Starting on 10/2 Scot McKnight is going to start a post series at www.jesuscreed.orgon Stan Jones and Mark Yarhouse’s new book, Ex-Gays? Yesterday, he merely announced that he would start the series and it brought on the usual discussions that one encounters when talking about homosexuality, sexual orientation, etc. (e.g., is it right/wrong? Did Jesus say anything about the matter? What is orientation? Does it really change? Why do we give special attention to this particular activity and avoid things like gossip and adultery?). All good questions, but they may miss the actual issues raised by this particular book.
Personal experiences play a huge role in much of the public conversation about sexuality (we all have broken sexual experiences and friends and family with their own experiences). It will be interesting to see whether readers of JesusCreed will be able to consider the merits of the questions that Jones and Yarhouse ask: Is it ever possible for someone to change their sexual orientation using religious means? And, is it harmful to try?
Chapter one lays out the controversy (i.e., the scientific and political claims in the debate, whether sexual orientation is a thing or a construction) and articulates their view of the relationship between science and faith.
Chapter two provides an overview of a Christian/biblical view of sexuality (what it was designed to be and how it is broken). In short, they report that the biblical text gives sexual intercourse a fixed meaning (an good act between husband and wife) rather than have the act defined by the intent of the participants. “Nonreligious persons today are accustomed to thinking that the meaning of their sexual actions are conferred by their intentions for those acts….But the Christian tradition asserts the opposite: that sexually intimate acts have fixed meanings by their very nature” (p. 49). God provides the boundaries, but given our fallen nature, every aspect of our personhood reflects humanity’s rebellion against God. They then detail both Christian ethical responses to homosexuality as well as pastoral responses by well-known agencies.
Chapters 3 and 4 are the defense of their rationale and methodologies. Of note is the small sample size. But remember, they want to know whether it is ever possible for someone to change orientation through religious means. They do an interesting discussion of what kind of study they wanted to do and what they actually did in the end (chapter five) and why. They also address matters of researcher bias here. Chapters 6-9 explore how one might measure sexual orientation change and report their results.
Whether you agree or disagree with their sexual ethic, agree or disagree with their interpretation of orientation or their view of what makes for a robust empirical finding, you ought to agree that this is a well-written book that attempts to very slowly walk through the issues (scientific, biases, change, identity and orientation) without slandering opponents and yet maintaining their apologetical stance.
A worthy book to read by anyone. Stay tuned to JesusCreed to see how readers there respond to the issues when it gets to the details of the chapters.