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Going direct to heaven, going direct the other way

The Darth Vader Problem

George Lukas’ movie The Return of the Jedi has one of the strangest redemption scenes ever to be shown in cinema: Inmidst of a battle in which thousands die, a man who has supposedly killed billions of sentinent beings and subjugated the survivors to tyranny gets his absolutions after he helps his offspring to defeat the vicious emporer (completly pointless btw. because the subsequent events would have killed the emporer in any case). Yes, I’m perfectly aware that Darth Vader is a fictional character, but emotional images like a scene of forgivness to the father by the son transports a message to to audience, an in this case the message is any kind of crime is ok as long as you say you’re really, really sorry.

But is it, really? Can any crime be forgiven? And who is to grant forgiveness, is it the victims? And in that case is it okay when one victim forgives or do we need to round up a majority of them or all of them to arrange an orgy of absolution?

Exodus International is a christian organisation aims to “cure” gay/lesbian christians from homosexuality. The name is probably meant to be some kind of allegory, like, Exodus will lead you from the barren desert of homosexualty to the promised land of post-maritial heterosexual sex for the purpose of procreation. The choice of name, while not inappropriate, is a bit strange given that the man who led the tribes through the desert never was allowed to enter the promised land himself.

Exodus International cannot possibly “cure” homosexuality because homosexualty is not a disease. Exodus Internationals attempt to “cure” homosexuality is really an exercise in destroying peoples personalities by applying social pressure (we wash your brain so you can come clean, that kind of thing). And while their long term conversion rate from queer to straight is zero, Exodus leaves in it’s wake a visible trail of wrecked lives, and a couple of deaths.

Beyond Ex-Gay an online community for the survivors of ex-gay expericences – has a reprinted letter and video statements from some former Exodus leaders who stood down from their conviction that homosexuality needs cure and apologized for the damage they had done. Especially the video messages are emotionally powerful – these are a commited, no-nonsense type of people who underwent a significant change for the better. So, their redemption is at hand, or is it.

One thing that puzzles me is that these people still cling to their christian faith. I usually do not like the more notorious atheists because, willfully confusing correlation and causation, they attribute every possible crime to faith if there is a chance that the perpetrator has been exposed to religion at some time of his life (as most people have been). But in this case there is no weasling out or dodging the issue: Almost every religion has instituted some insane policy toward sexuality, and when it comes to gay sex the idea to kill by cure is, horribile dictu, one of the more benevolent approaches. The only way to be a gay christ is to start, for all intents and purposes, your own christian sect that allows for “homosexual tendencys”. What is this religion thing, some kind of buffet where you can pick and choose (“I want some of that heavenly father and a pinch of bodily resurrection, but please hold the hellfire for sodomites”) ? And by the way what’s wrong with saying “gay and lesbian” – do I say I have a “heterosexual tendency”?

But the more important question is the question of forgiveness. To say “I’m sorry” might work for tyrannical galactic overlords, but in real life we expect people to suffer punishment for their crimes before they are allowed to re-enter society (feeling very bad does not actually count as punishment). And most of them seem to have renounced their faith in Exodus when they fell in love with members of the same sex, so things get even worse when you muster a little cynicism and look at their motives: It seems they had little qualms about wrecking other peoples lives up to the point where they wanted to get laid themselves.

I probably shouldn’t get upset about all of this. Some of the victims of anti-gay treatment have in their various blogs signalled forgivness to the penitents. I myself am neither gay nor religious. All this happened in a foreign country, and while most germans would claim to be religious very few would bother to actually do anything about it. But then I think of a friend, how she shook her fist in helpless anger at the TV screen when, just after a particularly nasty child rape scandal within the church, a catholic official declared that homosexuality is a sin. The church that could not even enforce enough self-restraint among it’s employees to spare children from sexual assault now denounced her sexuality as a lesbian? This whole idea that homosexuality needs a cure is a direct attack on people I love.

To stay within in the Star Wars-metaphor from the first paragraph I now should write something on the nature of forgiveness and perhaps conclude with a quip about the death-star of Bethlehem and how it will eventually explode – but then, what would be the point (since it won’t, anyway). So believe whatever you like or even be anti-gay how much you like (this is, after all, free speech territory), but for what little it’s worth, if you go after my friends it’ll take a lot more than to say “I’m sorry” to make me stop being angry at you.


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    1. Tom

      Religion is the problem, not Christianity. We who are true Christians weep an mourn for those who practice homosexuality, for it is they who will not experience the gift of salvation and an eternity in the presence of our creator. Which, by the way, is only possible through recognizing that we’re sinners, understanding that Jesus as the Son of God came to earth to be our redeemer, and that he died on the cross on our behalf because we humans are rotten by nature.

      One of the greatest gifts God gave us was choice. As a Christian, I’ll simply share the message of salvation and what it has done in my life with those who choose homosexuality, but will never try and force anything down anyone’s throat. It’s their choice. I’ll just be sad that we’ll never see each other after our short time on earth and pray that one day they will celebrate in a relationship with our savior, Jesus Christ, who has helped me to experience true joy.

      Thanks. May God bless you this Christmas.

    2. Michael

      Thank you for your post. Your last paragraph is poignant. And it helps those of us in a faith tradition that has handled the issue of sexuality clumsily and arrogantly (perhaps ignorantly works too). Words go so far, but actions go the rest of the way.

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