Bible Girl: The Thanksgiving Edition
The response to last week's Bible Girl has left me feeling warm and fuzzy all over, so I thought I'd excerpt from my interview with Francis MacNutt, a Charismatic Catholic and pioneer in the healing ministry. MacNutt is 81, old enough to be a veteran of World War II--which, in fact, he is--and throughout his many decades in ministry, he's placed no limits on what can be accomplished by God through healing prayer. He is the elder statesman of the healing ministry, a sober, gimmick-free practitioner of all kinds of healing prayer, along with his wife, Judith, a psychotherapist.
His book Healing is a lucid examination of the many Scriptures pertaining to healing and probably the most important work on the subject. Deliverance From Evil Spirits is a non-sensational look at another kind of healing prayer, and his recent reissue, Can Homosexuality Be Healed?, was the chief subject of our conversation. The MacNutts are advocates of inner healing, which involves prayer for past hurts that have some kind of physical or psychological manifestation.
MacNutt is a soft-spoken guy, so much so that I had difficulty transcribing our interview. But I have great respect for this man who doesn't shout to be heard, and I hope you'll give him a fair hearing. I began by asking the same flippant question a reader posed to me earlier, "Can you pray the gay away?" The answer after the jump. --Julie Lyons
Bible Girl: Well, can you pray the gay away?
Francis MacNutt: Essentially, yes. But sexual problems usually go back to something much deeper. I can see with Ted Haggard he was battling this for years and years, feeling very shamed about it...It goes back to a variety of deeper causes, the most common one being something missing in the love of a parent of the same sex.
So you've found that something missing in the relationship with the same-sex parent is a common factor.
The most common, but it's not true of every situation. I've had people say that's not true, my father was very loving. Whatever the evidence is, we want to accept it. My wife Judith is a psychotherapist, and in the days when she was seeing clients, she had 20 clients who were homosexual or lesbian, and they were all healed. And that would mean that the orientation changed. But on an average it took about six months.
Did she incorporate prayer in her practice?
She incorporated healing prayer. But even without prayer, there were a number of psychotherapists [when the American Psychiatric Association still considered homosexuality a disorder]--including Masters and Johnson—who had something like a 60 percent recovery rate just using ordinary psychotherapy with clients, of course, who wanted to change...
Most people who are gay, as far back as they can remember, this is the way it was. There was never a time when this was not true. Tony Campolo, the evangelist, interviewed 300 [gay men and women], and as far back as they could remember, they were gay. So as far as they were concerned, it came from birth.
The main thing I would like to point out is that the conservatives—the people who believe this is totally wrong—usually don't hold up a remedy besides "repent," get your life in order, cut it out. But the orientation doesn't change just because they'd like it to change. It does change with prayer over a period of time. Now usually people who believe in prayer, their model is the healing service. And I have seen people who were instantly healed—but that's rare.
Does repentance play any role?
This also goes in stages. Like you can say I wish I were heterosexual. If homosexuals were given a choice without any strings attached, they'd rather be heterosexual. It's really hard, because the people who are most against it, as far as I can see, don't offer inner healing. What's needed [for men] is a surrogate father in the Christian community who can be a parent. The trouble is that heterosexual males in the Christian community—older men—don't feel very comfortable in the presence of someone who they feel might be hitting on them. So the very thing they need is usually denied them in the church.
People don't talk about the real issue—not just the orientation, but the acting out of it. The kind of sex homosexuals have—anal sex—is a real health issue. And from what we understand, the average age of death [for a gay man] is 25 years younger than the normal male population. Not that all homosexuals practice anal intercourse, but that really tears a person up. And people don't talk about that. It's a bigger health issue than alcoholism, and nobody would encourage the alcoholic lifestyle.
The thing is the person needs to want to change. But even with an alcoholic, there's something you get out of it. You wouldn't be doing it unless there was something good that you want to hang onto. The same thing with adultery. If you know you should break off a relationship, that's really hard. [With gays] you find that this community understands you, they welcome you, and you have to go out into this other world where people may not understand you. There's something attractive in every sin. Like St. Augustine said, "I want to convert, but not yet!" What we typically do is pray that the person gradually over the course of time changes their understanding of these things and really wants to get out of that lifestyle.
So you have people come to you who are still really deciding whether they want to make that break.
For the most part, they are deciding. There's something in them or they wouldn't have come into that lifestyle. There's something attractive, if not addictive. And again, addiction at times is made worse by a demonic infestation, but that's something that a lot of people don't understand, yet I've run into that too with homosexuals.
What kinds of spirits do you run into?
There is a spirit of homosexuality. There is a spirit of lust. Hatred of women could be involved. With lesbians, in our experience, it's not primarily a sexual thing. It's more of an affection thing. And if there was something missing in the relationship with their mother, then a need for affection is part of that. The sexual component—physical sex—may be there too, but that's not the primary thing.
When do you consider a person healed?
Healing would not just be of the person's thoughts and behavior, but the orientation changes. My good friend Tommy Tyson [another pioneer of the Charismatic Movement and a United Methodist minister who died in 2003] had five clients who were ministers he was mentoring, and they were involved in the homosexual lifestyle. Of the five, four of them were healed. And the other was not, but he wasn't too sure he wanted to be. Which is part of the human condition. The interesting thing is that the Roman Catholic bishops are meeting right now, and this was one of their topics—how to deal with homosexuals. And in the current Catholic catechism, the assumption is that this is the way they were born. And the answer is to abstain.
That's not much of an answer.
For [gays], it isn't. I quote a letter in my book from a man who is living as best he can a celibate lifestyle, and he's 65 years old now, and he's just very lonely, kind of crying out in his pain. We think that our position is the most compassionate and merciful possible. But a lot of the bishops who are meeting now, I doubt if they've ever heard of healing prayer for homosexuals.
When you speak of healing prayer, are you talking of meeting one on one with individuals—as opposed to the revival meeting kind of thing, where you go up and get prayed for and...boom.
The percentage [of success] goes way up when we have time for people. The ideal thing would be to meet with people once a week for one or two hours and pray through all these areas that open up.
What are some of the areas that typically come up?
Like with male homosexuals, chances are he was sexually abused as a child. The estimate of the whole American community—not the homosexual community—is that 1 out of 5 [men] have been sexually abused growing up, and 1 out of 3 women.
What happens spiritually when a young person is sexually violated?
Their relationship with God is often affected. In the Catholic Church, there are some 120 young men who've committed suicide as the long-term after-effect of all this, which is terrible. There's a shame connected with it, and a fear.
Do you believe there is genetic component to homosexuality?
There might be. Whatever it turns out to be, we have to deal with it.
If it does turn out to have a genetic component, do you still think that is something Jesus can heal?
Yes. We pray for a number of things that are probably genetic, such as alcoholism. We pray for genealogical healing. It's a huge subject, but we're learning. It's not something where we have all the answers.
Does your ministry see people by appointment for healing prayer?
[Yes.] Because of all of the allegations of sexual misconduct, we try to be very careful about that. We usually have a man and a woman with the person. If it's a homosexual who really needs to be held by a man, you can do that without being misunderstood. A person can break down crying and really need to be held. Sometimes we pray in larger groups, and we have teams that pray for the people. One of things we want to be is totally honest--if people are healed, great, we rejoice in that. But we don't want to say everybody we pray for is healed.
If Bible Girl gives you something to be thankful for, sign up for our weekly Bible Girl alert.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.
- That's It Then: The Cowboys 2015 Season Gets Put Out of Its Misery
Fri., Dec. 4, 7:30pm
Fri., Dec. 4, 8:00pm
Sat., Dec. 5, 12:00am
Sat., Dec. 5, 12:30pm
- The Cowboys' 5 Biggest Thanksgiving Turkeys
- Live From London: Your Holiday Weekend Weather Apocaforecast