All should read this great piece by Bianca Phillips in Memphis’s alternative newsweekly, the Memphis Flyer. In it, she takes the reader back on a recap of what he and the Exodus flagship model Love In Action used to be, and describes the evolution Smid is undergoing as a result of meeting local gay filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox, whose documentary This Is What Love In Action Looks Like has been making its rounds this fall on the independent film festival circuit:
John Smid, the former director of ex-gay Christian ministry Love in Action, is a changed man.
Sitting in an office above the detached garage of his Germantown home, he has nothing but praise for the work of local gay filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox. Fox’s long-awaited documentary, This Is What Love in Action Looks Like, makes its local premiere at the Indie Memphis Film Festival on November 4th, and it was through the multi-year making of that film that Smid’s ideas about homosexuality began to shift dramatically.
“I’m realizing that people have the freedom in Christ to choose to live in a gay relationship. That’s not for me to judge on their behalf,” said Smid, who resigned as executive director of Love in Action in 2008. “I realize I was what the gay community often said I was: I was judgmental. I was critical. I was somewhat homophobic.”
People who were directly affected by Smid’s activities during his time at Love In Action are having varied reactions to Smid’s change in attitude, and that’s understandable. Peterson Toscano spoke to The Flyer for the article and had this to say, among other things:
“Love in Action was oppression in this concentrated form, so I was very depressed afterwards and suicidal for a time,” said Toscano, who wrote the play Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House as a way to cope with the damage. “I was really confused, and there was lots of self-hatred and shame. There was lots of bad training about sexuality. Nobody was trained to teach anything.”
Toscano said one of Love in Action’s core teachings was especially damaging.
“They insisted that, as queer people, we were not able to have healthy relationships. So even friendships would become twisted and perverted because we became too emotionally needy,” Toscano said. “I found myself putting up walls five to six years later as I was getting to know people. I had it in my head that I couldn’t get close to people.”
So glib apologies aren’t really going to cut it, though it does seem like Smid really is starting to grasp what he did. Peterson has talked about Smid’s “evolution” extensively on his blog, so if you haven’t read that, do so.
Lastly, Bianca also interviewed me for the article and asked what Truth Wins Out’s response to this sort of thing is. Here is what I said:
Evan Hurst, the Memphis-based social media director for anti-ex-gay group Truth Wins Out, echoes the sentiment many former clients have publicly expressed.
“If [Smid] is on a path of personal growth and starting to grasp that he played a key part of inflicting harm onto people, that’s great. [Truth Wins Out] only wishes him the best in continuing on that road,” Hurst said. “But part of our mission is to expose this industry for what it is. We’re not shy about our goal, and that’s to let every single person know how harmful these ministries are.”
Yup! So anyway, go read the whole thing to see what you’re missing.
[image via The Memphis Flyer and Justin Fox Burks]