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Endeavoring to define myself outside of a "job title." I'm a nomad of sorts who fell in love with technology, activism, and helping others. I run a web & media consulting firm, have a blog specifically for activists & non-profits, and travel often. I love talking about theology, politics, and social change. I love doing something about it even more. I also like to be a well-rounded and fully present person. That's why I write here. Connect with me on twitter

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Ex-Gay Controversy

A growing number of Christians are realizing that the traditional treatment that homosexuals have received from the church is appalling and unacceptable. For too long they have conducted themselves in a decidedly unChristlike manner. It is uplifting that individuals and communities are looking for ways to improve. Unfortunately, some of them are embracing the ex-gay movement which, while it stresses respecting and loving homosexuals, also stresses their ability to change. While change is not a prerequisite for their love, it is the expected outcome. The GLBT community is still being told that if they don't "repent" they are doing something wrong. It seems the message hasn't changed that much at all. I offer below my thoughts about the work of a particular ex-gay author and speaker, twenty-something Chad Thompson.

First off, I would like to say that sincerely hope that Chad has come to a place in his life where he is at peace with himself, it seems from his talk that he is. There are far too many GLBT Christians in our country and in our world who never find peace and Chad and I agree that this is simply unacceptable. I can't, and won't, debate the validity of Chad's own experiences or the convictions he holds. I trust that he is coming from a place of honesty, genuinely seeking to do good.

Chad states (on his website) that "For Christians to be effective, we must use not only our words but also our hands, feet, minds, hearts, voices, time, resources, and attention to show our love to people who identify as LGBT." That is such a terrific goal! However, I am concerned that Chad's stated objective is not being met by his actions.

What Chad is doing is taking his own personal experience struggling with his homosexuality, generalizing it to apply to every single homosexual, and then going and talking to heterosexual Christians about it. I bet Chad spends time meeting and speaking with individuals who are questioning their orientation, but he makes a living as an author and public speaker. And at most places, his audiences are predominately heterosexual.

In the end, his message is that GLBT are NOT as they should be and that they can—and should—change. It is the same old condemnation repackaged with a shiny new cover. In not so many words, he's telling Christians that it is OK to continue to look down upon their GLBT brother and sisters. Extensive research has shown that human sexuality is not as changeable as Chad makes it out to be. He says that God will change them if they ask. What happens when to the ones that don't change? What happens to the prayerful and faithful GLBT Christians who do not experience a change in their orientation? The loathing and self-hatred will still be there. They will still think that they are doing something wrong. They will still feel rejected. They will still feel inadequate when they are God's children; fearfully and wonderfully made. Chad is preaching to straight Christians that every single GLBT person can change and that anyone who hasn't simply doesn't want to. I can only imagine how empty that must sound to a Christian struggling in isolation in the closet against something he or she has no control over. This is not a loving message.

Chad spends considerable time discussing what makes a person homosexual. In a similar train of thought, I'm interested in what makes a person an ex-gay. Chad was raised in a violently homophobic household. He was told that being gay was vile, sinful, and damning. It is no wonder that he wanted to change! The real travesty is not his sexuality but rather that he lives in a world which tells him that he must try to change who he is in order to be accepted. I only wish that rather than rushing to condemnation of himself, Chad would spend some time investigating where these messages of "there is something wrong with you" are coming from.

It is unfortunate that Chad never goes into any depth about why homosexuals should try to change their orientation. He does say that he "knew it wasn't what God wanted" but was it what God wanted or was it what the people around him wanted? He couldn't even check out books from the library for fear of discovery. If Chad was raised in an environment that allowed him to investigate these voices, would he still feel that he needed to change?

Rather debating whether or not change is possible (and as every single person is different, I think any attempt to define what causes a person to be homosexual or what constitutes change is probably impossible) I believe that it is more important to address the underlying question of "Why are GLBT people being told that they need to change?"

I would challenge everyone to take a moment to reflect on that question. In the end, it is far more important than any statistic or survey or "success story". Before offering solutions, let's make sure that we are answering the correct question.

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