James Dobson, arch-conservative founder and head of Focus on the Family (which promotes the idea that sexual orientation can be changed through counseling and prayer), has decided not to help counsel Ted Haggard (the evangelist dismissed from his church after being outed by a male prostitute) after all–too busy, Dobson says.
Or maybe he doesn’t want to be associated with the country’s highest profile would-be “ex gay.” As the good folks over at www.exgaywatch.com have pointed out, Haggard’s resignation letter implies he’s already tried some form or forms of therapy or counseling. With an unsurprising regularity, ex-gay leaders turn out be more gay than ex. So the odds that Haggard would be a long-term success story are virtually nil–something that Dobson surely knows. (Ex-Gay Watch has a great section on “former ex-gays,” by the way.)
What could possibly be worse than Haggard claiming to have “come out of homosexuality” (or something like that) and than messily fall off the straight wagon again? I wouldn’t want to risk being associated with that either.
Daniel Gonzalez at EGW recently posted about two evangelists taking opposing positions regarding whether or not sexual orientation can be changed. But even Tony Camplo, whose remarks (quoted from a CNN broadcast) urge honesty, doesn’t suggest that it is easy or necessarily even possible to change orientation; Campolo seems to be referring to getting control of one’s sexual behavior. Gonzalez emphasizes the key point: “he’s going top have to live with that orientation.”
CAMPOLO: [Haggard has] said all the right things up to this point. The real question is, when he does get counsel, when he does enter into this restoration process, will he be forthcoming and honest about everything? Will he just say, I have a little problem on the side? Or will he begin to face the fact that maybe I have a sexual orientation that does not offer an easy fix. And if he does turn out to be homosexual in his orientation, he’s going to have to live with that orientation and figure out what this means for the rest of his life, because there’s not an easy fix for that. And to suggest that a few prayers and a few spiritual things, some scripture reading, is going to solve the problem, it won’t. That’s a good beginning. But — and with God’s help, he can go beyond that. But I have to tell you, you do have to go beyond just a spiritual experience in the process of restoration.
The choice is to live as an integrated, whole, self-accepting and affirming gay or bisexual man, or to continue to disavow an integral part of himself and to compartmentalize this aspect of his sexuality. As someone who’s “been there, done that,” I can tell you the latter course is very difficult.
Some social conservatives use the existence of ex-gay ministries and the anecdotal testimonies of (what usually turn out to be temporary) success stories to suggest that it would be not just possible but fairly easy for a gay or lesbian person to change. Look at how hard it is to change something like one’s eating habits–we are a country literally eating ourselves to death. The obesity epidemic grows and grows. Think Kirstie Allie won’t put the weight back on once her NutriSystem deal ends? Has Oprah ever kept weight off long term? (OK, I watch too much television.)
Sexual orientation is surely even more hard-wired than the desire for sugar and fatty foods. Dobson, no fool, is smart to distance himself from an attempt to de-gay Haggard. Which is actually good news for Haggard, who now may be one step closer to getting the love and help he needs to be who he is, not who the anti-gay evangelist movement would like to turn him into.