Erzen wasn't interested in collecting fodder for political battles, though, and that's what makes "Straight to Jesus" so enlightening. As an ethnographer, she made every effort to listen to and understand everyone at New Hope Ministry, whether or not she agreed with their beliefs (and it's fairly clear that most of the time she didn't). That's practically unheard of in most popular discussions of charged issues like homosexuality -- and rare in scholarly discussions, too. Nowadays, everyone's convinced that they already know everything the other side has to say and that actually having to listen to it would constitute an insupportable demand on their own patience. Everyone thinks their side of the argument never gets any exposure, yet rabid, ranting opinion of all varieties howls at us everywhere we turn.
Hey crazy lady, have you looked at yourself? You are a loon who I doubt would know a politically neutral position if it bit you on the ass. As evidence:
In fact, scandals involving the sex lives of ex-gay movement leaders are so common (even one of the straight leaders, Kent Philpott, got busted for fooling around with his adopted daughter), that it's hard for anyone outside the evangelical right to take them seriously. Add that to several prominent cases of parents forcing their gay teenage children into scary camps like Love in Action's Refuge, an "intensive discipleship program" -- and the fact that no reputable professional psychological organization endorses the idea that homosexuality is a mental "disorder" that can be "cured" -- and the image of a pack of dangerous cultists is cemented.
I have heard this same ridiculous song and dance over and over in the discussion. Attack carefully selected ex-gays' credibility, then generalize that character attack to all and conclude none can possibly be honest, have anything relevant or cogent to say, or be motivated by something good, and you should fit right in with the howling you describe. Or, better yet, go with nuance: "a pack of dangerous cultists."
Because they could never reconcile these deeply rooted beliefs with their homosexual behavior and relationships, those behaviors and relationships could never be truly joyful or satisfying, and because they had never had joyful or satisfying homosexual experiences, they assume that gay life is inherently empty and destructive.
Still, whatever the benefits these men get from evangelical Christianity, their religion is no more a rational choice than their sexuality is. Even when opting not to believe seems the only and obvious healthy, life-affirming alternative, these men -- some of them educated and sophisticated -- can't manage it.
Yes, conclusions about gay life are all about irrational religious beliefs by those with no positive gay experiences. It has nothing to do with statistics about suicide, drug abuse, promiscuity, life expectancy, etc. Clearly because they are religious they are irrational, and because they disagree with you, they are wrong.
I commented on Protean's post a bit about this, but I wanted to go into a little more detail. I don't mind the idea of the book--it sounds like a good read. I don't even mind the author's personal position on ex-gays and reparative therapy in general. What I do mind is the incessant character attacks on the religious, reparative therapy practitioners, and ex-gay ministry leaders. It's hateful, venomous, hypocritical, and I'm sick and tired of the unfettered hate hefted out there on the public like so much flying manure to fertilize the grassroots efforts of activists.