Three years after resigning as the executive director of Exodus International’s Love in Action ministry, John Smid admitted that he’s gay. In a recent blog post, Smid reflected on his updated views on homosexuality. Taken at face value, his new beliefs — that homosexuality is about more than just behavior and that sexual orientation is intrinsic — are by no means subversive. But considering the 22 years Smid spent preaching that GAY = EVIL, the acknowledgement of these basic facts could pave the way for change in evangelical and conservative Christian communities.
Smid frames his post as a response to a reader’s question about whether or not Christians should expect their homosexual friends (because as everyone who’s ever listened to a famous bigot apologize for some homophobic remark and remind everyone that They Have Gay Friends! knows, we homosexuals are gluttons for punishment and just loooove having friends who don’t believe in our basic human dignity) to repent. Unlike many Christian leaders who think a lukewarm acceptance of homosexuality will do the trick, Smid says no, they shouldn’t repent.
“So often people will say someone needs to “repent” from homosexuality. It is something that actually cannot be repented of! People are, or they are not, homosexual. It is an intrinsic part of their being or personally, my being. One cannot repent of something that is unchangeable.“
He understands that being gay isn’t just about having (fantastic) gay sex, it’s an identity that can be embraced or ignored but can’t be changed.
“I used to define homosexuality or heterosexuality in terms describing one’s behavior. I thought it made sense and through the years often wrote articles and talked from that perspective. Today, I understand why the gay community had such an issue with my writings. My perspective denied so many facets of the homosexual experience. I minimized a person’s life to just their sexuality but homosexuality is much more than sex.“
His most candid (and damning of ex-gay ministries) confession, which undermines the years he spent in Love in Action, is that ex-gay programs are a sham: “I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.”
As Ex-Gay Watch points out, Smid still has a ways to go. His somewhat clinical use of the word “homosexual” suggests that he’s still not completely at ease with his sexuality. Critics have accused him of not working hard enough to undo the harm he caused in his ministry.
The good news is that Smid admits that he doesn’t know all the answers.
“Now that I am not submerged into one sided perspectives, I am open to studying and reading the scriptures for myself, I am finding so many rich truths that I wasn’t ever made aware of before. For the first time in all of these years, the scriptures that many have said refer to homosexuality are making sense! I am reading them in context. I am asking questions about who the passages were written to. I am asking what was being talked about, and why the words were written in the first place.“
Those of us who aren’t Christians may struggle to see value in his approach. Why read a 2000-year-old book when you’ve got Judith Butler and Foucault? The truth is, though, that we need biblical scholars almost as much as we need queer theorists. Like it or not, politics and day to day like in the U.S. is profoundly influenced by Christianity. The more guys and girls who are reading the Bible in context and asking the right questions on our side, the less acceptable it becomes to call yourself a Christian while holding onto hateful beliefs.