While researching the above post I came to learn the former Exodus board member who said:
“Today with God’s abundant grace and His miraculous power to heal, I walk totally free from the AIDS virus.”
Died in 2004. His name was Michael Steven Lumberger and his testimonial no longer appears on the recently redesigned Exodus website. Randy Thomas blogged about it and later deleted his post but that’s why we have google cache! Here’s the obit. No cause of death is given in either link.
Update 07/26/06: After this post was initially published I had several leaders within the exgay movement email me to tell me Lumberger’s cause of death was something unexpected and heart related. All the exgay leadlers’ said the same thing about the cause of death and since I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist I’m inclined to believe it was the truth. Some people who emailed me were all worked up in a tizzy that I had dared to write about Lumberger at all and others genuinely wanted to understand why many gay people (myself included) found his testimony so offensive and insulting.
First off, I’d like to make it clear I never said he died of AIDS. But, when you have a guy who’s well published testimony includes claims about “walking free from” HIV and then dies without a cause of death given, and blog posts about the matter are deleted, people are going to ask questions. If a public figure (Exodus board member) makes unnatural or bizarre claims, the public has a right to know the truth. That’s the purpose of Ex-Gay Watch.
Exodus leadership is well aquatinted with dancing around semantics and Lumberger’s choice of words is no exception. You’ll notice Lumberger said “I walk totally free from the AIDS virus” which is clearly designed to make people think God cured him of HIV. “Walking free” could technically mean other things but I believe that’s deceptive and HIV-uneducated Evangelical audiences read it as “cured.” I believe that is designed to be deceptive and wrong.
Now let’s say “free from” means something other than “cured.” Simply because one has a high T-cell count or an undectable viral load does not mean one is “free” from HIV. Once you’ve contracted the virus and know you’re positive, it’s a part of your daily life till the day you die. One can never go back to being “free of HIV.” For Exodus to say otherwise is phenomenally offensive to many gay people because of the gay community’s collective experience with the epidemic and to those people who live every day reminded of the fact they have HIV.
Predictably the aforementioned exgays who emailed me offered explanations of Lumberger’s claim along the lines of T-cell counts and viral loads. Even if Lumberger had a high T-cell count or an undetectable viral load, Exodus, the organization that paraded around his testimony never backed it up with a damn bit of scientific proof.
Ex-Gay Watch editor Mike Airhart had this to say:
Tales of miraculous healing require factual substantiation and, in the interest of public accountability, should not be accepted without thorough investigation and documentation. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, requires years of intensive investigation before it will accept a miraculous claim.
I don’t know what sort of fantasy world Exodus operates in but even when I got a simple HIV test I posted proof of my result online.
I was also accused of unnecessarily revisiting an old issue since Lumberger died in 2004. Might I remind you his testimony remained on Exodus’ website till at least October 2005 when I did a post about their collection of testimonies. It’s unclear exactly when Exodus removed his testimony. Lumberger’s testimony remains to this day (July 2006) on the website of the Exodus Global Alliance without explanation.
So in the end, Lumberger never publicly clarified his deceptive testimony or offered any form of proof. This didn’t seem to bother Exodus since they continued to publish his testimony for at least a year after his death and his testimony remains to this day on the Exodus Global Alliance website. Exodus has a history of ignoring inconvenient questions and clarifying the claims of Lumberger will likely fall victim to that.