Ex-Gays And “Bourgeoisie Religion”
Extending earlier discussion a bit:
Lars Gaardfeldt of Sweden wrote a 1998 lecture, The Bible as Medicine: Bible and Prayer as Miraculous Cure Against Homosexuality. The lecture begins with a summary of base assumptions that are common in the "reparative therapy" movement:
- There is no such thing as homosexuality
- Homosexuality is never a genuine part of a persons identity
- No one is homosexual.
- You should not let anyone say that she or he is homosexual.
Exodus spokesman Randy Thomas repeats a variation on this mantra in his weekly press releases.
Gaardfeldt analyzes the work of author and reparative therapist Leanne Payne, finding it neither scientifically sound nor well-rooted in Christian teaching.
Among his conclusions:
I claim that the religion you find in "The Broken Image" and in other books written by healers dealing with homosexuality, is what the German political theologian J.B. Metz has defined as "bourgeoisie religion."
It is a religion where justice and equality are subordinated and where moralistic terms as respectability and purity are at the centre of interest. In addition I claim that this bourgeoisie religion is a religion where the heterosexual relationship is very near to become an idol.
In this bourgeoisie religion homosexuality is a threat.
I’m not a fan of reducing the problem to one of trite labels like "bourgeoisie" or overgeneralizing about evangelicals. But I do see a tendency at the Exodus national office — despite its claim to be countercultural — to accept and affirm middle-class American culture with its inequalities and injustices. I see an additional tendency to slap an evangelical Christian seal of approval over culturally based religious prejudices, and to treat marital heterosexual sex as an idol.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Exodus membership reportedly includes dozens of local ex-gay counselors who are single and celibate, and who express no unrealistic hope that they will ever be attracted to the opposite gender. Unfortunately, this predominance of celibacy among ex-gay counselors is not reflected in the propaganda of the national office, which offers the marriages of its top activists as proof that "change" is possible for everyone.
Missing from the Exodus press releases is a discussion of the 70 or 80 percent (or more) of ex-gays who experience no change. Instead of openly addressing how to minister to those who are unchanged, Exodus lobbies for discrimination against the majority of "reparative therapy" patients (and would-be patients) who are uncured.
The effort to conceal a tide of celibacy behind a front of married activists; the omission of unhealed patients; efforts to legislate discrimination; and an absence of discussion about most of the social and economic sins condemned in the Bible, all give some weight to the argument that current Exodus leadership accepts and promotes a religion rooted more in the predominant culture than in the message of Jesus of Nazareth.
Thanks for your subtle analysis. No other alleged sin would be treated in this way. Where are the ministries to free us from lying and pride? If you really want a counter-cultural ministry have an ex-materialist ministry.
The reason why we don’t have these ministries is because we know that in this world there continues to be indwelling sin. The ex-gays not only lie to the gays but they lie to the straights also. Since we haven’t experienced the emotions we think that it is possible to be “cured” of homosexuality. We have people claiming to be cured of it. Straight Christians then accept this claim at face value.
That being said, we are still culpable for our ignorance because if we did our theological homework we would know that this is a ridiculous claim. If homosexual behavior is indeed a sin and we know that temptation continues after becoming a believer then it is indeed cruel to claim that the temptation goes away for this case.
No homosexuals? I wonder what all the gay people are doing! Someone should pass them a memo or something. Speaking as a cynical, straight, ex-christian, the damn church has to get it’s freakin’ priorities straight- especially with marriage. Defending marriage from gays is like defending the pentagon from flying food instead of missiles.
This critique of Leanne Payne is preposterous. The contemptuous reference to bourgois religion does not have a word of truth in it. Her books are about the indwelling of Christ and the transformation that comes through that. You may not like it or agree with it, but this “theory” is absurd.
It should be pointed out that the author, Lars Gaardfeldt is not just a Swede. He is a priest in the Church of Sweden and a graduate student in theology. This is not the work of someone unfamiliar with the topic; it comes from s Priest and theologian. The concept of ‘bourgeoisie’ has along pedigree in European intellectual discourse; it is not much used in the US. Getting around all the quibling about the word, still leaves us with the concept that exgay thought is very much about appearances and conformity.
The condescending notion that Americans do not know what bourgeois means is an indication of the level of most of the comments that are made here.
The fact that this man is a theologian does not mean that his comments are without error” the mainstream church in Sweden reflects a left-wing bias that is not hidden, and that has repaced traditional Christian teaching throughout the mainstream European and American Protestant churches (while their congregations dwindle to nothing). This must be taken into consideration in any discussion of this issue.
The most troubling point of this debate, however, is the hatred, rage and bitterness directed towards those who have left the homosexual world. I guess tolerance doesn’t extend beyond political categories.
What “hatred, rage and bitterness” are directed here toward ex-gay individuals? Please specify.
XGW respects the choice of some same-gender-attracted individuals to be celibate for life, and XGW often agrees with people who disapprove of sexual addiction or compulsion.
You won’t find much support here for laws against “hate” speech, nor for laws forcing private employers to hire people in violation of their religious values or prejudices.
Ex-gays behave responsibly and honestly when they heal their own sexual problems and witness to their own walk with God.
It is dishonest and irresponsible, however, for ex-gay political activists to proclaim that they merely “speak the truth in love” when they promote stereotypes about “the homosexual world,” force government institutions to discriminate against gay people, and threaten private companies that choose not to discriminate.
We are tolerant of your personal choices of behavior and spirituality, Patrick. Please help us understand why you are intolerant of gay people in general and, for that matter, mainstream Christians.
Interesting comments: instead of simply agreeing or disagreeing with any of the statements that are made, you accuse me of hating all homosexuals and mainstream Christians, in the condescending tone of a clucking grammar school teacher lecturing her students.
Anyone who dares to question the gay political agenda is attacked with sentimental self-righteousness and self-pity instead of rational argument. So much for tolerance.
Why should it matter that some people come out of the Gay lifestyle? Why this obsession with those that choose another path? I have a friend who was a lesbian for years. She chose a different path, the path of healing and had to deal with bomb threats, 666 on her pager, all sorts of terrible things- all from the gay community. Why? Because she privately chose a different path. Is that tolerance? No. You want tolerance, yet you do not give it.
When you say “You want tolerance, yet you do not give it” you’re painting the entire gay and/or exgaywatch community with a pretty broad brush. And it’s not really fair. I would never in a million years do anything to antagonize someone who chooses a different path than I do. I have friends who are ex-gay and I would never want them to hurt like that or face that kind of pain and rejection. I think the people who did those terrible things to your friend were very wrong and I don’t think a lot of gay (or ex-ex-gay) people would support that kind of thing at all!
However, just as there are straight (and sometimes ex-gay) people who antagonize and hurt and abuse gay people, there are also members of the gay community who are also intolerant. Just because you appear to be straight, doesn’t mean that I assume you are intolerant or mean. So please don’t assume that I am intolerant based on a few people who hurt your friend.
In my opinion (and I’m not affiliated with the site – just a reader here) the purpose of exgaywatch.com is not to hurt or demean any private individual who has chosen to try to be ex-gay. You will notice that the only people mentioned on this blog are those who have chosen to be public about their lives and think because they changed, everyone can and should change.
Because of this, they are waging a war to try to keep gay people from having the same rights and priviledges afforded to heterosexual people. The reason we (speaking as an ex-ex-gay, not someone who is affiliated with this blog) concentrate on those who choose another path is not simply that they have chosen another path, but because there are a small portion of those people who try to make life very miserable for gay people. They say that because they changed, every gay person should be able to change.
And even though your friend may have changed (although many people who claim to have changed, such as myself, find out later that they have not), in truth it is very rare to find many people who have successfully changed their sexual orientation.
In other words, if everyone had a “live, and let live” philosophy, and was respectful and tolerant of others and recognized that everyone was different but entitled to the same rights as everyone else, this blog would probably not have to exist.
Hope that helps clear up any confusion! I’m glad your friend has had you as a support through a difficult time.
My friend felt that she was trapped, that she was in a small box and that she could not get out. She felt that she could not get out of the gay lifestyle. But, she met Jesus and He took her hand and went with her back to the abusive memories, the horrible rejection of her childhood. For her, lesbianism was a symptom of pain, not something she was destined to be.
Yet, I cannot get the gay radio program hosts of my city to interview her. When she gives talks- the pro-gays just walk out. No one wants to hear that there is a way out, instead everyone wants to put nail after nail into the coffin saying “There is no way out. You were born gay and you will always be gay.” For the teenager or young person who feels trapped- you only further their desperation.
Instead of bashing Mario Bergner or Leanne Payne, perhaps dialogue would be a better way to communicate. Set up meetings with them and let them know how you feel. The Christian church as a whole has categorically failed the gay community. Talking sin at everyone without extending unconditional love. Making sweeping stereotypes, without taking every person individually. And I have heard- that many have actually been physically beaten by Christians. Each person will stand before God one day and the Christian person who has done these things will have to answer to God for those actions.
I say- dialogue, not accusations. Dialogue- not walking out of talks. Dialogue- and not bomb threats and accusations. And maybe in the end there will be understanding.
I am sorry your friend feels betrayed, but the reality is all gay people must be inherently suspicious of anyone claiming to “change” their sexual orientation. Everyone in the gay community knows people who are currently, or have in the past, lived heterosexual lives, but HOW they constructed their lives had nothing to do with the WHAT of their sexual orientation. They were still attracted to the same people, however, they chose to repress those feelings.
I don’t know of a single, solitary, scientifically documentable, actual “change” in sexual orientation. From physiology we know such a change would require a re-wiring of the central nervous system, something that is currently beyond our medical powers.
So I have to believe that every single person claiming change is either a celibate gay or a bisexual who has chosen to concentrate on only one side of their sexuality – and that is fine. If for religious or social reasons someone chooses one of those routes, that is for them to decide. Unfortunately, too many fraudulent “Christians” use their lives to argue against the existence, the reality, the mental stability and the ability to love of every gay person. Your friend may not care if any other gay person joins them in “changing,” but a lot of “men of God” argue that all of us should be forced to change just because some people claim it to be possible.
So you cannot expect the gay community to welcome these people with open arms. They represent, for us, a failure – a failure because they have decided to do what nearly every other openly gay person has rejected – live a life of repression and closeted feelings.
Think of it this way – if a close friend and member of your church decided to leave Christianity and join a witches coven, you might, in the abstract, support his/her legal right to do so. But I highly doubt you’d be asking them to sit for an interview for your church newsletter or speak to the congregation about how great it is to reject your church.
The Christian church as a whole has categorically failed the gay community.
I think this is an understatement. The christian church has systematically and dramatically refused all attempts at discourse. With the honorable exceptions of Quakers, Unitarians and Religious Science of course. Christians only seem to respond to nasty, aggresive, inyourface tactics. Being nice, looking for a middle way, open to approaches resulted in being demeaned. So, if christians don’t like the way gay people treat them; that is what christians have taught gay people is the workable venue for reaching them.
The purpose of Ex-Gay Watch is not to bash anyone. So I would be grateful if Mary (or anyone) could explain how Leanne Payne or Mario Bergner are being bashed. On occasions in the past, when someone has clearly shown that the web site has treated ex-gays unfairly, I have apologized and corrected the web site. Generally, I believe Ex-Gay Watch treats ex-gays fairly, and I see nothing unfair in the discussions of Bergner and Payne (though the web site has said very little about Payne).
Ex-gays are free to pursue whatever spiritual and sexual path they choose. They are free to promote their path provided that they are honest and accurate in their speech about themselves and others. Sometimes a group — an exgay-related group, or a group related to any other cause — speaks with intentional inaccuracy, or practices unsound or harmful behaviors, or promotes discrimination, harassment, or prejudice. When any group engages in antisocial behavior, that group becomes subject to public scrutiny and accountability to the broader community.
Unfortunately, certain political factions within the movement have always resisted accountability. That is why Ex-Gay Watch was launched: to promote ethical, political, religious, and scientific accountability in the ex-gay movement.
If people wish to dialogue, they are welcome to do so here; another place for that would be the Bridges Across the Divide web site.
In any event, I agree completely with Mary that greater understanding is needed.
Ex-gays need to understand the many distinctions between being ex-gay, promoting ex-gay values honestly, promoting them a bit dishonestly, promoting them very dishonestly, making false and insulting generalizations about all gay people based on the actions of a few extremists, and becoming an activist to bully others to conform to religious-right ideologies.
Tolerance is multidirectional, not one-way. Ex-gays who promote intolerance are no more entitled to tolerance than gays who promote intolerance.
In other words, Mary, you and your lesbian friend must practice tolerance in order to receive it, just as gays must practice tolerance in order to receive it.
If your lesbian friend is an ex-gay political activist, then I condemn harassment against her, and at the same time I would honestly like to know how tolerant she has been toward gay equality in employment, housing, government services, and her denomination.
I recognize that tolerance still exists among some ex-gay activists, but Exodus and Focus on the Family (among other groups) have been verbally harassing tolerant ex-gays. As a result, public expressions of tolerance in the ex-gay movement are becoming hard to find. Is your lesbian friend tolerant of gays, or is she, too, looking for one-way tolerance?
I think that a broader term for the word tolerant is love. Tolerant sounds so cold. The question is- are Christians loving the gay individual? Are they asking you into their homes? Helping you move when you need it, sitting beside you at the doctor, eating pizza with you? Or is there a wall that says “Until you live your life the way WE want you to- then we cannot love you.”
My friend is no longer gay. But, she greatly, and with many tears loves the gay community. She is not a political activist, but, simply someone who was dancing at a gay bar one night and looking at the people around her and made the decision that she wanted out. It took 3 years of facing the terrible memories of her father abusing her- and now she is out. Why on earth would she want to turn around and hurt anyone?
The Christian church that I see and am involved with definitely has a problem. We talk “sin” and don’t see individuals. And the male Christian definitely has a fear of any sort of feminine, creative, male behaviour and perhaps fears it in himself.
There are great big problems here and the church needs to listen. The church needs to hear that it has caused tremendous pain. Christians need to figure out how they are going to love and not punish. That can only happen with honest discussion.
Well, I have said enough. As far as not meeting anyone who is no longer gay- I have known of scores of them and have talked to many. It is not an easy road. It is an individual decision for each person.
Marty. That is the most understanding thing I have ever seen you post.
What offends gay people is not the fact that the person is no longer gay (some of us could be considered ex-heterosexual), but the “and you can be too” part. What also offends is the idea that somehow they are leaving a “destructive life style” that every gay person does/did the same things they did.
You can be a lonely, drunken, sex addicted heterosexual as well as a homosexual who is lonely, drunken, and sex addicted. Being lonely, drunken drug addicted and sexual addicted is not related to sexual orintation but is related to the choices that people make and the issues they have had to deal with.
Of course! Of course there are happy people in the homosexual community. My goodness, there is as great a variety of people in the homosexual community as there are in the heterosexual community. Pain does not discriminate. But, the homosexual has the added pain of the Christian church not having a clue how to love them.
And many feminine male teenagers (I am not implying all homosexual men are feminine) who are creative, sensitive, and nuturing have the tar beat out of them because they do not fit into a mold. That is pain.
What is the Christian response to pain? What should it be? It should be unconditional love.
So what if some say that after facing a mountain of pain with Christ at their side that their homosexual feelings went away? If you do not want to take that journey, then don’t. But, let those go untouched who choose it. And if they are hurting you by what they say- then start a dialogue with them.