“When Homosexuality Hits Home –What to do When a Loved One Says, ‘I’m Gay’” by Joe Dallas (Harvest House Publishers, 2015) is an expanded edition of the initial 2004 book.
In the book, Dallas gives advice on how parents with gay children, the spouse with a gay partner, or other family members are to respond in “grace and truth (with) the enormous challenge to be honest and loving” (p 17) when “This person I love is a homosexual.” (p 19)
Dallas is a visible speaker and contributor on the topic of “human sexuality from a biblical perspective.” By his own admission, he says: “(I) never considered myself to be completely homosexual.” (p 8) He grew up in Southern California, and by 8th grade was having sex with boys and girls and using drugs. By the age of 15 in 1971, he was also having sex with adult men. (Source: online interviews with JD)
Dallas, writes he was “on staff with a local gay church and preached that homosexuality and Christianity were compatible, then finally, after six years of self-delusion, repented at 29.” There are a few details Dallas conveniently leaves out of the frequent telling of his story. (Source: online interviews with JD)
Dallas, saved as part of the Jesus movement, had a conversion experience at 15 at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa. At 18, he was ordained at Calvary Chapel and worked in the music ministry, did counseling, conducted weddings and funerals, and got married to a woman. As the church began to develop internal problems, Dallas and his wife left for secular jobs.
He got involved in pornography, went to female and male prostitutes, had an affair with a friend’s wife (she got pregnant with Dallas’ child and had an abortion), ended his marriage, started drinking heavily, and had an extended relationship with a man. (Source: online interviews with JD)
In his search for renewed faith, he went to a Metropolitan Community Church (gay-affirming), where he was involved in worship, but not on staff. At the age of 29, Dallas went back to Calvary Chapel, started seeing a Christian counselor, and got interested in Christian counseling as a profession.
Dallas received Masters in Christian counseling at Vision Christian College near San Diego, a school unaccredited by the U.S. Department of Education (price for this degree is currently $5,400), first intending to work in the field of drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Finding no jobs, he interned at a “little Christian counseling center, which was counseling people who were struggling with homosexuality and with pornography.”
Dallas married his second wife who joined him in ministry work in 1992.
He has had no formal training or degree in the area of human sexuality or therapeutic counseling. He is not licensed by a recognized mental health therapy organization.
A few commentaries before digging into the book, chapter by chapter: most experts in human sexuality recognize a spectrum of natural sexual orientation from homosexuality to heterosexuality, including bisexuality. Though none of us gets to label another person’s sexual identity because it is a personal issue, it is highly problematic, yet simultaneously convenient, when those claiming to be “ex-gay,” such as Dallas, completely ignore the category of bisexuality (having a natural attraction to men and women).
When coupled with interpretation of Scripture that is completely out sync with cultural construct and context, their seemingly dramatic stories of change are offered as the possibility that other gay people, even those who are strictly gay (no romantic/sexual interest in the opposite sex) can change.
Conversion to Christianity transformed Dallas’ life of sexual excess and substance abuse. It is far less likely to have altered his innate sexual orientation. This concludes a brief background of Joe Dallas, the author of “When Homosexuality Hits Home.”
Chapter 1 – Now That You Know. Dallas writes of the pain and denial of hearing “the person I love is homosexual.” (p 19) He covers the Kübler-Ross stages of grief as applied to the readers’ reaction that “it feels like he (the gay person) died.” (p 21)
Chapter 2 –“How Can This Be?” Dallas writes that we can say five things with “biblically-based confidence concerning homosexuality.” (p 47) They are: God has specific intentions for our lives in general, and for our sexual experiences in particular. The created intent of human sexuality is monogamy and heterosexuality. We are a fallen people and homosexuality is part of the fallenness. Homosexuals are redeemable (if not actively homosexual, they can be Christians).
Most of these statements of “what we do know” (p 47) are predicated on the belief that biblical authors must have known about sexual orientation. Dallas states, as a fact, that they did know about sexual orientation. I see this reasoning as an illogical and unsubstantiated assumption. I am joined in agreement by all professional medical and mental health care organizations in the U.S.
[While the refutation of Dallas’ position that sexual orientation was known in ancient cultures is long, I lay the groundwork supporting a more historically accurate timeline and a view of Scripture that is inclusive of LGBT Christians in the first ten chapters in my book “Walking the Bridgeless Canyon.”
Simply put, the same-sex behavior presented in the Bible depicts man on boy sex, sexual excess, and/or lust; and in the case of Sodom, rape. In the context of ancient cultures in which the Bible was written, we always see either an age or power differential between the men and his sex partner.
Two people of the same-sex, of equal social status, in mutually loving, consensual, monogamous relationships were not culturally visible until the early 20th century.
The biblical texts referencing same-sex behavior were written to particular audiences in a particular context of time (14th century BC and 1st century AD). No one in the 1st century could have understood the concept of same-sex relationships. Jesus, though certainly the Son of God, operated as a person within His culture and time. We have no evidence that he did or would have said anything, either for or against, same-sex couples.]
Dallas’ certainty that biblical authors understood and were referring to homosexuality leads him to use the Bible as a text on human sexuality, thereby ignoring what is known by human sexuality experts. These denials of fact, along with selective abuse of Scripture, results in dangerous advice and counseling practices.
Included in Chapter 2 are four common theories as to why people are gay: they are born that way, the developmental/family theory, abuse as a child theory, and demon/unclean spirit theory.
in refuting that sexual orientation may be inborn, Dallas not only uses old information (studies from 1981 and 1991), he does not bother to update his 2004 version of the book with what is known and has been discovered in the field of human sexuality in the 13 years since the first edition. Consider this: in the academic world, studies and research over 5 years old, are not considered current.
Dallas selectively uses his outdated information to support his anti-gay narrative. This is a dishonest practice which Dallas has mastered. Throughout his writing and speaking, Dallas uses a similar sloppy tactics to prop up the developmental/family theory. He actually cites Irving Bieber’s 1963 non-scientific postulations about the root causes of homosexuality. If that is not egregious enough, he substantiates Bieber’s work by stating the 1941 postulations of an early psychoanalyst who theorized homosexuality as a mental illness caused by faulty parental relationships.
[To the reader – if your parent, spouse or child were diagnosed with cancer today, would you seek your answers from experts using up to date research and protocol, or would you rely on 25 year old procedures and information, and, more outrageously, information that is 75 years old ? Further, the bible instructs us that if we need healing, we are to pray and ask the church elders to anoint us with oil. Would you stop at the first century advice, or seek the help and recommendations of reputable and knowledgeable doctors that are educated in modern disease management? Why would you treat the arena of human sexuality and therapy any differently?]
Continuing, Dallas raises the much-discounted falsehood that childhood sexual abuse leads to homosexuality. I have always found it interesting that untrained counselors believe that sexual abuse by a man toward a girl makes her not trust men and be drawn to women for safety (become lesbians). Yet, boys, when sexually abused by men get drawn to men. If you too are confused by this approach to counseling, Dallas suggests a book, written in 1990, to clear up your confusion.
Thankfully, Dallas gives little credence to the homosexual demon theory.
Chapter 3 – Loving a Gay Son or Daughter. Parents are reassured that they did not create their child’s homosexuality. Homosexuality, writes Dallas, is created by: child’s genes, combined with relationship with parents, combined with relationship with siblings and peers, combined with possible sexual violations, combined with “factors we’re still unaware of.” Well, that seems to cover all the bases. Now parents are left to dig around and figure it out who did and did not do what.
Parents are encouraged to clarify what their child means by “being gay” and to clarify their own position on homosexuality. They need to let their child know their own “position on the matter is still unchangeable.” (p 73). Again, I would encourage parents whose children have come out to them to revisit what they’ve been told to think, and to investigate information and current resources, preferably those written in the last five years!
One of the responses to a FAQ in this chapter was extremely troublesome. A parent wonders if rejecting their child’s homosexuality might put the child at risk for suicide. Dallas responds: “This concern is based largely on a faulty report submitted to the Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1989.” (p 77) Dallas goes on to write “hold(ing) a belief about sex and promot(ing) that belief with your minor child is neither a form or rejection nor abuse.” Not only was the cited study one of the first to address the subject, Dallas dispassionately dismisses the high rates of LGBT teen suicide as a “myth.”
I strongly suggest parents of gay minors check out the real research of The Family Acceptance Project. High rates of suicide, destructive behaviors, and depression among rejected LGBT youth are most certainly not a myth.
Chapter 4 – When Your Teen Says “I’m Gay.” More of Chapter 3, but with an authoritarian spirit of “my home, my rules.”
Chapter 5 – When Homosexuality Hits Your Marriage. This is a situation where a marriage is comprised of straight spouse and a gay spouse. Dallas presents scenarios of discovery and the possibility that a spouse is: rebelling sexually, resisting getting help to stop the homosexual behavior, or perhaps, repentant. Dallas offers an action plan for each situation.
Couples in these circumstances face an extremely difficult dilemma. Even Dallas admits the gay partner “will probably have to resist those attractions for the rest of his life.” (p 119) But, “that doesn’t mean he can’t have a normal and fulfilling relationship with you, both emotionally and sexually.” (p 119) I guess it depends on your personal definition of “normal and fulfilling.” I have a full chapter in my book “Walking the Bridgeless Canyon,” on this topic.
Chapter 6 – When Other Family Members are Gay and Chapter 7 – Negotiating Family Boundaries. No surprises here. Clarify their meaning of gay and your beliefs. Make family decisions based on what is offensive to your conscience and/or comfort level. Can a gay family member bring a partner to your home to stay for the holidays? No. Can a gay family member come to your home with a partner and not spend the night? Yes, but no physical contact, especially if children are present. Can a gay family member talk openly during family gatherings? Certainly not if children are present, and not if they are trying to pressure you to change your beliefs.
Chapter 8—Same-Sex Weddings. Dallas declares: “Let me say at the outset that I don’t believe it’s right for a Christian to attend a same-sex wedding ceremony, even if the ceremony is for a family member. “ (p 155) “Attendance equals approval.” (p 160) He offers a suggested letter parents might send their child, or that a family member might sent to a gay relative who is getting married. My 85-year-old Mom after reading it called it “a kick in the ass.” I would use stronger language.
In Chapter 9, The Three Most Common Arguments, we see more sloppy information on the topic of same-sex marriage. Dallas quotes gay activist Andrew Sullivan as believing marriage equality would radically alter marriage, and, as not fully supportive of marriage equality. Not only were Sullivan’s thoughts from 1993, they are taken out of context. (Sullivan actually married his spouse in 2007 well before this book was published.)
Incidentally, in 1993, gay activists were trying to survive in the height of the AIDS crisis. They were busy staying alive and burying their dead, and not consumed with picking out invitations and wedding cakes. Dallas repeatedly writes as if marriage equality is not the law in this new edition which was published nine months after the SCOTUS legalized marriage equality.
In his discussion of same-sex marriage, Dallas cites what is typically called “The Dutch Marriage Study” to substantiate his belief that gay couples are not faithful in their marriage vows. He asserts that they have, on average, eight partners each outside the marriage in the first year.
Though I have written more extensively on my blog about the misuse of this study that was intended to track the transmission of the AIDS virus between 1984 to 1996 (four years before legalized same-sex marriage in the Netherlands), here is the short version of the actual study.
In the attempt to track the transmission of the AIDS virus in the gay population, the study participants had to be under 30, non-monogamous, currently engaged in risky sexual behaviors, and living in the inner city of Amsterdam near the HIV/AIDS/STD clinic. The transmission study had absolutely nothing to do with marriage, and was fully completed well before the Netherlands legalized same-sex marriage in 2001. Using THIS study, Dallas and others abuse its information, claiming that gay spouses have eight sex partners outside their marriage in the first year. So, why, goes the reasoning, let them get married?
Chapter 10 – Reasoning Together and Chapter 11 – A Mile in Their Shoes. Dallas presents several possible exchanges between your gay loved one and how you might respond. If the reader, at this point, opts to follow the advice of a uncredentialed counselor who uses severely outdated information and twists other information to his purposes, you will likely permanently or severely damage your relationship with your gay loved one.
At the end of the book, Dallas writes a sample “A Letter to My Loved One.” It is a five-page letter Dallas offers a loving, clear and direct template to communication. The sample letter encapsulates many of the worst communications my LGBT friends have received from their family members. In the hundreds of stories I have heard from recipients of such letters, I have no examples of loving, respectful, mutually productive next steps.
The resource list at the back suggest as the sole book on lesbianism one from 1996, a book for families from 1996 and 1992, and a book on how to discuss homosexuality from 1996. Dallas is stuck in the past; he seems to be unwilling to update or challenge his own trunk full of old scraps of information.
Here is my suggested reading list in order: Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee (2013), Walking the Bridgeless Canyon: Repairing the Breach Between the Church and the LGBT Community by Kathy Baldock(2014) God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships (2014) by Matthew Vines, and Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (2013) by Dr. Jame Brownson.
Avoid anything written by Joe Dallas.