Atrocious

You know, I really try not to trash Exodus.  Not that there isn’t anything to trash.  I’ve had my fair share of negative experiences there with its people.  But at the same time, I also recognize that God was there, and that there is a function for Exodus – even if I do not largely agree with many of the principles guiding most of the ministries (YES, New Direction Ministries of Canada is a notable exception!)

But I think this is where I draw the line.  The way Exodus has handled the situation in Uganda is irresponsible and reprehensible at best. 

I would like to think that Alan is a man of his word.  I would like to think that he has simply been trying not to throw board-member-gone-rogue Don Schmierer under the bus.  I hope that Exodus leadership is appropriately reprimanding this behavior privately, and preparing their denunciation of these Ugandan proceedings publicly.  I really hope . . .

Read the open letter below, followed by the case presented by the Box Turtle Bulletin team.  Read the full article here, and check up on the other coverage they’ve had on the issue (bottom of the post):

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Open letter to the Exodus International Board of Directors:

We, the undersigned organizations, have monitored the ex-gay industry for more than a decade. To our great horror, prominent members of the ex-gay organization Exodus International participated last week in a conference in Uganda that promoted shocking abuses of basic human rights. This included draconian measures against gay and lesbian people such as forced ex-gay therapy, life imprisonment for people convicted of homosexuality and the formation of an organization designed to “wipe out” gay practices in Uganda. The conference also featured Scott Lively, a holocaust revisionist who at the event also blamed the 1994 Rwandan genocide on gay people.

The facts incontrovertibly show that Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, was aware of the list of speakers and abhorrent content prior to the conference. Exodus board member Don Schmierer, who spoke in Uganda, made no objections to the radical and dangerous platform offered. Instead, these mortal threats to the lives of gay and lesbian people were met with a deafening silence. Exodus, in effect, gave this insidious conference its tacit approval.

Today, we take the unprecedented step of joining together to demand that Exodus International’s Board of Directors take immediate action to hold accountable those who used the Exodus brand to promote an atmosphere conducive to serious human rights abuses. The accountability must begin with reasonable and responsible action by Board Chair Bob Ragan, including:

  • Dismissing Exodus President Alan Chambers for his knowing role in using Exodus to promote human rights abuses
  • Removing Board member Don Schmierer for speaking at a hate conference that promotes physical harm and psychological torture against GLBT people
  • Boldly articulating Exodus’ policy against human rights abuses including forced therapy
  • Promising to end future participation in all conferences that call on the persecution and criminalization of gay and lesbian people

We do not take this call to action lightly. These steps are necessary and commensurate with the massive breach of ethics and trust by the Exodus leadership. Clearly, Exodus has lost credibility and its claim to “love” gay people in the aftermath of Uganda seems duplicitous and insincere. As long as Chambers and Schmierer remain at Exodus, the organization is hopelessly compromised and even complicit in grave human rights abuses. It is time for the Exodus Board, led by Bob Ragan, to assert its moral authority by appointing new leadership and taking the organization in a more humane and principled direction.

Sincerely,

Jim Burroway                                 David Roberts
Box Turtle Bulletin                          Ex-Gay Watch

Wayne Besen                                 Mike Airhart
Truth Wins Out                              Truth Wins Out


The documentation implicating Exodus leaders for their participation at a hate conference in Uganda is robust and powerful. Most important, it is guided by indisputable facts:

The Case
Don Schmierer is a member of the board of directors for Exodus International. Last weekend, he used those credentials while speaking at an anti-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda alongside noted Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively. Those credentials as a leader of American’s largest and most influential ex-gay organization gave Schmierer the ability to speak authoritatively about the policies and ethics of sexual reorientation therapy. And more broadly, his presence as a leader of Exodus International lent credibility to the other speakers at the conference and the policy recommendations that emerged.

And so with Exodus International’s prestige fully utilized, we were outraged to discover that the conference was a forum for some of the most despicable statements and recommendations we have ever come across. During this conference we heard:

  • Gays blamed for the rise of Nazism in Germany. According to one eyewitness, Lively spoke extensively about his revisionist version of Nazi history, based on his book, The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party. In that book and in speeches, he claims that Nazi movement was, at its core, a homosexual movement. Despite the historical record to the contrary, Lively blames gays for the rise of Nazism and for the Holocaust itself, and claims that “the connection between homosexualism and fascism is not incidental.”
  • Gays blamed for the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Lively often claims that wherever gays gain the upper hand, they unleash a murderous rampage on innocent populations. In The Pink Swastika, Lively claims that “homosexuals are responsible for 68% of all mass murders in America.” According to one eyewitness at the Kampala conference, he extended that charge by blaming gay men for the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda, which borders Uganda just to the south.
  • Gays blamed for recruiting/molesting children. In line with a common slander deployed by Ugandan anti-gay extremists in recent campaigns of anti-gay vigilantism and violence, Lively claimed that the gay rights movement consists of an entire network trying to recruit young children, including “predatory homosexuals who are always out to satisfy their sexual desires.”
  • Parents blamed for their children’s homosexuality. Don Schmierer presented his contradictory list of fourteen “signs that an adolescent may be struggling with gender issues.” But his focus appeared to have been on one suggested cause: it’s the parent’s fault. One eyewitness said, “He told participants that one of the biggest causes of homosexuality is the lack of “good upbringing” in families. In other words, good parents make straight children; bad parents, gay children.
  • Calls for new laws enacted in Uganda to require that those convicted of homosexuality be forced to undergo sexual reorientation therapy. The law in Uganda currently calls for a life sentence upon conviction for homosexuality. As far as we have been able to tell, no one at the conference called for decriminalization of homosexuality, nor a reduction in the current penalties. Instead, there were calls to strengthen the law to add the requirement that convicted gays be forced to endure unregulated and unproven therapies, under duress and against their will.
  • Announcement of a new organization designed to “‘wipe out’ gay practices” in Uganda. It is unclear what form or tactics this new organization will take, but another follow-up meeting was called for March 15. Our fear is that this will lead to another round of officially sanctioned extrajudicial anti-gay vigilantism, with Ugandan media — as they did in previous campaigns — publicly identifying private LGBT citizens and calling for their arrest or worse.

Given Uganda’s recent history, this is no idle fear. There were at least three successive public anti-gay campaigns in 2005, 2006 and 2007. In the most recent campaign, government-affiliated newspapers published articles identifying specific individuals with physical descriptions, addresses, places of employment — even photos — of those targeted, making them easily identifiable to neighbors, family members, employers, and the police.

Watching this unfold with the active participation of an Exodus board member has left us concerned with the direction that Exodus is taking. Some of us contacted Exodus president Alan Chambers on Friday, February 27 to raise our concerns about Schmierer’s participation alongside a Holocaust revisionist at this conference. We did this even though we do not believe it is the responsibility of Exodus’ critics to inform Exodus about the activities of an Exodus leader.

Chambers is not just the President of Exodus International, he’s also a fellow board member with Don Schmierer. He, along with board chairman Bob Ragan, had plenty of time to contact Schmierer to demand that he withdraw from the conference. (They do have cell phones, SMS text messages and email in Uganda, especially at the luxurious four-star Hotel Triangle in Kampala where the conference took place.) Chambers also had plenty of time of time to publicly articulate Exodus’ policy on forced conversions and criminalization of homosexuality, two subjects which are not new to the controversies surrounding ex-gay ministries. And he had plenty of time to clarify Exodus’ position on Scott Lively’s Holocaust revisionism and to denounce Lively’s dangerous rhetoric. But in all of this, Chambers has remained silent.

Don Schmierer, as a board member — and as one who was identified at the conference under those very credentials — could have spoken out against the excesses of anti-gay violence that has marked Uganda’s history. He could have spoken out against criminalization of homosexuality and denounced the policy recommendation of forced conversion therapy against the will of the individual being “treated.” Schmierer could have denounced Lively’s rabid anti-gay extremism, historical revisionism, and dangerous scapegoating. But in all of this, Schmierer has remained silent.

And the board, particularly Board Chairman Bob Ragan, could have exercised is oversight responsibility to ensure that Exodus’ name and reputation remain unsullied by its association with Scott Lively and the Uganda conference.

Exodus serves as an umbrella organization of some two hundred ex-gay ministries, each of which, according to Exodus, is “an independent organization which has met Exodus’ criteria for membership.” If Exodus is unable to regulate the actions of its own board member, how can we expect Exodus to monitor the practices and qualifications of their member ministries?

Despite informing Exodus of our concerns on February 27, they have remained silent on Schmierer’s association with Scott Lively, as well as their own links to him. And with the passage of each day, as we’ve received more reports about the conference, our concerns have grown to outrage.

It is not the first time forced therapy has become an issue with Exodus International. This issue was raised in 2005 when “Zach”, a 16-year-old gay teen, was forced against his will to attend an eight-week ex-gay therapy program at Exodus-affiliated Love In Action in Memphis. That same year, another father drove his 17-year-old son to Love In Action in handcuffs. Despite all this, Love In Action remains one of Exodus’ most prominent member ministries. Today, the calls for enshrining forced therapy into Ugandan law has been met with silence at Exodus. We call upon Exodus once and for all to address the morality of forcing people into unregulated and unproven therapies against their will.

Laws banning private consensual relationships between adult same-sex couples are no longer in force in the United States. While this is settled law in this country, it is not a settled position among most anti-LGBT organizations. Furthermore, criminalization of private, consensual relationships remain a reality in many countries throughout the world, many of which provide harsh, draconian penalties upon conviction. As Exodus International engages in ex-gay movements around the world, we call upon Exodus once and for all to address the morality of punishing private adult consensual relationships.

Because of Schmierer’s actions, Exodus International will bear responsibility for any renewed convulsions of violence that may arise in the aftermath of this conference. Given the highly volatile history of anti-LGBT vigilantism in Uganda, we find Schmierer’s actions there appallingly reckless and irresponsible. Lives and the well being of many Ugandans may well be at stake in the weeks and months to come. Because of the danger that Schmierer’s actions may pose to citizens of that volatile nation, we call upon the Board of Directors of Exodus International to remove Don Schmierer from the Board of Directors.

Scott Lively, along with another of Alan Chambers’ “good friends”, Seattle pastor Ken Hutcherson, is a co-founder of Watchmen On the Walls, one of twelve anti-gay hate groups identified and tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Incidentally, Scott Lively’s Abiding Truth Ministries is also listed by the SPLC as a hate group. While speaking at a Watchmen conference in Novosibirsk, Russia, in 2007, Lively excused the murder of Satendar Singh, a gay immigrant from Fiji who was killed in an anti-gay hate crime in Sacramento. We call upon the Board of Directors of Exodus International to resolutely and unambiguously denounce Scott Lively’s dangerous rhetoric. We further call upon the Board to end future participation in all conferences that call on the persecution and criminalization of gay and lesbian people.

It is clear that that Exodus under the leadership of Alan Chambers has failed to live up to its claim of challenging “those who respond to homosexuals with ignorance and fear.” The Board must take swift action and remove Chambers as its leader. If the Exodus Board fails to act, it bears culpability and full responsibility for creating a climate where hate crimes can and do occur both at home and abroad.

Mixed Hope and Fear . . .

What an interesting mix of emotions I have right now!

First, the most notable emotions regarding the election of Barack Obama.  I am SO amazed!  As my boy and I were driving to dinner, I began to think about how I’d feel when I got the news.  And suddenly, reality began to dawn.  This would be the FIRST Black President of the United States!  I could feel tears welling up even then.  But then . . . then when I finally got the news.  I was amazed, overwhelmed, and simultaneously incredulous.  I couldn’t believe it.  Tears just ran down my face.  I can’t even describe the pride I feel as an African-American.  I’m not sure anyone can fully appreciate how this must truly feel to my community, and I’m not sure words are adept enough to make their meaning known.  But it’s BIG.  SO BIG!

I’ve cried no fewer than 4 times today as I’ve stopped to reflect on the import of it all.

Yet, I found it hard to sleep last night.  Part of it was just being very hot in my room, but I also know that California’s Proposition 8 was heavily on my mind.  The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was to check the tally.  Only 87% of the precints had been counted at that point, but it wasn’t looking good.  I’m very, very sad that Prop 8 passed.  It was really not a good night at all for gays and lesbians.  The joy of the fruition of racial equality was smoothly blunted by the sorrows of sexual and romantic inequality that continues to arise across the nation

And then, I got into work, and in my message box was something good.  My research project from my residency is close to being accepted by the journal Pharmacotherapy!  There were apparently 3 reviewers.  I only got comments from the first 2 though.  The second guy ripped my project up!  That butthead recommended the study not be published!  (I have a strong suspicion that this person works for – or gets a significant paycheck from – one of the bigger Drug Industry companies.)  But the first guy was a lot more reasonable, and I’m pretty sure that I can respond adequately to his concerns.  So this is looking very good right now.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed! 

So yeah, a mixed bag there.  Anywho, I’m bouncing!

Loneliness . . .

Yes, loneliness.  I can’t say that it’s the FULL answer to the question that arose in my last post (i.e., “What the fuck is wrong with me?”).  But it’s a big part of it.

You see, I can’t remember the last time I felt lonely.  Traditionally, anytime that emotion showed the slightest sign of its desire to accompany me on my journey, I would suppress it.  And when it protested my feeble attempts, I would find some way of distracting myself from it – perhaps by diving into work, or maybe visiting a good friend for the weekend in someplace not-like-home.  And when its voice barked even beyond these attempts, I went to my last (but perhaps favorite) resort: pornography.  I drowned myself in it.  Afterall, if you can’t have real intimacy (i.e., “it’s a sin to be gay”), simply lose yourself in fake intimacy.

And why?  Why not just feel lonely, even for a single night?  Quite simply because of fear.  I have long felt that if loneliness had its way with me, it would destroy me.  A good friend emailed me today expressing a similar ethos regarding her own struggle with undesired emotions.  She asked me how I tend to articulate it beyond the simple “I feel like it’s going to destroy me.”  Here is another situation where I feel words simply fail me.  They just aren’t enough to describe how contrary – how utterly averse – I feel towards allowing myself to feel lonely.  Nor do they even begin to explain why I feel that way.  As loneliness grows inside my soul, it’s as if it crushes me, and squeezes every ounce of breath out of my chest.  So I resist it, and its grip on me tightens . . .until a suitable enough “intimacy” comes along to loosen its death grip.

But the cycle always continues.  And having my boy away for 6 weeks?  Well, it’s almost too much to bear.

My counselor (I’m sure you all remember Lance!) has been trying to convince me for YEARS to simply let the feeling of loneliness wash over me . . . to let it have its way with me, and see what happens.  I have failed at every attempt thus far, for my fear of loneliness, and my fear of the unknown (i.e., not knowing what reality would look like if I let loneliness have its way with me) significantly outweighed my fear of remaining in that self-defeating spiral of resistance.

But last Tuesday night was different.  After spending most of the day projecting outward, trying to find a reason for the wounding I felt, I promised myself before the evening was over, to investigate this theory that maybe I was simply lonely.

After working out, getting a shower, and having a few minutes of quintessential “Darren time,” it didn’t take long for the emotions to rise to the surface.  It wanted to overtake me.  I let it.  And I felt . . . horrible. Awful.  At the lowest of low.  And the worst part?  I couldn’t feel God, hear God, or comprehend why He would leave me be at such an inopportune time. 

As I sat there sobbing and mourning for what seemed like a decade (it was – in actuality – more like about 10 minutes, I suppose), the thought began to dawn on me: “I’m not dead”.  This feeling had not destroyed me yet, and it somehow seemed as if this was the best it had to offer.  And then I also realized . . . it wasn’t going to be this way forever.  It could only last so long.  I’d be seeing my special guy soon.  And I had friends and other things to invest in meanwhile.  Another 5 minutes or so of crying, and I felt the benefit of the cathartic act.  I felt immensely better.  It was as if a 2 ton weight had been lifted from me.  Since then, I’ve felt more like “me” than I have in ages.  Years, perhaps.

I wish I could say I was “healed” or something now.  But I’m not.  I struggle with this loneliness . . . but in a different way this week than every other week of my life.  Now, I don’t feel like I’m afraid of it.  And this appears to have loosened its powerful stronghold over my life.  I have loads of other baggage to sort through here:  self-esteem issues, dependence on unhealthy coping mechanisms, a willingness to lose myself in another, etc.  Yet, I have a better grasp on this thing called Hope.  And that makes all the difference in the world.

Misery . . .

I can’t remember the last time I felt this way.  It’s been so long.  But the hole in my gut is ever-widening.  This familar wound that has reared its ugly head again.  I don’t know what it is exactly.  I just feel . . .raw. 

The pain is so indescribable.  It’s like, my heart has been perpetually throbbing for the last 48 hours, and my stomach is in knots.  Fortunately, I was able to sleep last night (unlike the previous night), but I still managed to eke out my remaining stores of saline.  And the crying sometimes seems uncontrollable.  I’ve had to keep my office door closed while at work, for fear that someone will walk in when the next wave of anxiety and depression washes over me.

I guess having my boy gone for 6 weeks was bound to leave me enough time for all of my old wounds to rise to the surface yet again.  I feel like such a loser right now.  So embarrassed, so ashamed of myself.  I have this sense that something is definitely wrong inside, but I don’t know what it is.  It’s my inextinguishable desperation for companionship, love, value, meaning, and purpose.  Yet those things seem so very far away right now.  I have the distinct impression that this is much, much deeper than “my love is gone for awhile.”  But I don’t know how to fix this . . . this . . . whatever it is.  What the fuck is wrong with me?

Milestone . . .

I hit a milestone yesterday: 8 miles, to be exact.  I’ve never really run anything more than a 10K (~6.2 miles) before.  But, I decided to go for 2 extra laps on the trail that I used to run on in my old neighborhood, and I managed to finish it.  Eight miles.  Sure, it took me forever (1hr 25m), but hey, I finished it.  My goal is to be up to half-marathon distance by the time fall rolls around.  Seeing as how I wasn’t completely ready to die after the 8 miler (just mostly ready), I figure I could do a 15K (9.3 miles) this weekend.  We’ll see how that goes.  I’ve gotta get this weight off!  Dating can be dangerous to your waist line!

Long time . . .

So it’s been FOREVER since I made a post!  I can hardly believe it myself.  Not long ago, I was so emotionally fragile, that staying glued online and making Xanga posts was my only therapy and catharsis.  I guess after 4 years of counseling, I’ve developed other (perhaps healthier?) methods to deal with the stressors and woes of life.

Soooo . . . what’s been going on?  Here’s the reader’s digest version:

Gay stuff

I’ve been spending tons and tons of time reading, thinking, praying, reflecting, and in general stressing about matters of sexuality and spirituality.  This is in large part due to a very special guy in my life.  A *ahem* “boyfriend” of sorts  All I can really say about that is he’s probably the person on the planet for whom I have the most love and respect at the moment.  He has the ability to both touch and hurt my heart in the mundane and profound things that he does daily.  (But he touches my heart FAR more than he hurts it.  That’s the thing about love, isn’t it?)

Work stuff

For the past little while, there’s been a growing feeling inside me that my job simply didn’t resonate with my heart.  I’ve grown rather uncomfortable and unhappy at work, with all the deadlines and administrative responsibilities.  It got super discouraging for a few weeks.  But then I remembered a little lesson that Brian McLaren taught a few months ago, when he encouraged us to be thankful.  So I started just really thanking God for the things about my job that I do enjoy: great salary (helping me pay off the debt!), interesting work, opportunities to engage my mind, etc.  The slight change in attitude changed the entire landscape! I can’t say that I’m any bit more willing to stay at this job though.  I even picked up a Meyers-Briggs book, and looked through the good careers for INFPs.  Interestingly, many of the jobs listed were jobs that I thought deeply about over the years, but neglected them for more lucrative opportunities in pharmacy.  Do I regret that now?  Perhaps.  But I’m still quite proud of my accomplishments.

So I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for what God calls me to next.  Could it be a change in position?  Perhaps taking up a clinical position at the Baltimore VA Hospital?  Or perhaps a shift in my current career, taking on a more academia bent?  Or perhaps a grand slide into another career altogether?  Not sure.  Like I said, my heart is open.

Heartbreaking stuff

I was driving home from work the other day, and as I was approaching 695, all the cars were slowing down on the exit.  I immediately got angry (yes, yes, we all know how impatient I am!).  But then I realized the reason for the halting traffic: a family of geese was on the side of road about to cross onto a major highway at rush hour!

Seriously, it was one of the most horrific things I’ve seen in months.  The mommy and daddy led their 6 poor chicks across the highway, and literally they got picked off one by one   One compassionate lady pulled over to the side of the road (and I followed her not long after), got out a box, crossed onto the highway (yes, it was dangerous!!) and managed to save 2 of the chicks!  One of the adult geese was hit a bit, but somehow managed to survive.  She followed us to the shoulder, and began pacing and quacking – as if in a daze.  The rescuer, another kind lady, and I all began to commiserate about what to do with this distraught parent and little chicks.  I tried to call the most environmentally conscious guy I know (Brian McLaren) for some advice, but to no avail.  He wasn’t home.

The rescuer considered trying to coax the adult goose into the car w/ the box of chicks so she could take them to a nearby park.  But that probably would have resulted in a far worse accident when it was all said and done!  Eventually, the poor parent made a decision for us, as she (he?) flew off across the highway.  The rescue lady took the chicks, and was hopefully able to find an adoptive home for the little guys at a nearby park with lots of geese.

It was quite a traumatic experience.  As I drove away, I began to sob quite a bit.  I’m not sure why I get so emo over little animals.  I have these little flashbacks about the whole incident, and it took me 2 days to get over it.  It’s all good now.  But it has taught me to slow down, and really breathe in life.  I don’t think we ever know what we’re missing in our hustle and bustle ways, and we sometimes pulverize innocent creation in the process.

Political stuff

Really cool vid about the democratic race!<A href="http://www.xanga.com/private/