Archive for Ex-Gay/Ex-Trans
“We have seen Satan, and he is us!”
Writing at EthicsDaily.com yesterday, Dr. Miguel A. de la Torre (director of the Justice & Peace Institute and associate professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology) reaches that conclusion after a concise deconstruction of traditional responses to the Problem of Evil and the development of the concept of Satan:
The early shapers of sacred text found themselves in the position of having to protect God from accusations of being the source of evil. As it became less acceptable to have aspects of God represented in evil elements or events, independent evil figures had to be birthed. If Satan did not exist, then they had to create one so as to vindicate God.
One problem with their strategy is that the texts often place responsibility for human suffering squarely in God’s lap. De la Torre notes the story of Job, the case of Saul, and the words of Amos (“Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?“) as evidence. This is why systematic theologians have to walk such a fine line when they describe Satan. Attribute too much power to him, and you weaken your monotheism; too little, and you risk making God responsible for acts otherwise considered evil.
But there are other, more practical problems with our traditional conception of Satan as well, as de la Torre points out. (Emphasis here is mine.)
Here then is the ethical concern: seeing Satan in the other. It cannot be denied that evil was, and continues to be, committed. But to reduce the other to a representative of evil justifies cruelties and atrocities to be committed by those engaged in the battle to save humans from Satan’s corruption. No evil ever dreamed up by Satan or his demons can outdo the atrocities committed by good, decent people attempting to purge such evil forces from this world.
Hence de la Torre’s conclusion: “We have seen Satan, and he is us.” We unwittingly do evil when we see other community members as evil’s source and deal with them accordingly.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians regularly face this kind of treatment from their brothers and sisters in Christ. A mother and father force a gay child into a harmful reparative therapy program against his will. A family gives a lesbian aunt the “silent treatment” for years. A church ejects a long-time member who chooses to transition from one gender to another. This is what “love the sinner, hate the sin” has tended to look like.
Like the traditional theological conception of Satan, the doctrine of “love the sinner, hate the sin” forces adherents to walk a fine line. Stray too much toward love, and you risk enabling behavior you see as sinful. Stray too much toward hate, and you risk… Well, what, exactly? Most Christians, I think, instinctively sense that hate is dangerous, but would be hard pressed to say why. God hates, according to the texts at least, and Christians are instructed to hate (Romans 12:9 being the most general example). But the problem we recognize intuitively lies in hating the wrong things or hating for the wrong reason. Here the texts are often ambiguous, and that’s where the danger is.
This ambiguity means that Christians will err in their application of this doctrine, and so we’re forced to make some calculated decisions to minimize the error. Unfortunately, many seem inclined to err on the side of purity, and as a result, LGBT people are excommunicated from churches, ejected from families, and made to submit to exorcisms or rehabilitation programs. But the hypocrisy of erring on the side of purity is obvious–as both Testaments proclaim, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” When we reprimand some for alleged impurity without recognizing impurity in ourselves, we show our ethic to be arbitrary and self-serving. This hypocrisy is increasingly off-putting to those outside the church, and the LGBT people who are forced to endure it often leave the church and their faith behind, never to return. Above all, God’s feelings about hypocrisy are clear: “Woe to you.” Eight times, “Woe to you.”
So then why do we choose to err on the side of purity rather than on the side of inclusiveness and welcome? Perhaps, when God asks us that question one day, we can say, “The Devil made us do it.” It would go better for us, I think, if we remembered that Romans 12:9, the verse that instructs us to hate what is evil, prefaces that instruction with these words: “Let love be without hypocrisy.”
(Image courtesy gapingvoid).
Please read Jim Burroway’s post at Box Turtle Bulletin about LGBT Ecuadorians being committed against their will to “treatment centers” that can only be described as torture chambers. (Translations of the series of articles Jim cites can be found here.) Here’s an excerpt from a 22-year-old transgender woman who experienced their treatment:
“My father paid $1,000 [approx. $350 dollars] to have them lock me up in a clinic because he wanted me to change. Four men practically kidnapped me on the street. I wore my hair long and, since I had already taken hormones, my breasts had grown. They clipped my hair. Me and another three homosexuals. They would lock us up in rooms of less than a meter wide. So small that we had to stand on our feet, in the dark, with flies.”
The place where she was taken was God’s Paradise, a drug and alcohol rehab center, led by Jorge Flor who some residents call “My Pastor.”
“When I tried to escape,” says Chiqui, “they hit me until they broke my nose. They’d ask if I was a man or a woman, they’d take our pants down, they’d throw water between our legs and would put live cables to shock us with electricity.
How in the world can such atrocities be committed in the name of Jesus?
I’m reminded of a story from the life of St. Joan of Arc. Before she revealed to her family that she had received messages from God calling her to lead the armies of France, her father had a recurring dream. In his dream he saw Joan leaving their home town of Domrémy in the company of soldiers, which he interpreted as a premonition that she would become a camp-follower and prostitute. He swore to his wife and sons, Joan’s mother and brothers, that if such a thing seemed about to occur he would drown his daughter, and made his sons promise to do the same if he could not.
Such a thing flies in the face of our modern understanding of basic human rights–and yet such things take place every day in our world, and in Jesus’ name. And they don’t just take place far away. Spiritual abuse happens in the church next door and the synagogue down the street and the mosque across town any time families are taught or counseled to mistreat their LGBT loved ones in God’s name.
What would have become of France had Joan been murdered by her family as she was departing in men’s clothes to meet with the Dauphin? What beautiful destiny does the church unwittingly destroy when it abuses its LGBT members and their families?
Peterson Toscano blogged today on some of the changes that have taken place in organizations like Love Won Out and Exodus International as a result of last summer’s Ex-Gay Survivors Conference and the “Survivors Initiatve” series of protest actions undertaken by Soulforce.
Speaking out makes a difference.
My dear friend Peterson Toscano announces an exhibition of artwork by survivors of the ex-gay movement, to be held February 22-24 at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center. They are receiving submissions through February 13. Check Peterson’s latest blog post for a list of other fabulous events going on in Memphis that weekend, including the retirement performance of his play Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and the Memphis premire of his new show, Transfigurations – Transgressing Gender in the Bible.
Ex-Gay Watch announced yesterday that Vivian Yuki Choe, a frequent and insightful commenter at the site, is joining their team of contributors. Vivian is a 31 year old transsexual woman who will soon be moving to Australia with her husband. She also blogs at The Journey of Yuki.
The Bilerico Project is also adding a new trans contributor, Monica Roberts. Monica is a 45 year old transwoman of color who hails from Houston and blogs at TransGriot. You can read her first post here.
Congratulations to Vivian, Monica, Ex-Gay Watch, and the Bilerico Project!