Bob Garringer’s most recent attack on homosexuality begins with an appeal to popular opinion: the majority thinks that homosexuality is either a sickness or a sin. He follows this appeal with an expression of righteous indignation: counseling professionals and others are telling the majority that they are wrong. He apparently hopes that the majority will be as affronted at this as he is. But the truth, of course, is that sometimes the majority does get things wrong. When thoughtful professionals offer considered judgments that conflict with the opinions of the majority, we are best served by reflecting carefully on those judgments rather than retreating into indignation or seeking comfort in the fact that the majority agrees with us. It is troubling that Garringer seems to encourage the latter rather than the former.

Garringer is particularly affronted at being called “unloving” and “homophobic” for his views on homosexuality, and invites his readers to feel insulted along with him. Since, in an earlier response to Garringer, I argued that his views were unloving, I feel compelled to say a few more words about this stance. Specifically, there is an important difference between a person being unloving and act being unloving. I know many very loving people who condemn homosexuality. I would never say that these are unloving people. What I believe is that they are unwittingly performing an unloving act.

Garringer has deep convictions, and I think he sincerely believes that he is helping gays and lesbians by telling them that they are sick and sinful and urging them to seek conversion therapy. But I am convinced that his sincere belief is not only mistaken, but dangerously so. I know too many gay and lesbian persons who have been deeply harmed by the rhetoric of “sick and sinful” to believe that this message is anything but unloving in its effect, even if the messenger is loving in his intentions. I know too many gay and lesbian persons who have struggled to change their orientation, who have prayed to God for years to be “made straight”, who have sought help from the few professionals who defy the psychological community’s general opposition to conversion therapy, only to throw up their hands in despair, in the end as gay as they ever were. I’ve heard too many stories of gays and lesbians, convinced that Garringer and those like him are correct, trying to defy their sexuality and live in heterosexual marriages. Often for years, they live a lie, pretending an intimacy that they don’t feel. But marriages cannot be built on a lie.

I do not claim that no one who has tried to change their sexuality has ever succeeded. Perhaps some do. But the clear consensus of behavioral scientists is that, for the majority gays and lesbians, even the most sustained efforts at changing sexual orientation are likely to fail. For that majority, the rhetoric of “sick and sinful” is nothing less than a path to brokenness.

Those damaged by this rhetoric can reach for wholeness only once they can accept that their sexuality is not evil, only when they stop trying to change or suppress their sexuality and instead begin to look for responsible and loving ways to express it. For most gays and lesbians, finding such responsible expression is hard precisely because our society has cut them off from the primary model of responsible sexuality, which Garringer rightly notes is nothing less than marriage. Denied the social supports of marriage and publicly witnessed marriage vows, too many same-sex couples fall prey to the forces that would break them apart. This practice of exclusion is what I think is unloving, even if the persons who endorse the practice mean well.

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