Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Monday Sermon: Should Certain Prayers Come With A Warning Label?

Reparative Therapy 

What is the purpose of prayer? Is it to cure or condemn? To acquire or release? One cynic has said that prayer is doing nothing while thinking you're helping. For some people, that is probably true. And when the prayer is for yourself, that maybe merely self-delusion: the power of prayer lies not only in intensity but purpose. Purpose, in fact, can define intensity, and the more minds share the purpose and intensity, the greater the power, the greater the possibility that something may happen.

Something. But not necessarily what is prayed for.

There are , of course, many different kinds of prayer - especially in today's societies and one could argue that "imprecatory" prayer is used more often than not, since whole nations under Islam are praying for the destruction of the U.S. And there's individual prayer; but is praying in a quiet corner of one's house, as Jesus suggested, just as powerful? Again, the intensity and purpose delineate the power, and in the case of self-change, the results can be good, bad ...or non-existent.

Reparative therapy - today commonly known as "pray-away-the-gay" or "re- prayer-a-tive" therapy is now under scrutiny by the California legislature.
The bill would make it illegal for psychologists in the state of California to provide gay and lesbian conversion or reorientation therapy to teens. The controversial conversion therapy, sometimes also known as reparative therapy, attempts to change the sexual orientation of a person from homosexual (or bisexual) to heterosexual.
The bill would also require adults who submit to the therapy to sign a release saying they know what they're getting into.

Most of reparative therapy involves some kind of prayer and many clinics are affiliated with faith-based organizations. Clinics like NARTH - the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality - routinely use prayer as a means of confession to the "sin" of homosexuality and instillation of hope that through prayer and following the methods of the therapist the person will be "cured." It's not as bogus as faith healing, but it deals with fearful and confused people who suffer self-loathing and will doing anything to stop the torment of being considered "vile" and "sinful" in their orientations.

It also deals with children and teens forced by their parents to seek therapy.

The stories of harm caused by reparative therapy far outweigh the stories of "cures.": most patients suffer even more depression and the number of subsequent suicides is alarming. Some of the clinics, like the one run by Michele Bachmann's husband, Marcus Bachmann are unlicensed. NARTH is licensed, but the stories of its techniques and its therapists abound. For example, the author of A Parent's Guide To Preventing Homosexuality, Joseph Nicolosi has (jokingly?) stated: “If the father drops the kid and the kid gets brain damage, at least he’ll be straight. Small price to pay.”

NARTH has also been plagued with incidents of hypocrisy and scandal: one of its founders is George "rent boy" Rekers* who was paid $300 an hour for "expert" testimony against gay adoption in Florida. Joseph Nicolosi has been at odds with the American Psychological Association, and his membership has been jeopardized several times.

And in an "alert" email sent to donors about the proposed California legislation, NARTH effectively admits to "pray away the gay":
While this is a direct assault on everyone’s freedom it is also a not so subtle attack on religious liberty. Individuals of faith often seeking to live lives congruent with their religious convictions are often motivated to seek help for their homosexual attractions. This type of legislation would in effect criminalize those formerly ethical relationships between a client and their therapist unless those interactions were supervised by agents of the state.

The State of California has never criminalized prayer, but the intent to promote a potentially harmful mode of therapy - one using prayer - is certainly criminal.

Maybe certain prayers and therapies should come with a warning label. Then again, so should some therapists.

*Rekers was spotted with a male escort in an airport, after which the escort stated that he was hired to do more than help Rekers with his luggage.