Ministerial Musings: An Open Letter To Michele Bachmann
Dear Representative Bachmann,
Recent news reports have highlighted the work of your husband, Dr. Marcus Bachmann, President of Bachmann & Associates— work that you fully support, recent retractions notwithstanding. Among his clients are members of the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) whom you and your husband claim can become heterosexual through “reparative therapy.” Popular culture refers to such treatment as “pray the gay away.” While such language is inflammatory and offensive, it is no less deplorable than your husband’s claim (on the conservative Christian radio program Point of View on May 12, 2010) that gay people are “barbarians” that need to be “educated” and “disciplined.”
That said, I think it pertinent to offer you my “two cents” on this topic being an expert in the area. I am an ordained pastor of thirteen years in the United Church of Christ who has done a great deal of work with people in the LGBT community. I also hold a Ph.D. in theology from Boston University. Your husband holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and you received your law degree from Oral Roberts University. Therefore, the two of you must know that the AMA (American Medical Association), the APA (American Psychological Association), and the AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) have all publically declared that reparative therapy is not only ineffective, but abusive. These organizations maintain that homosexuality is not a disorder; that sexual orientation is part of one’s psychological and physiological identity, as is one’s race, height, and hair color. These three organizations caution professional therapists: such treatment does far more harm than good.
But your husband must know this. He is a professional psychologist, after all. I am a professional theologian. My forté lies in what Christian theology and the Bible say (and do not say) about this issue. After all, the belief that homosexuality is a psychological malady that needs to be treated is predicated on the belief that it is a sin, which is rooted in the biblical narrative.
Or is it?
There are only a handful of passages in Scripture that speak about same-gender sexual relations: Genesis 19:1-25, Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10. If you read such passages literally, they appear to condemn homosexual behavior. When read literally Scripture also condemns divorce, working on the Sabbath, the consumption of shellfish, and wearing clothing made from more than one type of fabric. It also condones incest, slavery, the murder of insolent children and people who blaspheme, as well as the subjugation of women.
If, however, one reads the Bible employing the tools of literary, historical, and sociological criticism — i.e. the standards that are utilized and demanded in all professional, academic disciplines — then one soon discovers that the above mentioned pericopes are addressing issues of pedophilia, rape, and prostitution. They are not dealing with same-gender relationships between consensual adults, nor are they focused on biological or psychological predispositions.
Therefore, “praying the gay away” is as effective as praying that my dog may become a hamster or that my eight year old son may develop the ability to morph into an amphibian at will, as much as he would probably love that.
If you are going to invest your time on reparative therapy, as opposed to developing a political campaign that addresses the real issues that plague our nation, then maybe you can pray for other things as well.
I counseled a disabled, Vietnam veteran today who still suffers from severe post traumatic stress disorder. He does not have gainful employment and had to claim bankruptcy to keep his home (as dilapidated as it is) as a result. He cannot pay his utilities on the minimal benefits he receives from the government, benefits that Republicans seek to diminish in favor of corporate tax cuts. Can you and your husband “pray” that the utility companies do not shut off his gas, electricity, and water?
Yesterday, I offered some meager assistance to a single mother who can barely afford her rent. Her child goes without diapers and health care. Can you invest some of your time praying for them, too, rather than trying to keep the citizens of this nation from receiving universal health care, while members of Congress and the Senate enjoy the best medical insurance available?
These are just two examples. I have many more if you and your husband want to volunteer some of your time to work at my urban congregation and pray with us.
Please know that I will pray for you and the other leaders of our great country — that you govern with intelligence and compassion and find real solutions to the quandaries we face rather than misleading the public by appealing to their emotions and religious sensitivities.
Peace & Blessings,
The Rev. Dr. John Tamilio III, Senior Pastor
Pilgrim United Church of Christ
John III Tamilio
John Tamilio III is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, an accomplished guitarist, and a nationally published author. His first book of poetry, Blind Painting, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Letters in 2003. He and his wife, Susan, live in Lakewood, Ohio with their children: Sarah, “Jay” (John IV), and Thomas.