Stephen Bennett’s blog entry for May 1 is titled Learning to Respectfully Agree to Disagree: Something Impossible for Most Homosexuals?.

Bennett’s essay is a model of exgay tolerance — up to a point.

Bennett effectively balances some examples of gay and antigay intolerance that he says he has encountered during his life. (I’m relieved to note that Bennett addresses the topic more seriously than the XGW commenters who berate him for his hairstyle.)

And Bennett says he’s not out to force anyone to change:

No one can force anyone to change – for they can’t. That’s not my job to change people from gay to straight, not my job to “judge” as so many say (that’s old now…drop it) — and it never will be. That’s God’s job.

My job is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and show how much love God had for us, that He gave His only begotten Son to die on the cross of Calvary for our sin. And by the way, we are ALL sinners…

You’re gay and want to stay that way? Go for it. It’s your life. You’ve got a free will — a free will God gave you.

I won’t push my Christianity on you or society, as long as you don’t push your homosexuality on me or society either. Deal??

But a search of XGW finds numerous occasions when Bennett or his ministry assistants have stereotyped or verbally harassed gay-tolerant individuals.

And Bennett’s demand that gay people not “push your homosexuality” on society is suspect: He fails to clarify exactly which of the following ordinary aspects of gay life he feels are forced upon society:

  • holding hands in public
  • celebrating unions within inclusive churches
  • taking one’s children to school
  • obtaining insurance benefits equal to those of heterosexual partners
  • receiving an inheritance from one’s partner, free of expensive legal contracts and lawsuits from antigay relatives
  • decision-making power when a loved one is medically incapacitated
  • obtaining employment, housing, and government services without risk of discrimination
  • living with and loving one’s partner without risk of imprisonment under intrusive, privacy-wrecking, and biased antisex laws
  • expressing one’s non-rightist or non-Christian religious and
    political perspectives in public and in the media without interference or disruption

None of these facets of gay life requires individuals such as Bennett to accept or approve of homosexuality. But they do require the same toleration and noninterference that all other “sinners” enjoy.

Without some specifics on what constitutes “pushing” one’s homosexuality on society, Bennett’s words of tolerance become just that — empty words.

Bennett presents himself as a moderate:

how can two groups of people, with diametrically opposed world views and opinions – who deeply are divided and disagree – learn to become respectful toward one another without resulting to childish name calling and hateful tactics? (I am talking here folks about BOTH sides…)

But then he asks a leading question that betrays his bias:

So why the double standard among some homosexuals?? Why a different set of rules??

The question will seem ludicrous to gay readers — gay moderates, gay conservatives, and gay libertarians in particular — given Bennett’s own work with the American Family Association to promote discrimination and undermine freedom of speech.

Bennett concludes:

I’ve lived in a glass house, so I’ve learned NOT to throw stones. It time for EVERYONE on BOTH SIDES to stop throwing the stones.

Let’s learn to better ourselves as human beings and not act like wild animals in a jungle. Let’s try to respect one another, while maintaining our different beliefs, should we choose.

We can learn a lot from each other you know. And in the end, I’m sure we’ll all find out that we’re not that much different at all.

We all just want the same thing: to be loved, to give love… and to be accepted.

I applaud these sentiments, but — pardon the tired cliche — the road to hell is paved with good intentions. More than mere intent is required for these sentiments to become reality.

One’s actions must match one’s words, and in the case of Bennett, the two do not match just yet.

Bennett’s essay is followed by several bigoted retorts by one of his most notorious online aides, Janet Hensley — a.k.a. “saltnlight.” Hensley launched a prolonged tirade of stereotypes against gay moderates and conservatives right here at Ex-Gay Watch last year, until she was banned. Apparently she’s still flinging her misguided assumptions and insults at the online community. Yet Bennett continues to host her verbal venom, and he declines to correct any aspect of her intolerant and embarrassing behavior.

I do not wish to minimize the value of efforts by exgay activists to reach out and build bridges. And I applaud Bennett’s gesture. Nevertheless, as I discovered in another online venture from 1997 to 2001, bridges that are built on proverbial shifting sands — mere words — do not stand very strong.

If Bennett is a man who keeps his word, then his actions will change to become consistent with his words. If his support for discrimination, opposition to free speech, and persistent hosting of a bigoted aide do not change, then his gestures — indeed, his moral integrity — are subject to skepticism among conscientious observers.

Bennett says he’s preaching the gospel of Jesus — but Jesus was a man of deeds and self-sacrifice, not mere words.

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