Straight to Jesus – T. Erzen

STJ(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Evangelicals still claim that homosexuality can be cured, despite all the evidence to the contrary. They have to believe this because to do otherwise would mean that their (narrow interpretation of the) Bible was wrong.

This is an excellent piece of work by a dispassionate scholar. The trouble is that some gay-converters such as Prof. Glynn Harrison, psychiatrist who chooses to believe and argue against the views of his professional association claim that this is merely ‘anecdotal evidence.’ (A phrase he used in a recent Church Of England report on homosexuality) I suppose the views of his patients/clients are also dismissed as ‘anecdotal’

The leaders of ex-gay ministries said (p. 14) that most ‘members’ continue to have gay sex but on a one-night stand basis – they are considered to be ‘ex-gay’ if they repent – so they are caught in a fall-repent-fall cycle – which is what I think S. Paul meant by ‘bondage to the law of sin and death’. The leaders went on to say (p. 15) that this presents a direct challenge to the conservative view that a person must can and move from homo to heterosexuality.

A leader who’d now deserted the enterprise said (p. 34): After dealing with hundreds of people, I never met one who went from gay to straight. Even if you manage to alter someone’s sexual behaviour, you cannot change his or her true sexual orientation. If you got them away from the Christian limelight and asked them, ‘Honestly now, are you saying that you are no longer homosexual and you are now hetrerosexually oriented?’ Not one person said, ‘Yes I am actually now heterosexual.’

The conclusion of the 6-year long (full time) study is (p. 132) 178 out of the 202 men not only failed to change but felt harmed by the procedure.

For those who are gay and Christian, the ex-gay movement provides a fellowship – gays don’t understand or like Christians because they are the enemy. Christians hate gays. The trouble is that this fellowship locks people into ma vicious circle. They lapse, repent and lapse again. This cannot make for lasting relationships because such relations would be sinful. So the person is stuck in immaturity.

If these ‘expert’ groups cannot ‘cure’ gays, why do some churches still claim ‘cures’? Presumably they stick to their bibles rather than look at the evidence.

The movement is riven with scandals: in 1981, after a major scandal that involved accusations of Kent’s sexual impropriety with his own adopted daughter, the congrega­tion and board ousted Philpott from Open Door.

Even when a famous ex-gay gets involved of ‘scandal’, he tries to get out of it: Paulk maintained, even his decision to enter the bar could not be blamed on his own volition. Satan had been working in his life, he said, and gay activists were calling and threatening to ruin him.

Some make outrageous and unsubstantiated claims. One leader: also coined the term “ex-gay” as a way to describe the conversion process. “But I am a homosexual, really, even though I lay claim to my new life. The old hasn’t passed away. That’s man’s thinking, not God’s. God sees us as ex-gay, but He also sees us as struggling and dealing with the old nature with its spiritual warfare.”…. . “There is no such thing as a cure,” Curtis explained. “You learn how to better manage your life, thoughts, and desires and you achieve a sense of wholeness and a better relationship with God.”

The reason why some see homosexuality as a sickness to be cured is that they believe it to be the result of trauma: Jeanette Howard revealed her own sexual abuse by a relative and the lack of attention she received from her father as the root causes of her homosexuality.

Most of what Jesus said about the family was hostile, yet many Christians idolise ‘family values’.

Living in an ex-gay house is another closet: than classical) is not permitted in the house. In addition, the men can only watch videos that are G or PG, and they are encouraged to rent Christian videos from the local Christian bookstore. They cannot use the Internet because of the availability of pornography, chat rooms, and other places to meet men. The reason for these restrictions is Frank’s inherent distrust of the influ­ence of popular culture as a potential “stumbler,” a slippery slope that might lead to a sexual fall. Frank believes that television and radio can contaminate the purity of mind they are attempting to achieve and can even have potentially satanic influences. He writes, “Our desire is that the live-in program be a refuge from the world.”…. Although New Hope is only forty minutes away, San Francisco is strictly off-limits, and because they rarely visit, the city, barely visible across the Golden Gate Bridge, has an aura of danger and allure. When Curtis finally met me for a long-awaited shopping excursion in downtown San Francisco at the end of the year, he seemed slightly disappointed. Lessons from the workbook and hearsay had instilled the idea that as soon as a person entered the city, offers of sex and other temptations would abound…. Men in the program are also forbidden to have contact with friends who are still “in the lifestyle,” or living as gay men. Frank writes, “Influence from friends who are not walking with the Lord can be discouraging and harmful to you.”

If you’re not screwed up before going in, you sure will be later on.

These Christians are deeply sexist: “The masculine faces the world: it is oriented to things; it explores; it climbs. Its energy is directed toward the physical: measuring, moving, building, conquering.” In opposition, the feminine “looks inward toward feeling, sensing, know­ing in the deepest sense. Its energy is directed toward relationships, coming together, nurturing, helping…. the basis of gender roles is in a person’s physical body; gender roles stem from biological and physical characteristics like differences in strength and brain struc­ture in men and women; God created these differences, and therefore men and women should act accordingly. He even cited studies to prove that women’s brains are different from those of men and therefore func­tion in a more integrated manner….. muscular Christianity around the turn of the century that transformed images and ideas about Jesus from a long-haired effemi­nate man to a robust, muscular, carpenter figure, Payne sees Jesus as a masculine workman and role model.’ Frank teaches the men at New Hope that “masculinity equals Christ, Christ equals masculinity.”…/ One afternoon toward the end of phase two, when Curtis and I were walking back from lunch in downtown San Rafael, a truck stopped alongside us at a red light, and the driver emitted an enormous belch. Curtis turned to me with disgust and said, “And you wonder why I have trouble getting in touch with my own masculinity.” Drew and Curtis often questioned me about things that supposedly masculine men did, like sexually harass women. What did men say when they harassed women? Did they yell? Whistle? Drew told us about a married man in the program several years earlier who would lean on the porch railing of the New Hope apartments and yell at women as they walked by. Drew and Curtis joked that to become heterosexual, they would have to learn how to harass women, too…… One day when he was feeling particularly down, he spoke about how he was never going to enjoy the camping trips on the weekends, and that he would always be more interested in hair and fashion. The ‘only thing he ever felt good at was styling and cutting hair, and he dreamed of returning to Canada to be a hairdresser…. In his book, Medinger advises to practice some of the traditional male courtesies to women, like opening doors, standing when a woman enters the room, and helping with her chair when she sits down. Whereas Medinger counsels, “Start to treat her as ‘the weaker vessel,’ who is deserving of special honor and consideration,”

If only homophobic parents knew how responsible they were: The most traumatic experience of my life would be having to tell my mom I’m positive.” However, rather than attributing his behavior to something intrinsic in gay men, he acknowledged how much the disapproval of his family and the guilt it engendered in him contributed to his behavior. Speaking of his estranged mother and step­father, he explained, “The only thing that would make that difference would be if my parents were to say, ‘You know what, Jared, we love and accept you no matter how you live your life, and you’re always wel­come in our home.'” He continued, “If I could hear those words from my parents it might change things. I would be open to a long-term rela­tionship, to embracing that.”

Elizabeth Moberly is a heroine for many Christians. She belongs to the Eastern Orthodox Church so isn’t an evangelical, but here book Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic argues that men become gay because they had a distant father (what man over 50 didn’t – that’s how fathers were in the past) and a distant mother. So gay men have to befriend older males to make up for their father-deficit. She doesn’t validate ex-gay movements though.

Jesus once asked a paralysed man if he wanted to be healed. I was reminded of this when I read: As the testimonies demonstrate, nothing is too private or painful share, and it is those with the most unsettling tales who become most sought-after speakers. Yet just as the idea of recovery people to focus exclusively on the self, to a certain extent, ex-gays claim to “brokenness” as a primary source of identity…… By focus­sing on individual stories of pain, the testimonies placed the blame on individual’s choice rather than on the aspects of society that make it dif­ficult to live as a gay man or woman. By making Jesus the only person who can transform a person, this process also removed any sense of agency from the individual, negating his potential power to transform the structures around him.

The participants in these ex-gay groups are not unlike the Roman Catholic priest who gets off on want people say in confession: New Hope requires that the person testifying do so in the most excruciating detail. “It is no longer a question of simply saying what was done—the sexual act—and how it was done,”

 A breakthrough came when Jerry Falwell: On National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day, October 11, 1999, …..reversed his stance of a dozen years that homosexuality is the scourge of Christian­ity and told the audience and gay protesters in an unusually conciliatory manner, “Homosexuality is not more sinful than heterosexual promis­cuity.”

These movements have flourished in the UK but have largely folded when their founders, e.g. Jeremy Marks of Courage, admit they were wrong. It is different in the Sates because: Roughly, fifty million adult Americans agreed that “the Bible is the actual Word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.”

The author is to be congratulated for her wide reading and her knowledge of Christianity and of homosexuality from the outside.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] is like Erzen’s study of ex-gay ministries ‘Straight to Jesus’ in story form. Indeed, the very name of the institution described is the same. The ‘treatment’ […]

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