Is the Word “Exgay” Offensive? Is it Useful? Is it Meaningful?

April 27, 2006

Suzanne at Rainbow Unbroken was pondering earlier this month whether the term “exgay” is offensive.

I guess the fact that I use it indicates that I’ve at least tentatively answered that question in the negative.

When I self-labeled as “gay,” and knew people who self-labeled as “exgay”, I never found it offensive. Sure, I found certain things that individual exgays did offensive, but never the label itself. When I first heard the term, my reaction might have been one of complete confusion, but it certainly was not offendedness. They were just saying by that label that the whole gay thing was part of their past, and it wasn’t part of their present. Or at least, that was their intent. That was how they were seeking to live.

Similarly, I know people who call themselves “ex-Christian”, and again, I don’t find that offensive. They’re just communicating that Christianity was a significant part of their past, and it’s part of their past that they’re moving away from. I suppose I could be offended by that: “Oh, so Christianity wasn’t good enough for you, huh???” But I’m not. And I know people who label as “exexgay”, and that doesn’t bug me either. I don’t take it as an insult that they feel that the path I’m on now didn’t work for them, that they see themselves as “so over that.”

Maybe I’m just unusual in this regard. But I really can’t figure out what the big deal is. It’s a crazy complicated world we’re all trying to muck through as best we can. The fact that someone decided to flush my chosen path down the toilet of their personal history doesn’t really bug me.

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Praying for Bad Things for People

April 26, 2006

In my last post I shared how I recently learned that several years ago my mother prayed for God to "take me" (i.e., kill me) if being gay was a sin. Many parents ask for similar or less drastic ills to befall their gay children. Sometimes they actively pray for misery that will drive the child in question back to the Lord and the straight and narrow.

I’ve struggled with this issue myself. Not parentally, of course, but it’s been an issue when I wonder how to pray for my non-Christian and/or gay friends. After all, I believe that Christ is God, and that homosexual sex and relationships are sin. It would be dishonest of me to deny that I believe that everyone would be better off acknowledging Christ as Lord and worshipping Him and trusting in Him, as well as abstaining from gay sex. It would be dishonest of me to deny that I hope that anyone going down a road that leads toward homosexual involvement or a road that leads away from God will get stopped in their tracks and turned around at some point. But should I pray for how God is supposed to do this? Should I ask Him to hurl monkey wrenches into people’s lives?

The solution I’ve come to is to leave the details with God. I ask Him to draw all of us who know Him into a closer and more faithful walk with Him, and ask Him to bring those who don’t know Him into a relationship with Him, and to use whatever means He knows to be best in His sovereign wisdom. I figure He can determine the best way to do that without my help. I know it’s common for people to come to new faith or to deeper faith through suffering (it is certainly my own experience), but I would need pretty direct guidance from God to actively seek suffering for someone in prayer. God can bring good through bad, but do we need to wish and pray bad on people?

I’m not saying this is open-and-shut, that this is the obvious answer. I read about an American who while recently visiting the Chinese underground church told them that we were praying for their persecutions to stop. The Chinese reacted with horror, and begged him to tell us to stop praying that way, and even told him that they were praying for us evangelicals in America that we would be persecuted! No doubt they hope and pray that hardship and persecution might slap our fat, lazy, selfish, effete, complacent, and idolatrous American church into shape. And maybe there’s something to that. After all, Jesus tell us that those mourn, those who weep, and those who are persecuted, are the blessed ones. If we believe Him, why should we not seek those blessings for ourselves and others in prayer?

At the end of the day I have to admit that I don’t really know, but my personal approach has been largely informed by a story that I heard being read from a book whose title I can’t remember. (Of course, if I can’t remember the title, all bets are off on how accurate the details of my memory of the story are.) It’s a story about two monks, each growing a plant. The first monk prayed specific daily prayers for the plant’s welfare—asking for so many inches of rain, so many hours of sunshine, what temperature it should be that day, and so forth. And God faithfully answered all his prayers, and the plant grew somewhat but not so well, because the monk misestimated and misunderstood how much rain and sun were needed. But the second monk simply said, “Lord, you know what this plant needs better than I do. I entrust it to your care.” And God faithfully answered that prayer as well, and as a result that plant grew far better than the first.

This is not to say that I never pray specifically for others. I lift up my friends’ petitions to God, praying for the things that are on their hearts. And I ask for blessings and for good things for them in prayer. But when it comes to prayers for doling out difficulties and hardships and suffering, I feel more comfortable leaving those in God’s hands.

Such prayers seem to me to be relationship destroyers. About the time when my mom says she prayed her prayer, my previously warm, close, affectionate relationship with her withered into an icy detachment. At the time it was mysterious to me, but in retrospect, it makes a lot of sense. I do not think we can harbor desires in our hearts for bad things to befall someone, and still love them the same. Even if we don't tell them what we are praying, something shows through nonetheless. And it isn’t pretty.

A Crazy Conversation

April 26, 2006

Christine over at Rising Up Whole recently wrote about parents who hope or pray that their gay children’s lives are made difficult or cut short. The opening paragraph:

I just had a conversation with a friend who found out her mother had prayed that if being gay was a sin, that the Lord would take this daughter before she had drifted too far from God (yes, as in "take this daughter" out).

Yeah, so that’s yours truly. My mom dropped that bomb on me Saturday, telling me she prayed that prayer about nine years ago. I guess she thought it would be okay for me to hear about it now, because I’m evangelical and exgay and happily married and all that. Apparently she thought I would approve. But I must admit I still find it very, very disturbing.

What she prayed specifically was “Lord, I don’t think being gay is a sin, but if I’m wrong and it’s an abomination, please take my daughter before she drifts too far from you.” Shortly afterward, I became severely clinically depressed and also very physically ill, but the doctors couldn’t figure out why. According to my mom, at that point, she “hit her knees” and told God she changed her mind, told Him that there had to be "a better way". Thus, in a weird way she seems to be taking credit for my sudden illness and my recovery, and perhaps my conversion as well.

I’m reluctant to blog about this because I haven’t really processed it—I have more questions than answers. I didn’t think my mom was even a Christian then, and I know I sure wasn’t, so I’m not sure why she thought I was drifting away from God.In the following years, she continued to reiterate her belief that homosexuality wasn’t a sin and that she just wanted me to be happy, on numerous occasions expressed her opposition to my exgay path, and several times suggested that I should just find a nice girl and settle down. So the whole story makes no sense to me, but I’m far too freaked out right now to ask her to explain more fully.

It’s not that I think God was listening to her and that my life was actually in danger. I think it’s quite possible that it’s all a coincidence, perhaps made more striking by my mom’s possibly distorted memories and perceptions of the events which are after all now nine years old. (I can corroborate that I was very depressed and mysteriously very sick, but that’s about it.) I also think it’s possible that God made things happen the way they did to teach my mom something, although I’m not sure what it was, and I’m not sure how well she learned it.

But mostly I’m just disturbed and hurt that my mom would pray such a thing. I'm being told that I should be compassionate and understanding, because my mom was undoubtedly very confused. I'm sorry–confusion can excuse a lot of things, but asking God to exterminate your child isn't one of them. I'm not saying I don't forgive my mother. I'm just saying that I personally need to acknowledge that something happened, and it was really dark, and really wrong.

Anyway, while I'm not sure what else to say about this specific incident right now, it does seem like an opportune occasion to share my thoughts on praying bad things for people. So, onward to the next post

More on “Youth in the Cross-hairs”

April 5, 2006

In my earlier post on the NGLTF report Youth in the Crosshairs, I noted that the report made a lot of unsubstantiated claims, but didn't substantiate that objection with any examples. To remedy that bit of ironic hypocrisy, here is a small smattering of statements plucked from the report. Comments in parentheses and italics are mine.

p. 4

"Ex-gays who stop “living in homosexuality” prove their newfound heterosexuality through adherence to rigid gender behaviors."

(Support for this very general claim? Other than the testimony of a couple of ex-gays at one LWO conference? Support for the claim that any ex-gays believe that such adherence to "rigid gender behaviors" is a "proof" of "heterosexuality"?)

p. 10

"ex-gay programs operate under the premise that homosexuality is a mental illness."

(All ex-gay programs? Support for this claim?)

p. 14

"The rise in the number of youth who report attending ex-gay programs is not surprising."

(Info about the rise in number? I don't doubt that there is a rise in number, but NGLTF offers no evidence for this but anecdotes.)

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