A Love that Dares to Be So Obscene

Christine and I get lots of messages every week through Beyond Ex-Gay. Most come from people looking for answers or to connect or to share their stories. Some want to thank one of the many people who have shared their stories through narratives or art work.

Last week we received a message for ex-gay survivor Darlene Bogle. Many have written in before to express gratitude to Darlene for both stepping up to tell her story and for also coming forward to issue a public apology for her previous role as an Exodus ex-gay leader, one who firmly promoted and provided ex-gay ministry before she found a better way.

This message we received and came from another former Exodus leader, Anthony Falzarano, who still promotes an ex-gay agenda. His message shocked us so much we wondered if we should even share it with Darlene. But she is a strong and thoughtful woman, and from getting to know her this past year we felt she would like to see it, so we forwarded the message. Darlene decided she wanted to respond to Falzarano’s words publicly through Christine’s blog.

Below is Anthony Falzarano’s e-mail in full.

Darlene, I’m glad I ran across your blog. I still miss you. I am sorry to hear that your lover died of breast-cancer. Darlene is God sending you a message? Please consider coming back to Exodus. You are loved and missed. Why would God call you back to lesbianism, give you a lover and then take her away. I’m sorry that you are going through this. My heart is breaking right now but I believe that you belong to the Lord and “He chastizes the one’s that he loves”. I believe He is calling you back. If you want to talk I am here to listen. Please call me at [removed] if you want to talk. May God Bless You, Anthony Falzarano

I don’t know how she did it, but Darlene spent the time in prayer and thought to put together a response that rings with the clarity and wholeness that I have consistently experienced from her.

I was appalled when I read his words, which on the surface seem so compassionate. It was such a strong reminder of why I left Exodus and could never consider going back under their “umbrella of faith.” How arrogant of Anthony to send such a condemning statement as to ask if God was sending me a message! God sends me messages all the time to remind me of His love and acceptance of me as a lesbian daughter! He has brought a wonderful Christian woman into my life immediately after losing Des. We walk together in faith and love and serve those in our community as a blessed lesbian couple.

To say I am loved and missed (but not accepted) sounds great until he adds the judgmental statement that suggests that Des got breast cancer and was taken away as some sort of punishment for our lesbianism!

To then offer a listening ear if I want to talk? That is the major malfunction of Exodus leaders…How can they listen when their mind is made up?

Darlene then raises important questions about Exodus and the type of “ministry” they offer to people who they say they love.

Anthony believes God is calling me back? To what? The judgmental teachings of Exodus that say you have to change your orientation to be acceptable to God. Long ago I committed myself to acknowledge God in all my ways and allow Him to direct my path. How can I go where God isn’t? To then offer a listening ear if I want to talk? That is the major malfunction of Exodus leaders…How can they listen when their mind is made up?

She concludes by sharing some of why she chose to go public with Falzarano’s message and her response.

I would be happy to have Anthony’s email be revealed for what it is, and my response published for the world to read. Anthony and Exodus have had over 15 years to tell me of their loving acceptance, and have not done so. I will not be responding to Anthony directly, but thanks for sending it on to me.

You can read Darlene’s complete message in Christine’s blog entry Twisted Love.

This post has 22 Comments

  1. paul on August 8, 2008 at 4:15 pm Reply

    I am tempted to just be dumbfounded. But I can’t.

    Darlene, I am sorry that Anthony looked right past you just so he could affirm his own ideas about God.

    Darlene nailed this here:

    “To then offer a listening ear if I want to talk? That is the major malfunction of Exodus leaders…How can they listen when their mind is made up?”

    “They” can’t listen or hear. Really, they don’t want to listen, they want to talk. And you cannot “love” what you do not see or hear.

    This reminds me of the most important prayer in Judaism, the Shema.

    “Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One”

    The first directive of the most important prayer is to ‘hear.”

  2. Anonymous on August 8, 2008 at 9:11 pm Reply

    Falzarano is not the entire ex gay community. Nor is he a very good spokesman for God. And for that matter- neither am I. But as an ex gay christian I would like to see him make a public apology to Darlene for his remarks.

    As Paul in the above comment mentions – the first important part of prayer is to hear. Thank you Paul for pointing that out again. Please continue to do so. That is a very important detail in our lives today.

  3. Joe G. on August 8, 2008 at 9:33 pm Reply

    Why would God call you back to lesbianism, give you a lover and then take her away.

    With this sort of reasoning one could argue that if some ex-gay man’s wife died of breast cancer, it must be God calling him back to homosexuality! D’oh!

  4. Angelia Sparrow on August 9, 2008 at 3:51 am Reply

    I’ve had that same kind of love dumped on me: God is afflicting you by making your children ill so you’ll return to him.

    That’s not a God I want any part of.

    Darlene, you were most gracious in response to this concern troll and his killer-god. May your God hold you through this time of grief.

  5. Peterson Toscano on August 9, 2008 at 10:40 am Reply

    Anonymous, thanks for visiting and adding your voice. More than an apology from Anthony Falzarano, I would love to see how senior folks at Exodus and other ex-gay ministries demonstrate that they DO care to listen and over time without getting defensive.

    Ex-gay survivors represent the vast majority of people who have attended ex-gay programs. Not only did our ex-gay treatment not work, for many of us it caused serious harm. I know that is hard for some ex-gay leaders to hear, but if we care less about politics and more about people, they will listen deeply to these personal accounts without blaming others or defending themselves.

  6. Kristin on August 9, 2008 at 7:54 pm Reply

    What a horrifying, judgmental, and trivializing email. I am glad that Darlene decided to make the email public. Sorry, no, my God doesn’t *punish* us because of who we love. What an unconscionable thing to imply. Kudos to you for doing the hard work of exposing these people.

  7. Darlene on August 9, 2008 at 8:33 pm Reply

    Once again, I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of love. My intent in going public is not just to expose such harmful theology, but hopefully prevent it from continuing so that others do not continue to feel such judgment. Our God is so loving and accepting, as His kids, can we be more like Him?
    Peace. Darlene

  8. Jayna on August 9, 2008 at 10:59 pm Reply

    that is great that she came forward; I think clarity really reveals how hurtful such propaganda can be to those who are struggling with faith and identity.

  9. Kellie on August 10, 2008 at 5:11 pm Reply

    I’m grateful that you went public Darlene, as well as to Peterson and Christine and others who continue to work to keep others from being harmed by this very un-Christ like message. But let’s also not forget to pray for Anthony. He is in a much worse place than you, most likely living a lie, and we all know how that feels! He probably truly believes what he says and that is so sad. While we definitely need to expose this behaviour to the Light, we also need to pray for those who abuse us, “Bless those who persecute you” can be as simple as praying God will bring him out of this misery that causes him to hurt others. That would be a blessing indeed! Some of us were where Anthony is now, and not so long ago. Praise God were not there any longer and let’s hope and pray the same thing can happen for him.

  10. paul on August 11, 2008 at 1:09 pm Reply

    a little more.

    In meeting yesterday there was discussion about Elijah. We’ve all heard the story about how God visits Elijah? First there is this tornado that rips mountains and rocks in two, but God is not in the tornado. Then there is a mighty earthquake (i’ve been trough two earthquakes, they are very loud because the whole earth is shaking, it really gets your attention), but God is not in the earthquake. Then there is complete stillness and silence, and there is where God appears to Elijah.

    My point: should we be looking for God in the cancer or tragedy of another, or in the silence that follows?

  11. Anonymous on August 11, 2008 at 8:41 pm Reply

    I feel saddened that Anthony’s letter has been seen as a broad statement about men and women from “Exodus”.

    Exodus is made up of people, each with their own story and their own responses to such challenging circumstances as Darlene’s story.

    My mother often made the mistake of using the term “you kids”. I resented it then because something inside me was screaming – “I am not you kids, I am an individual”. Exodus can become “you people” rather than taking each one in their own merrit.

    Anthony is but one of the many who have contacted Darlene. His comments are innappropriate and unbiblical. Anthony has had a reputation for years of not “thinking before speaking”. I also believe we should attempt to look at one’s heart. I believe Anthony meant well even in his ignorance.

    I know of many who have contacted Darlene when Des passed – with compassion, condolences and unconditional love. I was one of those who did so even if I hold to a belief that homosexual behavior is unbiblical.

    As always, perspective can become reality when it isn’t balanced with other perspectives.

    “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Are we not all on the same level ground – needing a savior?

  12. Peterson Toscano on August 11, 2008 at 9:58 pm Reply

    Anonymous, I do not believe anyone suggests that any member of Exodus would send message similar to the ugly one sent by Falarzano. I believe Anthony was part of Exodus when Darlene had been, but as far as I know, he is no longer there. But Darlene raises a vital point that should not be lost.

    “That is the major malfunction of Exodus leaders…How can they listen when their mind is made up?”

    It is easy for an Exodus leader or one from other ex-gay program to say, “Anthony’s message is wrong and unacceptable.” But how many are willing to engage in an on-going listening process with the many people who had once sincerely attended their programs but have since found another way.

    When Darlene offered up an apology for the years she provided and promoted ex-gay ministry, the president of Exodus himself reacted by saying that she should give HIM an apology.

    Since the launch of http://www.beyondexgay.com, we have had opportunities to meet with people who promote and provide ex-gay ministry. Some have been more willing to listen and HEAR than others.

    The reality is that for most people who have tried to de-gay themselves (live ex-gay or whatever term you wish to use) such a life was not possible or necessary, but the pursuit of it brought genuine harm.

    Will ex-gay promoters and providers take the time and show the humility to listen deeply to those of us who have demonstrated that we experienced more harm than good at the hands of ex-gay ministers?

    Instead of distancing themselves from Anthony’s remarks and feeling good about themselves that they would never say anything so outrageous, I hope a thoughtful, spirit-filled minister will instead turn her heart or his heart to God to ask, “How may I have wronged those under my charge and caused harm to them?”

  13. wendy on August 12, 2008 at 5:07 pm Reply

    Peterson – you are right. It is more than just distancing ourselves from the warped and damaging message of Anthony – and risking engaging in the messy grey areas of humbly listening with grace, gentleness and conviction. With some bumbling about, I have been seeking to do that through various blog conversations and at our own blog http://www.btgproject.blogspot.com …. and have taken some heat for it. But, I think you’re quite right, that until we can genuinely say, “I could be wrong – and I will listen with an open heart to how God has been moving in your life…” we bear little fruit by simply distancing ourselves from wing-nuts. Listening, truly listening, can be risky, can be threatening…. can leave you open to being misunderstood, judged and discredited …. but frankly, I think it is only through authentic listening AND building true and authentic friendships that there will be any lasting fruit.
    That’s a great idea …. but truth is, as I’ve reached out to try to have conversations over coffee with those with previous interactions (before my time) with the ministry I serve, I have met with a wall of silence. I don’t say this critically, I can certainly understand that trust needs to be earned …. and self-protection is very understandable…. but I hope that comment by comment, conversation by conversation, to build the bridges to engage in such important listening conversations.

  14. Anonymous on August 12, 2008 at 9:55 pm Reply

    I’m reading a book called Lord Have Mercy by Scott Hahn – and it comes home that we all need to ask for his mercy, everyday if your anything like me! I know that the survivors of ex gay treatmetns and prgrams have been through a lot – more than I can imagine. As an ex gay who is not affiliated w/ any group, organization, ministry etc… I would like to see an over haul in their approach to those who have made different decisions.

    I am almost exhausted with the pompousness of those who “look down” on those who live differently. Not everyone can make it through someone else’s view of God. I have enough trouble making it through my own and reconciling with God on a daily basis.

    I’d like to see a coming together rather the separation mentality. Hey, I sin everyday in deed or thought – or am I the only one? Why is one issue separating so many people?

  15. e on August 13, 2008 at 4:37 am Reply

    Peterson (and Darlene),

    I’ve come across this story on several blogs this evening, and all I can say is:

    1. I’m sorry this happened.

    2. But I believe it to be (sadly) typical of many of the things the writer says publicly.

    AF and I attended the same church back in the early-mid 1990s. I believe that messages like the one he sent to Darlene are offensive, wrong-headed, etc. etc.

    He is not someone with whom I have much in common, other than that we both say that we are Christians. He both did and said things that made me profoundly uncomfortable and, further, very uneasy as to what he was doing in what he perceived to be “his ministry.”

    Ultimately, he moved on from that church – and from that particular “ministry.” I am not the only person who has been saddened by his continued high-profile involvement with the media, the church – and, most of all, with “ministries.”

    Please understand that I would normally *not* leave a comment on a post where such an email was quoted. But… I did a bit of Googling and found that AF has left a lot of comments on blogs over the past year or so… Comments that are – no surprise – very troubling.

    My personal view of these comments and messages: they are an attempt to draw attention to himself, and indicative of personal difficulties. If I were to receive such a message, I would likely delete it outright, say a few prayers for the guy, and move on.

    But that’s just me.

    Best to all here,

  16. paul on August 13, 2008 at 12:26 pm Reply

    Wendy,

    “I could be wrong” is a premiss that can unite all of us. It’s funny how something so simple can raise the hackles, on either side of an equation. We seem to prefer the false security of presuming to know to the vast open spaces of “I don’t know.”

    “I could be wrong” is magical in it’s power. If one really means it, then they are free to listen, and more importantly, free to hear.

    If we can listen to each other, see each other, we will be reading a “living epistle,” and perhaps we will glimpse God in the process.

  17. Anonymous on August 13, 2008 at 7:00 pm Reply

    Paul, that is well written.

    I wonder how much will be revelaed when I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. I can only imagine how many things I’ve missed the point on.

    Mary

  18. KJ on August 14, 2008 at 7:58 pm Reply

    This, of course, is not an isolated incident. When life takes unexpected, and some times horrific turns, those of us that are out glbt Christians know the judgment of religionists who would attribute such events upon our acceptance of our sexuality.

    Challenges and tragedy are part of the human experience, as is evidenced by the fact that probably everybody on this board knows of a loved one entrenched in, or has succumbed to, a cancer battle. How sill to ask, “Who sinned?”

    Sometimes it’s as if Jesus never were.

    Kyrie eleison

  19. Anonymous on August 14, 2008 at 11:33 pm Reply

    kj, while I’m in agreement with you overall, I can’t emphasize enough that this particular message is coming from a specific individual who, I believe, has personal problems that are not related to his sexuality, political/religious affiliations, etc.

    Because this is a public blog, I feel uncomfortable getting into any more specifics. Please understand that I not only decry what he has done, I believe it to be fallout from these problems.

    Best to all,
    e. (couldn’t log into my Blogger account for some reason…)

  20. KJ on August 15, 2008 at 9:37 pm Reply

    E.,

    I make no assumptions about this individual’s affiliations, and have no interest in them, or his/her sexual orientation. My point is that he/she is not the only one in the household of faith to make such judgments. Such silliness will have to be exposed until time is no more.

  21. Anonymous on August 16, 2008 at 8:15 am Reply

    Such silliness will have to be exposed until time is no more.

    You’re certainly more generous than I can be, in characterizing this as “silliness”! 😉

    Best to you,
    e/

  22. Pomoprophet on August 21, 2008 at 5:13 am Reply

    Both beauty and disgust found in this post. I think we all know which is which.

Leave a Comment