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09/12/2008

Frankly, FOF, we couldn't care less whether you 'hate' us or not

by Jeremy Hooper

In another attempt to defend Love Won Out against the heightened media scrutiny brought its way by the revelation that Sarah Palin's church is promoting the "ex-gay" program, the folks at Focus on the Family have written a piece under this point-missing headline:

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We say "point-missing" because the matter of "hate" is a a subjective red herring that dances around the real issue. Sure, some people might have used the word "hate" to describe FOF's mission. But many of us, including this site, pick through their work with a fine toothed comb without ever accusing them of being "haters." So making it a matter of "hate vs. no hate" completely trivializes what this debate is really all about, which is: Is it right for a well-financed, well-connected organization to tell people that "change is possible," when they have no credible scientific backing to make such a claim!

200809120805In the body of the piece, FOF poses four questions to Love Won Out's Melissa Fryrear, a self-professed "post-gay" person. We will now look into each of those queries and Melissa's responses to them.

#1 -- FOF: We hear that Focus on the Family hates gay people. What is your response?

FRYREAR: This is the most grossly inaccurate and patently unfair portrayal of how Focus on the Family and LWO feel about those who identify as gay or lesbian. As a former lesbian who directs Focus’ gender division, I should know.

Having served at Focus for five years, I’ve had the opportunity — the privilege — to talk at length with hundreds of people at this ministry, including its top leadership, about the issues surrounding homosexuality and, more importantly, about those affected by it — the families who have a loved one living homosexually and the men and women who struggle with same-sex attraction. The hearts of those who serve at Focus are full of such compassion, grace and love. I know this is true because they’ve personally extended these to me.

Focus on the Family and LWO are also committed to sharing a Christian worldview on cultural issues, such as homosexuality. Don’t people of faith have the same right as any other American to be a part of the public dialogue? And shouldn’t Christians have the right to live their lives according to their biblical beliefs?

The Christian families we minister to believe God is real and that His Word is true. With regard to sexual behavior, they believe God has placed parameters on it for our own well-being — that it’s reserved for a husband and wife within marriage. Because of this belief, they cannot condone sexual behavior that falls outside of this, whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual.

The parents we minister to are just as concerned about a daughter living with her boyfriend as they are about a son who identifies as gay. So No. 1, they’re committed to biblical truth. And secondly, they want to unconditionally love their son or daughter even though they disagree with his or her sexual involvement. We encourage them that they can hold to their religious convictions and continue to love their son or daughter. Again, don't these Christian parents have the right to hold to their biblical beliefs about sexuality even if their child does not hold to the same convictions?

And what about those who struggle with same-sex attraction yet, because of their faith, don’t want to identify as gay or lesbian? Don’t they have the right to steward their sexuality according to their religious convictions? For some, that means a commitment to follow the biblical sexual ethic — which does not condone any sexual activity outside of marriage — and for others, they want to try to overcome their struggle with same-sex attraction and pursue heterosexuality.

Focus on the Family’s position as it relates to homosexuality is this: Truth and grace. (John 1:14,17). Focus is passionately committed to proclaiming God's created intent for human sexuality, and we are just as passionately committed to sharing about His forgiving and transforming grace.

Okay, so our main response to this one is: Of course people have a right to live how they wish. Of course people have every right to "steward their sexuality according to their religious convictions." Of course "Christian parents have the right to hold to their biblical beliefs about sexuality even if their child does not hold to the same convictions." Melissa Fryrear can sleep with toaster ovens if she wishes! This is not the point. The point is that Focus on the Family is taking these personal faith-based views and trying to send a message to the world that gays can "change." They hide this fact behind all of this talk of tolerance and personal freedom. But the "ex-gay" community is not confining their desires to the personal -- they use their views socially and politically to shape civil society!

Let's move on:

#2 -- FOF: We often hear that people like you — who no longer identify as homosexual — do not exist. How do you respond?

FRYREAR: When I began my journey out of homosexually almost 15 years ago, one of the most liberating verses I read is 1 Corinthians 6:11, which references homosexuality. It reads, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” I was amazed to discover there was evidence from the first century of the Church that men and women had overcome homosexuality. My heart overflowed with so much hope!

I soon learned about Exodus International, the world’s premier Christian ministry helping individuals and families affected by homosexuality. Through Exodus, I met a few, then dozens, then hundreds, and now thousands, of people who have overcome homosexuality. Hope abounds!

We also have clinical studies and research that support what so many of us know personally. Last fall, researchers Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse released the results of a three-year study that showed sexual-orientation change is possible for some individuals going through religiously mediated programs. The study was the first longitudinal, peer-reviewed, scientific research of its kind. Jones and Yarhouse published a full report of their findings in their book, Ex-Gays?

Well first off, the findings in the Jones & Yarhouse study are highly suspect. Small sample size (they hoped for 300 but only found 98), a substantial drop out rate, dropouts who were replaced with folks already in "ex-gay" programs, a suspect measure of what actually constituted "change" -- there are more than a few reasons to raise the proverbial red flags with this one. See Patrick Chapman's in-depth analysis over at Ex-Gay Watch.

Then there is the matter of the thousands of "ex-gay"s that folks Melissa and company routinely claim to know. Which is of course very surprising to the rest of us humans, who have managed to go through life knowing absolutely zero "ex-gay" or "post-gay"-identified people. Now, the crop of professional "former homosexuals" will surely say its just because these men and women are living quiet lives and not making their journeys public knowledge. This, however, just does not make sense. In this day and age, with lines of communication more open than ever, it is a certainty that those of us who deal with the "ex-gay" world would frequently run into these people if their existences were abundant. It's just not that case! In fact, our "ex-gay" shoulder-rubbing is not only infrequent -- it's virtually non-existent!

Oh, and as for 1 Corinthians 6:11? Well the idea that this sections refers to gays as we know them today is a conservative evangelical outlook that is not universally embraced. Those who prefer to look at the Bible with a critical eye have many questions about what, exactly, is being referred to in this section. Which again highlights the crucial point that FOF seems to miss. which is: Religious views are personal and varying. But with groups like FOF, there is no other considered viewpoint. They present the Bible as infallibly speaking about the sexual orientations of gays and lesbians, and the mold the actuality of biology so that it jibes with these religious outlooks.

Let's move on:

#3 -- FOF: What is your message for Anchorage — and the media?

FRYREAR: In Anchorage, we'll share unashamed testimonies of what Jesus Christ has done in our lives. 1 Corinthians 6:11 isn't words on a page to us. It’s a living proclamation written 2,000 years ago that became a radical transformational reality in our lives today.

We want to help Christian parents, family members and friends who have a loved one living homosexually, with how to maneuver through unfamiliar and often-painful and difficult waters. We want to encourage them to show grace, compassion and love, without condoning homosexuality. Christians can support God’s created intent for sexuality in a way that is compassionate and respectful toward those who disagree.

For those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction, our message is one of hope and encouragement. We want them to know there is an alternative.

Finally, and most importantly, it is our hearts' cry that those who do not yet know Christ personally will hear and learn about Him, and as a result make the most important decision of their life by accepting Him as their personal Savior and Lord.

TRANSLATION: They want all people to become heterosexual Christians. It would be so much easier for all involved if they would stop the "blizzard of words" (thank you Charlie Gibson for that accurate phrase) and just get to the bottom line.

Last one:

#4 -- FOF: Gov. Sarah Palin's church has taken some criticism over its promotion of LWO. Why do the media seemed surprised that her church believes the Bible?

FRYREAR: Standing for righteousness will sometimes bring the hatred of those who do not yet understand. John includes Jesus’ own words about this in his Gospel, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Jesus is encouraging us to stand for righteousness and as we take that stand, to expect a certain amount of hostility.

As Christians, we have some very difficult things to say to people about their eternal destiny without Christ and about the potential harm they bring to themselves when they live outside of God’s will. And how we say these things is as important as the words we choose. The answer, again, is to balance truth and grace.

Joe Dallas, a counselor, author and speaker, sums it up in the closing message of the Love Won Out conference: “The voice that must go out from the Christian community is one that is absolutely unsparing in truth and will not compromise under the worst conditions, and one that is also equally unsparing in love.”

You know, it's always interesting to us that evangelicals like to present themselves as the ones who are "hated" and persecuted like Jesus was. WHAT AMERICA DO THEY LIVE IN?!? This is the same crew who has declared themselves to be the "moral majority," and who proudly boasts that if they turn out on election day, their side wins. It's also the side that we routinely hear is most in touch with "mainstream America." So in what world are THEY the shunned ones? Last time we checked, we "actual-gays" are the ones whose last few decades centuries have been defined by struggle!

But then in the second paragraph, Mel says perhaps the most revelatory thing yet. Without actually coming out and saying it, she tells us (a) that she thinks "unrepentant" gays and other non-Christians are going to hell, and (b) that her side has to be careful about actually coming out and saying this. This really, really annoys us. And why? Well, because if these folks really feel that way, then they need to just come out and say it. Their code-wording ("pro-marriage," "pro-life") and flowery language are what have muddied this whole debate so damn much! Their balance of "truth and grace" is what has allowed them to dupe so many into believing that their discriminatory beliefs are really "loving." We say to Mel: If you have something to say, then come right out and say it! Let the public decide if your unadulterated views are as palatable as the ones you shroud in superficial prose!

Finally, in the last passage, Melissa build on her "truth/grace" balance act by quoting fellow "ex-gay" Joe Dallas. In his comment, Joe says his team must be "one that is absolutely unsparing in truth and will not compromise under the worst conditions, and one that is also equally unsparing in love." But what if those "worst conditions" are scientific organizations who stand in opposition to your work? What is those "worst conditions" are the millions upon millions of gay people who know who they are and know that "change" is an absurd concept? What is those "worst conditions" are the "ex-ex-gays" who have heartbreaking tales of the pain they endured in "ex-gay" therapy. What if those "worst conditions" are consciences who say that none of us should play God by telling others that they, even without scientific backing, know the truth about all gay people's biological makeup? Or the "worst condition" of them all: What if this "ex-gay" work is extremely sparing in love, and your belief otherwise is born only out of your inability to look at the endeavor objectively?

L-Word's Fictional Relationship Chart Now an Online Reality

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Your thoughts

Does Focus on the Family Really Hate Gay People?

Let's look at Melissa's answer:

"The hearts of those who serve at Focus are full of such compassion, grace and love"

But for who? "those affected by it":

1. the families who have a loved one living homosexually

2. the men and women who STRUGGLE with same-sex attraction.

Melissa is pretty clear that FOTF's compassion, grace and love are limited to stugglers (ie ex-gays) and does NOT extend to those who are not seeking to deny their orientation.

Lest any actual gay people be confused, Focus loves you. In exactly the same way they love serial killers, child molesters, and drug dealers.

Posted by: Timothy | Sep 12, 2008 1:48:17 PM

Well for me, Timothy, the whole "do they hate us?" setup is annoying. That make it sound like it all hinges on that one word. Like if they can prove they don't hate, then they are cleared of all of the challenges gay activists have sent their way. it's just so oversimplified.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Sep 12, 2008 2:06:23 PM

Does FOF discourage their people from giving interviews to mainstream journalists? Or is it that none of the mainstream news organizations are interested enough in what FOF has to say (or in providing their propaganda with a platform)? I searched for Mx. Fryrear in Google news, and found six references for the past month, three of which were FOF propaganda, and none were from any mainstream news organization.

I can understand FOF wanting to control the discussion. Their arguments can't hold up to scrutiny, so they need to confine and misdirect the discussion. In that way, they very much behave as if they know the truth behind their facade, but actively seek to misconstrue it.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Sep 12, 2008 2:24:00 PM

"Does Focus on the Family hate gay people"?

Does Ted Haggard enjoy chomping down on dicks?

Does Larry Craig have a wide stance?

Does Sally Struthers like cake?

Posted by: Scott | Sep 12, 2008 3:14:53 PM

To echo what has already been said, I've gotten into debates with people on some forums where their obvious tactic is to IGNORE the aggressive actions against gays to shift the conversation towards complaining about the word "hate".
It leads nowhere, and its best to let people evaluate the actions for their own conclusion on "motivation", if that can even be perceived as relevant.

Posted by: Foundit66 | Sep 17, 2008 10:43:13 AM

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