You force us to shout, Stuart!
Stuart Shepard, a man who is assembled some uber-offensive anti-gay videos for Focus on the Family, has written a new commentary for the organization in which he details why he thinks it's sometimes better to listen to what his opposition has to say rather than to automatically engaging them in debate. Framed around a recent run-in he had with gay-accepting protestors outside of a pro-"ex-gay" Love Won Out conference in Indiana, Stuart basically makes it sound as if by listening the pro-gay arguments being put forth by the demonstrators rather than attempting to refute their talking points with his own, he is taking the high road. He sums up the basic ideas of his commentary by saying;
There is a time for debate. A time to speak our position clearly. A time to say, "This far and no further." But I am convinced there also is a time to intently and simply listen. So we know who these folks are on the side of the road. So we know what they're thinking. So we know what brought them to that moment.
Because we dare not forget that there are not only battles to win, there are people to win, as well.
But here's the thing: Just like with so many situations involving the religious right, this isn't a discussion featuring two sides with positions both deserving of respect! The reason why there is even a need for debate in this particular arena is because FOCUS ON THE FAMILY TOURS THE COUNTRY TOUTING THE UNSCIENTIFIC, DANGEROUS FALLACY THAT GAYS CAN AND SHOULD CHANGE!! So already, going into the run-in with the pro-gay voice who is trying to speak reason to an unreasoned enterprise, Stuart and his organization are starting off in a place from which their side has thrown a needless grenade at gay and lesbian lives and loves. The "ex-gay" movement isn't a concept that naturally exists in a state opposite that of the gay rights movement. It is a man-made, queer-hostile program that hides discriminatory religious extremism behind a veil of religious compassion! The fact that Stuart and his FOF cohorts are even forcing gays to be out protesting their event has put them in a place where merely "speaking and listening" is no longer a possibility. For they have already screamed their biased, unsound opinions and refused to listen to the credible scientists and organizations who tell them that they are working from a flawed viewpoint!
In describing one particular run-in, Stuart says:
I flipped on my video camera and walked from protester to protester to get some shots of the signs they were holding. One woman held a sign that read, "I love my lesbian daughter."
She looked like someone I might chat with in line at the grocery store, so I asked if I could speak with her, making clear I did not want to start a debate. "I just want to hear you," I said.
She said, "May I show you an e-mail from my daughter?"
She unfolded a sheet of paper, explained that her daughter had “come out,” and sent this note afterward.
The e-mail thanked her parents for how they had accepted her announcement, especially when they asked her to look them in the eyes and they made it clear that they loved her.
I was struck how much this story rang true with so many parents who had attended the conference. I shared that it was essentially the advice that had been offered inside the church that day, but added that offering unconditional love does not mean affirming everything someone does.
And ya see -- he slips in the "offering unconditional love does not mean affirming everything someone does" tidbit as if it just a minor sticking point between himself and the daughter-accepting parent. he makes it sound as if the parent would be shocked just how similar her views are to those of the Love Won Out speakers and organizers, except for one teesy weensy little detail. But what we are talking about is a mother's acceptance that her daughter, like so many millions of other people around the world, has a true gay sexual orientation VS. a thirty-ish year old program that uses a religiously motivated mindset to support the convenient theory that gays are choosing their "sin." We're talking about one mentality that exists both in religious circles and independent of all faith VS. one that is mostly supported by the same people who wish to legislate morality. This is a debate between one group that shares various traits and characteristics that would strongly suggest a bio-genetic root (at least in part) for their orientations VS. a group filled with men and women who identify as "ex-gay" yet still admit they have same-sex desires (leading many to choose celibacy). A battle between one side who merely has to follow their heart and mind to know who they are VS. a group who has to spend money on conferences, seminars, books, CDs, etc., as well as employ some pretty silly methods, to achieve some semblance of "results". And let's not forget: We're talking about a side that has the support of the medical and scientific community VS. one that has had to create their own organizations and rely on their own biased scientists and studies to support their life-altering (or wrecking) claims!
There only exists a "debate" because they have created one!!
Focus on the Family's bread and butter is to hijack the moral high ground and to make it appear as if wrongdoing is outside of the realm of possibility for the organization or its followers. Mr. Shepard describes these "ex-gay" conferences as places that "[share] hope for people who are unhappy with their homosexuality and who desire to change." And he adds, "based on the protest signs out front, you would never suspect that was the gentle spirit of Love Won Out." But while he of course makes these statements to paint the picture that theses conferences are nothing but hippy dippy lovefests and that the protestors are clueless folks engaging in an unwarranted bout of resistance, to us he actually just highlights the actual truth behind these events. A "gentle spirit" conveying "hope" and "change" is exactly what FOF wants potentials to think about Love Won Out. Except it's not the protest signs outside that make those claims suspect, but rather the simple and honest truth! It is the underlying, unscientific, mean-spirited, dangerous methodology that those of us who follow this movement know to be lying underneath the "compassionate" facade that leads to our protestations! And it is the strong desire to see our gay brothers and sisters thrive through acceptance rather than flounder through unachievable rhetoric that leads us to tirelessly challenge this man-made socio-politco-religo enterprise!
We agree that there is a time for debate and a time to listen. We just wish the religious folks who foster and propagate the "gays can change" idea would stop and listen to someone other than their own choir! If they would, they might see how we gays would much rather be at home watching TV than outside in the cold fighting for humane treatment. It's just that we can't enjoy our "Brady Bunch" reruns when we know there are impressionable human lives being forever stifled at the hand of fallacy!
Commentary: A Time to Speak, A Time to Listen [FOF CitizenLink]
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