I confess, I meet up with “ex-gay” leaders. Yep we have coffee and lunch and phone conversations. Good times. Really.
Over at Ex-Gay Watch a commentor wondered why I was so keen on meeting with an “ex-gay” leader in my state. I posted a response which help articulate some of what I do and why we need to connect with our “opponents”.
I want to meet with (an “ex-gay” leader) because we currently live in a political environment where we do not listen to each other–unless of course the person is saying something with which we agree. We may visit each other’s blogs, go to a speaking engagement or tune into a radio program, but rarely do we get to connect face to face with someone who is on the other side of an issue.
This past year I have had significant and extended conversations with FOTF’s Mike Haley, Exodus’ Alan Chambers and others who I have agreed not to mention publically. We agreed that the majority of our conversations would not be shared with others so that we can be transparent about our feelings and experiences. (Daniel G. recently modelled this same sort of thing when he had dinner with Chad Thompson).
What these conversations have done for me is to see the humans behind the messages. As a Quaker Christian, I don’t see anyone as my enemy. They may be an opponent on a specific issue, but there is much more to them and me than that one issue.
No one has the monopoly on what is right. When I meet with conservative Chrisitan leaders, I learn things about myself and about the assumptions I carry about them; perhaps they may also learn some things, but that is not my priority.
I speak out against the “ex-gay” movement because as someone who spent 17 years in it, I know first hand the damage we can do to ourselves in it. But as a Quaker Christian I believe that there is something of God in each person, and I feel compelled to glimpse a bit of God in those who it would be much easier to ridicule and dismiss.
Most likely we will retain our stance on “the issue” but for me the purpose of dialogue is not to convert someone, rather to expand our thinking. And that is something we all need to do.