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December 29th, 2018

ExGay App Refused by Apple, Microsoft and Amazon

 

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Ex-Gay Programs Are Harmful and Don’t Work


After much thought and encouragement, I’ve written one of the strongest commentaries I’ve ever written against sexual orientation change efforts!


By John Smid


John Smid is the former Executive Director of Love in Action, recently portrayed in the movie Boy Erased


The new film, Boy Erased, has sparked heightened interest in sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). The movie tells the story of a young gay man whose religiously conservative family, desperate to turn him from gay-to-straight, enrolls him in Love In Action, an intensive “ex-gay” ministry. While the experience portrayed in the movie was shocking to many people, it was largely an accurate depiction of such programs. I should know, because I’m the former Love in Action Executive Director played in the movie by Joel Edgerton.


The film was difficult to watch because it vividly illustrated the horrific reality of my own journey over a 25-year period. In 1987, I was taught that my homosexual desires were rooted in sinful places in my dark heart. I was told to submit to God so that he would forgive me of my sinful nature. I was also taught that God was a miracle and through obedience and a faithful life, my sexual orientation could be transformed and I would discover my latent heterosexuality.


When one comes from a conservative Christian background where homosexuality is discouraged, it is easy to get caught in this cycle of shame. I was desperate. I was led to believe I could never be a man of integrity if I didn’t change. So, when I discovered Love In Action, it seemed to be an answer to my prayers. That ministry was part of a now defunct umbrella group of “ex-gay” programs, Exodus International. At the time, I truly believed that they were experts and a “worldwide recognized authority on helping men and women find freedom from homosexuality.”


After 24 years of heart wrenching attempts to live as a married heterosexual man, I became honest and began my journey to authenticity. I realized that through my own desperate attempts to alter my sexuality I also led thousands of others down that fraught path. I’ve spent the last 10 years making amends for the harm that was caused through my faulty messages of change.


While leading Love in Action, I attended numerous conferences through Exodus International where all I saw were desperate, wounded people crying at the altars of prayer in hope that God would give them the miracle they were seeking. Leaders shared stories of their own transformation while covering up that they actually remained unchanged. Year after year, the same stories surfaced about distressed people falling away to their own shame caused by the conditional messages that if they didn’t become “straight” it was their fault. Many succumbed to suicide due to their own despair.


Although Exodus and Love in Action shut down due to a lack of efficacy, there are still ministries across the globe today who peddle fraudulent sexual orientation change efforts. Unsuspecting, vulnerable people still enter these programs because they are terrified of the stigma and rejection they may face, by family, church, and friends, if they accept their genuine sexual orientation or gender identity.


What haunts me today is that the remaining organizations know nothing but failure. Yet, they blithely disregard the mountain of evidence: Thousands of people in their care are not becoming straight as advertised, yet these programs cruelly condition God’s love on transitioning to heterosexuality. This causes painful cognitive dissonance and leads to emotional, mental and spiritual scars. For many clients, paying for residential programs and therapy sessions can also be a drain on finances.


As a former leader in the “ex-gay” movement, I wholeheartedly agree with the leading medical and mental health organizations that condemn sexual orientation change efforts. The American Psychiatric Association says that such efforts can lead to “anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior”, including suicide. The American Psychological Association says, “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.” Such “therapy” is considered so detrimental that fourteen states and the District of Colombia ban practicing it on minors.”


I also agree with Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon’s recent decision to stop selling, in their online stores, a “pray away the gay” app created by Living Hope Ministries. Google should rapidly follow their lead before the app ruins more lives. Such apps are easy to access and compound shame and stigma, while often dispensing psychological advice by people who aren’t qualified and have little or no medical training.


I am particularly concerned by the effects such programs have on young people when their families reject them. Dr. Caitlin Ryan, a researcher at San Francisco State University, found in her 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “LGBT teens who experienced negative feedback from their family were 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide, 6 times as vulnerable to severe depression, and 3 times more likely to use drugs.”


A Nov. 2018 study by Dr. Ryan, who also directs the Family Acceptance Project, reports in the Journal of Homosexuality, “Parent-initiated attempts to change participant’s sexual orientation during adolescence were associated with more negative mental health problems for young adults.”


As I look back to my own 22-year history as an “ex-gay” leader featured on programs such as ABC’s 20/20, I can now say that I was swindled into believing I could change. In so doing, I subsequently deceived many because of my own inability to be honest with myself. I continued to solicit clients and donations for our ministry with a watered down message that somehow God was providing the miracle of change.


Thankfully, I finally became free enough that I could honestly evaluate my life vocation. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of energy attempting to make amends and clearly speak the truth. It is imperative that sexual orientation change efforts stop before more young people, as well as adults, are harmed. Conversion therapy in any form is dangerous and potentially lethal. The answer is not self-denial and lies. It is self-acceptance and living one’s truth.


Ex'd OutI’ve written my story of transition in my book, “Ex’d Out, How I Fired the Shame Committee.” I participated in the documentary film, “This Is What Love In Action Looks Like.” I was a special consultant in the recent film, “Boy Erased.” I’ve told my story on a podcast, “Unerased.” I’ve participated in numerous interviews and news stories. My goal in all of these projects is to be very clear that I was wrong and the message needs to be told, ExGay ministry, conversion therapy or whatever anyone wants to call it, must STOP.


If one person, hopefully many, could be spared a life of conflict, guilt, unending confusion and pain through my story, it’s worth sharing it!

Also published in the Advocate!


 

December 7th, 2018

Reflection on Conversion Therapy – Former Leaders

 

At the request of Wendy VanderWall Gritter for submission to a church denomination, these former ExGay ministry leaders wrote a statement about how they view conversation therapy after having participated in ExGay ministry for many years.


Statements from Former Ex-Gay Leaders Regarding Conversion Therapy:


Darlene Bogle; Former Founder, Paraklete Ministry

I spent 10 years teaching conversion therapy in the 70’s and 80’s as an ExGay leader. These efforts never made any significant difference in changing the direction of sexual attraction in those whom I counseled, or in my own life. The despair and constant failure added shame and isolation to their journey. I found freedom from false expectations when I found a UCC church who accepted me and my wife into fellowship within the congregation! It was an amazing thing to loudly declare that the teaching of conversion therapy does more harm than good.


Alan Chambers; Former President, Exodus International

During my 22-year involvement in Exodus International I never met one person who changed their sexual orientation, including me. While our stated mission wasn’t to convert from gay to straight, for many of those years our motto was “change is possible” and “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ”. I closed Exodus International in 2013 because it failed to represent Jesus Christ and the Church well. It represented shame, marginalization, and the belief that LGBT people were less than, not equal to. Exodus, for most of its years, caused undue shame and grief for parents who were told they played a part in the development of their child’s homosexuality. While I believe in an adult’s right to self-determine their own path, I believe any and all sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) should be banned. No lay person or professional should be allowed to use any methods to try to change someone’s sexual orientation. I believe it is the role of the Church to love and serve all people and not to inflict unnecessary trauma, which is precisely what happens when LGBT people are told they are less acceptable or unacceptable because of their orientation and/or actions.


Jeremy Marks; Former Director, Courage UK

After spending 30 years in Christian ministry to LGBT people, I am not happy with the term conversion therapy – because it implies that something professional is being offered. The truth is that most organisations that purport to offer some sort of “help” to “change” sexual orientation – masquerading under the heading of CT – are religious organisations seeking a way to sublimate their unrecognised and internalised homophobia by offering something that hasn’t the least scientific, anthropological or spiritual foundation. The real and deeply toxic issue that is extremely hard to legislate against is the underlying erroneous belief, so succinctly summarised by the RC church, that declares that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered”. In truth, the term CT somehow needs to cover any kind of anti-gay rhetoric in whatever form it appears. Antigay attitudes would be better recognised as a form of racism – that is equally abhorrent, utterly offensive, deeply damaging to those undergoing CT, and totally anachronistic in any civilised society today.


John Smid; Former Executive Director, Love in Action; Former Board Member, Exodus International

As I take an honest look back over the two decades I led a conversion therapy ministry, I realize how many individuals and families whose lives were shredded. Many lost hope for their lives, some to the point of suicide.


Teaching the insidious theories that a person’s homosexuality was caused by life events, unhealthy family relationships, or developed from sexual wounds, caused horrible destruction. Most were left in despair and debilitating confusion.
I know; I have spent tremendous energy and time following up with the hundreds of people I worked with over the years. Their stories are the proof.


As my own daughter told me several years ago, “Dad, I’m sorry you spent so much time trying to fix something that never needed to be fixed in the first place. Think about how much you lost along the way. I hope you stop hurting people.”


Wendy VanderWal Gritter; Former Executive Director, New Direction Ministries

Regardless of the terms used: ex-gay, conversion therapy, reorientation, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE); or the method: talk therapy, electro-shock, Bible study, prayer, or exorcism; the practice of attempting to alter someone’s sexual orientation has proven ineffective and profoundly harmful. Most conversion therapy efforts are motivated by religious expectation. It is therefore crucial that the church speak with a strong and united voice in the effort to ban the practice. LGBTQ+ individuals are beloved of God as they are. The way they love and the families they form are gifts to the church. This unequivocal message must be declared consistently and clearly to protect the vulnerable.




 

November 1st, 2018

Boy Erased Will Release Nov. 2

 

BOY ERASEDAs the new film Boy Erased is released to to the public on November 2, 2018, I’m being questioned about my role in the story of the film Some have asked if under the auspices of Love In Action people were actually treated the way that the film reflects. I’ve spent the last six months working through my reaction to the content of the book and the film. As in any Hollywood film, there is a factor at play where some scenes are enhanced to get the full message of the film out there. We have all seen films that are produced based on true stories and we know that all the scenes are not factual.



As I think about Boy Erased I have something I’d like to share. In a short conversation with film director and screen writer, Joel Edgerton minutes after attending the premier viewing, I said:


“Joel, this is something I’d like to say about Boy Erased. In this film, the names have been changed, but the stories are real.”


In response to those critics, this is what I have to say.


Boy Erased is a movie, a theatrical production of a book written by Garrard Conley. The messages in the movie reflect the tragic situations that LGBTQ people have suffered in the name of religion. They convey the trauma and confusion that families go through when they discover they have a gay son and bring in their church authority for help. The movie tells the painful story that many people relate to, which is reflected by the many, many tears that are shed by people in the audiences as they see the film


I will let my reputation and my character answer your questions or those of anyone else who want to know. If you don’t know me or have judged me already, then I suppose you will make your own conclusions and I have no control over that.


It is very well known today where I stand, and that I’m totally against any message, therapy, or religious organization or church that condemns LGBTQ people based on some interpretation of the Bible. I believe that all people are accepted by God in their given sexual orientation and that all people equally have the right to explore a healthy and loving relationship and marriage. I believe that any attempt to change anyone’s given sexual orientation is tragic and deeply harmful to one’s soul.


There is a line in the film by Nancy Eamons, Jared’s mother. Her statement really touched me and I can so totally relate to it.


“Jared, I fell in line, and I was wrong. Things are going to be different from now on.”


I fell in line.

As I reflect on her words I can say this, for 22 years I fell in line with the expectations, theories, philosophies, and religious dogma that lay underneath conversion therapy. I bought the rhetoric, I believed it. I attempted to apply it to my own life and lead others into it because it appeared to be the only hope any of us had. We considered the options of losing our very soul and feared if we didn’t completely obey,  all those devastating results may come to reality. So, yes, I fell in line!


I was wrong!

I was terribly wrong. I struggled that entire time with duplicity. One part of my heart longed for change to be true and available. The other part of my heart wanted so much to be free just to be who I am. I was wrong in the way I led others in teachings and applications that somewhere deep inside me I knew would not bring the hoped changes. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I must admit it.


Things are going to be different from now on.

As I came to my new reality six years ago, I realized that things are going to be different! I didn’t fully realize just how different they would become. But at this time in my life, I’m more committed to truth and authenticity than ever before in my life. Yes, I’m certain that things will continually become different day by day in my life.


 

September 24th, 2018

To the Parents – I’m so sorry!

 


September 20, 2018

Written by John J. Smid

Former Executive Director, Love In Action, Int’l. (20 years + 2 years leadership prior)

Former Board Member, Exodus International (11 years)

Nationwide spokesperson with the ExGay movement.


The film, Boy Erased is coming out soon. This is a movie that is made from a book by Garrard Conley, a former Love In Action client. As Garrard began to process his own painful memories and trauma from having been raised in a shame based world and through his experience with Love In Action he wrote his memoir, Boy Erased.  It’s about the son of a Baptist preacher who is forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion program (Love In Action)  after being forcibly outed to his parents.


As I’ve watched the process of the production of Boy Erased, I’m made painfully more aware than ever before of the negative impact that ExGay ministry has had on the parents of LGBTQ people. That awareness is what has led me to write this letter of acknowledgement and apology to the parents of LBGTQ kids.


Background

I had been in several gay relationships after my first marriage and divorce. The uncertainty within these relationships and the painful break ups caused me to talk with a good friend. Her recommendation was to find a life in Jesus and that he could free me from homosexuality. So, in 1984 I embraced a conservative evangelical Christian belief with the hope that my life could be a better one. Very early on, respected, educated and highly influential leaders within my religious community impacted me with teachings that spoke of the vile and sinful nature of homosexuality. They taught that an unrepentant homosexual would never be able to have a good relationship with God and that their sin may even lead them to the eternal punishment of hell. I was taught that homosexuality was a broken condition of humanity that needed healing and restoration. This was also in the time when extremely fearful reactions to the AIDS crisis were in the media frequently.


Those teachings brought me to my own fear of loss and punishment if I didn’t find the freedom I was hoping for. They led me to over 30 years of desperation for my own healing and subsequently into full time ministry leadership that was focused on attempting to help other homosexuals and their families find the freedom that I was promised if I followed a Christian life.


I was also led to believe in an insidious theory that some how a person’s homosexuality was caused by life events, unhealthy family relationships, and personal debauchery. It was believed that through child development theories and family systems teachings, that a person’s sexual development was stifled, broken or damaged from harmful parental relationships and separation from same gender associations. Those theories led to a belief that if God could deeply heal the brokenness then a person’s sexuality would realign itself with God’s design for humanity, heterosexuality. I can’t tell you how many times it was reveberated that I was sexually and relationally broken. The promises for healing and freedom resounded throughout my years of conservative Christian communities.


Through over two decades of full time ministry within the ExGay culture, a worldwide exposure, I never saw anyone experience a change from homosexuality to heterosexuality. But, since these beliefs were attached to a theology of a retributive God and a belief that an all powerful God could do anything, the fear of not accepting those beliefs prevented me from allowing a truthful evaluation of the outcomes of all that we did. It also led me to my own continual grieving while saying, “Why not me God?” But being who I am, I pressed on day after day, year after year, being as obedient as I could possibly be holding on to the hope that some day God would do the impossible and heal me! I could not teach something that I didn’t practice personally, so I was bound to an ever-increasing treadmill while living in the fear that I’d fail and lose everything.


As I primarily ministered to individuals who were wrestling with their own homosexuality, I also had connections with thousands of parents. I watched, parent’s grieving hearts agonized with God for their loved ones with the hope that they might experience the miracle of healing from their broken sexuality. I was an exhibitor at over 30 Love One Out conferences, produced by Focus on the Family. Each conference had an average of 800 – 1000 attendees, most of whom were parents. Our ministry handed out 1000’s of pieces of literature all promising that an omnipotent God would do the impossible for their kids. In all of my years in ExGay ministry, I saw more sadness and grief in one place at these conferences than many could bear. All of this grief was attached to a theology that condemned homosexuality as a broken, sinful and vile situation as well as a tremendous fear of death through the HIV virus.


Through Love in Action we facilitated many parents support groups and weekend seminars that were focused on families with loved ones who were gay. We held to a belief that homosexuality was an addiction that needed intervention to arrest. We facilitated therapeutic tools that often caused even more shame. We hoped to bring an individual into the reality of the harm in their addiction to themselves and others. Many parents and loved ones were thrown into situations that were uncomfortable at the least and completely unbearable for many. Many parents left each meeting with the hope that somehow all of this would have purpose if their loved one would be healed from their homosexuality. Many of them trusted our passionate communication that we could help. Far too many left these experiences feeling as though they’d failed miserably as parents.


Each time I spoke publicly, I did so attempting to hold on to the hope I had for my own future.  It felt like my head was just above the water and unless I continued to believe, I’d sink. I conveyed that same desperation to each person I connected with through those years.  I’d often relay, “If you just hold on to God, it’ll all work out. If you let go of God, you’ll sink into the hell of homosexuality.” I had such deeply seated fears of the destruction of homosexuality in a person’s life and in my own, that I told one man, “It may be better if you were dead than to live in the throes of homosexuality!” Those words haunt me virtually every day.


When I left Love In Action in 2008, I was deeply in despair emotionally and spiritually. I’d gone through three major church splits within as many years with damage and carnage spread throughout our city. Love In Action was horribly damaged through staff splitting and destruction following the infamous viral protest in 2005. I left because I could find no hope, or help, in correcting the circumstances. I believed leaving was the very best thing for me, and for the ministry.


As I left, I went through a lengthy evaluation of 22 years of ministry. I met with a life coach weekly for months to help me sort out what I was going through. As my mind began to clear I came to the realization that what I’d taught, what I believed for so long, was horribly damaging. The damage to my own life was insurmountable. The destruction and abusive theology had wounded hundreds that I knew personally, not to mention the thousands that I impacted vicariously through my influence.


Deep down in my heart, all through the years, my greatest desire was to help people find the best life they could. My desire was to see families reconcile, love each other, and live through the years in unity. As I reflect on those years the very core of everything I taught was leading in the opposite direction. As I followed my mentors and led within ministry with Bible teachings against homosexuality and promoted the wrath of God against it, the outcome produced trauma, discouragement, and nothing but more fear.


I am so very sorry!

As I take an honest look back, I sincerely apologize for how many families had been shredded and how many individuals had lost hope for their lives, some to the point of suicide, through the ministry I led. Needless to say, virtually all of the men and women that went through our program got to the point of spiritual bankruptcy afterwards. I saw the painful separation that had occurred between many parents and their kids based on the fears of displeasing God if they loved their kids naturally and with acceptance of their homosexuality. I remember hearing about how many men and women did not continue in their pursuits of God due to their own shame and discouragement that they did not receive the healing, the freedom they had hoped so desperately for. We were a horrible failure.


I deeply regret those teachings, conversations, and the ways I influenced parents against homosexuality and their own children. Today, I rally behind parents who choose to accept and love their kids who are gay. I can celebrate with families who discover there is nothing broken, or vile about their amazing LGBTQ family members. I make myself available for listening to the pain, and offering encouragement to those I’m able to connect with. I go over and over the lists of the names of people who went through Love In Action’s residential program. I remember their hearts, their courage, and their own desperation. I look back upon the ways that our philosophies could have deeply wounded them, and have listened to the pain from those whom it did.


In the last 10 years I have had the privilege of listening to 100’s of stories, personal pain, and reconnecting with men and women who went through Love In Action. I’ve had parents contact me with questions like, “What now? What do I do now that I’m rethinking my position?” I’ve been in touch with a mom’s support group called Serendipitydodah for Moms that spans the nation, actually the world, that is connecting moms to provide the source of encouragement and support that they do not find in their communities. This powerful collection of Mama Bears is practicing a love for LGBTQ kids that is transformative! It’s a wonderful and amazing thing.


I’m so incredibly thankful for my own family who accepts me for who I am today. I’m saddened to the core for those relationships I have had with those who cannot and I’m so sorry for how my role as an ExGay leader played a huge part in this. But one thing I’ve truly discovered is that when people cannot embrace their authentic selves, they will suffer daily and their souls fall numb over time. When parents cannot accept and embrace their loved ones sexual orientation or gender identity, they will likely live in continual grief and shame. This is not from the hand of God, but rather from the hands of a distorted view of life and cultural shame.


It is my hope that as our world unfolds, shame and degradation for LBGTQ people will stop. It is my dream that families will totally embrace and support their LGBTQ loved ones. May it be so.


 

September 26th, 2017

Is Trump Giving Evangelicals Permission to be Carnal?

 

JohnSmidReflectiveShotB&WFantasyBackground


For many years I’ve heard people saying that “Evangelicals are false, they hide their feelings behind religion. They don’t tell the truth about their lives.” Yep, that was my story for 35 years!


I’ve been reading posts from Evangelicals that say things like “Trump is saying what we’ve been thinking.” Or “He’s just like us.” They’re also saying, “Our country has tried to remain non-committal and middle of the road for too long.”


Bush was a hard-line Evangelical conservative. He agreed with the vast majority of the Evangelical mind-set. Obama broke through that mold and generally agreed with the liberal mind-set. However both were always careful about their public presence. They followed political protocol, carefully drafting their public words. They always followed teleprompters and certainly never let loose with a word that was considered crass. Even their casual front seemed to be scripted. That’s what we expected from our nation’s leader. We didn’t want someone who might be like us, clumsy, natural, opinionated, and full of loose wires.


Trump, however is rude, rough around all the edges, doesn’t follow protocol, and basically sets his own rules for life and for the Presidency.


Son’s a bitches!

Grab her pussie!

A sugar daddy with a young attractive wife

Kill them all!

We’re the greatest country in the world and I’m the leader of it!

If you do that, I’ll make sure you’ll never do it again, because I can!

Fire them all if they don’t do what we expect them to do!


Hmm. is he really like us? Is Trump freeing Evangelicals who’ve been afraid to be honest, publically? Is the leader of our country giving permission to draw outside the sexually conservative box? Is he giving permission to reveal racism, anti-Semiticism, or selfishness and pride about our country’s privilege? Is he supporting the pride of white privilege so that those who live in it won’t feel guilty? It seems so.


Leaders set the tone. They produce a front that establishes the lines of permission. Trump has lowered the bar, he’s carnal, sexually and verbally abusive, and definitely allows for horrible verbal mistakes and breaking the protocols. He seems to feel it’s okay to build his fortune on the backs of the smaller humans. Isn’t that the American way to the top? And taxes? He seems that it’s okay to round all corners there and he uses the system to the fullest dishonest extent. He doesn’t draw a straight line at all and is as fluid as the closest stream that goes wherever it will. Human? Oh yeah! If its okay with the President, then it must be okay for me.


Are Evangelicals breaking out? They appear to be finding freedom — freedom to applaud bigotry, racism. and unhealthy sexual behavior. Well from what I’m seeing, Evangelicals whom I’ve known for years are sure showing a side of themselves that is shocking to me. I find myself saying, “Boy, you’ve sure lowered the bar in your life.” But truthfully, they haven’t lowered the bar, they’ve just exposed where their bar really is and likely has been for some time. Jesus said he came to set captives free, but I’m not sure this is the kind of freedom he was speaking of.


Maybe there is something good about Trump’s Presidency. If it breaks through the veil of dishonesty and hiding behind a religion then that may be a good thing. If there is a public revelation that Evangelicals are really human beings, carnal behind closed doors, and are seeking a freedom they don’t even know they’re asking for, than it’s wonderful when the captives are set free.


We’ve known all along that a large portion of our country is uncomfortable with LGBT people. We’ve felt the ongoing racism. We know how many people are hiding unhealthy sexual behavior behind closed doors. I think there are still a lot of captives around us. My hope is that they find true freedom. But honestly, most of us are uncomfortable with this kind of truth.


Well, Jesus did say that the truth will set us free.


 

September 11th, 2017

Prayers for…….

 

Ugh, I just googled “prayer” and began looking through the images. It’s exasperating.


The whole concept of “prayer” has always been challenging for me. I’ve never fully grasped the whys and wherefores of prayer. I’ve heard all of the reasoning one could ever hear and teachings etc. But when I see it in reality, in my perspective, nothing ever lines up. Oh, yes, I’ve seen wonderful things happen, coincidences and hopeful outcomes. I’ve seen people experience wonderful healing, tremendous blessings that they’d hope for, but I look at all of those who see very different outcomes when they have the same desires, same heart, and same beliefs behind their hopes.


Two major hurricanes


Two friends died this past weekend


A family member going through extensive chemo therapy


Hundreds of thousands dying around the world from tragedy


I’ve changed my approach. I no longer say, “I’m praying for”. Oh, my mind has been filled with thoughts, caring hopeful thoughts for all of those I know who are impacted. I easily think and say, “I hope for”, “or it sure would be wonderful if.” When something amazing happens, I say, “I’m so thankful for” or, “I can really celebrate”. But I really can’t ever say anymore that my prayers were answered, or, “Thanks be to God for answered prayer.” When it hurts, I can also easily say, “I’m so sorry.” or “I hope you’re not alone.”


During our recent weather conditions, as with everyone else, I’ve heard many asking for prayer or praying that the tragedies would go around them. So, if they go around them, this likely means they’ll go to someone else, other than them or their families. Or, of someone experiences a pass, they thank God for the pass and I see several miles away someone else didn’t get the pass and they’re suffering. Are we really praying with such selfish plans? Gee, I sure hope this doesn’t affect me! Or, I want to win this battle, even if it means someone else loses.


Or, someone is praying for miraculous healing, quoting all sorts of Bible scriptures to support their prayers and faith, then the person’s health declines or they may even pass away, then they say “God chose to take them home.” Or “Another angel in heaven.” Human’s aren’t angels!” and I truly never believed God chose to take anyone home. God does not choose to remove our little ones from our lives! Nope, I don’t believe that. But it’s horrific when it happens, painful, and leaves us with mind boggling questions most of the time.


Celebrate healing! I’m truly thankful when someone’s life takes a turn for the better. I’m grateful when a tornado goes back into the sky and skips over humanity and belongings. But I do not believe its God turning the tornado around, or causing it to skip to another location causing devastation. Life happens, good and bad. People live, and people die. Weather can cause tremendous trauma when our lives get in it’s way.


Can’t we just walk alongside one another, support, give, share, and hold one another through challenges? Can’t we just be “thankful” when something wonderful happens? When we ascribe it to “God” then what does that say to someone else who didn’t get the promotion? Does God not love them? Does God not think they begged enough?


I am actually finding more gratification keeping it away from “God heard, or God acted!” and just living in the circumstances, good or bad. I’ve seen deeply motivated people, families, who are encountering life-threatening cancer. They’re connecting, supporting, living through, and with those affected and I can share with their hearts deeply. As soon as they say, “God promised full healing, and I’m standing in faith, believing,” they lose me completely. I lose them because of my thoughts about the many others who do not see the answers they hope for.


I believe in God. I believe in the total connectedness of the universe and the way all things seem to be so intertwined throughout creation. I believe that there are times when things we hope for occur and it’s truly because we’ve desired them to happen, asked for them to happen. I believe in goodness of connection and the way that things at times seem to just line up as in “the stars were in alignment.” And I can see how easily one can say, “Its from God”. But that’s when separation occurs between the have’s and the have-nots. I do not believe God is the big game controller in the sky.


So, today, in the wake of losing two friends in death over the weekend, I’m in shock. I’m deeply challenged when I heard that a mom had just suddenly died in their sleep, at just 60 years old. Her husband came home and she was gone, laying on their bed, he couldn’t wake her. Why? Why did my friend, whom I had promised I’d call, pass on before I could call her? Her family is devastated. People loved her dearly. By all accounts she was beautiful, helpful, caring, and an influencer. God did not call her home. She passed away for reasons unknown at this time. It is just the way it is. And yes, it sucks!


My other friend suffered for a long time with a brain tumor. Painful, enduring, disheartening and it dealt a deathblow to him and his family. They experienced relational healing through it. His family drew close and suffered together in losing their father. His former wife was left with years of struggle from the relationship and then the grief coming from death before she could understand.


Oh, the prayers of many flew up! Prayer vigils, churches across the land supported this man with belief, and statements of God’s healing. The mom, who passed suddenly, had no one beside her as her heart stopped and died alone without any preparation. Rather than “I’m praying for you” what will her husband and sons need now? Once the last amen is said at her memorial, what then? Will there be prayers of faith that their pain will go away? Sometimes that kind of sudden loss creates a pain that never goes away. Is God present in that kind of grief and answering the cries for relief?


Frankly, I’m finding far more comfort in my uncertainty. I’m finding relief knowing that I am no longer believing in a “God” miracle, but rather I’m seeking patience, peace, and joy in circumstances, through life, in trials and in celebration. And I’m no longer “on my knees” begging God for things to be different than they are. But when they are different, I find I can celebrate and connect far more easily because it’s usually because of people responding, or amazing circumstances unexpectedly occurring.


I hope!

I share!

I celebrate!

I hurt!

I struggle!

I don’t understand!

I question!


Not God;


But life. The Universe. Humanity. Creation.


Answers unknown to any human.


Outcomes; unexpected, and desired.


Life is what it is and always has been.


There is nothing new under the sun.


Weather destroys without discrimination.


People die, we all do.


Some find a silver lining and attribute it to God.


Some do not and shake their fists at God.


 

July 19th, 2017

Ark Encounter is Now Rainbow Pride

 

John Smid at GCN 2012-web flipKen Ham, builder of “The Ark Encounter” wrote this on his page recently:


We now have new permanent rainbow lights at the Ark Encounter so all can see that it is God’s rainbow and He determines its meaning in Genesis 6.


The rainbow is a reminder God will never again judge the wickedness of man with a global Flood—next time the world will be judged by fire.


The Ark is lit permanently at night with a rainbow to remind the world that God owns it and He decreed it’s a sign of His covenant with man after the Flood—Christians need to take back the rainbow as we do at the Ark Encounter.


When my older daughter was just a toddler she discovered the rainbow. She loved it’s colors and began to make it part of her life of hope. She went on to collect Wizard of Oz memorabilia keeping part of her rainbow fascination live through Somewhere Over the Rainbow.


Like most people, I’ve always loved seeing rainbows, double rainbows, and full ground to ground rainbows. I find them a wonderful display of God’s incredible creative hands.


As I’ve processed my life of faith I’ve often thought about the story of Noah’s Ark. For a time I only reflected on the promise from God through the symbol of the rainbow. I even created a clown persona of “Rainbow the Clown”  based on a new life from the old when I was in mime theater. I’ve pondered the animals and often wondered how all of that worked anyway.


But more recently I thought about the other side of Noah’s Ark. I’ve pondered the side where God’s anger turned to genocide and ruin. I’ve wondered how a God of love could have possibly been so angry and disappointed he killed off all the people, the animals, and botanic life but for a select few. It began to ruminate into my soul and I started to question the validity of the story as a literal historic event. Today, I see this story as a very sad destruction and can’t imagine why any one would put Noah’s Ark in their child’s room. I wonder how parents today explain God’s choice to destroy the inhabitants of the earth?


arkWhen I saw Ken Ham’s newly decorated ark I began to experience disappointment and discouragement. Reading through comments on his page that related to his choice to symbolically “take back the rainbow” was another trip through shame, condemnation, and certainly a reflection on my own history of bigotry and judgment. And by the way, Ken’s (supposedly a Bible scholar) post references the wrong Scripture. The rainbow reference is in Genesis chapter 9! I once again saw the anger and mean spirit that many people have towards LBGT people. I also saw the frustration, pain, hurt, and anger evidenced through the LBGT community towards critical people who call themselves Christians.


The arrogance and judgment evidenced through this newly established display of the rainbow of colors is horrific! To establish a people group as being less deserving of God’s grace as evidenced through the biblical promise of grace is none less than spiritual hierarchy and pride! Really, Ken? Do you really want to do do this? Does it make you sleep better at night? And of course, it’s backfiring in some ways as people are thinking Ken’s gone gay affirming on them.


Sadly, I used to think the same way. I even once said we should redeem the rainbow from the LBGT community back to Christian purposes. I get it. I understand when a group of people develop a certain belief and stop questioning it and just follow the crowd. I understand the fear of difference, the fear of God’s retribution (as evidenced in the Noah’s Ark story).


But now, I’m on the other side of my former thoughts because I studied, processed and opened my eyes concerning what I had thought, what I’d been doing. I began to realize that in my heart of hearts, the positive symbol, the hope of the rainbow, was for all people, all kinds, all thoughts and beliefs. The Rainbow is a sign of scientific wonder, a glow of color, something understood by all faiths, all languages and all ethnicities!


Honestly, as I ponder Ken Ham’s new light show it causes me to wonder. How could I have been so arrogant? How could I have been to narrow and judgmental as to attempt to take the rainbow away from LBGT people?



 

June 23rd, 2017

Boy Erased Becomes Movie

 

boy erased penguin group


I’m happy to announce that Boy Erased will soon become a full feature film!


A year ago a new book was released called “Boy Erased.” It’s a memoire written by Garrard Conley. The basic premise of the story stems from Garrard’s childhood being one where he was raised in a conservative Baptist home and how this impacted him being a young gay boy. The story continues to include him being outed and his parents sending him to Love In Action’s two-week program to attempt to change his sexuality.


When this book first came out, I felt embarrassed because of the negative connotation that could be derived from Garrard’s words about the program I led for almost two decades. As I processed my personal feelings and reactions to the book I realized that his story uncovers things that were painful for him, harmful for his development as a young man and that his story needed to be told.


A month ago I was contacted by Garrard to invite me to participate in a conference call. The meeting would involve a discussion about a film production company that was planning on making a movie about Garrard’s book. I was certainly willing to talk with them so the call was arranged.


The script has been written by a very successful actor/screenwriter Joel Edgerton. I have been asked to be a consultant to the film production. Without hesitation, I was willing to fulfill that role. I’m encouraged that they have asked me to be involved with the process because it shows me that they are truly interested in receiving input. Joel assured me that they are committed to a film that does not make a villain out of God, or anyone else that has been involved in Garrard’s life and experience.


As a part of my own integrity and desire to make amends wherever they are needed and appropriate, it is my privilege to be part of the production team for this movie.


The film will be produced by Anonymous ContentFocus Features has acquired worldwide rights to “Boy Erased” and the production is on a fast track and plans are made to begin filming this fall with a 2018 release.


boy-erased-joel-edgerton-lucas-hedges-nicole-kidman-russell-croweBoy Erased will be a quality production with highly desirable actors such as Lucas Hedges (Jared), Russell Crow (Garrard’s dad), Nicole Kidman (Garrard’s Mom) and Joel Edgerton will play the ministry director (my role).


There will be upcoming reports and announcements so stay tuned.




 

June 13th, 2017

A Mom’s Heartbreaking Decision – Her son, or God?

 

Religion. For some it’s a resting place. For others it’s a structure to maintain security. For many, it’s a roller coaster of life experience. But for far too many, its bondage.


The love this mom has for her son is evident. She has loved him for his entire lifetime and never knew she’d be facing this terrible dilemma. God vs. loving my son.


stanStan Mitchell, pastor at GracePointe Church in Franklin Tennessee, posted on FaceBook about a divine appointment he experienced while attending the Southern Baptist Convention. These are his words:

Just spent a very stealth & quiet 5 minutes with a Southern Baptist pastor’s wife whose husband happens to pastor a large church a few hundred miles from Nashville.


Their son who is gay, now lives in our beloved City of Music and, lately, has been visiting GRACEPOINTE. She wept as she explained that of their four children, he was the most beautiful of spirit, the kindest, the most loving (she was obviously troubled by the reality that she simply could not capture his beauty with her hurried and pained words) and yet, and yet, they destroyed him with their faith. Destroyed him.


I will never forget and forever will be inspired by her request:

“Love him for us. Love him the way he deserves. Love him the way we should have. Tell him what I wanted to and couldn’t.”


My heart broke. I couldn’t tell for whom it broke more – mom or son. I told her there was still time and opportunity for her to do this. She looked dubiously around the foyer of the hotel, teeming with her husband’s ministerial peers, and said with the saddest of eyes, “Please love him.” And she walked away. I have scarcely met a sadder human. Trapped. My chest physically hurt.


Sigh. Tears.


If there is a heaven, it will have to be a place where mothers and fathers fall on their gay and transgendered children’s shoulders and say, “I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry.” And it will be enough. I hope it will be enough. Please, sweetest Christ, make it enough.


I know who I will be looking for after church this Sunday.


While the details I’m writing may not be factual based on this mom’s experience, they ring true for many.


You see she was taught that homosexuality was an abomination. She believed it was sinful, a choice, and that if continued her son would never be able to be a faithful Christian if he followed his flesh. She feared that without repentance, he may be suffer the fires of hell.


She was also taught that her husband was her leader, her earthly priest. She believed that God’s plan was that he’d be the head of the household and that God would give him wisdom for leading their family.


Throughout her childhood, her family church had pastors that she also believed had a special anointing from God to shepherd the flock around her. She trusted his words and his insights. Now, her husband is also her pastor.


Her heart tells her to love her son. Her religion tells her to follow her husband, her pastor, and her lifelong beliefs.


She has nowhere to turn because her husband doesn’t want to talk about it and she fears her friends will think she’s a bad mom and that she didn’t raise her children right.


So, in this select moment she sees a pastor that others consider reprobate, a false teacher and someone who has lost his mind in exchange for his feelings. But she’s heard he’s kind and gracious with gay people. She’d heard that his church accepts them right where they are and that he’s spoken of God’s love for them. Who else can she trust with this deep anguish in her heart?


She’s given her son up – for adoption – by this church. She realizes she can’t be the mom her heart would lead her to be so with her arms reaching out and her heart broken, she asks this man to be the surrogate parent, “Love my son.”


She is accountable. She has relinquished her own mind, her own heart, and her own responsibility to love her son. She doesn’t believe she can, and she’s far too afraid of the consequences if she does. Ask any mom who has gone through this what they had to do to honor their heart. The choice may be temporarily costly, the rewards are everlasting.


This, my friends is a crying shame! This is a horrible and ungodly situation. I’m furious! I’m really angry that any religion would bring someone to exchange their own minds for the opinions or teaching of someone else’s thoughts. It hurts terribly that a marriage would come to a place where one partner would defer so much to the other that they’d give up their own child to a presumed leadership requirement. It grieves me terribly that any friend, or fellow church member would reject, torment, or even hate a mom who chooses to love their child in the manner they deem right.


However, I’m thrilled, heartened, and thankful that there are people who are willing to think for themselves, follow their god given hearts, and who listen to the heartbeat of a loving God – as Stan Mitchell is doing.


I’m not surprised that in this moment in time, this Southern Baptist, Preachers’ wife, mom, has run across Stan at the SBC convention. Stan has chosen to go to this event if for no other reason than for this moment, with this mom, for this reason.


Please, for God’s sake, follow your heart. Listen to your own soul. God is in and through all things and God is speaking to you, right where it counts, in your heart. Drown out the voices of control, the voices of shame, the voices of condemnation – for they do not speak for God.


We have got to get this! For far too many years ignorance has been the controlling factor. We know better now. We have to do what is right.


Here’s a story of a mom who’s been there, and who is now affirming of her son.


Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 9.31.22 AMFrom Liz Dyer:

I have a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ+ kids. We have more than 1,400 moms in the group and continue to grow. The group was especially created for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ+ kids. One thing we often discuss among ourselves is how we reconcile our Christian faith with supporting and affirming our LGBTQ+ kids. My own journey of reconciliation was one of the main things that led me to create Serendipitydodah for Moms. Here is the short version (Click here) of how I reconciled my faith with being affirming. This process took place between one and two years.


 

May 23rd, 2017

Healing the Pain from ExGay Ministry – Another Story

 

JohnSmidPensiveB&W#113 years ago a young 19 year old man came into a program I was leading called “Love In Action.” He was bright, intelligent, and seemingly lost inside himself. He came with his mom as companion for our two week “non-residential” program with the intention of finding a way out of homosexuality. He had been raised in a deeply religious home and had been taught that homosexuality was sinful.


Garrard Conley has written a memoire about his life and experience with Love In Action. Being a gay man who tried desperately to rid himself of what he had believed to be sinful and deadly, his experience with ExGay ministry and conservative religion had actually had a reverse effect. He has experienced deeply harmful emotional and spiritual trauma as a result. His book, “Boy Erased” has gained a lot of momentum around the country as people hear his tender, and humorous heart, describe his painful experiences.  About two years ago we reconnected on FaceBook. We had a couple of conversations which included talking about his book project. We exchanged contact information but hadn’t really spoken much since then.


In May I was attending a vintage car club regional event in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Early Sunday morning on the last day of our event, I saw a message from him, “Hey John, I’m in Eureka Springs! I’m speaking at a book reading event here. I see you’re here too, can we meet up?”


He was scheduled to share his book and read some excerpts from it at the Blooming Books festival at the Crescent Hotel. We agreed to meet one another and I was looking forward to seeing him in person after all those years. While we both looked much the same, our circumstances had changed drastically. Garrard is now an out gay man who has found far more peace about his past experiences then the last time we had spoken. I’m now married to my husband Larry after my own thirty year journey through ExGay ministry and conservative evangelicalism.


What an amazing experience to sit and talk with his man. I could hear his heart and validate the pain he had gone through. I understood it. We walked down the road from the hotel he was staying in to a beautiful “Frank Lloyd Wright” styled home in the woods to a breakfast for the writers at the festival. As we sat on the balcony looking over the trees, the host and homeowner sat down beside us. We shared our stories with him as he attempted to process our unique past.


As we stood up to get ready to leave, being cautious with his circumstances, I asked Garrard if I might attend his reading. With a little hesitation, he said “Sure, I’d like that.” He went on to think about what that might be like and asked me if he could introduce me as the ministry leader in his book. I said, “Of course, I’d be privileged to do that.”


I left to go eat a little lunch and then I went to the festival to find Garrard’s mother was there as well. She is actually the one who saw my FaceBook post and alerted Garrard about me  being in Eureka Springs! She had once believed her son was destined to a ruined life if he continued as a gay man. After her own research and journey she came to the place where she could actually accept, love and celebrate her son’s life and support his book, and he is doing quite well!


As he spoke, Garrard talked about how he’d learned about compassion and how compassion had helped him to release much of his past pain. I was impressed with his maturity and how well received he was by his audience. He introduced me and I spoke about the courage it takes for a man like Garrard to face his pain and actually grow into compassion through it. I also addressed my own regret for things I had done through my position with ExGay ministry. It was a tearful experience and humbling to stand beside Garrard who had once been so wounded by my position and leadership.


This story is not over and there are so many others like it. I’m so thankful that on that Sunday morning, Garrard’s mom had seen a FaceBook post about me being in Eureka Springs. I’m learning more and more every day about serendipity and that there are no coincidences in this life, only opportunities for us to seize.