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New 'ex-gay' message: If your HIV is acting up, you're not praying hard enough

by Jeremy Hooper

So read this letter that professional "ex-gay" Stephen Bennett has posted to his blog, and then we'll get back to you:

Picture 6-115

Alright, so clearly Stephen has posted this as a way to (a) make his work look more credible and (b) to solicit funding. Fine. We, however, can't help but see this as a grossly irresponsible message to send in regards to HIV/AIDS management. Here we have a man who is (seemingly) eschewing all drugs and modern advancements in medicine because he believes God had removed thie virus from his body. And then we have him quite dangerously passing off the idea that by virtue of only his prayer, he and his wife have been able to concieve a child without either son or mother becoming infected in the process. This is an "ex-gay" message that is not only f***ing with the lives of the gay people who might be led into the fallacious notion that homosexuality is "changeable." This is a message that, if bought into by the world at large, could potentially END the lives of millions!

Yet in his post on the letter, Stephen doesn't even mention the miraculous cures. There's not even lip service given to the fact that people should employ responsible heath care or gauge their own situations before putting all stock in Dr. God. Stephen simply cites the fan letter as "The Reason We Continue to Press On!" as if it is nothing more than an inspiring testament to his own "righteous" work. This is not only annoying on the level of so much of his other "ex-gay" work. It's enraging on a much deeper ethical level!

Over the years, we've heard from countless "ex-gays" who have had a portion of their lives wrecked because of being led to the notion of "change." But within that movement (of which the "formerly homosexual" Stephen is an outspoken proponent), there's a deeper through-line involving a war on science in general. While we understand and support the power of positive thinking, the necessity of hope, the possibility of miracles, and the power of spirituality in individual lives, we cannot sit back and let our opposition so carelessly highlight potentially damaging ideas in order to embolden their socio-polical goals! We're just too "pro-life" for all that.

The Reason We Continue to Press On! Praise God!! [SB Ministires]

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Your thoughts

How do we know that Mr. Bennett doesn't write these glowing tributes himself?

Snake oil salesmen throughout the ages have done just that.

I don't believe this "testimony for one minute. Bennett is desperately trying to raise money; even HE'S made that clear. This is just his shameful way to fill the coffers.

Posted by: Zeke | Feb 29, 2008 10:16:50 PM

HIV does not just go away on its own. I see an explanation here:

1. Someone believes their HIV has just disappeared. Attributing this to a miracle from God (Rather than, say, a misinterpretation of his bloodwork), he sends in the mail to thank Bennett. This person may be deluded, and may potentially be a danger to others if he continues to be HIV+ but believes himself to be cured - he presumably has unprotected sex with his wife. But he doesn't make the 'scum' classification, because he isn't willfully endangering or deluding others. He isn't malicious, just over-eager to clutch at straws for a cure.

2. Bennett, however, *IS* scum. On recieving the meil he used it to promote something that he must know is going to cost lives - he is telling people that the cure for AIDS lies not with medicine, but with prayer and espicially with his ex-gay therepy program. Bennett must know how dangerous this is, but I expect he has rationalised it - after all, if homosexuals go to hell, then surely it would be better for them to die of HIV as heterosexuals than continue to live as damned sinners? If he kills them, they will thank him in heaven. Or perhaps he actually believes he has the power to cure HIV - he wouldn't be the first crackpot to conclude he is an actual miracle healer.

Posted by: Suricou Raven | Mar 1, 2008 6:44:57 AM

Zeke: My first thought was also that Bennett penned the letter himself. But at this point there's no proof of that.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 1, 2008 8:09:11 PM

I'm naturally suspicious of anything that starts with "...we look forward to sending in our support every month".

I do caution about assuming that this guy (if he exists) isn't using meds. Within the evangelical (especially the charismatic or pentecostal) community, God is given credit for all healing - even if He is just guiding the hand of the doctor. If something is healed in such a way as to be somewhat unusual (more quickly than usual, recovery when there are low odds) this is seen as divine intervention.

So if this guy is on a regimine that has increased his T-Cells and given him an undetectable viral load, it would be natural for him to see this as a divine healing from God and as the result of prayers. And there's nothing at all wrong with that.

However, here's where the problem is: If he believes that an undetectable viral load means the same thing as HIV-, he may stop taking his meds. And from what I read, this may allow the virus to resurge in his system. If he is convinced that he's healed, he may not even go back for checkups.

As for unprotected sex with his wife... I'm not totally certain but I've been reading that HIV cannot be transmitted with an undetectable viral load (but, please, no one take my word on that). So if his doctor OK's it and he's on regular checkups, I think that going off protection long enough to conceive might not be so very criminal.

However, if he goes off his meds, proclaims healing, and stops using protection, there's a very good chance that both of them will develop symptoms fairly quickly.

Posted by: Timothy | Mar 1, 2008 9:47:38 PM

Timothy: You're of course quite right to consider all of those factors. All of them have gone through my mind as well. The problem, however, is that many people (especially those on the pro-"ex-gay" side of things) would not go through such an analysis. It would more likely be more along the lines of:

"God cured his gayness, then his AIDS, then his wife's cysts, and then blessed them with a baby boy. Praise God."

That's what I find scary -- the dangerous message that is being sent without qualifiers or further explanations.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 1, 2008 10:23:06 PM

Being gay/lesbian is a sickness or disease. You are not “born that way,” you choose to live this way because you need help. What you are doing is neither natural nor right. It is an addiction like smoking or doing drugs. Please consider cleaning up your habits and seek help. I am confident there is more in store for your life.
J. Davis – [email protected]

Posted by: J. Davis | Mar 2, 2008 12:15:28 PM

"In him"?

If that isn't the gayest letter closer I've ever heard, I don't know what is. Isn't that how Stephen signs his letters too? Looks suspicious to me.

Posted by: Scott | Mar 2, 2008 11:58:56 PM

J. Davis - actually you're the sick one, obsessing over the lives of gay people, and your sick obsession over homosex. What you're doing isn't either natural or right, please get a sex life of your own, and mind your own business. However, I am NOT confident there is more in store for your life, or any of the other lousy homosex-obsessed peasants like yourself. Get help, please.

And G-A-Y, I'd do some investigating. This letter looks as fake as Stephen and Irene Bennett's photoshopped teeth.

Posted by: Scott | Mar 3, 2008 5:31:15 AM

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