Friday, December 21, 2007

The loneliest man who ever lived

I've done my Christmas preparations this week knowing that a friend of mine will barely make it through the loneliness of the holiday season. Like many people I know, he hasn't yet come out to his family or church, and he wonders if he'll ever know what it's like to be truly loved. One reason I'm apprehensive about Christmas every year is that I know it causes some people reflect on their personal sadness more than usual. Whenever I sense that sadness, it's hard not to be affected too.

Back when The DaVinci Code was all the rage, it was vogue to speculate that, contrary to the church's teaching, Jesus actually got married to Mary Magdalene and had a child. Jesus was actually a family man! My position has been that if people want to believe that, go ahead. It takes nothing away from my faith. Yet to me, the traditional and biblical teaching that Jesus dwelt among us as the loneliest and most sorrowful man who ever lived on earth rings much closer to the truth.

The Jesus I know came not to find joy or comfort for himself, but rather made himself poor for our sakes that we might become rich. As a single man, rejected by his hometown and misunderstood by his parents and siblings, he befriended the despised and forsaken and marginalized. The lonely. He identified with them by becoming despised and forsaken and marginalized himself. Then he told them the secrets of the kingdom of heaven and they believed, because they were wise enough not to put their hopes in the fickle promises of earthly life.

The notion of Jesus as a Family Man only makes him into another one of those people who makes people without families feel left out, especially during Christmas time. Fortunately, as a Bible-believing traditionalist, I don't have to buy into that. I believe Christmas is, ironically, a time to remember the birth of the loneliest man who walked the earth, who is most present and most at home among those whose hearts are broken.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Frank Schaeffer speaks

I don't read popular books written by evangelicals any more. But seeing this quote from Crazy for God, by Frank Schaeffer (the late Francis Schaeffer's son), is tempting me to make an exception.

The public image of the leaders of the religious right I met with so many times also contrasted with who they really were. In public, they maintained an image that was usually quite smooth. In private, they ranged from unreconstructed bigot reactionaries like Jerry Falwell, to Dr. Dobson, the most power-hungry and ambitious person I have ever met, to Billy Graham, a very weird man indeed who lived an oddly sheltered life in a celebrity/ministry cocoon, to Pat Robertson, who would have had a hard time finding work in any job where hearing voices is not a requirement.

While the late Francis Schaeffer helped to launch the Religious Right movement because of the abortion issue, his son Frank Schaeffer reveals in this interview how contrary his father's sentiments were from his fellows on the issue of homosexuality.
JW: His views of homosexuality were quite different from those of today’s Christian Right, which is stridently anti-gay. But Francis Schaeffer didn’t see it that way. As you say in the book, he saw homosexuality as a serious matter. But he didn’t think they would stop being homosexuals if they became Christians. And he didn’t condemn them. Is that right?

FS: That is absolutely correct. A lot of people in the evangelical and fundamentalist communities speak theoretically about homosexuality being no worse than adultery or divorce. However, in practice, they are not undertaking national campaigns to single out evangelical people who were married to somebody else at one time and got divorced. So actually there is a tremendous moral hypocrisy there because the whole gay issue has been singled out for special treatment. My dad literally practiced what he preached. He said that homosexual sex was on the same level as adultery, premarital sex and spiritual pride. He didn’t differentiate between all this and write people off on the basis of it. He actually believed and acted on what a lot of people in the Religious Right say theoretically. But he literally was that way. My dad didn’t see it as a special problem to be singled out from everything else. He didn’t see it as threatening. We had quite a few gay people come through L’Abri. As a child, I knew who they were and why. But my dad did not push them into programs where they were going to try to become straight based on special counseling. He didn’t see it that way. He just saw this as one amongst all kinds of challenges that face people humanly and was very compassionate about it. We had a number of people who came to L’Abri who were not Christians or were Christians who were gay who never changed their orientation, and they didn’t become less friendly with my dad as a result. He didn’t make a big point of it one way or another. That is how his attitude manifested itself to other people.

It has often puzzled me that Francis Schaeffer had apparently helped found the Religious Right. I knew he was first and foremost a Christian thinker and philosopher and associated him most strongly with his ministry at L'Abri. I figured an intellectual like him would be above such a scheme. This interview with Frank Schaeffer has helped to put those pieces together in my mind. He tells how his father thought Pat Robertson was out of his mind and Jerry Falwell was harsh and inhuman, but he tolerated them in those early years as necessary allies in opposing Roe vs. Wade. The elder Schaeffer died in 1984. If he knew today what the Religious Right had become, his son says, he'd be rolling in his grave

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Slow blogging

Sorry for the infrequent blogging lately. We just bought a house and are now in escrow. Someone once told me that buying your first home is like having a baby; it rearranges your whole life. I believe it. And the real busyness is yet to come.

When we first moved into our current apartment in the spring of '96, we had no kids. Now we have three. The landlord abides by two basic principles when it comes to keeping up the place: 1) Spend as little money as possible, 2) because he doesn't live here, after all. We've put up with that for eleven years, not to mention the shrinking space with the growing family. This move will be a tremendous blessing needless to say.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Family talk

Every evening during our little family prayer meeting, we pray for each other and for any friends we know who are in need. I often ask the kids to pray for gay friends I know who are having troubles with their families or churches. One evening last week it was just me with my two older children at the prayer meeting. They were asking why parents who find out their kids are gay get so upset.

"Because it makes the parents angry and afraid when they find out," I tell them.

"Why?"

"Well, especially Christian parents. Because some Christians believe their kid chooses to be gay. Other people believe that if their child turns out gay it's the parents' fault, so they get angry at the kid because they feel responsible somehow. But we don't really know why people turn out gay. It's still kind of a mystery."

My ten-year-old asks, "Mommy, what would you do if you found out one of your kids is gay?"

The seven-year-old looks at me too.

"I would love you just the same," I say. "Besides, I don't think that being gay or not gay is the most important thing. The most important thing to me is that you believe in Jesus."

The two kids jump up. Apparently, it is a fist-pumping moment for them.

"Yeah!"

"Yeah!"

They bounce around on their queen-sized futon.

"Believing in Jesus is the most important thing!"

"Jesus is more important than gay!"

"Yeah!"

After they settle down, we talk about it some more. For their age they have tremendous spiritual understanding, and they've come such a long ways. I'm very proud of them.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Quote for the day

I don't believe that God is a fussy faultfinder in dealing with theological ideas. He who provides forgiveness for a sinful life will also surely be a generous judge of theological reflections. Even an orthodox theologian can be spiritually dead, while perhaps a heretic crawls on forbidden bypaths to the sources of life.

Helmut Thielicke (1908-1986)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Disconnection

I went to a friend's baby shower last weekend where I got to meet a number of her friends from college. They were terrific people, and it made me miss my own college friends.

I had two really good friends I have lost contact with ever since my civil same-sex marriage article caused controversy in my old denomination, the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church). I remember the first day the controversy broke out the morning of February 25, 2002. Five Reformed discussion lists were overheating with rage. Some people were calling me names while others were debating how to formulate judicial charges against me. Hate mail was pouring into my and my husband's email inboxes. The phone started ringing, not from friends but total strangers.

Then a different email showed up in my box. It was from my old college roommie who had been a bridesmaid in my wedding, whom I had lost contact with. It said something like: "Hi Misty! Guess what? I'm a part of such-and-such church in Northern CA, and I just found out we are in the same denomination. God has reconnected us through the OPC! I'm so excited! I'm doing this and that now. Write me back, etc." So I wrote back, pretending like nothing was going on: "Hi So-and-So, I'm so glad to hear from you! That's great you joined the OPC, too! We should definitely get together soon, blah blah. Can't wait to reconnect. Let me know when, etc."

After that: Cricket. I never heard back from her. I wrote once more just to inquire if she got my email and reiterate my excitement about our reunion plans--but nothing. She'd only joined the OPC recently. I'd known her for years. We'd been through some major things together. I figured she'd know better than believe any of the stuff people were saying about me in her new denomination. But the bottom line is, she didn't write back.

I had been doing a better job of keeping in touch with my other college friend, who lived only half an hour away. Even when we were overwhelmed with our growing families, we'd still get together once or twice a year and exchanged Christmas cards. Then the controversy broke out and I sent out the annual Christmas card and didn't hear back from her. I played it cool, waited until the following Christmas and sent her another card. Still nothing. My controversy was all over the Internet and she was aware of my website, so I wondered if that had anything to do with her silence. Maybe I shouldn't have interpreted two years of missed Christmas cards as a rejection, but it was hard not to when pretty much everyone else who I thought had been my friends in the OPC were treating me the same way. At the time it was all related in my mind. I still wonder if I gave up on her too soon.

I know what I've experienced is similar to what happens to people who come out of the closet. There are good things about having the guts to say, this is who I am. Or, in my case, this is wrong and here's why I think so. You do move on, and you do make new friends with people who can appreciate you for what you're all about. For that reason, your new friendships can take on a value that in many ways surpasses the old ones. But there's also something that radically changes about your life when you lose the people who connect you with your past, a good past that was worth hanging on to. Friends that I make as an adult can't entirely replace them.

I read much of my experience into gay people I know who have had it rough coming out. We encourage each other and can emphasize the good things. But some of this other stuff . . . I don't know if it is worth talking about except to know in my heart that it exists.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rev. Fred Phelps

Looks like someone has finally won big in court against Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church. The Phelps family is normally on the offensive when it comes to legal battles. Armed with their numerous law degrees, they are known in Topeka for continually harassing people with their legal threats and lawsuits, in addition to their famous picketing against gays. You can read the details in Chapter Six of this report, a court document written by former reporter Jon Michael Bell in 1994. (See here for the story on how this document became public.)

I came across this document a couple of years ago, but I couldn't stomach reading it all the way through. Mainly because the lengthy accounts of physical and psychological abuse, reported by Fred Phelps' now-grown children, Mark and Nate, are so horrifying.

One brief example is this Chapter Two excerpt where Mark Phelps describes his father beating him and his brother using the handle of a mattock (a pick-hoe):
"After 40 strokes, I was weak and nauseous and very pale. My body hurt terribly. Then it was Nate's turn. He got 40 each time. I staggered to the bathtub where my mom was wetting a towel to swab my face. Behind me, I could hear the mattock and my brother was choking and moaning. He was crying and he wouldn't stop." The voice in the phone halts. After an awkward moment, clearing of throats, it continues: "Then I heard my father shouting my name. My mom was right there, but she wouldn't help me. It hurt so badly during the third beating that I kept wanting to drop so he would hit me in the head. I was hoping I'd be knocked out, or killed...anything to end the pain. After that...it was waiting that was terrible. You didn't know if, when he was done with Nate, he'd hurt you again. I was shaking in a cold panic. Twenty-five years since it happened, and the same sick feeling in my stomach comes back now..."

Of the 13 Phelps children four, including Mark and Nate, have left what is called "the family cult." In Mark Phelps' opinion,
"My father is a very unstable person who is determined to hurt people. And because he is so bound to be hateful and hurtful, and because he's so untrustworthy, I believe it's a good idea to respond to him with caution much like the caution used when dealing with a rattlesnake or a mad dog. You see, the causes that he crusades for, including the Bible, are not the issue here. He simply wants to hate and to have a forum for his hate . . . If it weren't the homosexuals, it would be something else."

I appreciate that Mark Phelps says neither the Bible nor the issue of homosexuality is what is really driving his mentally disturbed father. Still it's amazing to me that conservative Christians don't do more to expose and denounce this psychopath. Try reading any portion of that court document and tell me if you can walk away without feeling physically ill and heartbroken over what the Phelps children, and all the other victims of Fred Phelps' rage, have suffered.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wildfires


Fires have been contained to the west (Malibu) and north (Stevenson Ranch) of us, but are still burning at a distant east (Lake Arrowhead) and southeast (Orange County) from where we live. Fortunately we are located in Van Nuys, a central urban area away from the dry brush and forest areas, so we are safe. But the air is extremely unhealthful. The sunlight filtering through the atmosphere casts a strange, orange-gray light upon us.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What we talked about

Our discussion last night went better than I expected.

In my last two posts I called it a "community discussion" and apparently left the impression that this was a discussion open to the community. My bad. What I meant (and expected) was that community representatives who were concerned about reaching conservative religious communities with gay and lesbian issues were invited to share experiences and discuss strategies. So I was basically invited to a brainstorming committee.

I expected to come and find that I was the most conservative person there. That turned out to be true. (The moderator of the meeting jotted down "ultra-conservative" on the white board when it came to representing my concerns.) I was afraid I might come and find that I was the only conservative there. That turned out not to be true. There was one other person, an American Baptist minister, who thankfully said most of the things I wanted to say. All I had to do was agree with him and share some supporting anecdotes from my personal experience. We didn't talk about celibacy, but it was just as well since that idea would have been too advanced for this group.

Two people from CA Faith Equality moderated the meeting, my friend Kerry who is lesbian and Jewish, and her colleague who (I think) is transgendered and was raised Hindu. The pastor of the UCC church that hosted the meeting attended along with a number of Japanese American congregation members who were parents or friends of someone gay. There was also a long time gay activist from the Chinese community, a representative from a GLBT legal organization, a Buddhist parent of a gay child, and a Washington D.C. activist who had recently relocated to L.A.

As I said, I was on board with just about everything the American Baptist minister shared. He emphasized that in order to talk to conservatives about gay or gay-related issues, it doesn't work to set up panel discussions and bring in outsiders who have credentials that people would consider questionable. A graduate of "So-and-So School of Religion" isn't going to cut it. It had better be Dallas Theological Seminary or some place people have heard of and respect. He joked that had enough trouble getting respect for being a graduate of Fuller Seminary, and I was the only one in the room who laughed. That in itself said something about where the divide in the group lay.

He talked about the importance of understanding people's fears, being able to name them and openly discuss them. Are these fears rational? If our country is in moral decline, would supporting gay civil marriage hurt or help the situation? Are homosexuals dragging marriage down the tubes . . . or have heterosexuals been doing that on their own? He also talked about how these discussions often don't mean much to people until they are facing a crisis moment, such as when a son or daughter comes out as gay. That's when people come back ready to revisit the issues with you, now that they themselves are feeling like outsiders in the church.

Somehow we got onto the topic of theology. One of the UCC members asked me why I couldn't just tell the members of my church that God created people to be gay. I had to explain that our denomination held to a theological tradition that included an Augustinian view of original sin and the fall. Since the fall affected all of humanity, the burden of proof would lie with whoever wanted to demonstrate that homosexuality is not a part of that fallen condition. I also explained that according to this view, unchosen conditions such as sickness or suffering (such as the pains of childbirth) are manifestations of our fallen condition. It seemed to me homosexuality could be presented as falling into a related category.

The UCC people responded as if they had never before heard of the doctrine of the fall. That puzzled me, because I wouldn't know how to understand the joy and wonder of the gospel without it. But of course I didn't pursue it with them. This meeting was on their turf, not mine.

The group concluded--perhaps after hearing enough of the bizarre, conservative, insider lingo from the American Baptist minister and me--that it was probably best to allow the people who are already within conservative circles to carry on these discussions with their own. I couldn't agree more. Still, they want to meet again to talk about actions we could take. I'm not sure what actions those would be, except for me to sit around waiting for the people who already know me to approach me in their own time with their own questions about these things. But sure, I'll go to the next meeting if I can.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thoughts on reaching conservatives

With Ann Coulter going around saying offensive things like "America would be better off if everyone were Christian," I wonder whether anyone in the gay community would care to "reach conservatives" at all about a better understanding gay issues. The tension (and discouragement) mounts as I look forward to attending the community discussion this Wednesday, co-sponsered by API (Asian/Pacific Islander) Equality and CA Faith for Equality.

I have no idea what strategies we're going to talk about. But one thought I'd like to bring to the table is this: as with liberals, conservatives tend to trust only their own. Particularly conservatives in the Christian community. Unless you're willing to open up your Bible and cite chapter and verse, and are willing to work with a theological framework built upon the key points of creation, fall, redemption and consummation, you are not speaking their language. Your arguments simply won't make sense to them. If you start talking about "inclusion" or "love" apart from the ideas of divine mercy, forgiveness and atonement, then as far as they are concerned you are just babbling some liberal, idealistic, world-peace, hippie language that is out of touch with reality as they understand it.

I know. Jesus loved people. Jesus included people. But if you read the Gospel accounts, his love and inclusiveness embraced those people who looked to him in faith for the forgiveness of their sins. You simply can't get around that, especially if you read the account of Jesus' last supper with his disciples, where he plainly says that his imminent death is to be accomplished "for the many for forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:26-28). He laid down his life not merely because he loves us--though that is true--and not merely because he wants to include people of every tongue, tribe and nation in his kingdom--though that is also true. But the basis for his love and inclusiveness is his own atoning sacrifice on behalf of sinners. It is not merely that we must believe ourselves to be sinners. It is that we must believe that Jesus views us as sinners, and that he came to us for no other reason than to save us from the condemnation we have brought upon ourselves.

That is the conservative Christian view of things. Which means that when it comes to discussing homosexuality with them, there is little value in taking them to task on their position that homosexuality is a part of humanity's fallen and sinful condition. At best, you might try to convince people that while humanity certainly is corrupted by sin, homosexuality is not one of those sins for which Jesus died. But even I have not been convinced by such arguments.

Instead, I would suggest approaching conservative Christian leaders with a challenge to be open to the policy of celibacy for their homosexual church members. While that may seem like a big concession for more liberal-minded gays and lesbians to make, it is a much bigger concession for church leaders to accept, because it would be admitting that homosexuality might be a permanent condition that ex-gay ministries can't fix. And yet if leaders put up resistance to a celibacy policy, this is where we can challenge them: How can the church not tolerate celibate gay members? If people aren't acting upon their orientation, what sin have they committed in the church's eyes that would justify putting them out of the fold?

If celibate homosexuals are allowed to exist and be supported within the church, a natural education process would take place as people get to know what a gay or lesbian person is really like, apart from the media stereotypes and right-wing propaganda. Caring personal relationships are what change people's minds, not outreach programs or advertisement campaigns.

In my opinion, this is the blueprint for reaching conservatives within the faith community. But will I have the guts to share it?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Reaching conservatives

I've been invited by CA Faith for Equality to join a discussion this month on how to open up dialogue within Asian/Pacific Islander religious communities about gay and lesbian issues. In other words, they are looking for input on how to reach the most conservative communities among us with the message of tolerance for gay and lesbian people.

I'm encouraged that some people are concerned about this. I'm still not sure how much of my opinion I'll feel comfortable sharing, but I can say here that the outreach strategies that most pro-gay groups normally employ wouldn't make the slightest dent in conservative circles. My conservative friends wouldn't be interested in attending a candlelight vigil, a gay and lesbian film festival, or any event that involves meditating while holding hands in a circle. They generally distrust the media, which in their eyes has discredited itself by failing to represent their views even-handedly. Case in point is today's headline in the news section of my NetZero page:

"Anti-gay 'quacks' to descend on Dallas"

It turns out this story is about a NARTH conference to be held in
Dallas-Fort Worth for reparative therapists the weekend of October 26-28. The headline does not call them "reparative therapists" but "'quacks'" which is a quote from the mouth of Wayne Bessen, founder of Truth Wins Out, whose group plans to protest the event. Why put his words in the headline of the article? Is this objective reporting? And why use the word "descend"? All they are doing is meeting for their own conference. They are not planning to march, harass the gay community of Dallas, or hold a public protest against gay marriage while they are there.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know how I feel about reparative therapy, what a lot of hogwash I think it is. But how does a story like this, which reports on a NARTH conference for what appears to be no good reason except to stir up bile against NARTH members, do any good for the gay and lesbian cause? Those who already agree that reparative therapy is quack science get to jeer, and those who have more conservative leanings on social issues will view this as more evidence that the news media has been hijacked by liberals. As a result, I fear that many of the informative human interest stories that the media sometimes runs on the lives of gay and lesbian people are dismissed by conservatives as more liberal propaganda. It is all of a piece with: "Anti-gay 'quacks' to descend on Dallas."

How honest can I be about my concerns at this upcoming community discussion? Realistically, I doubt I'll feel free to be entirely frank about what I think needs to be done to "reach conservatives." It's next Wednesday, the 17th. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Blessed are the peacemakers

My husband points me to a recent entry on the blog of Fuller Theological Seminary President Richard Mouw:

I gave a talk to a good-sized audience on a large university campus, on the subject of civility. The folks who attended were mainly from campus ministry groups, many of them evangelical. There had been some controversy over “culture wars” issues on that campus in recent months, and they asked me to address questions about how we can best deal with public controversies in a Christian spirit. One point that I made with a special emphasis was the need to talk with our opponents face-to-face, whenever possible, before going public with our criticisms.

Afterward the leaders of one of the evangelical campus groups came up to talk with me. They told me how they had run ads in the campus newspaper, stating the evangelical understanding of sexual fidelity, with some mention of their opposition to same-sex relationships. One of the gay-lesbian groups had countered with an angry published response, and they had gone back and forth a bit, trading letters to the editor. “It has gotten a bit out of hand,” they said. “Realistically, from your point of view, how should we have handled it differently?”

Read Mouw's advice and the outcome of the situation here. If more Christians followed suit, would there even be a "culture war" raging today?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

September madness

Sorry for the slow blogging recently. All month I've had multiple projects going on, which I'm polishing off one by one. I had to prepare for a women's Bible study which I taught at church Friday of last week. I finished writing a 14 page paper and turned it in yesterday. Now I have less than two weeks to finish preparing a three-lecture series for my church's women's retreat coming up Oct. 4-6. I'm feeling surprisingly good this morning, considering. But in about ten days I'll be running on fumes.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"I've stood around too long"


Why are these two straight, high-school seniors wearing pink? To intimidate school bullies, of course. Read their story here.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

James McGreevey explains life in the closet

Former governor James McGreevey, in his Washington Post article "A Prayer for Larry Craig," describes how the secrecy and dishonesty of life in the closet destroyed his self-worth and psyche from the inside out.

Everything and everyone told me it was wrong, evil, unnatural and shameful. You decide: I'll change it, I'll fight it, I'll control it, but, simply put, I'll never accept it. You then attempt to place "it" in a metaphorical closet, keep it separate from open daily life and indulge it only in dark, secret places.

The danger of this decision is the implicit shame it carries. I was convinced I was worth less than my straight peers. I was at best inauthentic, and the longer I went without amending that dishonesty, the more ashamed I felt. And the third shame, for me, was my behavior. From the time in high school when I made up my mind to behave in public as though I were straight, I nonetheless carried on sexually with men.

How do you live with this shame? How do you accommodate your own disappointments, your own revulsion with whom you have become? You do it by splitting in two. You rescue part of yourself, the half that stands for tradition, values and America, the part that looks like the family you came from, and you walk away from the other half the way you would abandon something spoiled, something disgusting. This is a false amputation, because the other half doesn't stop existing. When I decided to closet my desire, I also denied the possibility of life as a healthy, integrated gay.

Whenever I hear Christians say that their solution for homosexuality is to "keep it in the closet,"I think about the pain and psychological contortions people like Mr. McGreevey have suffered through--which Senator Craig has apparently still not found his way out of.

Christians talk endlessly about the sinfulness and revulsion of homosexuality. But the gospel teaches that the only sin that is more repulsive than "sinning" is being dishonest about it before God and others. Whatever our views about the morality of homosexuality may be, we can surely all agree that it is spiritually unhealthy and morally wrong for people to deceive themselves--and others--about their struggles. By creating a church environment in which we castigate and ostracize people who do come out of the closet--who are merely seeking to salvage their own dignity and sanity--we are guilty of betraying the gospel of Jesus Christ himself, who calls all sinners, whether straight or gay, to come into the light of his truth.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

LCR's statement on Senator Craig

You gotta admire the pitch-perfect response of the Log Cabin Republicans to the latest GOP sex scandal involving Senator Craig.

Log Cabin Questions Senator Craig’s Ability to Continue Serving

Statement from Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon

(Washington, DC) – Log Cabin Republicans president Patrick Sammon made this statement following the news that Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) pled guilty after a June arrest at a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men’s public restroom.

“Senator Larry Craig’s ability to continue serving the people of Idaho is in serious doubt. He has violated the public trust, not just with his inappropriate and illegal behavior, but in the subsequent explanation of his actions. Innocent people don’t plead guilty. The time to contest these allegations would’ve been before his guilty plea.

“Senator Craig owes the people of Idaho a more credible explanation than what he has provided. By his own admission, he has violated the law. He violated the trust of the people and now he’s questioning the honesty of law enforcement officers. The Republican Party, the people of Idaho, and all Americans should demand better from their elected officials. This situation may have permanently damaged Craig’s ability to continue serving in the U.S. Senate.

“Log Cabin strongly opposes outing. It’s unproductive and distracts people from the real work of convincing more Americans to support equality for gay and lesbian people. It’s not for me to speculate about Senator Craig’s sexual orientation. However it’s clear that whether it’s Jim McGreevey, Ted Haggard, or someone else, life in the closet often leads to destructive, harmful, and reckless behavior.”

Principled, patriotic, and taking the moral high-ground. These gay Republicans know how to speak a language that most straight Americans can relate to and understand--which is why I think the Log Cabin Republicans are the wave of the future.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

In the same boat (with one small difference)

Fellow Christians have ripped on me for defending gay and lesbian civil rights. "Don't be a fool," I've been told. "Do you really think those gays you are sticking your neck out for would ever defend your rights as a Christian?"

Maybe not all . . . but I hold out my hopes for some.

From the Letters section of today's L.A. Times:

Re "Should God go to the ballgame?" Opinion, Aug. 19

As the California and Western region director of Log Cabin Republicans, an organization of gay and lesbian Republicans, I feel compelled to respond to Tom Krattenmaker's arguments against public displays of Christianity at athletic events. Replace the word "Christian" with "gay" and you would find a similar screed vented recently in San Diego about events for gays and lesbians. The point of these events is to allow groups to publicly identify themselves, feel a little proud of who they are and have a good time. If we are going to condone one, we can't condemn the other.

Gays and lesbians want the same thing as Christians--to be themselves honestly and openly without having to worry about others trying to shame them. There is one small difference between our community and the Christian groups at these events--we don't recruit.

--James Vaughn, Sacramento

Ouch!

Go LCR.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A bit of housekeeping

Some items worth mentioning:

"More about me": I've added this new item to the sidebar. I learned that when I simply directed people to my MusingsOn.com website, they had to do too much hunting around to find the pertinent articles on my background, views, and why I began musing on Christianity, homosexuality and the Bible. This sidebar item should help streamline that process.

My email address: Sorry it wasn't posted for several months. You may write me at: MusingsOnSite (at) netzero (dot) net. Back when I switched templates, Blogger dumped my email address from the sidebar and I didn't notice until this week. I'm not trying to diss you, I really do love getting email. In fact, I make it a policy to answer every sincere letter I receive (the emphasis on "sincere"), and have even been known to answer slightly obnoxious yet intellectually honest ones as well. Email is especially important to me since I have disabled the comments section on this blog.

Why have I disabled the comments section?: Because I'm not interested in providing a forum where certain unworthy persons, who have nothing better to do than lurk on this blog and leave me an occasional harassing email, spew their strange bile at my intelligent, compassionate, thoughtful readers--who fortunately make up the majority of you. Comments sections seem to attract unwanted types--particularly when controversial subjects are being discussed--so even the option of being able to monitor it doesn't make setting one up more appealing to me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A year of blogging and beyond

The one year anniversary of this blog is long over (July 31), nevertheless I'm still reflecting on the adventure this past year has been. If you've been reading since the beginning, thanks so much for being on board. If you've only recently discovered this blog--welcome!

It's been a challenge to meet my personal goal of blogging at least once a week; I haven't always been successful. If you've checked back and seen the same post sitting here for fourteen straight days, it's probably because I became overwhelmed dealing with some pocket of chaos in my life. Here's a list of some of the things I might be off doing during those silent stretches:

1. Taking care of the 16-month-old. When he's up and around, my whole life revolves around feeding, changing, amusing, comforting and scolding him. He's walking now, albeit somewhat unsteadily, because even two surgeries haven't completely corrected his club feet (a condition he was born with). At least once a month we have to take him to see one of the three doctors whose care he is under.

2. Homeschooling my two older girls. One is in fourth grade, the other in second grade. They study math, reading, writing, history, science, art, and soon music. I'm not a very organized teacher, but we're managing. And the kids love it.

3. Cooking. As a five-member, single-income family living in L.A., we can't afford to eat out much. Home-cooking is cheaper and healthier. It is also way, way more work. I have always enjoyed cooking, but after doing it day-in and day-out for fifteen years, I wonder whether I still enjoy it as much as I used to.

4. Laundry. Four to six loads a week.

5. Teaching the women's Bible study. Used to be a breeze when I just had the two older kids. Now that the baby has come along, finding time to put together lessons is much harder. I'm also scheduled to speak at the women's retreat this coming October. I wonder what I'm going to talk about?

6. Learning Khmer. Say what? Yeah, I'm learning the Cambodian language on my own. Next year my husband and I may have the opportunity to go on a short-term missions trip to Cambodia with a team from our church. Mosquito bites, here I come. Khmer is actually a terrific language to learn once you get beyond thinking it sounds like someone talking underwater.

7. Fiction writing. Ah, this is the fun stuff. I'm part of a writing group where we share stories and discuss character development, plot development, setting, dialogue--all those elements that make up a great story. We meet every three weeks and I can honestly say that my fellow writers are some of the best people I've met in recent times. Almost as good as my gay friends.

(Actually, learning Khmer and writing fiction are the two main activities I do to make myself feel like I still have fun and exciting things going on in my life. Not exactly rock concerts and ski trips, but when you're stuck at home 24/7 you have to make do.)

When do I have time to blog? In the mornings, before the kids wake up. During stretches when the baby is playing happily and isn't causing trouble. After homeschooling and before the baby gets up from his nap (which is right now). In the evenings, when I'm not dead tired.

Sometimes, the time to blog just doesn't seem to be there, yet I know I have to make time. I can't shake the conviction that talking and thinking aloud about gay issues from within the conservative Christian church is one of the most important things I could be doing with my time right now. People have ended up losing their families, their faith, and sometimes their lives due to the slander, misinformation and prejudice we still harbor against gay and lesbian people in our cloistered church circles. That grim reality doesn't always touch upon my life directly, or even indirectly. It's easy to ignore. Admittedly, it is often a struggle to remember. I try to remember, because I believe it is urgent that Christians change the way they think about gay and lesbian people if we wish to bring honor to the gospel, credibility to the authority of Scripture, and glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Quote for the day

When people make their struggles known, those who listen usually feel uncomfortable and uncertain of what to do. Most of us end up giving advice or reassurance that draws a courteous yawn. We rarely see such moments as opportunity for powerful connection . . . The usual pattern for most of us in dealing with a hurting friend is to retreat, reprove or refer. Like Israelites avoiding a leper, most of us want to establish a safe distance between us and the emotionally troubled. We often do so by reciting Christian phrases that arouse no passion in us but are supposed to do powerful things for them . . . Or we try to scold people into holier living. Reproving another provides an easy route to representing God without the hard work of involvement. It's Sinai without Bethlehem, legislation without incarnation; only Moses, never Christ.

Larry Crabb, Connecting: Healing Ourselves and Our Relationships

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Don't ask, don't tell, fourteen years later

"Attitudes on Gays in Military Shifting" says today's L.A. Times, reporting on something a lot of us have known for a while:

"Just like in the general population, there is a generational shift within the military," said Paul Rieckhoff, a former Army platoon commander in Iraq who is now executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a group largely composed of younger retired soldiers. "The average 18-year-old has been around gay people, has seen gay people in popular culture, and they're not this boogeyman in the same way they were to [Joint Chiefs chairman, Marine General] Pete Pace's generation."


I remember in 1993 when President Clinton was talking about dropping the ban on gays and lesbians in the military, I was one of those conservatives who was completely incensed. The following year I retaliated by going out and voting for every Republican name I saw on the ballot for the '94 midterm elections, regardless of who they were. Apparently I wasn't the only one.

Now fourteen years later . . . well, what a difference fourteen years makes. Isn't it time we drop this ridiculous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy from the military, which ironically, thanks to Clinton, is now encoded in U.S. law? If gays and lesbians want to fight for their country, and the generation of straights who serve alongside them doesn't care about their sexual orientation, then what's the point?

DADT only serves to conceal the fact that so many gays and lesbians are currently risking their lives for our national security, which enables us to continue indulging in stereotypes of them as morally perverse people who are incapable of embracing ideals such as courage, honor and duty to country, so that we can in turn justify enforcing DADT since we can assume other servicemen and -women hold to the same stereotypes, which DADT helps to perpetuate. Makes sense, doesn't it?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

How to write a conservative Christian article on homosexuality

I was disappointed to learn that a Reformed group I greatly respect, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, which is normally insightful and gospel-centered in their thinking, has just published an article on homosexuality in their magazine called, "A Theological Overview of Nature and Natural Function Implications for Christian Sexuality in the 21st Century," by Dr. Samuel Hensley. Sadly, it contains all the usual slippery stuff. These sorts of articles pop up like mad in conservative Christian magazines, and now I have found it here too.

Since such pieces are apparently in high demand, I've written a guide for anyone out there who wants to get one of their own articles on homosexuality published in their favorite Christian magazine. I have used Dr. Hensley's article as a model:

How To Write a Conservative Christian Article on Homosexuality.

1. Portray all gays and lesbians as unanimously hostile, leftist and anti-Christian.

The gay community has taken a stand that refuses to even consider that the lifestyle may be immoral, contrary to Scripture and contrary to church teaching from multiple denominational prospectives throughout the history of the Christian faith. Any questioning of the gay assertions elicits a knee jerk reaction of hostility.

Fail to make more accurate statements such as: “Much of the gay community, which tends to be dominated by left-wing politics,” or “Many in the gay community, particularly the unbelieving population,” because such statements wouldn’t confirm our conservative Christian stereotypes and prejudices.

2. Pull the most extreme quotes from leftist gay activists to represent the moral values of all gay and lesbian people.

A more blatant and unabashed quote comes from gay activist Michael Swift. Swift claims, “The family unit-spawning ground of lies, betrays, mediocrity, hypocrisy and violence, will be abolished. The family unit, which only dampens imagination and curbs free will, must be eliminated.”

Ignore the positive views of marriage and family from other gay activists, such as conservative journalist Jonathan Rauch:

It seems to me that the two strongest candidates [for supporting the institution of marriage] are these: domesticating men and providing reliable caregivers. Both purposes are critical to the functioning of a humane and stable society, and both are much better served by marriage—that is, by one-to-one lifelong commitment—than by any other institution.


Or gay conservative Andrew Sullivan:

Society, after all, has good reasons to extend legal advantages to heterosexuals who choose the formal sanction of marriage over simply living together. They make a deeper commitment to one another and to society; in exchange society extends certain benefits to them. Marriage provides an anchor, if an arbitrary and weak one, in the maelstrom of sex and relationships to which we are all prone. It provides a mechanism for emotional stability and economic security.


3. Assert with boldness and authority that homosexuality is not genetically determined.

It can be demonstrated scientifically that homosexuality is not genetically determined and it is not determined by intrauterine hormone levels during gestation.

4. Then later concede in more subtle, off-handed statements that genes might in fact have something to do with it.

Genes may exert some indirect influence over the choices that individuals make later in life in response to difficult situations but they do not impose a homosexual orientation on anyone . . .

I would summarize by suggesting that homosexuality, while possibly indirectly affected by genes and certainly heavily impacted by environment, begins with reversible choices.

5. Cite the "twins studies" when claiming that genes don’t determine homosexuality.

Registry studies, that is studies where twins are recruited for other reasons and then later studied in regard to sexual orientation, show that the concordance rate is not 100%. In fact, in the largest available study from Australia that included over 14,000 twins showed a concordance rate of only 30% for homosexuality. Since both twins experience the same intrauterine environment, this indicates that neither genetics nor intrauterine hormones determine sexual orientation.

6. Yet ignore the twins studies when they fail to support your own theory about the origins of homosexuality.

Homosexuality develops most frequently in men in situations of sexual abuse or where the father is distant or ineffective at key points in childhood psychological development. It may simply be that he cannot relate to his son. Whatever the reason, the young boy has defensive detachment from his father in that he rejects his father as a role model for masculinity. The role of the mother is also important in that they are often domineering in family relationships. The lack of a satisfactory relationship with his father may result in a teenager or pre-teen developing strong attachments that, in the beginning, are not sexual with older boys. With puberty these attachments may lead to experiments with homosexual acts in an attempt to foster masculine intimacy. In some cases a homosexual identity is the result.

Fail to confront the question of how identical twins with the same parents, upbringing and family environment could show “a concordance rate of only 30% for homosexuality,” if the “distant father-dominant mother” theory is correct.

7. To back up your claims, always cite Dr. Jeffrey Satinover (twice in this article and in footnotes #14 and #20) and Dr. Joseph Nicolosi (footnotes #21, 24, 25). For bonus points, cite Dr. Paul Cameron too. (I don't see him here, but one might check to see if Satinover and/or Nicolosi cite Cameron in their work.)

8. Make claims that homosexuals can change based on the existence of reorientation therapy and the need for “hope.” Do not make these claims based upon the existence of real homosexual people who have actually changed into bonafide heterosexuals (since you will have an extremely difficult time finding any).

To accept the view that these behaviors are unchangeable is to trap many persons, who wish to be different, in bondage especially since reorientation therapy offers hope to motivated individuals . . .

If homosexuality is spoken against in scripture and if treatment options are available, then those individuals who teach that homosexuality is an acceptable alternate lifestyle before God and that it cannot be changed, are unloving. They close the door of hope to people caught in this maladaptive, unhealthy behavior and condemn them to a life without hope of change.

9. After you make bold and authoritative claims about how homosexuals can “change,” acknowledge in an off-handed statement at the very end of the article that reorientation therapy may not work and people may have to accept a lifetime of celibacy. In other words, homosexuals may not be able to change after all.

We must provide a new loving social circle to support people who are making difficult life changes of all types. Sexual reorientation is possible. Where this is unsuccessful, the attraction can be resisted and chaste lives are possible.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ex-gay blogger speaks

Check out these insights from an ex-gay blogger, Disputed Mutability, on "ex-ex-gays" (i.e., ex-gay survivors). She shows that the issues are more complex than what first meets the eye:

It’s been pointed out that vocal exexgay critics of the exgay movement are difficult for exgays to handle because they know what we’re all about. (As opposed to ignorant straights or gays who have never done the ex-thing.) I’d agree with that, but I would point out that that’s a two way street–exexgays have an unusual amount of insight into exgay life and experience; and exgays also have an unusual amount of insight into at least some aspects of exexgay life and experience.

We have both “been there” in a lot of respects. All exexgays by definition were once exgays, but many exgays have also tried the exexgay path as well, at least dabbling in it. (Many exgays are really exexexgays, or exexexexexgays, etc.) Most if not all of the exgays I have known questioned the exgay path and explored their alternatives at some point in their lives. It’s not like it has never occurred to us that we could be doing something different with our lives! :)

I had never before considered how much traffic must be going back and forth between the two groups, but it makes sense to me. I also appreciated the sentiments she expressed here:
. . . I want to do a pair of posts on “Their Pain” and “Our Pain”. You’ll understand better what I’m getting at when you see them, I think. I have struggled as an exgay with how to respond to the pain that exexgays report (i.e., “Their Pain”), as well as with the pain that their choices can create for us (i.e., “Our Pain”). In both posts, I want to focus on my responsibility as an exgay woman to treat exexgays well and respond to them in a way that respects them and glorifies God.

Disputed Mutability recognizes the need for honest, respectful and compassionate dialogue that "glorifies God." It's interesting that she puts it that way. That's because this discussion, if it should take place, will be largely an in-house discussion among Christians. Both ex-gays and ex-ex-gays (many of whom have survived with their faith intact) represent the most conservative Christian segment of the gay community. Or to put it another way, they represent the gay segment of the most conservative Christian communities.

Yes, there are such persons as gay Christians. Unless you acknowledge that basic reality, you can hardly begin to grasp what is taking place between these two groups. You will also miss out on how important it is for the rest of the church to tune into these issues and come to a more enlightened understanding of how to pastor, counsel and minister to homosexual members of our own congregations. Acknowledging the possibility that they might exist is a good first step.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference: final reflections


Some final thoughts on the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference I attended on June 30. While the organizers were not shy about going public with the media in challenging the claims of Exodus and other ex-gay ministries in the week leading up to the conference, I couldn't help but notice that the conference itself was a surprisingly low-key event. In the opening remarks, the Exodus Conference (which was being held concurrently just a few blocks away) was referred to only briefly as "our brothers and sisters meeting down the street." Then we went straight into an activity that encouraged survivors to reflect upon both the positive experiences they had while in ex-gay ministries, as well as the negative ones that they needed to heal from.

I found a similar tone of restraint in the seminar I attended led by Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin. Burroway presented a history of the ex-gay movement, played tapes from actual ex-gay conferences, and gave his critique. Yet he also pointed out that current Exodus president Alan Chambers has been speaking much more honestly than past leaders about the ex-gay experience, calling it a "life of self-denial . . . till the day we die" and even being critical of the term "ex-gay." Burroway said Chambers was "taking a real honorable stance on this" and members of the audience expressed encouragement at this news.

I later mentioned to one of the conference organizers how impressed I was by the respectful tone that everyone, especially the leaders, had demonstrated throughout the day. He told me they had all worked hard to ensure that the atmosphere would be one of healing and reflection to serve the needs of the ex-gay survivors. They did not want the time to be overrun by bitter activism and political agendas.

I think I made a remark about how I had half expected people to demonize the other side. Because I remember he told me, "As much as I'm tempted to demonize them, I try not to go there. Because if I treat them the same way they've treated me, then that doesn't leave me anywhere. I would have made no progress."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Gay marriage more deadly than smoking?

Be on the lookout for the latest Paul Cameron "statistic" that is making the rounds on conservative airwaves. Namely that homosexual partnerships are more dangerous than smoking. Sandy Rios of Culture Campaign even referred to it on Bill O'Reilly's show this past Wednesday night when he said, "Well,what people don’t understand is that the homosexual lifestyle, especially for men, is deadly. It takes their life ten to twenty years earlier than straight men."

It would be worth your while to go to Box Turtle Bulletin and click on all the pertinent links regarding this latest Cameron study, which allegedly shows that partnered gays and lesbians in Denmark and Norway die 24 years earlier than their straight counterparts.

To give the study the appearance of credibility, Cameron claims to have presented it at the Eastern Psychological Association this past March. But in truth, the presentation was merely a poster he displayed at the meeting for one hour among 70 other posters. It was not approved for presentation at the EPA meeting as a paper or address. EPA president Philip N. Hineline even issued a lengthy statement correcting the misinformation Cameron has spread about his "presentation" at the EPA meeting. In conclusion Hineline states:

There was nothing in the materials submitted by the author for review by EPA that indicated that the work could, or would, be informative with respect to the longevity of homosexuals.


I recommend that you read Jim Burroway's analysis of Cameron's study, to give you a better idea of why this paper could not have met the EPA's standards of sound research methodology.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ex-gay survivors speak


Notes from the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference I attended on Saturday, June 30. The survivors themselves tell of their experiences in ex-gay ministries:

"Ten years in an ex-gay program. If I could have sweat blood to change, I would have."

"I still don't understand why Exodus people say 'they've changed'--but they still have all their gay feelings!!!"

"Mocked by my Christian friends for being gay, mocked by my gay friends for going to Exodus seminars."

"Attempted suicide together (I and two of my [ex-gay] friends all tried killing ourselves within 6 months of each other)."

"I was so confused how people with such deep conviction and good intentions (Exodus) could be so wrong . . . do so much harm . . . systematically hurt so many people."

"My parents felt like failures."

"My Dad didn't make me gay, he made me REAL. I love you, Dad, Rest peacefully."

"Walked away from God. I had no choice."

"Randy 1963-1980--sorry."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Surviving ex-gay ministries

Two Saturdays ago, June 30th, I attended the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference which met at the UC Irvine campus over the weekend. It was the first conference for people who had been through ex-gay ministries and survived, as they put it, who had joined with soaring hopes and left without having experienced the promised change in their sexual orientation. After listening to people's stories all day and then spending a week reflecting upon what I learned, I came away with a picture of what many of these people's ex-gay experiences were like.

If you've ever been involved with a local church, denomination, or parachurch ministry where you met impressive, committed, caring people who seemed to have cornered the market on godly living, whom you ached to be a part of because you wanted your life to look just like theirs, then you can understand why people who are desperate to change their sexual orientation would sign up in droves for ex-gay ministries, turning control of their lives over to "experts" who promise to work a miracle.

A great deal hinges upon the dream of becoming heterosexual. Maybe you are trying to save your marriage. You tried to change on your own by marrying an opposite sex partner, but it's been 15 years and nothing's happened. Your spouse is threatening a divorce if you don't go through reparative therapy, and a divorce means you'll never see your kids again. Your spouse will see to that, unless you can become hetero.

Maybe Dad and Mom would allow you to set foot in their home again. Or maybe you can save Dad from the guilt he feels for "causing" your homosexuality (as the NARTH theory goes) because he was an "emotionally distant" father.

Your church would accept you again. Perhaps they are threatening to discipline you unless you change your orientation. Or maybe you never told anyone about being homosexual and you hope you never have to, if you can change.

So along comes the ex-gay ministry, ready to receive you with open arms. In a world where your straight family and friends reject you for being gay, and your gay friends scoff at you for being Christian, you've never felt more welcome, more hopeful about the future. The leaders give glowing testimonies, although they are a little sketchy when it comes to the critical part about having actually changed from homosexual to heterosexual. Mostly people attest to some measure of changed feelings, and some have turned their life around from addiction and promiscuity. Some even have a smiling spouse and beautiful kids to show for it. Everyone seems so sincere and genuine, everyone claims to be making strides toward the goal, and there's no reason to doubt what they say. Plus you're making all sorts of friends with other gay Christians who are in the same boat as you, sharing the same goals and high hopes.

With all the godly prayers, encouraging Christian fellowship, and claims of the Holy Spirit's healing power all around you, there isn't much incentive to be completely honest about how little progress you are actually making as the months and years go by. There was already a lot at stake when you first started the program. But now in addition to all that, you risk being marked as a failure amidst the only group of Christians that ever loved and accepted you, if you admit you aren't changing.

So you keep silent. Your friends do too, fellow members you bonded with during the program. Eventually one person leaves, another abandons her faith, someone else commits suicide. Each is spoken of by the group as a sad anomaly who didn't try hard enough, pray hard enough, believe completely enough, or maybe wasn't even saved in the first place. There is a sense of relief, too, since the allegedly less-committed ones were threatening to weigh the rest of the group down. No one wants to bear that shame, so everyone hunkers down, puts away their doubts and keeps quiet about the extent of their ongoing struggles with homosexual thoughts and desires. Until something gives.

Hearing these stories, what I came to see was the crushing pain of people being forced to come out of a second closet, and experience a second, more devastating rejection. It was bad enough the first time to have to admit to themselves, and perhaps to others, that they were homosexual. But then after they were deep into the ex-gay ministry, where they were supposed to find hope and work toward a "cure," they had to go through another hellish maze of self-examination where they were at last forced to admit that reparative therapy had not made them straight. And in the ex-gay, support-group atmosphere where everyone is so emotionally invested in the hope of their own orientation change, such a disturbing admission often led to swift and severe repercussions. The person who was once rejected by straight family and friends, then by non-Christian gay friends, now finds himself cut off and ostracized by his ex-gay friends. It is the final humiliation, and some simply don't survive it.

Those who do survive it, well, they call themselves survivors. Ex-gay survivors. And now you know what this conference was all about.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Three former ex-gay leaders apologize

It's been quite a day for news. Three former leaders of ex-gay ministries, Darlene Bogle, Michael Bussee and Jeremy Marks, held a Los Angeles press conference yesterday. They "publicly apologized . . . for the harm they said their efforts had caused many gays and lesbians who believed the group's message that sexual orientation could be changed through prayer" according to today's L.A. Times. Their complete signed statement can be found here.

But more important are the personal statements made by each former leader explaining the reasons they have abandoned ex-gay ministries.

Excerpt from Darlene Bogle's statement:
Before I met Des, I considered myself “ex-gay” because I had ceased sexual activity, and I spent my time promoting “change” in others. When these changes did not occur, the people in my care frequently asked how long it would take for desires to change. I lied and encouraged them to keep praying and reading their Bible. When they asked how long it took for me, I avoided the question. My heart was in the right place, but my message was not. I apologize to those individuals and families who believed my message that change was necessary to be acceptable to God.

Excerpt from Michael Bussee's statement:
Instead many of our clients began to fall apart – sinking deeper into patterns of guilt, anxiety and self-loathing. Why weren’t they “changing”? The answers from church leaders made the pain even worse: “You might not be a real Christian.” “You don’t have enough faith.” “You aren’t praying and reading the Bible enough.” “Maybe you have a demon.” The message always seemed to be: “You’re not enough. You’re not trying hard enough. You don’t have enough faith.”

Some simply dropped out and were never heard from again. I think they were the lucky ones. Others became very self-destructive. One young man got drunk and deliberately drove his car into a tree. Another (a fellow leader of the ex-gay movement) told me that he had left EXODUS and was now going to straight bars – looking for someone to beat him up. He said the beatings made him feel less guilty – atoning for his sin. One of my most dedicated clients, Mark, took a razor blade to his genitals, slashed himself repeatedly, and then poured drain-cleaner on the wounds—because after months of celibacy he had a “fall.”

Excerpt from Jeremy Marks' statement:
We continued to run weekly support groups, but over the next few years, I became increasingly aware that none of the people who had been through our live-in program had experienced any change whatsoever to their sexuality; indeed the profound sense of having wasted years of their lives in working and praying for change resulted in the majority becoming deeply depressed, cynical and in some cases even suicidal —many losing their Christian faith altogether.

"Many losing their Christian faith altogether." The quest for "change" and acceptance into the evangelical church is costing many people their faith, not to mention their sanity and their lives. Is it worth it?

Shifting, shifting

You know the general public is wising up when even self-identifying Republicans start shifting toward greater openness to gay rights issues. I quote the following information from a Log Cabin Republican newsletter I received last night (yes, I am a member of Log Cabin):

77% of Republicans believe an employer should not have the right to fire an employee based solely on their sexual orientation.

49% of Republicans believe gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly in the U.S. military, while 42% are opposed.

43% of Republicans support either marriage equality or civil unions. 51% oppose all relationship recognition.

53% of respondents agree that “the Republican Party has spent too much time focusing on moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage and should instead be spending time focusing on economic issues such as taxes and government spending.”

When asked “What issue do you think best defines the Republican Party today?” only 5% said “traditional marriage/family values.” 85% selected other issues, including the war on terrorism, immigration, homeland security, national defense, taxes and the economy.

The survey of 2,000 self-identified Republican voters was conducted via telephone and online between May 28th and June 3rd 2007. It has a margin of error of +/-2.2%. The poll included Republicans from all parts of the country—with the largest percentage (38%) from the South. Leading GOP pollster and strategist Tony Fabrizio, from Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates, conducted the survey. He served as the pollster for Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. Log Cabin joined three other mainstream Republican organizations to help underwrite a portion of this poll.

It certainly explains why Rudy Guiliani, with his more socially liberal views, currently enjoys more popularity among Republicans than Mitt Romney. According to the same poll, Guiliani draws 30 percent support, Romney just 9 percent.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The quack science of Paul Cameron

As a college student in 1989, I remember sitting in a pew one evening hanging onto every word Dr. John MacArthur delivered in a sermon on Romans 1 on the topic of homosexuality. Always impressive in setting up the introduction, Dr. MacArthur began by inundating his audience with a battery of statistics supporting the utter depravity of homosexuals and their lifestyle. I remember feeling shocked, horrified and nauseated as he laid out for us the sinful depths to which these people, who surely had less moral sense than animals, had sunk.

At the time it never occurred to me to question where Dr. MacArthur was getting his information. He was such a highly regarded preacher and Bible scholar, all of us who attended his church revered the ground he walked on. So I was left feeling deeply shaken by what I had learned. And the loathing it bred in me toward homosexuals over the next decade inevitably outweighed any sense of having a Christian duty to love them.

Even though I was beset with so much prejudice, which I thought had been justified by scientific fact, I'm thankful I have not only come to my senses about gay and lesbian people, but I have learned that many of those "statistics" that circulate in conservative Christian circles originate from one Dr. Paul Cameron. Cameron is responsible for many beliefs that float around in conservative Christian circles such as:

*Homosexuals are 8 to 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals.

*Homosexuals are responsible for one-third to one-half of all child molestations.

*Forty-three percent of all sex murders are committed by homosexuals or bisexuals.

*The average life span for homosexual males is 43, for lesbians 45.

It turns out Cameron has generated these kinds of statistics using shoddy scientific research based on skewed samples, pre-selected samples, under-represented populations, unprofessional surveying techniques, invalid interpretations of data, and possibly false or joke responses to survey questions.

Mark Pietrzyk's article serves as a decent layman's introduction to the depth of the problem with Cameron's research.

I highly recommend Dr. Gregory Herek's article which presents a more in-depth analysis of Cameron's research and surveying methods.

Dr. Herek also critiques Cameron's gay obituary study that was used to generate his statistics for the average life span of gays and lesbians. In 1998 William Bennett retracted his citation of the statistic in an article for The Weekly Standard, when flaws with Cameron's study were exposed.

It is not surprising, then, to learn that in 1983 Cameron was dropped from membership with the American Psychological Association (APA) for "lack of cooperation with the Committee on Scientific and Professional Ethics and Conduct."

In 1986 the American Sociological Association (ASA) passed the following resolution: "The American Sociological Association officially and publicly states Paul Cameron is not a sociologist, and condemns his consistent misrepresentation of sociological research."

And in case you're tempted to dismiss the positions of the APA and the ASA as evidence of a vast left-wing conspiracy, note that recently conservative Christian psychologist Dr. Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College has also taken issue with Cameron's research.

There are good scientists and there are bad scientists, and there are scientists whose work sinks beyond mere quackery into the realm of lies and deliberate deception. That is simply the way things are. But to persistently tout the work of someone who belongs in the third category because it justifies our own loathing and bigotry, even though such work has been repeatedly debunked as a miserable falsehood, is damning, truly damning to the conservative Christian church.

Update: Take a look at Dr. Throckmorton's recent blog commentary on Paul Cameron's disturbing 1999 article "Gays in Nazi Germany." I'll leave you to read the shocking excerpts for yourself. Then you'll understand why Throckmorton concluded his comments with this:
Suffice to say that Dr. Cameron is not simply ideologically opposed to homosexuality, he is fixated on “solutions” that I find abhorrent. I call on fellow social conservatives who still refer to the Camerons’ work to take a hard look at these posts and reflect on whether someone with such extreme animosity could possibly approach social science data with sufficient objectivity to be trusted.

For a list of organizations that continue to cite Cameron's work, click here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Quote for the day

There were great advantages and yet great disadvantages to "Christendom." The advantage was that there was a common language for public moral discourse with which society could discuss what was "the good." The disadvantage was that Christian morality without gospel-changed hearts often led to cruelty and hypocrisy. Think of how the small town in "Christendom" treated the unwed mother or the gay person.

"The Missional Church," by conservative Presbyterian (PCA) pastor Tim Keller

(Hat tip: The Jolly Blogger)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Painful admissions

A Catholic high school senior writes about his struggle to accept himself as gay and sends it as his application essay to all the Jesuit universities to which he is seeking admission, even while he remains closeted from his family and friends. The result: Every university not only accepts him, but welcomes him, many with handwritten letters saying they would be proud to have him as a student. Perhaps the times are a-changing. But I also understood why they were impressed when I read it for myself.
I feel alone. I am alone. No one knows about my secret because I have lied to everyone in my life for so long that it only seems natural to keep it hidden.

I am a hypocrite. I am a liar. And I am superficial. When the subject of homosexuality comes up around my friends or people that I know, I bash it right alongside with them. Most of the time I bring up the issue of homosexuality just to put it down. I began to actually despise homosexuals to the point that I hated all gay people, regardless of who they were. I began to drive myself crazy. I examined every movement I made and I examined every word that came out of my mouth with the utmost scrutiny to make sure that it was as straight sounding and acting as possible. The fear of discovery consumed me. I COULD NOT LET MYSELF BE GAY!

But then the turning point came. Read the rest of his essay here, which his mother has posted on her excellent blog in support of her son. Her touching story of how she and her husband accidently learned of their son's sexual orientation because of the essay, and yet still accepted him with open arms, can be found here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ratcheting up the stakes

In Anne Holm's classic children's book, North to Freedom, a boy named David escapes from an Eastern European concentration camp where he had spent nearly all twelve years of his life. The man who helps him escape mysteriously instructs him to stow away on a boat to Italy and then head north to Denmark.

Freedom is at first so exhilarating, David is sure he will always be happy and content. To take in the beauty of the sea and the Italian landscape, to be clean from a bath in the stream, to be able to go wherever he pleased were luxuries he had never known before. Then he is taken in for a period of time by an Italian family and everything changes. He sees the kind of life other children live, how their parents love and care for them, how they belong to one another and can call themselves a family. By the time David hits the road again, his contentment with mere freedom could never be the same. Because now his cravings to belong to his own family have been awakened, and this new longing is destroying the former, simpler happiness he once enjoyed.

By chance he stumbles upon information that leads him to believe his mother is alive and living in Denmark. This discovery raises the stakes even higher and drives him in hard pursuit of things he hardly dared to hope for. And yet he tells himself that he would be content only to find this woman; perhaps she could tell him where he ought to go next. But by the time he arrives at her doorstep, barely able to stand, his health ruined from the journey, he realizes that unless his wildest dreams are fulfilled in this moment, he would feel that his life is no longer worth living. It is a good thing the story has a happy ending.

It is rare to find an author who is willing to be so plainly truthful about the danger of hope. That once you begin to believe in your own dignity and worth, that you deserve to be loved and valued and cared for like anyone else, this ratchets up the stakes to the point where you can no longer accept anything less, and there is no turning back. Maybe that's why people are inclined to take the easier, safer route of learning contentment in a kind of moderate degradation, where the risks are fewer and the disappointments less devastating.

What some people call "the homosexual agenda" I see as a daring movement to ratchet up the stakes to where there is no turning back. And the gay marriage movement is about as high as you can take it. It is about people wanting their love and ultimately their humanity recognized. It is about rejecting those who would insist that their love is a fraud, or that the best they could hope for is satisfying someone's desire for a single night. The fact that many gays never do move beyond those expectations is what makes the broadness of this movement all the more remarkable.

But I see tension within the movement too, as gays wonder whether they should be content with what they have already achieved, or press for the full rights they once only dreamed of. Somehow the more progress you make, the more treacherous the climb. Because drawing closer to your true goals means putting your current contentment at risk and your real dreams on the line. So I hear people talk about settling for civil unions, because that would be pretty good. I hear talk about health benefits, hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, which you can't deny are all very important. Gay couples are living together anyway. We are just asking the government to regulate the situation. All good points--except they fall short of the real recognition everyone is craving.

It takes nerve to push for marriage. To assert that your love can be as true and as lasting as anyone else's. To believe that someone else could want you, not for a single night, but forever. Till death do us part.

The stakes have been pushed sky high already. I'm hoping it will have a happy ending.


[Update: Welcome, readers of Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. Thanks for stopping by.]

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Clobber passages

It always discourages me when gay Christians tell me they don't read their Bibles because of what they call the "clobber passages." Clobber passages are the verses conservative Christians routinely cite in condemnation of homosexuality, namely, Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10. They are only six passages in the entire Bible, yet because they are cited ad nauseam with an aim to humiliate and destroy people's sense of self-worth, most gay people I know view the Bible with anywhere from fear to outright hostility.

If you're one of those demoralized people, I say go ahead and read the Bible for yourself, and don't let those crazy fundamentalists tell you what it's all about. They may sound like they know what they're talking about, but believe me, they don't. Think about it. If they really know so much about the Bible, why do they keep quoting the same small set of passages over and over again?

I've read the Bible from cover to cover seven times. It is essentially a story--an extended dramatic story that begins in tragedy and ends in triumph. It is about how God created the first man and woman, blessing them with his love and tender care, except they betrayed him for an enemy and brought sin and death into the world. The whole thing is a done deal by the first three chapters of Genesis. Yet in spite of this, God seeks to salvage the situation by making a way for human beings to be saved from condemnation before his own judgment throne. That's right. The whole story of the Bible is how God sets out to save sinners from himself. The question is, how will he accomplish it?

His plan of salvation begins with a promise to Adam and Eve, and that promise is tied to a lineage that would someday produce the Messiah. Hence the Old Testament is about tracing the unfolding of this lineage (which explains all those genealogies, right?), sometimes producing heroes who foreshadow the coming Messiah, and sometimes undergoing peril as enemies try to snuff it out. An entire nation called Israel arises from this lineage, and their failure collectively to keep God's law proves once more that their true hope lies in the Promised One, not in the futile efforts of law-keeping.

Enter the New Testament. The Messiah does come, but will his own people recognize him? Or will the lure of law-keeping, and the self-righteous satisfaction it brings, blind them from seeing the One in whom their forefathers had hoped for generations? Some do see, but others are sure he is an impostor. His humility and compassion attract the lowly but offend the self-righteous. One thing leads to another and he is ultimately destroyed. He was a blasphemer, after all. He claimed to be God's Son. Preposterous. Why would the Son of God touch lepers, befriend prostitutes, forgive tax collectors, and heal cripples on the Sabbath? A real Messiah would have vanquished the Romans, judged the sinners, and established a kingdom ruled by the Mosaic Law. Right? Glory be to God, we killed that phony . . .

But he was God's Son. He rises from the dead to prove it, and only then do people realize that his death, far from being an accident, was the ultimate atoning sacrifice offered to God for the sins of the world. The Messiah has indeed come and the way to forgiveness and life has been opened. Even the mobs that had called for his blood realize their mistake, and thousands come to believe. And what happens next, how this new hope transforms their lives, how they go out into the world and can't stop celebrating and talking about Jesus Christ--well, that's what the book of Acts and the rest of the epistles of the New Testament are about.

Yes, there are those six passages. If you wish, you can buy commentaries that will give various interpretations for those passages and you can wrestle with them. I'll have an opinion, you'll have an opinion, and so will that other person standing over there, and probably none of us will agree. But are you going to miss out on the ultimate story of God's love, forgiveness and compassion for you, just because some whacked-out extremists know how to rip a handful of Bible passages out of context and throw them in your face out of hatred and cruelty? I don't think they deserve to have that much leverage in your life. Do you?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Technical difficulties

Sorry for the light posting recently. Switching to the new beta blogger format has caused me some problems that I'm still trying to work out. But I'm loath to switch back to the original format because of the benefits of having the posts categorized by subject label in the sidebar.

I probably would have worked out all the kinks by now, except I'm also still dealing with post surgery care of my one-year-old. I believe the worst is over. So stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Barkley speaks

I had heard about former NBA player John Amaechi coming out. But I hadn't heard about NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley's reaction to the news:
I played with gay guys. I got gay friends. Only God can judge other people. I don’t care if a person is gay or not. Any jock who thinks he’s never played with a gay guy is sadly mistaken. Any team you’ve been on at some point in your life you have played with a gay guy.

Barkley, who has political aspirations and talks of running for governor of Alabama, has also said,
I think if they want to get married, God bless them. Gay marriage is probably one percent of the population, so it’s not like it’s going to be an epidemic.

Read the rest of the article here at the Independent Gay Forum website. But probably my favorite quote of Barkley's is this:
I was a Republican until they lost their minds.


[P.S.: Thanks to everyone who expressed concern about my son's surgery. Everything has turned out fine.]

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Getting organized

I've labeled my posts and added a sidebar index to help you guys navigate around the blog a little better. Someone wrote to me recently and said that he read every single post starting from the beginning. That inspired me to try to get more organized around here.

I probably won't be posting this coming week, as my one-year-old will be undergoing foot surgery on Monday. But once I catch up on lost sleep from the post-surgery care, I should be back in the saddle by the following week.

Monday, May 07, 2007

She gets it

Not all ex-wives who used to be married to gay men are as humorous and generous as this woman.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hate crimes laws

I see that Gary Bauer has been rallying the usual forces to oppose the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HR 1592), which establishes "sexual orientation" as a specially protected status. The bill passed the House today with bi-partisan support according to a Log Cabin Republican News Release. Interestingly, twenty-five Republicans voted in its favor.

The fear among conservative Christians is that hate crimes laws will lead to hate speech laws, and pastors will no longer be able to preach from the Bible against homosexuality. I'm not entirely unsympathetic. I have some concerns about what might happen to free speech down the road. Furthermore, I'm not completely comfortable with the idea of prosecuting people on the basis of conjectures about their possible motives. You just can't know the human heart.

That said, it is a pretty horrendous testimony to the outside world for Christians to be rallying for the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the protection of such laws.

Listen. It is bad enough that conservative Christians give gay people the impression that we hate them. Although as a Christian you may insist that you really do "love the sinner," the fact remains that we collectively give off the vibe, the feeling, the impression of hatred. That is not a good testimony.

Furthermore, this feeling of being hated and excluded by the religious community (which many gays will tell you is not merely a feeling, but a fact based on personal experience) is a big reason why the gay community is seeking inclusion in the aforementioned Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Now the most logical and, uh, Christian response to such a situation would be for conservative churches to rally together in an effort to assure gays that we really do condemn violence against them. We could reiterate our clumsily-expressed love for them, and as usual proclaim our utter shock and amazement that they would interpret our religious rhetoric as being an expression of hatred towards them.

But instead what do we do? We respond by opposing the inclusion of gays and lesbians from laws that would give them a much-needed sense of physical protection whenever they walk the streets, hold hands, or give a goodbye hug in public. Remember, this is protection they are seeking largely because of hostility they sense from us. You may say that this fear is completely unfounded. But by opposing their inclusion in this protection, conservative Christians send the implicit message that we are in favor of physical assaults on gay people, and are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they have as little legal recourse as possible.

Now if you are a Christian, are you still going to tell me that gay people are just paranoid, prejudiced and deluded when they claim the conservative church hates them? There are words and there are actions. Both speak. Which of the two do you think the gay community hears most loudly?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Is my 13 year-old son gay?"

"Concerned Dad" thinks his 13 year-old son has been viewing gay porn on the Internet. Already the whispers are starting among family members. The son's denying it. Dad's pretty sure he's lying. Mom feels uneasy. What should they do? Advice columnist Cary Tennis of Salon tells Dad to chill, and back off.

[W]e straight people have to really step up on this whole homosexuality thing. We walk around like we're the normal ones and everybody else is, like, different. But just think about it. Like, on a gut level, remember when you were 13? It was weird, right? Getting hair, and having urges, and wondering about girls and jobs and the future, and wondering, wondering, wondering. Can you imagine what it's like for a kid as these natural processes, spiritual and biological and utterly beyond his control, are taking him on a strange ride that he didn't really buy a ticket to but he's on anyway, as he's trying to grow up and conform and figure out what he supposed to be doing, what it's like for him to realize that the way he's developing, just, by the way, is utterly freaking out the adults, so they're having conferences in the kitchen and they're looking at him funny and not believing what he says, and now he's lying about what he's looking at because he has no idea what's going to happen to him if it turns out, horror of horrors, that he might actually be gay, that it's a scary, weird problem that he has to hide from others, especially those in his own family? Can you imagine what that's like? Can I?

And we straights wonder why gay guys sometimes wait until their 20s or 30s or 40s to come out to their families? Or never come out? Or prefer not to mention it or make it a topic of national discussion or get a little testy when we [straights] assume that in our latterly discovered enlightenment we will treat every gay guy as regional spokesman for, like, Gay America, and we bring up the gayness of others as if we were the ones who--naturally, because we are so wise in other areas such as the conduct of foreign policy and stewardship of the environment--will take it upon ourselves to decide for them how they ought to act and what they are entitled to and whether they can live together and get married and visit each other in the hospital? And whether what they do and who they do it with is a sin? As if we could speak not only for the powerful white Christian heterosexual majority of America but for God himself? Jesus! If I was gay but had the benefit of knowing how we straight people think, would I ever come out? I'm not so sure. I might prefer to just keep the whole thing between me and a few friends.

It gets even better. Read the rest of the column here.