Friday, January 8, 2010

Ex-gay? Ex-loving.

Chances are that if you are a person who is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender - and you have struggled within the church - chances are, somewhere along the way you heard these words: "We love you but hate your sin." Nothing directed toward people who identify as LGBT could be more disingenuous, more filled with hubris than combining love for another with hatred of some part of their being.

Hamartia or ἁμαρτία, the Greek word for sin frequently used in the Second or New Testament has the meaning of "missing the mark." The idea that distance from God is what needs to be shortened in our faith and personal journeys removes the dialectical premise that Love either replaces sin or leaves one in the throes of sin, pitied and "loved" from a distance.

It is this play of the fear of sin on people and their faith that funds those out to eliminate homosexuality from the face of the earth, or to simply, sadly, leave the "sinners" behind.

The ex-gay and reparative therapy movement is smart and subtle enough not to alienate most people, since more and more we all know someone who is family and gay. So rather than take on families and love within families, these groups rally together in huge megalithic collaborations and create just enough doubt, enough fear, and enough compassion to justify peoples’ oppression of anyone who is LGBT that does not abide by or follow their path. And, are you surprised that the oppression is all couched in the shameful use of the love of Jesus Christ to achieve such goals?

Quoting from Kristin J. Temba's response to Professor Mark Achtemeier's "And Grace Will Lead Me Home," in which he tells his story of transition to supporting folk who are LGBT, Kristin outlines the somewhat frightening association and collaboration of well-funded groups out to turn Christian America straight. “One by One,” the group of which Kristin is a part, was founded in 1994. Since that time, it has found partnership with, among other anti-gay groups, “Love Won Out” (Focus on Family) and NARTH (National Association for Research of Therapy of Homosexuality). What none of these groups acknowledges is that the success rate for reparative therapy, according to the APA, is in the 1-2% range. What none of these groups acknowledge is that their primary therapeutic models, however they are designed, are about suppressing feelings. What none of these groups acknowledge is that public leaders of the ex-gay groups have themselves been unable to maintain their ex-gay status, often resigning in disgrace and then being replaced the next day, as if nothing had happened. (I won't name folk here, that's not my intention. A simple search will find the information, if you are interested.)

Also what none of these groups will acknowledge is what any person who is LGBT already knows, that there are people trapped in heterosexual relations because of pressure to conform. This is what the ex-gay movement is willing to accept and misrepresent so that they can create enough doubt in the public's mind to stop our church from being fully welcoming, without special caveats, to our sisters and brothers who are LGBT.

If we wait to be convinced of what we should do, change will not occur. That is the strategy of any group seeking to maintain the status quo - "Keep the debate going, have more studies, approach justice - but don't quite embrace it, and above all keep the church free of LGBT folks by whatever means, to whatever degree you can, especially from ordination, especially from marriage. Be willing to scare people into condescension without any guilt or consequences. Surround yourself in God to hold your assailants quiet.”

It is interesting that in the discussions taking place around the country about overtures to delete or change G-6.0106b that the ex-gay groups, well-funded, well-practiced, and so smooth...are in the mix of the discussion. To me, it's like bringing creationism and evolution into this critical reformation. And if you don't think that's an effective strategy, how many of you 100% believe in evolution? I would bet that there is some hedging of that for many that comes out as, "Well, you know, God can do whatever God wants to do. So, I'm pretty sure, but who knows." Just a little doubt, the smallest of doubt - the least of fear - has always been used to oppress others. This is no different.

I believe we have been given the wonderful ambiguity of God’s great creation, not to parse or compartmentalize it. It has been given to us to embrace. All the rhetoric, all the papers, all the Gagnons and Tembens and others who create the doubt - are only able to do so because we allow them. And, I am certainly not out to try and change any of these folk. But why are they so intent on changing me and others like me? Homophobia comes to mind.

It has all gotten so complicated that the answer is simple, really. What do we believe and where are we willing to stand in finally making this church a welcoming church and model for the Good News and others to follow. Are we so afraid of risk, that we are unable to see that our membership, relevance, and yes - treasuries, are all in decline because of our fears toward our sisters and brothers and tenacious embrace of the status quo? Are we so blind that we don’t see how these actions of exclusion make us complicit in the violence they engender? Is it any wonder people flee us...

You know, when Jesus set his face to Jerusalem, I am one of those who believe that he didn't know exactly what was going to happen. However, I do believe he knew it was going to be serious and dangerous. Yet, he went. He stayed on the path because of his love for us -- all of us -- and the attempt to shorten the distance, the hamartia, between all of us and God.

It's my belief, that any vote against the deletion of G-6.0106b is the opposite of Jesus' path that we profess to follow.

When did we come to be so fearful of one another? How did we forget that being Christian was not about "ex-ing" anyone, but about risking it all to love one another, in the name of Jesus Christ?

Ray Bagnuolo

January 8, 2010