Speaking the Truth in Love

Americans know intuitively that something is wrong with the idea of legally endorsing same-sex "marriages." We see this discomfort in public opinion polls: Two-thirds of Americans are opposed to "gay marriage." On the other hand, many of our countrymen are reluctant to talk about the issues because, as columnist Kathleen Parker put it, most of us know and/or love someone who is gay and don't want to deny them respect and happiness. So "we sit back quietly and watch the reordering of society for fear of hurting a loved one's feelings or offending a coworker."

I understand Parker's point and have, in the past, been reluctant to address the issue for the same reason. However, considering the level of aggression coming from today's homosexual activist community, our back is to the wall. Homosexual activists are determined to ignore existing laws that protect the institution of marriage and to co-opt the family for their own purposes. They have left us but two choices: Either meekly acquiesce to a wide range of revolutionary cultural demands, or stand up and fight for the things we believe in. I have chosen the second option, and I pray that millions of other Americans will respectfully do the same.

The Intimidation Factor

Homosexual activists know that most Christians are uncomfortable in today's highly charged political arena. We are, for the most part, peace-loving people who do not like angry confrontation and bitter debate. Our philosophical opponents understand this, which explains why they often react with in-your-face rhetoric and behavior. Their purpose is to intimidate those who oppose their agenda.

One of their most effective tactics is to depict Christians—and others who uphold traditional values—as "hateful," calling us "bigots" and the dreaded (and nonsensical) "homophobe." No one wants to be called names, and the intimidation factor keeps many from speaking out on this topic. The shouting and blustering of homosexual activists is not unlike that of a rebellious teen who slams doors, throws things around, and threatens to run away. Most parents have had to deal with this kind of behavior and have learned that giving in at such a time can be disastrous for both parties. What's needed is loving firmness in the face of temper tantrums and accusations.

Another common tactic of activists today is to hurl the charge of "homophobia" at anyone who disagrees with the movement in the slightest detail. Everything we contend is called "hate speech" or "gay bashing." Christians are very vulnerable to these accusations, because hate is the antithesis of what Jesus taught. It cuts us to the quick to be charged with hypocrisy for departing from the tenets of the faith. But before we accept the name-calling as valid, we should recognize that in many instances those who hurl accusations at us don't even believe the charges—they are merely ruses conjured by the movement to silence those with the courage to speak. How do I know these are trumped-up accusations? Because I have been victimized by them.

In 1998, when a young homosexual named Matthew Shepard was murdered by two thugs in Wyoming, the media immediately accused some of us in the pro-family movement of creating a hateful environment that encouraged this kind of violence. It was a ridiculous claim, but I got tagged along with several colleagues. Katie Couric of NBC's Today Show asked a guest one morning if he thought the leaders of Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition, and the Family Research Council were indirectly responsible for Shepard's murder because of the venom we espoused. This was an outrageous suggestion that, frankly, I resented. There is no evidence that the killers had ever heard of me, read any of my books, or visited our campus. In twenty-seven years I have never said anything hateful about homosexuals on our broadcast, and I do not condone violence or disrespect for anyone. Yet, in asking the question, sweet little Katie planted the notion that Christians are somehow responsible for the hatred that allegedly stalks our land.

Of course, Couric cited no evidence to validate her question, because there isn't any. Every word I have publicly spoken in more than two decades, as well as everything I have written, is on record. You would think that Couric would feel obligated to come up with a single hateful phrase or idea we've put forward that has been hurtful to homosexuals. She didn't. She simply impugned the reputations of conservatives who were innocent of wrongdoing.

This kind of Christian bashing has become routine in the secular media. Why? Because the personal attacks on us are part of a liberal strategy to silence the opposition. For instance, Hillary Clinton blamed the "vast right-wing conspiracy" when her husband was accused of sexual misconduct with an intern.62 The president later admitted he lied to the country about Monica Lewinsky, but the first lady never apologized.

New York Times columnist Frank Rich is a member of the media who routinely bashes Christians. Immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Rich speculated that the bombers were probably right-wing Christians. He did not—nor could he—support such speculation. After Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were tried and convicted of the crime, I wrote to Rich and asked him to admit that he had falsely accused Christians. He sent back a short note saying he would answer me when he had time. Of course, I never heard from him again. He still regularly thrashes Christians, including yours truly. He once called me "the Godzilla of the Right." Nice guy.

If there is hate existent in this debate over homosexuality, it appears to be coming from the other side. During the conflict in Colorado over the Amendment 2 initiative, I was the target of great venom. (Adopted by Colorado voters in 1992, the legislation forbade local governments from classifying homosexuals as a protected class of people in regards to employment and housing. Amidst bitter debate, it was struck down in 1996 and deemed unconstitutional in a condemning and outrageously worded opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court.) During that period, our buildings were spray-painted with bigoted slogans. We received death threats and telephone bomb warnings. Bloody animal parts were brought to the front of the headquarters building, and a mock funeral found its way onto our property. Vicious lies were told about us and publicized widely in the press. Throughout Colorado Springs and Denver, talk show hosts and newspaper reporters told local citizens that I had called each of the school superintendents in town and demanded the names of all homosexual teachers—so I could run them out of town. Any thinking person would know that this was untrue, because schools cannot give out personal information about a teacher, much less details of his or her sex life. It didn't matter because the story had "legs." Finally, the three superintendents here in Colorado Springs issued statements vindicating me. But still the lies continued to spread.

These are the tactics, mind you, of the folks who accuse Christians of being hate-filled and intolerant. I will say it again: It is a game of intimidation and threats.

I share these stories to help you withstand the criticisms when they come your way, because they will come. If you have the temerity to confront the homosexual juggernaut, someone will attack your integrity. And when they run out of ideas, they will begin to shout. I've gotten used to the unfairness of these tactics (sort of) and have decided it goes with the territory. Do not get discouraged when it happens to you. Just hang in there and keep doing what is right. Remember, Jesus was unjustly accused, too.

An Unhappy Lifestyle

At the risk of being misunderstood, let me acknowledge that there is a great reservoir of hatred in the world, and some of it unfortunately gets directed toward homosexuals. It is wrong and hurtful, but it does happen. Every human being is precious to God and is entitled to acceptance and respect. Each of us has a right to be treated with the dignity that comes from being created in the image of God. I have no desire to add to the suffering that homosexuals are already experiencing. In fact, it has been my intention to help relieve suffering by clarifying its causes and pointing to a way out.

Living as a homosexual is not as happy-go-lucky as is frequently portrayed in the entertainment media. This lifestyle is a prison that leaves many individuals feeling hopeless and abandoned by God, family, and society; many of these individuals desperately want to be free of their same-sex attraction and the struggles that come with it.

I am especially sympathetic to homosexual men who, as effeminate boys, were routinely called "fag" and "queer" and "homo" by their peers. The scars left by those incidents can last a lifetime. In fact, I'm convinced that some of the anger in the adult homosexual community can be traced to the cruel treatment these boys were subjected to at the hands of other children.

As Christians, we must never do anything to cause hurt and rejection, especially to those with whom we disagree emphatically. We certainly cannot introduce homosexuals to Jesus Christ if we are calling them names and driving them away. Believers are called to show compassion and love to those who would be our enemies. These people, some of whom seem hateful themselves, need to be welcomed into the church and made to feel accepted and appreciated. At the same time, we must oppose their agenda, which is harmful to society, to families, and ultimately to homosexuals themselves.

A few years ago, Focus on the Family launched an outreach called Love Won Out. This ministry presents dynamic one-day events that provide conference participants—gay or straight—information on addressing, understanding, and preventing homosexuality. Through this international outreach, Focus on the Family promotes the truth that homosexuality is preventable and treatable—a message routinely silenced today. Whether you are an educator, parent, or even a gay activist, Love Won Out offers information, inspiration, and above all, hope!

Overcoming homosexuality is incredibly difficult, and I will not minimize the anguish that can accompany the process of addressing the hurts and needs that surround it. Nevertheless, change does happen. We know of thousands of former homosexuals who have escaped from the lifestyle. It is exciting to hear them tell their life-changing stories. Two of these individuals, Mike Haley and Melissa Fryrear, are on our staff and speak at Love Won Out conferences.

Mike's story emphasizes the enormous impact fathers have on their sons—either for good or bad. Mike's father had great expectations for his son, centered around sports and hunting. When Mike responded with failure followed by disinterest, his father reacted in anger, mocking the boy and calling him names—sometimes in front of his adult male friends. These responses drove a wedge between Mike and his father, despite a deep-seated need for his dad's attention and approval.

At a key point in Mike's childhood, a male colleague of his father befriended Mike and offered the affirmation the youngster so desperately craved. This attention soon turned sexual, leading to his first foray into homosexuality. For twelve years Mike lived as a homosexual, experiencing the emptiness of one-night sexual encounters that left him feeling more like a commodity for consumption than a beloved and respected man.

Despite his growing unhappiness, Mike initially resisted the idea that homosexuals could change: He had tried before and it didn't work. He resigned himself to the fact that he was gay. But God had other plans, revealing His love for Mike through the diligent pursuit and friendship of a Christian man who demonstrated unconditional love and challenged Mike with God's truth about homosexuality. Eventually, Mike was led to Exodus International, a ministry for homosexuals who desire healing and transformation.

Today, Mike is a happily married father of two boys, a published author, and a popular speaker on the topic of homosexuality.

Focus on the Family staff member Melissa Fryrear also found hope after homosexuality through the message of Exodus International. After ten years of living as a lesbian, Melissa says, a television program featuring Exodus encouraged her to turn away from homosexuality: "I watched and listened in total amazement as men and women shared how they had overcome homosexuality through their relationship with Christ. I had no idea there was anyone else who had made the decision to walk away from homosexuality."

Today, Melissa can see the roots of her same-sex attraction in early life experiences, including dynamics in the relationship with her parents, sexual molestation by a man, and sexual experimentation as a preteen. When she severed ties with her lesbian lover after turning to God for strength and renewal, Melissa had a new beginning; now she has a life-giving public testimony about the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

Mike and Melissa are two of thousands of individuals who are living proof that homosexuals can change. While that may sound like heterodoxy to those living in homosexuality, in reality people are turning away from same-sex relationships and resisting same-sex attractions through the power of Jesus Christ.

To summarize, I've tried to communicate that we are obligated as Christians to treat homosexuals respectfully and with dignity, but we are also to oppose, with all vigor, the radical changes they hope to impose on the nation. It is vitally important that we do so.

Excerpted from Marriage Under Fire

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