Rick Warren And The Ex-Gay Movement

I've been traveling today but sitting on the Acela and reading your emails and pondering the Warren pick, I've found myself both better understanding Obama's gambit politically and feeling more betrayed at the same time. I fought against the Christianism of Bush for this? A reader helps focus my evolving and conflicting feelings and thoughts:

As a longtime reader of your blog, I have to say that I respectfully dissent from your conciliatory tone on the Obama/Warren debacle.

Most people probably don’t know this, but Warren’s Saddleback Church has a Friday night program called Celebrate Recovery.  On the whole the program is modeled after the twelve steps, albeit with an evangelical supplement to it.  There are subgroups in the program that cater to men with “addictions” to pornography, recovery alcoholics, and women with codependency issues.  There is also a group for those who struggle with “same sex attraction”, the discourse of which is directly borrowed from the ex-gay movement. I know this, of course, because I was involved with the group in Spring of 2007.

I was in full time ministry at a neighboring evangelical megachurch, where I was fighting a desperate battle against depression and despair in attempting to “cure” myself of my homosexuality.  This was, without a doubt, the worst time in my life.  I spent the majority of my Fridays as a young, 23 year old gay man sitting in a room with a group of men whose self loathing and struggle was overwhelming.  These were largely married men, men with children, some of them former ministers, whose entire lives became consumed with undertaking the impossible act of modifying, or at least seeking to neuter, their own sexual orientation.

Looking at the deadlock these otherwise gifted men were in was extremely painful and one of the major spurs to my rethinking issues of sexual orientation and faith, and I am proud to say I came out the other side a reasonably well adjusted gay man. So when I send emails to my otherwise liberal friends telling them to send an email expressing their disapproval of the choice of Warren, and they send me emails back acknowledging the political symbolism of why Obama did what he did, please understand my frustration. 

It’s obvious what Obama is trying to do by having Warren give the convocation at his inauguration, and it is understandable – but for me as a human being who was personally damaged by Warren’s theology and his church specifically, it is unforgivable.  And to cover it over with vague rhetoric about a politics of inclusion and unity is similarly unforgivable. 

Some friends have told me that my “personal issues” make me too emotionally involved with this issue, and of course they do – but perhaps that is precisely what gives me the right to be upset about this decision. I’ve been out for about a year and a half now and am in a really healthy relationship.  I moved out of Orange County, the place I was raised, a place where I no longer feel comfortable.  When Prop 8 passed, the most painful thing was the feeling I had that no matter how far away I got away from the oppressive forces of my past, I couldn’t get far enough away.  I felt little victory in Obama’s success.  This is yet another smack in the face, and similarly discouraging.  If I didn’t have respectable gay elders in my life to teach me the value of patience – but also the value of protest – I’d be in a pretty dark state of mind about the whole fiasco.

Pain: yes. Patience: essential.