The story of the Human Empathy Project is a mystery, suspense, drama, action-adventure, and love story, all rolled into one. I like things I can observe and study, things like our brains and bodies, health and wellness. That doesn’t always leave much room for the unexplainable. But one Fall day in 2012, something happened to me that I couldn't explain and it came as a total surprise. As a Christian person, I'd always been taught that gay love was harmful and that prayer and therapy could help a gay person either:
Change their sexual attractions
Find contentment marrying the opposite gender
The more I researched and worked in the field of mental health and psychology, the more I came to see these theories of SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts) don't actually lead to health and wellness for LGB persons. Very few people report being helped by reparative therapy, and many exhibit serious mental, physical, psychological, relational, and spiritual impairment as a result of these efforts.
“I have faith that God can heal, and often does, from addiction, illness, and brokenness.”
Of those who try reparative therapy and seem to be thriving, they may be bisexual and genuinely fall in love with someone of the opposite gender, or they may be blessed with a sincere spiritual call to celibacy - a gift not everyone is given (1 Cor 7; Matt 19).
I've seen faith bring healing from addiction, illness, brokenness, but sexual orientation change efforts don't appear to follow that pattern consistently. The American Psychology Association has compiled a summary of the outcome studies of reparative therapy, its ineffectiveness at producing lasting, positive change, and the risk factors associated with nonaffirming therapy.
When treated with affirmation, then loving, committed, gay couples and families demonstrate improved health, wellness, psychological adjustment (e.g. Patterson, 2000, etc). This finding can seem confusing for someone raised with traditional evangelical Christian views.
“Something unexpected happened."
In the New Testament, there's a story in Acts where Peter's on a roof and God drops down a sheet with pictures of things that Peter had been taught were “unclean”. And God essentially says, “Do not call unholy what God has cleansed." And for me, this moment struck when I was sitting in a large auditorium and something unexpected happened. The change wasn’t something I anticipated. I was sitting on the back row, listening to a story I’d heard a hundred times before, where a brave young professional was sharing the traumatic experience of coming out to her Christian parents and grandparents. In that moment, on that particular day, for some reason, I heard the pain and it was as if God was speaking to me, saying "Do not call unholy what I have called clean". That might make zero sense to you, but for someone Biblically trained, that's a powerful message I knew better than to ignore. I felt responsible to do something, to act on what I'd heard (or felt, sensed, experienced).
Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash
I left that auditorium changed. I felt compelled to learn everything I could about this complex situation; I saw it as a bind between what we understood the Bible to say about sexual ethics, what leads to human health and wellness, and what we're finding in actual studies of human life and love and relationships. I spent the next several years diving back into the scriptures in their original languages of koine Greek and Hebrew, the historic context of the Old and New Testament, the scientific findings about gender development, love, and bonding, the health and wellness of gay Christians, etc. And I began conducting my own doctoral research to understand all the intricacies of this bind and how Christians resolve it.
I'm still learning through conversations with people just like you. Thanks for visiting thehumanempathyproject.com and please stay a bit and explore our stories and resources. Use our contact page to reach out with your own comments, questions, or insights. We welcome them.
Gena Minnix, Ph.D. is a theological educator, counselor and researcher specializing in the integration of theology and psychology. She teaches at the Seminary of the Southwest, and serves with her husband at an Evangelical Covenant Church in Austin, TX.