Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Biblical Perspective

Just What Does That Mean?

A recent article about faith leaders talking about health care quoted a local minister who felt it was important for pastors to help their congregations understand the issues surrounding health care reform "from a Biblical Perspective". And I've been scratching my head ever since to understand just what that means. Now, I'll also add that this particular minister isn't a firebrand, ultra conservative type - he's known as a fairly moderate voice in both faith and politics.

There is no need for me to decry the embarrassing - and organized - vitriol coming from those who are opposed to any reform proposal - and in my opinion NOT because they might be good or poor ideas, but that they would be President Obama's ideas. Sadly, many of these voices who are trying to dominate and dictate - not discuss or debate - are from faith. So what does "from a Biblical Perspective" mean regarding our broken health care system?

Scripture clearly calls for healing of all types. Some of the more well known miracles of Jesus were in healing medical ills. Further, by his example, healing was meant for and given to all without cost or qualification. So does "from a Biblical Perspective" mean creating a system by which ALL can have access to reasonable health care? I would hope so. And that is precisely where the American health care system falls apart. That and the unbridled cost. Premiums that rise 15, 20 even 33 percent (I'm on the board of an area non-profit...these are not made up figures!) are obscene. If one uses the story of Jesus overturning the tables of the money-changers that "facilitated" access to the Temple, then the argument is easily made that these outrageous costs are also unBiblical.

My concern, though, is that "from a Biblical Perspective" is also - and in fact already is - being used by the ultra-conservative voices of Christianity. They are already raising the "specter" of surgeries for transgender people (even personally attacking one noted transwoman), the "horror" of access to abortion and forced euthanasia. Where in Scripture is this found? It isn't, but that doesn't matter when you are trying to instill fear in people in order to drain money from their pocketbooks.

Care. Compassion. Inclusion. If those are part of "Biblical Perspective" then I may be in the wrong school studying the wrong things as I work toward a Certificate in Pastoral Ministry. Those are the very reasons why I am pursuing those studies. The voices of exclusion, condemnation, hateful judgment are what kept me away from the Church for more than four decades. No longer.

I am not an expert on our health care system, nor have any ideas to best resolve the issues of cost and access. I need to leave those ideas to others. But something, several somethings, need to be done. Hyperbolic scare tactics are not the way to achievement.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


APA shoots down "reparative" therapy

First - an apology for my rather lengthy absence, I'll try to be a bit more active on current things and I appreciate those that continue to stop by this blog.

Today, the American Psychological Association issued it's strongest opposition to date regarding "reparative therapies" for gays and lesbians - and with that likely us transpeople as well. The statement plainly states that therapists should not ascribe to this hurtful, harmful approach to helping an LGB/T member through the challenges of coping with the condemnations and conflicts posed by their faith. But the APA stops short of where it needs to go.

The statement suggests that therapists recommend celibacy to LGB/T people in faith conflicts, or suggesting switching to a different faith journey. I don't see how celibacy is a viable option - would the APA suggest celibacy to hetero people who might be in conflict with their religious teachings? Many Catholics do use birth control in conflict with church teachings for example. Surely the APA understands, and should support, the notion that a healthy, active sex life is important to the overall mental health of all of us. Yes, some are, indeed, celibate - no quibble with that. But to suggest "celibacy" is a viable option for those that do desire sexual relationships, to me is callow and probably trading one "misery" (faith conflict) for another "misery" (no sex life).

Pointing someone toward a different faith path is a bit more appealing, but, I think, minimizes the importance of one's existing faith journey. Yes, many faiths are not kind to LGB/T people in their approach to our identities and lives - but that is only one, and some might even argue, small facet to the overall faith experience. So, while better that offering up celibacy as an answer, this isn't as potentially satisfying either.

Interesting that I encountered someone today who overheard a conversation I was having with a couple of other people. "Vince" identified himself as gay - and conservative - and Catholic. And he spoke of the marginalization he felt from the LGB/T community for his political and religious beliefs. It would have been easy for me to say, "like duh!" aren't ALL LGB/T people "liberal"...and not in less than supportive churches? And that was his point - a point I understood and supported. A therapist is to tell "Vince" he needs to leave the Catholic church?

The final point here is that the APA stopped short of where it needed to go - outright condemnation of "reparative therapy" including loss of licensure for those that practice this incredibly archaic and unproductive approach to mental health. "Aversion therapies" such as those made famous in "A Clockwork Orange" have been well proven to be ineffective at best and excruciatingly harmful at worst. Many of the "techniques" used by those that practice reparative therapies - and under the cloak of "religion" hence beyond regulation or the law - are roundly condemned by the APA and others and can, in fact, result in loss of license.

Read the article in the hotlink above and you'll find that some of the reparative therapists are finding some wiggle room with this new proclamation. There should be none. Period.