A Fundamental Schism and “Christian”"Counselling”: Why New Zealand’s “Exgay” Movement Failed

March 24, 2015 in General

It is common knowledge within New Zealand’s LGBT communities that the so-called ‘exgay/reparative therapy’ aspect of antigay politics is almost dead in this country. With the Pentecostal “Living Waters” network now presumably inactive, there is just Exodus Ministries, stripped of its charitable status back in 2010 and currently headquartered in Titirangi, Auckland. It advertises in a monthly fundamentalist newspaper called Christian News, but that’s all I’ve been able to find out about its current whereabouts. But why did the ‘exgay’ movement founder in the first place?

It would seem that there is a (…) “fundamental” (…) schism between different (pseudo) therapeutic/counselling techniques and methodologies within fundamentalist Christian psychotherapy, psychology and counselling. One strain is called “integrationism.” It accepts that the premises of psychology and psychotherapy are empirically valid, but where they go astray is that they then try to twist the evidential basis for counselling and psychotherapeutic practice around to fit subjective, unsubstantiated fundamentalist biases. “Integrationists” try to convince mainstream mental health professionals and LGBT individuals at risk that they are orthodox, reputable counsellors or psychotherapists and can be entrusted with responsibility for therapeutic transactions between professionals and clients.  The other version is called “nouthetic”"counselling”, although whether it actually deserves to be designated “counselling,” “psychotherapy” or even “scientific” is open to debate, even within fundamentalist circles. Whereas integrationist fundamentalists try to shoehorn subjective and unsubstantiated fundamentalist antigay biases into “exgay” (pseudo) scientific research, “nouthetists” are the hardliners of  the fundamentalist “psychotherapeutic” community. Why? Well, they regard the Bible as their principal ‘guidebook’ for counselling and psychotherapy, and nothing else.   In other words, what we have here are unqualified charlatans with worthless pseudo-’qualifications’ in an empirically unsubstantiated act of demagogic ‘practice,’ who then possibly proceed to do real harm to people caught within their suffocating web.  “Nouthetic” counselling and psychotherapy has been around for about thirty years and seemed to dominate New Zealand fundamentalism thirty years ago. It is altogether possible that anecdotal accounts of ‘exgay’ suicides are the result of these charlatans at work, given their distorted emphasis on ‘sin’, ‘un-biblical’ behaviour and the “necessity” for religious conversion and membership of a fundamentalist church.  When someone turns up, they are harangued to change their ‘behaviour’ and then fail to do so. Hopefully, they’ll realise that sexual orientation is a deeply determined way of being and will decide to abandon fundamentalist-because the consequence is becoming drawn into an ever-widening gyre of self-hatred and intellectual, behavioural and sexual repression, encapsulated and isolated from genuine help from mainstream psychotherapeutic and counselling practice.  So, why did the presumably nouthetic-dominated “Christian counselling” fundamentalists fail? Because of their repeated failures and absence of reputable evidential basis, as well as sub-professional practice, they found that there was increasing resistance to their propaganda as New Zealand LGBT communities became wise to their shallow basis for existence and isolationism.  And so, their numbers dwindled here until now, they are almost extinct.

This thought came to me as I spotted a copy of fundamentalist author Joe Dallas’ When Homosexuality Hits Home (2004), which is currently being reprinted. It is amusing that Dallas thinks that there is sufficient basis for the overlap between LGBT communities and fundamentalist communities anymore.  Except within the fundamentalist-dominated Southern United States and some African nations, that is no longer the case.  LGBT people are less and less likelier to find themselves in fundamentalist churches unless they are the children of fundamentalists, especially in societies like New Zealand where there isn’t much of an elaborated infrastructure of fundamentalist professionals to provide intellectual pretence to buttress their efforts within an increasingly secular New Zealand society.   At the moment, Exodus New Zealand seems to  predominantly serves older recidivist fundamentalist men who have sex with men, and can appeal to no-one else outside that shrinking catchment. Here endeth the lesson. One wishes that Exodus would similarly do so.

Not Recommended:

Jay Adams: The Christian Counsellors Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counselling: Zondervan: 1988.

John McArthur and Wayne Mack: An Introduction to Biblical Counselling: Thomas Nelson: 1994.

David Powlison: Seeing With New Eyes: Counselling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture: Presbyterian and Reformed Press: 2003.

Joe Dallas: When Homosexuality Hits Home: What to Do When A Loved One Says They’re Gay: Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House:  2004

Timothy Christian and David Ohlschlager: Competent Christian Counselling: Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press: 1984

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