EX-GAYS? A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF RELIGIOUSLY MEDIATED CHANGE IN SEXUAL ORIENTATION. Stanton L. Jones & Mark ?. Yarhouse. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007. Pp. 414, pb. Reviewed by Rod Bassett (Roberts Wesleyan College/Rochester, NY).
In a paper published in the American Psychologist, Stan Jones pointed out that one of the contributions of a postpositivistic philosophy of science has been the recognition that scientific theories are often undetermined by facts. The Emperor may not always be fully dressed. If I was to step back and survey psychology, then I might well conclude that one of the areas where this observation could be especially true is in regards to sexual orientation. Psychologists on all sides of this issue seem inclined to make sweeping conclusions based on minimal, incomplete, or inadequate data. If this observation is correct, then data regarding the possibility and functionality of efforts to change sexual orientation within a religious context presented in a reasoned and thoughtful manner should be a welcome contribution of the discussion of sexual orientation. Jones and Yarhouse attempt, and I believe succeed, in making such a contribution.
The book provides a detailed report on a collaborative effort with Exodus ministries to address two questions: "(1) Are the claims of a cluster of conservative religious ministries valid that homosexual orientation can be 'healed'? In other words, is it ever possible for an individual who has a homosexual orientation to change that orientation via religious means? (2) Is the attempt to change harmful, as so many today claim?" (p. 15). It is important to note that the possibility of change was studied not in the context of traditional professional psychotherapy. Rather, the potential for change was assessed in a collection of ministry groups that utilized an array of spiritual and psychological interventions.
When it comes to defining sexual orientation, Jones and Yarhouse point out that the debate often is between the positions of essentialism and constructionism The position of essentialism tends to view same-sex sexual behavior as flowing from the essence of the individual. Such behavior is simply an expression of an individual's very self. Often, such a view is accompanied by nativistic assumptions about the genetic and/or prenatal hormonal contributions that are perceived to determine an individual's sexual orientation. In contrast, a constructionistic view assumes that how we think about sexual orientation involves linguistic constructs that capture culturally derived meanings regarding the issue of sexual orientation. If plausible data can be provided indicating that at least some homosexual individuals are able to change their sexual behaviors and sexual attractions, then that data potentially makes an important contribution to this debate. Such data also has important implications for professional organizations, like the two APA's in regards to the conceptualization of sexual orientation.
The book begins by discussing the nature of the controversy regarding sexual orientation and clarifying how conservative Christians might conceptualize the issue. The authors provide an overview of the literature on the effectiveness of psychologically and religiously mediated attempts to change sexual orientation. The authors then review the characteristics of a strong test of their hypotheses (that the sexual orientation of some individuals can change and that efforts to change will not be harmful). …