In the past week, Truth Wins Out has been dealing with twin tragedies caused, in part, by Exodus International, the nation's largest "pray away the gay" ministry.
The first train wreck is Uganda's proposed "Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009". This legislation would lead to the imprisonment and murder of LGBT Ugandans. It would jail anyone accused of "promoting" homosexuality and imprison friends and relatives of LGBT people who did not turn them into authorities.
This fascist bill came about after Exodus Board member, Don Schmierer, had gone to Uganda last spring to attend a conference on homosexuality. Schmierer was joined by Caleb Lee Brundidge of quack Richard Cohen's International Healing Foundation and Scott Lively, the twisted author of The Pink Swastika, who believes gays are responsible for the holocaust. There were calls at the conference to "wipe out" homosexuality in Uganda. The current bill before the legislature would do just that.
The second disaster is Corduroy Stone, which was an Exodus ministry in Lansing, MI until this week. After six months of dithering and dawdling, Exodus finally parted ways with Corduroy Stone after a client accused Exodus counselor Mike Jones of engaging in bizarre and dangerous therapy. His sessions with Patrick McAlvey, who was 19 at the time, included "cuddle therapy" and odd questions.
"He asked how large my penis was," McAlvey explained of Jones' therapy. "He asked if I shave my pubic hair. He asked what type of underwear that I wore. He wanted me to describe my sexual fantasies to him and the type of men I'm attracted to. On one occasion, he asked me to take my shirt off and show him how many push-ups I could do, which I did not do."
In August, Truth Wins Out released this information in a video. Yet, it took Exodus six months to act and cut its ties to Jones. Clearly, they were more interested in protecting their image than the young adults who may have been put in harms way.
Yet, despite such negligence and a trail of destruction, Exodus Vice President Randy Thomas is trying to play martyr. On Exodus' blog, the solipsistic "ex-gay" political activist posted a letter by someone named Frank:
Randy, how do you wake up every morning, and go to work knowing that as much as you fight for truth, you are hated beyond understanding? that every word you speak will be twisted and you will be made a laughing stock? This Rachel Maddow thing (among others) has me down...truth is not acceptable anymore. no one cares. ... I feel like I've talked and talked till im blue in the face yet no one listens... how do you do it?
You have fought longer and harder than I and have been villified more...how do you get up every morning and do it again? ... I know I will never cease to proclaim the riches there are in Christ (not just talking bout ex-gay stuff) but I just get so tired of trying to make my little corner of the world a better place when it seems like "the establishment" (read: Rachel Maddow, Keith oberman, Wayne Besen...) is screaming louder telling me to shut up and sit down...
"I resisted posting this blog post because what I go through is nothing compared to some of my peers and especially other Christians around the world who are dying for their faith. I went ahead and posted this because I got this type of message from several people and thought the topic would be worth exploring in general (not just about me.)"
Mr. Thomas, you are the victimizer, not the victim. It is Exodus -- not Rachel Maddow, Keith Olberman or myself -- that is tied to state sponsored persecution in Uganda. It is you who has repeatedly lied and deceived, not us.
It is Thomas, and his truth-challenged boss Alan Chambers, who have kept Schmierer on the Exodus board, despite the very good possibly of genocidal results because of Schmierer's foray into Africa.
It is Exodus that allowed bizarre and dangerous therapy to continue for half of 2009 at Corduroy Stone before action was belatedly taken.
It is Exodus who in the past had allowed youths like Zach Stark and Lance Carroll to be forced into Exodus' ex-gay boot camps against their will.
Thomas' cynical defense for his role in such appalling actions is that he has a nice smile, doesn't have fangs and is surprisingly friendly. The term "banality of evil" comes to mind when Thomas tries to make the case that his public demeanor does not match his dirty deeds.
Sorry, Mr. Thomas, but it is time to take personal responsibility for the egregious harm perpetrated by you and the staff at Exodus International. If the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 comes to pass and LGBT people are hunted down, everyone associated with Exodus will be viewed as an accomplice to war crimes.
Please, Mr. Thomas, stop playing the victim card. If you want to be a real victim, enroll in Corduroy Stone for "therapy". For any semblance of respectability, you need to go to Uganda and publicly rebuke this death bill.
But, let's be clear: right now you are more mercenary than martyr.
A February 2008 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 16 percent of America's 225 million adults are unaffiliated with any religion. According to the report, "When 'childhood religion' is compared against 'current religion,' the unaffiliated show a net increase of 8.8 percentage points, compared to a 7.5 point loss among Catholics, for example, or a 2.6 percent loss among Protestants."
It is my belief that outrageously hypocritical behavior by conservative religious authorities is directly responsible for the surge in non-believers or those who shun organized religion. The ubiquitous scolds who dominate cable TV and Republican politics are too often conservatives of convenience, who believe they are exempt from practicing the strident rules that they preach.
For example, South Carolina's First Lady, Jenny Sanford, filed for divorce last week after her husband, Gov. Mark Sanford (R), admitted an affair with a woman from Argentina. Until the scandal broke, Mark and Jenny posed as a beacon of Christian family values.
I can understand Jenny's disgust with her husband, who left his four sons to cheat with his mistress on Father's Day. But one can't masquerade as a Bible-thumper when it comes to gay rights and other issues, and then say that the Bible is suddenly irrelevant when it comes to divorce.
Both Jenny and Mark profited from their charade, yet jilted Jenny wants to conveniently abandon biblical absolutism and utilize liberal divorce laws because her feelings are hurt. Sorry Jenny, but a mistress does not negate your marriage vows. Anyone can embrace the "sanctity of marriage" in good times. A true person of fundamentalist faith stays with the vows even when the relationship sours.
To highlight such hypocrisy, John Marcoa, a Sacramento Web-designer, has drafted a 2010 parody ballot measure that would ban divorce in California. Tellingly, the right wing organizations that fought to save marriage from gay couples have not lined up to support it.
From mega-churches to suburban strip mall ministries, fundamentalist youth rail against the secular culture, even as they ape it. They sport gaudy tattoos of Jesus, wear earrings in their noses and play imitation rock. On their fingers are silly chastity rings, when they really need chastity belts.
A recent New York Times magazine article points out that "More government money has been spent on the cause of sexual abstinence in Texas than any other state, but it still has the third-highest teen birth rate in the country and the highest percentage of teen mothers giving birth more than once."
Former beauty queen Carrie Prejean is the perfect spokesperson for liberal bashing libertines. She moralized over same-sex marriage, but expected forgiveness and understanding when, thanks to tabloid pictures, America got to know her in the biblical sense.
Perhaps the most amusing part of studying conservatives is their absurd claim that America is a Christian nation, which is impossible, because no two people can define what it means to be Christian. A new Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life report entitled, "Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths," concludes that people are now choosing to "blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs". Who knew crystals and Christ went so well together?
Last month, Watergate felon Chuck Colson joined a batch of wing nuts to write "The Manhattan Declaration". This supposedly conservative manifesto began by shamelessly co-opting historical liberal successes. The Declaration reads:
"It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery...Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement...The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians...
It is true that Christians played a role in these movements. However, it was non-believers teaming up with liberal Christians to overcome the opposition of conservative Christians. The anti-gay signers of The Manhattan Declaration are the ideological heirs to those on the wrong side of history. It was remarkable how efficiently they scrubbed their own embarrassing past and replaced their monumental failures with liberal accomplishments.
Social conservatives are a loud bunch, but their power is slipping. I think back to Middle school, when I attended a Houston Rockets basketball game with my father. During a time out the "Voice of God" announced that a gay rights measure had been crushed. The enthusiastic crowd burst out in to loud cheers, which was quite devastating to a thirteen-year old coming to terms with his sexual orientation.
On Monday, Houston voters elected openly gay Annise Parker as mayor. Unlike my youth, I watched a Houston crowd cheer for progress instead of prejudice. No doubt there were countless social conservatives across the city slamming beers, ogling women who weren't their wives and betting on sports -- while bemoaning the city's fallen values.
This is the lifestyle of today's conservatives of convenience. They are all creed and no deed.