(Weekly Column)

RHN 300x711 A Motley Crew of CrackpotsAlan Chambers told the truth and his base went bananas. A schism formed after the president of Exodus International, the world’s largest “ex-gay” organization, told the Gay Christian Network (GCN) in January, “the majority meaning 99.9% of them [ex-gays] have not experienced a change in their orientation.”

He exacerbated anger within his ranks in June when he told the Associated Press that he does “not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included.”

This week, the .01% of allegedly changed “ex-gays” formed a splinter group called The Restore Hope Network. (RHN) Although, it’s more like the “Store Network”, with most of the entrepreneurial Exodus defectors making a living by peddling “pray away the gay” products.

Calling this cabal of crazies a “clown car” is too generous, because they are nothing short of a full-fledged spectacle. These are a collection of delusional individuals, some with shady pasts, who believe that homosexuality is perverse and deAnn Paulk3 A Motley Crew of Crackpotsmonic and that God hands out miracles like He’s a divine Pez dispenser.

Anne Paulk, (pictured in ad) for example, believed that God once miraculously placed a lost contact lens in her pocket and personally told her that she was pregnant by forming a cloud that looked like a baby. In terms of restoring hope, this is how Paulk “overcame” her lesbianism:

“I would start to experience a sexual response…So, I’d look out the car window and say something like, ‘Gosh, Lord, there’s a tree out there! That tree is green and it has leaves on it. It’s got brown bark.’ I would fix my mind on anything and everything to distract myself….Over time that process made me mentally disciplined enough to displace all lesbian thoughts, period.”

This technique doesn’t seem to be working very well where I live in Vermont. There are trees every two feet and lesbians every five. Furthermore, what kind of hope does Paulk really offer? I photographed her “ex-gay” husband, John, in a gay bar in 2000. Last week, he moved out of their Portland, Oregon house after dying his hair blond and, according to sources, frequenting multiple gay bars. It seems that her life story is more pathetic than prophetic, and certainly not one to emulate.

David Kyle Foster was a former suicidal male prostitute who was involved in “heavy drug use.” Now he has become a fundamentalist Christian who lovingly refers to homosexuals as “sexually broken people” and “perverse.” In his prayers, he asks God to “destroy the strongholds of the enemy and take back ground for the kingdom of God.”

The “ex-gay” activist Stephen Black is an extremist who runs Oklahoma’s First Stone ministry and cavorts with some of America’s most vicious homophobes. He has supported Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern, who has compared LGBT people to terrorists. Earlier this year, he attended a church talk by author Scott Lively and nodded in agreement and applauded when the speaker blamed the Holocaust on the LGBT community. I know, because I was inside that church and saw his reaction with my own eyes.

It strikes me as odd that “ex-gay” author Joe Dallas is part of this group, considering his views mirror that of Alan Chambers. On April 5, 1990, he told the Los Angeles Times, “No one has ever left therapy saying, ‘Wow, I have absolutely no homosexual thoughts.’”

Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon, an associate professor of New Testament at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, probably suffers from an acute form of logorrhea. I once saw him speak, and after five minutes of his droning, I felt like I had washed down a fistful of Quaaludes with a keg of Nyquil. And whatever you do, never e-mail this ideologue, because he is likely to return your simple inquiry with a verbose anti-gay screed the size of a Harry Potter book.

In 1973, Frank Worthen co-founded “ex-gay” ministry Love in Action along with Kent Philpott and John Evans. Philpott wrote a book, The Third Sex, which falsely claimed a number of LGBT people had succeeded at sexual conversion. The book was taken off the shelves after threat of legal action from the people misleadingly profiled. Evans dropped out of this ministry after his best friend committed suicide because he could not convert to heterosexuality. Worthen is best known for pretending, in order to keep a copacetic tale, that the other two co-founders do not exist.

After contracting anal warts and a host of other STD’s, Andy Comiskey discovered God and founded Desert Stream ministries. Comiskey wrote, “Satan delights in homosexual perversion.” However, judging by the shocking number of sexual scandals within his own ministry, it seems that Satan feels quite at home at Desert Stream.

Welcome to the circus. Bring some popcorn, because this motley crew of crackpots should be quite entertaining. At least when they aren’t busy ruining lives.