Wayne Besen assesses a speech by exgay activist Tim Wilkins to 200 2,000 conservative Christians in North Carolina earlier this month:

In his sermon, Wilkins repeatedly made the stunning acknowledgement that people do not choose to be gay. Instead, he erroneously blamed homosexuality on a wide array of possibilities including the standard pseudo-scientific canards of parental abuse and dysfunction. To his credit, Rev. Wilkins confessed that his “theories” could not be applied to all gay people.

Equally surprising was that Wilkins unwittingly admitted that he was not cured, but merely suppressing his sexuality. He tried to spin this message by reducing the deep, intrinsic identity of “sexual orientation” to a nagging “temptation.” However, it was striking how after 30 years of ex-gay ministry and marriage, Wilkins was no more than a wink from a twink away from falling off the hetero wagon.

To drive home this point, he reiterated that he would not watch Brokeback Mountain because he feared that his resistance might melt like butter near a fire. I pointed out that as a gay man I have watched hundreds of heterosexual dramas and not once was enticed to become straight. Watching Pretty Woman, for instance, did not make me want to sleep with Julia Roberts. He had no answer for this.

Wilkins stressed that those who don’t become straight or successfully celibate fail because they are not sufficiently obedient to God. From my experience this message is particularly dangerous. People who don’t “change” after long and emotionally draining efforts often think they have been rejected by a God who doesn’t hear their prayers while He helps others become heterosexual. This can often lead to low self-esteem, severe depression and even suicide.

Read more of Besen’s column.

For reactions, check out Pam Spaulding, who remembers some other things that Wilkins has said recently, and Good As You, who finds humor in Wilkins’ message.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars says that Wilkins still has some lessons to learn about compassion, pragmatism, and grace.

Wilkins’ antigay revival was a defensive move against several initiatives by Christian leaders to condemn the use of religion to assault same-sex-attracted persons.

For example, former Rev. Jimmy Creech has formed Faith In America, a national organization “dedicated to the emancipation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from bigotry disguised as religious truth. Such religion-based bigotry has been used throughout history to justify discrimination against other groups of people, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, and people of minority religious beliefs. Faith In America is committed to ending this misuse of religion.”

And Queer Faith and The Empty Closet make note of a Sept. 11 gathering of 25 Christian leaders who called for five steps to end discrimination:

  • Realize that the “relationships of same-gender loving couples are equal” and are worthy of both the right to civil marriage and the rites of Christian marriage.
  • Reaffirm the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to full equality under the law, including adoption rights, employment and housing protections, and the right to serve openly in the military.
  • Refute the “ex-gay notion that sexual orientation and gender identity can and should be changed.”
  • Refuse to cooperate with or support political or religious leaders who condemn the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
  • Reclaim faith and speak boldly on “God’s call for justice, wholeness and peace,” working on behalf of all oppressed people.

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