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.

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