Jewish Psychiatrist, Influenced by C.S. Lewis, Says Gays Can Change
An interview with Dr. Jeffrey Satinover
By David W. Virtue in London
Jeffrey Burke Satinover, M.D. is a Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry. He is also Diplomate, American Board of Neurology and Diplomate C.G. Jung Institute of Zurich. To cap off his distinguished career, he has earned a Ph.D. in Physics and is the author of “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth”. He teaches math and statistics at Kings College, a Christian institution in New York and has a private clinical practice. He also has a research position in Zurich, Switzerland.
I sat down with this distinguished psychiatrist, physicist and author at the Sex and the City Conference in London, a conference put on by Anglican Mainstream (www.anglican-mainstream.net) designed to show that reparative therapy for homosexuals and lesbians, if voluntarily entered into without coercion, does work. I saw it first hand and will attest to that fact.
Satinover is a gracious man, humble, erudite, non-partisan, with complex views about faith, but acknowledges that his view of human nature grew directly from his reading the works of Anglican layman, scholar and author, Clive Staples Lewis. "I have been a fan of CS Lewis for many years.
I am Jewish but I could see his approach to spirituality to be very sophisticated psychologically and I have often thought to myself that it would be great to actually take his work and translate it into a clinical approach." Then he discovered that author and teacher Leanne Payne had already done a lot of that work. She is an Evangelical Anglican.
Then I asked, since he feels that Lewis understood human nature, why he is not a Christian. He smiled winsomely.
"My worldview is confused and eclectic. Yes, I am Jewish, but I admit my worldview is not coherent." A short distance from us sits Rabbi Arthur Goldberg, an orthodox Jew whose JONAH clinic in New Jersey treats homosexuals with same-sex attractions. He employs Evangelical, Mormon and Jehovah's Witness therapists at his clinic. He wisely nods his head as if to say he understands Satinover's dilemma. "
I am not attracted to creeds, but I am not the slightest bit repulsed by those who do. I am very comfortable in a setting with orthodox Jews, Catholics and Evangelical Christians. You and they are men and women of profound conviction and I feel completely at home with you."
When I asked what his central message is with regard to homosexuality, having written a book on the subject, he said that he believes homosexuality is potentially changeable, maybe not for everybody, but for people who are highly motivated.
VOL: How did you get involved in the issue of homosexuality?
Satinover: I had been reading Leanne Payne's "The Healing Presence". The book describes a sophisticated system of depth psychology from a religious context, where psychological insights are united with healing prayer. After striking up a correspondence with Leanne, she invited me to a conference where I met a large number of people who had left the lifestyle and changed their sexuality. There I met hundreds of people struggling with that issue, and many who had successfully emerged on the other side and were married with children. As I got to know them, I found them to be quite remarkable. The struggle to be healed had left an indelible imprint. I saw a humility, an empathy and a fearlessness about life. They knew exactly what it meant to stand up for what they believed in, since the struggle to become who they truly were had exacted such a cost in suffering. "Since then I have met plenty of people who have moved away from same sex attractions. Not of all of it has been good. Some of it has been coercive. That is the bad side and some of the churches have gotten into this. They will never succeed. One has to be highly motivated and not overtaken by external pressure and shame. There must be a core conviction to lead your life differently." Shame and guilt are not good motivators, he says.
What got him looking into the subject of homosexuality, he says, was his search for truth, which resulted in his book, "Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth". What I saw changed my mind and my time and conventional indifference for the subject. In his book he wrote, "In sum, it is a simple and sobering fact that no society that has sanctioned unconstrained sexuality has long survived." His book explodes three myths: First, as a matter of biology, homosexuality is an innate genetically determined aspect of the human body. Secondly, as a matter of psychology, homosexuality is irreversible. Thirdly, as a matter of sociology, homosexuality is normal. His book also explores the tactics of intimidation by gay activists. Currently, Satinover said a recent article in a psychiatric publication informed us that 30% of all 20-year-old homosexual men would be HIV-positive or dead by the age of thirty.
You would think that the objective, ethical medical approach would be: let's use anything that works to try to take these people out of their posture of risk. If it means getting them to wear condoms, fine. If it means getting them to give up anal intercourse, fine. If it means getting them to give up homosexuality, fine. That last intervention is the one intervention that is absolutely taboo. In America, truth has become subject to terrible political pressure.
VOL: Is it just about homosexuality then?
Satinover: The question isn't just homosexuality, but rather, freedom from all sexual constraint. This has been an issue for civilization for thousands of years. "I think many people have a sense, especially in America, that too many barriers have come down. We now have so little of a moral compass that we're really completely at sea. We're awash in the tide of unconstrained instinctive behaviors which are all being labeled '"okay'" because nobody really has a sense, any more, as to what's right and what's wrong. In Joseph Campbell's words, 'Follow your bliss.'
This has led us into a growing barbarism. "I also believe that the debate over homosexuality has been profoundly affected by the current culture of complaint. Many, many areas of political life, social life and scientific life today are being profoundly influenced by the various competing claims and cross-claims to victim hood."
VOL: You have a private practice; can you tell us something of the dynamics of what goes on in your practice?
Satinover: I am a practicing psychiatrist and I have a Ph. D. in physics. With all my travels, my practice is small. I keep an interest in societal cultural changes taking place. I also go to VOL'S website to find out what is going on in your church and the Culture Wars.
VOL: I am honored that you do, Dr. Satinover. Tell me about the process whereby people come to you seeking help for same sex attractions.
Satinover: Typically, I get a call from a devastated family. They have heard from one of their kids that (usually) he is gay. Most often the parents want a magic bullet, along the lines, "what can you do make sure that our son isn't gay or make sure he changes." I explain there is nothing they can do to make their child change. Be loving, the child knows and understands that. If the son is living with them, I invite them all in to talk with me. The goal is to understand what is happening and to keep their relationships intact. In some cases, the dynamic is that the parents have half dragged the kid, forcing and coercing him to see me. This, more often than not, mirrors a long- standing pattern of bad family dynamics. In these cases, I will be their child's ally. Occasionally, a child will see that the pathology resides in the parent. Sometimes, the father admits he is the problem.
VOL: Can this be overdone?
Satinover: Yes, it can be overdone. Remorse and feelings can be exaggerated along with feelings of responsibility. Saying you have been wrong over and over can often relieve one of the responsibility of going forward into the future. The No. 1 task for a parent is not necessarily to come up with who is to blame.
VOL: Does one choose to be gay?
Satinover: To say that no one chooses to be gay is true. They find themselves with it. Homosexuality, however, is not genetically traceable. No one is compelling one to be gay. It is false to say that they have chosen this.
VOL: So is change really possible?
Satinover: Yes, change is possible. In almost any human condition people do have the choice to make the attempt to do something about it. If you have an addiction, you have a series of choices that led to it. No one says I want to be a heroin addict, but once they find themselves in the situation, they need help. They can make a distinction in wanting to change and they may or may not succeed.
VOL: What about Christian conversion. Do you rule that out?
Satinover: I have worked out my own way of understanding these things. Some people pray and it makes great sense.
VOL: So, you are not opposed to the idea that faith can make a difference?
Satinover: Not at all. Look at all the great Western art inspired by people of faith. Western Art has been enormously worshipful of its creator. People who write off faith forget about Chagall's Windows and the great art that has flowed from the Christian Faith. Yet I am a skeptic. In fact I am skeptical of my own skepticism. I am not devoted to a unified religious practice, but I am very aware of people of orthodox religious faith like yourself. I like hanging around people like you. (laughter) I view addictive behaviors through a simple lens that I view almost all human behavioral patterns that cause stress through. If people are hostile to biblical language and what they think of sin, then for them it is an arbitrary authority dictum. The ancients used the word "sin" to point to behaviors that are pleasurable but ensnaring: They have the power to become dominating of life.
VOL: What about the cure rate for homosexuals?
Satinover: As a scientist, I hesitate to offer number from my own practice. My population sample is biased. I will say this, people who choose to work on it frequently abandon their same-sex attractions and develop opposite sex ones. I have seen a substantial number of people and experienced a high degree of success and I am happy about that. I have also seen some degree of failure.
VOL: What does success look like?
Satinover: It is a slow process. The greatest likelihood of success comes from sticking with it when the therapeutic relationship is good. It may take a few years. There are a wide range of outcomes from no significant change to complete change.
VOL: Do you work with any organizations?
Satinover: I have worked with the Roman Catholic organization COURAGE, an apostolate of the church whose purpose is to minister to those with same-sex attractions and their loved ones. Likewise with many Protestant and Jewish groups, and with a secular organization, NARTH. I get calls from people who have a mistaken fantasy that marriage will cure them. If homosexuality is not dealt with in a deep and thorough way, it sets the marriage up for disaster.
VOL: You wrote an article called the "Trojan Couch" in which you set out to show how the Mental Health Associations Misrepresent Science. Can you tell us about this?
Satinover: The "Trojan Couch" details explicitly the misrepresentation of science about the causes and roots of homosexuality. Some of my psychiatric and psychological colleagues have woven for themselves their own set of illusory robes of authority, and for the past 35 years have been proclaiming doctrines to the Supreme Court that are scientifically false and distorted. The 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the psychiatric list of disorders was based wholly on fiction, even if, as I argue elsewhere, considering homosexuality an "illness" is also not correct. You can read the full article here: http://www.narth.com/docs/TheTrojanCouchSatinover.pdf
VOL: Do we need a spiritual or moral framework for our behaviors?
Satinover: Yes, we do-in all areas of life. You can't get around those arguments unless you're actually willing to say that, for example, promiscuity is an inferior way of life. You need to be able to say that some certain standard is better. If we can't settle on a shared higher vision, then it's amazing what we must be prepared to accept. For example, there is actually a growing body of literature in sexological journals arguing that the psychological and emotional benefits of promiscuity more than outweigh the risks to life from AIDS. Likewise is there a group attempting to normalize pedophilia. There has recently even ben an APA symposium devoted to making that case. So that is the fundamental flaw of psychology--it is meaningless without the backdrop of a framework of values. Now psychology as a discipline must step up to the table and accept responsibility for the extent to which it has been propagating an amoral ethos. Dostoevsky put it best in The Grand Inquisitor: "Without God, everything is permissible."
VOL: Thank you, Dr. Satinover.
Dr. Satinover's new book Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth is available from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Homosexuality-Politics-Truth-Jeffrey-Satinover/dp/080105625X END
For information on changes to VOL comments, please see this FAQ entry.
comments powered by Disqus
Follow VOL on Social Networks: