Professor Warren Blumenfeld on the American Association of Christian Counselors’ continued exclusion of the LGBT community.
The 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) released its revised 2014 Code of Ethics as “a mandatory ethical standard for all individuals who elect to become credential holders through the International Board of Christian Care or one of its affiliate boards…” (p. 8). After reading the document, I find so much to unpack that it is difficult to know where to begin.
While the section titled Application to Homosexual, Bisexual and Transgendered (sic) Behavior (p. 15) for the first time in its numerous incarnations at least acknowledges “that deeply held religious values and beliefs may conflict with same-sex attraction and/or behavior, resulting in anxiety, depression, stress, and inner turmoil” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* people, the remainder of the section reads as the same ol’ same ol’:
“Christian counselors do not condone or advocate for the pursuit of or active involvement in homosexual, bisexual or transgendered behaviors and lifestyles. Counselors may agree to and support the desire to work through issues of homosexual and transgendered identity and attractions, but will not describe or reduce human identity and nature to sexual orientation or reference, and will encourage sexual celibacy or biblically-prescribed sexual behavior while such issues are being addressed.”
As a gay/queer man myself, I never really understood what “homosexual behavior,” or for that matter, “bisexual behavior” and “transgendered behavior” amounts to, though I never seem ever to hear anyone speak of “heterosexual behavior” or “cisgender behavior.” Why is that? Oh, possibly because we are experiencing a double standard, ya think?
And how does one define these terms “homosexual lifestyle,” “bisexual lifestyle,” and “transgendered lifestyle”? My “lifestyle” certainly does not amount to a “lifestyle” of the rich and famous, but includes something much more mundane. I walk to the bus, which takes me to my university where I work as a professor, or I sit at my computer and craft articles and commentaries. I walk my three cute and affectionate little Italian Greyhounds, I clean my home, I roll my cart and go shopping for groceries, I read books, and I watch some TV. Oh, I just realized that maybe what they mean by “homosexual lifestyle” includes my watching “Glee” and my cultural hero Rachel Maddow. Okay, I’m beginning to understand.
In addition, I wonder whether AACC generically advises people in different-sex marriages to remain celibate as it does for “homosexual, bisexual, and transgendered” people. I also wonder what AACC means by “biblically-prescribed sexual behavior,” but I don’t think they mean, for example, Deuteronomy 25:5: “When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.” And what about biblical injunctions on husbands and wives engaging in sexual intercourse during a woman’s period? Leviticus 20:18: “If a man lies with a woman during her menstrual period and uncovers her nakedness, he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from among their people.” I could continue on this vein, but I think you get my drift.
I also ask AACC why has it invited as featured speaker at its annual conference in San Diego in July the President of the Family Research Council (FRC), Tony Perkins, the same person who has argued that “Homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men” even though he presents no valid research backing up his claim since none exists. He also stated that “homosexual misconduct” in the military will increase without the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and on Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court: “We do not need a justice on the Supreme Court who sees it as her life mission to write the homosexual version of Roe v. Wade by striking down one-man, one-woman marriage across America.’
Also, among its seven “Biblical-Ethical Foundations,” the Code places Jesus as the center of its work: “Jesus Christ…is the pre-eminent model for Christian counseling practice…” (1st Foundation, p. 12); “Christian counseling maintains a committed, intimate, and dedicated relationship with the worldwide church…” (2nd Foundation, p. 12); “Christian counseling…[is] geared to help others mature in Christ…” (3rd Foundation, p. 12); “Christian counselors are dedicated to Jesus Christ as their ‘first love,’ to excellence in client service, to ethical integrity in practice, and to respect for everyone encountered.” (4th Foundation, p. 12), and “Christian counselors are mindful of their representation of Christ and His church…” (7th Foundation, p. 12).
Well, this if fine. I certainly don’t find fault with this as the underpinning of Christian counselors. I do, however, find a great contradiction in the Code listing its “Ethical Standards for All Christian Counselors” in ES1-000: A Judeo-Christian Worldview – Practicing through Faith and Values when it states, “This Code – and all who follow it – incorporates a Judeo-Christian worldview and meta-ethic, one that is derived from both special revelation (recognizing that Jesus Christ is God-come-in-the-flesh)…” (p. 13).
At best, the term “Judeo-Christian” stands as oxymoronic. Some of us Jews may believe that Jesus lived as a human prophet, but we certainly do not believe or accept him as the anointed Messiah, except possibly for the so-called “Jews for Jesus” or “Messianic Jews” who have converted to Christianity.
I understand the term “Judeo-Christian” more as hypocrisy, as double talk, and as the language of indoctrination in an attempt to cover signs of prejudice or superiority on the part of Christian proselytizers. This alleged “Judeo-Christian” tradition disguises the past 2000 years of Christian anti-Semitism, and obfuscates the major differences between these two monotheistic religions. More importantly, it obscures the overarching systems of advantages and privileges bestowed on Christians within a U.S. and larger “western” context. Christian privilege through a hegemonic system promotes the institutionalization of a Christian norm or standard, which establishes and perpetuates the ideology that all people are or should be Christian, thereby privileging Christians and Christianity, and excluding the needs, concerns, religious cultural practices, and life experiences of people who do not follow Christian teachings. At times subtle, and often blatant, this Christian hegemony amounts to nothing less than oppression by neglect, omission, erasure, and distortion as well as by design and intent.
If AACC truly follows and lives up to its expressed statement to “proactively avoid every manner of harm, exploitation, and unjust discrimination in all client-congregant relations…” and is “also aware of their psychosocial and spiritual influence and the inherent power imbalance of helping relationships – power dynamics that can harm others, even without harmful intent” (1-110: No Harm or Exploitation Allowed, p. 13), then it will take yet another look, this time a critical look, at its Code so that one day, the members of the organization will actually provide all clients, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* people, the respect and support for their sexual and gender identities and expressions that they are due.
If not, I hope at the very least that the organization and its membership will write and follow policies encouraging referral of its LGBT and questioning clients to secular-based LGBT-supportive counselors and other mental health professionals.
Like The Good Men Project on Facebook