Saturday, November 3, 2012

Focus On The Family & The LGBT Community: Can A Bridge Be Built?

The following are excerpts from two Huffington Post articles, the first from October 16th and a response from November 2nd:

1) "Focus on the Family, the former evangelical powerhouse of the Religious Right that was known for its vitriolic campaigns against gay rights, same-sex marriage and abortion -- its founder James Dobson once compared gay-marriage advocates to Hitler -- is taking a sharp turn away from culture war-style politics and widening its goals to include everything from immigration reform to decreasing poverty and increasing adoptions and foster care opportunities, its top leader said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

"It's fair to say we have concentrated on some things that have distracted from the main thing, which is the Gospel of Christ," said Jim Daly, the president and CEO of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based organization and host of its "Focus on the Family" radio program, which reaches about 2 million people weekly across 1,000 stations.

Daly, who in a book that comes out Tuesday tells conservative evangelicals to be "careful to not create a 'super sin' out of homosexuality," said in the interview that he has worked behind the scenes to broaden the organization's appeal since taking the reins of its flagship radio show two and a half years ago from the outspoken Dobson. Daly likened the changes to a generational shift in priorities and style. In ReFocus: Living a Life that Reflects God's Heart, Daly writes that while he still believes homosexuality, same-sex marriage and abortion are sinful and immoral, Christian conservatives need to realize they "may not win many battles" and should "not [be] engaging to win" but to "reflect God's glory."

The softening may reflect a response to a shifting religious and political landscape in the U.S. Daly admitted that when it comes to gay rights and same-sex marriage, young Americans, including evangelicals, have increasingly said they support both. A Pew survey released last week showed that for the first time, less than half the nation is Protestant and one in five Americans has no religion. Among those who have no religion, who tend to be younger, the survey found that they believe churches are too concerned with money, power and politics. At the same time, those with no religion said churches play a positive role in caring for the poor.

"When you are in the culture of doing good deeds, taking care of the poor, taking care of the widow, the orphan, not as a means to something else but because this is what true religion should be doing, even the nonbeliever would say, 'Look at that," said Daly, 51. "There is a certain respect that comes from that."

Read More Of This Article @ Huffington Post

2) From Justin Lee -

"Dear Jim,

You recently told The Huffington Post that you wanted to take Focus on the Family in a different direction -- away from making "a 'super-sin' out of homosexuality" and similar distractions from the good deeds that "true religion should be doing."

I'm thrilled to hear that. I truly am. See, I'm a passionate evangelical who grew up with Focus on the Family. You could say that I was one of your biggest fans. I wrote a piece for Breakaway, your magazine for boys; owned many tapes of Adventures in Odyssey, your radio drama series; and learned about puberty from Focus founder James Dobson's book Preparing for Adolescence.

But there was one thing that none of that prepared me for. When I hit puberty, I didn't develop attractions for girls like my friends did. My attractions were for guys.

For years, I refused to call myself "gay." ("I'm not gay; I'm a Christian!") I'd heard Dr. Dobson talk about sexual confusion in adolescence, so I assumed this was just a phase I had to wait out. Over time, I prayed more and more fervently for God's intervention. It got to the point that I was crying myself to sleep, night after night, begging for God to take away my same-sex attractions and give me opposite-sex ones.

My attractions never changed. God didn't change them. My faith didn't change them. Prayer didn't change them. Nor did therapy, time, or dating girls. Focus on the Family sent me materials about "ex-gay" ministries. Those didn't change my feelings either.

Through all of this, I remained celibate. I kept believing I would become straight someday, if I just kept trusting God. Eventually, though, I had to face the fact that it might not, and that even if I never dated or had sex or kissed anyone, I would always be, well, gay.

And that one realization is what changed my whole life.

Because, you see, the message that my pastors and parents and Christian friends were getting from Focus on the Family was that gay people chose to be gay -- or that, at the very least, we'd been exposed to some kind of abuse or trauma that had made us gay -- and that if we wanted to become straight, it was just a matter of trusting Jesus. By now, I'm sure you've heard enough stories to know that it doesn't work that way. But I still remember the letters Focus sent out to homes across America endorsing that idea -- letters endorsed by Dr. Dobson and "homosexuality and gender" specialist John Paulk, who was repeatedly held up as an example of how a gay man can successfully become straight until he was photographed in a gay bar.

Those letters hurt me. They hurt Christian kids all across this nation. Not only did we read them and feel like something was horribly wrong with us; our families and churches read them and trusted what they heard from Focus over what we told them about our own experiences. So many of us -- me included -- were kicked out of our churches and Christian groups simply for admitting that we were gay. And let me tell you, when your whole life is wrapped up in the church, and the Christian community you so love turns its back on you, it can be devastating. I became suicidal. Thankfully, I never followed through on those feelings. I know some who did."

Read More Of This Letter @ Huffington Post