My Response to Marvin

After repeated attempts to speak with Marvin on the phone, I finally faxed him the following letter on Wednesday. I have yet to get a reply.

Dear Marvin,
I’ve struggled with what to say about your decision to sell your home and move to Memphis so that you can attend Love in Action. I am surprised that you do not answer the many phone messages I left you. But then again I am not. You have determined your course, and like a good soldier of the cross, I imagine that you will let nothing deter you from your goal.

I know I can say nothing that will dissuade either. Ironically I entered Love in Action on July 13, 1996, exactly 10 years to the day of when you will start your program next week. No one could have stopped me then. I felt desperate, lost and determined. I felt overwhelmed by a world that seemed oppressively opposed to my beliefs and by sexual feelings that no matter how hard I tried to control them only seemed to mock me with their intensity.

At that time I felt that I had no home of my own, no place where I could be myself. The church and my church friends rejected me because I continued to act out sexually regardless of the many attempts to stop, my promises and prayers. What I viewed as the “gay community” looked foreign and dangerous to me and especially to my faith in Jesus. The only refuge I felt I had was Love in Action where I believed I could be open about my same-sex struggles and grow in my faith.

Little did I understand that my parents silently ached to love and embrace me, that whole communities of queer people of faith existed all around me, that wise and thoughtful and caring friends stood nearby. But after 15 years of attempting to “get right with God” nothing was going to stop me from entering Love in Action.

I don’t know why some of us struggle with our same-sex attractions and gender differences more than others. I don’t know why even in the face of the mounting evidence to the contrary that some of us fight with all our might to transform ourselves. I don’t know why we confuse the things that really need changing with the things we insist must change.

Marvin, I cannot discourage you from entering Love in Action. You sound firmly fixed in your course. Perhaps some good will come of it. I met some of my dearest friends in Love in Action. I learned important lessons that helped me overcome the obstacles to coming out. These were unintended consequences, costly surprises. And shocker of all, when I finally came to the end of my struggle, I found Jesus there waiting for me on the other side, seeming to say, “Now let’s get on with the living part of your life.”

What else can I say? Look out for the killer Texas-sized biscuits–they will destroy that boyish figure of yours! Don’t let the feedback you hear destroy you and try to remember that even your captors are victims of the same system that oppresses you. Oh, and one last thing, please oh please bring some sort of recording device with you so you can chronicle your long day’s journey into night. And should things go badly, please contact Bob and Morgan and Ann and Pastor Tim Meadows and well, I can provide you with a detailed list of amazing Memphis people.

your friend and queer brother in Christ (I hear the rebukes from you already 🙂
Peterson

Rumor has it that Daniel Gonzales of Ex-Gay Watch will be in the NY area, so maybe we can visit Marvin before he goes. Who knows maybe Daniel’s charms will prevent Marvin from wasting his time. Do you have any parting words of advice for Marvin before he departs to the nether regions???

This post has 11 Comments

  1. jerryt on July 7, 2006 at 2:02 pm Reply

    Dear Marvin, I am praying for you to find the peace that you are seeking. Although I do not have the experience Peter has with LIA, I do have my own experience to talk about.

    I was raised a southern baptist. I became a Christian at age 11. When I hit puberty, I was horrified to find that I was attracted to males rather than females. For most of my adult life I fought being gay. I prayed to be healed, I avoided all things gay. I even would not look at sports illustrated for fear of seeing a picture of sexy athlete which would turn me on. It was only after years and years of study, prayer, and soul searching that I realized that God had answered my prayers. His answer to my request to be healed…was to heal me of my internal homophobia and help me realize that he loves me just as a I am.

    Today, I am in the tenth year of a committed and loving relationship with my partner. The years of struggle were not wasted because today I am at peace with myself and with my God. I pray that you will be able to find this same joy and peace that I have found.

    God Bless,

    Jerryt

  2. KJ on July 7, 2006 at 3:30 pm Reply

    God bless Marvin and grant him peace and joy on his journey. I suspect that he will have to experience LIA in order to remove later “What ifs?” I also believe that Marvin is sincere in his quest to know God’s will, and if so, he can look forward to the joy of learning that God is a god of surprises.

  3. Bob Painter on July 7, 2006 at 4:02 pm Reply

    First, I must respond to jerryt, Marv. JT, your post is so powerful. Thanks for sharing MY heart through YOUR words…

    Now, Marvin…Like Peterson, I had to go through LiA to be the man I am today so I’m not upset with you…worried for you…anxious about the pain you will have to endure…but definitely not upset.

    I’m here in Memphis if and when you need me. One of the first things LiA will have you do is disassociate with all of us…yes, even Peterson. Your heart will break, but we will understand. And we’ll still be here at some point in your future (which is not something I can say about LiA after your money stops flowing into their coffers).

    I would LOVE to hear about your experiences through audio blogs. These will be outlawed (as well as journals) so you’ll have to keep a good memory (and maybe jog your thoughts later with the multitude of MIs you’ll be writing) for later posts.

    Know that your voice and mannerisms will be “challenged.” There’s no way to prepare you for this without hurting you prior to the onslaught, but here’s a snipit of things to come: lower the pitch of your voice and talk slower. These tips will help soften the blow, but it won’t prevent it.

    (Remember that you can be Marvin again when you leave their correction chambers.)

    Okay…that’s enough.

    Take it easy, Marvin.

    Love…BOB

  4. Jonathan on July 7, 2006 at 4:06 pm Reply

    Peterson~

    Your letter to Marvin was brilliant!

    Marvin~

    I leave you with my favorite prayer…

    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
    Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

    Taking, as He did, this sinful world
    as it is, not as I would have it;
    Trusting that He will make all things right
    if I surrender to His will;
    That I may be reasonably happy in this life
    and supremely happy with Him
    Forever in the next.
    Amen!
    –Reinhold Niebuhr

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not to your own understanding;
    in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will direct your path.
    –Proverbs 3:5-6

    j.

  5. Steve Boese on July 7, 2006 at 7:30 pm Reply

    Marvin…

    I know that it is important for you to conform to God’s call on your life.

    As you move forward with Love In Action (or whatever other path if things change), I want to encourage you to continue asking questions. Lots of questions. Hard questions. If that sounds contrary to God’s call to conform, I’d encourage you to think of the example set by Jesus’ disciples.

    It seems to me they often had questions. They wrestled with some of the simplest (in retrospect, anyway) concepts and issues he was teaching. They didn’t seem to understand that, just as he was becoming a rock-star of a healer, his mission became spending 40 days in the desert. Every time they thought they had locked down his identity and purpose, they ended up being surprised. When they became enamored of their own status and knowledge, they proved their fallibility.

    Even when he appeared to them again after dying on the cross, they continued questioning and wrestling with what he had to teach them.

    The message I get from that is not that Thomas doubted, Peter denied, and Judas betrayed. It is that all of us carry those traits and experiences forward. Every one of us has discovered difficult stuff inside of ourselves, our peers, and our leaders.

    I believe God is big enough to let us question Him, ourselves, and others in the course of our journeys. He isn’t diminished by our questions; if anything, faith becomes stronger and deeper when we use all of the gifts of the head, heart, and the spirit.

    You are already wonderfully gifted in all of those areas, Marvin. I’m convinced you’ll find what you need, what God is calling you to, and I wish you the best on your journey.

  6. Anonymous on July 7, 2006 at 8:10 pm Reply

    Dear Marvin,

    I remember being in your position 12 years ago. I left my family and several friends at the Jacksonville airport, as I boarded a plane for San Francisco. At that time, LIA’s headquarters were in San Rafael, CA. I left on January 1, 2004, and I was committing to the biggest New Years resolution of my life. I was going to LIA, and I was going to come back straight, totally free of homosexuality. I was in for a surprise…

    I can honestly say that I don’t regret my year in LIA. I seemed destined to be there, after all, I chose to go. I would follow every rule that they put in front of me, I would pray harder than I ever had before, and I would be with people who struggled with homosexulity, just like me. It was an answer to prayers.

    I realize now, that my decision to go to San Rafael was made out of the shame I felt for being gay. It didn’t take me long to realize after I left the program that those same feelings of shame were still very present in my life. In fact, the moment I moved back home, I found myself engaging in a “double life” that I thought I had left behind. That was my wake up call. I didn’t want to live that life again. It wasn’t honest. It wasn’t real. How many years had I wasted trying to be someone that I wasn’t? At that moment, I made the best decision I ever made. I accepted who I was, and I started to see the beauty of my life. Amazingly enough, that double life died, my self confidence soared, and I was finally able live my life in peace.

    I know I don’t know you, and I’m sure that you won’t see this for some time to come. Just know that there are many people who were once in your position, and we are praying that you too will one day see the beautiful man that God has created, just as you are.

    Sincerely,

    Scott Tucker

  7. kurt_t on July 8, 2006 at 9:37 pm Reply

    Well, the housing market is softening up, so maybe now was a good time to cash in on your equity.

    As far as LIA goes, I don’t know, Marvin. Aren’t you supposed to surround yourself with “Everstraights”? I mean, isn’t that the most effective means of degaying yourself, according to these ex-gay programs?

    So it seems like going to what’s essentially a gay rehab center would be counterproductive. Seems like you’d be better off moving someplace where there aren’t a lot of gay people. I don’t know, Battle Creek, Michigan, or someplace.

    On the other hand, I was just reading that Debbie Reynolds is moving her Hollywood Museum to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, home of Dollywood! That’s not too too far from Memphis. You might want to check it out while you’re down there.

    I mean, the area is due for some major growth, and you might want to think about relocating there. And with your retail experience and musical background, I would think you’d be a natural for a career at a theme park.

  8. Elliot on July 8, 2006 at 11:19 pm Reply

    Marvin, PLEASE DON’T GO!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Ahem…well, you’ve made up your mind and it seems like there’s really no turning back for you now. I just wish you the best and hope that you’ll keep in mind that being gay isn’t nearly as sinful as you think it is. No matter what those LiA people try to force into your head about queer people, please renember Peterson and all of us who are who we are against what others want us to be. You can do that, too. We believe in you.

    Hurry back!

  9. SteveSchalchlin on July 9, 2006 at 1:24 pm Reply

    Marvin, I understand that they discourage reading books from “outside” there at LIA. I was thinking, though, that you could bring them copies of the “Left Behind” series. That way, if any of the other strugglers aren’t doing so well, you can further terrorize them with really bad writing.

  10. Daniel Gonzales on July 10, 2006 at 2:21 am Reply

    don’t you go getting me involved in this now 😛

  11. Anonymous on July 12, 2006 at 3:51 am Reply

    Since Marvin used to recieve his faxes at work (A job he no longer has)…..do you think they are going to the store…where he can’t retrieve them?

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