Thank you for covering the subject of misguided attempts to "save" gay people. The subject is immensely complex and widely misunderstood ("AIDS Revives the Christian Crusade to 'Save' Gays" by Ann Japenga, Dec. 6).
The concept of homosexuality, which is current today, is a modern one. The word homosexual is less than a century old. On the other hand, the roots of the word gay, referring to the same-sex life style, go back several hundred years. It is a serious mistake to assume that our 20th-Century understanding of the subject can be superimposed on history.
The Jewish and Christian Scriptures make no reference to homosexuality as a loving, committed, on-going, exclusive relationship between two persons of the same sex. Attempts to extrapolate from biblical references to same-sex erotic acts as applying to same-sex relationships today are futile. The Christian Scriptures do not record any references by Jesus to sexual values.
Research has developed little understanding of the origins of sexual orientation. For instance, we do not know why about 90% of the population respond erotically (primarily) to persons of the other sex. The assumptions that the minority, who respond erotically (primarily) to persons of the same sex, are "sick" or "sinful," and can be "converted" or "cured" is without foundation scientifically or theologically. People are responsible, and thus culpable, for their behavior, but they are not responsible or culpable for their sexual orientation. It is an aspect of identity, and one cannot repent of his or her identity.
Biologists are aware that a minority of all animal species engage in same-sex erotic behavior. The idea that same-sex orientation is unnatural cannot stand up to scrutiny.
Attempts to exploit men lying on their death beds with encouragement to "repent" of their sexual orientation are psychologically misguided, theologically heretical and morally reprehensible. In my work with persons with AIDS I have learned that these attempts occur frequently and in many hospitals.
The story of Colin Cook is tragic, not because of his gay sexual orientation, but because he exploited others in order to obtain gratification for himself. Sexual intimacy requires mutuality, and The Times' story clearly describes the absence of mutuality in his relationship with his wife, as well as the men he used for his own purposes.
REV. ROBERT H. ILES, Chairman
AIDS Services Center