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Saturday, December 21, 2013

When Is the "The Will of the People" not the Will of the People? The Utah Experience

Starting the first of the New Year, I will be resuming this blog with Monday through Friday comments. Selling our home, a move to a new city, and family health issues kept me away for much too long. I look forward to resuming these pages and hearing from you. In the meantime, I will comment on a few important issues.

When Is the "The Will of the People" not the Will of the People? The Utah Experience

Here we go again!

It is said that the last refuge of scoundrels is patriotism.  Today, it is hiding behind the thin veil of sanctimony disguised as "the will of the people."  Whenever the majority votes to deny certain minorities the rights the majority enjoys, it's always "the will of the people." This solemnly uttered bit of piety is found in abundance whenever a state amendment against gay marriage is overturned by a court. It hit its highest decibel when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned California's Prop 8. Some people need to be informed that America is not a simple democracy; it is a Constitutional Republic.  That means that no matter what the majority wants, it cannot be granted if it oppresses the minority. That is, in large measure, what our constitution is for.

So, yesterday, when a federal judge struck down Utah's same-sex marriage ban, outraged local officials trotted out the canard that "the will of the people" had once again been overturned. It should be noted that when the 14th Amendment was passed, it became THE HIGHEST WILL OF THE PEOPLE, that the majority may not act to deny rights to the minority that they, themselves, enjoy. As state after state make same-sex marriage legal, largely on the basis of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, it is inevitable that the Justices of SCOTUS will eventually make marriage equality the law of the land, if the rest of the states don't beat them to it.

The federal judge overturning the Utah state ban made it effective immediately, so same-sex couples began lining up for marriage licenses and the mayor of Salt Lake City (no less) performed the first legal ceremony in the state. This will not be without opposition from the powers that be. Both Utah's governor and attorney general are pursuing whatever legal options they have, but their prospects are bleak.

Whenever an unjust law is overturned by a judge, we hear the accusation, "activist judges!" Yes, indeed. These judges are actively defending the highest will of the people as understood in the 14th Amendment.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Are Some Conservative Christians So Adamant That They Have the Truth?

Every now and then I take notice of what's happening in the Evangelical/Fundamentalist world. After all, I am a product of that world and look for signs that there may be movement away from traditional stands that might mean conversations can begin in earnest, especially about LGBT issues. And there are signs. There is movement away from the rigid notions of anti-evolution, awareness that the Bible is not fully without error, and some even hold out for an open-ended future unknown by God. Yet, unfortunately, these and other more open views are not held by the majority of conservative Christians.

I'm most interested in their view of the authority of the Bible, as their fall-back, bedrock position on all gay issues is that the Bible is unequivocally opposed to homosexuality. That this is demonstrably not true is a subject I have taken up throughout this blog, and wrote a book about it. (See the side bar on the left of this post.) My latest posts on Satan point to the problems associated with this belief, yet one more needs to be written: "What Is Lost in Rejecting Belief in a Literal Satan?" Stay tuned. As a warm up to that post, I'd like to examine another sacrosanct belief in conservative Christianity, the belief in the literal Adam. It sheds a lot of light on their notion of biblical authority.

Recently, my attention was drawn to a blogger who listed ten reasons why Christians must believe in an historical Adam, by Kevin DeYoung. (Blog here.) Others have taken each of his ten points and evaluated them quite well. (Here, for example.) You will be rewarded by looking these over. However, my interest is not in engaging each point, but in looking at the bottom line issue that is the heart of Evangelical theology and clearly delineated in the post.

If you read DeYoung's post, there is really only one argument he made, and he made it over and over. It is this: We must believe in a literal, historical Adam because the Bible believes it. He uses Moses, Paul, and Luke as his authorities. This is a perfect example of circular reasoning. "We must believe the Bible, because the Bible believes it." A faulty syllogism is often used in a similar way: Major premise: "Everything in the Bible is true." Minor premise: "A literal Adam is in the Bible." Conclusion: "Therefore, there was a literal Adam." Syllogisms stand or fall based on their major premises (if syllogisms are useful at all). This one's major premise is demonstrably not true.

What's really going on here is a desperate attempt to save the whole of Evangelical theology which depends upon the whole biblical story being literally and historically true. Take any one plank away and the edifice falls to the ground, at least in their minds. So, for Paul's notions of sin and salvation, there must be a literal Adam, or his argument fails. If his argument fails, so does the substitutionary atonement doctrine (Jesus died in your place). If that falls, then Jesus as Savior falls with it. That is to say, the Evangelical notions fall, not necessarily the essence of Christianity itself.

So, what does all this have to do with a blog that is essentially about gay issues as they impact the Christian faith and the public square? Perhaps it will be clearer now why conservative Christians cling so desperately to the literal sense of a biblical text. Once we begin to allow for non-literal meanings, it's a slippery slope that can only end in a devaluing of the conservative Christian understanding of Christianity. It's less an argument against LGBTs and more about shoring up conservative doctrine. Gays and lesbians are collateral damage.

In the less rigid Evangelical circles, where social issues are becoming more important, along with a less literal understanding of some biblical stories, there is less interest in trotting out the clobber passages to beat LGBTs over the head with, and more interest in understanding and loving them. Interesting, huh. It seems you can't have a literal approach to the authority of Scripture and an openness to new information at the same time.

Conservative Christianity is closing ranks against the onslaught of the postmodern era, and is losing the battle. In a famous sermon in 1922, Harry Emerson Fosdick asked, "Will the Fundamentalists Win?" We can now say it doesn't look like it. And with the diminishing of a literalistic approach to the Bible, we see an increase in acceptance of those we formerly thought were not suitable companions along the Way. Open Bibles, open minds, open Christianity; what a thought!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Exorcising the Devil

Although the discussion of my last posting was done mostly on Facebook, it drew a few who found my admission here that I don't believe in a literal devil, off-putting. So I decided to continue the theme at least for one more post.

Some objected that since the devil is prominent in the New Testament, who am I to disregard that witness? Whenever one decides against a biblical point of view, it must be for good reason. Perhaps, I should first defend the notion that not agreeing with portions of the Bible is not heresy. In fact, we do it all the time. There is even a biblical precedent, after all, for doing so. The Deuteronomist School plainly taught that faithfulness to God will bring abundant blessings, including prosperity, health and progeny. Qohelet (the "preacher" of Ecclesiastes) begged to differ. His experience was just the opposite: the rich oppressed the poor, the faithful poor languished. 

An Evangelical commentator (read "Bible believer"), in an interview about his upcoming commentary on Ecclesiastes, summarizes the tone of the book. (“Everything is MEANINGLESS!” Interview with Pete Enns on Ecclesiastes

Qohelet looks around him and concludes that all of life is utterly senseless and absurd (“vanity of vanities” as the KJV puts it, “meaningless” in the NIV)....
You can’t make Qohelet out to be theologically safe. He does not give you that option. Nor can you write Qohelet off, either, as some heretical, impulsive, or immature simpleton. The fact that he is allowed to carry on for 12 chapters should send a clear signal that his words are not meant to be brushed aside.
Further, the end of the book won’t let you dismiss Qohelet’s words. In 12:9-14 we hear the voice of the book’s narrator (the same narrator who introduced Qohelet in 1:1-11). He neither condemns nor even corrects Qohelet, but calls him wise.
In the New Testament, James argues with Paul about the place of works in salvation. As Paul saw it, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 But James disagreed: You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith aloneJames 2.24

Marin Luther thought James undercut salvation by faith alone so dramatically that he referred to the Book of James as "an epistle of straw," and tried to get it removed from the Bible. 

Arguing with the Bible is nothing new or cause for alarm. In fact, there is nothing honorable about taking everything in it at face value and not loving God with all of one's mind.

As for the rest of us, who would defend slavery simply because the Bible does, or the silencing of women in the worship assembly, or that women will be saved through childbearing? Or that long hair on a man is "unnatural?" (We could go on and on, couldn't we, but we won't.)

Now, as to specifically why I feel it is responsible to reject the idea of a literal devil or Satan, I first refer you to the harm that this belief has caused. Witch hunts, Inquisitions, exorcisms of the mentally ill, the naming of certain individuals as the Antichrist, assigning demonic motives to enemies, superstitions that immobilize people, living in fear of Satan that diminishes joy in the Lord, all stem from implications people see in a literal Satan who may materialize at any moment.  Admittedly, this argument is on tenuous ground, because belief in God has caused much harm as well. However, much of that harm is due to the belief in a literal devil that prompts others to defend God through various means, violent and otherwise, and see demonic presence in processes and people otherwise without fault. 

While I readily admit that some biblical writers believed in a literal Satan or devil, I'm not obligated to follow suit, as one could hardly escape that belief given the prevailing worldview of their time which is radically different from our own. I find a much more compelling view that comes from treating Satan as metaphor than reality. 

Before we dismiss metaphor as lacking, let us consider for a moment that even the notion of God must finally be considered metaphorically. Describing God in anthropomorphic terms, such as the hand of God, or the face of God, or anger, or even love, is to use metaphors, because God cannot really be described in any other way. God is a metaphor for that which we cannot get beyond. This prompted Tillich to say that after we have said God is, we are now in the reduction of God business. That's why he also said that the true representation of God is "the God above God," the unknowable God that is beyond human comprehension. 

Finally then, if God is a metaphor for that which upholds all good and is the ultimate subject of our devotion, Satan is a metaphor for all that is evil. This seems to me a better notion than Satan as instigator of evil. The "satanic forces of evil" surely describe a potent influence in our world, but not by assigning a real personage behind it. As I noted in yesterday's post, evil is real and is part of humanity's story quite apart from a need to create a source beyond humanity to explain it. In fact, if biblical explanations are necessary, how about this one: I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. Isaiah 45.7

Given the horrors of our present world, those who despise our president because they think he's a Muslim, those who despise Muslims in general, those who kill the enemies of their God, those who kill abortion doctors, those who hate all non-Whites, those who send people to hell for whatever reason, those who hate gays, those who hate generallymost of them believe in a literal devil. Ironically, they are doing the devil's work for him, which prompted St. Theresa of Avila to remark: "I don't fear Satan half as much as I fear people who fear Satan." A popular bumper sticker in our time says, "Dear God, please save me from your people." I'll settle for just saving us from those whose belief in a literal devil leads them to make enemies of any who believe otherwise. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Devil Is in...Justice Scalia?

I've always considered myself at an advantage for not believing in a literal devil, Satan, or any other personification of evil. I don't concern myself with hell, eternal punishment or the like. I'm often asked when I reveal this if I don't believe in evil either. Why one seems to follow another keeps many in the literal devil fold, but it's not necessary. Evil exists and no devil is needed to authenticate that.

Consider the witness of the First Testament. The devil makes only rare appearances and those are very different from our received notions, usually as the literal translation of Satan indicates, the accuser. Take the Book of Job, for instance. Long after we are taught that Satan was cast down from heaven along with his angels, a picture drawn more from Milton than Scripture, we find him in a coffee klatch with God and associates. What's he doing back up there other than to serve as a trope for the book?

Then in 1 Chronicles 21:1 we read, "Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to count the people of Israel." Here he is playing the more traditional role of tempter. However, the parallel passage in 2 Samuel 24:1 casts a whole different light.  "Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, ‘Go, count the people of Israel and Judah.’" The older version (Samuel) explicitly states that God does the inciting. How do we move from God to Satan? The Chronicles statement comes after the introduction of full-blown dualism into Israel's theology due to their exposure to Zoroastrianism during the Babylonian Captivity. Just as today's religious conservatives can't imagine God tempting anyone to do evil, neither could the writer(s) of 1 Chronicles. So a convenient switch was made.

This is all to say that the First Testament got along quite well without the use of the devil to explain all the evil that transpires throughout its pages. Human beings are perfectly capable of creating evil without any help. Note that following Cain's murder of Abel, God declares that evil is "crouching at the door" ready to spring on humanity, and Satan's entrance is delayed for a least a millennium. (And the serpent in the Garden is "one of the creatures God made.")

I got to thinking about this when I heard that in a recent interview Justice Antonin Scalia asserted his belief in a personal devil. Here's a brief summary from the Los Angeles Times.
 “Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. That’s standard Catholic doctrine,” [Scalia] said. “You are looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the devil?” Indeed, polls have consistently shown that 70% to 75% of Americans share Scalia’s belief.
Naturally, belief in the devil does not stop there. Some actively seek to find where the devil is currently at work. Once determined where that is, we now have located both those on the devil's side and the "good guys." Those devil believers see the devil behind abortion, government expansion, Obama Care, gay marriage, et al, just as the devil was at work of old in inciting David to go against God and hold a census of Israel. No wonder there is little or no compromise--you can't be guilty of aiding and abetting Satan, after all. What would God think of that?!!! When an ideology is backed by demonology, no less than total destruction of the enemy (Satan and his followers) is called for. Here's an enlightening observation from the Evangelical online site for Christianity Today about the Tea Party Caucus in Congress.
This caucus is more evangelical than the rest of the House. About 45 percent of the caucus attend an evangelical church, compared to 13 percent of others in the House. Another 30 percent are mainline Protestants, mostly of a largely Southern variety. Several Mormons are also part of the caucus.
There are no African-Americans or Jewish members. The caucus is less likely to include Catholics, with only 15 percent who are members of the caucus compared to 32 percent of those who are not.
The article is entitled, "Evangelicals and Tea Party Overlap in Congress, Public."

The 70% to 75% of Americans who believe in a literal Satan are mostly among the Evangelical and Southern mainline denominations. The connection between the belief in Satan and their unwillingness to compromise is clear. Not only is the devil in the details, it's in the intransigence of ideology, as well.

Monday, October 07, 2013

An Answer to a Gay Conservative's Opposition to Gay Marriage

In a request by the editors of 10 Thousand Couples for people to evaluate a commentary by Mr. Doug Mainwaring, found here:, I offered the following statement.  Please read his statement before continuing on.


For someone who claims to be led by reason, Mr. Mainwaring contradicts himself throughout and offers specious arguments. His lead assertion that “Neither religion nor tradition has played a significant role in forming my stance” is undermined by his statement that “marriage is immutable,” and his fear of the weakening of traditional marriage.

Throughout, he makes unsupportable assertions, each one demonstrably false. 

1.      False assertion #1: Philia love between men is far better, far stronger, and far more fulfilling than erotic love can ever be.

His assertion that “eros is promoted in its stead,” fails to note that when Plato and other early Greek philosophers praised philia, they included eros in the equation.  According to the influential journal Psychology Today, “Whereas Aristotle is not nearly as interested in erotic love (erôs) as he is in friendship (philia), for Plato the best kind of friendship is that which lovers can have for each other. It is a philia that is born out of erôs, and that in turn feeds back into erôs to strengthen and to develop it.”  Non-erotic love between friends is truly beautiful, but they will likely be heterosexuals who find eros in other relationships.

I wonder why he leaves out “love between women”? 

2.      False assertion #2: “To be fully formed, children need to be free to generously receive from and express affection to parents of both genders. Genderless marriages deny this fullness.”

This assertion goes against prevailing psychological and sociological conclusions. Here’s just one example: The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry approved the following statement in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parenting in 2009:
All decisions relating to custody and parental rights should rest on the interest of the child. There is no evidence to suggest or support that parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are per se superior or inferior from or deficient in parenting skills, child-centered concerns, and parent-child attachments when compared with heterosexual parents. There is no credible evidence that shows that a parent's sexual orientation or gender identity will adversely affect the development of the child.
The real “deprivation” here is that Mr. Mainwaring is withholding from his children the kiss of philia that every parent owes his or her children.

3.      False assertion #3: “Marriage is not an elastic term; it is immutable.”

Just a cursory exploration of the history of marriage demonstrates how marriage has evolved over the centuries from polygamy, including polyandry as practiced in Britain in Julius Caesar’s time, the acceptance of concubines and more recently mistresses as part of the family, eras of no religious significance until 1000 AD in the Roman Catholic west, and, of course, common law marriages throughout time.  So what makes marriage “immutable”?  Certainly not society, or tradition, or religion which have shown themselves remarkably flexible in honoring changing arrangements over the millenniums.

4.      False assertion #4: Gay and lesbian activists, and more importantly, the progressives urging them on, seek to redefine marriage in order to achieve an ideological agenda that ultimately seeks to undefine (sic) families as nothing more than one of an array of equally desirable “social units,” and thus open the door to the increase of government’s role in our lives. [Emphasis mine]

Mr. Mainwaring is not simply a gay man with a personal opinion. He is a right wing activist with an agenda.  This observation is fair game as he opines at length against liberals and gay rights activists.  He is merely a social conservative who happens to be gay.  His politics is not the issue; his claims of objectivity and reason are and they just don’t hold water. At best, one may say that his opinions are right for him, and he is entitled to them, and we wish him well.  But to draw from personal insight and make them universal is asking too much in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

10 Thousand Couples offers a unique approach to gay issues, especially for gay families, on their website:  Check it out and let me know what you think.  You will find my first article for them, "But My Bible Says...Pt. 1" here:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Are We in a Post "Open and Affirming" Church Age?

A new approach to being a congregation welcoming of LGBTs is being embraced by many churches today. But first, a little background.

The major mainline denominations in America have organizations within them to encourage gay acceptance and affirmation. In my Disciples of Christ denomination, it's GLAD, Gay and Lesbian Affirming Disciples. Each organization has its procedures for becoming officially Open and Affirming.  Most of them include a rigorous study and discernment process that should include the whole congregation.  This normally takes many months to complete.  It's comprehensive, well thought out and works. The process ends with a vote.  If the congregation votes to become "Open and Affirming," it is listed as such in denominational records and can begin to advertise itself as such.  The idea is to insure that congregations understand the issues fully and enter the gay community with no reservations.

My experience with congregations that have completed the process and became O & A is that they begin by being open while wanting to (eventually) become affirming.  Some make the transition successfully, others never do.  Here's the question that I put to these church's leaders: "Have you had any gay weddings? And if not, why not?" This question identifies the truly affirming congregations.

When I was actively engaged in consulting with congregations on O & A issues, I often ran across congregations which believed they were open and affirming without having to go through the process. Not one of them would allow gay weddings.  Why did I insist that this is the defining act of O & A? Because if you don't offer gays the very things you offer straights, you are not affirming. This extends to church leadership, including calling gay pastors.  Therefore these churches were simply fooling themselves.  The harm in this comes when LGBTs hear that one of these churches is safe, so they visit and soon learn it is not.

Lately, I've noticed a remarkable change. In my hometown there are two congregations that are not officially Open and Affirming, yet hold gay weddings. Having visited them on several occasions, I know they have made the transition to affirming without the benefit of the official process.  This phenomenon can be observed in cities across the USA.  What's going on here?  Are we in a post O&A age?

America, by osmosis, has become a majority Open and Affirming nation. Most of this was accomplished by two forces, the coming out of LGBTs in large numbers and the effective gay rights campaign. In 2004, just 36 percent of Catholics favored gay marriage, along with 34 percent of mainline Protestants. Now it's 57 percent of Catholics and 55 percent of mainline Protestants. Even among white evangelical Protestants support has risen from 11 percent in 2004 to 24 percent in 2013.  The more we've gotten to know LGBTs, the more we have taken their side.  Naturally, this spills over into our congregations who find themselves moving steadily into an affirming mode.

So, do I think there is no longer a need for O&A study and discernment as advocated by our denominations? Certainly not.  It would be tragic to use this as an excuse to subvert the process. This will still be useful for many a church, especially where there is overt opposition or remaining reluctance.  But I will now be willing to admit, as I haven't been until recently, that some churches have arrived there without the benefit of the process. Or, perhaps, better, became truly affirming by participating in the ongoing drama of justice-seeking in America.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Can the Gospel Be "Good News" Again?

A sermon preached on August 11th, at Valley Ministries MCC, Stockton, California
(30 minutes)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Anti-gay Industry, Part 4: It's Use of Fear to Create Enemies

In a casual Google search for "gay threat to America" (try it yourself), this is the first item on the list, found here:
Sen. Chris Buttars believes gays and lesbians are "the greatest threat to America going down," comparing members of the LGBT community to radical Muslims.
"I believe they will destroy the foundation of the American society," the West Jordan Republican said in a recent interview with documentary filmmaker Reed Cowan. "In my mind, it's the beginning of the end. … Sodom and Gomorrah was localized. This is worldwide."
Buttars is a Utah state senator, and a Mormon, so it's not unusual that he would be anti-gay. What is unusual is his over-the-top rhetoric. "The greatest threat to America," and comparing LGBTs to radical Muslims would make Joseph McCarthy proud of such overreach. Combing through the article, I could not find anything to back up his comments except the notion that the destruction of the family will lead to the destruction of America. So far, there is no evidence that gay marriage will do anything of the kind, and in fact, seems only to be a strengthening force for marriage overall. 

Note, too, his use of Sodom and Gomorrah. Of all the Bible passages used to denounce gays, this is the most used and least applicable. Biblical scholars long ago removed any association with homosexuality from this story. Some of the most vigorous opponents of gays no longer consider Sodom and Gomorrah relevant. I attended a lecture by Joe Dallas, a leading proponent of Reparative Therapy (gays can change their sexual orientation). In going over the biblical passages that he said supported homosexualty as sinful, he didn't mention Sodom and Gomorrah at all. I check his handouts and not even there was any mention made. So I asked him, "Have you lost the battle on Sodom and Gomorrah?" To which he replied, "Yes." Nevertheless, some people will continue to abuse this scripture regardless of its inapplicability.

Then there's the "gay recruitment" scare tactic, designed to alarm parents and set them against their children's schools. Scott Lively's, "Seven Steps to Recruit-proof Your Child," purports to document the recruiting activities of gay activists, and it set off a spate of similar approaches to impede gay acceptance. Here's a typical version of how this works (from Wind Commentary
A training video called “It’s Elementary” teaches elementary school teachers how to get the “gay” message into primary grade classrooms. Books like “Daddy’s Roommate” and “Heather Has Two Mommies” are all too commonplace. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher’s union, has openly adopted guidelines for promoting homosexuality in public education and many private schools already have yielded to the pressure to present homosexuality as a normal.
Imagine what goes through the minds of 12-year-old boys and girls when a gay activist tells them that 10 percent of the population is gay, and that 10 percent of their class has this “sexual orientation.” At this tender age, classrooms of teenagers and pre-teenagers, with their hormones raging, are being encouraged to follow their urges and experiment. If a child voices a question about the possibility of being gay to a teacher or other school officials, the parent most likely never will hear about it. These children often are referred to an outside “gay” counseling center run by active homosexuals.
This kind of scare works because it's built on the fallacy that gays can change their orientation. They can't, and neither can straights. Whenever someone suggests to me that sexual orientation is a choice (I can't believe we're still having these conversations...ugh!), I ask them how easy it would be for them to change. Another ugh! So if a 12 year-old is introduced to the gay orientation in a school class, there is nothing in that experience that can change his or her already set orientation. Here's a summary from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
The mechanisms for the development of a particular sexual orientation remain unclear, but the current literature and most scholars in the field state that one's sexual orientation is not a choice; that is, individuals do not choose to be homosexual or heterosexual. A variety of theories about the influences on sexual orientation have been proposed. Sexual orientation probably is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences. In recent decades, biologically based theories have been favored by experts. Although there continues to be controversy and uncertainty as to the genesis of the variety of human sexual orientations, there is no scientific evidence that abnormal parenting, sexual abuse, or other adverse life events influence sexual orientation. Current knowledge suggests that sexual orientation is usually established during early childhood.

The one thing that all these hate and fear-mongers have in common is the lack of evidence to support their claims. Note the appeal in the Wind Commentary to "imagine what goes through the minds of 12-year-old boys and girls." Yes, imagine. Imagine, because that's all that's left to you after the experts have spoken. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Anti-gay Industry, Part 3: Their Use of the Bible

Here are a few things to bear in mind when the discussion of homosexuality and the Bible arises. First, there is no word in either Greek or Hebrew for homosexual and the like. More importantly, there is no concept of sexual orientation, either. In the Greco-Roman world, there was only appropriate and inappropriate sex. Dio Chrysostom (a contemporary of the apostle Paul) famously said that the same passion that drove a man to a female prostitute would drive the same man to a male prostitute. 

Since there is no word for homosexuality, no Bible translation should have "homosexual" or its synonyms in it. Some, using the Dynamic Equivalent translation process, think they have found a modern equivalent in homosexual or "sodomy." Yet, what we know of homosexuality today is far removed from that of the ancient past. There is no apples-to-apples correspondence. Quite to the contrary, the differences in sexual behaviors are striking and most are not replicated in our day. Given what Chrysostom said, which is typical of his day, even heterosexuality cannot be thought of as a concept then, or considered anything like what we know of it today. As regards the term "sodomy," it was not coined until 1000 years after the New Testament was written. Any Bible translation that uses it is anachronistic. 

So, when people say, "My Bible says that homosexuality, sodomy, etc., is a sin," they are not quoting the Bible, they are quoting a mistranslation purporting to be Scripture but isn't. 

As for "my Bible says," here's how I begin the discussion of interpreting the Bible in my book, Marriage Equality:
The ultimate recourse for those who want to keep homosexuality on the sins list is, “My Bible says....” The sentence generally ends with “...homosexuals are an abomination,” or, “...gays are going to hell,” or “…God hates gays.” This is intended to be the final word on the matter; the Bible has spoken, the issue is clear, we can move on to other things. How so? Because the Bible has spoken.
The Bible, of course says no such thing. I will prove it to you. Go get your Bible. Now, take it in your hands and bring it up to your eyes. Say to it very clearly, “Bible, tell me, what do you have to say about homosexuality?” If you don't hear anything, repeat your question; maybe louder this time. If there is still no answer, shake it; it may be taking a nap. Still hearing nothing? Well, that's all right, because if you do hear the Bible answering, you may be on your way to a psychiatric hospital. 
The Bible “says” nothing. It is an inert object, words on paper. It can’t utter a sound. Of course, you knew that all along, yet you may still want to repeat that the Bible says something. What is really going on is that people say the Bible says something; people speak on behalf of  the Bible. The Bible is deaf and mute.
Unfortunately, people too often make what “the Bible says” what they want it to say. You see, there is no such thing as an uninterpreted reading of anything, from the daily newspaper to the Bible. All of us read (or “hear what it says”) though a filter or a lens. No one can read without one. Your filter/lens is everything that you have learned through your culture, ethnicity, gender, nationality, get the point...that shapes how you perceive meaning. Every word you read or hear is processed through this filtering system. 
Everyone reads or hears the same word or words differently. Depending on how far apart our systems are, we can basically understand each other or totally misunderstand. In explaining this to an adult Sunday School class, one member said, “I can think of something we both read that needs no filtering, that is straightforward and immediately understood.” “Okay,” I said. “Let's have it.” He responded, “God is love.” I replied with, “What do you mean by 'God' and what do you mean by 'love'”? He got my point.
I could fill this post with any number of quotes from religious leaders, politicians and pundits of all kinds who repeat how the Bible condemns gays. This is unnecessary because you, my reader, have first-hand experience in hearing/reading such and in voluminous quantity. Finding an informed commentator who actually has studied the issue and isn't merely passing on unreflected upon, second-hand opinion is rare. Such is the success of the Anti-gay Industry. It has convinced people that the Bible condemns homosexuality when it doesn't even know what that is!

The success of convincing the public that homosexuality is evil spills over into the nonreligious as well. A question was posed in Yahoo Answers, "Are there any anti-gay nonreligious out there?" Here's the answer voted "best" by the readers:
Yes there are, I have no religious affiliations and I think being homosexual is an abomination to mankind, the anus is not a pleasure organ, if everyone was homosexual then the world would end, there would be no reproduction. Homosexuals will end us all, but they are good for spreading diseases, but if being homosexual is acceptable so should having sexual intercourse with animals, it's about the same thing, think about that.
Note the use of "abomination." Where do you suppose that came from ? And all the reasons given for being anti-gay are right out of the Industry's playbook, and they are all twisted from biblical sources.  One has to wonder about the critical thinking skills of the voters who made this response the best. It just shows how much work is left to do. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Anti-gay Industry, Part 2: Sources of Deception

The Anti-gay Industry is just that, an industry. It is an admixture of various parachurch ministries, churches, academics, and psychological practitioners that are organized around one mission: to stop the advancement of gay rights in America. It has enormous power in the Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christian world, and its spokespeople are the most evident in the mainstream media. They are "the voice and face" of what purports to be Christianity in America. (Remember how Jerry Falwell seemed to be on every channel at once?) They occupy high offices in Congress, fill various federal and state legislatures and agencies, and are found on school boards in every district. And, yes, they are mostly Republicans, a condition that worries not only the more moderate Republicans, but Democrats who understand the need for a two-party political system that actually works for the good of the whole.

Their ant-gay bias is a combination of many factors, chief among them being a literal understanding of the Bible. It's important to state at the outset that EVEN A LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE does not support the notion that homosexuality is a sin or that God despises LGBTs. (For a complete analysis of all the Bible passages that are used to support anti-gay bias, see the chapter "But My Bible Says..." in my book, Marriage Equality. Clicking on the icon book cover on the left of this page will take you to Amazon.) That said, many people are led to believe the worst, and they do. Most of them are genuinely sincere and their motivations are pure; they simply are convinced that homosexuals are a menace to America by the Anti-gay Industry, which exploits their biblical naivety, and feeds them propaganda on a daily basis through their radio and TV shows, websites, emails and fundraising letters.

Another factor that supports the Industry in its subtrafuge is the exploitation of human's natural fear of "the other." Differences can be exploited to pit people against people as we have seen in race-baiting politics, the "Huns" of World War I, the "atheistic communists" of the Cold War, and LGBTs of today. If you are continually subjected to messages from your pastor, legislators, and people you trust that the greatest menace to your family and your children is gay rights, you naturally will be inclined to believe it without access to evidence to the contrary. How easily some people were convinced of this is in how many actually believe that same-sex marriage is a threat to heterosexual marriage. No credible evidence of any kind has been submitted to substantiate this. It's simply taken as a given. Good grief!

Pseudoscience and pseudopsychology supply the intellectual backdrop for the Industry. The technical name for the theory that gays can change their orientation is Reparative Therapy. It is repudiated by every substantial psychological and medical professional group across the board in America. In order for there to be such a therapy, it first must be established that there is a strong need for such.  Here is where the onslaught of propaganda enters the picture that creates the impression that gays are abnormal, deviant, psychologically disturbed, pedophiles, disease ridden, short lived, promiscuous and (you fill in the blank). 

Then there are the "studies" that purport to show a very dark side to life in the gay community. Whenever they are peer reviewedwhich is seldom, because they know they can't withstand that kind of scrutinythey are universally shown to be fallacious, if not wholly made up. 

Over the next several postings we will examine these and other sources that the Industry draws upon to shape their arguments and mislead their constituents. We will look at the journals, associations,  ministries,  institutions, and leaders that subvert the truth and make life miserable for millions of LGBTs who otherwise would be free to live their lives as unencumbered as the rest of us.   

In the meantime, I leave you with this apology that John Paulke, a longtime advocate against gay rights, recently gave to the gay community at large. He was once the chairman of Exodus International and the organizer of Focus on the Family's, Love One Out program.
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….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.
 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.
The full text of the apology can be found here:

One final thought. Although for many months Mr. Paulk has repudiated his books, repeatedly requested they be ignored, and called on his former allies to stop using his now rejected testimony, the Anti-gay Industry continues to use them. Such is the nature of the forces we are up against.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Anti-Gay Industry: Fear-Baiters for Profit and Power, Part 1

 "A political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat.  If no external threat exists, then one has to be manufactured." - Leo Strauss, 20th century political philosopher

One of the oldest frauds in the world is to manufacture an enemy and then exploit the fear engendered for all the money/votes/power possible. The classic American example is the notorious Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, whose Red-baiting and hysterical claims of a communist under every government bed during the Cold War era of the 1950s, gave us the sobriquet, "McCarthyism," the modern equivalent of "crying wolf."

A present day McCarthy wannabe is former Rep. Allen West, R-Fla. At a town hall meeting, West said he thinks as many as 81 House Democrats "are members of the Communist Party." He was referring to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Fortunately, no one took him seriously, at least no one with critical thinking skills.

I remember as a child listening to the radio broadcasts of Rev. Billy James Hargis and the Christian Crusade. Hargis was crusading against the Red menace that was about to take over America, and its sly maneuver to corrupt our youth through teaching sex education in schools. It turns out that Hargis was doing his own corrupting with the boys of his church, college and camp, and was forced to resign from all his ministries and organizations. (Hargis denied the charges, but left nonetheless.) Since then there have been a spate of people who decry this and that who have been found involved intimately in the things they (publically) abhor. Ted Haggard, and Sens. Larry Craig and David Vitter come to mind.

This is not to say that all who indulge in enemy-baiting are insincere hypocrites. Not at all. There are many who find threats to their prefered view of things that are not only sincere, but consistent in their words and work. I am concerned here with 1) the reality that "enemies" make for good politics as well as personal gain, and 2) there are those who regularly exploit fear of enemies and even create enemies out of whole cloth. Today, with communism largely confined to Cuba, exploiters needed to find a new "enemy."

I am reminded of an incident Mel White relates when he was ghost writing Rev. Jerry Falwell's "autobiography." They were together in San Francisco where Falwell spoke to a large audience in a downtown hotel. After the speech, they had to muscle their way into their limo because a local gay protest had managed to block their way and, once in the car, impeded their progress. Amid the shouting, jostling of the car, and general hoopla, Falwell turned to Mel and said, "If I didn't have these gays, I'd have to invent them."

Yes, some "enemies" to exploit are readily at hand. And the Anti-gay Industry is alive and well today doing just that. I will be posting a series on the more destructive of these neo-McCarthyites over the next few days. We will begin by examining the pool of accumulated data that purports to be scientific studies that all the major players draw from, yet turn out to be as bogus and helpful as the latest fad diet. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Will 2013 Go Down as the Annus Mirabilis of the Gay Rights Struggle?

Rev. Steve Kindle
Ex. Dir. Clergy United
Just as Martin Luther King Jr. either prophesied or intuited, the arc of history, at least here in the USA, continues to bend toward justice.  Just a year ago, few had in mind the rapid fire changes that resulted in now 13 states offering same-sex marriage, and what looks like an irresistible march toward fifty state compliance.  I admit that I am giddy over the prospects.

Then there's the almost impossible-to-call reversal of the stance held by Exodus International, the first and largest ex-gay movement in the world, that gays could change their sexual orientation by either good counseling provided by the reparative therapy crowd, or getting right with God. The bodies that are littering the paths of all who held out such hope are staggeringly high.  Not only has EI repudiated their mission, they have called it quits! We would be celebrating this amazing turn of events were it not for so much carnage wrought getting there.

You may (I hope) have noticed my absence on this blog this past month.  Well, I've learned that when you self-publish a book, it takes as much energy after the publication to get it noticed as it did to write it. That includes writing about it as much as writing it!  So, silly me, I actually have another book on the way.  Some people can put out volumes (check out my friend, Bob Cornwall's blog and book output, for example:  But I'm a "bleeder," as they say in the guild.  I suffer over every word and much prefer seeing what I have written than writing it.

I bring this up because of the serendipitous moments that arrive just when you need one. Such a moment happened yesterday. My new book is for parents of gay children, If Your Child Is Gay: What every parent of a gay child needs to know to insure a positive outcome in an often negative world. It should be out next week. (Watch this space!)  I had written what I know is an obvious critique of the leaders of the "Anti-gay Industry." Here's a bit of it:
Not everyone in America is of the same mind on the subject of homosexuality, as I am sure you know. This is not to say that reasonable minds can disagree and we can leave it at that. You see, the opposition, for the most part, is unreasonable to the point of obstinacy. Why? They are most often driven by ideology, not the search for reliable facts or even interested at all in you or your children’s well-being. 
What I wrote is absolutely true, and those of us who are close to the ins and outs of the daily struggle with the Anti-gay Industry are well aware of this.  However, for a parent who is just being introduced to things gay, it is not apparent; it's even counter intuitive to believe that. They come off so sincere and righteous.  So, I knew I had to find a way to make this point and one was not easily at hand.  Until yesterday, that is. So here is how I was able to finish the thought:
A recent apology to the entire gay community from a long-time lobbyist for the largest anti-gay ministry in the world, Randy Thomas, underscores this. Here is part of what he admitted to on July 22, 2013, in a posting on his personal blog : 
"I participated in the hurtful echo chamber of condemnation. I gave lip service to the gay community, but really did not exemplify compassion for them. I placed the battle over policy [read: ideology] above my concern for real people. I sometimes valued the shoulder pats I was given by religious leaders more than Jesus' commandment to love and serve. That was wrong and I'm disappointed in myself. Please forgive me."
As could be predicted, the Industry was out in force jamming his blog with so much hateful commenting about his apology that Randy had to install a comment review program before posting any more comments. Such is the behaviour of those who supposedly do their work out of love for humanity.

The huge increase in gay marriage rights and the decline of Exodus International in 2013 may very well mean that this year will be looked upon as the Annus Mirabilis of the Gay Rights Movement, even as 1963 is for the Civil Rights Movement.  Martin Luther King would be proud. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

It's Not Over--by a Longshot

Rev. Steve Kindle, Ex. Dir
Clergy United, Inc.
My friend and writer for the Ex-Gay Watch, Michael Airhart, visited Judson Memorial Church in NYC on Pride Sunday. The sermon  found here from Community Minister Micah Bucey reminded the congregation that the struggle for gay dignity is far from over. Here's a salient quote from the sermon
We, as a queer community, even as we celebrate immense progress, are in danger of inactively disappearing our own people. Our Marriage Equality campaigns have embraced the institution and ignored the less easily assimilated members of our queer community. Our visibility is helping kids to come out at younger ages, but some are being kicked out of their homes, coming to New York City to find community and, in a terrible twist, being booted off of the piers by the very residents of the Village who came here decades ago to find their own safely queer space.
There's a general impression that with the right to marry, LGBTs have achieved full equality. Setting aside for the moment that full equality means 50 state participation, and employment protection, as well as myriad other goals not yet achieved, this victory is only for those who are easily assimilated into the wider culture.  There are many others not yet the focus of concern and, as Bucey points out, are becoming rarer even on the  radar screens of the gay community.  These include the young, poor, and queerer, especially the "I's and Ts."   Intersexuals, transsexuals, transvestites, transgender, and transitioning still have miles to go before they can rest in the security of public acceptance and equal rights.

Only recently have the "Is and Ts" been welcome in the movement, an ironic situation, since the historic moment of Stonewall was largely accomplished by transvestites refusing to be abused by NYC police. They have been on the outside looking in for most of the decades of the rise of the gay rights movement. Casual observers of social change aren't aware of the animosities that existed, and still do in some areas, between gays and lesbians, and LGBs and Ts.

I was attending a cocktail party hosted by a prominent gay organization where a transexual was a featured speaker.  She was mingling in the crowd when a gay man approached me with a question. "Is she (formerly a man, now a woman) straight or gay?"  "I don't know," I said. "But she definitely is queer!"  Thus the acronym is expanded to include Qs, people who don't normally fit into neat categories.  And because they don't easily fit into nicely received gender roles, they struggle for acceptance, even among those who should know better.

Another story will help illustrate my point. When I was a pastor of a church in Honolulu, our church president was a pre-op transsexual.  Formerly, Jane was a Marine who fought in Vietnam and still was a hulking, imposing figure. My wife was not as familiar with Ts as I, and her comfort level was low.  She was full of anxiety as to what to say to her, how to say it, and didn't want to embarrass Jane or herself. But she made the effort. One day she confessed to me that she no longer had any anxieties. She discovered, in the midst of a conversation about fingernail care with Jane, that the "otherness" completely disappeared and she was simply talking with another woman.  My point? Until we as a society can get as comfortable with those less like ourselves, as we have with gays in general, the Is and Ts and Qs will remain on the edges of society, even on the edges of gay society.

So, let's not rest on our victory laurels just yet. In fact, we need to double down on our support of Is, Ts, and Qs. Martin Luther King's standard is still true that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." LGBTIQ is not just an acronym.  It represents a people who deserve the dignity inherent in all yet still denied to some. The cause continues.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Neanderthals Are Still Among Us

Rev. Steve Kindle
Exec. Dir. of Clergy United
With my apologies to Neanderthals!

One of the reasons I wrote my book is that the chief reason obtaining gay rights has been slow is because it has taken time for the American (and world) public to recognize that they are as normal as any other form of humanity. So I took pains to show just how normal nonheterosexuals are. Due to the many LGBTs who have come out over the years, with the attendant discovery that they are our brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters, and yes, our mothers and fathers, we have learned just how normal they are. In fact, their absolute commonality with everyone is seen in the fact that they are among us, have been among us and we didn't even know it! We owe a huge debt of gratitude to out LGBTs for making this huge leap in our consciousness possible, and welcome.

But there continues to be a small but noisy segment of our population that refuses to accept the facts. Every professional organization that has studied homosexuality for decades has given LGBTs a clean bill of health, psychologically, religiously, sociologically, medically and even as parents. There is no place to go anymore to support gay unacceptability; all the harbors are filled with positive voices. In such a dilemma, what do the negative voices do? They resort to the last refuge of scoundrels: name calling and outright lying. If you don't have the facts to back you up, sling mud. In a tweet following the SCOTUS decisions, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association wrote, “The DOMA ruling has now made the normalization of polygamy, pedophilia, incest and bestiality inevitable. Matter of time." It should also be noted that the "slippery slope" argument, is resorted to when all other arguments fail.

Interestingly, "polygamy, pedophilia, incest and bestiality" are largely heterosexual deviances. The notion that gays were pedophiles was put to bed decades ago, but it's a handy argument for the uninformed to keep gays from teaching school and out of leadership roles in the Boy Scouts. But it's a lie. Gays are as upset with pedophelia as everyone else with a clear morality.

On CNN, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Wolf Blitzer,“You’re going to see a loss of parental rights, as children are taught in school morals that are contradictory to their parents’, religious liberty loss from business owners: bakers, florists, and others who will be forced to comply with a different view of marriage as well as even churches in some places, religious organizations losing their tax exemptions because they fail to comply with the force of the state in terms of redefining marriage.” Now that's a nightmare situation, for sure.  But is it true?  Permit me to quote from my book (as I'm against reinventing the wheel).
[These charges are] generally held by constitutional scholars to be a red herring.  When New York legalized same-sex marriage, for example, they included broad protections for religious and charitable organizations that were actually found unnecessary, as the protections are inherent in the U.S. Constitution.   
On the other hand, whenever minorities are granted rights long withheld from them, this means that the majority loses some of theirs.  Hotels, restaurants and other businesses that serve the public are no longer able to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or religion, regardless of how the owners feel.  Gone are the “Whites Only” counters, “restricted clubs” (no Jews allowed), and red-lined neighborhoods.  Most of us feel that whatever losses ensued is America's gain.  Should the Supreme Court uphold same-sex marriage, life in America will go on pretty much as usual, with the exception that LGBTs will no longer be denied equal rights with the rest of us. 
Just as schools had to begin to recognize the equality of the races, yes, equality of same-sex relationships with heterosexual relationships, including in the raising of children will be taught.  Because it's true.  The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, The American Psychiatric Association, and the Academy of Pediatrics all are on record as approving homosexuality as perfectly normal and as capable of entering any human relationship as any heterosexual.  This includes child rearing. 
It seems that we will have to put up with this uninformed nonsense for a while. In the meantime, more and more gays and lesbians will come out, more and more people will find gays as normal as the next person, more and more will we find the excessive complaints of this stubborn subculture irrelevant. Gay equality will win the day, but we must always bear in mind Martin Luther King, Jr.'s observation that "Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right."

Yes, there is much work left to do. Let's get going!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Today We Celebrate

America, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, made a giant step today in fulfilling the vision of our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, that all people are equal under the law. The federal Defense of Marriage Act's section 3 is found "unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment." By striking down DOMA, same-sex couples who are legally married are entitled to equal treatment under federal law.

The Court also issued its ruling on Hollingsworth v. Perry, ruling that the originators of Proposition 8 did not have the constitutional authority, or standing, to defend the law in federal courts since the state refused to appeal its loss in circuit court. This returns the right of all citizens of California to marry the person of their choosing.

Now 13 states and the District of Columbia have equal marriage rights coupled with federal protections and benefits. We achieved this, not through armed uprising, but by vigorous, relentless voicing of this indignity and revealing to the world that ours is a just cause. We have every right to rejoice in our good fortune. We also need to remember that others will be devastated.  Even though some in the opposition lied, cheated and bullied their way through the contentious decades of this struggle, many hold to such opposition out of sincerely held beliefs. All we have to do is recall our own feelings when things didn't go our way to understand how others may feel. This demonstrates what we have been saying all along: we share a common humanity. Gloating is reserved for those who don’t appreciate this. I am happy to say I have not observed anything but glee.

With marriage bans still in place outside of California, the struggle is far from over. We will continue the struggle in states without marriage equality until it’s achieved, with a great advantage. The example of California and the twelve other states with marriage equality will be enormous. The contrast of those states where all marriages enjoy all the federal and state rights and benefits will be stark. Pressure will mount as one state, then another, grants marriage equality. It will be hard to maintain old prejudices and the rigid confines of traditional marriage over time. People will see there really is no good reason to object any longer. 

So, today, we proponents of equality under the law, celebrate. These are huge victories, forecasting the future of America when all 50 states will have equal marriage rights.  This is inevitable.  There is no turning back.  But it will not be automatic; it will be won the same way we won today: person by person, state by state, ballot by ballot and legislature by legislature.

I'm off to San Francisco to join with The Religious Leader's Press Conference sponsored by the Coalition of Welcoming Congregations. As I said, today we celebrate!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Preparing for the Supreme Court’s Decisions on Prop 8 and DOMA

If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribing that conduct…what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising 'the liberty protected by the Constitution?
~ Justice Antonin Scalia (This quote is taken from his minority dissent to Lawrence v. Texas when the court struck down sodomy laws)

First, America needs a civics lesson
Contrary to the National Organization for Marriage’s wishes and all others who were disappointed when California’s Proposition 8 was struck down, and feel abused, the people DO NOT get to decide what’s constitutional and what’s not. Fortunately, we live in a constitutional republic, not a pure democracy.  For in a pure democracy, if 51% of the people want to cut off the heads of the other 49%, for whatever reason, it would happen.  Our Constitution forbids majority coercion of the minority and in fact was created, in no small part, to protect the rights of the minority. So if, say, California passes a proposition that provides that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” the fact that the majority of voters voted yes does not mean it passes constitutional muster.  The same holds true for DOMA. That’s why, for those who are opposed to marriage equality, DOMA is not enough and only a Constitutional amendment will do.

Ironically, if we were to let the people decide, as NOM would have it, the tide has turned and the majority of Californians and Americans are now in favor of same-sex marriage.  Given their favorable attitude toward LGBTs, when the Millennial generation assumes power, this will be a long forgotten era of American history.  Just as today when young people are told of Jim Crow and the struggle for Civil Rights, and they are mystified as how this could ever have been, so too will generations from now find it hard to believe that gay people couldn’t get married.

How DOMA and Prop 9 control the lives of LGBTs up to now
The federal Defense of Marriage Act effectively does two things. First, it defines marriage for federal purposes as between one man and one woman as husband and wife; and “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is either husband or wife.  Second, it allows states the right to decline to recognize same-sex marriages that are legal in other states.

The federal General Accounting Office identified “1,049 federal statutory provisions classified to the United States Code in which benefits, rights, and privileges are contingent on marital status or in which marital status is a factor”. This shuts out LGBTs from all federal benefits accorded to opposite-sex couples, including income tax breaks, Social Security survivor’s benefits, and health care. The GAO upgraded the number of benefits to 1,139 in 2003.

In California, Proposition 8 is a constitutional amendment, passed in 2008, which said marriage defined as “only between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” It overturned the California Supreme Court’s ruling that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. There was a window from June 16 to November 5, 2009 when same-sex marriage was legal and these marriages continue to be legal and likely will not be affected by SCOTUS’s ruling.

Possible Supreme Court outcomes
Most court watchers count the possible outcomes as four or five, reducing the likely outcomes to three. They range in scope from total victory for marriage equality across the board, to the status quo remaining in place. We will look at each outcome from best to worst, at least in the eyes of supporters of same-sex marriage.

DOMA and Proposition 8 are both struck down
Marriage would become the legal right of every couple, regardless of sexual orientation. Although this is the least likely outcome, it is possible. It is, of course, the most desirable outcome for those of us working for marriage equality. The reality that no couple in America could be denied the full dignity and rights presently accorded only to opposite-sex couples would mean that LGBTs are no longer second-class citizens.
A narrow interpretation would restore same-sex marriage rights to California and confer federal marriage benefits to all legally married same-sex couples throughout America. It would not affect marriage bans in other states; they would remain intact.

DOMA struck down, but Prop 8 upheld
Legally married same-sex couples in California and elsewhere will begin receiving the 1,139 federal marriage benefits. However, same-sex marriage will not be legal in California as well as the other states with similar bans. Those Californians legally married in 2009 will most likely not have their marriages made null and void.

Prop 8 struck down, but DOMA upheld
With the demise of Prop 8, marriage equality will be reinstated in California, and may overturn similar bans in place in other states. However, legally married same-sex couples will be denied all federal rights and benefits related to marriage. Second-class citizenship will continue.

We may know the outcomes as soon as tomorrow.  When the decisions are made public, I will post a column on where we go from here.

(This post was adapted from my book, Marriage Equality: Why same-sex marriage is good for the church and nation found here:

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Slow Demise of Exodus International and the Rise of Gay Acceptance

When Exodus International started 37 years ago, it had the wind at its back. In 1976, the Gay Rights Movement was just beginning to be heard from, most Americans didn't give homosexuality a second thought except perhaps to condemn it, and the professional organizations, which soon would reevaluate their opinions, were treating gayness as a psychological disorder. So when Exodus International announced its program of helping LGBTs "return to normal" (heterosexuality), many were prepared to endorse it and thousands of gays submitted to reparative therapy. So what went wrong, so wrong in fact that Exodus International had to shut it doors forever?

Several factors are involved, of course. The primary one is the failure of reparative therapy to produce the results they advertised. No combination of aversion therapy, shock treatments (yes!), prayer, peer pressure or even self-loathing could make the miracle of change happen. It became clear early on that what was actually happening was gays who were horrified at the thought of spending eternity in hell were sublimating at best and ignoring at worst their same-sex desires that never went away.  In fact, Alan Chambers, the departing executive director of Exodus International confessed that 99.9% of all the gays he knew in the program did not change. So they were counseled on how to defend against these unwanted desires with spiritual practices that also did not work. This prompted a former Exodus International board member to actually suggest that Exodus International change its motto from "Change is possible through Jesus Christ," to "Come suffer with us."  And suffer they did.

Reparative therapy, itself, is based on a false theory of homosexual origination.  The repair aspect is devoted to repairing the poor relationship a gay man has with his father, which is seen as the primary reason that gays seek out other men: their fathers failed to provide proper emotional support while they were growing up. Distant fathers AND mothers are to blame. This theory is wholly unsupported by all the major professional organizations that are charged with researching and supporting psychological health. I actually heard Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, the major proponent of reparative therapy in America today, tell parents of gay children that they should not blame themselves. Not because they failed in their childrearing, but because society failed them by making it so difficult to raise children.  Somehow, I don't think this was comforting.

Over time, the accumulating body of ex-ex-gays could not be ignored and their message began to overwhelm the "change" message of Exodus International  In fact, Exodus International actually changed its motto not too long before it closed to "Reaching the world in grace and truth." That is quite a departure from their original intention and may foreshadow the new direction of this ministry, albeit, under a different name and institutional configuration.

Then in 1973 the wind left their back: the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. The American Psychological Association followed in 1975. Other major mental health organizations followed and eventually the World Health Organization declassified it in 1990. Exodus International and its reparative therapy allies no longer had a leg to stand on.  All they could do was help the deeply religious  to cope with their situation.

Yesterday's post details those people and organizations that confronted Exodus International over the years with their abysmal failure to achieve their goal of transformation. No longer could Exodus International trot out their "success stories" because too many of them denounced the program and admitted they did not change.  There was no place for them to go except to close.

Although I am ecstatic over this news, I also feel a sense of honor is due to Chambers and his board.  Yes, Chambers engaged in hyperbole (if not outright lying) in leading his organization, and yes, many lives were destroyed in the process. In the end, Chambers admitted all this, asked for forgiveness and called a stop to the program. This is so much more than Nicolosi of NARTH, Joe Dallas of Genesis Counseling, Andrew Comiskey of Desert Stream Ministries, and dozens of fellow-travelers are willing to do--and should. Only the future activities of Chambers will confirm his sincerity. One thing is for sure: he is off to a good start.

So it turns out that the most important reason Exodus International closed its doors is that its most celebrated  example of "change through the power of Jesus Christ" hasn't changed, can't change, and finally admits it. With that truth staring Chambers in his own face, how could he, with any integrity, continue the deception? He details his apology in the video below. I hope that it will be taken to heart by the many, many others in the false hope of change business so that countless lives will be spared this evil delusion.

Exodus Head Alan Chambers' Full Apology to the LGBT Community
In an unprecedented admission, Alan Chambers, president of the so-called "ex-gay" organization Exodus International, apologizes to survivors of "reparative therapy" who feel they were harmed by the organization. Watch the full, uncut apology here. More videos and information can be found here, thanks to Lisa Ling and

Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Pray away the gay" has gone away (well, almost)

Exodus International, the original and largest organization to endorse the notion that gays can change has closed its doors.  Its president, Alan Chambers, who served for eleven years, announced today that their board of directors voted to end its 38 year ministry.  

It all materialized with a conversation Chambers had with several of the victims of reparative therapy and Exodus International's outreach who characterize themselves as ex-ex gay on Lisa Ling's television show, "Our America With Lisa Ling."  In other words, people who were lulled into the belief that although they considered themselves gay, they could be "returned to normal" through prayer and therapy.  Reparative therapy has been denounced by all accredited psychological and psychiatric organizations in the USA and even the courts have censured their practitioners.

Several organizations have put unrelenting pressure on Exodus International over the years and did much to create this change of heart in Exodus International.  One is Truth Wins Out, and its crusading director, Wayne Besen.  Besen has been critical of EI and reparative therapy since before Chambers came aboard. His 2003 book, Anything but Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth, is THE authoritative explanation and exposure of the ex-gay movement.  TWO's website,, is a daily chronicle of ex-gay abuses, idocies, and counter-attacks that amazes with its breadth and clarity.  Their stable of writers will keep you in touch with the latest news and analysis of things ex-gay.  Besen certainly is due credit for helping in the downfall of EI.

Another significant factor in EI's change of heart is the Ex-gay Survivors Network sponsored by Beyond Ex-Gay  It was founded by Christine Bakke-O’Neill and Peterson Toscano in 2206, two survivors of the ex-gay movement, as a way to connect others who were struggling with the failure of reparative therapy and other attempts to "pray away the gay."  Over the years, Beyond Ex-Gay reached out to Exodus International and other so-called ex-gay groups sharing their stories of abuse and failure and even suicide.  Although not acknowledged by name, Chambers admits that hearing such stories was a big factor in his decision to change the direction of EI, which soon led to its demise.

A chink in EI's armor occurred during 2008-2009 when Soulforce contacted Billy Hybels, pastor of the large and highly influential Evangelical church, Willow Creek.  They poured significant money into EI, hosted their events, and supplied volunteers for their programs. The upshot of these visits with Soulforce and other contacts Willow Creek made was to sever all ties with EI.

So what's to become of Chambers, et al?  It's not like they will disappear.  The Board announced the formation of a new organization with many of EIs board and staff that has as its goal the reducing of fear, and working alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.  Whatever that means (to them).  We shall have to wait and see.  They have a lot of reparative work to do with ex-gay survivors and they note the harm they have done and I believe their remorse is genuine.  However, remorse will not undone the harm.  I can only hope that their new organization will devote themselves to cleaning up the mess they made along the way.

As a bit of self promotion, you can learn much more about the harm of ex-gay movements and therapies in my new book: church/dp/1484967127/ref=la_B00DBIZDKA_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371776563&sr=1-1  Plus a whole lot more.  I hope you check it out.