A new study purports to show that those who hold traditional views about marriage are psychotic. Will studies like this lead to more Christians being punished for their views?
The study by Giancomo Ciocca et. al., "Psychoticism, Immature Defense Mechanisms and a Fearful Attachment Style are Associated with a Higher Homophobic Attitude," was published in the September 2015 issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
It claims to find that "homophobia" is associated with psychosis and other forms of mental illness.
The study, however, operationalizes both the dependent and independent variables (what is being explained and what explains), homophobia and psychosis, such that anyone who holds a Christian worldview will be labeled both psychotic and homophobic. So, unsurprisingly, the authors found a correlation.
In statistics, an "intervening variable" explains the relationship between an independent and dependent variable. In this case, the intervening variable is a Christian worldview (which could mean Christians, non-Christians steeped in a Christian culture, or simply those with a worldview similar to a Christian worldview).
In other words, the author's defined certain Christian views as homophobic, other religious views as psychotic, and, abracadabra, found that some people show signs of both homophobia and psychosis.
The study used a questionnaire of 551 university students, ages 18-30, in Italy. After controlling for age, gender, partnership status (single or in a relationship), sexual orientation, political orientation and religion (Catholic or agnostic were the only two categories), the authors found those with homophobia were more likely to have symptoms of psychoticism and immature defense mechanisms, and less likely to show symptoms of neurosis and depression.
As Cornell statistics professor William Briggs pointed out for The Stream, some of the questions used to measure "homophobia" are measures of what churches have taught about human sexuality for centuries.
Anyone who believes homosexuality is a sin and that marriage can only be between a man and a woman would be labeled a homophobe.
Further, to not be labeled a homophobe, the respondent would have to agree with the political statement that "organizations which promote gay rights are necessary."
Anyone with traditional views of sex and marriage is labeled a homophobe while on the explanatory side of the study a Christian worldview is labeled psychotic.
Those who answered that their sin should be punished or that thoughts about sex bother them, are said to show symptoms of psychosis. Under these definitions, anyone who follows the teachings of Jesus is psychotic.
Jesus told his followers to avoid lustful thoughts: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into Hell," (Matthew 5:27-29).
Plus, the notion that sin should be punished is central Jesus' to ministry and even all of Scripture. God punishes sin and Jesus came for the forgiveness of sins, the Bible frequently mentions. "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you," (Acts 13:38).
The authors claim the study is the first and only of its kind. Yet, one of the authors, convinced that the findings from 551 young Italians are definitive, is even ready to toss out the replicability standard of modern science.
In an interview with MedicalResearch.com, Emmanuele A. Jannini, chair of Endocrinology and Medical Sexology at the University of Rome, said "we have the final proof" that homophobia is a "disease."
The study is advocacy disguised as science, Briggs explained.
"The damage done to clear thinking by pretending that batteries of questions of this sort adequately assess emotional states cannot be underestimated," Briggs surmised. "The authors gave no indication of having considered religious or philosophical explanations. Yet the lead researcher could confidently declare that 'homophobia' is a 'disease,' and one 'associated with potentially severe psychopathologies.'
"This is not science. It is either shameless advocacy, sloppy thinking, or both."
Driven by confirmation bias, liberal news and advocacy sites are reporting on the study, apparently oblivious to its flaws.
Many liberals continue to claim that opposition to homosexual behavior and gay marriage can only be driven by bigotry and animus, despite the many articles, books and amicus briefs making secular arguments grounded in biology, sociology, psychology, anthropology and secular philosophy. (See, for instance, What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.) Ignoring those arguments doesn't mean they don't exist.
Fortuitously, perhaps, the study was published the same month that Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis spent six days in jail after seeking a legal accommodation based upon her Christian views about marriage.
For conservative Christians, who are already concerned about their religious freedom, this study justifiably raises alarm bells. The movement for gay marriage previously promoted its cause with the claim that "gay marriage will not affect you." Over the past two years, however, the message from those activists has been, "gay marriage opponents must go into the closet or risk getting fired or put out of business," or in Davis' case, "thrown in jail."
Using quack science, such as the Ciocca et. al. study, to justify further restrictions on the freedom of gay marriage dissenters could be next.
Listen, for instance, to how Zachary Siegel described the study for The Daily Beast: "These findings arrive at a time of great relevance and could provide us with a working gestalt of those who irrationally fear and are intolerant toward gay people. Consider the recent kerfuffle of Kim Davis and her ilk of cross-bearing presidential hopefuls. Given their intolerance and hostility toward gay people, is there a pathology behind their discrimination masquerading as religious freedom? Can one say, for instance, that Kim Davis — who even when held in contempt by the Supreme Court wouldn't admit to any wrongdoing — is operating on a diseased belief system?"