home
RSS
Amid Bachmann controversy, many Christians cool to conversion therapy for gays
Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her husband Marcus, who says his counseling business uses conversion therapy for clients who request it.
July 18th, 2011
11:25 AM ET

Amid Bachmann controversy, many Christians cool to conversion therapy for gays

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - When presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, addressed accusations that his Christian counseling business encourages homosexual clients to try to change their sexual orientation, he appeared to play down the role of so-called conversion therapy at his clinics.

"Is it a remedy form that I typically would use?” Bachmann told Minnesota’s Star Tribune newspaper. “It is at the client's discretion.

"We don't have an agenda or a philosophy of trying to change someone," Bachmann said, noting that such therapy was not a focus of his two clinics.

Michele Bachmann officially quits her church

Bachmann’s seeming ambivalence about conversion therapy - sometimes called reparative therapy - after a week’s worth of news stories that raised questions about whether his clinics promote the practice may illustrate a broader trend in the conservative Christian subculture.

While many evangelicals once viewed conversion therapy as key way to deal with homosexuality, many of the religious movement's leaders and organizations have cooled to the practice in recent years, as more science suggests that homosexuality may be innate and as new therapeutic approaches have emerged.

“Evangelicals, in quiet ways, are shifting to this position to where there is just not a lot of support for the change paradigm,” said Warren Throckmorton, an influential voice in the world of Christian counseling, referring to so-called change therapy.

“In the late 1990s, the debate was clearly, ‘Could gays change from being gay?’ and the focus was on orientation, and it was a big part of politics,” said Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College, an evangelical school in Pennsylvania.

One sign of that shift, Throckmorton says, is the influential evangelical group Focus on the Family’s 2009 decision to stop funding a program teaching that “transformation is possible for those unhappy with same-sex attractions." (Focus, which said the move was due partly to financial pressures, handed the program off to another Christian group.)

The head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, meanwhile, a leading conservative Christian, has recently chided some evangelicals for characterizing homosexuality as a choice that’s relatively easy to change.

“We have spoken carelessly and unknowledgeably in the past to just say, ‘Just change. Just decide right now your pattern of attraction is not homosexual but heterosexual,’ ” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler said. "We have to know better.”

“We understand that sexual attraction and a profile of someone’s sexuality is a complex of factors, some of which are certainly not chosen,” he continued. “It’s not just a matter of choice. It’s not something that’s turned on or turned off.”

Exodus International, the national Christian organization that promotes "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ," has de-emphasized conversion therapy in recent years as more of the counselors in its network have abandoned the practice.

“In the 1980s and '90s, the counseling emphasis was heavier than it was today,” said Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus. “Transformation in Christ is possible, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we will never be tempted or completely move beyond a certain struggle that we might have.

“But we can live through the filter of our faith and abide by that most, and leave behind all sorts of things that have power of us,” said Chambers, who once identified as gay but who says he no longer does.

Most conservative Christians point to biblical passages that condemn homosexuality and believe the Bible teaches that sex is to be reserved for married men and women.

The American Psychological Association adopted a resolution condemning conversion therapy in 2009, saying that “mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.”

But the same resolution also encouraged therapists to consider the religious beliefs of clients who say such beliefs are important to their views of homosexuality.

Some Christian counselors have moved away from reparative therapy and have adopted a therapeutic approach that Throckmorton describes as a “congruence paradigm.” The model encourages counselors to appreciate a client’s wishes to harmonize their values, often shaped by religion, and their sexuality.

Under the congruence approach, a religious person who considers homosexuality sinful could attempt to square their beliefs and sexuality by trying to remain celibate. A bisexual client who perceives a similar conflict could try to focus on heterosexual relationships.

But under the congruence model, it’s up to the client - not the therapist - to decide how to view his or her sexual orientation. “If they say 'I think being gay is OK and it’s what I want to pursue,' we’ll work with them to do that, too,” said Throckmorton.

Evangelical re-examination of conversion therapy is part of a larger conversation under way among conservative Christians on how to respond to homosexuality at a time when more gay people are coming out, when there's a new awareness of the bullying that many young gay people face and when the gay rights movement is making some big strides, including, in some states, legalized gay marriage.

“We’re silly to think that there are not gays coming to church, part of our congregations,” said Marcus Yoars, the editor of Charisma, a popular Christian magazine. “It’s the elephant in the room. Its ridiculous that we can’t address it in a manner of love first, which doesn’t mean watering down biblical teaching.”

For the first time in years, Charisma put the issue of homosexuality on the cover of its magazine for the July issue, in a package that includes a story of a woman who says she was “rescued from lesbianism.”

But Yoars said that conversion therapy should be seen as only a small part of the Christian response to homosexuality.

“We have to realize that reparative therapy is a fraction of what’s out there, especially in Christian counseling,” he said. “When it’s reduced to sound bites, it gives (the therapy) a bad rap and falls into the stereotype of all Christians feeling that this kind of therapy is what all Christian counselors should use.”

Another factor behind the new evangelical conversation around homosexuality and conversion therapy is a generational shift on attitudes toward the issues. Recent polls show that young evangelicals are much more supportive of rights for gay partners than their parents are, even as they mirror their parents' opposition to abortion.

"Retaining young people is crucial, and a more accepting generation will not tolerate business as usual when it comes to the debate over homosexuality," wrote Jonathan Merritt, a young evangelical leader, in a recent opinion piece. "Pastors need not compromise their convictions, but they can expect congregants to call for a more accepting, forgiving message – a more Christian message.

"If Christian leaders can’t make that transition – and quickly – instead of an awakening," Merritt wrote in the Christian Science Monitor, "evangelicals may be facing an exodus."

–CNN’s Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Homosexuality • Michele Bachmann • Politics • Uncategorized

« Previous entry
soundoff (2,293 Responses)
  1. TiredODaCrap

    Most Christians could care less how gays choose to live their lives. It is a sin, and will get you sent to Hell. However, it is not my place to "change" you. I think the bigger issue is just as the gays don't feel that they should have to put up with the percieved "hate", I don't feel that I should have to constantly have this subject thrown in my (and my children's) face.
    Live your life how YOU want to live, but be ready for the consequences – just as eveyone else needs to be!

    July 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Abused Altar Boy

      LOL. I'm not gay, but am obviously not a good Christian since I'm tolerant and not bigoted and full of hate like you.

      God made me straight and my sister gay. He loves us both. Who are you to question the way God works? Who's going to hell?

      July 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • A Rational Human

      Brain-washing children to believe in invisible men in the sky is a sin.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Colin

      Ah yes, the old act the way I think you should or burn theory. this is one of my favorite Christian superst.itions. Think it through, though. You don’t have to kill, you don’t have to steal, you don’t even have to litter. All you have to do is refuse to believe in the Christian god or their way of life and god will inflict a punishment on you an infinite times worse than the death penalty….and he loves you.

      Dark Ages voodoo that wouldn't scare a 10 year-old today..

      July 18, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • QS

      "I think the bigger issue is just as the gays don't feel that they should have to put up with the percieved "hate", I don't feel that I should have to constantly have this subject thrown in my (and my children's) face..."

      Wait for it...

      "Live your life how YOU want to live, but be ready for the consequences..."

      Wait for it...

      "...just as eveyone else needs to be!"

      There it is!

      July 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • A Rational Human

      Exactly Colin. The reason the younger generation is more accepting of gays is they're smart enough to ignore the fairy tales.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • J.W

      Tired why dont you stop giving Christians like me a bad name?

      July 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Frogist

      @TiredODaCrap: Just curious. But what const!tutes "constantly having this subject thrown" in your face? Having articles that discuss hom-ose-xuality in the media? Having gay kids who are not afraid to be who they are at your kids school? Two men holding hands on your street? Or would you prefer gay people stay in the clost so you don't have to deal with the way the world is changing? Let's face it. You and your kids are going to meet gay people. You can't hide from it. And you certainly can't ask that they hide from you just so you don't have to deal with the discomfort of change. Just be nice. That's all you have to do. What's so hard about that?

      July 19, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  2. An Observer

    Using another "scientific" principle called Phrenology, I believe her husband has all of the hallmarks of being gay himself. It certainly would explain her tight sphincter and snarky ways.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  3. SoundOfForest

    It's also true liberal youth tends to return to be conservative in middle-age. You never know. Truth must be kept taught. If American citizens ever fail, some others will rise for battles for morality. The world or history never belongs to compromisers.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  4. Twm

    If these deviants to normal soceity can be cured I am all for it. I am not a Bacnmann fan either. Gay individuals are just acting out against a bad situation somewhere somehow. Oh my daddy touched me that is why I prefer women over men now. Find the man the right woman or the woman the right man and these people would be magically cured of their stupidity.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Abused Altar Boy

      Wow...if everyone was as tolerant as you, our society would be well...way worse. Fortunately Christianity is on the decline as more and more people see how full of cr@p it is.

      Did you engage in your ritual barbarism this Sunday by eating jesus and drinking his blood?

      July 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • RachelM

      It's sad, you will never be cured of your stupidity, period.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • dalis

      Nope, pure bunkum. I had a Christian upbringing, a loving mother and father, I was never mistreated let alone molested. And when I had puberty, I never developed feelings toward guys, only girls. It was not a phase. I'm glad none of the men in my life were ever like you, TVM. You're a massive discredit to your gender.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Bree

      I can not believe that you actually think this...

      July 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  5. Agnostic Theism

    How about hypoctical stupidity therapy for christian conservatives?? Sounds good to me! ( Sorry Michelle, I decided I was gay the same age you decided you were straight – whats that? Younever decided? It wasnt a choice? imagine that you self centered slag!)

    July 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Karma1959

      'hypocritical stupidity therapy for Christian conservatives" ha! That's FANTASTIC! I almost spat out my coffee while reading that !!!

      July 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  6. Bumpits.com

    Michelle Bachman makes Palin look, well not quite intelligent, but less idiotic than this bimbo.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  7. RAWoD

    Do any rational people care about evangelicals anymore? They are rapidly shrinking as their brand of fairy tale is obviously just a tale. They may have influence in the GOP but, lets face facts, the GOP is rapidly shrinking as their brand has become a laughing stock (especially because of the religious right). CNN: why not start reporting on something more meaningful?

    July 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Bumpits.com

      Yes, please move coverage of the GOP to the comedy section.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Twm

      America has to fix her morals. If the Republicans can do it all is good, you know the Democrats are not even going to offer up a solution to anything. They will continue to hide and hope it all goes a way.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Not You

      Wow, really? Intolerant, bigotted, and just plain silly. There are a lot of people who care deeply for thier faith, it would appear that you are not among them? For that I am truely sorry, its a great peace of mind that religion brings to a person. It would seem you will not know this joy anytime soon, I only hope you can restrain yourself from bashing those who do rellish their faith long enough to realize the joy all those around the world have gained from their religion
      .

      July 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  8. Rainer Braendlein

    I meant my article like this: When we are reconnected with the source of life, our life impoves. Everybody must be reconnected with God, not only the gays. Because of this I have mentioned all the other sins.

    God wants to save all sinners.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • RAWoD

      You sir need to connect with reality. (I don't say reconnect because I see no evidence that you ever got it.)

      July 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  9. ReallyModComeON

    Test post

    July 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • highonbeingababyjesuslover

      test reply

      July 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  10. OhYea

    Still trying to figure out why you call them Christians, there isn't a thing that they do that can be considered Christian. There vocalist are mostly self centred, uneducated, ideologically warped hics from banjo country. Hardly Christian.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  11. humanbeing

    G-d makes things to hate? To pile on and show us our differences? If we are created in G-d's image and we are petty, bickering, whining, sniveling, argumentative, adulterous, gay, straight, bi, monogamous, polyamorous, slandering, Jew, Christian, Muslin, Buddist, black, white, yellow, red, Red, Republican, Democrat, love peanut butter and banana sandwiches and laugh at a fart...does that mean G-d is us, too?

    July 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  12. D

    THESE PEOPLE ARE INSANE!!! Its like they are trying to create a master race. Gee...where have I seen that before???

    July 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • dalis

      If they were true libertarians, they'd live and let live. Demanding conformity IS a mark of fascism. I said it.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  13. Ozzi

    Agreed. Marcus is in the closet. Shame what the old-timers had to do to protect themselves especially in conservative communities. It twists their reasoning capabilities into something bordering on psychotic. I feel horrible for everyone.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  14. Dave S

    Isn't Marcus Bachmann a gay man?

    July 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • rATL

      He sure sounds like it!! Hey Girl!

      July 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  15. Ben

    The bible has clearly stated the consequences of letting gays infiltrate your communities to promote their lifestyle choice. If you do not fight back, your hometown is going to be another Sodom and Gomorrah.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • D

      Hahaha, funny stuff right there.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • maniacmudd

      ah ahha hahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha...(deep breath).... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH( " )...... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA....

      July 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • petercha

      Good point, Ben.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Bumpits.com

      Dumb and dumber

      July 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Kevin

      You are a pathetic waste of space and air. I pray that you have not bred, and if you have, your sad and sorry excuse for an intellect and rational thought has NOT been passed onto your children.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • highonbeingababyjesuslover

      ...i was at sodom last night...
      ......kick@ss rocking place

      July 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • q

      oh boy. What a dumb thing to say.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • missa

      ohh whats scary is not the hate and fear that Pat Robinson preaches but its the play doh brains like you that actually take that word .. yikes like the universe cares who is blanking who..

      July 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • J.W

      Oh whatever. The Sodom and Gomorrah story is so taken out of context it isnt even funny.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • RAWoD

      I just searched all 77 revisions of the bible and cannot find a single use of the work infiltrate. Idiot.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Russ

      The bible says you're an idiot.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  16. Hypatia

    I bitterly resent fundie braindead bs-artists commandeering the word 'Christian'. They are about the furthest things from Christ possible, resembling more the 'bleached bone' Pharisees He decried. Their idea of 'medicine' is a renaissance of the Inquisition, with their Elmer Gantry's as Torquemada. Bachmann? She's an idiot and he's a flimflam man. What a perfect couple.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Veritas48

      You certainly are displaying the fruits of the Spirit. How do you speak for Jesus, if you are not a committed follower? Or do you just flip a coin and decide what parts of Jesus life and commandments you have decided to approve of? Seems to me like you delight in telling God what to do.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Bill C

      Because of they don't agree with you, they must be "brain dead" right? Ahh, another open minded liberal.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      Thank you, Hypatia. That's everything I wanted to say, but you said it better!

      July 18, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • think b4 u read

      what does hypatia mean? who was/is elmer gantry? well, if the obamation could get elected with that reverand wright at his sails, then the Overdrive can get elected too. I wish people would stop talking about gay stuff. that suff is so 'in the closet', or at least it should be.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • IgM

      @Veritas48, do you believe every word of the bible? Seems to me that most Christians pick and choose what they want to believe, just as you are accusing Hypatia of doing.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  17. mangus

    The Bachmann's don't be liking no barbarian gay people, they just need to be disciplined and UNgayed.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  18. Big D

    She is a special special person.........and people follow her, I guess Rednecks flock together,,,,,,yeah I said it....

    July 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  19. truthseek 101

    Let the crazies come out to play! Keep voting people!

    July 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  20. Greg Gilbert

    It is innate. Ever notice gay people tend to be near the end of a long line of brothers and sisters.

    July 18, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • OMG

      No. I'm second of seven.

      July 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Greg Gilbert

      OMB: Ask your friends then. There is nothing wrong with it. I have heard the studies have shown this and have noticed a big correlation myself.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • dalis

      That's true of gay men. Not sure what the research says about lesbians and child order.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • News Flash

      If it were true you think the researchers would not have noticed that ? Cite the study please. Oh, you just made it up. I get it.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • News Flash

      So what ? Ever notice straight people tend to be the first AND the last in the line ? Grow a brain.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • RHinWI

      Nope, never noticed that.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
« Previous entry
Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.