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COMMENTARY: How Kirk Cameron and Focus on the Family have this “we love gays” all wrong!

With evangelical Kirk Cameron’s comments on Piers Morgan last week (March 2, 2012) that homosexuality is "unnatural ... detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization," the question of “hate speech” has taken centered stage again.

“Some people believe my responses were not loving toward those in the gay community,” Cameron told ABCNews.com in an email statement on March 6.

Focus on the Family, reputedly the most influential evangelical organization in America today in opposing gay rights, has asked the questioned directly – do evangelicals “hate” gays?

On Oct. 5, 2011, Focus on the Family published on the Internet an article by Focus on the Family president Jim Daly titled “Hate is too big a word to be used with such little restraint.”

Daly asks his readers to respond to the question “[D]o we [Focus on the Family], as Webster defines ‘hate,’ feel ‘intense hostility and aversion’ to gays and lesbians? Do we [Focus on the Family] regard them with ‘extreme dislike or antipathy’?” He answers the question in the negative: “Unequivocally not.”

Along with his friends at Focus on the Family, Daly has a blind spot. The answer is, as unlikely as it may seem to some conservative Christians, an “unequivocal" yes. Yes, Focus on the Family “hates” gays and lesbians (using Jim Daly’s Webster definition of hate).

Why don’t evangelicals like Focus on the Family, looking in the mirror, see themselves as treating homosexuals with “extreme dislike or antipathy?” How is it that evangelicals on a feeling-scale of one to 10 don’t know that they register a 10-plus when it comes to feeling “intense hostility and aversion” towards gays and lesbians? How can they be so self-unaware? How do they not see the hate we know and feel?

Evangelicals are impervious to society’s cultural, human right advances whenever such milestones are, in their opinion, in complete discord with what God has decreed is his will for humankind. Love for one’s fellow citizen, in the evangelical’s mind, is to be expressed in the single context of loving what is God’s best for the human species as deciphered from the Bible.

By their standards, evangelicals are loving when they offer understanding (but stop short of acceptance), provide support groups (to change one’s sexual orientation), and open their doors for all to enter their churches (where the gay and lesbian person can have fellowship with church members around the teaching that homosexual acts between consenting adults is always sin).

For evangelicals, gays and lesbians need to invite Jesus Christ into their hearts which is the formula for new birth which is the means by which (with much help) homosexuals will “come out of” homosexuality. For the evangelical, homosexuals will change; it is built-in within the spiritual “genetic code” of salvation in Christ. It is spiritually “natural” for an evangelical homosexual to change – moving by degrees away from homosexuality as a “lifestyle” or “choice.”

Thus, evangelical’s often quoted slogan: “hate the sin, love the sinner.” The idea is to “love the sinner” to Christ so that Christ can change the gay or lesbian person which, in actuality, amounts to conditional love. (Just ask a heterosexual to be received into church fellowship under the same conditions.)

No wonder none of this feels like love to the homosexual – and especially to the evangelical homosexual who for years upon years (myself until age 44) applies spiritual discipline, enters therapy, joins several support groups, attends “ex-gay” conferences, and does all this in utter isolation without being able to tell anyone in his church or family about the “ex-gay” process he is involving himself in without fear of rejection on some level. (“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is still alive and well in the evangelical church.)

Daley concludes his article by calling for “debates, not denigration.” He asks that we cease with our “overheated, overreaching [hate] rhetoric.”

I would like to suggest that what Focus on the Family needs to do is stop with its one-sided debates with the America people long enough to really listen to its own evangelical gay and lesbian parishioners. Focus on the Family is so engaged in saving the American culture from gay rights that they have failed to seriously take notice of their own evangelical children who are gay and lesbian.

A parent who has forgotten their own children while saving the world – that’s Focus on the Family; Focus on the Family needs to focus on their own evangelical gay children; needs to stop and listen to them!

When Soulforce, a few years back, asked to speak with Focus on the Family – to share their personal stories as Christian and gay – they were shut out by Focus on the Family. It appears “debate” rather than dialogue with one’s own evangelical homosexual children is the business of the day. Within our own house – the evangelical American house – we don’t need debate, we need dialogue (for most of my life I identified as evangelical; I presently do not).

You see, dialogue feels like love; debate feels like hate. When can we really talk as a family? Until then, Focus on the Family's love-talk may be seen has hate-speech by their own evangelical children, not to mention by the secular world which Focus on the Family hopes to save from gay and lesbian human rights.

The Rev. Stephen R. Parelli
Executive Director of Other Sheep
Bronx, N.Y.