Q&A: Homosexuality and SSA
21 June 2015
Joe Dallas lectures extensively at churches and seminars and directs a biblical counseling practice in Tustin, California (see GenesisCounseling.org). He is the author of Desires in Conflict and When Homosexuality Hits Home. His articles have been featured in Christianity Today, Christian Research Journal, and the Journal of the Christian Association of Psychological Studies.
On the weekend on June 20-21, 2015, the United Church of God – Milwaukee congregation invited Mr. Dallas to present five lectures on homosexuality and same-sex attraction. Those seminars were “Terms and Concepts,” “Answering Common Pro-Homosexual Claims,” “Answering Pro-Gay Theology,” “When Homosexuality Hits Home” and “Where Do We Go From Here?”
After Mr. Dallas finished his seminars, he agreed to an interview with the pastor, Dan Dowd, and the following are the questions asked and his answers.
Dan Dowd (DD)
Joe Dallas (JD)
DD: I have a series of 25 questions here and I am eager to hear your answers. My first question is: Would you please define homosexuality?
JD: Homosexuality as a condition is an attraction, sexually, primarily to members of the same sex. As a behavior it is sexual interaction with members of the same sex, and as an identity it is adopting your homosexuality orientation as being a primary identifying characteristic.
DD: Please explain the background of your ministry.
JD: I actually got into my ministry by a fluke. I was studying and completing my Master’s degree in counseling psychology and I was hoping to go into the field of drug and alcohol rehab. That was what I intended to do when I decided to pursue a counseling degree but as I was nearing the completion of my Master’s degree, part of our requirement was to find a place to do an internship. I had very good grades and good recommendations from my professors but every door I knocked on, closed. Every recovery center or outpatient hospital I interviewed at turned me down. I was checking my deodorant because I didn’t know what else it could be causing everybody to say no to me! Then finally our intern supervisor at my Master’s program told me that there was one little Christian counseling center which was counseling people who were struggling with homosexuality and with pornography. I said, “Not on your life.”
First of al, I said: “That was part of my background, I walked away from that; I don’t even want to think about it anymore and I sure don’t want to talk about it.” Secondly, I said, “I am engaged; I need to support a family and I would never find enough clients to support my family if I put out a shingle saying I dealt with homosexuality and sexual problems.” Well, little did I know . . . I did agree to take an intern position for six months only and after accepting the position we did a seminar and after the seminar the number of clients I could see weekly as an intern went from six to twenty nine. That was when I began to realize this could be an area of focus; perhaps there is a very untouched population within the church.
I want to say that despite my own background in sexual sin I had no idea that within the body of Christ there were so many people who themselves had gotten caught up in it. That was the beginning of my work and that’s how it all came about.
DD: Most Christians are uncomfortable with this issue. Why should they take an interest?
JD: I think one of the worst things Christians can be called is irrelevant. I think in the interest of relevance, we have to be aware of the issues surrounding us at any given time. That would have applied to the church facing the evils of slavery; or the church in Hitler’s Europe; or a church dealing in an impoverished area; or the church of 2015. I think that whatever is a Bible issue in the surrounding culture should be a Bible issue to us. That said, let me also say very plainly that it is an issue within the church and that is another reason we should take a strong interest in it. Many born-again believers are wrestling with their own homosexual desires and many Christian families are directly touched by the issue.
DD: What can the average person do to help?
JD: The more grounded we are as believers (grounded meaning regularly studying the Word, investing in our communion with God through our prayer life, regular in our fellowship, taking opportunity to share the gospel when we can), the more effective we will be in all areas including this one. The average Christian can become better equipped to speak about this issue at his or her place of business, school, among family members. Above all, the average Christian can certainly pray for homosexual people, for the moral climate of the nation, and for the strength of the church.
DD: Many conservative Christians believe that same sex attraction is a choice. Is it?
JD: No, I do not believe that it is. Same-sex behavior is a choice. The attraction seems to be involuntary. If you think about it, could you as a heterosexual choose to become sexually attracted to someone of the same sex? I doubt that. I think a heterosexual man or woman could choose, for whatever reason, to enter into a sexual relationship of the same sex—that certainly happens—but I do not believe a heterosexual could simply choose to be internally aroused, sexually, by members of the same sex. Since I do not believe that is possible, and judging not only from the experience of many people I’ve worked with but also my own, I firmly believe homosexuality is an involuntary condition.
DD: What are the causes of same-sex attraction?
JD: We don’t know. Theologically I believe it’s one of many manifestations of fallen nature; it’s a manifestation experienced only by a minority, but a manifestation nonetheless. There is some valid research indicating that in many cases unsatisfactory bonding with a parent of the same sex can lead to a strong desire for same sex intimacy, which has become sexualized. Other researches indicate that in some cases early trauma could contribute to adult homosexuality. I think the bottom line is that the subject is a mystery; there is still much about this that we don’t know or understand. I doubt that we will ever pinpoint one specific reason we become attracted to the same sex. As I often tell my clients, the “how” is more important than the “why.” How to deal with what I feel is even more important than understanding why I feel it.
DD: You wrote a book with the intriguing title, Desires In Conflict, based on your own experience with same-sex attraction. That desire was contrary to your desire to be a Christian and live a Christian life. The book has been an inspiration to many people who have this problem. Do you have any idea what percentage of Christians struggle with same sex attraction?
JD: I do not. I know of no research done on the Christian population to determine what percentage of believers would wrestle with this. My guess would be that whatever percentage of people in general are homosexual, that percentage would exist within the church. That would be my guess.
DD: The Apostle Paul made it clear in I Corinthians that there were many people in the church at that time who had committed homosexual acts. It was totally acceptable in Greek culture. James advised Christians to confess their faults or sins to one another. Why do you think it is today that Christians can share their problems with alcoholism, fornication, drug addiction and other things, yet people with SSA feel they cannot do so?
JD: There is still a tremendous amount of shame and stigma attached to people who wrestle with SSA; more so, in my opinion, than people who wrestle with another bad inclination, be it pornography or to engage in heterosexual sexual sins. I think part of the problem also lies in the fact that it has become so politicized. I think Christians feel inflamed about homosexuality because we feel threatened by the gay rights movement; we feel undermined in our own homes by the television shows featuring gay characters essentially preaching pro-gay sermons to us. So because we feel a high level of anger about the subject, those who personally wrestle with homosexuality take that into account and think, “Oh wow, I better not ever talk about the fact that I myself have those kinds of feelings or else these people are going to think that I, too, am an enemy.”
I’ll tell you a story: When I repented of homosexuality in early January of 1984, I went to a Bible-believing church, a very solid one, and the pastor was someone I had respected very highly, and still do. I was just getting on my feet, so to speak. This was a Sunday morning and I had repented on a Tuesday, I believe it was. So I was just starting off. I went into the church and the pastor began his sermon by referring to an anti-discrimination bill the governor was considering signing into law which would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. The pastor said, “This bill represents a new low for California morality. Now a lot of the gays will tell you that they’re not interested in children but I know that’s not true because when I was a boy many homosexuals approached me and I would get so mad when they approached me that I’d just beat them up.” And the whole congregation erupted into applause. Then he said, “If they ever go after my grandchildren, I’m going to beat them up.” The whole congregation erupted into applause again, and I thought, “Well, welcome! I think it’s going to be very difficult to be honest about where I’ve been in this church or they honestly will think I’m a child molester.”
As long as there is that kind of vehemence—not against homosexual sin-but the particular contempt for homosexuals themselves, then people struggling with this are going to feel very afraid to come forward.
DD: When someone who is attracted to the same sex and wants to change, what can he or she do about it; what are the first things he should do?
JD: I believe the beginning of all true change is repentance, born of God’s intervention. I believe that when man gives himself over to sin his mind is darkened and there is an alienation from God which occurs, not necessarily positionally, although that’s possible, but at least in his fellowship with God. By the grace of God, He intervenes by interrupting that man. That can be something as striking as Saul being knocked to the ground at his conversion, or the still, small voice. But one way or another I believe God generates a crisis of truth to turn a man to repentance. I think the first step a man has to take is, before God, to renounce the sin and then in practical terms do all that he can to separate himself from that behavior and anything that would draw him back to that. He needs to establish order; that is, to make sure he builds a structure of daily spiritual discipline, and insists on weekly accountability so he’s talking with a responsible believer about his temptation and about his behavior. He will need some good mentoring and discipling from a Christian counselor and/or from mature believers. He’ll need to better understand his own struggles; that’s especially where counseling can be very helpful so one can understand what he is looking for, what emotional need (which is legitimate) he is trying to fulfill through illegitimate behavior. Those are at least the first three steps that I would recommend taking.
DD: What can family members and members of the congregation do to help?
JD: Of course it depends on what sort of help we are talking about. If a family member has a daughter, for example, who says, “Mom, Dad, I’m lesbian and I’m fine with it,” well, that daughter is not asking for help. As Jesus said, when people say they are well, they have no need of a physician. In a case like that, the church should gather around the family, support them, grieve with them and lovingly call the daughter to repentance if she will hear that call. If, on the other hand, a son or daughter says, “Hey, I know this is wrong, I don’t want to yield to it, please help me.” Well, then the church can move in as a place of safety and a place of discipling and say, “You’re one of us. We love you, we welcome you, we want to walk with you as you seek to continue in your integrity by abstaining from this sin. We want to be here for you when you are grieving, when you are feeling very strongly pulled back into old cycles, and above everything else, we want you to keep growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus with the rest of us.”
DD: The Barna Group that tracks religious trends in America recently asked a few thousand conservative Christians twenty questions to determine how much their attitudes reflect those of Jesus Christ. Only 14% showed their thinking about others to be like Christ. A staggering 51% were like the Pharisees. The Pharisees were defined as people who looked down upon others for their sin, while justifying their own. Why do you think homosexuality is singled out by most Christians as being a sin above all others?
JD: My hesitation indicates that anything I say on that is a guess. I agree with the premise of the question and I think it is often singled out. I think part of it lies in the fact that it’s a hard sin to relate to. I think that when someone does something that I cannot fathom, it’s easier for me to marginalize that person and presume that I am somehow, for lack of a better term, better than they are. I think that’s part of it. Another is that male homosexuality in particular is seen as an insult to men. I think men have a visceral reaction to male homosexuality. That may play into it, as well. Part of it is the politics of the whole thing. I think, as I mentioned earlier, many in the Bible believing churches feel the threat and the pressure from the gay rights movement, so anything attached to homosexuality they see as something visceral. I think that plays into it. Part of what plays into traditional thinking—this is very ironic—but I think that the church on this issue seems to be very influenced by the world. Now up until the late ‘70s and early ‘80s in particular, the world viewed homosexuals with a very hateful contempt. It was perfectly acceptable to call them names, beat them up, mock and ridicule them, mistreat them. Had the church been operating in a Christ-like way on this issue, the church would have said that’s wrong. These are sinners Christ died for as surely as we are sinners Christ died for. Yes, that behavior is wrongbut it is also wrong to mistreat a fellow human being! Our hope is that the homosexual will turn from his ways and also that the rest of the world will stop mistreating the homosexual. But instead the church had an attitude of particular disdain for homosexuals, largely, I believe, as a result of influence by the world. And I believe that attitude has been handed down from generation to generation in the church. Now the church is still guilty of being influenced by the world by going to the other extreme. Now many churches are being influenced by the culture’s acceptance of homosexuality. But in both extremes it’s the same root—sin. The church is taking its cues from the culture rather than the church influencing the culture.
DD: One of the twenty questions that the Barna group asked those who completed the survey was: How would you react if two men walked into church holding hands? How should Christians react if confronted with a situation like that?
JD: I see nothing wrong asking people to respect the decorum of the church. I think that it is reasonable to protect the sanctity of the worship experience for the believers in church. I think for that reason there would be nothing wrong with saying, “You are welcome here and we are glad you’re here but, because of our position on this, we’re going to ask you not to hold hands while you’re in the church. We hope that will be amenable to you.” I think that would be a very fair thing to ask. Now, if two homosexuals who are obviously homosexual, plainly recognized, are coming to the church together, not holding hands, not engaging in displays of affection, doing nothing disruptive, I think we should rejoice that they are there and we should welcome them.
DD: You as a devout Christian are familiar with the scriptures. Why do you think there is no reference to this problem in the gospels?
JD: I’m not sure. I suspect the fact that the Law was well known to most of Jesus’ listeners made it unnecessary for him to restate what was already obvious. That is one reason. Another is that he did very plainly teach a standard for the human sexual union as being heterosexual, monogamous and permanent. It would go without saying that anything falling short of that standard would be considered a sin. That might account for the fact that he did not mention homosexuality or bestiality or incest. The fact that he reiterated the correct standard for the expression of human sexuality meant that anything falling short of that standard would be the definition of sin.
DD: The apostle Paul was a Hellenistic Jew; same-sex relationships were common among the Greeks and sanctioned by the Romans. Paul wrote on the subject twice--in 1 Corinthians 6 and Romans 1. In his epistle to the Corinthians, he states that adultery, fornication and sodomy will all keep you out of the Kingdom of God. Do you think churches should treat these offenses equally or is the homosexual act somehow worse?
JD: I think they should be treated equally. They are certainly listed equally. I see nothing in Paul’s writing that one is worse than the other and I think if we’re going to be faithful to Scripture, I think we need to have the same priorities Scripture has. I certainly think the ramifications of some sins are more serious than others and that needs to be taken into consideration. So, for example, Jesus said that if you lust after a woman you have committed adultery of the heart with that woman. I certainly see a difference between adultery of the heart and literal, physical adultery. If a pastor in a moment of weakness allows himself to lust after a woman, I would expect that pastor to prayerfully say, “Lord, cleanse me of that sin; guard my eyes; help me to not do that again.” I would certainly not say to throw him out of the ministry. I wouldn’t even say ask him to step down for a while. But if that pastor committed physical adultery with a woman, I would say, yes, he needs to step down; something needs to get corrected here. Those are both sin, and they’re both recognized as sins, but one has ramifications more serious than the other. So I do believe there is such a thing as a difference in the severity of ramifications, but I don’t see, particularly in the list of sexual sins Paul was condemning there, a difference in the seriousness of them between them.
DD: Is there hope for those afflicted with same-sex attraction?
JD: There is hope for anyone afflicted with anything. Same-sex Attraction is no exception. I think because we have elevated this homosexuality, either to special sin status or to special status in the positive sense, that is a relatively new phenomenon. I see in Paul’s epistles in particular a very practical and very clear viewpoint that there are many inclinations and desires and behaviors people have or engage in that are unacceptable to God. All of them need to be dealt with as though they are unacceptable to God and therefore cannot be acceptable to God’s people. That being the case, we must recognize that God calls people to repentance; there is always hope because we are not called for repentance unto death, we’re called to repentance unto life. When we are willing to accept the death sentence for the behaviors we have incorporated that are outside God’s Law, we find that what we are doing is very much in our own best interest, even if at the time it feels like we are making an enormous sacrifice for God’s sake. We see later that what God required of me was actually freeing me!
DD: You mentioned a father had told you about his gay son. He felt sick even looking at him. When you asked him how he would feel if his son was living with a woman but not married, he replied that at least that was normal. Yet, as you pointed out, both are a sin. Why do you think so many Christians see this one sin as far greater than others?
JD: I think part of the problem, in addition to the ones I’ve mentioned before, is the fact that we wonder if we might somehow be to blame if someone we love, especially a son or a daughter, is involved in unnatural sin. If our son or daughter is involved in a sin we find more understandable, I think that makes us feel a little more comfortable. If they get involved in something we cannot fathom, that’s when we start saying, “Oh no, what have I done wrong?” That makes us especially offended by the sin because we wonder what it says about us as parents.
DD: Is there anything parents of young children can do to help lessen the likelihood of their son or daughter becoming gay?
JD: I hope that there is but I could be wrong. I think the more both parents diligently apply themselves to time and affection and energy with their children, the healthier the children will be. The more that structure in the home is valued and adhered to and, above everything, the more Christ-centered the home is, the healthier the children will be and thereby I think the risk of homosexuality is diminished. We all know that in the best of homes virtually anything can happen. So we have no guarantee when we have children that they will not experience certain temptations , nor that they will not give themselves over to those temptations. What we must do is be sure that we have modelled for them as best we can with a healthy marriage and a healthy home so they will learn to not settle for anything less than what they have experienced.
DD: What can parents do to counteract public school promotion of a gay lifestyle as a legitimate alternative to the traditional family?
JD: Let’s make our case to our kids before the world makes it. We have them first; we are their first teachers; we’re their first guardians; we should be the first ones talking to our kids about this. I wanted to make sure that by the time somebody else told my kids about sex they would be able to say, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard all that before.” I think we need to start our teaching on sexuality early, I think we need to explain the sacredness of the body to God, the divine intention of the human sexual union, the beauty of the family, the safety of the family, and the emotional and physical safety of physical monogamy. Those are lessons we can start teaching our children long before the public schools, or the media, or the celebrities can get to them.
DD: A recent study showed that the average eight-year-old has been exposed to pornography on the internet. How much effect do you think pornography can have as a contributory cause of same-sex attraction?
JD: I am not sure. I’m of the opinion that pornography inflames what is already there so that the person who is using pornography will probably experience inflammation of sexual arousal together with whatever unnatural proclivities might also be there. If a person has a minor proclivity toward sadomasochism or bestiality or group sex or homosexuality or bisexuality, I think pornography will inflame that proclivity when normally it would not have been entertained or indulged in. In that sense I believe that porn can have a roll in all of this. I really don’t think pornography can turn a heterosexual into a homosexual, I really don’t. But I do think that pornography, in a sense is like alcohol—people under its influence will do things that they ordinarily wouldn’t do. I know many people who have experimented with homosexuality because they have been watching pornography and felt a strong urge to go crashing past the gate of what would normally restrain them.
DD: What advice do you you have for churches that as yet have no program to help people struggling with homosexuality? How can they assess the need within their own congregations?
JD: As strongly as I believe in a ministry focused on this issue, I do not think all churches need to have a specialized ministry to deal with homosexuality, not at all. I think where there is good ministry going on, good teaching, strong love among the saints, and a solid sense of identity as being the body of Christ and the bride of Christ, it will be an environment conducive to healing and to purity. However, if in addition to that, churches are already offering programs dealing with other sinful tendencies, then I would say to them, “C’mon, what’s wrong with you?” If a church is offering specialized ministry to people dealing with smoking, or who need anger management, or have a problem with alcohol or chemical dependency, then I would say, “Well, while you’re at it, consider the fact that homosexuality is one issue the church has to deal with.” How can we preach against the sin if we’re not going to offer some help to the sinner if and when he repents?
DD: Why have some churches embraced pro-gay theology? And how can the Bible-based churches explain the scriptural prohibition on homosexuality?
JD: I don’t think this happens in a vacuum. I think for a church to reach a point where it would embrace pro-gay theology, something more foundational has to have already happened to that church in the way it approaches Scripture, and in the way it approaches the faith. In that sense I believe doctrinal error is like a disease a healthy body would fend off but an unhealthy body would not. Consider Aids as an example. Aids, of course, does not kill anyone. The diseases one gets when one has Aids, those are what kill the individual. Aids breaks down your immune system so that diseases you would normally ward off now can attack you and kill you. I think the same is true of false teaching. In a healthy church body, where the doctrine is solid and where it’s adhered to, that body is more immune to error and will not be infected by it. But in a body that is not doctrinally solid, whether it’s not a high view of Scripture or a respect for Scripture evidence in the studying of it and living out of it, or in a body where there is not a deep communion based on prayer and on mutual love and a strong sense of identity of members of the body—in that kind of a body which is not healthy, there I think is the higher risk of infection, of all kinds of errors. I think before pro-gay theology has gotten a foothold in the church or a denomination, other corrosive changes have been taking place in that church or denomination.
DD: Do churches have anything to fear from homosexuality?
JD: I do not believe they do. I do think churches have much to fear from the aggressive proponents of homosexuality who would seek to either silence or convert the church. I think churches should fear compromise with pro-homosexual ideology. Churches should fear hatred of homosexual people. Those things I think churches should fear. I don’t think the church needs to fear homosexuality.
DD: Why do you think lesbianism is only mentioned once in the scriptures while male homosexuality is mentioned six times?
JD: I have often wondered that myself and I simply don’t know. I think that oftentimes when a subject is referred to in the masculine, by clear implication it applies to both sexes—that is the nature of language. For example, when David says in Psalms “Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly . . . ,” I think it’s pretty reasonable to say he’s talking about men and women. Paul says, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation . . . ” I don’t think any Christian woman would logically say, “Oh I guess I’m not a new creation.” Of course it applies to both men and women. I think language is a part of the problem. I think another part of the problem is that male homosexuality has traditionally been more visible and prominent than female homosexuality for reasons I would leave for sociologists to tinker with.
DD: Are the causes of female homosexuality the same as for males?
JD: There might be some overlap and there might not. Male and female sexuality are inherently different and because they are inherently different I think contributing factors could be inherently different as well. Just for example, I find there may be more fluidity among women than men—sexual fluidity. I think that between the two sexes women are more likely to experiment with lesbianism than men are likely to experiment with homosexuality. I am not certain why, but I think that fluidity is there. For example, Katy Perry came out with a song about ten years ago called “I Kissed A Girl And I Liked It.” That was about a heterosexual young woman experimenting with lesbianism. It sold very well, was very well received. I don’t think if Justin Bieber had released a song, “I Kissed A Boy And I Liked It,” that he would have a number one hit.
DD: Recently we’ve seen aggressive demonstrations by pro-gay elements in our society whenever they see their progressive agenda threatened. Do you see this getting worse and how can churches best prepare themselves for it?
JD: I do see it as getting worse. I think the envelope is pushed further and further every year, and with each new advance by the gay rights movement, the activists are determined to not surrender any ground. I think churches will need to buckle up. I think we need to be, as Jesus said, wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Let’s talk about the wisdom of the serpent for a minute. I do think churches are going to have to look at their policies and make certain that they have clarified their positions on this because more and more people will be leveling lawsuits against churches. And so we’re finding that churches who have taken the time to get it in writing, declaring that we hold to the definition of marriage as being “this” and to normal, acceptable sexual behavior being “this”, and that anything other than “this” is unacceptable, they will be on safe ground. Those churches are stating up front that when we are considering who we will accept into church membership or whose weddings we will perform, those decisions will be based on these absolute core beliefs. I’m finding that the churches that have taken the time to do that are in a safer place than those who have not because more and more we’re seeing people come into churches, attend the churches, sign up to do volunteer work in the churches, even join the churches, all the while being somewhat secretly homosexual. Then going to the pastor after being with the church six months to a year saying, “My partner and I want to get married.”
When the pastor says, “Sorry, we don’t do same-sex marriage,” that church may suddenly they find they have a lawsuit on their hands. They had never clarified what they would and would not do. So it behooves us to be prepared.
DD: In James chapter 5, we’re told to confess our sins one to another. How can a church get to the point where people struggling with this issue could share it with the congregation?
JD: I believe in modesty and I think there are some things we should not even begin discussing in mixed company and I certainly don’t want to see the church turn into a big Jerry Springer Show where we’re all “Woo-hoo!”—flashing our stuff at each other. I don’t think that’s what our worship experience should be about. I think when James talked about mutual confession, he was not (in my opinion), talking about getting up in front of the church and saying, “This week I said a dirty word; this week I lusted after a woman; this week I stole from my mother’s purse.” I don’t think that’s what he meant at all. I think he did mean believers, in their interpersonal relations, should be confessing to one another. I think we can get to that point if we create within our churches places of safety such as the Bible Study for men, the Bible Study for women, the prayer groups, the accountability groups, or whatever we want to call them. Or simply just to have good enough relationships with each other wherein I would know that ifthis week I was on the Internet and got tempted and entered the wrong item and I flashed on something I had no business looking at, I would know that I could go to you and I could say, “Hey, I messed up this week. I need your prayers. I want you to pray for me that I be cleansed, that I be able to resist even the memory of that, and that I’ll be better able to resist that temptation in the future.”
That’s what I think James was talking about. I think it’s an important component of normal Christian living.
DD: If anybody reading this needs help, what can your organization offer them and how can they contact you?
JD: We do pastoral counseling both in person and by telephone and Skype; we do consultations with churches who are wanting to either address some of these issues in their own congregation informally or who want to establish specific official ministries dealing with these areas. Of course, I do seminars and conferences with churches very regularly. So those are the services we offer. They can contact me at my website which is simply my name: JoeDallas.com.
DD: That’s it for my questions. Are there any questions I should have asked or you would like to ask yourself?
JD: I think you’ve covered it.
DD: Thank you very much.
This article appears in the following topics:
Homosexuality / Same-Sex Attraction