Commentary

Joseph L. Norquist, M.D., responds to Dr. Strommen

Joseph L. Norquist, M.D., of Maplewood, Minnesota, sent Metro Lutheran the following response to Dr. Merton Strommen’s comments:

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Both Bishops Chilstrom and Erdahl, on the one hand, and Dr. Strommen, on the other, are trying to be measured, respectful, logical, and true to their
faith in the ongoing debate about homosexuality. Strommen is right in saying that homosexuals are not “born that way”; however, sexual orientation is determined at an early age by apparently multiple factors, so it is as if they were “born that way” in that it occurs, as does left-handedness, naturally and not by choice. Strommen is also correct in criticizing those who say that sexual orientation cannot change. There are some people, probably bisexual, who seem to shift in their orientation from heterosexual to homosexual during their lifetime. And also others who may shift the other way. Probably no obligate heterosexual (Kinsey 0 or 1) or obligate homosexual (Kinsey 5 or 6) have ever changed their sexual orientation significantly. Most people who try to change their sexual orientation fail to do so. Some change their behavior but very few change their orientation.

The “scientific” studies about conversion of sexual orientation are mostly anecdotal and self-reported and not, indeed, conducted with scientific scrutiny. Nor are they followed up in 2, 5, or 10 years to see how and if
they really did change. Even Robert Spitzer, quoted by Strommen, said “only a very few, I suspect, can substantially change”, “the vast majority of gay people would be unable to alter by much a firmly established homosexual orientation, and he expressed opposition to coercing a homosexual to enter treatment to become an “ex-gay.” (Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2001).

He also explicitly warned against the idea that “homosexual orientation is changeable for most highly motivated individuals.” He also cautiioned against misusing his report “to imply that homosexuals should try to change.”These statements are unfortunately ignored by the evangelical
press and apparently not read by Dr. Strommen. He stated, furthermore, that only 66% of the men and 44% of the women he interviewed (not all 200), had achieved “good heterosexual functioning.” And only 11% of the gay men reported an absence of same-sex attractions, feelings, and fantasies.

Spitzer finally concluded that the number of homosexuals who could become heterosexual was likely to be “pretty low.” Spitzer, himself, does not practice reparative therapy. So much for “successful change.”

Thirdly, although one can hardly say that homosexuality “represents a creation of God that is equal to heterosexuality,” sexuality and sexual
orientation can be considered gifts from God; and gay and lesbian people can be considered of equal value before God in seeking happiness, salvation, spiritual growth, and experiencing God’s grace. They are not equal in numbers (94% vs 6%), nor in the likelihood to procreate, but only prejudice prevents them from having equal rights and access to the means of grace in the Church.

The Bishops’ responses seem more grace-oriented and Christ-centered than the unsubstantiated “middle ground.”