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A&M and homosexuality

Breakaway’s strange bedfellows

Published: Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07

Breakaway's strange bedfellows

With criticism of religion at its apogee, Breakaway, the local Christian group, is both large and comparatively innocuous. Still, the gathering has become a facet of many students' schedules — Tuesday nights are reserved for a quintessentially religious gathering: the singing of praises and a sermon. But Ben Stuart, Breakaway's gregarious, 30-somethingleader, is what sets it apart. Always active on stage, and with a definitive lisp, the man brings together the audience. Regular attendees know his abilities to weave together a story. He has what appears to be an innate gift for stringing his audiences along: they laugh when he jokes; they sit in sober contemplation as he moves deeper.

The clearest testimony, though, to Mr. Stuart's chops is this: Removing the religious aspect makes his sermons no less effective. Instead, what remains is a secular lecture that, if he so wished, could reach still more. Such adroitness shows Mr. Stuart's ability to connect with listeners in a manner, which, oddly, both embraces and supersedes the sermon's unmistakable Christianity. 

And of the 50 podcasts on their website, few raise eyebrows. Most deal in the maintenance of faith, commentaries on culture, transitioning from college to the "real world" and, occasionally, sex. None are offensive; few break the bounds of what is expected of a collegiate religious meeting.

But this innocuousness is a factor in their success. Due to Christianity's continued fragmentation, large, non-denominational groups are disinclined to offend. Envision Mr. Stuart assailing Catholicism's belief in transubstantiation, or Episcopalians' Biblical-liberalism; then picture Breakaway's large drop in numbers.

To date, homosexuality — that bête noire of many pastors — has, too, been forgone. Yet while Breakaway remains silent,the entities it supports are vociferous. On the "Guidance" portion of their websiteBreakaway provides three resources for sexuality, all ex-gay ministries.

Their first recommendation, Joe Dallas, is of special interest. His vague description — "a counselor who specialize[s] in sexual addiction and homosexuality" — draws immediate concern.

First, "sexual addiction" is not widely held to exist. It is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and does not appear in the APA's reference book, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Darrel Regier, vice-chair of the DSM-5 task force (which oversees the DSM's 2013 update), has statedthat "sexual addiction" will be absent in this edition as well.

The reason: Addictions require both compulsion and well-defined physiological symptoms when those compulsions go unmet. Sex, which can manifest itself as the former does not cause the latter upon (ahem) withdrawal.

The only organization to assert sexual addiction's existence is the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). But even they make cleartheir definitions "are not intended as ‘diagnostic criteria'" and that "the diagnosis of addiction requires… assessment by a trained and certified professional."

That "trained and certified professional," we can be sure is using the DSM.

Mr. Dallas' description should substitute "sexual addiction" with the less controversial term: "hypersexuality."

Second, and more important, homosexuality is not a medical disorder:  The American Medical Association, The American Psychiatric Association, The American Psychological Association, The American Psychoanalytic Association and The American Academy of Pediatrics have all released statements to this effect; sexual orientation is not a choice, they say, and cannot be changed.

But Mr. Dallas soldiers on. A linkfrom Breakaway leads to his video "Joe Dallas — Freedom from Homosexuality and Pornography." It isn't disturbing material; but it's unsettling.

The presentation, produced by Pure Passion, a Christian group based in Tennessee, starts with guitar-laden music, and quickly fades into a white background. Before long the title emerges: "Pure Passion," with a flaming heart fixed between the words. Then, in a rainbow of colors, the following "maladies" appear: sexual abuse, prostitution, masturbation, pornography, homosexuality, pedophilia, human trafficking, sexual addiction and transgendered disorders. Again Mr. Dallas is on shaky ground: according to the American Psychological Association, "transgender disorders" only qualify as such if they cause significant distress or disability.

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