Saturday’s edition of The Tennesseean features interviews with ex-ex-gays Darlene Bogle and Christine Bakke and with pastor Bob Stith, the Southern Baptist Convention’s first national strategist for gender issues. Bogle and Bakke flew to Nashville last week to share their stories in front of the SBC’s headquarters.
For his part, Stith does express deep concern about the message that many churches continue to send to the gay community:
Stith’s interest in ex-gay ministries began a dozen years ago, after a fire-and-brimstone sermon about homosexuality.
“I asked myself, ‘Would someone who struggled with this issue come to you after they heard you preach like that? And the answer was no,” Stith said. “When I realized what my attitude had been, what I was doing, it just about broke my heart.”
Unfortunately, Stith’s own message appears to consist of the same ex-gay doublespeak that Exodus and Focus on the Family have been using for years:
“I have seen many people walk away from the homosexual lifestyle. And they were so joyful, so thankful for what God had done in their life,” Stith said. “If you have a strong enough motivation, it is possible.”
While those well-versed in ex-gay talking points will recognize that “walk[ing] away from the homosexual lifestyle” merely means a change in behavior (usually to a celibate lifestyle), most readers are likely to come away with the impression that any same-sex-attracted person who fails to change their orientation simply didn’t try hard enough. The accompanying video interview with Stith, despite a call for “compassion,” does nothing to correct that misperception.
If Stith truly wants to stop the verbal abuse that many of his fellow Southern Baptists continue to inflict on the gay and lesbian individuals around them, his message will require a considerable amount of refining.