While science and the church offer two very different conclusions about homosexuality, we should not minimize the important middle ground that is emerging. As I shared in my Backfire series, polar opposite viewpoints lack intersecting points of mutual agreement. Yet where there is enough respect, effort and commitment to objectivity, areas of agreement and mutual benefit can be cultivated.
Over the past decade, the church has made slow but steady strides toward humility. Just a few short years ago, the core message of the church remained, “You are not born that way. You can change if you really want to.” This insensitive message was replaced with, “You cannot change your attractions; but you can decide whether to act on them or not.” Today, some pastors go so far as to say, “Just come as you are. Nourish your faith and seek Jesus with your whole heart along with the rest of us. We want you here.”
During this same decade, science made its own incremental adjustments. In 2008, the APA withdrew its statement that recent research was pointing to a gay gene. Quite simply, research moved away from this theory even after it was lauded by many as a scientific fact. The APA also introduced the concept of “self-determination” – the right to choose how to handle one’s sexuality in context to a host of factors. Importantly, the APA encouraged therapists to respect a client’s religious beliefs.
While those caught in the middle may feel frustrated and wounded by the differences that remain, the last decade has yielded a sea change in how religious and scientific communities address homosexuality. Ironically, these practical changes seem to be flowing from actual therapeutic and pastoral care findings within both communities. Join me next time as we explore the implications of all this change.