Charisma, an online Christian magazine, recently posted several commentaries on LGBT issues. Unfortunately, these columns demonized homosexuality and the LGBT community while celebrating so-called ex-gay programs. As the LGBT community continues to struggle for equal rights and dignity, it disappoints me that a Christian magazine would publish articles promoting anti-LGBT messages.*
First, "former lesbian" Janet Boynes (whose Minneapolis ex-gay ministry was featured in the "Pray Away the Gay?" edition of Our America with Lisa Ling) recently appeared on Charisma's front cover. In a commentary she penned for Charisma entitled "A Way Out," Boynes claims that the devil has tricked LGBT people into believing that their "sinful lifestyle" is an immutable part of who they are. She tells readers that she was "dragged" into a lesbian lifestyle because of this alleged deception, only to find escape from the "bondage of same-sex attraction" through divine intervention. Demonizing LGBT life as an evil force that threatens to destroy an entire generation, Boynes emphasizes that Christian faith can supposedly transform those supposedly misled by the devil.
Boynes insists that one of the major forces behind her embrace of the "homosexual lifestyle" was the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse she endured as a child. The psychological vulnerability created by this abuse led to an sexual encounter with a woman, followed by 14 years of same-sex relationships. These relationships, she says, were unsatisfying and a source of sorrow, and true inner peace was elusive. Gay and lesbian people, she insists, allegedly know that what they are doing is destructive and sinful. Such people need Christians to reach out to them and show them mercy, free of condemnation.
I do not deny Boynes' claims of childhood abuse, nor do I deny that she may have experienced unhappy romantic relationships. However, I do not believe that her homosexuality resulted from abuse, or that abuse somehow causes someone to become homosexual. Rather, I suspect that Boynes may have been legitimately suffering because of her childhood traumas, but she mistakenly blamed her sexual orientation for her sorrow.
By branding homosexuality as a spiritual pathology, Boynes denies any legitimacy to LGBT people or their demands for justice. Despite her calls for mercy toward LGBT people, she nevertheless condemns them by associating their sexual orientation with spiritual confusion and infernal forces.
I was also struck by how Boynes preferred phrases such as "homosexual lifestyle" or "same-sex attraction" to describe gays and lesbians. In doing so, she avoided using terms that legitimize gays and lesbians, reducing homosexuality to attractions and supposed lifestyles. This language strategy is nothing new, as a workshop at Awakening 2011 demonstrated.
Second, in a July 1st commentary entitled "The Play for a Gay (Domi)Nation," Lou Sheldon laments that more and more colleges are supporting the LGBT community. Sheldon, the founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, attributes these developments to a 30-year "gay agenda" campaign offending.
Sheldon describes the LGBT movement as a colossal, global "agenda of immorality" that churches are ignoring or catering to. Citing the increasing presence of LGBT characters in films and television shows, he accuses Hollywood producers and writers of chipping away at public morality. Americans have allegedly been forced to accept homosexuality by the sheer tenacity of the supposedly pro-gay entertainment industry.
Sheldon asserts that no group in America exerts such huge power over cultural institutions than gays, supposedly, pointing to pro-LGBT laws that allegedly give LGBT citizens special rights. Devoting special attention to laws legalizing same-sex marriage, Sheldon claims that LGBT activists actually want to annihilate the notion of marriage altogether.
After insisting that he does not hate homosexuals (!), Sheldon claims that many people are "trapped" in the "homosexual lifestyle" and want to be liberated from it. He spoke positively of ex-gay groups such as NARTH and Exodus International, framing homosexuality as a disorder that could be overcome. The serious ethical concerns associated with so-called converstion therapy, as well as their poor results in changing sexual orientation, were not discussed (see here, here, here, here, and here).
"The Plan for a Gay (Domi)Nation" caricatures the LGBT community as a sinister, destructive menace bent on destroying marriage and tainting morality. Conversely, it also depicts LGBT people as unfortunate people "trapped" in a lifestyle that they can escape through dubious ex-gay programs. By simultaneously demonizing and pitying LGBT people, Sheldon can tell Christian readers that he is not attacking LGBT people out of hostility, no matter how obvious his homophobia is to others. The idea that LGBT people are normal human beings seeking equal rights, or that many lead perfectly happy lives, is never considered.
There's more! Charisma also posted a commentary by contributing editor J. Lee Grady entitled, "You're Already in the Gay Debate, Why Not Learn the Argument?". Grady admonishes Christians not to be timid on the issue of homosexuality, offering four alleged "truths" on the topic. For instance, he claims that since all people are born with a propensity for certain sins, it is dubious for LGBT people to claim that they were born gay or that their homosexuality is immutable. Just because people are born with an inclination toward adultery or pride doesn't mean they must stay that way, he insists. Grady's non sequitur assumes that non-heterosexual sexuality is sinful by default, and that sexual orientation can be changed. The idea that LGBT people can live happy, ethical, spiritually rich lives is not entertained.
Grady scoffs at LGBT people who accept their sexual orientation because they are tired of being dishonest with themselves, dismissing such feelings as a cop-out. True Christianity, he insists, is about self-denial and self-control over "sinful" impulses. Sadly, he does not discuss the fact that denying one's intrinsic sexual orientation can results in depression, anxiety, and low-self-esteem, all of which drain vitality from the mind and spirit. Nor does he reflect on the ethics of lying to oneself and others, which can foster an inauthentic life and undermine trust.
Grady also claims that Christian faith can supposedly help people leave homosexuality, citing Alan Chambers and Exodus International. Again, evidence contradicting his position is not discussed (see here, here, here, here, and here).
It disappoints me that Charisma would publish a cluster of anti-LGBT articles and promote toxic assumptions about homosexuality. As many Christians and non-Christians alike are abandoning homophobia in favor of acceptance, some Christian voices still cling to anti-LGBT notions. What message do these commentaries send to LGBT Christians reading Charisma, or to young Christians who may be questioning their sexuality? These commentaries are yet another reminder of the work we still need to do in order to forge a just and tolerant society.
For additional commentary, visit the following links.
Truth Wins Out: 'Ex-Lesbian' Fraud Janet Boynes on Cover of Charisma
Ex-Gay Watch: Charisma Editor Promotes Gay Cure, Holds Up Alan Chambers as Example
Right Wing Watch: Sheldon: Gay Activism Is "The Very Face of Evil"
* - Charisma even posted an online list of scriptural passages condemning homosexuality, available here. Revealingly, among the five Bible passages was Leviticus 20:13, which mandates capital punishment for men engaging in homosexual acts.