Saturday, May 8, 2010

Revulsion Therapy

Some of my friends tried smoking when they were young. They don't smoke now because of the "revulsion therapy" practiced on them by their parents. Now, I don't think there is such a thing as revulsion therapy, but I don't know what else to call it.

For my non-smoking friends, the scenario went something like this: They were caught trying a cigarette. The "punishment" they received for this act was being required to smoke the entire pack of cigarettes right then and there. This, naturally, made them sick and thus, their "revulsion" from that experience made them not want to smoke again. I'm not sure of the success rate of this approach, but the anecdotal evidence says that it has worked for some people.

While I never tried smoking (never was interested), I did have two similar revulsion experiences. One of my earliest and vaguest memories is a train trip with my mother, brother and sister. We were all hungry and probably cranky and my mother says she failed to bring along anything to eat for any of us. A fellow  passenger kindly provided us children with a bag of those Brach's candy peanuts. You know the orange, puffy, marshmallow things? We evidently at too many on empty stomachs because they made us all sick. To this day none of us will touch the things. Even the smell is revolting.

The second was later. I was eating some Chips-Ahoy-like chocolate chip cookies. I didn't eat too many, but I was getting the flu at the time of ingestion. The cookies came back up a few hours later and the whole combined experience has put me off those particular treats to this day.

I thought about this as I read stories this week regarding George Rekers, a Baptist Minister and anti-gay activist who was "caught" with a traveling companion he had hired to "carry his luggage". The only strange thing was that this companion was hired through a gay escort service. Rekers denies any wrong-doing and all suggestions of "inappropriate" relations between them, but he did make a statement that reminded me of my "revulsion therapy" experiences. Here's his quote:

"I have spent much time as a mental health professional and as a Christian minister helping and lovingly caring for people identifying themselves as “gay.” My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them."

While this statement sounds noble, it just doesn't ring true for me. So George maintains that he is not nor has he ever been gay, but there's enough doubt about that to make questioning it reasonable. Why then, would he choose to "minister" in this particular way? It's like a reformed alcoholic going to bars regularly to try to help other alcoholics. You just don't do that. You don't meet at the one place where you both will be strongly tempted by the one thing you're trying to overcome. George, you don't hire a gay escort to travel to Europe with you just for the purpose of trying to make him not gay.

Maybe George is using revulsion therapy. If he has enough sex with a man, then that man will become sick of it and never want to do it again. If George can have massive amounts of sex with other men, then he can cure them of their homosexuality. It's quite a ministry.

Can you give an alcoholic so much alcohol that he'll want to quite? Not likely. In extreme cases, he may end up with alcohol poisoning and die, but it's unlikely that you serving him drink after drink will make him stop wanting them. Same with the gay sex thing. I'm guessing a gay man who has sex with another man will enjoy it in whatever quantity. I'm not sure it's possible to offer so much sex to him that the revulsion kicks in.

So, George, I guess you can keep trying your approach and keep us posted on how it's going. Or, I suppose you could also choose to drop the pretense and admit that you are actually gay.

Unfortunately, your actions will likely have a different outcome than you expect, but one that fits well with revulsion therapy. You increasing the number of "Christians" who claim one thing and do exactly the opposite in their lives will likely cause the revulsion effect to kick in and people will choose to avoid Christ at any cost. What a ministry.

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