SEXUAL ISSUES: A Pastoral Resource
Dr. Denny Wayman
We live in a day when Christians are being confronted on a variety of fronts. Perhaps the issue most frequently challenged is our view of sexual purity. Based on the statement in Genesis which Jesus affirms in Matthew, we teach that “in the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6) This statement posits the simple fact that our sexuality is a God-intended biological and relational unity that has deep spiritual significance.
Welcoming those who struggle with sexual issues is an important part of pastoral responsibility. In the discussion that follows, we offer answers founded on our understanding of biblical teaching, with the supportive resources of reason in the study of the sciences, the wisdom of our church tradition and the verification of our own experiences. This is not intended to be the final word on these issues and we invite other input on this vital area of pastoral care.
In the vast arena of sexual concerns, this discussion looks at three general areas: sexual purity, sexual variance and sexual disorders.
The biblical commandment to “not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14) describes God’s counsel and spiritual requirement in relation to sexual purity. It refers not only to being faithful within marriage but being faithful before marriage. All aspects of our sexual lives — from our thoughts to our words to our deeds — are to remain focused on our mates and not adulterated by allowing any contamination into that exclusive bond.
Question: Does the Bible teach that sex is sinful or only appropriate when a married couple is procreating a child?
Answer: No. In Genesis, God commands that we are to “be fruitful and increase in number.” (1:28) Since this is God’s command, sex cannot be a sin, nor is this the sin of Adam and Eve. While some branches of Christianity have taught that sex is only appropriate when procreating, this is not our view. Our church affirms life and the physical pleasures God created us to enjoy. The Bible also makes it clear that sexual pleasure is not the primary purpose in life and some may choose to be celibate in order to fully focus their lives on service to God. (1 Corinthians 7:8) The general guidance of biblical teaching concerning sex has to do with concern over sexual purity, expressed in the concern over sexually immorality.
Question: If sex is not sinful and God intends us to have this pleasure, then is it permissible to enjoy sexual intercourse before marriage since we are not committing adultery — that is, betraying a marriage?
Answer: Sex is not just a physical pleasure of satisfying an appetite like eating. It is a far more profound experience designed by God to bond a husband and wife together into one flesh. When expressed within the marriage commitment, sexual intercourse brings fulfillment, but if we misuse it, then we can actually be harmed by it. Many who have no biblical education and believe that sex is just an appetite to be satisfied are surprised when they become hurt by something that is supposed to be harmless. Casual intercourse has all the spiritual and emotional potency God intends, yet when there is no marriage commitment the experience can become increasingly shallow. The soul cries as the body releases. So it is not just a question of betrayal of a spouse but betrayal of our own sexuality. Paul explains it this way: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside his body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18)
Question: Can adultery become addictive?
Answer: Adultery can become habitual and can even take on an addictive nature from which it is difficult to free one’s mind, body and soul. The book of Proverbs explains: “for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life.” (Proverbs 6:26 NIV, 1984)
Question: Is it really wrong to look at a picture of people who are naked in a magazine or online as long as they are not engaged in sexually explicit acts?
Answer: Although a picture of a naked person is not pornography since it is not explicitly sexual, it is difficult to keep our thoughts pure in such a moment. God has given us the ability to sexually respond when we see the unclothed body of our spouse as a way of bonding us in marriage, so it is difficult to see nudity without the sexual thoughts that accompany it. In addition, a wife whose husband looks at pictures of partially or fully nude women often feels confused and betrayed. Though there is no actual contact with another person, the sense that the purity of the marriage bond has been contaminated is present. In addition most spouses feel insecure and inadequate as they see their mate looking elsewhere to find sexual pleasure and satisfaction, which includes a printed picture or cyber images.
Question: Is sexual purity only about avoiding intercourse? Is oral sex permissible?
Answer: Sexual purity includes saving intercourse only for marriage, but it doesn’t stop there. Physical purity is only the first level. Jesus explains that what happens in our thoughts is just as important as what we do when He says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). This would obviously include any activity that includes our primary sexual organs such as oral sex.
Any sexual behavior that varies from the “norm” is given the name “sexual variance.” Variant sexual behavior is a result of fallen humanity whether genetically predisposed, environmentally conditioned, personally chosen or a combination of these and other factors. Healing sexual variance requires the professional counsel of a Christian therapist, Christian psychologist or pastoral counselor.
Question: What is homosexuality?
Answer: Homosexual describes “same-sex” attraction. Though firm figures are hard to ascertain, it is estimated that between 1.7 and 2.7 percent of humans are same-sex attracted. In Canada, for example, the “Canadian Community Health Survey, June 2004” found that 1.3 percent of men and 0.7 percent of women considered themselves homosexual. In the same survey 0.9 percent of women and 0.6 percent of men said they were bisexual.
Question: What is exhibitionism?
Answer: The sexual variance called exhibitionism “involves intense, recurrent and sexually arousing fantasies involving the exposure of the individual’s genitals. This may, in turn, translate into putting this fantasy into action and engaging in these behaviors. However, a key feature of this need is that the individual be a stranger or unsuspecting.”
Question: What is voyeurism?
Answer: The sexual variance of voyeurism is defined professionally as: “a disorder of sexual arousal. It involves the act of observing unsuspecting individuals, usually strangers, who may be naked or in the process of disrobing. Even engaging in sexual activity. Masturbation usually occurs during, or shortly after, voyeuristic activities. A variation of voyeurism entails listening to erotic conversations, e.g., telephone sex. … Onset is typically before the age of fifteen, and the individual may become so invested in the voyeuristic activity as to have this as the sole sexual behavior. This often is a chronic condition. In current society a certain amount of voyeurism is considered normal, such as watching x-rated movies, as well as graphic magazines. You may have even been sexually aroused when you noticed by accident someone who was undressing, naked or having sex. However, the key factor here is that unless you seek out these experiences, you are not a true voyeur.” As can be seen by this professional description, society recognizes that looking at graphic magazines and x-rated movies is in fact a symptom of voyeurism but excuses it as “normal.” This is not the view of the church.
Question: Is viewing pornography really damaging or is it normal?
Answer: The sexual addiction to pornography occurs as the person becomes increasingly unsatisfied with what he or she has already seen in the past and focuses more and more of their time and money on the empty promise of new images in the future. Since the sex is not real, it leaves a person hungry for more rather than satisfied with what they have. The impersonal nature of the experience can cause the person to objectify others and then excuse using others for self-pleasure instead of as a mutual expression of love and commitment. Viewing pornography undermines the ability to experience the pleasure of natural sexuality since it causes a condition known as anhedonia – “the inability to experience pleasure from normal pleasurable life events such as eating, exercise and social or sexual interaction.”
Question: What is pedophilia?
Answer: The person with a sexual variance of pedophilia “is a person, most frequently a man, who focuses his sexual fantasies and behavior toward children. People who enjoy child pornography are pedophiles. Some pedophiles are sexually attracted only toward children and are not at all attracted toward adults. Pedophilia is usually a chronic condition.” Due to the chronic nature of this variance, protection of children requires that a person struggling with pedophilia not be allowed near children throughout their life. Though we believe that God can change any of us, prudence also requires that we not put God, or the person struggling, to the test.
Question: What is incest?
Answer: The sexual variance of incest is a sexual relationship within the family not limited to intercourse but any sexualizing of the relationship. It is “a crime of power over a child that takes the form of sexual violation. Incest includes suggestive or seductive talk or behavior directed at a child; any unwanted or invasive touching, including kissing, wrestling and tickling; non-medical enemas; showing a child pornography or exposing adult genitals to them; sexual fondling; oral sex and/or sexual intercourse.”
Question: What is zoophilia, also called bestiality?
Answer: The sexual variance of zoophilia is “a psychosexual disorder in which sexual excitement and gratification are derived from the fondling of animals or from the fantasy or act of engaging in sexual activity with animals. Also called zoophilism.”
Question: What is fetishism?
Answer: There are several types of variances known as fetishism. “Fetishism is the use of an inanimate object or a specific part of the body for physical or mental sexual stimulation. This sexual behavior is widespread and takes many forms, from benign (a preference for the partner’s wearing of lingerie before sex) to vicious (a rapist cutting a lock of hair from the victim for use in masturbation).”
Question: What is sadism and masochism?
Answer: The sexual variances of sexual sadism and sexual masochism both include pain as a part of the sexual experience. “Sadism is the act of deriving pleasure, often sexual, from mistreating others and therefore these people find others whom they victimize with their behavior. Some of the severe activities involved in sexual sadism include burning, beating, stabbing, raping and killing. Usually the thoughts and/or behaviors of sexual sadism begin in adolescence or early adulthood. The behaviors are not only chronic, but they usually increase in severity with time.” “Sexual Masochism involves the act of being humiliated, bound, beaten and otherwise made to physically suffer for purposes of sexual stimulation … it is the acting upon these fantasies that can run the risk of true peril.” The spiritual nature of these sexual variances is often seen in the brutality toward someone else or toward one’s self. That it feels evil calls us to pray for the person’s spiritual as well as psychological life. In rare instances the use of brutal exorcism has become a problem in some church traditions where the exorcism attempted to free a person from the evil has itself become a sadistic act.
Question: What is transvestism?
Answer: The sexual variance of transvestism is “a tendency to achieve psychic and sexual relief by dressing in the clothing of the opposite sex.” The key is that there is a sexual experience in dressing in opposite sex clothing. This is not the same as a gender identity disorder (see below) in which the clothing feels natural, but is rather a form of fetish in which sexual pleasure comes from wearing opposite sex clothing.
Question: Are sexual behaviors other than those between a man and a woman in marriage permissible as long as both people are adults and agree?
Answer: Due to the sacred nature of our sexuality, sex is not just a biological desire to be satisfied in whatever way we might choose. In fact, the Bible’s teaching protects us from the harm that comes if we approve of or encourage variant sexual behaviors. Each type of sexual variance is different in its development, addictive qualities, spiritual, social and physical impact. Clearly pedophilia and incest damage a child and are therefore not only immoral but illegal; however, consensual activities such as sadism and masochism are damaging even though they may be consensual. The most common application of this question is when two consenting adults are of the same sex. When sexuality varies from the normal sexual life of a husband and wife, it carries within itself an unsatisfiable desire. This unsatisfiable desire can become an addiction that increasingly requires the attention, energies and resources of the person. The soul longs for something that cannot be gained there. Paul explains that when we replace our natural relations for the unnatural ones necessary for same-sex relations, then we become “inflamed with lust for one another” (Romans 1:27).
Question: Are people born with their sexual orientation? Is there a “gay gene”?
Answer: There is a lot of discussion today about how a person develops a variant sexual desire like homosexuality. The truth is that it is more complex than just saying, “I was born this way” or “God made me this way.” (View this endnote for an extended discussion of this topic.) The best understanding of current social science is that homosexual orientation is an interactive development of the body and mind within a familial and social environment that involves the predispositions, experiences and choices of all involved. Though the person with a homosexual orientation may experience this as something they did not choose, choice is a part of the process and behaviors reinforce these choices. As Christians we recognize that all of us are born into bodies and families that are not perfect, and we need God’s help in a whole lot of areas, our sexuality only being one of these.
Question: If homosexuality is only 2 to 3 percent of the population, why are so many young people experimenting with bisexual behaviors?
Answer: Sexual orientation is more malleable in the teen years and some experiment with same-sex behaviors out of curiosity and because of media encouragement. Some bisexual experimentation comes from a misunderstanding of an appreciation for beauty and sexual arousal. A person can admire beauty in a person of either sex. Feeling appreciation for the beauty of a person created in the image of God is often confused with sexual arousal. When this is combined with a culture that instructs a young person to not limit his or her sexual desire to only half of the human race or they may miss something, then confusion, experimentation and initiation can occur.
Question: What about people who do not want to get married? Do they have to remain celibate?
Answer: The Bible explains that some people choose a single life. This is not a variant sexuality, but rather a choice to remain celibate. It is not for everyone, it is for those who are able to do so without struggling physically, relationally or spiritually (1 Corinthians 7:8).
Summary: God gives us sexual desire both for our pleasure and for the procreation of children. To casually engage in premarital or extramarital or post-marital sexual relations with anyone except our spouse is to adulterate ourselves and our marriage. Sexual variance is caused by a complex set of dynamics that cause persons to try to satisfy their sexual desires with someone or something other than their husband or wife — from pornography to homosexuality to pedophilia, etc. Sexual variance most often requires the help of a professional therapist, pastoral counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
Of a different category from sexual purity or sexual variance are those personality disorders of a sexual nature. These include such impairments as: Gender Identity Disorder, Dyspareunia, Female Orgasmic Disorder, Female Sexual Arousal Disorder, Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, Male Erectile Disorder, Male Orgasmic Disorder. Although all disorders are difficult, they vary in the effect they have on the individual, the marriage and the family. Healing sexual disorders requires the care of a Christian physician or psychiatrist who provides medical solutions and psychiatric therapeutic medication and intervention. In all healing, the interactive support of a pastor’s love and care is appropriate alongside and in cooperation with professional care.
Question: What is Gender Identity Disorder?
Answer: “There are two components of Gender Identity Disorder, both of which must be present to make the diagnosis. There must be evidence of a strong and persistent gross-gender identification, which is the desire to be, or the insistence that one is of the other sex. This cross-gender identification must not merely be a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex. There must also be evidence of persistent discomfort about one’s assigned sex or a sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex. The diagnosis is not made if the individual has a concurrent physical intersex condition (e.g., androgen insensitivity syndrome or congenital adrenal hyperplasia). To make the diagnosis, there must be evidence of clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” Gender Identity Disorder is different from the categories of sexual purity or sexual variance. Although some sexual variance behaviors are illegal while others are not, at this time they are not considered a mental illness needing medical solutions and psychiatric therapeutic medication and intervention, but rather the professional care noted above.
Question: What is Dyspareunia?
Answer: Dyspareunia is “recurrent or persistent genital pain associated with sexual intercourse in either a male or a female. In women, it is generally defined as genital pain occurring with penetration or during or after intercourse, but not exclusively vaginismus (a common type of insertional dyspareunia caused by intense involuntary contraction of the perineal muscles surrounding the outer one third of the vagina). True dyspareunia is recurrent and associated with a disruption of normal functioning. The disturbance causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty. The disturbance is not caused exclusively by vaginismus or lack of lubrication.”
Question: What is Female Orgasmic Disorder?
Answer: “A disorder that may result from a traumatic experience, but can also be acquired through problems within relationships. There are those for whom the problem is of lifelong duration and for others the problem may present in generalized settings or be specific to situational settings. Female Orgasmic Disorder occurs when there is a significant delay or total absence of orgasm associated with the sexual activity. This condition must cause a problem in the relationship with the sexual partner in order to be defined as a disorder.”
Question: What is Female Sexual Arousal Disorder?
Answer: “Female Sexual Arousal Disorder is described as the inability of a woman to complete sexual activity with adequate lubrication. Swelling of the external genitalia and vaginal lubrication are generally absent. These symptoms must cause problems in the interpersonal relationship to be considered a disorder. It is not unusual for the woman with female sexual arousal disorder to have almost no sense of sexual arousal. Often, these women experience pain with intercourse and avoid sexual contact with their partner.”
Question: What is Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder?
Answer: “Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) is a deficiency or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity. This is considered a disorder if it causes distress for the patient or problems in the patient’s relationships. It must be determined that this is not the result of another psychological disorder which is the primary problem. If the sexual partner of a patient with suspected hypoactive sexual desire disorder feels that this is a problem within the relationship, that concern should be sufficient for the individual to seek psychological consultation.”
Question: What is Male Erectile Disorder?
Answer: “The recurrent inability to achieve or maintain an adequate erection until completion of sexual activity. It is not considered male erectile disorder if it is merely an occasional problem or if it does not create distress and interpersonal difficulty.”
Question: What is Male Orgasmic Disorder?
Answer: “After a normal phase of sexual excitement, the man’s orgasm is persistently or repeatedly delayed or absent. The clinician’s judgment of this is based on the man’s age and the adequacy of duration, focus and intensity of sexual activity. The delay or absence of orgasm following what is typically a normal sexual excitation phase is not uncommon. As with other sexual disorders, it can have an onset later in life or have been in effect for the person’s entire life, and it can manifest in specific situations or in almost all situations.”
The transformation God offers his people includes our sexual lives. As pastors we can provide opportunities for God to restore sexual purity. With variant sexuality, in addition to pastoral counsel we refer the individual to a professional Christian counselor. With sexual disorders, we provide pastoral support as we refer to a physician and/or psychiatrist to provide a treatment regimen that brings healing and resolution. In all circumstances we offer the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
Question: Can sexual behaviors be changed?
Answer: Sexual activity affects us deeply. Therefore, changing sexual patterns requires supernatural help. The Bible explains that a sexual sin is different in that we “sin against our own bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:18). God therefore provides the full resources of the Trinity to bring all behavior, including our sexual behaviors, into alignment with His teachings. Essentially, though, sexual behaviors are no different from any other behavior. When our spirits allow Jesus to be Lord and Master in our lives, and we study His Word and agree with His teaching, receive the Holy Spirit’s conviction, cleansing and empowerment to change, then with God’s help, and the care of a pastor and, if called for, a professional therapist or psychiatrist, we can change our behaviors and become a pure person in all areas of our lives. Paul makes it clear in the first section of his letter to Rome that behaviors such as gossip, greed and boasting in the same category as homosexual sin. Romans 1, starting at verse 26: 26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Question: How do I know who to turn to when I am struggling sexually?
Answer: In the ideal situation, pastors work together with all the various professionals as prayer and professional practice are combined. In sexual purity a pastor can provide guidance and support to follow God’s prescriptions given to us in His Word. When struggling with a sexual variance then, pastors work with Pastoral Counselors, Christian therapists and Christian psychologists in making referrals and supportive care. When struggling with a sexual disorder, then pastors pray for and refer to Christian physicians and Christian psychiatrists who honor our Lord and use their professional skills to bring healing to those they serve.
Question: When a person goes through a sex-change medical process that begins with hormones and often ends with surgery in order to become the opposite sex, is that only a sexual disorder or is it a sin?
Answer: It is Gender Identity Disorder and has a clear diagnostic standard with treatment plans, which can include the medical intervention of an operation to change the primary and secondary sex organs. But what makes all of this more complex is that everything has biological, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects, including Gender Identity Disorder. This mental disorder has biological components that need to be addressed with hormonal and biological, medical solutions. But GID also has spiritual and emotional components that need to be addressed with pastoral care and counseling. When a person accompanies their illness with selfish, angry, envious, deceitful or other spiritual conditions then sin is present. This is seen when a person becomes so focused on their gender confusion that they selfishly don’t consider how their decision is affection their spouse, children, coworkers and neighbors. The presence of a physical, mental or sexual disease does not justify immoral behavior, including sexual encounters outside of marriage. To disregard their duty and vows to their spouse or to disregard parental responsibility is not a medical but a moral problem. A physical or mental illness does not justify unloving, unkind or unfaithful behavior. The spiritual dimension of any illness is always of concern, just as it is in every area of life. A pastor’s care is needed even when the primary response is a medical one. Similarly when an individual is going through a sexual struggle, the congregation is not to judge them, avoid them, spite them or exhibit other unloving behaviors, which will bring spiritual harm to them and to congregation as a whole.
Question: Why is sex emphasized so heavily in our lives?
Answer: Here are two reasons. First, sexual feelings are some of the strongest we experience and are therefore foremost in our minds. Second, cultures places an inordinate attention we give to sex. Just as a person can become preoccupied with his or her own sexuality, a whole culture can also become sexualized. When our culture gives so much importance to sex then, when we experience sexual temptation and sexual variations, let alone sexual disorders, we can become arrogant, judgmental and reactive. This boasting in our conquests or our variance, or hiding our failures and our struggles, creates a culturally unhealthy reaction for all of us. The solution is to humbly and gently say the truth. What the Bible calls “truthing-it-in-love.” (Ephesians 4:15) Staying sexually pure is hard – so we need God’s help. Stopping sexually variant behavior is hard – we absolutely need God’s help and a Christian counselor’s care. And healing sexual disorders is hard – we need God’s help through the training and care of physicians, psychiatrists and pastors. We also need the support of our church family and friends. A healthy biblical community lovingly supporting one another in confessing the truth, finding God’s forgiveness, seeking God’s cleansing and accepting His empowerment, we can help us to live lives pleasing to Him. This is true not only in small groups where Christians have the opportunity to help one another be accountable to God, but also in the larger church family where honest talk about the mutual need for God’s change is acknowledged. The journey of faith is a shared journey as each person helps and receives help from others.
1 This epistemology is known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. [Find My Place]
2 http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/040615/dq040615b-eng.htm [Find My Place]
3 http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2003/jul/03071405.html [Find My Place]
4 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/exhibitionism.htm [Find My Place]
5 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/voyerism_disorder.htm [Find My Place]
6 Though most often used to describe the addiction to substances, the mechanism is the same for the inability of a person addicted to pornography to gain the same level of pleasure from normal sexual experiences. But since the experience is a pseudo sexual one it is not fulfilling and requires increasing levels of “thrill.” Here is a definition of anhedonia as it relates to the downregulation caused by overstimulation of the pleasure center of the brain: “The human body has a natural tendency to maintain homeostasis, and the central nervous system is no exception. Chronic elevation of dopamine will result in a decrease in the number of dopamine receptors available in a process known as downregulation. The decreased number of receptors changes the permeability of the cell membrane located post-synaptically, such that the post-synaptic neuron is less excitable- i.e.: less able to respond to chemical signaling with an electrical impulse, or action potential. It is hypothesized that this dulling of the responsiveness of the brain’s reward pathways contributes to the inability to feel pleasure, known as anhedonia, often observed in addicts. The increased requirement for dopamine to maintain the same electrical activity is the basis of both physiological tolerance and withdrawl associated with addiction.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Addictive)
Downregulation can be classically conditioned. If a behavior consistently occurs in the same environment or contingently with a particular cue, the brain will adjust to the presence of the conditioned cues by decreasing the number of available receptors in the absence of the behavior. It is thought that many drug overdoses are not the result of a user taking a higher dose than is typical, but rather that the user is administering the same dose in a new environment. [Find My Place]
7 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/pedophilia.htm [Find My Place]
8 This is a definition given by Karen Herrick at http://www.karenherrick.com/blog/ [Find My Place]
9 http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/zoophilia [Find My Place]
10 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/fetishism.htm [Find My Place]
11 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/sexual_sadism_disorder.htm [Find My Place]
12 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/sexual_masochism_disorder.htm [Find My Place]
13 http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/06/24/world/main704206_page2.shtml [Find My Place]
14 http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/transvestism [Find My Place]
15 The question that is often asked of the social sciences is whether homosexual orientation is a choice. Asked in a variety of ways, and greatly simplified for our discussion, the concern is whether same-sex desire is the result of a genetic code similar to eye-color. If it is, then it is often assumed that a person has no choice and should certainly not be expected to refrain from fulfilling his or her genetically determined desire. Similar to this rationale are the corollary arguments of homosexual behavior in the animal world and prenatal hormonal variation. The assumption made from such research is that if there is a genetic, instinctual, biological cause for a homosexual orientation, then the individual is destined to same-sex behavior, or at least will suffer greatly if they try to behave in a way that is contrary to their “nature.” The next conclusion is that if they were “born this way” then society should accept them because it is society’s negativity that is causing such persons to suffer and not the behavior itself.
Limiting our discussion to only the neuropsychological aspects of the issue and not biblical teaching, the science is not nearly as simple as the above assumptions indicate. First, the gene that causes sexual orientation has not been found. Current thought is that sexual orientation is caused by a complex of genes which work closely together with the environment in an irreducible system of social interactions, temperament and brain development. This system includes the personal choices of all involved, from parents, to siblings, to the individual. This is true of many of the genetically supported behaviors of human beings, from alcohol use to obesity to depression to anger. It is not supported by the research that a person has no choice even when there is a genetic or biological predisposition.
Second, research on animal behaviors that appear to be homosexual are fraught with all types of difficulty. The mounting behavior of males in many species, for example, is a dominating behavior of the alpha male to subdue reproduction competition. This behavior does not produce seminal emissions and is for the purpose of increased heterosexual privilege. Human males with homosexual orientation are not seeking dominance of other males in order to gain access to reproductive females.
Third, the prenatal hormonal variation in which the developing person transforms from the universal female to a male does produce differences in temperament. When the hormonal release is less, the male retains more of what are stereotypically called feminine responses. These include increases in verbal skills, interest in the arts, a decrease in athletic ability and less aggressive behavior. The social relationships created by such males are different than those created by more hormonally affected males. From parents to siblings to peers, these interactions impact the developing brain and reinforce both the nature and nurture of hormones and experiences.
Fourth, the intensity with which a person experiences homosexual behavior is addictive due not only to the physical pleasure responses but also the psychological release. This can cause an individual to become focused on this behavior in a way that is central to identity and relational formation. Like all behaviors that become addictive, the early choices are difficult to change as the behaviors continue.
The best understanding then of current social science is that homosexual orientation is an interactive development of the body and mind within a familial and social environment that involves the predispositions, experiences and choices of all involved. Though the person with a homosexual orientation may experience this as something they did not choose, choice is a part of the processes and behaviors reinforce these choices. This is true of all human behavior, and sexual orientation is no different.
The response of our churches from the Wesleyan perspective is one of love and prayer. As we reach out to the 1.8 to 2.8 percent of the United States population with a same-sex orientation, our love and prayers support them in making the behavioral, familial and social changes that bring healing to their souls. This loving prayer involves a joining with them as they join with us in asking God to bring transformation into his holiness for all of us. Find My Place
16 Like all disorders, sexual disorders have complex biological and neurological bases with established therapeutic diagnoses and treatments as described in the DSMIVR – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Revised. [Find My Place]
17 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/gender_identity_disorder.htm [Find My Place]
18 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/dyspareunia.htm [Find My Place]
19 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/female_orgasmic_disorder.htm [Find My Place]
20 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/female_sexual_arousal_disorder.htm [Find My Place]
21 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/hypoactive_sexual_desire_disorder.htm [Find My Place]
22 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/male_erectile_disorder.htm [Find My Place]
23 http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/male_orgasmic_disorder.htm [Find My Place]