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Part 5: “Love Won Out”: A Candid Explanation For “Change”

Jim Burroway

August 2nd, 2007

As I said in previous posts, most of the people who attended the “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix on February 10 were not gay or lesbian “strugglers” seeking change. That audience was mainly made up of concerned parents, family and friends of gays and lesbians. In fact, the whole purpose of the all-day “Love Won Out” conference was to introduce people to the world of ex-gay movement and the idea that “freedom from homosexuality is possible.”

But the very people most affected by this message — gays and lesbians themselves — were largely absent. There was just a small smattering according to one show of hands. And so most of the concerned parents, family members, and friends of gays and lesbians who made up the bulk of the audience were typically unaccompanied by the very people everyone was talking about. This meant that as these people heard speakers from Exodus, NARTH and Focus on the Family (some of whom described themselves as “former homosexuals”) talking about what it meant to be gay, but most of these audience members didn’t have their own children or loved ones with them to talk about the things they heard. So the speakers were free to characterize these loved ones’ lives without fear of contradiction.

And this, I believe, was one of the worst shortcomings of the whole experience. During breaks between sessions, I heard several parents project what they heard onto their own children — sometimes without any evidence that what they heard actually applied to their child’s experience. I personally witnessed one parent break into tears with the new-found certainty that her son must have been molested. “You heard her. That lady (Melissa Fryrear) said so,” she said between tears. I also heard other parents who had already had these conversations with their children but didn’t believe them because what they heard from the “experts” at the conference. “Well, she said nothing ever happened, but…”

And if the abject fear that one’s child might have been molested wasn’t bad enough, there were the fathers who blamed themselves for their sons’ homosexuality. My heart sunk when I heard them groan on hearing NARTH Presdient Joseph Nicolosi saying, “We advise fathers, if you don’t hug your sons, another man will.” I talked to quite a few fathers who seemed to take Nicolosi’s theory quite personally, and they were greatly burdened by it. More recently, I spoke with a father who attended a different Love Won Out conference. He referred to Nicolosi’s talk and confided, “I can only hope that someday Jesus will forgive me.”

The other main focus of the conference — when it wasn’t focused on the presumed “causes” of homosexuality — was on the meaning and nature of “change.” As speaker after speaker promised a “complete and radical change,” these parents pinned their hopes on each of these promises. And for every one of the featured speakers in the general sessions, the nature of change was simple: a very specific change in sexual attractions or orientation.

Joseph Nicolosi was the keynote speaker that morning, and he described a succession of clients who had “no more homosexual attractions” and whose homosexuality became “nonexistent.” Immediately following Nicolosi’s talk, we heard Exodus Board Chairman Mike Haley give his life story as a former homosexual, complete with pictures of his beautiful wife and children on the large multimedia screen behind him. Soon after that, we heard Focus On the Family’s Melissa Fryrear declare her infatuation with red-headed men who would look good in a kilt. (She jokingly declared, “That movie Braveheart changed my life!”) And later that afternoon, we heard Nancy Heche, actress Anne Heche’s mother, describe a special blessing that delivered her daughter from a “lesbian affair” with Ellen DeGeneres.

A Candid Exception

While I believe most of the descriptions of change were either misleading or unrealistic, there was one candid exception that I wish more of these parents could have heard. It would have given them a better idea of what their sons and daughters would be up against in pursuing “change” — especially the sort of change promised by the featured speakers.

During the first set of breakout sessions just before lunchtime, Exodus president Alan Chambers gave a talk titled, “Hope for Those Who Struggle.” As the title suggests, this workshop was targeted towards the few who were struggling with their sexuality — although undoubtedly there were a number of parents and family members there as well. But only about 75 people attended his session, a tiny fraction of the 800 attendees at the conference overall. So generally speaking, this was a relatively “safe” audience, safe enough for Alan to try to set realistic expectations for change and describe what change really means.

Alan began his talk by describing his own unrealistic expectations for “change.” When he first began to attend an Exodus-affiliated ministry at the age of eighteen, he thought that his sexual attractions would change from gay to straight in pretty short order. But after a few years in the ministry, he learned that his goals were unrealistic, and he warned his small audience that they needed to adjust their goals as well:

And I’m going to shatter your world here: heterosexuality shouldn’t be your number one goal. Whether that’s for yourself or for your kid or for your loved one or your friend or your family member. Heterosexuality shouldn’t have been my number one goal. The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality. It’s holiness.

And I think we in the church often get that wrong. We think, okay, the best thing for this person who’s involved with homosexuality or involve with lesbianism is that they come out of that lifestyle and go into heterosexuality. If that’s all we think is necessary, we’re setting people up for a terrible fall. The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality. It’s holiness.

Part of this statement reinforces a larger theme of the conference, that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity. Here, he sets it as being “opposite” of holiness, which only adds to the burden of those who were there. After all, wickedness is more commonly understood as being the opposite of holiness. So casting homosexuality on the same side of the spectrum as wickedness is a terribly damaging way to characterize the lives of gays and lesbians everywhere. Besides, heterosexuality is not, in and of itself, holy either. But that went unsaid, which was pretty much on par for Love Won Out.

But most of this statement represents a dramatic departure from the rest of the conference in terms of the nature and likelihood of change. It certainly stands at the polar opposite of Dr. Nicolosi’s absolute confidence that homosexuality becomes “nonexistent” once an emotional connection is made. According to Allan, same sex attractions may not necessarily diminish no matter how hard one tries or how many prayers are said. Instead, the “change” that takes place is not a change in sexual orientation; it’s a change in faith. The “conversion” is not sexual orientation conversion, it’s a religious one.

“I Deny What Comes Naturally To Me”

More specifically, this change is actually the exchanging of one’s identity from gay to Christian, since the two identities cannot coexist in the worldview of Exodus or Focus On the Family. This emphasis on a change in identity is at the very heart of the ex-gay message. But even with this new identity as a Christian, merely forsaking the old identity of gay or homosexual doesn’t mean that one’s homosexuality will actually go away:

… Second Corinthians 5:17 says those who are in Christ are a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come. And again in the Christian community — I’m pointing my finger at myself too — we often hijack that verse to mean those who come to Christ, those who come to Jesus are perfect. Everything’s gone, the old life is gone, and the new has come and it’s all going to be wonderful from here.

And I think again, we do a disservice to people that we share that Scripture with, that we explain that Scripture to when we say that once you have a relationship with Jesus Christ that it’s all going to be better and you’re never going to struggle again. And the truth is, you’re going to dash your expectations that way. If that’s what we expect of ourselves and what we expect of other people, we’re going to be endlessly disappointed.

And this is where Alan’s talk turned very personal. He cited Matthew 16:24 (“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'”) before getting to the very heart of the matter of “change” in his own life:

…In the early days of when I started speaking and debating and doing all sorts of things related to the issue of homosexuality and took my position with Exodus, people used to say, “Oh Alan, you’re just in denial.” I used to get so mad when they’d say, “You’re just in denial. You’re just denying who you’re really are.” And I’d say, “No I’m not. I’m not in denial! I’m not in denial!”

And then I came to the place where I realized, you know what? God calls us as Christians to a life of denial. I love that today I realize that I do live a life of denial. Not denial of who I used to be, not denial of who I could be today, but I deny what comes naturally to me.

…And so every single morning — this is a ritual for me — I wake up and I say, “Dear Lord, I can’t make it today without You. I choose to deny what comes naturally to me. I choose to submit my will to the Lordship of your Son, Jesus Christ. And I choose better. I choose to follow You, I choose to allow Your Holy Spirit to walk before me, to guide me, to speak for me.”

… And if we think we can get up one day and decide we don’t have to pray about it anymore, then we’re mistaken. So expect a life of obedience. Expect a life of denial.

Only 75 people heard this message that day, which is a terrible shame. This was, I think, the most honest, honorable, and vulnerable talk I heard the entire day. It seems to me that this was the message that everyone should have heard at Love Won Out.

Two Audiences, Two Messages

But it appears that this reservoir of truth and vulnerability is rationed only to safe, like-minded listeners. How else to explain this talk talking place in a small breakout session instead of one of the main plenary sessions?

If everyone had heard that talk, they would have understood without question what “change” was all about. So why was this talk reserved for a small, safe audience of “those who struggle”? Were they afraid that parents would become disillusioned on hearing what the reasonable expectations for change should be? Did Love Won Out organizers not want the larger audience to know that their sons and daughters faced a lifetime of struggle? Were they afraid of shattering those parents’ dreams of weddings and grandchildren?

One thing’s for certain. If most of the Love Won Out audience wasn’t safe enough for Alan’s message, then the general public certainly isn’t. Four months before the Phoenix conference, Alan Chambers appeared on NPR’s “Fresh Air” and told Terry Gross:

I have talked with and met people who say that they have walked completely away and will never struggle with that again or have never struggled with that again. I believe it’s …. there’s everyone on the continuum. I often like to use the phrase that I will never be as though I never was. I can’t forget where I used to be and I can’t deny the fact that I’m still human and that I could be tempted in every way.

But today where I live my life, and I believe this is true of those who would say they have successfully left homosexuality, homosexuality isn’t something that controls them anymore. Where at one point in our lives, in my life, I could not resist homosexuality. I could not resist the urge. I could not get those thoughts out of my mind. I was exclusively attracted to members of the same sex and acted out on that on a regular basis. Today I have what I would describe as a Garden of Eden relationship with my wife and that she is the object of my desire. She is who I am attracted to…

Then, just a few days before this Love Won Out conference took place, Alan Chambers appeared on CNN where he denied trying to control his thoughts, while at the same time repeating the oblique phrase, “I will never be as though I never was.”

But just a week before the 2007 Exodus Freedom Conference, in Irvine, California, it appears that Alan decided to test the waters by giving the larger world an explanation more consistent with what he had been telling his much smaller Love Won Out audience. The Los Angeles Times reported:

With years of therapy, Chambers says, he has mostly conquered his own attraction to men; he’s a husband and a father, and he identifies as straight. But lately, he’s come to resent the term “ex-gay”: It’s too neat, implying a clean break with the past, when he still struggles at times with homosexual temptation. “By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete,” Chambers said.

And yet this small concession — which focused mainly on what sort of language to use for describing “change” — appeared to be too much. After mounting pressure from fellow anti-gay activists, Alan issued a partial retraction through an American Family Association web site:

“[‘Ex-gay’ is ] something that comes across as confusing,” he says. “And while I understand why people have used it over the years — it’s easy to use in a soundbite — to say that someone is primarily described by the behavior that they used to be involved in I think is a disservice to the people who have found freedom from homosexuality.”

And that includes himself, says Chambers. “[R]eally, more accurate labels for me would be, ‘I’m a man. I’m a Christian. I’m a husband. I’m a father. I’m a son.’” Chambers says he is considering whether to ask the newspaper to issue a clarification of his remarks.

Exodus and Focus On the Family appear to provide two distinct faces when they talk about change. There is the public face, the one that is given to the general population through billboards, radio commercials and web sites which promise that “change is possible.” A radio commercial promoting the Exodus conference in Irvine promised a “sudden, radical, complete change.” At Love Won Out, parents, friends and family members heard specific, clinical language in which homosexuality becomes “nonexistent.” And whenever Exodus and Focus On the Family speakers appear before the cameras and microphones of major media outlets, they are very careful to leave the definition of change to the assumptions of the audience: a change in sexual orientation, even if they rarely say it explicitly.

But in a small workshop targeted specifically to “those who struggle,” we get to see a far more private message about “change.” And Alan repeated and expanded on this message during the opening night of the Exodus Freedom conference in June. There, before another “safe” audience of more than eight hundred people (unlike at Love Won Out, the overwhelming majority of this audience was “strugglers”), Alan repeated and expanded upon the remarks he made during that tiny breakout session at Love Won Out. And here, he challenged his audience to think about how they might respond if their orientations didn’t change:

And the truth is, what if circumstances never change? I think you have to ask yourself that question. What if your circumstances never change, like my friend that I said her feelings haven’t changed much in twenty years? What if your feelings don’t change? What if your circumstances don’t change? What if it’s still difficult in a year as it is today? Are you going to stand on the promises of God? Are you going to choose to fight? Or are you going to give in?

Michael Bussee was one of the original founders of Exodus before leaving the organization and later becoming one of its sharpest critics. He described one current ex-gay Exodus leader as saying they were just “Christians with homosexual tendencies who would rather not have those tendencies.” Alan appears to be inching towards that candid assessment.

But I have to wonder if he can maintain this message for larger audiences while still holding out hope for a “complete, radical change.” And I have to wonder if he can sustain that message when Exodus’ political lobbying on Capital Hill depends on the assertion that if “real change” is possible, gays and lesbians don’t need equal rights. It seems that too much is at stake to allow too many doubts to creep in on what change really means.

We already saw the howls of protest when Alan made his comparatively innocuous remarks to the Los Angeles Times. While we can hope that the two-audiences, two-messages may fall by the wayside, only time will tell whether abandoning that approach will be compatible with the broader cultural and political goals of Exodus and Focus On the Family.

See also:

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word “Change” Changes

Comments

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Bill Ware
August 2nd, 2007 | LINK

Excellent post as usual, Jim. I appreciate your report of Alan Chambers’ comments.

I repeat them on the Christianist blogs I frequent. These include posters who claim, “Just accept Jesus as your savior and “poof” the gay goes away.

Here’s my latest.

I quote Alan Chambers, and say how the President of Exodus International could choose the best of any of over a hundred programs, yet he still has to struggle with the same same sex attractions he was born with.

Keep up the great work.

Thanks again,
Bill

Timothy Kincaid
August 2nd, 2007 | LINK

Jim,

A wonderful addition to your thoughtful, compassionate, and wise series.

Mike Hersee
August 2nd, 2007 | LINK

Another excellent and thoughtfully constructed post, with incisive deconstruction and analysis of people’s distorted messages.

Ken R
August 2nd, 2007 | LINK

Couldn’t Matthew 16:24 also be interpreted as to pick up your cross as Jesus did and be crucified for Christ’s name? Peter denied Jesus three times to save his own “physical” life. If one continues to read Matthew the passage saids that one must deny their own earthly life even upon death for Jesus’ sake just as Jesus denied himself in order to bring redemption to the world. Verse 25 says,”Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Early Christians followed Jesus footsteps, even if it led to their own deaths. They were willing to deny their own physical lives even upon pain of death because they refused to deny Jesus and all he represented. I truly believe this is what Jesus meant when he said to pick up your cross and follow him.

Lynn David
August 2nd, 2007 | LINK

Well it’s about time!

;-)

I wonder just who (what?) it is that controls the content of a Love Won Out conference. Exodus or Focus on the Family or the is it the tenets of the Evangelical/Pentacostal faiths which determine what “change” should be. It seems that the religious “belief” must prevail and is often the source of the confusion. Certainly since Chamber’s LA TImes statements there appears to be a struggle going on. And one wonders if the candid thoughts of Chambers are compatible with the perceived premise of Love Won Out at Focus on the Family and other evangelical/pentacostal ministries.

Denise
August 7th, 2007 | LINK

This was moving, as the other portions have been. And worth waiting for. :)

It is fascinating to see the difference in messages sent to families as opposed to “strugglers”. They understand the damage that setting the standard so high for the people who feel the need to change will ultimately harm them more than hearing the truth that “change” means a lifetime of struggle.

However, by telling families that 1) it’s their fault their relative has to struggle at all, and 2) that the therapeutic program is a short, magic Jesus make-better happy fun time they are causing additional struggles for those who seek to change their own behavior to be in line their religious beliefs. The damage within families of simultaneoulsy blaming close relatives and offering unrealistic hopes smacks of a divide-and-conquer style spiritual abuse.

I used to feel resentful of those who sought to change to resolve the conflict between their sexuality and spirituality, as if they had betrayed those of us who lived as much as possible as our full selves. Instead these days I am angry at those that promote unreasonable expectations of change and promote fairy tales that Jesus will make the “gayness” go away. I am angry at those who willfully lie to those wo seek spiritual guidance in dealing with a difficult social issue. I hope Alan Chambers feels more able to stand up to the pressure to spout party line from AFA, and becomes more able to honestly speak of his experience to a broader audience that desperately needs to hear the truth, both to fight their own feelings of shame and inadequacy and to heal the spiritual wounds of the faithful who bought into this myth and thought themselves unworthy of their own God’s grace. I’m an atheist, but everyone deserves the chance for spiritual fulfillment!

Truth Wins Out
August 11th, 2007 | LINK

[…] Jim Burroway revealed on his website, Box Turtle Bulletin that Exodus International leader Alan Chambers told an audience of “ex-gays” that he […]

Ben in Oakland
August 13th, 2007 | LINK

I have just six words for this whole discussion. Ted Haggard. lonnie Lathem. Paul barnes.

now lets talk about giving your life to jesus.

Narra
August 17th, 2007 | LINK

The core message of Christians who say that celibacy is the only “holy” option for gays is coming to the forefront even more than this article describes. The idea that gays must constantly deny what comes “naturally” to them flies in the face of many other people’s interpretation of Christianity. But that is where the next battle lies. To me, it is so easy to see the correlation between this message and the same message that Paul delivers to heterosexuals…..”it is better to marry than to burn, etc.” The underlying message of these Christians is that sexuality, in any form, is inherently “evil” and due to the “fall” and “original sin.” The difference to them is the interpretation of the “clobber” passages, Genesis, and parts of the NT. They take the words male and female to be exclusive of each other; dichotomies, either/or, and never to be coeexisting in the same body. And that makes it clear to them that the only permissible relationship is between a “man” and a “woman” (even though that relationship is still, at its core, sinful). To me, this is easily refuted by noting that sexual ambiguity exists in people; gender ambiguity exists in people; all people very clearly are made up of elements of both “male” and “female.” The result in some is more evenly balanced than in others and plays out in different ways when it comes to natural sexual orientation or gender identity. I think gays are just as complementary to each other as straights and that their holy union occurs in the same way…..the perfect complement of male and female making one being that contains both in equal measure. That makes perfect sense to me. The only problem that exists is the fact that these Christians don’t trust me and choose to believe I am only saying these things so I can “get it on” inappropriately and because I am a wicked person who refuses to come to Christ. I’ve already settled things with God (after I realized these people are not God, no matter how much they claim they are His voice). Anyway, that is where I see things headed in the future. This discussion will become mainstream. Good job on the article! Keep up the good work!

Son of a Bishop
March 18th, 2008 | LINK

I have read the prologue and all 5 parts/postings; really looking forward to more.
You have indeed layed-out a very balanced run down of your experience at the conference. Thank you for sharing this encounter with us.

It all boils down to this organization and most religious organization’s skewed traditional interpretation of a few holy scriptures that has been used so divisely and historically incorrect for centuries against homosexuality.

Marc Paige
March 30th, 2008 | LINK

Excellent analysis of Love Won Out, but please don’t forget one of the most important goals of these events and Focus on the Family – to make sure that parents/siblings never, ever accept their “loved” ones homosexuality as O.K. or normal.

Daniel Loftin
May 7th, 2008 | LINK

Hi Jim,
This is a very complete and balanced representation, and as such is quite valuable. Thanks for your time and effort.

Jesus lover
June 26th, 2008 | LINK

Your series is very powerful. I deeply appreciate your willingness to see the other side by attending the conference and connecting with the people there.

I have been involved in the conservative/evangelical Christian church for many years as a pastor, seminary graduate, and Jesus lover. I’ve been to the conferences about helping out those struggling with homosexuality and had the language down-pat. I was very secure in my theology. However, while working for a ministry, I met and fell in love with a same-sex Christian. Talk about being thrown for a loop! I still love Jesus more than life itself. I still pray, lead, minister, and engage in “homosexual activity.” I’ve never been happier, and my same-sex relationship has allowed me to experience Jesus’ heart and love for me more than I ever had as a single Christian.

Most of the true Christians that continue as my community and family firmly believe what Love Won Out teaches. It’s an extension of their love for Jesus. And yet they wrestle and agonize and grieve over their siblings, friends, and parents who “struggle with homosexuality.” And some of my friends live single lives (as I did without realizing it until I fell in love) partnered with same-sex “roommates,” living as gay/lesbian couples basically with the exception that they have no physical or sexual interaction. Some are aware of the tension/contradiction; others would be deeply ashamed/horrified to admit they basically are living as same-sex partners. None feel they can dialogue about the elephant in the room honestly or constructively.

Many Christians are dismissed right off the bat as “haters,” when really they are kind people who are trying their best to do what they have been taught honors God. Yes, there are the sign-holding haters, but they are not the majority of Christians (just the most offensive, obscene and spectacular).

I long for a time when others who love and understand Jesus and His message as I do will be enlightened about those who love partners of the same sex. “I once was blind, but now I see,” and so many Christians are blind, yes–but not mean, hateful, narrow people. Yet they are caricaturized, dismissed, and labeled–which is as unhelpful as when some Christian leaders (most of whom don’t even KNOW gays or lesbians personally or relationally) try to neatly categorize and analyze psychologically homosexuals.

What Jim has done and written about is the kind of thing that bridges, heals, confronts, and fosters reconciliation. A verse in Romans 2 (right after that first chapter that so many use as weapons to attack gays and lesbians) says that God’s LOVINGKINDNESS leads to repentance (a change of heart/belief/action). I believe lovingkindness will be the key to impacting true Christians, those who love and seek Jesus, to change their indoctrinated beliefs around God’s stance on homosexuality.

Jim, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sheryl
October 12th, 2008 | LINK

Jim,
I came upon this website today almost by accident. I just spent 3 hrs reading through your articles about “Love Won Out.” As an an evangelical Christian who considered going to one of these conferences, I very much appreciate the openness and honesty with which you listened and wrote about your experience. You saved me the need to attend myself, which I have considered. I look forward to the day when a homosexual with traditional Christian beliefs can be honest about who he/she is and find acceptance in the church community. The present need to live a lie, and pretend to be “changed” is in itself unchristian and too much for most to bear.

Timothy Kincaid
October 12th, 2008 | LINK

Sheryl,

Thank you for visiting. I hope you’ll stick around for other parts of our conversation.

Also, please check out the gay Christian network at http://gaychristian.net/

I’m certain that you will find a community of believers that share your faith. You’ll find a wide variety of backgrounds and theological positions – some favor celibacy, others committed and covenanted relationships – but all are there as gay persons seeking a relationship with God.

Keith
December 5th, 2008 | LINK

Jim,

I have read with great interest, and I have greatly enjoyed and appreciate, all of your articles on “Love Won Out” published here at Box Turtle Bulletin.

As a former Christian, I fully grasp the need for understanding the Christian mindset with regard to the “ex-gay” phenomenon, not only as a means of furthering communication between “us and them” (though I really don’t like the mindset, I’ll use that phrase here for brevity), but also as a means of mitigating the threat this kind of “ministry” represents to all LGBT people everywhere.

I notice, however, that this article was written over a year ago, and it appears that 3 more articles are/were intended to finish the series. When might we expect those to appear here at the Box Turtle?

Thank you for all of your diligent and much needed efforts.

Paul Giurlanda
December 17th, 2008 | LINK

Hey, Jim, thanks for all of this. I was particularly interested in your experience, since, as part of a sabbatical project I attended the “Family and Friends” workshop in San Rafael, CA sponsored by New Hope ministries (of Frank and Anita Worthen). Your interpreations were the same as mine, esp. in the area of “change.” I did press Anita Worthen on this issue, and she was quite honest about what “change” means (her son, of course, is gay). It’s about growing closer to Christ, submitting to Christ.
But their literature touts “freedom” continuously, and freedom means being straight. If you like, this is the “original sin” of ex-gay ministries, the founding lie.

Bottom Line: these folks, like evangelicals in general, are profoundly other-directed. It’s all about what the Bible says, not what my experience is, not what I want. Asking “what do I want?” is not possible.
Breaking that idol (if you like) is the real issue, it seems to me.
Paul

Timothy Kincaid
December 17th, 2008 | LINK

Paul,

I like your word choice. Many ex-gay ministries have indeed made an idol out of compliance to their understanding of gender roles as dictated by Scripture.

In The Good Book (if I recall correctly), Peter Gomes talks about how some Christians have stopped worshiping God in favor of worshiping the Bible.

Jess
March 21st, 2009 | LINK

Hi Jim,

Today I’ve been reading your articles about the Love Won Out conference. I wanted to say thank you for attending, and reporting your experiences fairly. I especially appreciate that you recognize that the people who attend these conferences are not hateful.

I’ve considered attending one of these conferences myself, because I have a close Christian friend who struggles with same sex attraction (I realize that I’m using the ‘LWO language’, but my friend does not label himself as gay, so I don’t label him either). But I have no bad feelings toward gay people, and would feel terrible about being grouped in with those who do, for attending a conference in support of a friend.

I notice that the last of these posts was written a long time ago – are you still planning to finish the series? I hope so; I’m looking forward to reading it. :)

Post-Gay Rehash « Peterson Toscano’s A Musing
April 6th, 2009 | LINK

[…] declare publicly that they “still struggle” and must pray daily to have the strength to “deny that which comes naturally” to […]

Nancye
June 27th, 2009 | LINK

Hi Jim,
thanks for your comprehensive and fair appraisal of the Love Won Out Conference. Really appreciated your unemotional approach even when it was obvious you were gob smacked by some of what you heard.It was difficult not to feel angry at the arrogance of people like Nicolosi, especially his attributing the causes of homosexuality to parental deficiencies and thus imposing such uncalled for blame and guilt on parents.The insinuations that the cause is always abuse is just plain nonsense.
Thanks again, your site is an encouragement to many

Steve Smith
July 21st, 2009 | LINK

Note the separation of the person from their homosexuality theme. this is the fake kindler – gentler church crap.

What they are trying to do is break down the person’s self esteem, tell them it is their fault and their parents fault. It is all about a guilt trip, plain and simple. And show them that since it isn’t part of their inate nature, they can change. Brilliant wordsmithing. (Personhood – the key word, also plays into the abortion debate btw).Exactly what these people do to blame the victim (parent in particular). And this guilt opens pathways to the subconscious, through which the person’s self respect is destroyed, and replaced with Jesus and their weapon called the bible.

The whole thing is crap. It is all about control. Who are they to say that there is something wrong with being gay. What we really need to explain is the history of christianity, and how absolutists beliefs, from right wing christianity, extremist Islam, the Catholic church etc have brought the world war and mass murder in the name of God.

The above is just a touch on how brainwashing works. And they work on the parents, figuring that children don’t have the guts to stand up to their own parents. They are the same people who say give me a child by age 7 and I’ll make him a good christian for life. Of course, these mental perverters will poison the child before he has the knowledge and will to resist and ask questions. Hitler brainwashed a whole nation etc. Christianity has brainwashed whole generations of nations.

What the parents should be asking, besides the 7 verses of the bible (out of a million) that condemn gays, is what about all the verses that condemn the people pitching this sophisticated crap, adn the kindler gentler, but still control freak religions. What the parents should be asking is why these people think anyone should listen to religions who gave us the hatred of the Jews, Jesuss own people, slavery as per the bible, etc. What about condemning these people for eating swine and shellfish, wearing clothes of different clothes, and lets help them stone their daughters to death as per the bible, if they aren’t a virgin on their wedding day. Such selective crap comes in the name of God by christians, who are almost universally to be condemned to death themselves as per the bible. Oh that they would only go visit God by their own hand.

The whole thing is onesided, based on myths and lies. Christian / cahtolic absolutlist religions operate with the core being the terrorism of being sent to hell if you don’t believe as they say, and the scam insurance policy of life after death, since all normal people fear the end, unless they are so freaked out they commit suicide. Which btw happens to some of the victims – that is what they are – of these programs.

And on top of this guilt and fear and scam promises, they pile on all the other pure crap. These people are masters at psychology, they have had almost 2000 years to build and test their story. All based on the life of one admittedly appearing to be a good man. Who lived in an age of almost total ignorance and superstition. And an age where the priests (Jewish high priests- ps I’m Jewish btw) and others control all the writing, and teaching. Stories handed down unwritten for several centuries, and embellished along the way for the power of the priests. Power and control – that is what it is all about, Just like in Iran and Afghanistan today.

So the whole damn thing is all about control and power. Terribly sophisticated. Yes, they have seen that they needed a new language, since calling them the haters they are has had an impact. And their deals are Little different then when you get screwed with your mortgage at the bank. It is you alone, or with some BS low level lawyer, vs people in the business for decades, who know all the tricks and scams and how to hide them. So the issues that are should be brought up are buried and not touched upon. Kinda reminds me of my flying career – where we used to say “the silence was deafening ” when an engine quit. We need to expose this silence of what thye don’t say and make it deafening. And expose their new language. Kindler, gentler, but still the same goal – total mind control, make the parents in these situations into robots, and make the parents blame themselves for their gay kids. When they should be blaming these religious nut cases for making ‘gay’ something terrible, rather then being celebrated as part of mankinds diversity, and maybe an attempt by nature to control population growth. For beside religion, most wars are about stealing other nations natural resources.

And so what if gay people are gay for whatever reason. this is a free country. it is part of free speech and being “created equal” that that gays should be free of religious terrorism, denigration, denial of legal equality. And certainly being verbally screwed in the butt by these power mongers.

Fascist hardly describes these people. Something closer describes them – how people get brainwashed and do brainwashing. how they compartmentalize their humanity, an example of which was the super-absolutist control freaks of nazi germany. Think of the officers who would supervise throwing the Jews into the ovens during the day, and then go home and play wiht their children if they were lucky enough to have family nearby. Like these people who appear so nice, but condemn per their version of a hate filled god.

We need a single word to describe these people. That is misssing. Tar them.

And remember what it is all about. When the citizenry in general comes to accept gay people as good people (lots and lots of that is happening, though the word marriage is still an obstacle due to its historical basis,), eveything these people say will be understood for what they are. control freaks espousing lies. And for what they fear most – that their lies will be exposed, and with it the whole conservative christianity leadership will be seen as liars and hypocrites.

And it will die. As religion is dying in EG Europe, where only about 15% of people regularly attend church, and most of those are widows lookinhg for Husbands.

BTW, virtually every west european country except italy and greece recognize gay couples legally- wit h marrige civl union, or reg. partnerships. Ireland will happen this year with civil unions. Add Hungary, Slovenia, chech republic. Israel, Nepal, Columbia, Argentina*, Brazil* (3 million attend gay pride in Sao Paolo), Uraguay, Mexico*, Canada, Australia*, and new Zealand, and Japan* and republic of South Africa, now free of christian satanistics and apartheid. (* = parts of country, and or partial rights)

The zealots are losing. We need to expose them, and their new falsely kindler gentler language for what they really are about. People who, in their own belief system, are setting themselves up for a quick trip to God’s re-education camp called Hell.

Butch
December 26th, 2009 | LINK

I am gay man in my late fifties. I live with my partner of 17 years, David who is in his late fifties. He went through horrific struggles as a closeted gay Mormon (married with four children) before he finally accepted the truth about himself. He was eventually excommunicated after his divorce was final and the real reason for the divorce was revealed.

I myself struggled with my sexual orientation for most of my late teen years and into my early 20s. I desperately sought out therapists who could help me change. In therapy I did everything I was told to, including dating women and even having sex… when I could find the stamina to “perform”. None of it helped! In fact the harder I tried the more depressed I became! I became so depressed I almost took my own life. But I finally realized something… All minorities that have faced discrimination have also had to face the inevitable stereotypes, misinformation, and downright lies told about them…

“Gays are weak, feminine, less then “men”…”
But I never felt that way!

“Gays are mentally ill or have some other mental illness…”
Other then the depression caused by the fear of societies judgment I had never had any psychological problem at all.

“Gays are incapable of having lasting long tern relationships…”
My first relationship lasted 12 years; my current one is 17 years and going strong. I don’t have a single heterosexual friend who had a relationship that last as long as even my shortest one!

In fact, as I learned to leave the homophobic baggage behind me I began to feel better and better…

I finally realized it was all just a dirty trick; a ruse to keep lesbians and gays in their place, in the back of the bus!

It took me almost to the age of 35 before I finally stopped giving a rat’s ass what anyone thought about me! I was gay and that was perfectly OK! If someone did not like that I was gay…well then that was their problem!

I have since devoted myself to gay rights. I advise ever closeted gay person I meet to come out. Sure – they might lose a friend or even a relative along the way but they will gain themselves, and nothing is more important then that!

JM
January 16th, 2010 | LINK

“The present need to live a lie, and pretend to be “changed” is in itself unchristian and too much for most to bear.”

For some, perhaps. For many others I know, obedience and chaste living are a lifeline. I have been blwon away by how many ‘strugglers’ have managed to find happiness in hetero-marriage, contrary to the general consensus. The experience scale is by no means homogenous.

Timothy Kincaid
January 17th, 2010 | LINK

JM,

Perhaps you are not fully aware or perhaps you participate in a ministry that is outside of the Exodus network, but whatever the reason, you are presenting a dialogue that is inconsistent with ex-gay teaching.

It is NOT adequate to be obedient and chaste. One must also have “left the lifestyle” and “walk away from the homosexual identity”. In other words, chastity simultaneous with identifying as gay is considered by Exodus to be a sinful as being a wanton crack whore who is indiscriminately promiscuous.

It is not foregoing sex that is the problem, it is trying to “identify” in a manner that is foreign to one’s God-given nature. It is perfectly possible to say, “I choose not to have sex with this person I’m attracted to” because of faith just as it is to do so out of commitment to another. But ex-gay ministries do not stop there. The strugglers are considered to be sinful if they even recognize and accept the attraction.

As for hetero-married strugglers, yes there are some. Few, very few, but some. And I’m happy for them.

But the Jones and Yarhouse study has shown us conclusively that these people still “struggle”. Personally, I don’t believe all this “stuggling” is what Christ came to reveal.

S. Carolina Priest
January 31st, 2010 | LINK

Thank you for a wonderful, loving series. I wish you could have been included along with Gagnon and McHugh at a conference on sexuality we just had here in the Diocese of SC. (as I hope for the Day of the Lord.) What was most striking about your approach was your firm and unwavering grasp on the goal of restoring families and friends to loving relationships. The Bible is much clear that hate is wrong than anything it says about homosexuality. In fact, the Bible is abundantly emphatic that charging fellow Christians interest on loans is a grievous sin. I think I’ll start an organization to lead people out of the “banking lifestyle”. Keep me in your prayers as you will remain in mine.

Jeff Coe
June 2nd, 2010 | LINK

Jim I read the series and thought you did and excellent job at describing what goes on at Love Won Out. Though I never attended a Love Won Out conference I was a leader in ex-gay work for many years and as well lived a celibate life for almost 20 (it can happen). You hit the mark on describing the mixed messages of change as well as the burden and shame that parents face in the evangelical community.

The gay community is much too ill informed about this issue in the church and out of integrity should discover more but I know that most will never do that. Like you said to use the word hate like they did in Palm Springs is just wrong and not a reality. For most are there out of love for their kids or brothers and sisters. And you hit it when you used Alan Chambers saying it is a change but not necessarily a change to heterosexuality but a change to holiness. And that is where the differences lay. Being gay is seen as sin or missing the mark and one can never truly be a god fearing holy man or woman if one is to take on a gay identity. Much of the work is done on re-identifying who you are no longer “gay” but a believer who identifies with Christ His joys and sufferings and taking up his or her cross and living a life of obedience. (Much of which is interpretation and cultural expectations)

As a partnered gay man I’m looking forward to the time that people can sit down and openly talk frankly on this issue. Learning to respectively listen and as well to admit when there are differences. A lot would happen to so many people and especially the parents if they could hear from gay men and lesbians (not their own) and begin open frank dialogue about the issue of homosexuality. Hey I think healing would occur for many.

Scott Burson
August 8th, 2010 | LINK

This is a fascinating essay and a gripping story — I couldn’t put it down. Thanks so much for writing it. I didn’t know much about the “ex-gay movement” before, except that I thought it was hooey and probably did a lot of damage. Now I know it is, and does.

The Sci-Fi Bard
August 12th, 2010 | LINK

Thanks so much for taking the time and trouble to attend the conference and write this article. As a lesbian in the UK, what you experienced is a little out of my league (the closest I’ve come to being steered away from being gay is my confused and upset Mother saying “Oh it’s just a phase!”) but the balanced way in which you write and view every perspective made this article very very interesting to read. Thank you once again. {{{hugs}}}

Eddie
August 8th, 2013 | LINK

wow! what an amazing article – all 5 parts and intro too. The main thing that sticks out for me of all of this is that you say “the people that go to these meetings are not mean and hateful”. My parents are just 2 of the people who have attended this meeting among many others. “Hateful” or “mean” may not be the words you would use but “egoist” for sure is what I would use. the man you wrote about at the beginning of your report who suddenly started to cry because his son is gay, cried because of “love for his son”? I don’t think so. I think it’s because of his own ego. If the son is happy then why should the parents attend these meetings to try to change their child? Most likely because of their own ego. And that’s not love at all. My parents are still crying and still praying for me. And I am still queer and happy as ever and even more so now that I have married the man of my dreams. In just a few days from now we will be married for 23 years (married and living in Denmark) Where is the love of my parents when they are still trying after all these years to change me? Hate me? no. However, mother has pretty much been very mean at times – both to me and my husband. Not at all like the jesus that she claims to know so well. For years it was always a matter of me choosing between god or choosing to continue to live in the gay lifestyle. I use to believe this when I was going to Exodus. But now I know it’s actually up to the so called christians to choose to love the child as is that god created or to continue in the pray-the-gay-away life style – and that has nothing to do with my ego.

Priya Lynn
August 8th, 2013 | LINK

Very insightful, Eddie.

Ben In Oakland
August 8th, 2013 | LINK

As I always say, Priya, when someone professes to “love” me but hates my sin…

It’s not love. It’s narcissism.

23 years, Eddie? you have far more patience than I had. I gave up after about 10.

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