I’m on my way to Grand Rapids, Michigan to give a presentation at Grand Valley State University on the harm caused by the “ex-gay” industry. My speech, followed by a panel discussion, is in response to Focus on the Family’s traveling road show, Love Won Out, which will be in town on Saturday. Having countered several of these conferences, I must confess, I still don’t understand what point they are trying to make.
If Focus on the Family’s goal is to convert gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people into evangelical Christians, they are doing a lousy job. It seems convincing gay people to end their relationships is a far higher priority to this ministry than having gay people develop personal relationships with Jesus Christ.
For every guilt-ridden homosexual who temporarily falls under their spell, they lose hundreds, if not thousands, of gay people who view their conversion program as intolerant. If your ministry causes many gay people to write off not just Christianity, but all religion, by what measurement can you consider your evangelizing a success?
At Love Won Out, speakers go to great lengths to profess their deep concern over the mental and physical well being of homosexuals. It turns out, however, that the anti-gay sentiment expressed at these conferences may be hazardous to the health of GLBT people.
A new Emory University study concludes that the bans on same-sex marriage pushed by Focus on the Family can be tied to a rise in the rate of HIV infection. The scientists found that a constitutional ban on marriage equality raised the rate by four cases per 100,000 people.
“We found the effects of tolerance for gays on HIV to be statistically significant and robust, they hold up under a range of empirical models,” says Hugo Mialon, an assistant professor of economics. “Intolerance is deadly,” Mialon said. “Bans on gay marriage codify intolerance, causing more gay people to shift to underground sexual behaviors that carry more risk.”
Earlier this year, a study by San Francisco State’s Caitlin Ryan concluded that “teens who experienced negative feedback (when they came out) were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide, nearly six times as vulnerable to severe depression and more than three times at risk of drug use.”
So, if Love Won Out is truly concerned about the health of gay people, particularly teenagers, it will transform into a gay affirming ministry. To continue down their destructive path of judgmental condemnation is senseless and significantly harmful to the very GLBT people that Focus purports to want to help.
Of course, Focus on the Family will insist that they love gay people and just want to help those who are unhappy. But, isn’t it a conflict of interest when you lobby to pass anti-gay laws that make gay people miserable and then offer yourself up as the panacea to the pain? Is it not hypocritical to sponsor a conference supposedly about love, where the main speaker is Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International?
Chambers hosts a Christian television show, Pure Passion, which pollutes the airwaves by repeatedly calling gay people “sexually broken” and “perverse.” Exodus also sells “Pursuing Sexual Wholeness” a book authored by Andy Comiskey that says, “Satan delights in homosexual perversion.” Such pronouncements are often accompanied by exorcisms given by churches affiliated with ex-gay ministries. Obviously, such extreme actions are anathema to creating a welcoming church environment for GLBT people.
Focus on the Family also claims its conferences are for parents, friends, family members or ministry leaders who want to “lovingly reach out with uncompromised faith.”
Genuine love, of course, requires making the very compromises and sacrifices that Love Won Out is telling people are unnecessary. Rejecting a friend or family member’s innate sexual orientation as sinful and defective, rarely leads to a healthy relationship based on trust and mutual respect.
Finally, the investigative reporter Thomas Maier just released a groundbreaking book, “Masters of Sex.” In it, he reveals that the famed sex research team, Masters and Johnson, had fabricated claims of curing gay people in their 1979 book, “Homosexuality in Perspective.” Given this vital new information, why hasn’t Focus on the Family taken the opportunity to review and question the validity of its program? Wouldn’t that be the moral course of action to take?
The hard truth is, Focus on the Family’s leaders are only capable of loving people exactly like themselves, which explains their tremendous efforts to remake gays in their image. While their splashy road show may get high marks for good theatre, it’s ultimately futile because their transparent version of “love” rarely wins converts and succeeds only at convincing most gay people to run out of the church door.