Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Although some have expressed surprise at the vehemence that a few ex-gays have demonstrated in response to the growing profile of the ex-ex-gay movement, I don't know that it should have caught anyone off guard. I suggest that not because I hold to any stereotypes about ex-gays (who are as diverse a group as any other), but because the letter being promoted by PFOX is a classic example of an individual with a Stage Three mindset.

Stage Three individuals can be very open-minded about some issues, but no dissent can be tolerated when it comes to "important" beliefs. Those who dare to disagree on matters central to the faith are regarded either as lost sheep to be patiently but firmly steered back into the fold, or as enemies to be crushed at all costs. Not all Stage Three individuals can be categorized as fundamentalists, but fundamentalism is certainly a byproduct of Stage Three thought.

This kind of black-and-white, us-versus-them thinking is hardly limited to Christians or even to adherents of any religion; one can find Stage Three individuals among virtually any group, as this commenter at Ex-Gay Watch recently demonstrated. Just as many conservative Christians have no room within their worldview for the existence of healthy, well-adjusted and genuinely moral gays and lesbians, so some non-Christians cannot fathom the existence of conservative Christians who are kind, peaceful and reasonably intelligent people.

Unfortunately there's no simple solution to this impasse, at least within the context of our current society. One can no more force a person to transition from Stage Three to Stage Four than one can rip open a cocoon and expect a healthy butterfly to emerge. People are jolted out of their comfort zones all the time as a matter of course, but not all of them turn it into an opportunity for growth. Some retreat further into their faith/belief community, rededicating themselves to the cause with even greater fervor. Others make a dramatic leap to some radically different group, trading in one set of beliefs for another without actually undergoing any internal change apart from moving the vantage point that anchors their biases.

Those few that do move forward into the wilderness of doubt often find themselves unable to call any place home, at least while they remain in Stage Four. Just as they've become cynical about the beliefs they once held without question, so they turn a skeptical eye on any other group that might try to recruit them. It's a journey that's ultimately worth the seemingly high cost, but good luck with that sales pitch.

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