Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!

A good friend of mine was asking me about the group SoulForce that I have on my links. When I explained they are a group against "religious and spiritual abuse," I gave reparative/conversion therapy as an example. I was surprised she had never heard of this phenomenon before. It occurs to me that she might not be the only one so I thought it would be of interest to others out there.

When I came out to my mother in the summer of 2003, one of the first things she suggested was reparative/conversion therapy. My response was that I didn't believe anything about me needed to be repaired, that God created me gay and I wasn't going to go against that. I also reminded her that this line of action would require my consent which I would never willingly give.

Many kids that come out to their parents are encouraged/forced to go to camps or retreats that will convert or repair them. My mom gave me this book that gave all these stories of people who "broke free" from homosexuality (as well as drug, alcohol, sex, emotional, physical abuse). This book was put together by Exodus International which also has a youth site. Another group is called "Love Won Out" which is an outgrowth of division's Focus on the Family. They have camps all over the US as well as in remote locations of Jamaica and Mexico. Outside observers have found that at least two-thirds of those in such groups give up within two years, and that over 75% of ex-gay organizations fail within five years.

There are several professional groups that say these efforts which are well-intended, are actually harmful. A few of these many groups are:
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Psychiatric Association
National Association of School Psychologists
National Association of Social Workers

My mother has said that these national organizations aren't reputable anymore because they have been "infiltrated" by "pro-gay forces." So I guess it's a matter of whom you think is the most unbiased and balanced, groups of medical professionals or religious organizations.

Speaking of which, there are actually many religious groups that are against this as well. There's also a really great organization called "Whosoever" that supports those who come out of these camps and retreats.

In the gay/lesbian Bible study/discussion group that I was a member of in Korea, we had several members who had gone through one form or another of reparative/conversion therapy. Many of their stories made me very sad. People would "cast out their demons" in front of the congregation or told them if they only "had enough faith" that they would be able to overcome their struggles with homosexuality.

This line of thinking reminds me of two events in my life. One was when a faith healer came to our church and tried to heal me of the common cold when I was six years old. I remember feeling really bad about my faith when I wasn't healed. Maybe God was unhappy with me? Didn't He love me enough to heal me? Did I not pray hard enough?

The other event was in college when I witnessed the deacons of the church surrounding a friend of my parents who had a crippling progressive disease that kept him in a wheelchair and made him blind. I tried to understand why God would chose not to heal him, despite all of our earnest prayers. Didn't he care?

What I've come to believe after these two events is that of course God has a reason when He chooses not to give healing. Perhaps they can be a stronger witness with their difference than if God took it away. Perhaps, in the case of Joni Erickson Tada or Christopher Reeve, this difference is inspiring to others and makes them that much more special than before. I do believe God has the ability to cause healing and has done so on many occasions. Although it is hard not to question God's purpose for human suffering but I feel, at the end of the day, that is what we must do.

In the case of my sexuality, I believe God knew what He was doing when He created me and that if He wanted me to be straight, then He would have done so. Furthermore, I don't feel like I'm called to lead a life of loneliness, lovelessness or hopelessness. (I feel reparative therapy would result in those things.) This life is a gift from God and He calls me to live life and live it more abundantly. I truly hope that my life brings God glory and pleasure and trust that God sees this desire in me and is honoured by it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Welcoming and Affirming

So I flew back to Toronto, my home of choice, last Saturday. I was welcomed by getting invited into the "bad room" again at immigration. Because I tried to bring my stuff into the country earlier this summer, (not knowing that this was a BIG MISTAKE), I've been "tagged" and will be going to the "bad room" every time I enter Canada until I get permanent residency (sometime next spring, Lord willing). I'm so tired of this summer! So that was my first welcome to Canada- the question "So when are you leaving?"

A nice thing was that my brother called me when I was in a taxi on the way to my apartment and then my friend Natalie called and invited me to join her and her friends for a drink on Queen Street West. Both gave me the welcome and affirming feeling that I was important and that I mattered. I'm so thankful for my family and friends! Yay!

Then I got into my apartment I started opening my mail and the very first piece of mail I opened was a form letter from the First Baptist Church of Oxford, Kansas (pop. 1,221). It was a letter that stated that they "accept all sinners into our congregation, but we do not 'welcome and affirm'. We welcome and love sinners but refuse to affirm their sin." They were all upset because the executive minister of our region's denomination had said that he didn't believe homosexuality was a sin. Plus they drafted a statement that "God ordained marriage to be the union of one man and one woman."

First of all, I'm saddened that with all the people dead or dying in the South as a result of Hurricane Katrina plus the US and Iraqi people dying in the war, that these small minded people from a small minded town spend time and energy AND MONEY to try to cause trouble amongst American Baptists in Kansas. Also if they were TRULY concerned with "defending marriage" what actions have they taken to prevent poverty, domestic violence, and divorce? What are they doing to help out the struggling single parents out there? Is it because these issues aren't as titilating?

Second of all, I kind of feel like this issue of same-sex marriage is a product of something that society already created, not gay people pushing for "special rights." If you look at what marriage meant in the time of Jesus, it was for the following reasons: 1) property exchange 2) reproduction and as an afterthought 3) romantic love. There was a bride price that was paid when two people were married. If the families were poor, they looked at who would help as a business partner in the work of the spouse. When the Industrial Revolution happened, there was less a need for people to be of the same social class. Marriage was no longer a gain or a loss in property. In addition, birth control and family planning became more common. Procreation stopped becoming a reason to get married. So romantic love was left as a primary reason for matrimony. When marriage became defined that way (note that God allowed these changes to occur and civilization did not end as we know it) gay people suddenly qualified whereas they previously they did not. We aren't "redefining marriage," rather, it's already been defined.

Thirdly, I agree with what Philip Yancy said in his book "What's So Amazing About Grace?" Why is the Church, which should be a place were all can go to find love and acceptance in the spirit of Jesus Christ, avoided by the people who need it most? Many unfortunately see the Church as a place of condemnation and of ungrace. Who enjoys going to a party you feel unwelcome at? Who seeks out an environment where you leave feeling even worse about yourself than you did going in? And finally to use a cliche- What would Jesus do?

Let me be clear though. I have no problems with First Baptist of Oxford excluding me from their church (which is exactly what they are doing when they say they wouldn't welcome me and my partner of 3 years to pray and worship with them unless we changed what God intended us to be). They have a right to their opinion and I would much rather worship where I'm wanted and welcomed. What does sadden me is that they are so unwilling to extend God's grace to allow someone to have an opinion that is different than their own.

Where's the "welcome" in that?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Is God in the Eye of the Storm?

Like most of you out there, I've been following the horrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the South. Like most of you out there, I've also been secretly thanking God that I was safe up here in the North. I've also been thanking God for supplying me with the basics, food in my stomach, clothes on my back (fabulous clothes even!), and a roof over my head. In addition I have a great family and wonderful friends who are the coolest and really interesting people. I really am very blessed. And my problems (refer to previous blogs) are downright trival compared to what those poor people down there are going through.

I've also been interested in different views on this travesty.

First, I've read a great suggestion to pull our troops out of Iraq and redeploy them in the South to help our own citizens out. (Hmmm. Isn't this what we actually are paying taxes to the military for? To help us out? Oh wait, I went and got all naive all of a sudden! Sorry!) This would really improve the US military's image after the Iraqi torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib prison camps. (Also check out this Dear President Bush letter that has the same idea!)

I've also read that many gay humanitarian groups have pitched in with all available resources to help out. The Rainbow World Fund has called for the LGBT community to join in supporting America's Second Harvest, a national food-rescue operation that is working to help at least 10 food banks hit by the hurricane.
"Hunger does not discriminate against human populations, and neither does America's Second Harvest," Maura Daly, a spokeswoman for ASH, told the PlanetOut Network. "The funds that we are raising will help us transport food to the impacted areas, including New Orleans, help us secure additional warehouse space to accommodate an increase in demand and assist our food banks in resuming or maintaining full operations."

And finally we have Repent America who has hijacked the whole event to Hurricane Katrina to stop Southern Decadence, an annual gay event in New Orleans. Sort of reminds me of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Genesis. (Click on the title above for the article. It must be read to be believed.)

Which brings me to the question that I'm wondering today- Is my God from the Old or New Testament? In otherwords, is God the vengeful, jealous, angry God that smites people with lightning from above? Governing our world by fear? Or is God one of grace, love and forgiveness who allows free will but also helps mold us into the plan He has for us? One that would even sacrifice His own Son own our behalf?