About the Guest
How would you know if your child was struggling with homosexuality? Alan Medinger, founder of the ex-gay ministry Regeneration, and author Don Schmierer give signs parents can look for that indicate a child may be confused with his or her sexual identity.
How would you know if your child was struggling with homosexuality?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, February 25th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Today we have some practical suggestions for parents on how we can steer our kids way from the gay lifestyle.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. Once again, today, Dennis, we want to encourage moms and dads to be diligent and make a determination about whether your sons and daughters are age-appropriate for what we're going to be talking about. We're going to be looking again at the subject of homosexuality, and it may be that younger listeners should be distracted during this discussion.
Dennis: Yes, and, Bob, if one of our listeners knows of a family member or a friend who is dealing with this subject of homosexuality, it might be a good opportunity to pick up your phone and call them and invite them to listen in. We're not into bashing people, we are into offering hope and the Gospel, which liberates from all sorts of addictions and sin. And I'd be less than honest if I didn't say up front that I believe the Bible teaches that this is inappropriate behavior. This is not something that I believe the Scripture endorses.
And we have with us today a couple of gentlemen who have written a pair of books that are real eye-openers that I think address the fear that some moms and dads – well, they struggle with as they think about raising sons and daughters in the midst of a permissive culture. Don Schmierer joins us along with Alan Medinger. Don, Alan, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Don: Great to be here.
Alan: Thanks for having us.
Dennis: Don has written a book called "An Ounce of Prevention." He and his wife, Diana, have been married for more than 40 years. They live up near Sacramento on a farm. Do you ever do any dove hunting up there in the …
Don: Oh, yes, yes.
Dennis: … in the valley?
Don: Yes, I love to dove hunt.
Dennis: It's a beautiful spot up there. He's been involved with The Navigators for a number of years; has a number of ministries where he's served folks who are in the addiction recovery programs, and he's written this book, "An Ounce of Prevention," really addressing the whole concept of preventing the homosexual condition in today's youth, and it's a needed book today.
Alan and his wife live in the Baltimore area, all the way across country. Alan is the former executive director of Exodus North America. He is the founder and director of Regeneration, which is one of the oldest Christian ex-gay ministries in the United States. He is a speaker at ex-gay conferences; has appeared on the "Today" show, the "700 Club," and he has written a book called "Growth Into Manhood, Resuming the Journey."
Bob: And we've heard over the last couple of days about how you resumed that journey to manhood in your own life. As you approached your teenage years, you began acting out homosexual behavior. You actually went through a period of abstinence around the time that you got married, and then resumed the practice of homosexual behavior later on during your marriage, and as you shared with us yesterday, at age 38 there was a spiritual breakthrough in your life as you came to faith in Christ and experienced what not a whole lot of people experience – but complete, instant deliverance from desire for homosexual practice.
Alan: I've ministered in this area for about 20 years and haven't found many people with that kind of sudden deliverance, but it did happen with me, and it was only in the sexual part of my homosexuality. There are other parts we probably ought to get into – identity issues, emotional issues that God took much longer to heal in me.
Bob: Well, I wanted to ask you about this, because there are whole churches, there are denominations, some mainline Protestant denominations that have said homosexuality is acceptable at some level. There is at least one denomination, the Metropolitan Community Churches all around the country, that appeal primarily to homosexuals, and they not only say it's acceptable, they celebrate their homosexuality.
You are saying when a person comes to faith in Christ, that's incompatible with homosexuality. How do you respond to these folks who say no it's not?
Alan: Well, the church had one teaching on homosexuality for probably 1,950 years. It was about 40 or 50 years ago that some people started to reinterpret the scriptural passages with reference to homosexuality. But prior to that, whether you were Roman Catholic or Orthodox or evangelical or Pentecostal, it was very clear what God had said about our sexuality – one man, one woman within a lifetime commitment to each other, and any other form of sexual behavior was outside of God's will.
But as – in certain denominations as the authority of Scripture started to wane, as they started to take their authority from the psychological world or the world's values, they started to come up with ways of either reinterpreting Scripture or dismissing its authority in this area. We call it – in ex-gay ministry we call it the "gay theology." In 1 Romans where it says "they turned from the natural to the unnatural," they say, "Well, this is natural for us, so it would be wrong for us to behave heterosexually." They say that the references all in Scripture all had to do with temple prostitution or homosexual rape. There's no basis for that, but that's what they say to explain them away.
Or they dismiss Scripture, as many people in liberal denominations do, you know, the Bible is a nice book. I felt that way – it was a nice book, you might get some good things out of it, but don't take it too seriously. It was written 2,000 years ago, and we understand so much more today.
So they were able to justify what they were doing and often they weren't just justifying homosexuality at that time. I found that they were also justifying – if they're not homosexually oriented, they're justifying their own sinful behavior very often. But this just permeated many of the denominations, and it always seemed like the kind, compassionate way – you know, these people were born that way, they can't change. Let's just affirm them and what they are.
Dennis: I want to put a little different slant on this, because I have a good friend who has a family member who is into this lifestyle. So it's not some third party, far removed and distant – I'm pretty familiar with this family.
And as I have listened to the story of what's taking place in this family member's life, a good bit of why they have left the church that holds forth to the Scripture is because the church that holds forth the Scripture does not hold forth love and has not spoken with a compassionate tender heart, forgiving one another just as God, in Christ, has forgiven them.
And I'm not suggesting at this point, by the way, that they are justified in their behavior of continuing to pursue homosexuality. However, those of us who are in the evangelical church who profess to be followers of Christ must realize that our Gospel is a Gospel of love. It's not a Gospel of condemnation, it's a Gospel that invites people from all lifestyles to faith in Christ, and yet it seems like, Alan, this particular sin and people who live in a lifestyle of practicing this sin, creates a discomfort within the Christian community that – well, a lot of Christians don't know how to handle it, and so the only way they know how to relate to someone who practices homosexual behavior is with anger and with fear and reaction and rejection. And that's not going to end up inviting them into the Gospel, is it?
Alan: No, it certainly isn't, and we minister to many people raised in evangelical homes who experience that kind of response from their church and feel like they were driven out.
Bob: You know, I have often wondered – if you had a co-worker, someone you knew, who was a homosexual, and you had the choice between that person abandoning the lifestyle but remaining unconverted, or that person coming to faith in Christ but continuing to struggle with homosexual practice – which would we be more comfortable with?
Alan: In today's culture when the media and the world is telling them so clearly that homosexuality is okay, very often it's going to take the Holy Spirit to convict them that it is wrong, and that will come after conversion.
Don: One of the things that we've done over the years of been working with couples in Bible studies and this type of thing, and we've had couples that have come to us not being married yet but living together, and we found that if we would just involve them in the Scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to do conviction on them that at some point they are going to look at it and say, "You know, my life isn't at odds with what God's Word says." And I think the same balance should also be with a person that's caught in the homosexual practices to head and to help them to experience who God is and to be around them and be a friend to them but allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives, which He very faithfully does.
Bob: Don, Alan comes to this subject on a personal path. You wrote a book for parents to help provide us a way that we can guard our children against being pulled into homosexuality. It was the last thing on your mind five or six years ago. How did you come to write this book?
Don: It absolutely was the last thing on my mind. I work for a couple who is into philanthropy, and some of the things that we have been doing and funding was hospice work and also AIDS work that's complete all over the world. And my boss one day, as we were talking about it, he said, "Don," he said, "We're working on this thing on the wrong end. People – we're working – they're dying from AIDS, there are all kinds of problems. What can be done to prevent this? Is there anything that can be done, and I would be very much interested in finding out what it is and getting involved in that."
And so we proceeded on a path of trying to find out if there anybody thinking like we were about preventing the AIDS epidemic, and also being – particularly in the United States, it's come from the homosexual involvement – some from drugs. In Africa, it's heterosexual activity that's outside of marriage.
But, anyhow, so I got to looking for this. We were not able to find anyone who was thinking like we were, and so a friend of mine who sort of coached me in this area, and who came out of the lifestyle and who had been involved in hospice work for many years, he started to prep me and to get me involved in reading some books on this particular subject and, to my surprise, I found out that prevention was talked about very, very early in the books. In 1937, we have a book that goes back and where the writer talked about homosexuality being prevented. And at that time they said it was a problem with the mother, a domineering mother.
But as we continued to develop, and I continued to research this particular area, I became more and more involved and more and more intrigued, and also I found a very correlation between what was happening in their lives and also the same correlation that I saw with young people I had been working with that were in drugs or alcohol and other addictive behaviors, even sexual behaviors. There seemed to be a problem in connecting with a parent. Not that the parent was always doing it wrong, but they were not connected in a very positive way with a parent.
Dennis: Don, I'm really glad you wrote this book because I don't know of another book that is written from a preventative analysis of how parents can be proactively addressing the subject of sexual identity in their children and not be waiting for something to occur in a son or a daughter and then react to that.
And one of the lists in your book that I found most helpful was a list of signs that an adolescent may be struggling with gender issues. And what I want to do is I want to put this on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and I just want to read through a portion of this list, and then just have you gentlemen comment on it when you'd like, because this list of 14 items is a good – well, it's a good reminder for parents to simply be aware of what your child is struggling with, and I think it's good to note what you say at the beginning of the list here, Don – that none of these are clear-cut indications of homosexual tendencies. "However," you write, "If some of them are evident the young person may be struggling with gender issues."
Number one, a sensitive child being forced to feel different because of mocking or downgrading by peers or family.
Bob: You're talking about a little boy who is being sneered at, who is being called a sissy, something like that?
Don: One of the things that happens an awful lot in schools is that children do label each other, and sometimes they don't even know what they're talking about. I just had one of my granddaughters came home and shared with me that one of the young boys was calling her a fag. And I don't think the young boy even knew what the word meant.
Bob: It doesn't sound like it.
Don: It doesn't, no, but it really bothered her and upset her, and I had to reassure her that she was not that.
Dennis: Well, here is another sign that an adolescent may be struggling with gender issues – effeminate behavior or a appearance in boys, extreme macho behavior, mannish style or butch posturing in girls, and you put in parentheses, Don, not to be confused with simply being athletic.
Don: Correct. These are some of the things that we, in our society, find it – they're different. If it's a girl, she immediately gets labeled. She's not – maybe the other girls in the group don't find her attractive, or maybe they're not just interested in the same types of things, and so she gets labeled.
With a boy, if you don't play football or if you don't get into sports and get into real rough-and-tumble type stuff, they get labeled, and the more they get labeled, the more they will tend towards going in that direction.
Bob: Alan, there were girls in my elementary school that we called "tomboys." That doesn't mean that a girl is going to grow up to be a lesbian, does it?
Alan: No. Neither of these things are sure indicators of lesbianism or male homosexuality. Every effeminate boy is not going to grow up to be a homosexual just as every homosexual man is not necessarily effeminate. But they are indicators of the possibility, so they have to be taken seriously.
Dennis: Here is another one – unnatural friendship that is compulsive, secretive or inseparable friendships developing between siblings, cousins, relatives or neighbors, especially if merged families or in foster families.
Don: Correct. That's when two children that spend an awful lot of time together – you know, it's one thing to have buds, as we call "buddies," and it's one thing to have friendships, but they go beyond that to more of an emotional attachment. And in mixed families, this can be a danger signal to watch for.
Dennis: Now, this next one that is certainly an obvious sign that an adolescent may be struggling with a gender issue here, you could hear a teenager saying this – "I must be gay," or "I guess I'm bisexual." That's a real warning, isn't it, to hear a child, a teenager, express that?
Don: It is, very much so. And you're not too sure whether they're just picking that up from our society today or somebody is – like the gay activist trying to tell them what they are or whether they're kind of putting these out as feelers and trying to get an idea of what the response of the parent is going to be back towards them.
Dennis: Alan, if a young person expressed something like this – "I must be gay" – what should a mom, what should a dad do in response to that statement? They need to be really careful how they move into that child's life at that point, don't they?
Alan: I think, first of all, they have to really check the validity of what they're saying. Unfortunately, in today's world, when boys go through a natural phase of kind of idolizing another boy, maybe an older boy. Girls, little girls, get crushes on each other. In today's society, if the gay-affirming people are into that school, they are telling that child, because they have these feelings, they could be homosexual, and they could very possibly be a normal phase they're going through. Little girls do get crushes on each other – "Boys are icky," and younger boys may tend to idolize older boys a little bit.
I always try to believe that people are not homosexual. I don't want to believe they are, and – but they need to talk to them at depth, not take this on its – just on the surface.
Don: I think one of the positive approaches a parent can take is – particularly the father – to start reaffirming his son and spend time with him, make sure he's doing the positive things to that child to continue to build them up to love – so the child knows he's loved and spend time with the child doing the things that the child is interested in, instead of taking a negative and backing off and maybe accusing them of something that they've – has passed through their mind. If you take a positive approach towards it, it would help build that resistance towards going in that direction if that is truly what is happening.
Bob: You know, I'm glad you mentioned that, because we can hear some of these things in this list, Dennis, and, as parents, we can overcorrect, we can overreact and go home and say, "We've got to change everything. We've got a really big problem on our hands. Our son is growing up to be a homosexual." We need to be sensitive and alert, but we also have to be careful that we are not overreacting.
Dennis: And, you know, I think that's where prayer comes in. I think a parent who is sensing something or maybe afraid of something, the Scriptures are clear – we are to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us, and one of the things that occurs, I think, in parents today is we're exposed to so many different lifestyles and so many different types of behaviors that are so destructive among youth, we're afraid our children are going to get off into these areas. And I think the place we have to start is with God, and I think we have to take those worries, those fears, those concerns back to Him and begin to ask him – what should I do?
Is there something of a concern here that I need to pursue with my son, with my daughter? And then, Lord, would you give me wisdom? Would you show me what to do and how to engage and involve my child maybe on such a basic level as increasing my affirmation, my belief, my encouragement, my praise of him as a young boy who is making right choices, who is becoming a man. Or as a young lady who is emerging into womanhood but to affirm their gender identity as the number-one authority figure in their lives.
Bob: Yes, and this is one of the key things, Don, that you wrote about as you wrote your book, "An Ounce of Prevention," which, again, as we've said, was designed to give parents a look at some of the things we need to be alert to as we are raising our sons.
We've got copies of the book, "An Ounce of Prevention" in our FamilyLife Resource Center along with the book that Alan Medinger has written called "Growth Into Manhood," and when you put those two books together, parents have some helpful counsel on what to do if this is an area of concern for you, either because of something you've seen developing in your son or your daughter or just because of what's going on in the culture today, in general.
Again, we have both of these books in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on how you can get copies of these books or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team can let you know how you can get copies of these books sent to you.
You know, recently, I was reading some of the notes that come from folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Often, people will jot us a note when they send a check to support the ministry or if they call to make a donation over the phone, they often pass along a message to us.
Somebody wrote not long ago and said, "I think you need to check Bob's caffeine input. I think it's a little too high." We appreciate all of you who support FamilyLife Today and appreciate your comments even about our caffeine levels.
This month, if you are able to make a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we have a thank you gift we'd like to send you – two CDs featuring messages from Dennis and Barbara Rainey on the subject of manhood. Dennis talks to guys about what it means to step up to authentic, biblical manhood, real masculinity. And Barbara talks about what a wife can do to help her husband be that kind of man that God wants him to be.
Again, these two CDs are our way of saying thank you when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount this month. All you have to do is make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com and type the word "manhood" into the keycode box on the donation form. We'll know to send the CDs to you that way, or call 1-800-FLTODAY. You can make your donation over the phone and just mention that you'd like the manhood CDs. We'll send them out to you, and let me just say thank you in advance for your support of the ministry. We couldn't do this without you, and we appreciate your financial partnership with us.
Well, tomorrow we're going to hear a message from a wise pastor in Texas who has some thoughts for singles who are thinking about marriage. Tommy Nelson joins us to offer some suggestions on what makes a marriage work and what makes a marriage not work. And if you're single, or if you know someone who is, invite them to tune in tomorrow for that message.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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