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Christianity, Dating Mating Sex and Reproduction

Christianity and Therapy

Over the weekend, I attended a two day workshop for clinical therapists on the topic of sex and sexuality.  There was one incident that got me thinking very seriously about the negative impact of popular Christian beliefs on American culture.

A great deal of the material dealt with breaking down the cultural myth of two sexes, and of gender being equal to sex.   There was a lot of discussion of various problems, both cultural and interpersonal, experienced by homosexuals and bisexuals.

Now, let me make something abundantly clear.  The traditional Christian view of human sexuality is dead wrong. Recent scientific discoveries have made it abundantly clear that gender and sex are separate, and that homosexuality, bisexuality, intersexuality, and trans-sexuality are all normal parts of nature, and perfectly healthy.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay.

Having said that, I should also point out that it is part of the code of ethics in most states for therapists not to discriminate against anyone based on religious beliefs.  That is, either the patient’s or the therapists.  In other words, therapists have an ethical obligation to keep their religious views to themselves and practice therapy based on science.  Keep all of this in mind as I tell you this story.

One lady, who had already taken pains to let us know that she was Southern Baptist, asked a question during one of the discussions of helping homosexuals with sexual issues in relationships.  She wanted to know how she, as a Christian, could help a homosexual who had been referred to her by the church for therapy to become straight.  (This is known as restorative therapy, by the way.  It’s neither restorative, nor is it therapy.)  The clinician said very matter-of-factly that she should refer them to another therapist.

That was the correct answer.  Of course, it wasn’t satisfactory, and nobody in the room expected the lady to just accept it and change her mind about being a bigot.  But she didn’t just sulk in her disagreement.  She preached.  For a good ten minutes.  She was angry.  She yelled at us for our intolerance of her beliefs.  She berated us for giving preferential treatment to the gay therapist in the room.  She wouldn’t let anyone, including the clinician, finish a sentence.  For ten minutes.

After the group finally got her to stop, and convinced her that we had not paid our good money to listen to her preach, she said, “I think maybe this isn’t the right place for me.”  The clinician, who was doing an admirable job of remaining calm and rational, told her that if she was just here to preach, it was not the place for her, but that she was welcome if she was willing to at least entertain the ideas presented without trying to impose her own doctrine.  She packed her bags and left.

This led to a prolonged discussion of ethics.  Luckily, there was a lady there who had served on ethics review boards, and she told us that this kind of complaint is very common.  Therapists use the church and their beliefs to try to impose their religious views on clients who are hurting and want to feel better.   And in the process, they tell them demonstrably false things about human sexuality, and give them demonstrably harmful advice.  We talked about clients who had killed themselves after being told that their homosexuality was wrong.

I don’t want to belabor the point, but sexuality is one of the most core parts of our identity.  Science (and simple observation of more tolerant cultures) has proven that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality.  Christians who use the guise of science to try to peddle their incorrect dogma are doing a huge injustice to vulnerable people.  They are causing people to kill themselves out of feelings of hopelessness that they will ever be “normal.”

I feel really bad for that woman as well as her patients.  I believe she truly wants to help people.  She didn’t become a therapist to try to get people to hang themselves because they’re gay.  She believes deeply and truly that all of science is wrong, and that she alone carries the light of truth.  She thinks she’s helping.  And it makes her mad that us horrible science-loving hippie love-everyone types are destroying the world she’s trying so hard to save.

But she had to leave.  She couldn’t even stand the thought of treating gays as equal to straights.  She couldn’t even entertain the idea that it’s fine to just let people be who they are.  She can’t accept the evidence — the mountains and mountains of evidence — that sexual preference and desire are largely set in utero.  And she won’t be referring her gay clients to a therapist that would actually be able to help them.  She’ll continue to advise them to pray the gay away and pretend to be straight.

And that, gentle readers, is why I do what I do.  That’s why I’m not just letting religious people have their beliefs without challenge.  Because their beliefs are causing real suffering.  They’re causing good, loving people to do hateful, harmful things while believing that they’re doing good.  And I want a world where good loving people do good, helpful things.



10 thoughts on “Christianity and Therapy

  1. Right on. please , go head to head toe to toe.. ya need back up … give me a shout.

    Posted by Wall Dodger | November 2, 2010, 4:55 pm
  2. I doubt there are very many Christians who are intentionally trying to harm people. They think they are helping them.

    The biggest problem I have with religion is how it makes some view (and act as though) religious beliefs more important than people. I think, though, that this is what Christianity teaches. That what people believe is more important than how you treat them.

    Posted by J. Quinton | November 2, 2010, 4:56 pm
  3. I think clinical psychology is the field most filled with quackery in all of science. Sadly it’s also the most important.

    If a physicist were to use pseudoscience in his view of string theory, then it’s unlikely that someone will hang themselves, however, if a clinical psychologist does, the consequences are much more dire.

    The slue of self help books, by quacks that use new age science [such as crystal healing or “channelling the spirits”] or quacks that use more Earthly nonsense [such as NLP or memory regression] are rather alarming.

    People seem to want a “get better quick” method, but there is no “get better quick” method.

    I think the majority of therapists need therapy.

    Posted by cptpineapple | November 2, 2010, 5:00 pm
  4. Alison, I’m not entirely sure if you’re making a point, but I agree with most of what you say. Part of the reason clinical psychology is so quackery-filled is that it does not take a stand on the inclusion of non-scientific methodology. This is largely due to the reluctance of the movers and shakers to directly confront either religion or pseudoscience, thus alienating a huge part of the general public.

    Therein lies the problem. In order to help people, the people have to come to you for help. But if the industry as a whole has said, “Hey, you religious people are wrong,” then they’re very unlikely to come for help. But if you haven’t taken a stand against the religious beliefs, then you’ve implicitly allowed therapists to continue to use them. It’s a vicious circle.

    And yes, it’s a well known truism (and a joke among therapists) that people become therapists to try to fix themselves. Ironic, isn’t it? But the truth is that most often, the people who are best able to do therapy and help people are the ones who genuinely understand what it’s like to overcome a problem, so it’s not as bad as it might seem if you just say, “Yeah, therapists need therapy.”

    Posted by hambydammit | November 2, 2010, 5:22 pm
  5. Me and my partner thank you for bringing attention to this issue. We sometimes take it for granted that many people probably don’t know of these programs and therapists the way we do.

    Posted by mkandefer | November 2, 2010, 5:24 pm
  6. By that standard we can probably generalize further and say that medicine is prone to pseudoscience. I think this is mostly due to a fallacious form of reasoning that goes as follows:

    “I have experienced X, ergo I’m an expert on X.”

    We all have bodies and presume we can be experts on their care.

    Posted by mkandefer | November 2, 2010, 6:10 pm
  7. Heh… If you mean medicine in the same way that I speak of science. That is, that medicine is the practice of healing and preventing illness, regardless of having a degree or not. In that case, I agree. But I have found that in general, medical professionals are pretty immune to quack therapies and pseudoscience. They are very beholden to the pharmaceutical industry as well, which might make them even more opposed to non-traditional medical approaches than is scientifically warranted.

    Posted by hambydammit | November 2, 2010, 7:37 pm
  8. I just meant what lay people may call “medicine”, which includes the alternative kind, and not a proven safe and effective treatment for some ailment.

    Posted by mkandefer | November 2, 2010, 10:13 pm
  9. Hi, Folks.
    I REALLY like(?) the way some of the comments above seem to totally dismiss ‘alternative’ therapies, seemingly without ANY investigation. I have been helping people deal with emotional pain, either relieving it or totally releasing it, using alternative therapies for over 25 years now. I once used these therapies to help a lady who had taught psychology at a highly respected university to deal with some issues in her life. After I had taken her through the treatments – which took something UNDER TEN MINUTES – she said that she was amazed at how quick AND effective the treatments were. I replied, “But you won’t find them in any psychology text books, will you?”

    She responded, “No, but you damned well should.”

    I just keep on doing what I do and people keep on finding relief or release and the REAL beauty of these treatments is that I don’t even need to know anything about the issue with which the person is dealing. They can keep their privacy.

    The old adage, “The only way out of the pain is through it,” is NOT necessarily true.

    Just my 0.02.

    You all have a wonderful day.
    Best wishes.
    Deas Plant.

    Posted by Deas Plant. | January 15, 2013, 9:41 am

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