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4 min

‘Norm vs abnorm’

Focus on the Family presents a kinder, gentler conference

LOVE WON OUT: This Baptist Church in Surrey hosted Focus on the Family Love Won Out (over homosexuality) conference, May 5. Conference organizers refused requests to photograph attendees. Credit: Natasha Barsotti

Gay rights activism has been largely successful in achieving “the normalization of homosexuality” and intimidating its opponents into silence, says ex-gay author Joe Dallas.

Dallas, a featured speaker at Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out conference held in Surrey May 5, suggests this normalization can be seen in many of societies’ institutions that have embraced a pro-homosexual ideology.

“We should respond. This is not going away,” Dallas, a former president of the ex-gay ministry Exodus International, urges the packed worship centre at Cedar Grove Baptist Church.

Still, he acknowledges, “there is a cost in responding. It will be inconvenient, time consuming, and makes us controversial.”

Elements in contemporary culture, which he describes as sociopathic, are aggressively working to “silence the conscience of the state,” he continues, adding that Christians and their organizations must shoulder some of the blame for this state of affairs.

Dallas cites the problem of moral compromise “in our ranks” that diminishes the authority of the Christian “product.” He points to the high incidence of Christian college students cruising the internet for pornography and getting involved in acts of “sexual impurity.”

He also cautions that hostility aimed at queer people does not work as it reinforces a view of Christians as bigoted clones in the ilk of the “Neanderthal” 1970s sitcom character Archie Bunker.

Instead, Dallas calls on Christians to repent of their hostility toward homosexuals and recommit to a belief in bold love, instead of an “I-want-to-kill-them” hostility.

He draws a sharp gasp from his audience when he relates a story about a gay man who went to a church to tell the pastor that he was gay and ask advice only to be told that “there was no room for faggots in this church.”

Director of gender issues for Focus on the Family Mike Haley says the whole day is about Christians being able to maintain a biblical worldview and still reach out and love gay people.

“[It’s about] helping them understand a little bit more about the gay community, how do you reach out, how do you not be so afraid.

“I think people within the Christian community are so afraid of people from the gay community because they don’t understand,” says Haley, a former gay man, now with a wife and two children.

“Hopefully, we give a face to an issue, and break down those walls of prejudice, or whatever,” he continues.

“A lot of times, Christians think just because I’m a Christian I can’t talk to gay people, I shouldn’t love them, they’re perverts, they’re degenerate, and that’s not the message. You can be a Christian person and reach out and love gay men as God calls us to do.”

But in the midst of the conference’s advocacy of a kinder, gentler rhetoric and calls to “love the homosexual,” there are clear signs of the kinds of battles social conservatives are taking on.

Page 23 of the conference guide contains a 12-point checklist that helps attendees determine “the level of homosexual promotion” in schools. Among the items signalling such promotion is a safe schools non-harassment policy; a homosexual student club; non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation; programs to stop homophobia, hate or bias; teachers who are openly homosexual; and involvement of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in schools.

Another list entitled “homosexual activist strategies” says a “number one tactic” in the pro-gay arsenal is to equate safety with acceptance. Another is the encouragement of homosexual teachers to come out of the closet, while a third is to introduce gay-straight alliances in as many schools as possible.

Parents are advised on page 22 that homosexuality is easier to keep out than remove once it is in place. Teachers are said to be “forced” to teach things with which they disagree or know to be untrue, or conversely are actively involved in indoctrinating students about homosexuality.

The guide also provides a sample letter for parents to send to school administrators regarding material taught about sexual orientation. It reads in part:

“As parents, we have become increasingly concerned over what is being taught in many other schools today about homosexuality and other alternative lifestyles. Since we, as parents, have a right to direct [our children’s] education in these areas, we hereby request that you notify us prior to any classroom discussion of any issues of sexuality, including any discussions of homosexuality or alternative lifestyles…We prefer that the sensitive issue of homosexuality not be taught at all…”

There are also glimpses of the usual rhetoric and stereotypes. In her presentation about “The Condition of Female Homosexuality,” Melissa Fryrear says she’s never met anyone who wanted to be a lesbian, and presents six forms of dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships that in certain individuals could lead to “classic” lesbianism.

Further, she says, if in the father-daughter relationship dad is unprotective, inattentive, unadoring and unsupportive, daughter “may develop an insecurity in her sense of self-worth as a person and may undervalue herself as a female.”

She may also be “inhibited from effectively relating to the opposite gender,” asserts Fryrear, a former lesbian and now a Focus on the Family gender issues analyst.

When it is pointed out that not everyone who experiences such family dynamics is homosexual, Fryrear says the effects of trauma or dysfunction can manifest themselves in different ways.

“One of those ways is homosexuality or lesbianism. Because we’re only talking about homosexuality and lesbianism and our experience and our colleagues’ [experiences] in this area of ministry–drawing from all these different pieces, these are the factors we’ve seen in a disproportionate number of people’s lives.”

“What we’re talking about is a scale,” Haley claims. “It’s not one component. It’s typically multi-causal. There’s going to be a number of things, and again, those things could have happened to you, and you have embraced heterosexuality. They happened to me and I embraced homosexuality.”

Asked to explain why one is considered sinful and the other a sound way of being, Haley replies:

“Let’s take the word sin out of it. One can be what is considered natural and more the norm versus the ‘abnorm.’ So heterosexual being normal, homosexual not.”

Can it simply be seen as difference then?

“Sure,” he allows. “If you want to do that. It’s all terminology. Whatever word you want to use, that’s fine.

“For us Christians, sin versus non-sin. We could say the majority versus the minority. We can say norm versus ‘abnorm.'”