 87% 13%
21 to 35 96% 4%
36 to 64 93% 7%
Over 64 81% 19%
Overall Results 93% 6%

We expected that persons 65 and older would consider sexual orientation to be unchangeable. Many in that age range reached that conclusion many decades ago before findings of human sexuality researchers about sexual orientation were widely disseminated. We were surprised by the relatively high belief in the changeability of sexual orientation among young people, until we found a survey of beliefs among conservative Christians.

bullet Among conservative Christians: Focus on the Family, a fundamentalist Christian group centered in Colorado, conducted a survey of visitors to their web site. The vast majority of their visitors are believed to be fundamentalist or other evangelical Christians. During 2003-APR, Focus asked their visitors an unusually precise question for such an informal survey: "Is it possible to change sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual? 2

Results were:

Response Percentage
Yes 85%
No 9%
Not sure 6%

On 2010-JAN-29, Bryan Fischer wrote on the American Family Association website -- a fundamentalist Christian advocacy group -- that homosexuals should be forced by the government to enter reparative therapy programs. Within two weeks, eight readers of his article posted comments; the vast majority were negative. 3

Beliefs among conservative Christians appear to be directly opposite of those among the general population. Obviously, one group's beliefs do not correspond to reality.

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God, prayer and reparative therapy:

A common belief among conservative Christians is that God will answer all reasonable prayers from born-again believers. They feel that God frequently answers prayers that ask to cure an illness or disability. These beliefs are supported by passages from the Bible, and with verified claims of cures.

However, we have been unable to find a case where God has answered a prayer to convert a person from one race to another, from one gender to another or from one sexual orientation to another. Some secularists who try to show the ineffectiveness of prayer point out that there has never been a person who has successfully prayed to God to have an amputated limb restored.

Prayer and religious beliefs can apparently help a person:

bullet With a homosexual orientation to remain celibate, even as they remain attracted to members of the same sex.
bullet With a bisexual orientation to confine their relationships to members of the opposite sex.

Ex-gay ministries report a very high percentage of success in these areas. But the percentage of persons with a homosexual orientation who have successfully changed their orientation appears to be much less than 1%, and may be zero.  We personally know many devout gay and lesbian Christians who for decades have begged God to make them heterosexual. Their prayers have never been answered -- at least not in the affirmative. 

Some reasons for this answer might be:

bullet God lacks the power to change a person's sexual orientation. This, of course, is incompatible with the general Christian belief that God is omnipotent and can perform any task.
bullet God sees diversity as beneficial. God may value different sexual orientations, just as he does different races, languages, genders, and perhaps even religions. He expects that heterosexuals, gays, and lesbians will enter into committed, monogamous and supportive same-sex relationships. This belief is held by a growing number of religious liberals.
bullet God makes a certain percentage of people with a homosexual orientation and then expects them to struggle for their entire adult life to remain celibate - longing for love, remaining lonely, and not permitted to achieve personal growth in a committed relationship. This point of view is sometimes called "ambush theology, and is also incompatible with God's generally accepted attributes of love and kindness.
bullet God said no because the prayers were not sincere or because the gay or lesbian had not genuinely accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Thus, she/he was not a born-again Christian. We have seen many references to this belief among conservative Christians.

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References used:

  1. The McLaughlin Group's home page is at: http://www.mclaughlin.com
  2. "Open Hands" (Vol. 2, Number 2, 1986-FALL) Available at http://abacus.oxy.edu/qrd/religion/anti/exgay/
  3. "Christian Ex-gay ministry hosts Chicago conference," Charisma. Online at Maranatha Christian Journal, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/news3280.htm 

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Copyright © 1998 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-MAR-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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