In the wake of all of this, I need to go back and read stories like this one. I believe by the grace of Jesus that even last weeks wounds can be healed.
George Hochsprung, the husband of slain Principal Dawn Hochsprung, spoke to CNN this morning. I watched through eyes brimming with tears as he talked of his wife, almost like she was going to come back. That common tragic disconnect that occurs in the wake of such unbelievable devastation. In the interview, he spoke of his life no longer making much sense. Being 20 years older than his wife, he never imagined a day that he wouldn’t be with her. He always thought he’d go first. He says he should’ve gone first.
As the people of Newtown pick up the pieces from last weeks tragedy, I am reminded of the routine feelings that keep survivors up at night. The parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues, collectively crying out through sobs
It should’ve been me! It should have been me.
If they could, if it were possible, they would go back and take the bullets for their babies.
If they could, if it were possible, they would happily hand over their lives for their loved ones.
In the play Les Miserable there is a musical number called “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” A powerful lyric sent shivers down my spine in light of last week.
“Oh my friends, my friends forgive me that I live and you are gone. There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain that goes on and on.”
This is not simply a dark hour before the dawn, this isn’t just a trial. Losing a child and a wife and a colleague cannot and will not make sense to us because it violates every version of reality we cling to. It is incomprehensible. It is impossible for anything to ever be the same again. And quite often it leads to feelings of guilt of sustained life.
While thinking and praying about this, I was struck by the goodness and the Godliness in survivor’s guilt. Wishing one’s life away in the stead of another is the very definition of love. A love that is beautifully bold and knows no limits. A love that defies logic The very sacrificial love that melts our hearts before Christ. That sacrifice of it all with nothing held back is the heartbeat of the gospel message.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
– John 15:13 (KJV)
For his sons and daughters
For her husband
For a student
For a stranger
For the gunman himself
George’s wife did just that. She gave herself over to the barrel of the gun to protect the children in her care. Reports have come out that as the teachers urged her to come with them and the children into hiding, she kindly refused, resolving to try to talk the man down. A holy act of sacrifice.
We can ask every question in the book as to why this happened. How it can be prevented. How evil threads its way through this world.
But I believe when we are brought down in agony by evil, what is most true about our spirits is what rises to the surface. Survivor’s guilt is the lingering reminder of a love so real. A love that death cannot remove. A love that is unselfish, caring less about our own well being than that of our loved one. A love some would say is ludicrous.
A father willing to walk the plank for his little girl emulates Christ. A mother making herself a human shield instead of coming home to her kids is the bedrock of kingdom come.
Praying for Grace and Peace in Newtown today,
I remember remaining silent as I sat huddled with friends around the TV. The news had just interrupted our show to tell us that Seal Team Six had taken out Osama Bin Laden. For the next half hour my buddies tried to one up each other on what they would do if it was them in front of Bin Laden. How they would bloody his nose a bit first, maybe waterboard him, and then kill him as slowly and painfully as possible.
It was a lot of weird feelings. I knew exactly what Bin Laden did. He was responsible for deaths of thousands of innocent lives. He was unrepentant and smug about it. He believed that God was on his side.
And yet, I still found myself torn. Two distinctly different forces were pulling me in opposite directions. While I should have been happy that “justice” was served, all I could think about were crowds outside the White House dancing and singing. The jeers and Huckabee tweeting “rot in hell Osama”, all of it, made me feel so sick. There was no peace to be found that night. Collectively, we had found a reason to let our inner beasts roar. We desecrated prayer. At least the ones people mentioned on facebook. I saw prayers for locks on the Pearly Gates, and that the pit of hell would come alive with suffering.
It was the clearest and most understandable moment of cognitive dissonance in my life. The world was telling me throw a party, ding dong the wicked witch is dead! Fly the flag, relish in revenge, take the kids to the TV and say “guys! This is what justice looks like”.
But my faith, my conscience, the moral compass within me held back on throwing my hands in the air. I knew this couldn’t be justice. This couldn’t be Christ.
Over the past couple days I have seen Adam Lanza called an evil, vile, human piece of garbage. I have seen heartwarming posts of prayers for the families of victims, only to be followed by “burn in hell Adam”.
There is a devastation in our disconnect.
I understand the anger, I am angry and I think we should all be very pissed right now. But is our anger misdirected?
Maybe that’s something to think about.
Mental illness comes with all the shame as any stigmatized status in today’s society. Hollywood has made billions off of horror movies of psychos, scary schizos, and those with split personalities. People are terrified of it.
But maybe a facet of that fear is of ourselves. Maybe on some subconscious level we all fear our own insanity.
I have problems with anxiety. There was one bad spell where I told my parents I thought I was losing my mind. I didn’t believe I truly existed. There is nothing more frightening than fear of yourself. Fear of our fallen nature. Fear of becoming the monster.
It is time to think differently about evil.
It exists, but it is not always chosen.
As Christians we know that this man was not evil.
And all of us, even Jesus, have fought against his advances every day of our lives.
But sick people don’t have the same strength to fight back. That’s what we are here for.
Adam Lanza was the least of these. He was the one Christ called us to care for. He was sick and we failed him. We failed those families, we failed humanity, and worst of all, we failed the Father.
Calling this man a monster only makes Satan that much stronger. Every time we do, we are stealing every ounce of credit he deserves. He couldn’t ask for a better deal. He bets on our inability to see the monster behind the man whispering in his ear. We know spiritual evil when we see it. I know Satan loves nothing more than taking kids away from parents. In the days of Christ he would send demons to posses children, make them hurt themselves and their loved ones around them. This is NOT to say that Adam Lanza suffered from possession, but his weakness were exploited by the enemy. Satan is the culprit. We can hate him.
This man needed compassion and protection. He needed a society that didn’t shame him for his vulnerability towards violence. If we continue to wage war on the symptoms and not the causes, we should not expect any recovery. If we continue to ridicule those that feel isolated and misunderstood, it should not surprise us when they hit back. If we continue to neglect their need for attention, our children will bear the cost with their blood.
We need to rethink evil. We need to remember Satan. And we need to start seeing the least of these in every corner of life.
Yesterday, the world watched in horror as children screamed and ran from a mentally ill monster out to kill them. We were heartbroken as we saw their trembling faces, disgusted as we saw the media thrusting cameras in those same faces, and we were left confused and angry and, most of all, sad.
It is in these moments. These moments of madness and misery that Christians have something redemptive to offer. Church folks need not recite turn-or-burn scripts or reflections on the afterlife of these innocents, they can, but it’s likely the last thing parents and communities want to hear.
BUT there are those with shoulders made for mothers to cry on and there are others with ears to simply listen of their lament. There are those that have passion and are willing to move into the fray and speak out on the fact that, as President Obama said yesterday, we’ve been through this too many times before.
And so it’s never fun for me to see a face of Christianity waste it all away.
Mike Huckabee, the former pastor, former presidential candidate and now TV personality, claimed he knew what went wrong. It was not the number of bullets that could be fired from the magazine clip. It was not the fact that the murderer suffered from mental illness. There was nothing we could have done what.so.ever.
But it was because of those damn liberals taking prayer out of public schools.
Okay. Let’s forget the constitutional arguments, even though they sit soundly on the side of separation of Church and State. Let’s thrust past the theological arguments, where Jesus clearly states prayer is a private affair. Let’s not even delve into Huckabee’s past statements, they’re there if you want to find them.
Let’s look at the claim he made about Jesus.
In effect what Huckabee said was that because school sponsored prayer was deemed unconstitutional decades ago, Jesus got really pissed off yesterday.
So pissed was God that he played accessory to the murder of 20 children and 7 adults. Because… how else are we to understand that if you do not support state-sponsored prayer, Jesus will kill your kids? It is an obvious divine reminder that God is not the father of the prodigal son, he is the father of wrath and hate. Nothing is sacred, not even the life of a child. This is the God out to get us.
Herein lies the problem of Mike Huckabee and others like him. When you slap a cross on any cause, it becomes untouchable. The reasons you cite cannot be proven or tested, because they are of the divine. Unseen. God’s invisible hands. So when folks start to call out your political positions (in this case gun rights), the public prayer card works because you need no basis to make your claim. Simply state that you believe God is punishing us for taking prayer out of school.
This isn’t intended as an argument. It’s intended as a prophecy. Or at least, to appear as a prophecy.
Despite Jesus making it incredibly clear that public pressure of prayer is the exact opposite of the point of prayer, folks like Huck continue to pin all of our societal evils on the removal of prayer from the public arena. They say these schools sit in Godless grounds.
Cause I sure remember praying in school. I prayed for my friend when he got hurt during recess. I interceded for my bawling teacher when she received the news her dog had died. I came to God for the usual things of a child, loved ones and Christmas presents. And yes, I prayed I would win the spelling bee.
I prayed secretly and I loved it. I didn’t have to worry about eyes watching my lips as they silently move or be tempted to peek to see if anyone else wasn’t closing their eyes. No, it was my personal place of rest. There were times when the classroom setting was the stage for my most holy and intimate moments with Christ. To me that is a much more authentic form of prayer. I would choose to come to God with my worries and joys, fears and hopes, and I developed an honest relationship with Christ my savior.
And that savior is not one to arbitrarily load guns and put parents in a lifetime of hell. He is not so concerned with the fact that prayer pressure no longer exists in schools. He is concerned with the fact that his followers aren’t responding to the sick man next door that needs protection from himself. He is upset that we are more comfortable with a sword in our hands than the unwell’s snot on our sleeve. He is frustrated that it is still easier to acquire a weapon than a therapist. He is saddened by the fact that Christians write on the internet that this man will burn in hell. He is brokenhearted over our self-righteousness and our clenched hands unwilling to offer grace.
And he mourns Christians confusing our failure to respond with love and mercy and grace, with an angry God behind a divine machine-gun.
And I mourn over that too.
Something horrifying happened this morning. It was one of those heartbreaking, stop in your tacks, wipe a tear from your eye and hold the hand of your loved one type of morning. A day where evil escalated to new heights.
A cold chill shot down my spine as I read those numbers this morning. It was one of those moments where the world stops spinning. If you haven’t heard, a father of a elementary student in Connecticut open fired on a school and took 27 lives, 18 of which were children.
When I first read this, I stopped. And knowing I should, but feeling bitter about it, I reluctantly turned to God. I briefly mentioned comfort and peace to the families but then got to my real reasons. My authentic anger. I prayed:
Why the fuck was this allowed to happen?
I am certain that as the dust settles on this event and the fog of grief and mourning starts to clear, the parents of those 18 children will be asking the same question. Perhaps even more profanely. And they won’t get an answer. They may get some clichés from family and friends like, “there’s a reason for everything” and “God needed another angel” (to which I think of Nicole Kidman’s character in Rabbit Hole, asking: “Why didn’t He just make one?”)
Senseless killings of innocent children will never make sense, but we should never stop trying to understand how they happen. The reaction of the status quo is to always claim insensitivity to those who call this what it is: a Wake Up Call. To those that understand when the pin is pulled the grenade will blow. That while we may not have pulled the trigger, we sure as hell missed something.
When gun related deaths in the city of Chicago outnumber slain soldiers in Afghanistan, we know we are living in a war zone. When bags have to be checked at movie theaters, when metal detectors are installed in high schools, when people shoot their girlfriends over episodes of the Walking Dead, we know something is not just wrong, but terrifyingly evil. This is hell on earth.
Our culture is fairly fucked up. We glorify violence in the theater and then are shocked when someone turns the gun on the crowd. We hold the 2nd Amendment above our heads as if God himself ordained the freedom to buy whatever weapons we please. We say things like, “People kill people, guns don’t kill people” and “if the victims were armed no one would have died.” To which I say look at the stats of our State. The US has both the highest number of people killed by gun violence and the weakest gun control laws in the developed world. As Michael Moore said after the Aurora shooting, “Who kills people? We do.” Arguments of the slippery slope, losing rights if you don’t use them and arming the public are red herrings to avoid the admission that 2 + 2 in fact equals 4. That when guns are as easy to get as groceries, blood will inevitably be shed.
And guns are a huge part of the problem, but they are hardly the whole of it. We live in a society where mental illness is considered weakness. We shame those afflicted in pain with stigmas in films and neglect their need for treatment. We encourage people to bury the very feelings that they know aren’t right. The thoughts that push people over the edge. These illnesses that are so serious are too often disregarded as the “blues” or “phases”, never given due attention until its too late. And religious institutions do not have clean hands when it comes to this. To some (key word) depression, mental illness, emotional disorders are considered crises of faith. Medication, something as essential as eating and breathing to the severely mentally ill, is thought of as a lack of trust in God. These are serious errors.
I understand that this can be read the wrong way, as insensitive in the early aftermath, but we cannot let this tragedy become just another rung in the ladder. There is a pattern of evil that is evolving at a rapid rate and it breaks my heart to watch us as we sit and simply respond with , “God has a plan”. Yes, God has a plan, and it’s us. He is counting on us to rebuild what is so clearly broken in today’s world. In this time when we know people will cling to their guns and claim the constitution as their protector, we have to take a good hard look in the mirror and see how we have failed. How have we made our children less safe? How have we allowed sick people to go untreated? How have we placed the constitution above the Bible? When will we wake up?
Why does evil happen? We allow it.
As you finish reading this, fight against the anger I had, and turn towards God and pray a prayer for each of those parents this morning, and the families of the other faculty that were killed. Pray for comfort and peace, even though they seem like unreachable requests. Pray for protection from the national spotlight on their personal tragedies. Pray for reconciliation and pray for future prevention.
Pray, pray, pray,
Today I find myself knee deep in loads of laundry as I work to squeeze my life into two suitcases. So, naturally, I started dreaming about hot coco nights with the movies that bring pure joy to my life. This is a list post. A list of my favorite Christmas movies. It’s what’s getting me through the impossible task of packing.
And we can find a purpose in this post too- because Christmas is about joy and laughter and friends and family and dogs in sweaters and merryness! And on days when the snow is shooting at your face and the free time in the schedule becomes slimmer and slimmer, we all need a good laugh. Perhaps part of the reason we celebrate the season? Winter blues can sneak up like slick ice on the sidewalk, these gems are sure cures.
“Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head. And I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-a**, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey s*** he is! Hallelujah! Holy s***! Where’s the Tylenol?” -Clark Griswold
Clark: “Before we begin, since this is Aunt Bethany’s 80th Christmas, I think she should lead us in the saying of grace.”
Aunt Bethany: “What dear?”
Noah Griswold: “Grace!”
Aunt Bethany: “Grace? She passed away 30 years ago.”
Uncle Lewis: “They want you to say grace. The blesssssing.”
Aunt Bethany (after everyone has bowed heads for the blessing): “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands/ One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
“My tie is in the bathroom and I can’t go in because Uncle Frank is taking a shower. He says that if I walked in there and saw him naked I’d grow up never feeling like a real man.”
Harry: [Marv brings a load of stolen goods from the Murphy household to the van and Harry sees him laughing] What’s so funny? What are you laughing at? You did it again didn’t you? You left the water running. What’s wrong with you? Why do you do that? I told you not to do it.
Marv: Harry, it’s our calling card!
Harry: Calling card.
Marv: All the great ones leave their mark. We’re the wet bandits!
“You stink. You smell like beef and cheese, you don’t smell like Santa.”
“Wow, you’re fast. I’m glad I caught up to you. I waited 5 hours for you. Why is your coat so big? So, good news – I saw a dog today. Have you seen a dog? You probably have. How was school? Was it fun? Did you get a lot of homework? Huh? Do you have any friends? Do you have a best friend? Does he have a big coat, too?”
Jingle All the Way (Only because of Sinbad)
“They sit there and use subliminal messages to suck your children’s’ minds out! And I know what I’m talking about because I went to junior college for a semester and I studied psychology so I’m right in there, I know what’s going on. They make the kids feel like garbage and you, the father, who’s working 24/7 delivering mail so you can make an alimony payment to a woman that slept with everybody at the post office, but me! And then when you get the toy, it breaks and you can’t fix it because it’s little cheap plastic!”
“How about these stupid letters from kids to Santa at the North Pole: “Dear Santa, Can you send me a bike and a slinky?” No! Your father’s been laid off!”
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
“Oh, the Who-manity!”
“All right, you’re a reindeer. Here’s your motivation: Your name is Rudolph, you’re a freak with a red nose, and no one likes you. Then, one day, Santa picks you and you save Christmas. No, forget that part. We’ll improvise… just keep it kind of loosey-goosey. You hate Christmas! You’re gonna steal it. Saving Christmas is a lousy ending, way too commercial. Action!”
Laughing yet? No? I brought back up.
This post is born from this mornings read by one of the most empathetic intellectual thinkers in America:
David Blankenhorn is the President of the Institute for American Values who has long been an advocate against same-sex marriage. He has recently changed his mind, which surprisingly, has no bearing on my positive feelings towards him. Influential gay writer and one of the first proponents of marriage equality, Andrew Sullivan, wrote,
“He is perhaps the most clearly decent, intellectually honest, non-homophobic opponent of marriage equality.”
On his blog, Blankenhorn wrote a piece that is one of the most redemptive efforts towards reconciliation. Titled Doubt, Sweet Doubt, the content surrounds the necessity of uncertainty. It is about why doubt and civility are so intertwined with one another. Why there is no reason for disagreements to become disagreeable when there is an acknowledgment of our inability to be certain. This is such a breath of fresh air in every political and theological conflict that occurs today. It is healing and harmonious. Redemptive. Reconciliation-centric. He is tackling something that we all know too well, but never discuss.
This excerpt isn’t packed with an emotional punch, he’s an intellectual after all. But follow the link at the bottom to see the video that shows the beauty of bonding despite disagreements.
I won’t steal any more of his thunder, here’s an excerpt and a link to the full post:
“But at bottom it seems to me that, for the certain person – the person who is typically confident that he or she knows the truth of the matter – civility is mostly a question of good manners, or of moral correctness, perhaps also mixed in with the strategic recognition that demonstrating civility is tactically helpful as one seeks to persuade others of the true position. In other words, for the certain person, civility tends to be behavior that is largely (though perhaps not entirely) selfless, essentially a matter of correct conduct and good deportment.
But for the doubting person – the person who is typically uncertain that he or she is right – civility is still correct deportment, but it’s also far more. For the doubting person, civility is like oxygen. It’s personally necessary. Why? Because without it, I can’t get what I need.
What I need as a doubting person is the wisdom of the other. I need what the other has to offer, to correct my own acknowledged noetic shortcomings and to help my own views (which I know are always partial, we see in a glass darkly) become truer views. As a doubting person, civility is more than being nice. Civility is part of what allows me to eat what I must eat and drink what I must drink.
So that’s why I say that doubt and civility go together naturally. But if you’ll indulge me, let me say a bit more, in praise of doubt. I’m 57, and I used to know much more than I do now. As I get older, I find that I grow in doubt, and I’m grateful for that. Intellectually, I depend on doubt. Doubt is my friend. I don’t mean that I’ve stopped having beliefs, or stopped being passionate about those beliefs; it’s just that I’m more and more certain, when it comes to the free life of the mind, of the importance of uncertainty.” (Bold Emphasis Mine)
When we acknowledge that our convictions may be incorrect, we inevitably need the relationship of the other. We need the friendship. We need empathy to explore what life looks like in the other’s shoes. We require their company.
In discussing his relationship with marriage equality advocate Jonathan Rauch, especially while he was still opposed to gay marriage, he speaks to how intellectuals dismiss friendships and experiences as subjective, irrelevant and unreliable in the formation of convictions. But, the error that Blankenhorn points out is that when we sit in our studies drawing out theories of belief about the other’s positions, we build “barriers to belief”. In other words, we become creators of caricatures.
If you want to watch more of this reconciliation in color, here’s a video of his sit down with Jonathan Rauch, on Krista Tippet’s website, On Being.
Whenever one posts something, be it blog, twitter, facebook, whatever, if mixed feelings come before the click, it’s probably best to sleep on it.
The other day my feelings were mixed, but I shot it out anyway.
Two things happened since then.
1) I emailed a buddy across the blogosphere (Julie of Incite Faith) and asked if she thought I came on too abrasively. Her response was a great wake up call.
““But the line must be drawn between good and poisoned fruit.”
The line is love.
Love is what bridges the gap.”
2) The post was also reprinted on another site. A commenter said he felt compelled to give a response of truth because “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.”
I wrote about the bad fruits emerging from the ex gay industry and I meant it. The loud chorus of survivors coming out of reparative therapy doesn’t suggest a ministry of redemption. My own flirtation with it gives me insight into how the fruit tastes. I have seen too much and heard too much. I cannot cast this therapy aside as an “option” or “alternative”, because lives are literally at stake here.
And yes, I have some serious concerns about the fact that this is a business more than a ministry.
Having said that, I made the awful mistake of blurring therapy with therapists. Throwing babies out with the bathwater you could say. Maybe that’s why I had mixed feelings. And maybe I felt that the “poison apple” parallel packed a bigger punch, but in the process, I allowed a personal vendetta against Ms. Hamilton to reach a new low. And when you’re throwing low blows, you’re failing the Father.
There is something that I innately implied into yesterday’s post that is a gross mischaracterization: when I said “ex gay” I was referring to the therapy, not the clients or the therapists. It was a lazy mistake. But a big one.
I know people that have gone through the reparative process, and while they spoke of it’s damage, they never considered counselors to be cruel. Some even have fond memories of them. And we… I, need to entertain the idea that this may be true.
The words of Ms. Julie Hamilton had devastating consequences on my family, but that does not mean her intent was devastation. I don’t know her. And to be perfectly honest, she’s likely a wonderful person.
Ex gay counselors across the board may care more about gay folks than most people. It takes a special someone to trot into the trenches with strangers struggling with their sexual identity. And if that someone sincerely believes that reparative therapy is what’s best for their patient, then their reasons are rooted in love. More love than the words I wrote yesterday.
Justin Lee, author of the book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs Christian Debate, writes in his book… well, what I should have written in my post:
“Christians really are a compassionate bunch, even though the cultural reputation we have right now doesn’t reflect that. Because so many Christians- especially evangelical Christians like me- believed that gay relationships were sinful, they also wanted to believe that there was some way that gay people could become straight so that they could legitimately enjoy all the benefits of romance and marriage. The ex-gays wanted to believe this and to provide hope to others. Unfortunately, sometimes that desire for hope got in the way of being completely honest.”
If I start caricaturing even those with whom I most passionately disagree with, this blog is a fraud.
I missed the mark in my message. And I am sorry.
Burning bridges is always abrasive. It is always unhelpful. It is always hurtful. And it is always unchristian.
Cause bridges have no pre-reqs.
Disciples don’t divide. They put humility before vindictiveness and God before themselves.
Mother Teresa once said:
“if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
I traded a bridge for a partition in the last post, and its because I forgot their spot at the feast.
I forgot that no one is beyond redemption.
Not even me.
It’s a new day and God’s grace is fresh.
And I’ll try to be better tomorrow.
“But what is a bias towards fairness?” Maggie looked on beleaguered.
“Bias toward fairness means that if the entire Congressional Republican Caucus were to walk into the House and propose a resolution stating that the Earth was flat, the Times would lead with, ‘Democrats and Republicans Can’t Agree on Shape of Earth.'”
This is the message of HBO’s Newsroom created by Aaron Sorkin. Mackenzie and Will explained that there are not always two sides to every story, sometimes there are five sides or five hundred sides, and to position a one-two argument sometimes leaves the Crazy with way too much legitimacy.
Oh how art imitates reality.
The other day I heard about Dr. Oz’s now infamous episode in which he gave the ex gay cohort the best Christmas present ever: A platform.
Dr. Oz argued that although people may be upset about his show presenting this conversation, it is one that has to be had in light of California’s ban on minors entering into such therapy.
Reality is not so sweet.
The media slapped this story to the front page, and Dr. Oz got the ratings spike he sought. And as a consequence, ex gay looked legitimate.
Shortly after tuning into the program, I felt the strike of a nerve and a tide of terrible feelings washing over me.
There she was.
Julie Hamilton is an endearing lady. She speaks with the softness of that favorite grandma that lives over the river and through the woods. There is a warmth to her that sets the frame for whatever comes out of her lovely face. Her charming voice is disarming. Her tone is not without sympathy. And the angry voices of GLAAD and GLSEN, the Harvard psychologist and the audience, made you want to rescue her. She looked like a mouse cornered by a cat.
When I wrote my post Forgive them, Father, the video that tormented my dad was the creation of none other than Ms. Hamilton. Her deficient father talk that bears no resemblance of my own life, or the children of single parents, or ones of actual bad dads, one that has been routinely refuted by leading psychologists, is still a sufficient explanation in her mind. And even though the consequences of such a theory leads to torturous tales of blame and shame, her conscience still insists that she’s right.
She has to be. What else would ex gay groups do?
Bringing me to my point.
Ex gay is not a ministry.
It’s an industry.
People are throwing thousands of dollars away towards years of therapy that proves to be about as successful as your local palm reader.
Okay, fine. That was unfair… To the occult.
See, séances with dead spouses and love potion recipes don’t typically lead to addiction, depression and suicide. Yet, that is exactly what the fruit of the ex gay industry has been. High rates of addiction, depression and suicide.
The leading psychologist from Harvard put it as “so simplistic, and operating under an agenda” I’d put it as an agenda operating under the guise of empathy. It’s exploitation of the emotionally broken’s desire for acceptance in a culture that calls them abnormal.
For sexual minorities within the conservative Christian community, this therapy is charming and convenient. It is seductive. It is colored with compassion. It says it will strip the societal target off their back. Enticing words are used like “freedom” “truth” and “healing”. The ultimate escape from the threat of hell.
Courageously, the CEO of the leading Ex Gay organization, Alan Chambers of Exodus, recently said in an interview that “99.9%” of people that walk through their doors don’t leave changed.
“But we have thousands of success stories!” Hamilton exclaimed.
It seems someone forgot to tell Chambers.
And then, when confronted with the heartbreaking stories of near suicide from those surviving exgay, Hamilton seemed sincerely sympathetic… for a moment:
“Well, I am very sorry to hear that… But ya know, sadly there is a high rate of suicide within the homosexual community.”
Because homosexuality is innately depressing, completely unrelated to society’s shaming attitude.
And even though the medical community has uniformly rejected reparative therapy as unethical and harmful, some Christians still argue that medicine is no substitute for faith. The Bible speaks in only negative tones about gay behavior, so it makes sense to switch out the gay with the straight. As Dr. Hamilton says:
“You can’t change the thousand year old texts”
In a famous exhortation, Jesus warns his followers against false prophets. He explains explicitly how to discern who is of God and who is not.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”(Matthew 7:15-20, NIV)
The Message has an interesting translation of this passage:
15-20 “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.”(Matthew 7:15-20, MSG, emphasis mine).
“A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook.”
This is a bad apple. It is a predatory practice. It is emotional exploitation and it is spiritual abuse.
And it is so antithetical to the gospel message that I start to wonder how inept our leaders of the Church truly are when it comes to faith and sexuality.
I mean, seriously, Are we still HERE?
The legitimate and valuable conversation to be had within the Christian community is what life means for LGBT Christians. That is the one that has the potential for real freedom, truth and healing.
There are good and Godly people who see things differently. Not all saints share the same side of the table. A position against same sex relationships does NOT make someone a bigot. A position in the affirmative does NOT make someone a secularist.
But the line must be drawn between good and poisoned fruit.
And like lobotomies, leeches and cocaine medicine,
Ex gay’s shelf life has expired.
So I encountered something new and strange and awkward today.
A few weeks ago I dropped my resume into a job bank website for DC, and tonight, I got a curious little email.
It stated that it had made some changes to the bank website and if it so pleased me, I could resubmit my application including the questions that lead up to the CONFIRM button.
Specifically, it stated that they now included “LGBT Individuals” under the minority category and if the applicant in question identified as such a person, they should make their mark.
Immediately after reading this, an ethical dilemma with a billion caveats began spinning in my head like a broken record.
Can I do this? Can I really use my sexual orientation as a step-ladder to employment? Why shouldn’t I? Why should I? What specifically do they mean by LGBT? Like is it ONLY people that are practicing? If I get the job will they welcome me in as their Gay employee? Will I become a poster child for someone else’s diversity cred? Is it disrespectful to myself if I let them define me? Or is it disrespectful to myself if I deny myself an advantage? Am I lying if I don’t check it? WHO is going to read this anyway?? And does this suddenly become public information? Why am I still reading this? Check the box! No no no no NO, don’t check the box! It’s just a box! IT’s a big BOX!
I’ve since moved on.
But it is a question all sexual minorities need to reckon with… Do we check the box?
Especially individuals not all the way out and those still wrestling with it all.
Which raises another question- Can you only identify as LGBT if you are fully out?
I believe in the box because of its principle. LGBT folks have had a history of being denied employment because their orientation. Equality and diversity matter.
But on the flip side of that token, I worry about the box casting a shadow over my qualifications. I worry about the hiring manager sifting through submissions, and upon seeing my mark, shouting to his manager, “found one!” I worry about that big cloud of suspicion hanging over my head if I was hired. I worry about questioning why I got the job. And what if I decide to be celibate forever? Does mere orientation count as LGBT? What makes someone LGBT?