Exodus executive director Alan Chambers was a guest on gay activist Michelangelo Signorile’s satellite radio show Jan. 27.
He posted his reaction to his guest appearance on his blog, which is open for reader comments.
Several gay-tolerant individuals responded. And Exodus spokesman Randy Thomas said that 11 years ago, all his gay friends shunned him, “not the other way around.”
But often it takes two people to break a friendship.
One reader of Chambers’ blog, named Scott, affirmed the right of ex-gays to exist and speak their minds. Scott merely opposed Exodus officials’ efforts to promote discrimination, ban gay marriage and civil unions, and interfere in the lives of people who are happy being gay. Exodus spokesman Randy Thomas responded by repeatedly accusing Scott of seeking to silence ex-gays.
At one point in the discussion, Thomas complained that 11 years ago (and since then?), all his gay friends shunned him. He blames them entirely; he presents himself as a victim. But the breakdown of Randy Thomas’ friendships could serve as a case study in how human relationships become strained and fall apart through changes in both people and wrongs by both sides.
Some of Thomas’ gay friends have long defended his right to be ex-gay and to talk about it. Unfortunately, in the past few years, Thomas joined the political religious right and proceeded to politicize those personal friendships. He began to stereotype his friends’ families, political beliefs, and spirituality. When challenged to correct his misstatements about his friends, Thomas responded with awkward silences, leaving questions about why he would misquote or misportray his friends unanswered.
In the mid- to late-1990s, Thomas — despite his ex-gay viewpoints — was a constructive voice for unconditional Christian love, healing, and opposition to prejudice in Texas churches. I found his approach admirable among ex-gays. Since then, sadly, Thomas’ public testimony became, more and more, that of a victim. As fear and stereotyping increasingly clouded Thomas’ treatment of his gay friends, his ability to communicate with them as real and unique individuals deteriorated. Political caricatures and fears supplanted the bonds of friendship and courage. Eventually, he became determined to oppress others politically because, he feared, otherwise they might someday oppress him.
Thomas has lived out a journey from love to fear, healing to victimhood — even as he accuses gay activists of playing up the same victimization routine.
Is Randy Thomas able to relate to gay people as friends anymore? That depends, for Thomas has gradually redefined what he means by friendship.
Thomas today believes that he is being civil, loving, and friendly by telling the world that his gay friends were miserable, dysfunctional, un-Christian, and immoral liberals; by encouraging Christians to discriminate against or prosecute his gay friends; by urging churches and legislatures to split up the gay couples that he used to know as friends; by declining to explain his hostile actions to his gay friends; and by fearfully accusing his gay friends of trying to silence him by not letting him fire, evict, excommunicate, or prosecute at will.
So whose fault was it, that Randy Thomas’ gay friendships collapsed? In broken relationships, there is often some degree of responsibility on both sides.
Instead of blaming, there is the opportunity for Exodus spokesman to rebuild respectful friendships with gay people. If he chooses, he can re-open avenues of discussion that he closed. He can answer simple questions about his actions when asked. He can discontinue his caricatures of his friends. He can help rebuild bridges that his threats of discrimination helped to burn. He can resume doing what ex-gay renegade Randy Thomas from Texas used to do: dispel antigay stereotypes in the churches — not promote them.
Perhaps the question, quite simply, is whether Thomas really wants to have gay or gay-tolerant friends anymore. Many ex-gays opt to distance themselves from their gay friends, for fear of ideological, religious, or sexual “temptation.” Some ex-gays do not. Which path will Randy Thomas choose? The choice is his.