Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dr. Dobson Said What?

Dr. James Dobson was a guest on Larry King Live this past Thanksgiving eve. The interview was a farcical embarrassment on both sides and several fellow bloggers have already picked apart the interview. I share Spunky’s incredulity about Larry King’s ignorance regarding basic American history. He is not alone in believing that the separation of church and state is somewhere in the Constitution when in fact it is not a Constitutional provision. The phrase is found in an obscure letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut in 1802 in response to an appeal that their religious liberties were not seen as immutable rights by their local legislature.

Larry King could only reply, “I'm going to check my history.” Good idea, Larry.

Crooks and Liars uncovered Dr. Dobson’s shamelessness in bailing out on Ted Haggard after promising to assist in the restoration process, whatever that means.
Dr. Dobson said, “…three men, now will oversee discipline punishment—if there is any, therapy, his behavior, his money, his future and will lead him if he is willing to cooperate, and apparently he is—through a restoration process. "
And Streak, always challenging and insightful, pointed out that with friends like those you don’t need enemies. I have to agree there.
Dr. Dobson said, “I talked to him the day that the news broke and I have not talked to him since then.”
Ouch. And Larry King even said that Haggard and Dobson were close friends.

My intrigue was stepped up after having read the full transcript of the interview, and in light of the recent conversation I was involved in over at Les’ blog, I found that Dr. Dobson has a somewhat confusing view on the origin of homosexuality. As if arguing coherently against homosexuality as genetic predisposition is not difficult enough, Dr. Dobson proposes that it may be related to very early childhood development.
DOBSON: I don't believe that. Neither do I believe it's genetic. I said that...

KING: Then what is it?

DOBSON: I said that on your program one time and both of us got a lot of mail for it. I don't blame homosexuals for being angry when people say they've made a choice to be gay because they don't.

It usually comes out of very, very early childhood, and this is very controversial, but this is what I believe and many other people believe, that is has to do with an identity crisis that occurs to early to remember it, where a boy is born with an attachment to his mother and she is everything to him for about 18 months, and between 18 months and five years, he needs to detach from her and to reattach to his father.

It's a very important developmental task and if his dad is gone or abusive or disinterested or maybe there's just not a good fit there. What's he going to do? He remains bonded to his mother and...
At this point, Larry interrupts with another question.

Conservative Christians are suffering from a major disconnect when it comes to ministering to those with same-sex attractions and Dr. Dobson has not bridged that divide, and if anything he has widened that gap considerably with his consistent bromides against the homosexual community. I am not an expert in psychology and I don’t think you need a Ph.D. in the discipline to understand that most folks don’t remember anything from when they were eighteen months old, even up to as late as three years old. I am not as erudite as Dr. Dobson, but my earliest childhood memories are about four years old, and those are scant and unreliable at best.

However, is it just me or do most psychologists try to blame every aberrant behavior in a person’s life to a dysfunction in their early childhood years? The fact is that most homosexuals do not attribute their homosexuality to a maladjusted home life, though some do. My personal experience with ministering to those with same-sex attractions has shown that it is a chosen tendency and has nothing to do with heredity.

Clinical studies can oftentimes be slanted to reflect the observer’s particular bias and results are often skewed to prove the point that is sought.
Dr. Dobson said, “It usually comes out of very, very early childhood, and this is very controversial, but this is what I believe and many other people believe, that i[t] has to do with an identity crisis that occurs [too] early to remember” [emphasis mine].
Again, I am not a Ph.D. in psychology, but aren’t clinical studies meant to prove the basic behavior being tested in the clinical subjects and are not meant to be taken as universal proof? I have scoured Dr. Dobson’s website and can find nothing further explaining this “controversial view.” If anyone out there can direct me to this source I would be grateful.

In dealing with homosexual behavior, it is due to a multiplicity of reasons. Just as alcoholics and drug addicts tend to beget alcoholics and drug addicts, so those parents with gay proclivities sometimes beget children with gay proclivities. As the Bible teaches, sin tends to be generational (Exodus 34:7). Occasionally it is due to sordid home lives. Most often it is due to a choice, which the Bible teaches that it is a choice. It seems however, that an attachment problem at eighteen months of age or thereabouts would be even more difficult to document with substantial proof. In addition, conclusive evidence has yet to be presented proving that homosexual tendencies are due to a “gay” gene. Moreover, labeling homosexuality as an attachment problem doesn’t seem to stand up to the biblical evidence either.

A plain and simple point I tried to make at Les’ blog was that homosexuality is a choice. Because if homosexuality is reduced to a genetic predisposition or as Dr. Dobson claims, an attachment problem at about eighteen months, where he himself asserts, “I don't blame homosexuals for being angry when people say they've made a choice to be gay because they don't,” it erases responsibility before God and that person is in their mind no longer accountable to God for his sin.

Don Schmierer is a Christian counselor with forty years of experience and has written a useful book entitled, An Ounce of Prevention. He says this about genetic predisposition (pp.59-60):
"Homosexual feelings are developed by a complex group of circumstances in life, set up over a period of time from birth to one’s early years. Later in life, these feelings play a role in choices one makes involving sexual relations with others. Because all sexual behavior is learned behavior, a person may be inclined, because of feelings, to homosexual behavior. The choice may, in addition, be motivated by social rejection, physical or emotional disabilities, hormonal imbalances, sexual abuse, or poor role modeling. Just as people with a tendency for alcoholism must be responsible for their drinking choices, so people with a tendency toward homosexual behavior should be responsible for their sexual choices" [emphasis mine].
Dr. Dobson did redeem himself somewhat when he stated, "...it usually is related to a sexual identity crisis."

Though we must always emphasize Christian love and respect for all people, most Christians are woefully inadequate at expressing the same love they have been shown to those who deal with same-sex attractions. Is the key establishing that homosexuality is not an inborn trait? I don’t think so. Though it is important, I think it comes down to establishing that sin is an inborn trait, and homosexuality like all other sins, can be forgiven and through the same blood that cleanses from sin, so healing and restoration can be found.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother did conceive me. Psalm 51:5
Sincerely,
Tony

11 comments:

Les Puryear said...

Tony,

Excellent post! I share your conclusions.

Les

Streak said...

At the risk of being that commenter that annoys people, I have a couple of questions. What are you suggesting regarding separation of church and state? The phrase is not in the constitution, but neither is "separation of powers" or "judicial review." Does that mean that the ideas are not in the constitution?

Second, on our favorite subject of homosexuality and its origins, you cite the Christian counselor who says that "all sexual behavior is learned behavior." Do we believe that? I am not sure I do. When I see an attractive woman, it is not my brain that engages, but something much more primal. I can accept that we learn mating behaviors from our surroundings, but I am not convinced at all that that elemental attraction is a learned experience.

Tony said...

Les,

Thanks for that word of encouragement.

Streak,

I don't find you annoying...if I wanted you to stop coming around I would stop linking your blog ;-)

When it comes to discussing history with you I am a chihuahua nipping at the heels of a great dane, but here goes.

I think the ideas are indeed in the Constitution, but I think that the establishment clause has been stretched to mean more than it does on both sides of the equation; probably more so by the religious right. My curiosity is what it would have meant to the original authors/audience; those of the 18th century.

It has always been over-interpreted and both sides dogmatically assert that their opinions are how it would have been interpreted then. Neither side is really clear what it means. Your thoughts?

In the context of the Dobson/King interview I don't think separation of church and state has anything to do with the marriage instituion, which is what Larry was getting at. Dobson failed at really explaining the point which throughout the interview I found him arguing with himself more than Larry.

I don't need the gov't to tell me that I am married to my wife. I know they need to know and should know for tax purposes, etc. but I don't need the American gov't to legitimize my marriage. My marriage is legitimate in God's sight and I don't need a certificate affirming that. There are some extremists that do not notify the court that they are married, but I'm not one of those. I think also we should be viable members of the society in which we live; pay taxes, vote, etc.

For these reasons and a few more I vaccillated on how I would vote for the marriage amendment out here in VA.

On your second question, I don't know if I have a satisfactory answer (shoot, I don't know if the first one satisfied you).

First, this statement puzzles me and I am not resorting to mere physicalism, but you said, "...we learn mating behaviors..." Those involved in same-sex relationships don't mate. Granted they can adopt, but only appropriate mating partners...well, you are a smart guy.

Homosexuality defeats one of the original purposes of God in establishing the covenant of marriage; the procreative relationship. How can homosexual relationships ever be self-sustaining? Which yet again puts us back to square one.

And you said, "it is not my brain that engages," what then processes those primal urges? Is not our brain the filter by which we discern between what is healthy and unhealthy behavior? I may have unhealthy primal urges to look at other attractive women, and even more urges to act on those, but I suppress those feelings because to do so is sin against God and my wife.

I know you appreciate C.S. Lewis, so here is one of my favorite quotes of his. "If you look on ham and eggs, you have already committed breakfast in your heart." However, your view there seems to be self-defeating.

Also, the homosexual relationship is subject to the "is/ought" problem. Just because something is a certain way, doesn't mean it ought to be that way.

I know we differ that homosexuality is a departure from the norm, which I affirm. This is another conundrum for me; I have continually asserted the Bible affirms throughout that homosexuality is aberrant; ie., Romans 1:26-27.

If one is "born gay" then heterosexuality is abnormal, according to that passage. I know it is a simple syllogism, but I think it leads to the fact that homosexual behavior and orientation develops from the pursuit of sinful behavior.

And you are right, human sexuality is grounded in something more primal. Does the creation event itself not point to the fact that a heterosexual relationship is the norm, God's expected sexual behavior?

I probably have not gained any ground here, not that I anticipate to, but there you go.

Spunky said...

Excellent round-up and commentary Tony. Like Les I share many of your conclusions.

Tony said...

Spunky,

Thanks for the kind words of encouragement.

Streak said...

Glad to know I am not annoying. Yet.

I think the 18th century would have been pretty conflicted over this as well, but remember, the denominations who now have the most members were on the outside of established churches then. After the constitution was ratified, the Anglican church was increasingly under fire for their official status in, oddly enough, southern states.

I think there was an overall distrust of institutional religion, so the notion of preferred status was pretty much out by the 19th century.

It is intriguing to me, becuase it sure seems like the people who have benefitted the most from religious freedom are the ones most interested in some kind of official status. America is the one of the most religious in the world, largely because the State refused to decide and favor one over the other.

Of course, that may not be what you are referencing.

Marriage, btw, is one of those really interesting issues. In our country it is both an issue of state and church--though not for everyone.

Now, for that second issue: I raised it simply because the quote you used said that our sexual behavior was all learned. I don't believe that. The primal aspect of our attraction speaks to that. We don't choose our sexual attraction was really my point. Of course, we then have to make choices regarding how we act on that impulse, but I don't believe our sexual relationships are all "learned."

The "mating" ritual comment was an error on my part, though I was thinking of the broader sexual union. And, btw, and no offense on this, but as someone in a non-child producing marriage of 18 years, I am not sure I am convinced by procreation as the defining characteristic of marriage. :)

Tony said...

Streak,

We don't choose our sexual attraction was really my point. I agree here; we do not choose what we are tempted by. This is biblical. We come back again to the nature of sin argument, and you and I disagree that homosexuality is sinful behavior.

I cannot convince you apart from the Bible that it is indeed sin; you also see that it can be a healthy and loving relationship. Yet if the only relationship that it potentially harms is the one with God, is it still then sin?

I would agree that we all have an inward desire to be sexual; you were thirteen once, right? By my comment about God's purposes in marriage, I did specify that it was one of God's purposes and not the only one. Homosexuality cannot uniquely fill that purpose; again, a departure from the norm.

I ground this argument in the creation event; Gods' words to the man and woman were to be fruitful and multiply (Incidentally, that is the only command I have been completely faithful to; I have four kids and expecting #5; say a prayer for me. :) But, that did come after He said it was not good for the man to be alone.

So to conclude my comment about sexual identity, a yong man may be tempted with same-sex attractions. It does not mean that he should act on them. You affirm this, I think, unless I am misquoting: we then have to make choices regarding how we act on that impulse.

There are temptations that I am confronted with everyday, even sexual ones. But I do not act on them. The attraction does not always necessarily lead to the homosexual condition, which is well-documented.

And I think we see eye-to-eye on the church and state issue...I think...

And if you get annoying I'll tell you. BTW, seeing as how you don't have any children, do you want one? I'll sell you one or trade for a good dog. ;-)

Streak said...

Yeah, I think the sin part is our catching point. And the rational point regarding sin is important, at least to me. One of the counter arguments (actually invoked by volfan, fwiw) is that if homosexuality is inborn and therefore not a sin, then so might be a host of reprehensible actions including pedophilia, drunkenness, or incest. Yet all of those have external checks or rational reasons why we discourage or ban such behavior. I find it hard to bring that assumption to my gay neighbors down the street.

And I am not sure that normative behavior here is our measurement, or perhaps I misunderstand you here. But there are a host of arrangements that are not necessarily normative that do not receive the same reproach from the Christian community. People who never marry, or what we might have once refered to as the "Liz Taylor syndrome" where people are serially monogamous. Historically people have married for many reasons, including money, family connections, land, etc., or had their marriages arranged by others, with none of the love and respect that we associate with a healthy marriage today.

Les once remarked that there were numerous sins, but gays were the only ones with organizations devoted to justifying their behavior. I countered with ideas of greed, but you could easily say that about divorce and marriage, which in some areas constitutes a veritable cottage industry. As many of my gay friends noted, Britney Spears could get married as a lark in Vegas and do so perfectly legally. While the church would certainly frown on such behavior, there is no concerted effort to stop such marriages from taking place, nor to openly challenge their existence.

It is early in the morning and so my argument may not be as clear as I had hoped. But I couldn't sleep and decided to get started on the day.

Tony said...

You couldn't sleep last night either, huh?

Once more we find ourselves agreeing on practical outworkings just for different reasons. I hope you don't misunderstand me when I say homosexuality is a sin. I don't parade that pov neither do I beat any of my homosexual neighbors about the head and neck with my Bible, either.

One of the sticking points for me about reaching homosexuals is that it is like any other sin and deserves grace and love for the one caught in that sin. Jesus died for all sin, no matter how reprehensible most Christians find same-sex attractions. The church could certainly tone down its anti-homosexual rhetoric and both sides would be better off.

I remarked on Les' blog, yet another thing that got totally ignored ;-), was that an AP release in the Richmond Times reported that in 2005 four out of 10 babies have been born out of wedlock. It makes the church's overt concentration on stamping out all things homosexual ridiculous when there is a young, single mother down the street in desperate need of the church to be the church Christ called her to be.

And suffice it to say, this coming from a pastor, the reason most of those sins that go without address in the Christian community is because most Christians are guilty of those same sins. Its real easy to target a group in open sin and label it as abominable and then overlook one's own sin.

It makes the church look like she is actually doing something. However, typical in the (conservative) Christian community, we are known for what we are against than what we are for. "Jesus hates sin and loves the sinner" wins friends and influences just about as many as "the Bible says it, I believe it." The biggest threat to the family is not homosexuality; in my estimation it would be divorce and serial marriage. In the church I serve 60% of the couples are remarried. Not a good number, and it does not bode well for the church. Teenagers see it as perfectly acceptable to marry with the express intent of divorcing if you aren't satisfied after getting into it. So, I see a bigger problem with accepting that divorce is normative than homosexuality.

So I have not overlooked your point about monogamous homosexual relationships; but neither have a asserted that divorce, serial marriages, and the like are normative either. Many married couples could probably learn a lesson from some monogamous homosexual couples in our community regarding faithfulness.

There is a curious story in Jeremiah 35 where God calls the Judeans attention to the Rechabites. The Rechabites had obeyed their father rechab in that he commanded them not to drink wine nor have vineyards (for whatever reason). Jeremiah tells the Judeans to look at the Rechabites because they had obeyed the voice of their father. However, the Judeans had not listened to their Father. I think there is much practical application to the church in that.

Anyway, I am grateful for your participation in this thread.

Streak said...

Tony,

I think we agree more than we don't. I have thought that the way christians identify homosexuality as the ultimate sin does reflect much of their own selective approach. Instead of greed, or participation in poverty, or contributing to disfunctional families, homosexuality can be projected outward--it is out there, done by perverted people.

In fact, that is a big criticism of mine toward the Ten Commandment monument issue, because it feels like the big commandments come very easy for most conservative christians. Most haven't killed anyone, nor stolen in the traditional sense. Most go to church on sunday and don't abuse their parents. Most don't use profanity (though that is not what I think that particular commandment is about) and a good many of them have not cheated on their spouse. Most don't worship other Gods, or at least don't in an overt way.

We don't talk about coveting that much, since as we have talked, it supports our economic system, or close, and that seems to be the one that gets closest to our american culture.

With the major commandments rather easy for many, how also easy it is to project those on to the rest of the culture. "If only the rest of the world would be as good as me?" If, however, our text was the Sermon on the mount, or the Catholic idea of the 7 deadly sins, then the emphasis would be very close to home.

Anyway. I have to go teach. Enjoying the conversation.

Tony said...

Streak,

Sorry to get back to you so late. I agree that we agree more than we don't agree. Agreed?

Oh well.

Sin is a perplexing notion. I think I see where you are coming from regading the contradistinction between the Sermon on the Mount/Seven Deadlies and the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments are not that difficult to internalize and one can rationalize "good behavior" as righteousness; a fairly simple extrapolation, if you think about it.

The TC are more about what others do; do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not lie, etc. These are morally quantifiable.

However, the Sermon on the Mount should make most Christians squirm, for the TC are not placed aside, but Jesus essentially turns them on their head, turning them into heart issues. And the seven deadlies, you know, greed, envy, wrath, pride, gluttony, sloth, lust; those all seem to be peculiarly personal and not morally quantifiable in your neighbor's life.

Therefore, it makes "me" the sole arbiter of what is sin and what isn't. If I can maintain the image that I am OK, ie., I haven't killed anyone, robbed a bank, ran around on my wife, then I am a righteous Christian.

But, lust, greed, envy; all are not really morally quantifiable in my neighbor's eyes. Only I can quantify that because only I know my heart. But I have an image to maintain, so I am not going to deal with that. And if I can live with it, and as long as it does not "interfere" with my relationship with Christ, because remember, I am who says what is sin and what isn't, then I'm OK.

Have I missed the point or am I coming reasonably close?

And, if I am not responsible for my own greed or envy, (it hasn't interfered with my relationship with Christ, because I decided it wouldn't) then how will I see my responsibility to address such an issue as poverty?

However, abortion, a morally quantifable sin, or to a lesser degree homosexuality, now I can strongly denounce those, because they don't affect me, plus I can "see" the results.

This theology, particularly harmartiolgy, can lead to only one thing: hypocrisy. But I'm not a hypocrite; my neighbor is.