Peter LaBarbera is founder of the anti-gay group Americans For Truth About Homosexuality — “dedicated to exposing the homosexual activist agenda.” Earlier this week, LaBarbera published an open letter to Dr. Warren Throckmorton, calling on the psychology professor to repent and apologize for refusing to pretend that “ex-gay ministries” actually succeed in praying away the gay.
LaBarbera also nastily suggested that Throckmorton’s refusal to lie about the effects of such “ministries” casts suspicion on his claim to be a Christian:
You should either publicly apologize for undermining Scriptural (and observable) Truth — or renounce your claims to be faithful to historic Christian sexual teachings.
Peter LaBarbera should publicly apologize for being Peter LaBarbera. And if I were in Throckmorton’s shoes, I’d have informed the sniveling LaBarbera that I was referring him to Johnny Cash for the appropriate response his open letter deserves.
But Dr. Throckmorton is far more patient than I am and his elegantly gentle response — “A new test of orthodoxy” — takes pains to explain why it would be dishonest, inaccurate and unjust for him or anyone else to agree to what LaBarbera is suggesting. Here is Throckmorton:
As I understand this argument, I am wrong to claim to be an evangelical because I believe that categorical change in sexual attractions, especially for men, is rare. …
Here we have a test of orthodoxy – something that must be believed in order to be considered a Christian. In my tradition, faith in the redeeming mission of Christ is the test of faith. However, in the new orthodoxy of some in the Christian right, one must believe certain things about gays in order to be consider a Christian.
This is what pisses me off about constantly being told I’m “not really an evangelical.” The basis for this judgment is my unwillingness to bear false witness against my neighbors.
The increasing prevalence of this nonsense pushes people like me in one of two directions. One path would be to surrender, granting them the papal power they have arrogated to themselves to define who is and who is not “really” a member of our faith community and accepting that I no longer belong in or to that community, thereafter opting to refer to myself by some other designation, such as “post-evangelical” or some such.
That’s one option.
The second option, and the one I prefer, is to argue that I do not recognize their authority to make such a determination and that I do not accept as legitimate the claim that one must bear malicious false witness against one’s neighbors in order to be a member in good standing of the evangelical Christian community to which I have always belonged.
Unfortunately, though, I’m not always able to muster the patience to say this quite so clearly or in so many words.
This tends to compound the dispute. The self-proclaimed arbiters of orthodoxy go from saying, “He claims to be an evangelical Christian, but he deviates from the official positions on gays and abortion,” to saying, “He claims to be an evangelical Christian, but he deviates from the official positions on gays and abortion and he just told me to go f*** myself.”
But in my defense, they really, really, really had it coming.