Exodus Vice President Randy Thomas wrote an article titled “Grace and Gay Men” that recently appeared in the Focus on the Family webzine Boundless. While doing my best to read it with an unbiased eye, I’ll admit that Randy’s erratic blogging and commenting behavior make that difficult. For whatever reason, the man wipes out his entire blogging history on a repeated and regular basis (which makes accountability for past statements nearly impossible).
Also, it has been my experience that Randy is incapable of allowing for or conducting any open and honest discussion with people who disagree with him. Whether he is willing to admit it or not, those sorts of behaviors take away from the credibility of his content and portray him as disingenuous when he talks about loving homosexuals as Jesus would.
The article is prefaced by a disclaimer that is almost long enough to be a piece on its own. I understand the need for a disclaimer now and then, but Randy writes three paragraphs justifying what he is about to say. Number one, someone important at Exodus can attest to how distraught he has been while writing; second, he has thrown caution to the wind against the good advice of a friend who fears he will be perceived as pro-gay; last, gay men are dying of AIDS so it’s time to toughen up and be forthright about how much he cares about all the gay men dying while headed straight for hell. In my opinion, the long disclaimer, just like Randy’s web etiquette, detracts from the sincerity and impact of the entire piece.
Following the disclaimer, there is a sort of mini-essay in which Randy addresses the Body of Christ and its reluctance to demonstrate love and grace to gay men during the initial days of the AIDS pandemic.
I did not and do not think it is appropriate to stigmatize a large group of men whom the Lord loves, dismissing them as unworthy of our love.
Even today, the overarching consistent message coming from the Christian community has been one of stigmatization and warning.
Randy goes on to write an article about gay men that’s full of stigmatization and warning, spending a fair amount of print convincing the reader of his own depravity in the late 80s. It strikes me as suspect when he talks about friends seeming to drop dead during that time frame with no knowledge of what was killing them. This was 1988.
In 1987 Princess Diana visited AIDS patients in hospitals, the Ray family had their house torched in Alabama because their 3 sons were HIV positive, and Ronald Reagan gave several speeches to various groups about AIDS. In 1988, the American Medical Association urged doctors to break confidentiality to protect potential AIDS victims, and the first WORLD AIDS day took place. These are events that I remember. Statements like this one are puzzling in the context of this particular story:
Up to that point AIDS was killing friends of my friends. I remember the rumors of a “gay” disease that had no name but it didn’t take long for us to learn that it was HIV and quickly becoming the new sexual pandemic.
It’s not so much that I doubt the validity of what Randy is saying so much as it seems that he’s putting various memories together for the sake of convenience. It certainly doesn’t make sense to jump from “gay” disease to HIV since the name AIDS was officially created in 1982 and HIV wasn’t isolated until 1984 — all while he is discussing 1988. Either way, it seems to me that being as street savvy as Randy obviously was at that time, he would have known and understood what AIDS was by 1988. Randy even contradicts himself just a few paragraphs later as he tells about the depraved night of bar-hopping and drug use when he learned of the death of his former and much-loved partner, Ron, from AIDS.
The “party” crowd might not have all known Ron but they all knew what AIDS was and this usually boisterous crowd was eerily humbled.
Randy continues, relating the fear and trauma he experienced as he waited for his own HIV test results in the months that followed Ron’s death. During that time, he was comforted and counseled by his gay friends, but persisted in using drugs. Eventually, he continued pursuing promiscuous sexual relations in spite of the fear that Ron’s death instilled in him. According to Randy, it was his friends in the gay community who finally got through to him about his risky behaviors.
Because of the self-imposed accountability within my gay community, I was not a “slut” for very long.
Before wrapping up his story, Randy reminds us one final time that HIV is a gay issue by quoting Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Folks, with 70 percent of the people in this country living with HIV being gay or bi, we cannot deny that HIV is a gay disease.
Once he clears that up, he seems to make an effort to provoke a more progressive line of thinking among evangelical Christians. Randy repeatedly affirms that it was the gay community who ministered to him in ways that eventually led him to Christ and his current Christian worldview. While this is certainly no scathing admonishment for the church, it is a bold statement for the likes of Randy Thomas.
My gut-reaction after reading Randy’s article was “he’s trying to go all Wendy Gritter on us.” If so, and it’s for real, I’ll be the first to acknowledge and applaud him. However, with a three-paragraph disclaimer and his continued insistence that his promiscuity and drug use were the result of his “gay-centered worldview,” I’m not holding my breath.