December 17, 2007

This is exactly why I don’t trust the “ex-gay” movement*

Posted in GLBT issues, News, Religion at 1:18 pm by The Lizard Queen

A couple of weeks ago, this video was going around the web:

A brief synopsis is that a group of 700 Club-approved evangelicals believe that I-35 is the highway mentioned in Isaiah, and are using it as a focal point in the fight to increase the overall “holiness” of the United States. The idea bothered me in general. You have seventeen 24-hour prayer rooms set up; might that energy better spent, say, oh, I don’t know, helping the poor? Visiting sick people in hospitals?

Then came the part that bothered me most: At about the 2-minute mark in the video we’re told of one particular “purity siege” in Dallas, at which a young man named James Stabile was converted. The voice-over in the video says that Stabile “felt God moving in him then, saving him and taking away his homosexuality.” Two things struck me as problematic in this section: first, I’m sure it’s possible that Stabile was bar-hopping without a shirt on, but the fact that he wasn’t wearing a shirt in the video footage of his conversion made me suspect that what happened was not actually as simple as Stabile and the voice-over suggest (Stabile walks by, pastor asks if he’s ever felt the spirit, Stabile says no but expresses curiosity, pastor touches him & says fire, Stabile feels the spirit). Second, this kid is 19 years old (i.e. barely an adult), barhopping specifically to get drunk and probably is either currently or has a history of doing recreational drugs (he refers to tripping on acid as if he knows what that’s like, though it’s possible he was coached to do so in order to make it sound like he was even more “fallen”), identifying as homosexual in spite of a reference to a fiancée (who is presumably a woman given that this is in Texas) — in short, even without knowing more about him, he strikes me as an easy and obvious target for evangelicals, or indeed for any group looking to recruit members by promising them The Answers.

Thus this news doesn’t surprise me at all, even as it breaks my heart:

Joseph Stabile [James’s father] said James left home to go out that Friday night and never returned. Joseph said James, or “B.J.” as his parents affectionately refer to him, is bipolar and had stopped taking his medication. . . .

Joseph Stabile said the Heartland folks also may have advised James to throw away his medication, telling him that God would cure his bipolar disorder, too.

Joseph’s parents said James has a tendency to be less than truthful, especially when he’s off his medication, and that he loves attention. They said they don’t believe he’s ever questioned his sexuality, but that the folks from Heartland manipulated and exploited him for publicity.

Heartland sent him “off to Pure Life Ministries, which operates a residential treatment program in Northern Kentucky.” Heartland’s pastor referred to Pure Life as “a program for people who’ve lived alternative lifestyles just to get totally clean;” James Stabile was more direct:

They said James has revealed little about his time at Pure Life, which he now refers to as “straight camp.” James just told them it was “horrible” and that there are some things he will never be able to share.

James’ mother, Suzanne, said he told her the people at Pure Life constantly threatened that he was going to hell.

Men in the program had to be fully clothed from the neck down at all times, including when they went to sleep, James told his parents. And they were prohibited from any physical contact, including shaking hands.

When James got kicked out [for being a compulsive liar, according to the pastor], his father asked someone at Pure Life whether they would buy him a bus ticket.

After all, James had paid $2,100 to get in to the program, plus $150 a week. But the representative from Pure Life refused.

They took his money, and they abused him, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But it’s okay because they’re doing it for Christ, right?


[tiara-tip to Pam]

*I don’t necessarily trust hard-core evangelicals in general, but the ones who think they can cure Teh Gay are at the tippy-top of the I-don’t-trust-you list.



  1. It sounds like James was unwilling to repent and clung selfishly to his sin. Now he has a vendetta against the compassionate Christians who offered their help and love. Homosexuals can reform their ways and accept Jesus Christ into their lives, but they must do so when they are ready.

    Forced conversions, in my experience, are akin to a semi-public shaming exercise. Unfortunately, when the homosexual is released back into the wild, he reverts to his animalistic impulses.

  2. Spartacus said,

    Thanks for posting this story. I had heard a short sound bite on the radio about the so-called “Highway of Holiness” and it had me really interested. I could not find any info on it until now. I did not realize this movement had anything to do with homosexuality and it still bothered me. Just the name bothered me. I get really antsy when people rip phrases, in English, from Hebrew scripture and paste it into a modern situation, calling it prophetic. That really bothers me a lot. Never mind that “highway” means different things in different places and times… heh… let’s just stick it in America/New Jerusalem! Anyway, thanks for drawing attention to this.

  3. isea metaphor said,

    It’s refreshing to see that some people stop and think, before allowing a brilliant socially- sensitive, chamelon, manipulator to illicit forth the emotional reaction that he is EXTREMELY adept at producing from each culture that he chooses to “cry wolf” in their midst. I’m not saying that he doesn’t have an emotional/mental disorder. How healthy is it for concerned groups to react like his parents did and rashly, serve right up the intended result that the mentally ill son craved and demanded through his ‘powerplay manipulation’ of an exposed social nerve? (Gasp!) How can I say this about our little victim poster boy. ohh! You have to give him credit…he’s good… and such an extremely gifted actor, he sometimes amazes himself I’m sure. The truth is, he is an individual that God loves very much, and he should be taught how to receive and seek out that love and attention from God and from others that love him, in a relationally functional manner. If I was a journalist, the first question I would probaly feel like I would need to look at is “what type of Bi-polar are we dealing with?” That is, if I was concerned about the truth getting to the public. Is it a bigger bang to just conveniently use the “Bi -polar” umbrella? Bi-polar type II is a mild – mood disorder.

  4. isea metaphor said,

    If I was his fiance I would be complaining in every newspaper article…. reality check. He didn’t have a fiance.

  5. Spartacus: I’m far from being the Biblical scholar you are, and even I raised an eyebrow at the interpretation of something from the Hebrew scriptures to mean an interstate highway in the U.S. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

    Isea Metaphor: Is James Stabile a manipulative attention-seeker? Sure. Even if you wanted to go so far as call him a bad person (which I wouldn’t, but it sounds like you would), does that make what Heartland did acceptable?

    Also: you wanted to ask “what type of Bi-polar are we dealing with?” Are you referring to the four sub-categories of bipolar disorder laid out in the DSM-IV-TR? If so, then you ought to know full well that bipolar II disorder is not mild (the mania are mild to moderate, but the depressive episodes are still major). Even if he was “only” cyclothymic, does telling him he should stop taking medication that was prescribed to him suddenly become acceptable?

    And as to your “reality check”: a made-up fiancée doesn’t change my point that this kid was confused and vulnerable — interestingly enough, it is indeed possible for someone to be a compulsive liar as well as vulnerable, as well as mentally ill. Often people lie compulsively BECAUSE they’re vulnerable and/or mentally ill.

    In the end, though, if you think that Stabile was entirely at fault for this whole situation, and that Heartland and Pure Life are completely on-the-level and innocent of any wrongdoing, then I suspect we have nothing more to say to one another.

  6. isea metaphor said,

    He WAS not asked to stop taking his meds. Upon, the lies being found out and his Bipolar disorder being found out, He was told that he needed to take his meds and advised to live back with his parents due to concerns for his well-being. He didn’t live back with his parents, but the choice was not in the hands of the church.
    He’s loved and precious, not a bad person. Good people such as yourself are thinking that the concerns raised in the article are all true.

  7. Okay, I see that the article I quoted said that Stabile may have been advised to stop taking his meds, so I’ll concede that. Still, I can’t help but wonder where your information is coming from. I suspect that our respective backgrounds are the primary factor in our differing viewpoints insofar as this situation is concerned, but I at least have a primary source to refer to, biased though it may be.

    The bottom line, for me, is that I believe one’s sexuality is inherent rather than learned, and so movements predicated on the idea that one must change one of their inherent qualities in order to be saved make me very skeptical.

  8. isea metaphor said,

    Ya know, I respect you more than anyone on line that I have heard from. That’s all I could have asked for was someone to come out and just state what the bottom line is. I really, really admire that you did that.
    If you google over to Warren Throckmorton’s site… I was justing posting my thoughts concerning whether ‘getting the truth’ is an important part of the goal for some. I do know that my info is true or it wouldn’t eat me up as bad that precious people have been left with a different impression.
    It bothers to think that people who are already wounded are probably being wounded more from the terrible impression that comes across.

    I’m not wise enough in controversial related issues to know why the organizations don’t ask for the parents to correct their previously stated claims. I expect to settle the controversy down, or they are bound by confidentiality issues or to prevent further exploitation for their family. I feel that this is very important as well. Yet, on the flip side, I’m disappointed that those investigating the claims still have not done the research to verify that more things previously said were not true.

    I very much enjoyed hearing from you. You have a lot of thoughtful things to say. You’re not just sitting here raging, although, I can understand why some people would be. I have to go, but perhaps I can drop by the site here again and chat some more! Have a good day! ( =
    (I pasted the comments that I mentioned to you that I had just finished placing on Warren’s site. They are as follows: )

    Warren, I don’t believe that anyone should accept any claim uncritically…miraculous claims especially.

    Ironically, I find myself knowing that claims and concerns regarding Stabile’s experience were and still are accepted uncritically, as fact and they lack verification.

    Is our concern for what ‘might have taken place’ and our belief for ‘what often does take place’ more important than ‘what did take place”?

    It doesn’t seem to matter, as long as one is impressing one’s view upon another or reinforcing their own view.

    The true facts don’t seem to be the goal.
    The point seems to be… ‘just that’… to make a point or to impact others with a shared view or personally held view.

    Could it be that if we let the truth speak for itself, it would’nt give our agenda the same ‘ZING’?’ Mud splatters further than truth when it hits!

    If there are legitimate concerns that the church was using James’ video testimony for publicity or to have some ‘zing’ attached to a supposed agenda…. then, for certain they wouldn’t have let Joe out there on camera, in his white ‘fruit of the loom’ t shirt.

    I mean… secondly, there is another video on Youtube that was filmed during a Heartland Purity Seige. It became available to be viewed the same week that the ‘Heartland on CBN’ video became available on Youtube. This Heartland video clearly shows a man ‘NOT’ claiming a miraculous, sudden freedom from Homosexuality and it’s been airing for 2 weeks under the title ‘Jesus moves in Dallas, Cedar Springs.’

    They seem to love homosexuals and if I sense any agenda it’s seems to be that, “if you want it, there is hope.”

    I for one… I get irritated real quick from a society that tells me “you have to stay the same way you are’. And who is anyone else to tell me what I am? And if I want to interpret the Bible to indicate that I’m in sin and that there’s an urgent need for change, then I’m gonn’a interpret the Bible like so. And if these Christians love me, then they had better show up on that street corner every Friday night on Oaklawn.
    And they had better not give up on me, if they find out that I lots of problems or mental issues. And they had better not give up on James.

  9. Cara said,

    I’m sorry… in that first part there, is it saying that there are people making a claim that a highway in the United States of America is mentioned in the book of Isaiah in the Bible? I mean, in THE Bible? Am I even possibly reading that correctly?

    Oh dear.

  10. Ca: Yup. Good times, eh?

  11. bria said,

    I donbt trust christians, and I believe that christianity is a religion based on fear and ignorance. Your best bet? Deconvert altogether, theres Buddhism, Paganism, a whole array of other religions out there that are more accepting of gays, blacks, women ect. the choice is yours, and Pagans dont give the ultimatum of convert or die.

    You dont have to take my advice, and its possible you wont, but there are other religions out there that would welcome you with open arms.

    try reading the dark side of christian history by helen ellerbe and ten things i learned wrong from a conservative church by john killinger

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