Focus on the Family president and CEO Jim Daly has embarked on an ambitious publicity campaign to soften the image of his organization. This should not be a difficult task considering the former man in charge, James Dobson, was a bitter culture warrior who once said that marriage equality would “end the earth.” (Note to Dobson: It’s still blue and spinning, your climate change policies not withstanding)
As part of his kinder and gentler rebranding effort, Daly has said:
“It’s fair to say we have concentrated on some things that have distracted from the main thing, which is the Gospel of Christ.”
In his latest book, ReFocus: Living a Life that Reflects God’s Heart, Daly writes that while he still believes homosexuality, same-sex marriage and abortion are wrong, Christian conservatives need to realize they “may not win many battles” and should “not [be] engaging to win” but to “reflect God’s glory.”
I have one question for Daly: Does deliberately misleading your followers by omitting critical facts reflect God’s glory?
What I am referring to is an interview with “ex-gay” activist Anne Paulk on Focus on the Family’s online magazine CitizenLink. The interviewer offers Anne a series of softball questions about her founding the Restored Hope Network — yet never mentions her divorce with her formerly “ex-gay” husband, John. Here is the set-up for the puff piece by “reporter” Bethany Monk:
Late last month, a Christian ministry dedicated to helping people with unwanted same-sex attractions closed its doors after nearly 40 years. Mainstream media outlets used Exodus International’s closure as an opportunity to denounce both its previous work and similar ministries.
What was left out, however, were the voices of those who have found hope and transformation out of homosexuality. Those affiliated with Exodus told CitizenLink that its president, Alan Chambers, changed the organization’s message over the years.
Anne Paulk — who sought and received help from Exodus some years ago — is one of those voices. Recently, she helped begin the Restored Hope Network to help others who have unwanted same-sex attractions. Although she is saddened by Exodus’ closure, she remains hopeful and encouraged by the work of her ministry and others like it. She took some time to chat with CitizenLink about Restored Hope and the transformation she continues to see in those who seek and want help.
Monk asks Paulk: How would you respond to those who claim that people with same-sex attractions cannot change?
There are people that claim others cannot leave homosexuality. They claim they are born that way, they are stuck with it and they need to accept it. I have heard this from Christian counselors and churches. Quite honestly, I find that to be in error, because I know so many people who have successfully left homosexuality, including me.
Paulk then uses the junk science of reparative therapy to justify her junk theology:
Each one of us is wounded and hurt in different ways, but the person with same-sex attraction usually has some pretty specific wounds with their same-sex parent, their peers, their self-identity and their understanding of who the opposite gender is. They usually have some childhood wounding. There is a lot going on and a lot of care is needed.
The interviewer then asks: Can you explain your history with Exodus?
I have been involved with Exodus for at least 25 years. I first came as someone seeking help from leaving homosexuality. Five years after, I received enough care and healing in my soul to be interested in men, to get married and to start a family. I was on the board of Exodus; I have been a media and national representative for Exodus; I have been a speaker for Exodus, and most of my friends have been in Exodus for many years. I know the founders of Exodus, the teachers, the former presidents and the regional directors. These are people that have been directly impacted by this change and the tragedy that has occurred.
This is the point where Focus on the Family and Daly should be ashamed of themselves. Not once in the entire interview was Anne’s husband John mentioned. For the unacquainted, John and Anne were the poster couple for praying away the gay. John was the founder of Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out “ex-gay” road show and the couple wrote a book by that name. Together, they appeared on the cover of Newsweek.
The embarrassingly shallow and dishonest article doesn’t mention that John has come out of the closet and renounced “ex-gay” programs. He has apologized to the LGBT community. He has divorced Anne. Here is John’s message to the LGBT community and the media:
For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the “ex-gay movement,” where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not.
So in 2003, I left the public ministry and gave up my role as a spokesman for the “ex-gay movement.” I began a new journey. In the decade since, my beliefs have changed. Today, I do not consider myself “ex-gay” and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.
I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past, Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused.
From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God.
Today, I see LGBT people for who they are–beloved, cherished children of God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed or thrown away by God or the church.
I want to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who encouraged me to take this initial step of transparency. Even while promoting “ex-gay” programs, there were those who called me on my own words and actions. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but they have helped me to realize this truth about who I am.
This is a life transition that has been and will continue to be, challenging. Sadly, my marriage of 20 years is in the process of ending. I want to take the time to make sure my next actions come from a place of truth and authenticity. Therefore, I’m drastically limiting my public engagement until my own personal life can be settled. After that I eagerly anticipate giving back to the community.
Finally, I know there are still accounts of my “ex-gay” testimony out there being publicized by various groups, including two books that I wrote about my journey. I don’t get any royalties from these publications, and haven’t since I left the ministry nearly ten years ago. I discourage anyone from purchasing and selling these books or promoting my “ex-gay” story because they do not reflect who I am now or what I believe today.”
Really, Focus on the Family? Given that the man who just apologized was the founder of your damn program, don’t you think it was worth mentioning at least once? Seriously?
Daly’s approval of this bogus article shows enormous disrespect and downright contempt for Focus on the Family’s members. He is essentially telling them that they are too stupid or too immature to handle all the relevant facts. And, in doing so, Daly severely damages his own credibility as a leader and a Christian. He comes across as insincere, deceitful, and a cunning extremist who is engaged in a slick public relations campaign to pull the wool over the media’s eyes.
Truth Wins Out has tried very hard to give Daly a chance to succeed at transforming his organization. We have given him the benefit of the doubt and lessened our criticism of the group. However, the Anne Paulk rubbish that posed as a legitimate article has eroded our trust and made us question the motives of Daly. He can either be a liar or a real Christian, but he can’t be both. It is time that he makes up his mind on who he truly is and what he genuinely stands for.
If Focus on the Family wants to be taken seriously as a mainstream Christian organization, it has to stop deliberately misleading its own members and stop foisting poisonous propaganda about the failed “ex-gay” myth into public discourse. Given his extreme makeover, we expected better of Daly and he let us down.
Mr Daly must clean up his shop, or we will reduce his expensive public relations efforts to rubble. We will not tolerate a cynical two-faced AstroTurf campaign that falsely bestows mainstream credentials on Focus on the Family that they have not earned.