Throckmorton Appeals to Ugandan Christians
November 2nd, 2009
Dr. Warren Throckmorton has had published a guest blog in The Independent, a Ugandan news blog. In it, he appeals to fellow Christians to follow the lead of Christ and avoid harsh civil punishment for spiritual sins.
Throckmorton selected the story of the woman
at the well caught in adultery whose accusers disappeared when Jesus said that the person who was without sin should be the person who threw the first stone.
As I read the Anti-Homosexuality Bill proposed in Uganda by MPs David Bahati and Benson Obua, I wonder if perhaps these gentlemen think Jesus should have picked up a stone. Instead, Jesus intervened on behalf of the woman, was He wrong? Clearly, He did not believe adultery was proper. But He signaled a new way of dealing with sin, one which emphasizes mercy and freedom, rather than coercion and death. People must choose to follow the teachings of Christ, not be coerced by Pharisees or government officials. The human heart cannot be changed by laws, but through the freely chosen grace of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, jailing or killing gays or those suspected of being gay or those who know gays cannot create a righteous people, and in fact may further a self-righteous people. One may disapprove of homosexuality, and still treat homosexuals as you would want to be treated. Who among us could stand if our private sins were judged in such a manner as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009?
I urge my brethren in beautiful Uganda to follow the example of Jesus. Please, for the sake of Christ, put down your stones.
A Call for Christian Action in Uganda – A Time to Show the Love
October 28th, 2009
Dr. Warren Throckmorton has written an article for Crosswalk.com in which he asks Should American Christians Care about Gays in Uganda? Throckmorton explains the excesses in the new proposed anti-gay law (banning speech, imposing the death penalty, requiring suspected homosexuals to be reported) and makes a strong case for why American Christians should own responsibility for the law and take action to oppose it.
While there are many cultural forces which oppose homosexuality in Uganda, a dominant one currently is the evangelical church. Most recently, in March of this year, three Americans were recruited by the Uganda-based Family Life Network to speak at workshops on ways to change people from gay to straight. Two of the Americans, Caleb Brundidge and Scott Lively, spoke in favor of keeping homosexuality illegal but giving those convicted an option of therapy to cure them of their gayness. Both Brundidge and Lively spoke to the Ugandan parliament regarding their view that homosexuality is learned and curable. Their ideas took hold. The proposed bill bases the need for stronger regulation on the concept that “same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic.”
Throckmorton also notes that the main evangelical cheerleader for this crackdown on civil liberties is Martin Ssempa, a darling of American evangelical leaders who is closely tied to Rick Warren and Saddleback Church. And, as we know, the government of Uganda has repeatedly listened to instruction and direction from American preachers.
Indeed, this latest anti-gay pogrom is directly tied to American evangelical Christian interference in the African nation. Throckmorton’s point is that because American evangelical Christians made this mess, they now must own it. And I agree.
But will Christians respond?
For years, those American Christians who espouse conservative theology in their social activism in opposition to civil equality for gay citizens have loudly proclaimed that such activism is not founded in hatred. Rather, they will assure you, they love you so very much that they are warning you away from the dangers and sinfulness of “the homosexual lifestyle”.
This argument is familiarized in the trite phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
Though it might surprise some, I think it likely that most of those people who oppose your civil rights for religious reasons do not hate you. They don’t necessarily wish you ill. And if given a choice, they would prefer that you be happy, and healthy, and come to enjoy life (heterosexually, of course) as much as they do.
But I also believe that they don’t love you, either.
Rather, they do something worse than hate you; they don’t consider you – your life, your dreams, your loves, your hopes – at all. The extent to which their imposition of their faith system on your life will impact your ability to live freely never ever crosses their mind. Your health insurance, your immigration, your kids, your adoption, your hospital visitation, your inheritance rights, your military service, none of this enters the equation.
Not because they hate you, but because you don’t really matter to them at all. They don’t hate you; they’re just contemptuous of your existence or worth.
But, contrary to their assertions, they feel no love. It is impossible to love without caring about what the object of your love cares about. It is impossible to love without showing concern for injustice or unfairness. It is impossible to love without seeking to help those who are victims of oppression and attack.
I hope I am wrong. I hope that there is an abundance of love flowing from evangelical Christianity towards gay men and women.
And the situation in Uganda will tell us whether or not I am falsely accusing the Church. This situation provides us with a “put up or shut up” moment.
Should the Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God and Saddleback Church and all the other mega-churches stand up and speak out against this evil law, it will go far to show me that they feel love. Should conservative Republican Senators who ardently “defend marriage” against the threat of our relationships send a delegation to the African nation, I’ll consider that perhaps they do not base their policies on scapegoating of an unpopular minority. Should Maggie Gallagher and Peter LaBarbera and Laurie Higgins write stirring pieces about why Christians should oppose coercive laws, I may consider that their objection to my rights is not based in personal animus.
But should, as I suspect will be the case, Dr. Throckmorton be but one of a few voices willing to oppose evil – and this bill IS EVIL – then I will know what my heart will tell me the next time an opponent to fairness tells me that they love me.
Dr. Throckmorton Pleased with APA Report
August 5th, 2009
Dr. Warren Throckmorton was, at one time, a supporter of efforts to revise one’s sexual orientation. He even produced a video, I Do Exist, which presented the testimonies of some people who claimed to have changed their sexual orientation.
Since that time at least one testimonial came to understand his sexuality in a light different than was presented on the video. And, as time passed, so did Dr. Throckmorton.
I have witnessed an evolution in his thinking to where I now think it is now accurate to say that Dr. Throckmorton, though still religiously conservative and not inclined to find same-sex behavior to be pleasing to God, no longer believes that efforts to change the sexual attractions of same-sex attracted men are likely to be effective. He is particularly critical of “reparative therapy” – efforts to become heterosexual by “repairing” the damage done by a distant father and smothing mother – the pet theory of NARTH and others in the ex-gay movement.
Instead, Dr. Throckmorton is a proponant of Sexual Identity Therapy, a therapy that “seeks to aid people in conflict over sexual identity to integrate and live out a valued sexual identity.” Throckmorton seeks to support those whose religious beliefs and values are not consistent with accepting the identity, or sexual expression of a gay person – yet without trying to change them into an opposite-sex attracted person.
Throckmorton finds much within the APA Report to applaud. He praises the rigor, honesty, and nuance of the report along with the APA’s recognition that a client’s own religious can impact psychotherapy. Check out his response here.
Is Scott Lively’s “Pink Swastika” Kaput?
July 2nd, 2009
Not exactly. He’s made a career out of homophobia for nearly two decades now, but he now claims that he’s turning his attention to other matters:
With the June 17th publication of my final book on the homosexual issue, “Redeeming the Rainbow: A Christian Response to the ‘Gay’ Agenda,” I have completed 20 years of service as a front-lines opponent of the homosexual movement. “Redeeming the Rainbow,” which I have published as a free book in pdf format, encompasses all that I have learned through this long tour of duty and I believe there is little more that I could add on the issue.
As of now I am turning my attention to other interests and needs of the pro-family movement and will no longer be monitoring the day-to-day developments of the culture war regarding homosexuality as closely, nor posting stories about it to this site.
I somehow suspect that he’s not going very far. It’s only two paragraphs later when he reveals another update to his book, The Pink Swastika:
I have one last major project to complete on the homosexual issue, the publication of a 5th Edition of my book (co-authored with Jewish researcher Kevin E. Abrams) “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party.” It will be published in a web-based, documentation-emphasized format. That project will begin soon and a link to it will be available on this page from the early stages, so that readers can follow its ongoing progress and make use of the facts and documentation in their own pro-family advocacy.
The Pink Swastika is Lively’s primary claim to fame. In it, he claims that Nazism was, at its core, a homosexual movement, and that the gay rights movement today is a barely-disguised update of Nazi ideology. He cites the Holocaust as but one example of the inevitable consequences of homosexuality gaining public prominence. His blatant historical revisionism has earned his Abiding Truth ministries a spot in one of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of twelve anti-gay hate groups.
So no, he’s not giving up his holocaust revisionism anytime soon. And since we will all get to see his “ongoing progress” with his online edition, I doubt he’ll leave it alone when he’s done.
Lively says he will continue to be available for conferences, seminars and the like, and I’m sure The Pink Swastika will continue to be the centerpiece of his talks. More recently, he took his Holocaust revisionism abroad with a three-day conference in Kampala, Uganda, where he peddled his wares alongside Exodus board member Don Schmierer. That conference called for the strengthening of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law by adding the “option” of forced conversion therapy. Uganda’s law already provides for a life sentence. Lively’s book is now being used by Ugandan religious leaders to fuel an ongoing public campaign of vigilantism and police detentions and torture.
Meanwhile, Dr. Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor at the Christian-based Grove City College, has continued to add to his online series debunking The Pink Swastika. His latest installment is probably the most devastating, where Throckmorton catches Lively lying about his source information virtually red-handed. Throckmorton was joined in this endeavor by associate professor of history, Dr. Jon David Wyneken, whose Ph.D. is in modern German history with a focus on the period between 1933 and 1955. Together, they have undertaken a methodical exposé of Lively’s shoddy scholarship.
Throckmorton’s efforts seem to be having some effect. Leadership University, an online ministry affiliated with Campus Crusade for Christ, once proudly hosted a condensed outline of his Pink Swastika thesis. That article, “Homosexuality and the Nazi Party,” has recently been removed.
[Hat tip: Ex-gay Watch]
Scott Lively, Gays, and the Nazi Party
June 23rd, 2009
Anti-gay extremist and historical revisionist Scott Lively has been much in the news earlier this year when he participated in an anti-gay conference in Uganda alongside Exodus board president Don Schmierer. During his talk there, he quoted extensively from his book, The Pink Swastika, which posits that the Nazi movement was, at its core, a homosexual movement, and that the LGBT movement today is, in essence, a fascist movement. Despite the historical record to the contrary, Lively blames gays for the rise of Nazism and for the Holocaust itself, and claims that “the connection between homosexualism and fascism is not incidental.”
This claim might come as a surprise to the many participants of Springfield, Missouri’s recent PrideFest, which was targeted for protestby members of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement. That claim would also come as quite a surprise for Naples, Florida resident and PFLAG member Ruth Dorfman, who found swastikas painted on her garage door after an article she wrote appeared in the local paper about a PFLAG event.
Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton has undertaken a remarkable series of posts which methodically dissects The Pink Swastikaand looks at the historical distortions behind it. Many LGBT people might find Throckmorton’s work in this area a pleasant surprise. As a conservative Christian psychologist, Throckmorton has supported the right of counselors and ministries to offer ex-gay therapies. Earlier in the decade, Throckmorton worked with PFOX in their efforts to oppose sex education curriculum in a suburban Washington, D.C. which was friendly to gay students, and he produced the video I Do Exist which promoted ex-gay therapy.
In recent years, he has moved away from those activities without disavowing them explicitly, although he has since become a harsh critic of PFOX and its founder, Richard Cohen. He has also become a critic of anti-gay groups like the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) when they distort the scientific record. And he criticized Exodus over their board member’s participation in the Uganda anti-gay conference.
Throckmorton’s series of posts examining The Pink Swastika, as I said, are quite remarkable and thorough. For two of those posts, he brought in Jon David Wyneken, Associate History Professor at Grove City College, who described several instances of blatant distortion of the source material Lively and his co-author, Kevin Abrams, used in their book. In his latest post, Throckmorton examine Lively and Abrams’ linkage between Friedrich Nietzsche and Nazism and finds it lacking. He promises to offer a similar examination of other historical figures in future posts.
Throckmorton hasn’t been content to publish this material on his web site and leave it there. He has also written articles on the subject for Opposing Views and the conservative Christian Post, bringing his important work before a wider audience. Scott Lively, whose Abiding Truth Ministries is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-gay hate groups, was annoyed to discover one of those posts on one of his “favorite Christian websites” and decided it could only mean one thing: Throckmorton “has gone to the ‘dark side’.”
Here is Throckmorton’s complete coverage of Lively’s work so far:
May 28: Scott Lively Wants Off SPLC Hate Group List
May 31: Eliminating Homosexuality: Modern Uganda and Nazi Germany
June 3: Before The Pink Swastika
June 4: Kevin Abrams: The Other Side of The Pink Swastika
June 8: A Historian’s Analysis of The Pink Swastika, Part 1
June 9: A Historian’s Analysis of The Pink Swastika, Part 2
June 11: American Nazi Movement and Homosexuality: How Pink Is Their Swastika?
June 15: Nazi Movement Rallies Against Gays In Springfield, MO
June 17: Does Homosexuality Lead To Fascism?
June 23: The Pink Swastika and Friedrich Nietzsche
June 29: The Pink Swastika and The Hidden Holocaust?
July 6: The Pink Swastika and Hate 2 Hope
Researchers Denounce Focus On the Family’s Linkage of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Male Homosexuality
June 12th, 2009
Focus On the Family is preparing to have their Love Won Out roadshow make its stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan this weekend. One of the principle arguments they are likely to spring on unsuspecting parents (if past history is any guide) is Melissa Fryrear’s assertion that she has never met a gay person who hadn’t been sexually abused, while drawing the insistent link that this abuse somehow is a major cause of homosexuality. (We saw Pat Robertson mine this same material earlier this week.) This damaging and abusive claim — imagine the horror of parents of gay kids in that audience who will hear her say that — has been a very steady theme in Love Won Out’s arsenal.
To bolster that claim, Focus On the Family recently issued one of their “reports” by Jeff Johnston, who is touted as the “gender issues analyst” at Focus On the Family (his degree and qualifications are never mentioned). That report, “Childhood Sexual Abuse and Male Homosexuality,” is further intended to reinforce the claim that most gay men have experienced some form of sexual abuse in their childhoods, and that this is the reason they became gay. To back up his claims, he cites the book, Unequal Opportunity: Health Disparities Affecting Gay and Bisexual Men in the United States, edited by Richard J. Wolitsk, Ron Stall and Ronald O. Valdiserri. That book contains a large number of research papers on various topics related to men’s health, including child sexual abuse. Johnston claims:
In a chapter titled, “Childhood Sexual Abuse Experienced by Gay and Bisexual Men: Understanding the Disparities and Interventions to Help Eliminate Them,” from the book Unequal Opportunity, researchers analyze and report on data from 17 different studies from the past 15 years. They find the rates of childhood sexual abuse (which they abbreviate as CSA) for men who have sex with men range from 11.8% to 37.0%, and note that “the best-designed studies tend to converge on CSA prevalence of 15% to 25%.”
The authors in Unequal Opportunity are reluctant to say that childhood sexual abuse is one of the factors that leads to or contributes to the development of homosexuality, but they do speculate,
The fact that most childhood abusers of MSM were males suggests either an etiological link between CSA and adult sexual orientation, or the existence of childhood characteristics that are related to adult sexual orientation in men that increase vulnerability, or both.”
And later, they say that these early sexual experiences “can be considered a form of sexual learning, even if that learning is involuntary and the results dysfunctional.” They continue, “Sexual orientation and gender identity can be particularly confusing for men who experienced arousal during the abuse, and MSM who experienced abuse may continue to be aroused by circumstances that mirror the abusive situation.
Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton contacted Ron Stall and Ron Valdiserri and asked them to comment on the Focus On the Family report. They responded with a statement condemning the report as “inaccurate and, in our opinion, a distortion of the scientific literature.” They go on:
Most basically, the Focus on the Family characterization of the literature on childhood sexual abuse among gay men represents a misunderstanding of scientific approaches to distinguishing between correlation and causation. The book chapter in question reports that gay men are more likely to report childhood sexual abuse by men than are heterosexual men. This correlation does not mean that the reported abuse caused the adult sexual orientation. If that were the case, then the fact that some heterosexual men report sexual abuse by women means that sexual abuse by women “causes” heterosexuality in men. It is also worth noting that the argument that childhood sexual abuse causes homosexuality in gay men is undermined by the fact that the vast majority of gay men are not sexually abused as children.
…[W]e want to state clearly that the published research does not support the claim that the development of a homosexual orientation is caused by childhood sexual abuse. Furthermore, adult homosexual orientation is no longer considered a pathology or a maladjustment. We urge those who are interested in trying to better understand some of these complex issues from a scientific perspective to read the discussions in our book, as well as the scientific literature on childhood sexual abuse, and not rely on second-hand interpretations.
You can see Stall and Valdiserri’s full statement at Dr. Throckmorton’s web site.
Update: What kind of qualifications does it take to be a “gender issues analyst” at Focus On the Family? Well in Jeff Johnston’s case, all you have to be is an English major! (PDF: 168 KB/1 page) He has also served on the board of directors of Exodus International and PFOX.
Scott Lively and Alan Chambers Respond to Questions About Uganda Conference
March 13th, 2009
Dr. Warren Throckmorton contacted Scott Lively about the coverage of the Uganda conference in which he endorsed criminalization of homosexuality. Here is his response:
I did promote therapy as an option to imprisonment, citing my own experience benefiting from optional therapy after an arrest for drunk driving many years ago. In fact, it was during that period I accepted Christ and was spontaneously healed of alcoholism and drug addiction.
I don’t think under the circumstances homosexuality should be decriminalized in Uganda since it seems to be the only thing stopping the international “gay” juggernaut from turning Uganda into another Brazil.
He also posts the full Exodus International response.
Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, responded to reports about an Exodus board member’s participation at a conference in Uganda on homosexuality:
“Unfortunately, Uganda as a country has demonstrated severe hostility towards homosexuals supporting criminalization of homosexual behavior and proposing compulsory therapy – positions that Exodus International unequivocally denounces. It is our sincere desire to offer an alternative message that encompasses a compassionate, biblical view of homosexuality not just here in America, but around the world. We applaud our board member’s attempt to convey these truths to a country in need.”
I don’t trust myself to respond just yet other than to say that it would seem that Alan doesn’t know the meaning of the word “unequivocally”.
Exodus Applauds Schmierer’s Part in Uganda Conference
March 13th, 2009
The Christian Post has an article today in which Warren Throckmorton was critical of the carelessness with which ex-gay ministries approached the conference in Uganda:
“It is illegal to be homosexual in Uganda. There’s also a category of homosexuality (act) that has a potential for life imprisonment,” said Throckmorton to The Christian Post on Wednesday. “How often it is enforced is not clear.”
“I think it’s inappropriate to try to transplant American concepts of ex-gay ministry into an environment where you can’t even go in and open yourself up to that kind of disclosure without some kind of risk,” he said.
But Alan Chambers, President of Exodus, was not apologetic.
In response, Exodus International said it applauds its board member Don Schmierer, who attended the Uganda conference, for his effort to convey an “alternative message that encompasses a compassionate, biblical view of homosexuality,” according to a statement by Exodus International president Alan Chambers to The Christian Post on Wednesday.
Exodus says neither Schmierer nor the ministry agrees or endorses Uganda’s criminalization of homosexuality law, imprisonment of homosexuals or compulsory therapy. Rather, the ministry says it “unequivocally denounces” the positions the government of Uganda has towards homosexuality.
We do not yet have the full text of the statement. But to be perfectly honest, my stomach turned when I read this.
Warren Throckmorton Speaks Out Against Uganda Conference
March 5th, 2009
The very same Ugandan online portal which broke the story about the three American anti-gay activists speaking at an anti-gay conference in Kampala has an update featuring comments by American psychologist Warren Throckmorton.
The Uganda Pulse web site originally broke the story on February 22, in an article which was little more than a press release by Stephen Langa of the Kampala-based Family Life Network. That article revealed that Nazi revisionist and Watchmen On the Walls co-founder Scott Lively, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, and Caleb Lee Brundidge of Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation will be conducting a seminar on homosexuality in Kampala beginning tomorrow today. Throckmorton’s response appeared in the same online portal today, in an article whose title appears to identify Throckmorton as a gay activist:
…Throckmorton says that he believes it is a big mistake for these US people to go to Uganda and discuss prevention of homosexuality when they are not scientists and have no training to discuss these matters in a reliable or factual manner. He says people who are involved are not qualified to speak about the causes or change of homosexuality.
“None of them have any research on the topic or scientific qualifications to understand the research on the subject. They will be spreading old ideas about homosexuality which even Christian psychologists in the US and Europe have dismissed as without support,” he says.
He says that one of the presenters has a significant problem with credibility. “Caleb Brundidge is affiliated with Extreme Prophetic here in the US. He leads groups to mortuaries to attempt to raise the dead! He believes God drops jewels and gold dust on worshippers but refuses to gain verification of these claims. He also claims he was gay and changed. Given his other claims, it is difficult to take any of his claims seriously.
I also believe it is dangerous for those who might struggle to admit their struggle in Uganda when it might land them in trouble with the authorities,” he says in a commentary sent to our reporter after we broke the story of the Conference.
“Mr. Schmierer is a board member for Exodus International and he should not be promoting questionable theories of prevention in a country where just admitting being gay can lead to serious consequences,” he adds.
In 2004, Dr. Throckmorton produced the ex-gay video “I Do Exist,” which came about as an outgrowth of his association with PFOX. Since then, he has become increasingly critical of PFOX, NARTH and Exodus, and he has spoken against the particular form of ex-gay therapy known as “Reparative Therapy.” He continues to support “sexual identity therapy” for those who request it, and he supports the right of providers to counsel their clients to “find congruence between religious beliefs and sexual feelings.” Last year, Noé Gutierrez, the star of “I Do Exist,” denounced the ex-gay movement, and said he now considered himself gay and Christian. ”I Do Exist” is still available, Throckmorton says, on a limited basis.
Linda Harvey’s Dishonesty about the Day of Silence
May 22nd, 2008
- She claims that “Child molestation is an everyday occurrence because of the increased access homosexuals have to our children” and advocates banning gay people from teaching (a position so radical that Ronald Reagan opposed it in 1978).
- She claims that the vast majority of gay people are only employed sporadically due to their instability.
- She believes that HIV is “almost exclusively a homosexual male and drug addict epidemic” and advocates that “gay social establishments should close until HIV rates are seriously reduced”.
- She claims that for a Pastor to believe that gay persons can be Christian “is deliberate rebellion against God’s word and His created order of male/female genders and marriage.”
In short, Linda is a woman driven by her objection to anything gay and she’ll not hesitate to say anything to advance her goal of changing America into a nation that conforms to her religious ideals. Honesty, integrity, empathy, or the Golden Rule seem not to be particularly important to this quest.
Linda through her organization Mission:America was a leader in the anti-gay opposition to the Day of Silence. Linda compiled and distributed a list of grievances which sought to portray the Day of Silence as an aggressive act against Christians. Some of these listed abuses seem almost impossible to believe.
In fact, they were so extreme that Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a conservative psychology professor with interest in sexual orientation issues, decided to check up on a few of Linda’s stories. Not surprisingly, what he found did not square with what Linda said.
For example, Linda said
Kirksville, Mo.: A parent reported that the Kirksville High School principal and superintendent laughed when she asked if her child could be excused from participating in the school’s Day of Silence. According to Mission America, she said, “They called me a narrow-minded bigot and refused to give excused absences.”
Dr. Throckmorton did not find that to be confirmed.
Curious, I called the Kirksville High School Superintendent of schools, Pat Williams about the allegation of name-calling. When I read the account to him, he said, “That’s absolutely false. I did not use that language with any parent or in response to any inquiry.”
Throckmorton also spoke with the principal of the school and found that while absences were not excused, the school also allowed the Day of Truth and did not allow either event to disrupt the teaching process.
I emailed Linda Harvey at Mission America to see if I could interview the parent involved but she declined to provide more information or contact the person who made the allegation. The Kirksville administrators were not aware of any allegations surrounding the Day of Silence until I called. In my opinion, the the information provided by Mr. Williams and Mr. Michael and the fact that the school district also allowed the Day of Truth detract from the credibility of the anonymous allegation.
Throckmorton also found out that claims Harvey made about an event in Mesa, AZ, were materially different from police reports. He concludes
And those were just the first two bulletpoints. I guess you can’t believe everything you read.
Dr. Throckmorton and I differ strongly about the appropriate theological, social, and legal responses to persons who are same-sex attracted. But we agree that dishonesty should never be a tool used in the debate over social policy about homosexuality.
Sadly, too many anti-gays (and too many pro-gays) are willing to make any claim that advances their cause. And for what? Ultimately the truth comes out and then what has one gained in exchange for their integrity?
If conservative Christians worried about their religious freedoms want to have their concerns taken seriously, they need to rid their movement of liars, extremist, and haters. Then perhaps we can find common ground where the rights of all can be respected.
What Noe Gutierrez Learned from Ex-Gay Ministries
May 16th, 2008
We wrote earlier about Noé Gutierrez’ account of his time in ex-gay ministries, when he appeared in Warren Throckmorton’s video, “I Do Exist.” Today on Ex-Gay Watch, Noé shares some more about what he learned from ex-gay ministries:
Isn’t it time for ex-gay groups to stop using adversarial tactics when the real goal is the building up of our communities of faith? These tactics can only serve to divide and destroy the faith of the weak and alienate the most vulnerable. Why not try a revolutionary approach like loving your fellow man, or sharing as sisters and brothers in Christ? Let God take care of what you cannot give. Take up the cause of those who have been excluded by their churches, families, and friends. Make room at your table; invite someone to fellowship with you in your own home. Take the opportunity to get to know us and you will soon learn we are not so different.
Give Us Your Opinions: What Should The APA Symposium Have Looked Like?
May 14th, 2008
Yesterday, I wrote about the deficiencies I saw in the make-up of the canceled APA Symposium, “Homosexuality and Therapy: The Religious Dimension.” Dr. David Scasta, the organizer of the symposium, saw my piece and left a thoughtful comment. I want to raise that comment in this post and ask you to share your thoughts on what a useful symposium might look like.
One important thing to remember is this: The symposium was not structured as a “debate.” I didn’t call it that in my post, but I didn’t clarify what it was exactly. It wasn’t a debate. Each participant had a topic on which they would talk on for a few minutes, and then questions would be entertained from the audience — at least that’s how I understand it.
Here is Dr. Scasta’s comment:
Dear Mr. Burroway,
I have read your observations regarding the symposium which I organized. Let me first complement your organization for its stated goal because it could easily be used as a mantra for the symposium. I have taken the liberty of repeating such verbatim because I think it is so well put:
“In the heat of the debate, several things have been lost. We’ve lost the ability to look at the situation calmly, rationally and with civility. We’ve lost the ability to oppose other viewpoints without demonizing those who hold them. We’ve lost the ability to know who is telling the truth and who is practicing deception or spreading falsehoods. We’ve lost the ability to treat each other with respect and dignity. We’ve lost a lot. Box Turtle Bulletin exists to help address this problem. I hope to shed some light, with honesty and integrity, and without rancor. I hope to earn your trust in what we report, and your respect in how we report it.”
I have been distressed that the media hype has so grossly mischaracterized the symposium. The symposium was portrayed unfortunately as a “debate.” All of the panel members on the symposium agreed that it was not to be a debate and that our goal was to be able to present our views in a collegial way that opened discussion instead of angry debate — exactly what the Box Turtle stands for.
All on the panel have also shown a willingness to make some concessions in their belief system when they are presented with new information and perspectives. Dr. Throckmorton, for instance, has distanced himself from his film, “I Do Exist.” A few copies are still available for historical purposes but he has clearly changed some of his views about the appropriateness or likelihood of change. By the same token, I have called into question some of the “scientific facts”” in the film that I helped to fund and create: “Abomination: Homosexuality and the Ex-Gay Movement.” It is not that I do not support the message of the film (that gay people of faith who go through reparative therapies become free when they shake off the chains of dogma and discover an accepting God). It is just that one of the studies seems to imply more “science” than is justified — a point that was effectively pointed out by Dr. Throckmorton. Dr. Mohler has taken extensive heat among his Southern Baptist constituency for suggesting that homosexuality might not be a choice. His concept that a cure for homosexuality should be sought, in the same way that a cure is being sought for Huntington’s chorea, is a concept which deserves fuller discussion. Perhaps as a physician I can give him a different perspective. Whether or not my arguments are persuasive, I can tell you that I have no doubt that Albert Mohler will give me a full and fair hearing and will respond with both insight and incisive thinking. And, he will put me to my proofs. I also believe that, if he is persuaded otherwise, he is the type of person who has the strength and moral fortitude to stand up for what he believes, even when it contradicts what he is “suppose” to believe.
The goal of the symposium was not to settle questions about reparative or change therapies. I do not know where you got the information that the panel was a “response to the APA’s decision to form a working group to review its stance on ex-gay therapy.” This statement is false — completely false. The Assembly of the APA (the legislative body of which I am a member) has asked that ALL position statements be reviewed and updated every five years. We are going through that process now. I sit on the Committee on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues of the APA which is reviewing all of the statements related gay and lesbian issues. I can assure you with absolute certainty that the APA does not have a working group to reassess its view on ex-gay therapy and there is absolutely no desire in my committee to change the current stance. My symposium would have addressed how religion colors therapy with gays and lesbians as a separate dimension from therapy; it would not have posited any substantive change in APA position papers on the subject. I have the advantage of knowing the positions that the panel speakers would have taken. It is unfortunate that I was compelled to withdraw the symposium because I believe that rational people would realize that the ultimate outcome of the symposium would have been less change therapy, not more, if it had been allowed to proceed.
The issue is not over. There are still legions of lesbian and gay people of faith who say to mental health professionals, “I understand that mental health professionals believe I should accept myself as I am; but, if I do that, I am damned.” It is my goal to find a path out of that conundrum. To do so, we have to begin talking respectfully and rationally with people of faith — including some former enemies. It is time to stop preaching to the choir; but rather to enter into the lions’ den — and tame lions. If your are truly committed to Box Turtle’s goals of talking reasonably to our opponents without demonizing them, we are uncannily on the same page and I ask you for your help and guidance with this project.
David Scasta, M.D., DFAPA
Scasta, D. (2007). “John E. Freyer, M.D., and the Dr. H Anonymous Episode.” Ch. 1, in Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: An Oral History. (J. Marino and J. Drescher, Eds.). Haworth Press; New York
Scasta, D. (1998). “Historical perspectives on homosexuality.” Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatry. 2(4):3-17.
Scasta, D. (1998) “Issues in helping people come out.” Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatry. 2(4):87-98.
Scasta, D. (1998) “Moving from coming out to intimacy.” Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatry. 2(4):99-111.
So readers, here’s the question: If you think a symposium with participation from both sides is a good thing (and I think it is), what do you think should be the makeup of such a symposium? I’ll offer my thoughts later today in the comments to this post.
Discuss! I am especially interested in input from those who support the goals of sexual reorientation therapy as well as those who are opposed. But as a corollary, and to ensure people feel safe in providing their thoughts on the subject, I will ask that everyone be respectful per our Comments Policy.
APA Symposium’s Critical Flaw: What About The Ex-Gay Survivors?
This commentary is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the opinion of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
May 13th, 2008
Don’t you hate it when you know that people are talking about you and you’re not there? And don’t you hate it even more when they’re talking about something that’s directly relevant to your experience, and that the whole point of their conversation is to arrive at conclusions about how to deal with you in the future? And you’re not invited to be a part of the conversation?
I know I do. But the now-canceled American Psychiatric Association Symposium “Homosexuality and Therapy: The Religious Dimension” was about to do just that.
The symposium, as the title suggests, was intended to discuss the intersection of faith and therapy, with special consideration to issues surrounding homosexuality. One particular topic was likely to dominate the discussion: efforts to change sexual orientation through therapeutic means. After all, this panel’s formation came as a response to the APA’s decision to form a working group to review its stance on ex-gay therapy.
The panel was organized by Dr. David Scasta, past president of the APA’s Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists. Also participating would have been Dr. Warren Throckmorton, who defends sexual reorientation therapy for those who want it, while recognizing that some forms can be harmful. Together they were to have covered the “therapy” aspects of what might have been a interesting exchange (although it would have been grossly incomplete for reasons I’ll get into in a moment).
But the panel was doomed from the start with the participating of two starkly polarizing figures representing the “religious dimension” of the panel. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Rev. Albert Mohler was to be one participant. He has been a stridently vocal advocate for sexual reorientation therapy, so much so that he even approved of prenatal therapy if such a thing were to exist — which, of course, it doesn’t. What contribution he might have had to a symposium which was supposed to bring “scientists and clinicians” together is very unclear.
Providing “balance” for the other side would have been Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican community. He too is a very odd choice. Bishop Robinson may be famous for his groundbreaking position in the church, but there’s no indication that he has any background for speaking about sexual reorientation therapy. Against Dr. Throckmorton and Rev. Mohler (who often speaks in support of reorientation therapy), Rev. Robinson would have been very much out of his element. No wonder Focus On the Family was so excited to mischaracterize the event as a “debate” between Robinson and Mohler to validate their position on sexual reorientation therapy.
That would have left Dr. Scasta as the only one who would have had even a remote possibility of speaking knowledgeably about reorientation therapy as an LGBT-affirming advocate. But unlike Throckmorton, Scasta has not published anything himself concerning sexual reorientation therapy that I’m aware of. With his background as editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, he may have been able to hold his own just fine, but I’ve not been able to find anything which speaks to his knowledge on this particular subject.
We were about to hear a lot of people talking about people who tried to change their sexual orientation, but it wasn’t clear that we were going to hear a lot of informed people talking about them. And worse, in setting up the symposium they left out the most important perspective: ex-gay survivors. This seems to happen all too often. Christine Bakke, ex-gay survivor and a Beyond Ex-Gay organizer, put the problem this way:
What got lost was the actual people who were doing [the ex-gay ministries]. It’s like a kid in a custody battle.
Well they’re definitely not kids anymore. Over the past year, we’ve seen hundreds of former ex-gays come forward in something that is beginning to resemble a movement. Before now, we all knew they existed — we certainly talked about them a lot — but we are just now starting to hear from them directly in pretty significant numbers — as well as from former ex-gay leaders and spokespersons. The days when they were seen but not heard are clearly over. Their experiences in ex-gay therapy are far too compelling to ignore, and their rapidly growing numbers in just a few short years suggests that many more will follow.
But so far, their existence was been largely overlooked or, worse, dismissed as a stunt. When survivors organized their very first conference in Irvine, California, more than two hundred people showed up. But Exodus International president Alan Chambers responded with snide comments while Focus On the Family spread bold-faced lies about the gathering. Even Dr. Throckmorton cast doubts on the ex-gay survivors motives during their historic, first-ever meeting.
Clearly this new movement has touched a nerve. Before now, the ex-gay movement and their defenders have had a free hand in defining the parameters of debate with very little effective opposition. Beginning in the 1990′s they embarked on a massive television and billboard campaign to convince the world that “ex-gays do exist” and “change is possible.” Exodus International took out full-page ads in national newspapers, and ex-gay ministry leader Michael Johnston appeared in television commercials. This, of course, was before his downfall in 2003 when it was learned that he had been hosting orgies, taking drugs and practicing unsafe sex without disclosing his HIV status.
Dr. Throckmorton himself has contributed to this publicity effort. In 2004, he produced the video “I Do Exist,” which he encouraged churches and schools to show as a counter to National Coming Out Day. In it, he described studies which he claimed documented cases “of people who had changed from completely homosexual to completely heterosexual.” The video featured several ex-gays including Noé Gutierrez, Sarah Lipp, Joanne Highley, and Cheryl and Greg Quinlan. All of these were presented as though they were ordinary, run-of-the-mill ex-gays who had an interesting story to tell.
But Sarah Lipp certainly isn’t an ordinary humble ex-gay picked at random. Her segments were filmed in Chattanooga, where she happens to be the women’s ministry coordinator for the Harvest USA ex-gay ministry, having founded several ex-gay support groups throughout the mid-South. Joanne Highley also leads an ex-gay ministry in New York. She’s an especially interesting character. She describes her lesbian past as having been “under demonic oppression.” She has also said that she heard a voice telling her that she would be “ministering to homosexuals and Jews.” That, of course, is not on the video, where she instead appears as a nice, kindly, and perhaps even a timid older lady.
Also not on the video is Greg Quinlan’s exuberance for manufacturing public confrontations while representing PFOX. He does that when he’s not acting on behalf of his own Dayton-based Pro Family Network. He and his wife Cheryl were very active in promoting Ohio’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment, which is just one example of how ex-gay leaders routinely leverage their own marriages for political causes against LGBT citizens.
In fact, of the five ex-gays appearing in that video, four of them had a personal vocational stake in promoting ex-gay ministries. Not surprisingly, this fits a well-known pattern. In Spitzer’s famous 2003 ex-gay study of people who claimed to have changed, he reported that “the majority of participants (78 percent) had publicly spoken in favor of efforts to change homosexual orientation, often at their church,” and that “nineteen percent of the participants were mental health professionals or directors of ex-gay ministries.” Exodus president Alan Chambers and vice-president Randy Thomas were just two of those participants.
The only person featured in ”I Do Exist” who was not an anti-gay activist was Noé Gutierrez. He proclaimed himself to be “entirely heterosexual” in the video, but after the video’s release he announced that he regretted that his story became a part of “the divisive message of the ex-gay movement.” In a later update to his web site, he described how quickly Exodus International banned him from their annual conferences after he expressed doubts about ex-gay ministries, and some of the harms that he experienced as a fallout from his participation in ex-gay ministries — harms that are remarkably familiar to many ex-gay survivors I’ve talked to over the past year.
Nevertheless, “I Do Exist” is still available for sale on Dr. Throckmorton’s web site.
So yeah, we’ve all heard a lot from ex-gays. They’ve had free reign for nearly two decades to use their lives as examples to argue against advancing the civil rights of their fellow LGBT citizens. And until now, they’ve enjoyed something of a monopoly on the public square. Sure, there have always been activists who argued against sexual reorientation therapy, but many of them — as well-intentioned as they may have been — were often demonstrably uninformed about the movement, and that has diminished both their credibility and their effectiveness.
But now we have real live former ex-gays who, in concordance with their faith, tried to change their lives to fit the only mold their faiths allowed them — only to find themselves outside the false promise of “change” and, worse for some of them, feeling as though they were beyond reconciliation with God. These are people who really tried to bring their lives into congruence with their faiths, and yet this is where their ex-gay experiences left them. Ex-gays and their supporters have been speaking for decades now; it is way past time now for survivors to have a place at the table.
Talking is good, but this forum would not have included the very people who most needed to be heard. Ex-gay survivors really do exist, to borrow a phrase. And until these survivors are invited to speak to those who would presume to speak about them, a critical part of the conversation will remain unheard. And that won’t do anyone any good.
Former Ex-Gay Spokesperson: “I Was Disowned”
May 11th, 2008
Noé Gutierrez has experienced quite a few twists and turns in his young life. He originally appeared in the gay-affirming video “It’s Elementary,” which teaches school children the importance of respecting diversity. Later, he entered the ex-gay movement and was featured in Dr. Warren Throckmorton’s 2004 video “I Do Exist.” In early 2007, he issued a statement regretting that his story became a part of the “divisive message of the ex-gay movement.” Now he talks about how quickly the ex-gay movement has disowned him, an experience that has an eerily familiar ring among other ex-gay survivors I’ve talked to.
In a long but fascinating statement posted on his web site last month, Gutierrez describes his first-hand account of his involvement in the ex-gay movement. He recounts that while the ex-gay movement preaches about love and compassion toward the ex-gay movement, he found little evidence of it:
Forgiveness and reconciliation were a promise held at the far end of a road filled with sacrifice, self-discipline, and a commitment to never practice anything related to homosexuality. The amount of mental/emotional stress these ministries place on their members is insurmountable. Everyone seemed to manage the stress through various coping strategies. The most successful coping strategy seemed to be for someone to remain immersed in ex-gay ideology. You could accomplish this by becoming a member of a weekly support group or joining a ministry team as a volunteer or staff. The more active you were in a ministry the less likely you were to doubt your ability to achieve change. In short, you would have to eat, live and breathe ex-gay ministry.
Other coping mechanisms that Gutierrez observed included same-sex “couples” who were in ex-gay ministry together doing “God’s work,” and others who married an opposite sex partner in relationships which tended to remind him of the “‘best girl friend’ dynamic of the gay community.”
And of course, there was Noé’s own coping mechanism: his big splash as a spokesperson for the ex-gay movement through Dr. Throckmorton’s 2004 video. But as he grew more famous as a result of the documentary, he began to have doubts about what he had done. That’s when he got the full flavor of how quickly the ex-gay movement can turn on its own:
As I began to sever ties to ex-gay ministry I was shocked to see how quickly people turned away their friendship and camaraderie. It was as if overnight my name had been erased from the hearts and minds of all those who supported and “cared” for me. There was no outreach and no attempts at reconciliation. I was for all intents and purposes “disowned”. Since no outreach was made in my direction, I reached out to Exodus International. I signed up to attend their annual conference because a part of me still held the hope that what they believed could be real. After registering for the conference I got word that the leadership of Exodus had serious concerns that my attendance would do “harm” to the progress of other attendees. I could not believe how my change of heart was treated as though it were leprosy with others around me shouting “Unclean!! Unclean!!”
Following his being cast out, Noé struggled with a very serious depression as a result of the isolation and rejection he experienced from those who were his friends. This, too, is a common experience according to other ex-gay survivors I’ve talked with:
…[T]heir acceptance had in my mind been associated with my own sense of being loved and accepted by God. Therefore I not only felt like a failure in the eyes of Exodus but also in the eyes of God. The weight of this burden is one that I do not wish on anybody, but also one I am glad to have experienced because now I know what harm can come from setting people up for this type of failure. If we instill in men and women that their only way to heaven is to repent and commit to a lifelong pursuit of heterosexuality cloaked under terms of “purity” and “holiness”, what will these men and women do when they find the pursuit is never ending? Is it fair to make such an unattainable goal the key to personal and relational success in love and faith? Will they ever truly feel forgiven by God? Can they then ever experience the freedom in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Or are we committing them to a life of shame and chains for which there is no end?
Noé concludes his statement with a beautiful testimony of a faith that was strengthened, not shattered. In many ways he describes a faith that is similar to my own, although I would never have been able to put it into words as beautifully as his. It is a very inspiring statement for everyone who has ever had to face the seemingly impossible task of reconciling their faith and their sexuality. It’s difficult, but not impossible. What’s more, it’s definitely worth it. After all, “we do exist” also.
Meanwhile — and despite all this — “I Do Exist” remains available for sale on Dr. Throckmorton’s web site.
Controversial Ex-Gay Symposium Cancelled
May 2nd, 2008
Gay City News confirmed from Dr. Jack Drescher that the controversial symposium, “Homosexuality and Therapy: The Religious Dimension,” planned for May 5 has been canceled. That confirmation follows earlier reports that one of the panelists, Bishop Gene Robinson, had pulled out of the event.
The symposium was organized by Dr. David Scasta, former president of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists, and was planned to coincide with next week’s American Psychiatric Association conference in Washington, D.C. Controversy over the panel centered around the participation of Dr. Warren Throckmorton, who has been an active proponent of sexual reorientation therapies.
Also scheduled to be part of the panel was Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has previously supported the use of a prenatal test to undo an embryo’s homosexual orientation.
Christian Youth Group Participates in Day of Silence
April 27th, 2008
Warren Throckmorton has a letter from a student at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. She, and the Campus Crusade, participated in the Day of Silence and found it to be rewarding and illuminating.
To those of you reading, I wish I could tell you in person because this day deserves more than a short summary. Yesterday, the LGBT community saw something revolutionary- they saw Christians loving them and more than that, they saw the love of Christ. What would happen if next year, hundreds of Christian students walked around with duct tape in silence?
I have to tell you about how I felt yesterday walking around in silence with duct tape. I felt humiliated at times, and other times proud. You see, everywhere I went, people stared. I felt like a leper, completely stigmatized from people. In fact, I was experiencing what the LGBT community has experienced for decades.
As I was walking to my dorm, I realized why 30% of LGBT students report having missed one or more days of school per year out of fear. Walking by a dorm, someone opened their window and yelled a derogatory statement to me. I was scared. There was such anger in his voice that I was fearful to walk by the dorm again later that day. I was reminded of Lawrence King, a 14 year old who was murdered because of his homosexuality just two months ago.
I am appreciative of the participation of this young woman and others like her who were challenged by the Golden Rule Pledge to join in standing up against violence. I would also love to hear the experience of any gay people who had Golden Rule participants join them.
The Golden Rule Day: Just What We Need — Another Platitude
This commentary is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the opinion of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
April 24th, 2008
The authors at Box Turtle Bulletin do not share consensus on this issue. For another perspective, please see Timothy Kincaid’s commentary.
Tomorrow is the much-talked-about Day of Silence, a commemoration organized by students across the country to illustrate the pressure that many LGBT kids feel to remain silent in the face of violence, torment and general hostility. This year’s Day of Silence is dedicated to the memory of Lawrence King, the 15-year-old Oxnard, California student who was fatally shot twice in the head by a classmate because he was gay.
Anti-gay activists are clamoring for a strong response to the Day of Silence, but all of their suggestions ignore the very real problem of violence against LGBT students. Instead, they’ve turned their outrage over merely bringing up the subject into a political attack against all things gay, threatening to pull their kids from classroom, stage walkouts, and organize noisy protests in front of schools. They say that calling attention to the fact that kids can actually be murdered is “disruptive,” presumably more disruptive than their own disruptions. But I wonder: how disruptive was Lawrence King’s murder to his classmates and family?
There is one response to the Day of Silence which is unique and notworthy. It is Dr. Warren Throckmorton’s call for a simultaneous Golden Rule Day. The idea behind the Golden Rule Day is that “Christian students” should grab the spotlight by handing out cards printed with the Golden Rule. The cards read simply:
This is what I’m doing:
I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31).
The Golden Rule is one of Christendom’s highest tenets. It’s how we all should seek to live. And the Golden Rule represents everything that all of us have ever asked for in our lives, gay and straight alike.
And I am happy to see that one of the expressed statements offered by Dr. Throckmorton in promoting his Golden Rule idea is that
GLBT students and peers as well as other who appear different have been the target of harassment, violence and scorn. We believe this is wrong. The church should lead the way in combating violence and harassment in schools. [Emphasis his]
I’m glad to see that that Dr. Throckmorton has gone straight to the heart of the problem. I believe that he is sincere in his motivation for proposing the Golden Rule Day. I agree that the church should lead the way in combating violence and harassment. And I am happy to see that a few groups are truly taking his suggestions to heart by reaching out to LGBT groups on campus to address this very issue.
I’m glad that Dr. Throckmorton and a few very specific groups have taken on the challenge of discussing anti-gay intimidation and violence. But if people of good faith are willing to talk about anti-gay violence, the Day of Silence was already there as an invitation.
But I am concerned that the Golden Rule Day will go forward without those direct conversations far more often. And under this more likely scenario, I believe there are four critical problems with the Golden Rule Day as it is conceived right now.
A Tool of Division
First, the proposed Golden Rule Day is to be held on the very same conflicting day that LGBT kids are trying to raise awareness to the problems they face, including violence, ridicule, and even death threats. By doing this, the Golden Rule Day too easily becomes a competing counter-event which draws attention away from the very problem that LGBT kids are trying to highlight. At least the organizers of the horribly misnamed “Day of Truth” have the courtesy of holding their event on a different day so as not to appear to infringe upon the Day of Silence. With the Golden Rule Day, LGBT kids don’t even get that.
Second, because the Golden Rule Day is a competing counter event as a response motivated by opposition to homosexuality, it places the Golden Rule itself — one of Western Civilizations most cherished precepts — in opposition to homosexuality. If the Christians are “for” the Golden Rule, then it follows that those who are participating in the Day of Silence aren’t following it. It’s appalling see the Golden Rule become a tool of division, but this is precisely the implications of using the Golden Rule this way.
And this leads directly to my third objection. By framing the Golden Rule Day as a “Christian response” to the Day of Silence, it perpetuates the false Christian vs. Gay dichotomy. I know that it galls a lot of people to suggest that it’s possible to be gay and Christian, but thousands of gay Christians are doing it anyway. But in several parts of the country where Christian identity is paramount and everyone else is worse than terrorists, this can set up a very dangerous dynamic with gay kids caught in the middle — the very dynamic that Dr. Throckmorton seeks to prevent.
And finally — and this, I think, is the biggest problem — the Golden Rule card doesn’t address violence at all. It’s very open ended, allowing it to be exploited in any number of ways. And I do believe it will be exploited because there is a long history of positive sounding messages being turned against us. There is no mention of violence and harassment anywhere on the card, and there is no expectation that such a specific conversation will actually take place.
We’ve heard the “love the sinner, hate the sin” being used to justify the notion that because I really love you, I must condemn your sinful ways, tell everyone you’re caught up in an evil agenda, repeat all sorts of slanders about people like you, and even make harassing phone calls while uttering the most vile accusations.
Too many people believe this is how the Golden Rule works. Incredibly, I’ve even heard non-gay people say that if they were gay, they’d want someone to do everything possible to force them to “stop being gay.” I’m sure Sally Kern believes that pleas to follow the Golden Rule needn’t be directed toward her.
The Golden Rule is one of those wonderful aphorisms which serve more as a Rorschach test than a standard. It can mean whatever anybody wants it to means, allowing it to a provide a “nice” cover for those who have no intention of changing their attitudes or behavior. It’s too easy for the Golden Rule Card to become a sanctimonious, self-righteous and passive-aggressive reaction to the Day of Silence. It allows them to claim the moral high ground — a high ground which by their definition is not a level playing field.
Days and Days of Silence
More than a year ago, I attended a Love Won Out conference in Phoenix put on jointly by Exodus International and Focus On the Family. That’s where I heard Focus’s Mike Haley address anti-LGBT violence in a Q&A session:
I think, too, we also have to be just as quick to also stand up when we do see the gay and lesbian community being come against as the Body of Christ. We need to be the first to speak out to say that what happened to Matthew Shepard was a terrible incident and should never happen again. And that we within the Body of Christ are wanting to protect that community and put our money where our mouth is…
That was a real “Wow!” moment for me. I thought finally, someone gets it. I can’t tell you how encouraged I was to hear Mike Haley say that. It was an ultimate Golden Rule moment. And I can’t begin to describe how disappointed I’ve been since then.
One year later, Lawrence King was killed in cold blood on February 12 in front of his teachers and classmates. Since then, conservative Christians leaders have celebrated seventy-three consecutive Days of Silence.
I’ve searched for Lawrence King’s name on Focus On the Family’s web site and CitizenLink. Guess what? There’s nothing but silence. I’ve searched the Family Research Council’s web site. More silence. Same with American Family Association’s OneNewsNow, the Christian Post, Christianity Today, the Christian Newswire and the Baptist Press. Nobody has raised their voice. Instead, we’ve had days and days of silence all around.
Exodus International, one of the principal sponsors of the so-called “Day of Truth,” has joined this perverse Days of Silence observation as well. I haven’t been able to find any statements of concern or condemnation from Exodus president Alan Chambers, vice-president Randy Thomas, or youth assistant Mike Ensley.
Believe me, I’ve been looking for it because I’d love nothing better than to be able to write a post and say, See? They really are concerned. But none of them could be bothered to put down their instruments of cultural warfare to say, “This was a terrible incident and should never happen again.”
But we do we hear from those who profess to follow the Golden Rule that we are part of an evil agenda, that there is a war between us and them, and that protecting LGBT youth is “worse than the holocaust.” We even hear preachers make light of anti-LGBT violence from their pulpits and threaten teachers who provide a safe place for gay kids to meet.
Oh yes, these people we hear loud and clear. No silence from them at all. And you can bet that each one of them thinks they’re following the Golden Rule.
So forgive me if I see this whole Golden Rule Day in a cynical light. A whole trainload of well-designed cards with yet another scripture quote won’t paper over the problem of anti-LGBT harassment and violence. And using Christianity’s highest ideal as a salve for Golden Rulers’ consciences won’t cut it either. Based on my past experiences with others passing out similar messages, if someone handed me a card like this today I would just throw it in the trash and roll my eyes. I’ve seen too many wonderful statements like this that have turned out to be empty platitudes, and I now find myself suffering from yet another case of déjà vu.
My question is this: what happens the day after everyone has handed out their Golden Rule cards and gone home? Will a conservative Christian leader somewhere suddenly decide to remember Lawrence King? Because I’m still waiting.
If you really want to know how I would have you do unto me, there’s my answer.
Golden Rule Day Gathers Steam
This commentary is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the opinion of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
April 22nd, 2008
NOTE: The authors at Box Turtle Bulletin do not share consensus on this issue. Watch for further commentary.
Friday will be the Day of Silence, observed by schoolkids across the nation to remind their peers that LGBT kids are often silenced by homophobia and acts of violence against them. This year, the DOS will be in honor of Lawrence King, a 15 year old kid shot in the head by a classmate for being gay.
At the initiation of the Day of Silence, anti-gays became furious. They saw this as an effort to encourage students to think favorably of homosexuality. And rather than risk a reduction in the cultural rejection of homosexaulity, they harshly objected to any effort to draw attention to the verbal and physical violence that gay students experience every day.
So they started a rebuttal, the Day of Truth. As Daniel illustrated, there’s little truth expressed by DOT, but that’s not important to them. Their primary purpose is to make certain that gay students know that they reject the DOS’ efforts to reduce violence and discrimination against them.
Further efforts to counter the Day of Silence include a call to parents to remove their children from school that day lest they find merit in the anti-violence message.
Often this response leaves gay people and their friends confused. “Shouldn’t Christians be the first to oppose violence and cruelty?”, they ask.
Well that message is finally finding a home. A joint effort by Warren Throckmorton, psychology professor at Grove City College, and Michael Frey, a director with Campus Crusade, seeks to support the message of non-violence.
Throckmorton and Frey are encouraging conservative Christian students to join the silent protest, but to also let their classmates know that it is because of their Scriptural belief in the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
It now appears that they are finding support from some Christian kids who were a bit uncomfortable with the message of rejection and condemnation.
Some bridges are being built. For instance, a Campus Crusade for Christ group at Slippery Rock recently entered a dialogue with a gay support group on campus and will help lead the call for respectful treatment of all students on campus. Randy Veccia, student leader, says the efforts of both groups will serve “to raise awareness that everyone deserves to be loved.” Christian students in high schools in Greensboro, NC are going to reach out in ways not contemplated before.
And the effort now has the support of Rev. Bob Stith, Gender Issues Strategist for the Southern Baptist convention.
I have long thought Christians were missing a great opportunity by not being more vocal in helping to make our schools safe places for all kids. It doesn’t require that we compromise our beliefs. Indeed it can give us a great opportunity that we might not otherwise have.
What a wonderful opportunity to express our convictions in a way that is positive, loving and redemptive. What a wonderful opportunity to train our children to care about all people, to model the example of Jesus and the woman at the well.
Who knows but what this could even be the beginning of a movement that will turn the tide of school shootings and violence in the hallways?
I have no expectation that any of those involved in this effort will change their theological objection to sexual activity between individuals of the same sex any time soon. Nor do I think that is a reasonable demand to make of them.
Further, I hope that we are all careful that efforts are not made to dis-identify those individuals who are currently being targeted for bullying and violence, thus diminishing the message that these specific people - gay kids – are worthy of decency and love.
But I welcome those conservative Christians kids who are willing to stand up against mistreatment of their gay fellow students, whether or not they are convinced of their salvation. And I believe that as conservative Christian students begin to see their gay classmates as children of God and worthy of respect, and as gay students begin to see conservative Christians as allies rather than oppressors, common ground can be reached.
We can all at some point make our theological arguments on their merits once peace is established. But in the meanwhile lets agree to join forces to fight against the common enemies of violence and brutality.
Dr. Throckmorton Reports on Crosswalk Blog about Jones and Yarhouse Study
September 27th, 2007
In perhaps the most careful and least exaggerated coverage of the study in the Christian Press that I have seen, Dr. Warren Throckmorton talks on his blog on Crosswalk.com about the results of the Jones and Yarhouse Study. He concludes:
In a way, this book has something for everyone. Critics who say change is rare will note that a relatively small percentage made complete shifts. And the authors disclosed that same-sex attractions lingered for many participants. Social conservatives will point out that, for many people, living in accord with traditional religious teachings regarding sexuality does not appear to increase emotional distress. From my perspective, the study highlights the beneficial role that faith and religious community can have in supporting valued identity and behavior.
I would suggest that this report did not seem to identify anyone who made a “complete shift” (I’m still waiting for my copy of the book so this is a tentative claim). Otherwise this conclusion seems true.
EDGE Boston Examines Reparative Therapy
July 25th, 2007
EDGE Boston has published David Foucher’s third part of his four part series on the ex-gay movement. I’m very impressed with this series — he really did his homework. In this especially well-written installment, Foucher examines the pseudo-Freudian theories underlying the ex-gay movement in general and reparative therapy in particular — theories which Robert-Jay Green of the Rockway Institute points out aren’t very well proven. Although Warren Throckmorton doesn’t agree with Dr. Green that these theories have been “disproven” (in Dr. Green’s words), he does broadly agree that these theories aren’t compelling in the way the ex-gay movement uses them:
“When I read the research, what appears to me to be the best rendering of it is that different factors operate differently for different people,” he explains. “In an environment like that, when you don’t know the answer to what causes sexual orientation, it’s really not proper in my opinion to inform clients of anything different than that. The reparative therapists inform clients that their attractions are due to childhood dynamics. The gay-affirming therapists may go the other way and say that sexual orientation is an intrinsic aspect of who you are, it’s because of your genetics or it’s prenatal, and that it would be harmful to try to alter it in some way. I don’t think the research would allow either dogmatic conclusion.”
Fourcher also uncovers what ends up being the very essence of what it means to be ex-gay: the naming and labeling of homosexuality. Jack Drescher is quoted this way:
“You can switch identities, they’re not fixed. But sexual orientation is not as flexible as identities. A person can come out, say they’re gay, change their mind, say they’re not gay, change their mind again, say they’re gay again. It has nothing to do with their perceptual feelings – because people who call themselves gay don’t have all the same sexual feelings, and people who call themselves ex-gay don’t have all the same sexual feelings either. These are just labels.”
But towards the end of the article, where Fourcher discusses the APA’s task force to examine conversion therapies, he gets this whopper from NARTH president Joseph Nicolosi:
“We do not want to diminish the rights or civil liberties of gays or lesbians — they have a right to pursue their lives, their happiness, their dreams; those rights should not be limited in any way,” (Nicolosi) counters. “But for those who are unhappy for any reason, for those who want a conventional sexuality, a conventional marriage, we want to help them achieve that.”
That stated position may not be completely supportable; as of this writing the top article on NARTH’s homepage is titled, “Marriage as Culture: The Case Against ’Same-Sex Marriage’” – a clear indication that NARTH is embroiled, at least philosophically, in more politically-charged issues surrounding gay and lesbian rights.
“People such as Joseph Nicolosi might today claim that they do not take a pathologizing perspective on homosexuality,” (Clinton W. Anderson, Director of the APA’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office) agrees. “But if you look at the history of their careers and what they have advocated, that’s just not a credible position. They do seem to bring a prejudiced attitude towards homosexuality to the table.”
This is turning out to be one of the best articles I’ve seen on conversion therapies in a long time.