Ken Williams already has two strikes against him. He is a Christian pastor. He was gay at one time and found his way back to a heterosexual life and is now married with four kids. And he has a third strike against him as he fights legislation in California that could prevent counseling gays who want to explore the possibility of living as heterosexuals.
Williams was interviewed on the Daily Signal podcast and told his story of realizing he was homosexual, how he re-discovered his male sexuality with a friendship with a woman, and then fell in love with that woman who became his wife. (A partial copy of the interview is here.) He now counsels people who want to deal with same-sex attraction and works with them in a very loving, compassionate way. In a sense, he has lived their story.
When asked if his work with clients was conversion therapy, he was firm in his belief that it was not, and in fact didn’t know anyone who had gone through it:
What’s so common though is people are confused about their identity or their sexuality. They go and they talk it out with a counselor, and the counselor helps them figure out what they want to go toward and leads them that direction … follows what they’re wanting to pursue and helps them go that direction.
So I know tons of people who have been so helped by things that could be labeled as conversion therapy that were merely a person talking with the counselor and figuring out, ‘Why do I feel the way that I do?’
He also acknowledged the damage that Christianity had done to those who believed they were gay:
For so long and in Christian circles it was, this is the mandate, ‘Gay people are detestable. They’re going to hell. They’re terrible,’ or whatever. And there wasn’t any offering for, ‘OK, wait a minute, God loves you and he wants to help you.’ It was just, ‘You shouldn’t be who you are,’ and that can’t be God first of all. And who wants to behave that way?
So I feel some of what we’re experiencing today is a reaction from a society that was holding expectations of people without helping loving them into what that expectation might be.
I so regret that that happened, but the way to fix it now is for all of us to be loving of people without necessarily agreeing.
A number of thoughts came to me as I listened to Williams. He was candid about his own history, and shared his struggles and his fears about his own sexuality. His compassion and caring for others were apparent. Although I am quite sure that he hoped, at some level, that people he counseled would turn to the sexuality they were born with, he also demonstrated that his primary concern was to be an empathetic listener, to help people explore their history, and to help them heal, however it may occur.
Another thought I have been exploring is the process for a person changing his or her sexual orientation. Some research shows that the brain can influence sexuality, although there is not consensus in the medical community:
The functionalities of regions in the brain like the amygdala and the hypothalamus have been proven to be determined genetically and are influenced by hormones. Developments in these regions kick in even before an individual learns cognitive skills or is exposed to environmental and educational settings. But scientists still do not negate the role of environmental factors.
I’m not a scientist, but I do know from my years of practicing and studying meditation that the brain is altered through regular practice. The number of neural pathways is increased, the pre-frontal lobe thickens (which increases a sense of well-being), and many people have other improvements in health-related areas.
Ken Williams cited the fluidity of sexuality and his marriage of 13 years:
As we’ve gone further through marriage, and I’ve continued to work on my own heart and being part of that men’s purity group, where I feel like I’m constantly getting better as a man and taking more responsibility for my life and just, I don’t know, continuing to grow.
A lot of my friends that I know that share my similar experience, it becomes kind of fluid that way, as far as your understanding of yourself and of your sexual desires, they can shift. Even the APA will tell you that, that there can be a shift in sexual desires. So contrary to popular opinion, they can shift both ways.
Given the fact that the brain actually can change, why couldn’t a person who wanted to be heterosexual develop neural pathways that would be focused on developing heterosexual attitudes? If people who were deeply religious wanted to change, in order to serve G-d more appropriately, and took steps to do so, why shouldn’t they be allowed, even encouraged to change? Again, I want to emphasize that this type of counseling should be voluntary and can’t be forced on a person.
Deeply concerning to me is that we are making alternative lifestyles normal, and even criticizing people who want to follow their gender of birth. Why shouldn’t this type of therapy be encouraged, if they are interested? Why should they be pressured to pursue a gay lifestyle that makes them feel inauthentic and irreligious?
The problem in 2019 is that a bill in California that was tabled in 2018 is being proposed again. It is called the Equality Act and would essentially override the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). These types of laws have been used in other states:
These state laws have been used to shut down Catholic adoption agencies that only place children with a mother (biologically female) and a father (biologically male). They have also been used, famously, to compel people working in the wedding industry, like florists, photographers and bakers, to provide their services for same-sex ceremonies, in violation of their religious conscience and without regard to the availability of such services from vendors who would be happy to provide them.
But the future implications are even worse, if that’s possible. Monica Burke of the Heritage Foundation describes what has already occurred:
The Equality Act would be used to compel speech. Virginia high school teacher Peter Vlaming lost his job for something he did not say. A county school board voted unanimously to fire the veteran teacher over the objections of his students after he refused to comply with administrators’ orders to use masculine pronouns in referring to a female student who identifies as transgender. Vlaming did his best to accommodate the student without violating his religious belief that God created human beings male and female, using the student’s new name and simply refraining from using pronouns altogether.
Unfortunately, the school still considered this a violation of its anti-discrimination policy.
Ken Williams is taking a stand against the Equality Act. Ironically, he is the one fighting for equality, not those who sponsor this bill. Since California is historically in the lead for cultural change, let’s hope they can be stopped.