Last week, Truth Wins Out released a video by ex-gay survivor Patrick McAlvey of Lansing, Michigan. He has spoken out on local radio and will join me on Culture Shocks radio with Barry Lynn TODAY at 4PM (ET). I hope you will tune in and listen to the live broadcast on the Internet.
Focus on the Family will shed its controversial Love Won Out program for transforming homosexuals into heterosexuals because of budget troubles, the conservative media ministry said Tuesday.
The Love Won Out conferences on "leaving homosexuality" will be handed over in November to a longtime ministry partner, Orlando, Fla.-based Exodus International.
"The economic challenges led us to this strategic decision," Focus vice president Gary Schneeberger said Wednesday. "Love Won Out is not an inexpensive event to stage, and rarely, in over 50 cities where it's been held, have we ever made back our investment, despite good attendance."
Focus on the Family, which held its first Love Won Out conference in 1998, will lead its last on Nov. 7 in Birmingham, Ala. A $6 million shortfall in the $138 million budget also caused Focus president Jim Daly to send out a fundraising letter to 800,000 donors.
"Right now we're facing a serious budget shortfall that threatens our ability to reach out to parents, families and married couples who count on our help," Daly wrote. "I want to assure you we're committed to good stewardship and living within our means, just as so many families are today."
Schneeberger said one staff position will be eliminated and further cost-cutting measures are under consideration.
Wayne Besen, a gay activist with the group Truth Wins Out, said conference crowds are getting smaller and drawing less media attention.
"There is a shrinking market for their product," Besen said. "This is a very positive development, because it shows Focus on the Family wants to get out of the ex-gay business -- though not completely. But if this were something they were really vested in, they would have kept it in-house."
A vocabulary carefully crafted into lethal lies almost always foreshadows fatalities.
In the case of Nazi Germany, the evidence of Hitler's wicked intentions -- from Mein Kampf to the Brown Shirts - was vividly clear. People may have ignored the alarm bells, but no one can say that there were not warnings of the brutality to come.
In 1994, Hutu radio broadcasts that called Tutsis cockroaches helped lead to genocide in Rwanda. Prior to the infamous broadcasts, a newspaper published the Hutu Ten Commandments, which smeared the rival ethnic tribe and included the eerily prescient eighth commandment: "Hutus must stop having mercy on the Tutsis."
Earlier this month, in Gojra, Pakistan, more than 20,000 rioters torched 100 houses that belonged to Christian families and murdered seven people after a false rumor spread that the town's Christians had defiled the Koran. Local mullahs enthusiastically furthered this big lie and used it to spark violence.
"We were afraid because the clerics had been railing against us in the mosques," Riaz Masih, a Christian and retired math teacher whose house was gutted told the New York Times. "They said, 'Let's teach them a lesson.'"
The circumstances of these tragedies are vastly disparate in terms of geography, time period and circumstances. However, they illustrate three points:
1) Inflammatory and defamatory words, especially if spoken by religious or political authority figures, can and do lead to violence.
2) There is no shortage of mentally unbalanced people who will sometimes carry out shocking acts, and we should be very careful not to incite them with rhetoric that stokes their paranoia. Like stacks of firewood, these angry individuals go unnoticed until the gasoline is poured and the match is lit.
3) Americans are human beings, just like everyone else. So, the notion that what we say does not matter "because it could never happen here" is jingoistic foolishness.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Dr. Michael Brown, an anti-gay ideologue in Charlotte who brought hundreds of red shirted fundamentalists to that town's gay pride event. Brown's mission is to "raise up a holy army of uncompromising spirit-filled radicals who will shake an entire generation with the gospel of Jesus by life or death."
If you haven't noticed, the extreme right is getting dangerously delirious. A black president, a Latina on the Supreme Court and gay people gearing up to marry in Iowa has exacerbated this crowd's feelings of marginalization.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of conservative leaders willing to exploit the situation for political gain. Just as Brown was able to organize the troops, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (among others), is mobilizing angry mobs (at least the ones who aren't Republican operatives) to harass members of congress about health care at town hall meetings.
What these partisan "patriots" are doing is manufacturing mayhem and damaging democracy. It can't be good for the nation to provoke the woefully out of touch and encourage them to go out of control.
It is contemptible that a major political party would exploit the ignorant, to fund the elite. These foaming-at-the-mouth fools (many think Medicare is a private health plan) rail against government bureaucrats influencing healthcare decisions. Yet, they seem blithely and suspiciously unconcerned about insurance company bureaucrats denying life or death coverage to maximize profits.
No matter your view on healthcare and Obama's plan, this rabble rousing by Republicans on behalf of their lucrative lobby firms is disgraceful. These political opportunists stir the pot of pugnacity, but in their arrogance believe they can keep it from boiling over. When crowds are summoned, filled with alienated people who feel a competing sense of abandonment and entitlement, it is only a matter of time before people get hurt.
I am a staunch First Amendment advocate. But let's not pretend such irresponsible words and behavior does not have casualties and consequences. We can best celebrate free speech and assembly by freely choosing not to incite or assemble irate mobs that lack control or any normal sense of inhibition.