How does God make a gay man straight? In 1997, John Smid, the ex-gay director of Love in Action, a homosexual conversion center located in Memphis, tried to explain this mystery to a Memphis Flyer reporter:
"I'm looking at that wall and suddenly I say it's blue," Smid said, pointing to a yellow wall. "Someone else comes along and says, 'No, it's gold.' But I want to believe that wall is blue. Then God comes along and He says, 'You're right, John, [that yellow wall] is blue.' That's the help I need. God can help me make that [yellow] wall blue."
You don't have to be a psychology major to recognize that Smid's metaphor for gay conversion is a dictionary definition of delusional: "a false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence." Love in Action, which received media attention this week as the result of ongoing protests over its youth camp, purports to help its clients recognize that their crayons have been lying to them. Adding insult to irony, LIA literature states that homosexuality is "a distortion of God's intent." As are paint chips, apparently.
Smid has written extensively on the social and psychological conditions that make people gay. "In almost every homosexual relationship," he writes in an essay titled, "God's Original Intent," "I see two roles: the person taking care of another, and the person being taken care of.
"Gay men and women find severe competition in the homosexual lifestyle," Smid continues. "Wealth, age, physique, and social status are sought after, so the resulting 'love' and 'acceptance' are superficial. ... In homosexual relationships, envy is a powerful motivating factor for two persons being drawn together. This type of envy begins with admiration, but gets mixed up with a person's insecurity. The desire for someone else is fueled by an envious desire to control or possess that person for oneself. The same envy that feeds the relationship eventually destroys it."
Although Love in Action claims its techniques are rooted in spiritual truths, Smid's writings are a conflicting muddle of spurious psychological observations aimed at portraying homosexuals as mentally abnormal, a belief that "has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions," according to the American Psychological Association. The APA also states that "therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation."
In various interviews, Smid has stated that his own homosexual urges began during childhood and intensified as puberty set in. Before that great morning when he finally woke up and smelled the KY, he engaged in numerous homosexual relationships, none of which lasted longer than three years.
In his 1997 interview with the Flyer, Smid, now heterosexually married, admitted that he still had gay fantasies. "Sure," he said, "but they're not major, they're not predominant. ... I'm much more conscious of what I'm thinking and feeling today than 20 years ago. I'm much more aware of what to relate to." Sounds like he's still not quite sure what color that wall is.
As you read this, there are teens in Memphis being forced to engage in activities that are psychologically damaging and scientifically without basis. According to many who have endured conversion therapy, these teens are being subjected to "shaming sessions" that might be classified as torture were they carried out by American troops on enemy combatants. According to Smid and company, this is all God's work.
This is Love in Action.