You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me

On this week’s QandA  (September 19), Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby invoked the ‘some of my best friends are gay’ defence. Many, including my friend Mitch Sullivan, were skeptical about Wallace’s claim.  For example, Mitch tweeted:

“Can I get a show of hands? Fellow gays that are friends with homophobes? Apparently, there are a lot of you.”

But on one of my  journeys through cyberspace, I discovered that Jim does, indeed, have at least one gay ‘friend’ .  He mentioned this relationship at the the 2011 Australian National Apostolic Church Conference. The organisers helpfully recorded it and posted it online.

Those who watched Q and A may recall that in answering Josh Thomas’s question, Wallace said he understood same-sex attraction was not something that could be changed.  And yet, just a few months ago, Wallace is recorded saying exactly the opposite.

In the following transcript of Wallace’s presentation at the conference, he makes it very clear how he deals with a young gay person who has just come out.

“I’m dealing with a young fellow who’s only in the last couple of weeks has gone and told his parents  he’s gay.  It has destroyed his family. It has destroyed this fellow’s relationship with Christ.  And it’s because this 39 year old seduced a young 18 year old at university in his first year …”

Later in his speech, Wallace elaborates on this relationship:

“… let me tell you that only in the last week I’ve had a conversation with a young fellow I’m mentoring you know, who’s  ‘cause I’ve encouraged him. I know that the only way that people can be brought out of homosexuality is through Christ, it’s not by my argument, you know.  If you read the books of people who’ve talked about coming out [he means becoming ex-gay], you know, it’s only ever people have said to them, people have tried to argue with them – you can’t – because for a start, the people who’ve called them into it have all the arguments and counter arguments they fill their heads with and so you’ll never beat those down.  The only thing that will bring them out of it is a closer relationship with Christ – as Christ reveals to them, you know,  that it’s sin.”

It’s all so simple. Having Jim and Jesus as your friends you can’t go wrong.  Just repent your sins and swear to keep your bum to the wall for the rest of your life and “Poof!” you’re straight! (Pun intended.)

According to Jim, a straight, Christian 18 year old entered into a consensual sexual relationship with an older man he met a university.  As a result,  the teenager ‘became’ gay.  And now that pesky ‘gay switch’ has been flicked on, he’s in an awful predicament – it’s stuck – and only Jesus can turn it off.  But, all is not lost – other gay people have become ‘un-gay’.  All those non-peer reviewed articles and misrepresented studies from NARTH say so! All it takes is for Jesus to reveal to them that they are sinners.  It’s a curious conviction, given that Jim admitted last night Jesus had nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of homosexuality. (If only Jim would follow Jesus’ lead!)

So, Jim ‘some-of-my-best-friends-are-gay’ Wallace has a solution for this young man, struggling with his sexual idenity:

“… I’ve really encouraged this young bloke to go to a church.”

You’d think that would solve the problem, wouldn’t you?  But no!  There’s a catch! Wallace explains:

“Now going to church and wanting to get more into the church more and more  he’s run up against a roadblock with  the church because there’s a limit to which the church can have him engaged in leadership within the church – and I understand that.  Now, he’s not a practicing homosexual, you know, but there’s a limit nonetheless for them. So it’s a really really difficult issue.”

Let’ recap. As this young man’s friend and mentor, Jim has:

  • Told him being gay is a sin.
  • Encouraged him to be celibate until he can change – or otherwise remain celibate for life.
  • Told him to go to church.
  •  Told him Jesus can make him straight, if he accepts what a terrible sin he has committed.

And, to his credit, the poor kid, with his family freaking out about his sexuality, has tried to do the ‘right thing’. He’s thrown himself enthusiastically onto the path of  redemption and change Wallace has laid out for him. He’s become celibate – a huge ask – and he’s seeking more responsibility within the church.  But is that enough for the church to encourage him? Not on your nelly.  He may as well have a target on his head with the word “Poof” written in large pink letters.

But let’s be fair. Jim is not unsympathetic to his young gay friend.  No!  He simply compares him to a porn addict or a kleptomaniac … yes, really.

“But what I’d say to you is this. That whatever the struggle, it’s no different really than someone who might be struggling with pornography – and for them it’s a real struggle you know, they just can’t go to the TV without opening it up. 

It might be that they’re struggling with something else, you know.  Some people are kleptomaniacs and must have a real struggle when they see something they really want and want to grab it.  All of these things are sin because of the fallen nature state of our world, you know? 

And I just think – and I understand the dilemma – I just think despite the difficulty of being able to get across to the world that we love the sinner, even though we hate the sin, we just have to stay true to that. Because as soon as we compromise it on this, how do we hold it on everything else, you know?

So I think it’s really really important that – as hard as it is, you know – that we hold to it, but we’re compassionate, you know, that we’re loving.”

Sure Jim, the loving thing to do is to completely ignore all the expert expert professional advice on how to deal with a teenager grappling with their sexuality and tell this kid he just has to change for Jesus. Ignore the shockingly high rate of gay teen suicide and  tell this troubled young man that God will accept him if only he’ll learn to love girls – or at least stay celibate for life. Send him on a guilt trip over all the angst he’s caused to his family and Jesus.  And then put him into a church that treats him like a second class citizen.  Great work, friend!

Jim, of course, is wilfully oblivious to the expert opinion of the American Psychological Association, which represents over 132,000 mental health professionals.  In 1994, the APA issued an unequivocal statement on homosexuality:

“The research on homosexuality is very clear. Homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity. It is simply the way a minority of our population expresses human love and sexuality. Study after study documents the mental health of gay men and lesbians. Studies of judgment, stability, reliability, and social and vocational adaptiveness all show that gay men and lesbians function every bit as well as heterosexuals. 

Nor is homosexuality a matter of individual choice. Research suggests that the homosexual orientation is in place very early in the life cycle, possibly even before birth. … Research findings suggest that efforts to repair homosexuals are nothing more than social prejudice garbed in psychological accoutrements.” 

Similarly, the Australian Psychological Society’s website insists that homosexuality is neither a ‘choice’ nor a mental disorder.

In Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation (2005),  Glenn Wilson, a reader in personality at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, and Qazi Rahman, a psychobiologist at the University of East London assert categorically that the research leaves ‘absolutely no room for parental or societal influence’ on sexual identity. Wilson and Rahman insist that children cannot be seduced or otherwise led into homosexuality regardless of how overbearing the mother or absent the father – ‘no amount of poor parenting can waylay a child born to walk the path of heterosexuality’.  According to these mental health experts:

“… the biological origin of sexual orientation means that discriminating against gays and lesbians is as justifiable as discriminating on the basis of eye colour or ethnicity”.

The fact is, Jim’s ‘friendship’ with this young man could, at worst, drive him to self-harm or suicide and, at best, cause untold psychological trauma and long-term damage.

A brochure published in 1999, and endorsed by nearly half a million of America’s mental health experts, counsellors, paediatricians and experts in related fields said, in part:

“… efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy have been adopted by some political and religious organizations and aggressively promoted to the public. However, such efforts have serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure … a number of medical, health, and mental health professional organizations have issued public statements about the dangers of this approach.”

But, in an recklessly arrogant display of religious hubris, Wallace completely rejects this and decides to ‘fix’ this boy himself (with the help of Jesus, of course).

Kim Brett, a former leader with ex-gay ministries Living Waters and Liberty Inc, has witnessed, first hand, what trying to change someone’s sexual orientation does to them:

“… For a long time I had been witnessing peoples’ (and my own) growing frustration that no matter how repentant, prayerful and committed we all were to living a life as an ex-gay Christian, the changes we all sought and were taught possible never really materialised for most … Depression, anxiety, loneliness and inner turmoil were our constant companions because as seen through the eyes of many churches, our ‘failure’ to change equated with somehow not having enough faith, not being a ‘true’ Christian or having a demonic influence.”  (Soulforce, 2007)

Is this why Wallace’s young friend is not considered suitable for leadership in the church?  Is it because they fear his homosexuality is caused by demons?

In his speech, Wallace (paraphrasing Charles Colson’s The Faith) explains that great Christian movements are not motivated by some idea of a social gospel. They are motivated by a commitment to fight ‘systemic evil’.

Adrian Price tells what it’s like to follow a ex-gay plan like Jim’s:

“I was seventeen and I was very screwed up and was attempting suicide because I was confused. I am only alive now because I am rather inept at killing myself. I have tried but I am not very good at it. I know others who have harmed themselves and in the states there are numerous cases of people coming out of the program and committing suicide. I’ve been pretty much in psychiatric counselling for last five years because of this. I’ve had numerous suicide attempts because of this. Some people I know have gotten away more lightly. The more determined you were, the more you got hurt. I wanted to make this work, I was celibate for eight years, I did everything I was told.”

I don’t know who Wallace is mentoring, but I hope he might read this. Dear young man, Wallace is not your friend.  He does not have your best interests at heart – although I accept he thinks he does.  Wallace has no expertise in human sexuality and yet he is trying to coerce you into ‘choosing’ your sexuality – something which medical experts say simply cannot be done. In short, he is asking the impossible of you.  He is setting you up to fail.

You may, or may not be homosexual.  You may be straight but adventurous, bisexual, homosexual or something else altogether. Time will tell.  But it is for you to find out, not for anyone else to determine.

Wallace’s ‘solution’ to your ‘problem’ is to put you into a church which will never accept you for who you really are.  The real ‘solution’ is for you to accept yourself just as you are and work from there.

Please, talk to someone at Gay and Lesbian Counselling Services of Australia – it’s just one phone call.  Consider the possibility that you are OK just the way you are.  Consider also that many committed Christians believe homosexuality is not a sin. Instead, they believe that it’s people like Jim Wallace who are acting contrary to the spirit of Jesus’ message; that it is Wallace who is ‘ungodly’ , not you.

Please take a moment to read about American Christian, the Reverend Mel White.  White went through absolute hell. He lied to himself about his sexuality and conformed to what the church wanted by marrying and having a family.  He struggled (often unsuccessfully) for years to become an ‘ex-gay’ before he finally realised that it simply wasn’t possible. Ultimately, White rejected bigotry, not God.  If that is your choice,  you can do that too. Please think about this before you marry some innocent girl and wreck her life as well as yours.

Former Australian Assemblies of God minister, Anthony Venn Brown has been on a similar journey. He warns:

“The church’s stand against gays and lesbians will eventually be proven to be the greatest heresy of the 20th century.”

I’m an atheist, but I have no interest in asking you to change to suit my beliefs.  There are lots of gay friendly churches in Australia which will allow you to worship without making you feel unworthy. There’s also an online Gay Christian Network where you can meet with other people who are both gay and Christian, and find no conflict between the two.

Straight or gay, Christian or atheist, you cannot live your life as a lie and no true friend would ever ask you to.

Chrys Stevenson

 Source:  Jim Wallace – Australian National Apostolic Church Conference 2011. (recording)

Related:

My friend Mitch pointed out in comments (below) that Jim also spoke publicly about his misguided beliefs on homosexuality in a forum on internet censorship. Again, Jim completely ignores research into pedophilia and homosexuality *and conflates the two to suit his own anti-gay political agenda.

* Extract from link:

” … in one review of the scientific literature, noted authority Dr. A. Nicholas Groth wrote:

Are homosexual adults in general sexually attracted to children and are preadolescent children at greater risk of molestation from homosexual adults than from heterosexual adults? There is no reason to believe so. The research to date all points to there being no significant relationship between a homosexual lifestyle and child molestation. There appears to be practically no reportage of sexual molestation of girls by lesbian adults, and the adult male who sexually molests young boys is not likely to be homosexual(Groth & Gary, 1982, p. 147).

In a more recent literature review, Dr. Nathaniel McConaghy (1998) similarly cautioned against confusing homosexuality with pedophilia. He noted, “The man who offends against prepubertal or immediately postpubertal boys is typically not sexually interested in older men or in women” (p. 259).”

14 thoughts on “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me

  1. Louella

    Brilliant.

    I so hope the young man involved reads this.

    Wallace was hard to listen to on Monday night and Tony Jones allowed him more than his fair share of air time

    Reply
  2. jayel

    With friends like that…

    The attitude is soooo patronizing that it makes me feel ill. Just who the hell does he think he is? Well, I guess we know who/what he thinks he represents. It is also terribly sad that people would allow themselves to be subjected to this kind of treatment. I, too, hope that, somehow, the young man in question can get away from such a toxic environment.

    Reply
  3. Doug Steley

    Great article Chrys very true

    I watched jim on Q&A and came away thinking; Jim Wallace was basically saying “If you are gay and want a child then you must either live in a loveless heterosexual sham marriage or remain childless for life ”

    What a very christian outlook !

    Reply
  4. Mitch S

    Great article, Chrys. Here is the main reason why people like Mr Wallace’s best friend in the world will never be allowed access to the heirarchy. You see, according to Jim, it’s homosexuals that are responsible for infiltrating the church and abusing children:

    Pearls of wisdom from Australia’s most powerful Christian lobbyist.

    Reply
  5. Steven Durrington

    Chris, I think you may have meant half a million american mental health professionals, not half a billion. But otherwise, an excellent article highlighting the danger of ignorant, bigoted, fundamentalists like Jim Wallace.

    Reply
  6. Annette Williams

    I too watched Q&A and found Wallace completely cringeworthy. He is uneducated and inarticulate and if I were a Christian I would be ashamed to have him represent me. He kept saying “the reality is” about things that were not reality at all, but his own blinkered worldview.

    Reply
  7. Alison (aka Annie)

    Your writing is astoundingly astute, well researched, pithy and erudite. I love the way you argue your point and again, both Clem and I agree with you unreservedly.
    Thank you for your heartfelt and reasonable work.

    Alison

    Reply
  8. Pingback: Fourty First Down Under Feminist Carnival | A Touch of the Crazy

  9. Pingback: Some of my best friends are hateful fundamentalist nutbars. [ ALIS.ME ]

  10. Ambient_Malice

    Incidentally, the former head of the APA has said that the APA is out of line, and has allowed politics to overrule science in regards to whether homosexuals can change.

    So anything the APA says must be taken with a massive spoon of salt.

    Reply
    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      Being a psychologist doesn’t mean that you cannot also be a bigot and prioritise ideology over evidence. This man was head of the APA in 1980 – 32 years ago! There’s been a hell of a lot of research since then – all condemnatory of ex-gay therapies and the concept that homosexuality is a ‘choice’.

      I have allowed this comment only because it gives me an opportunity to show how dishonest the propaganda of bigots is. I have blocked you on Twitter for being a bigot and a pest and you can now consider yourself blocked on this website as well.

      At Kaiser Permanente, Former APA President Supported Homosexual ‘Cure’
      Posted June 8th, 2012 by Michael Airhart

      http://www.truthwinsout.org/blog/2012/06/25982/

      Despite the retraction of the Spitzer study of conversion therapy, and the finding of other studies that conversion therapies are misguided and counterproductive, a small minority of therapists refuse to learn from this wealth of knowledge and persist in trying to cure homosexuals. (Cure them of what exactly, and make them what, you ask? These therapists can’t give a straight answer.)

      One such therapist may be Nicholas Cummings, whose ongoing activism is reviewed in a new article in LifeSiteNews. Cummings was president of the American Psychological Association from 1979 to 1980. According to LifeSiteNews, Cummings also served as Chief of Mental Health for health-maintenance organization Kaiser Permanente, where he oversaw policies that included compensation to ex-gay therapists for their largely fruitless efforts to cure homosexuals. Cummings no longer serves in that capacity.

      Cummings is quoted by LifeSiteNews as characterizing the majority of his fellow therapists as “ultraliberal” — an odd observation, since “liberal” in this context is a relative term and if one person views everyone else as liberal, chances are the observer is ultraconservative. But anyway. While studies have concluded that ex-gay therapy is harmful, Cummings wants to reopen APA debate about the gay “cure.” Cummings criticizes the APA for allegedly cherry-picking research results — but it appears that Cummings is the one who is cherry-picking, rejecting each new round of evidence of abuse and depression prompted by the ex-gay movement and each new account of recovery by ex-gay movement survivors.

      Cummings dismisses all ex-gay survivors as a class with one word: Recidivist. In his view, they are failures — not human beings who were injured by his efforts:

      “It’s a difficult therapy, and it’s not huge in terms of numbers, but yes we [at Kaiser Permanente] have seen success, and this is why the stance that ‘you can never change’—Ronald Reagan said ‘never say never’—it’s absurd. All you have to do is find one exception and it knocks down the ‘never.’ But yes, I’ve experienced more than one exception,” said Cummings.

      Admittedly we had failures. The recidivism along the way with some would be intense, but we experience the same thing with treating substance abuse and alcoholism. Falling off the wagon is part of the treatment.

      Cummings continues to lobby politically on behalf of the ex-gay think tank NARTH. In the following video uploaded to YouTube by NARTH founder Joseph Nicolosi, Cummings projects that organization’s political agenda onto its opponents who seek to professionalize the treatment of sexual-minority clients by calling out clinically unsupported ex-gay stereotypes, fraud and abuse.

      NARTH projects its politicization of gay therapy onto others

      Note that NARTH does not permit YouTube commenters to refute the video’s claims.

      Reply

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