I'm on my way to Grand Rapids, Michigan to give a presentation at Grand Valley State University on the harm caused by the "ex-gay" industry. My speech, followed by a panel discussion, is in response to Focus on the Family's traveling road show, Love Won Out, which will be in town on Saturday. Having countered several of these conferences, I must confess, I still don't understand what point they are trying to make.
If Focus on the Family's goal is to convert gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people into evangelical Christians, they are doing a lousy job. It seems convincing gay people to end their relationships is a far higher priority to this ministry than having gay people develop personal relationships with Jesus Christ.
For every guilt-ridden homosexual who temporarily falls under their spell, they lose hundreds, if not thousands, of gay people who view their conversion program as intolerant. If your ministry causes many gay people to write off not just Christianity, but all religion, by what measurement can you consider your evangelizing a success?
At Love Won Out, speakers go to great lengths to profess their deep concern over the mental and physical well being of homosexuals. It turns out, however, that the anti-gay sentiment expressed at these conferences may be hazardous to the health of GLBT people.
A new Emory University study concludes that the bans on same-sex marriage pushed by Focus on the Family can be tied to a rise in the rate of HIV infection. The scientists found that a constitutional ban on marriage equality raised the rate by four cases per 100,000 people.
"We found the effects of tolerance for gays on HIV to be statistically significant and robust, they hold up under a range of empirical models," says Hugo Mialon, an assistant professor of economics. "Intolerance is deadly," Mialon said. "Bans on gay marriage codify intolerance, causing more gay people to shift to underground sexual behaviors that carry more risk."
Earlier this year, a study by San Francisco State's Caitlin Ryan concluded that "teens who experienced negative feedback (when they came out) were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide, nearly six times as vulnerable to severe depression and more than three times at risk of drug use."
So, if Love Won Out is truly concerned about the health of gay people, particularly teenagers, it will transform into a gay affirming ministry. To continue down their destructive path of judgmental condemnation is senseless and significantly harmful to the very GLBT people that Focus purports to want to help.
Of course, Focus on the Family will insist that they love gay people and just want to help those who are unhappy. But, isn't it a conflict of interest when you lobby to pass anti-gay laws that make gay people miserable and then offer yourself up as the panacea to the pain? Is it not hypocritical to sponsor a conference supposedly about love, where the main speaker is Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International?
Chambers hosts a Christian television show, Pure Passion, which pollutes the airwaves by repeatedly calling gay people "sexually broken" and "perverse." Exodus also sells "Pursuing Sexual Wholeness" a book authored by Andy Comiskey that says, "Satan delights in homosexual perversion." Such pronouncements are often accompanied by exorcisms given by churches affiliated with ex-gay ministries. Obviously, such extreme actions are anathema to creating a welcoming church environment for GLBT people.
Focus on the Family also claims its conferences are for parents, friends, family members or ministry leaders who want to "lovingly reach out with uncompromised faith."
Genuine love, of course, requires making the very compromises and sacrifices that Love Won Out is telling people are unnecessary. Rejecting a friend or family member's innate sexual orientation as sinful and defective, rarely leads to a healthy relationship based on trust and mutual respect.
Finally, the investigative reporter Thomas Maier just released a groundbreaking book, "Masters of Sex." In it, he reveals that the famed sex research team, Masters and Johnson, had fabricated claims of curing gay people in their 1979 book, "Homosexuality in Perspective." Given this vital new information, why hasn't Focus on the Family taken the opportunity to review and question the validity of its program? Wouldn't that be the moral course of action to take?
The hard truth is, Focus on the Family's leaders are only capable of loving people exactly like themselves, which explains their tremendous efforts to remake gays in their image. While their splashy road show may get high marks for good theatre, it's ultimately futile because their transparent version of "love" rarely wins converts and succeeds only at convincing most gay people to run out of the church door.
My norwich terriers have a closer 'relationship to Jesus Christ' than these spiritually bankrupt fundamentalist and evangelical toads.
posted by gary, at
6/09/2009 4:51 PM
Writing off religion is a good thing. Of course, it's easier for me to say that than some because I originally did so for reasons having nothing to do with being queer.
posted by libhom, at
6/09/2009 9:14 PM
Jesus was crucified for being openly gay and proud of it. Why don't these people address the fact that they are putting down their own prophet of salvation? I do not understand why they do not get another savior instead of using our first gay activist, Jesus if they do not care or agree with gay people. Sounds twisted to me. What else is new! Anyhow, it is high time we put these fundamentalists to the test and on the defense. I do not like the fact they have neutered the gay prophet, Jesus the Christ. They should be forced to explain why they are using a gay man against gay people.
posted by ewe, at
6/09/2009 10:05 PM
Gary, your description of the whole FOF/LWO lot as "spiritually bankrupt" is spot-on. They're more like, as Jesus put it "whitewashed tombs". They seem all religious and righteous, but actually they are spiritually bankrupt, self-righteous hypocrites.
I'm glad Wayne is going to Michigan for this panel. Hypocrites like FOF/LWO need to be exposed as the hypocrites they are and the ex-gay movement needs to be exposed for the mean-spirited, dangerous shame that it is.
posted by Merlyn, at
6/10/2009 4:37 AM
Not only is the FOF/LWO spiritually bankrupt, they are also morally bankrupt and have absolutely NO authority to make claims that they can convert one's natural sexual orientation to another. To prove a point, they need to produce the evidence by converting a straight orientation to a gay one. I wonder why they've not submitted any documentation of controlled studies in the presence of independent, qualified legitimate observers to verify the methods and results. Maybe a team from the APA could lend a hand.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
6/10/2009 10:39 AM
Wayne said "If your ministry causes many gay people to write off not just Christianity, but all religion, by what measurement can you consider your evangelizing a success?".
Wayne, they don't care about that because "Love" "Won" Out is merely a facade to facilitate their true goal, promoting the oppression of gays. The only purpose of their "ministry" is to disguise their mission of hatred as one of caring. Ultimately they couldn't care less if no gays are converted, if they are harmed instead, and if they drive the vast majority of gays away from the church - they hate gays, they consider them expendable, anything bad happening to them is totally irrelevant to (or perhaps entirely consistent with) their ultimate goal of an intolerant society.
posted by Priya Lynn, at
6/10/2009 2:23 PM
I am amazed as I read the posts on Mr. Besen's website the amount of ignorance and sweeping generalizations. Mr. Besen writes, "If Focus on the Family's goal is to convert gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people into evangelical Christians, they are doing a lousy job." As a gay man I have been to two LWO's conferences hoping to find some understanding into why I have attractions toward men. I didn't find the help I needed and I never felt that LWO was trying to convert me to evangelical Christianity. Where in the world does Mr. Besen get the idea that LWO is trying to convert people? I suspect this preposterous idea has come out of his need and not through experience. Mr. Besen, have you ever sat through an entire LWO conference? I doubt it. Also, where in the world do some of you get the idea that Jesus was gay? What are you smoking? There is absolutely no biblical or extra-biblical material that remotely suggests that he was gay. This is another ridiculous idea that is supported by some homosexual sensationalists who have not done their homework. I wonder if there is a gay website where the people that contribute to the dialogue are educated and balanced in their presentations. Most of the people who contribute to Mr. Besen's site seem to be angry gays who use vulgar speech to make their points. They have never learned the fact that using such language will never win an argument.
posted by Jerome, at
6/15/2009 7:46 AM
Oh, Jerome - the only one revealing appalling ignorance and using incendiary language is you.
I've been to several Love Won Out conferences from start to finish. But, unlike you, I'm wise enough to look beyond the splashy surface, scripted speakers and bright lights. I actually read the literature and look at the web-sites they send me too. For example, Exodus International is a large part of the conference. Their slogan is "Freedom from Homosexuality Through Jesus Christ." Obviously, they are trying to convert people. And anyone who suggests that Focus on the Family does not share that intention, has not done his or her homework.
Jerome - for the sake of argument, call Focus on the Family and ask if they would like to convert you. I suspect they will find you a prayer warrior to assist you in short order.
Jerome, seriously, if you want people to take you seriously, try reading, listening and learning before you sit down at your computer and peck out screeds that are factually incorrect and have no basis in reality.
posted by Wayne Besen, at
6/15/2009 1:53 PM
Jerome said "Also, where in the world do some of you get the idea that Jesus was gay? What are you smoking? There is absolutely no biblical or extra-biblical material that remotely suggests that he was gay".
LOL, Jerome, there is no extra-biblical evidence that there even was a Jesus! He's an entirely made up character. However, having said that, the story told about Jesus is entirely consistent with a gay character. In some societies gays were perceived to be spiritually endowed, they were the North American Shamans and the Jesus character is consistent with this tradition. Jesus never married, never had a girlfriend, hung around with a group of single men, including one referred to as "the disciple whom Jesus loved". He hung around with a prostitute which is consistent with the fact that some gay men today like to hang around with prostitutes because they get a vicarious thrill out of their sexuality. Jesus never spoke against gays, he was on one occaision discovered with a naked young man and then there is the secret gospel of Mark:
That there was indeed a secret gospel and an initiation into the mysteries of the religion now known as Christianity is dramatically attested by the "Secret Gospel of Mark," found in a manuscript discovered by Morton Smith in 1958, in the Monastery of Mar Saba southeast of Jerusalem. The Greek text found by Smith appears originally to have been composed at the end of the second century by Clement of Alexandria.  Clement is replying to one Theodore who has been upset by claims that there was a secret gospel of Mark which differed from the canonic (official) version. Clement tells him that indeed there is a secret gospel used by the Alexandrian church for initiation into the Christian mysteries. He gives several examples of material present in the secret gospel but absent in the canonic one. One of the more interesting "secrets" revealed by Clement tells us: …Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God.  10] Titus Flavius Clemens (ca. C.E. 150 - ca. 211), Prominent early church father.
posted by Priya Lynn, at
6/15/2009 4:52 PM
 Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1973, p. 447.
John is referred to in the bible as 'the disciple whom Jesus loved'.
During the Last Supper before Jesus' execution, the author(s) of the Gospel of John describes how the "beloved" disciple laid himself on Jesus' inner tunic -- his undergarment. See John 13:25 and 21:20. Robert Goss, assistant professor of comparative religion at Webster University in St. Louis, LA, noted that Jesus and the beloved disciple: "... eat together, side by side. What's being portrayed here is a pederastic relationship between an older man and a younger man. A Greek reader would understand."
"Jagannath" interprets the Gospels differently. He argues that Jesus may have been bisexual. He wrote:
"In the Book of John a word is used eight times that means 'is in love with' with the implication of sexual intimacy. Five times it is used with reference to Jesus' relationship with John. Once it is used to define Jesus' relationship with Lazarus. And it is also used to describe his relationship with Mary and with her sister Martha." 7
Jagannath, "Was Jesus Gay? Or: Can We Finally Let Him Out of the Closet?," http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/1723/roam/jesus.html
During the crucifixion, in John 19:26-28, Jesus is described as seeing his mother and an unidentified man: "the disciple standing by, whom he loved." Again, Jesus probably loved all of his 12 or 70 disciples in a non-sexual manner. But this particular disciple is identified as "the" disciple who Jesus loved. That indicates a special intimate relationship with one special disciple.
J Richards suggested thatMark 7:14-16 shows that Jesus approves of homosexual acts. The critical phrase reads: "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him..."
J Richards, "Jesus Speaks of Homosexual Acts," http://rainbowallianceopenfaith.homestead.com/JesusProGay01.html
Mark 14:51-52 describes the incident when Jesus was arrested by the religious police. It describes how one of Jesus' followers was scantily dressed. The King James Version says he had a linen cloth cast on his naked body; the size and location of the cloth is not defined. The New International Version says that he was "wearing nothing but a linen garment." When the police tried to seize him, they were able to grab only his cloth; the man ran away naked. Reverend Peter Murphy wrote: "We don't know from the sources what really was going on, but we do know that something was very peculiar between Jesus and young men." 11
Reverend Peter Murphy, "The Sexuality of Jesus?," http://kspark.kaist.ac.kr/Jesus/Jesus%20Sexuality.htm
Michael Kelly wrote of Jesus' attitude towards a same-sex couple as described in Matthew 8:5-13: and Luke 7:2: "One day a Roman Centurion asked him to heal his dying servant. Scholars of both Scripture and Ancient History tell us that Roman Centurions, who were not permitted to marry while in service, regularly chose a favorite male slave to be their personal assistant and sexual servant. Such liaisons were common in the Greco-Roman world and it was not unusual for them to deepen into loving partnerships....Jesus offered to go to the servant, but the centurion asked him simply to speak a word of healing, since he was not worthy to welcome this itinerant Jewish teacher under his roof. Jesus responded by healing the servant and proclaiming that even in Israel he had never found faith like this! So, in the one Gospel story where Jesus encountered people sharing what we would call a 'gay relationship,' we see him simply concerned about — and deeply moved by — their faith and love." Kelly implies that Jesus' sensitivity towards the gay couple might have arisen from his own bisexual or homosexual orientation. 1