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Signs of gradual movement by religious
conservatives toward acceptance of LGBTs

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We use the acronym "SSM" to represent "same-sex marriage"
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. The acronym "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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 thumb down image Background:

In the English speaking areas of the world, there are two main religious groups that have strongly opposed equal rights for the LGBT community, including access to marriage , protection from hate crimes, and an end to discrimination in employment. They are:

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Original source of their beliefs about homosexuality:

They have based their position mainly on six or seven passages in the Bible which they interpret as condemning all same-gender sexual behavior regardless of the individuals' sexual orientation, and the nature of same-sex couples' relationships.

However, two of these passages apparently do not refer to homosexuality as it is normally viewed today:

  • Genesis 19 discusses an incident of attempted same-sex rape -- apparently by heterosexual male perpetrators. The men's intent was to humiliate two visitors to the city of Sodom. Rape is, of course, unrelated to consensual same-gender sexual activity within a loving, committed LGBT relationship.

  • Jude 7's reference to "strange flesh" appears to be related to bestiality -- sex between members of two different species -- not homosexuality. In this case it would have been forced sex by humans with two unwilling angels as victims.

A third passage seems to indicate that persons with a heterosexual orientation should confine their sexual activity to members of the opposite sex. It could interpreted as implying that persons with a homosexual orientation should restrict themselves to same-sex activity:

  • Romans 1 discussed a pagan orgy in which a group of former Christian men and women engaged in same-gender sexual behavior. This was explained as being sinful since it was an activity that violated their fundamental heterosexual nature.

The other three or four biblical passages appear to be ambiguous, at least when analyzed in their original Hebrew or Greek, and interpreted by more liberal and progressive Christians.

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Beliefs of religious conservatives:

Many, but not all:

  • Believe that some persons choose to have become lesbian or gay.

  • That they can return to heterosexuality through prayer and therapy.

  • That homosexual orientation is a type of addiction.

  • That it can be triggered or at least facilitated by poor parenting and/or sexual abuse during childhood.

  • Advocate that lesbians and gays adopt permanent celibacy and accept a lifetime of loneliness without an intimate partner.

  • Advocate that bisexuals, who are rarely mentioned in conservative Christian literature, restrict their relationships to opposite-sex partners.

  • Oppose legislative attempts to implement hate crime protections for the LGBT community, access to same-sex marriage, and Inclusion of the LGBT community as a protected class in human rights laws.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) specializes in monitoring hate groups across the U.S.

The SPLC has listed:

"... a hard core of smaller groups, most of them religiously motivated, [that] have continued to pump out demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities. These groups' influence reaches far beyond what their size would suggest, because the 'facts' they disseminate about homosexuality are often amplified by certain politicians, other groups, and even news organizations.

The SPLC selected 13 organizations as anti-LGBT hate groups. These include three very prominent evangelical Christian groups: the American Family Association, Family Research Council, and the Traditional Values Coalition. 1

It is important to realize that most religious conservatives are not opposed to equal rights for the LGBT community out of animus or hatred. It is largely based on a real concern for LGBT's eternal destiny. Many, perhaps most, Christian conservatives believe that people who are sexually active with members of the same sex will automatically spend eternity in the torture chambers of Hell without any hope of relief from the pain.

Homosexuality was not a major focus of concern for conservative Christians until long after the Stonewall riots. Those disturbances started on the evening of 1969-JUN-27. Patrons of the Stonewall Inn -- a LGBT bar in Greenwich Village -- were being attacked by police in one of their routine raids. However, this one time, the patrons decided to fight back. The battle lasted three days! This event is generally regarded as the trigger that started the drive for equal rights -- including the right to marry -- by the LGBT community. 2

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thumbs up graphic Two major conservative religious groups moderated their views of the LGBT community in a positive direction -- one apparently on a permanent basis, and the other for only two days:

  • exodus logo2013-JUN-19: U.S. etc: Exodus International: For over three and a half decades, Exodus International had promoted reparative therapy and prayer as an effective and safe method of converting LGBs into heterosexuals. At its peak, it included over 260 local ministries, churches and counselors worldwide. But in mid-2012, they made some major reversals to their belief system:
    • They no longer taught that reparative therapy is effective.
    • They taught than lesbian and gay adults will always have feelings of attraction to members of the same gender.
    • They taught that reparative therapy can be dangerous to the client's mental health.
    • They taught that sexually active persons with same-sex attraction can still attain Heaven after death. This is a serious heresy according to many religious conservatives.

One year later, Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus, offered a sincere apology for all of the harm that his organization had done to individuals members of the LGBT community down through the decades. He announced that Exodus was ceasing business after 37 years of operation. It had become obvious to most of Exodus' leaders that the group's success rate at converting LGBT individuals into heterosexual was zero or essentially zero. They had some success at persuading some lesbians and gays to become celibate and adopt a life of loneliness without the support of an intimate partner. They had some success at convincing bisexuals to pursue relationships only with members of the opposite sex. But they, and other faith-based groups promoting reparative therapy failed at converting LGBs to heterosexuality.

Chambers posted the following sincere message on Exodus' web site:

    "Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your [sexual] attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly 'on my side' who called you names like sodomite -- or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine. ..."

    "Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.

    Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or web site. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated." 3

  • world vision logo 2014-MAR-24: Throughout the third world: World Vision is a very large evangelical Christian world relief organization. Their Employee Conduct Manual requires all of its approximate 1,000 employees to restrict their sexual activity to "abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage." By "marriage" they were referring only to the union of one woman and one man. Thus, potential employees who are in a same-sex marriage would not be hired. However, the agency has employees from more than 50 Christian denominations, some of which recognize same-sex marriages as valid. After years of discernment, the World Vision board finally decided to honor the same-sex marriages of employees and potential employees and also honor the acceptance of such marriages by many Christian denominations. World Vision President Richard Stearns sent a letter to all of the agency's employees that stated, in part:

    "The board and I wanted to prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling our ability to accomplish our vital kingdom mission of loving and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ."

They announced their decision on Monday, MAR-24. Response from the evangelical community was very quick and very negative.

Two days later, they restored their previous discriminatory policy.

This is a case where an agency wanted to be more tolerant and inclusive but was met with such a massive pushback by fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians that they were forced to retract their decision.

More details, including some of the vicious criticisms of World Vision and portions of an entry by Benjamin L. Corey in his "Formerly Fundie" blog on Patheos titled "The Day Evangelicalism Died."

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Evelyn Schlatter, "18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda," Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, Winter 2010, at: http://www.splcenter.org/
  2. "The American gay rights movement: a time line,"InfoPlease, 2014, at: http://www.infoplease.com/
  3. Alan Chambers, "I am sorry," Exodus International, 2013-JUN-19, at: http://exodusinternational.org/

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Related section:

Attitudes towards the LGBT community & same-sex relationships among the general public seem to have reached a tipping point in the U.S. in early 2011, followed by rapid improvement. We have month-by-month essays covering developments from early 2011 to the present time.

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Home > "Hot" topics > LGBT issues> here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2014-MAR-25
Latest update: 2014-APR-01
Author: B.A. Robinson
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