THE BLOG
08/12/2014 11:39 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Is Celibacy the New Ex-Gay Ministry?

Embracing celibacy as an appropriate religious duty for God-abiding LGBTQ Christians is now on the rise.

No joke.

Progress has been made on federal and state levels concerning LGBTQ civil rights, but many churches, especially in certain conservative religious circles, are far behind.

For those heterosexual Christians who embrace the theological qualifier to "love the sinner but hate the sin," homosexuality is merely on the laundry list of transgressions.

But for LGBTQ Christian conservatives the debate has literally forced them to take sides, with celibate LGBTQ Christian bloggers referring to themselves in shorthand as "Side A" Christians and "Side B" Christians. "Side A" Christians support marriage equality and queer sexual orientations, whereas "Side B" Christians support hardline Biblical literalism.

Last year the "ex-gay" ministries would have had both "Side A" and "Side B" Christians in their folds.

But in 2013 Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, announced the closing of the organization.

At the 2012 Exodus International annual conference, Chambers stated:

I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included. For someone to put out a shingle and say, "I can cure homosexuality' -- that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth.

Chambers is a married man with two adopted children, and he's a purported ex-gay convert himself.

What appeared as a seismic shift or a closing chapter in the harmful history of ex-gay ministries was neither. His new modus operandi -- with both monetary and ideological backing -- is to peddle the theological rhetoric of celibacy. And it's working.

Just this year the 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) released its revised 2014 Code of Ethics replacing reparative therapies with celibacy:

Counselors may agree to and support the desire to work through issues of homosexual and transgendered identity and attractions, but will not describe or reduce human identity and nature to sexual orientation or reference, and will encourage sexual celibacy or biblically-prescribed sexual behavior while such issues are being addressed.

However, just six years ago, the American Psychological Association put out an official position paper stating:

The longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions is that homosexuality per se is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation.

The negative health outcomes, both emotional and psychological, that these "conversion" programs exact are manifold and include depression, anxiety, self-destructive behavior, sexual dysfunction, avoidance of intimacy, loss of faith and spirituality, and the reinforcement of internalized homophobia and self-hatred, to name a few.

There are, however, still groups, usually motivated by religion-based homophobic therapies and ministries, who are hell-bent on the idea that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Americans can and should be made straight.

These groups proselytize ex-gay rhetoric as both their Christian and patriotic duty.

But truth be told, as Chambers recognizes, these conversions from being "homosexual" to "heterosexual" don't "cure." And these therapies attempt to put LGBTQ people on the road to outwardly live a straight life.

Case in point: John Paulk, "ex-gay" poster boy, who appeared in HRC's 2000 photo album with a one-word caption: "Gotcha!"

In his public apology for spewing the lies of Exodus International, Paulk has decided to finally stay out of the closet, hoping the LGBTQ community will not only forgive him but allow him to make restitution to the community. He told the April/May 2013 issue of Proud Queer (PQ) Monthly:

I no longer support the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals -- especially teens who already feel insecure and alienated. I feel great sorrow over the pain that has been caused when my words were misconstrued. I have worked at giving generously to the gay community in Portland where I work and live. I am working hard to be authentic and genuine in all of my relationships.

The Latin root of the word "religion" is "religio," from the verb "religare," which means "to bind." And it has served as a legitimate power in binding people's shared hatred -- especially when it comes to LGBTQs.

Christians -- both straight and LGBTQ -- intolerant of the wide spectrum of sexual expressions must reconcile their phobia with Jesus' mandate "to love one another" as stated in John 13:34 in order to experience the deepest desire and expression of spiritual communion. How we express that love sexually is not mandated to be heterosexual.

But now, with more and more ex-gay ministries losing not only potential clients and political leverage but the monies that reparative therapies generate, there is a gradual shift from "curing" homosexual orientations to promoting abstinence from sex altogether.

In other words, the theological message that homosexuality is an abomination to God and is a sin remain intact, but more emphasis is now placed on celibacy.

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