Guy Hammond says a lot in his seminars and sermons. He preaches for Christians to be polite and passionate in their tolerance of gay people.
And he definitely does a lot of talking, but not a lot of explaining.
Hammond, who calls himself an “ex-gay,” runs the Strength in Weakness Ministry and its accompanying website. He was brought to the USM campus as a guest speaker on Friday by the Alpha Omega student group and the Casco Bay Church of Christ.
It’s worth noting that the instant I told some Alpha Omega members I worked for the Free Press, I felt a lot less welcome by those same people who had happily greeted me minutes earlier. In fact, one of the members yelled “Make sure you don’t misquote!” as I walked out of the lecture hall.
“Strength in Weakness” refers to finding strength within the “weakness” of being gay. Much of his speech on Friday was an exercise in talking in circles, topic avoidance and tactically-worded rhetoric. In fact, the only thing that’s more important than what he said is what he didn’t say.
Hammond’s arguments hinge on never making explicit statements about his own stance on homosexuality in Christianity. He constantly reiterates that Christians need to be tolerant, accepting and patient with gay people in the church, but he never says that he believes being a “disciple of Christ” means being heterosexual. For example, Strength in Weakness’ website says that Christians should be “tenderly patient with those who have been trapped in sinful and dysfunctional activities that separate them from the will that God has for their lives.” The implication is that the people who would be engaging in those activities are gay people, but he never explicitly says that.
This same website states that the ministry exists for people who want to “learn how to deny [same gender attractions] daily in submission to God.” I want to make it clear that Hammond is protected by the same First Amendment that lets me write this article and publish it in a newspaper, so to those who have a problem with him saying it at USM – he actually can.
Hammond is well-practiced in doublespeak. He uses “healing” instead of “conversion therapy” and “support” instead of “counseling.” He wants to “remind” gay people that submission to God is crucial if “true healing is ever to be fully realized.” He wants them to “recognize” that “though they did not choose this as their sexual orientation, they do have the freedom in Christ to choose the path of self-denial and obedience to God in the daily decisions they make.”
Taken literally, the freedom to choose God is one of Hammond’s ‘answers’ to being gay. We also have the freedom to juggle machetes, walk everywhere on our hands and urinate in the cafeteria – but we choose not to.
Hammond’s ministry takes on same-sex relationships according to the “biblical sexual ethic.” The Strength in Weakness website explains that “We assert that God’s Biblical design for sexual intimacy is to be exclusively reserved between that of a man and woman bound together in marriage.”
Referring to “those” for whom the biblical sexual ethic is unimportant, who “don’t care to follow it anyway,” Hammond reminded everyone during his speech that “it should be none of our business how they’ve chosen to live their lives.”
That leads me to wonder: Why bother to tell “those” people how to live their lives then, and why here at USM?
The biggest problem I have with Hammond, to paraphrase Louis C.K., is that he thinks he can tell other people how to live like he’s got the keys to how to be happy. I fundamentally disagree with Hammond’s stance that being gay is something that can be altered in any way. It’s not a temporary feeling, a one-time thing or any “weakness,” as Hammond calls it. Being gay is as much a part of someone’s being as their brain, limbs and personality. For someone that preaches the “unconditional love of Jesus,” Hammond doesn’t seem to be exhibiting a lot of it himself. Teaching others that it’s okay to try and change your sexual orientation is heinous and immoral. Being straight isn’t a prerequisite to being Christian.
It might seem at first that Hammond’s message is one of self-improvement, but his claim that he is an “ex-gay” and that his sermons focus on being gay, changes the message from one of compassion and tolerance to one of, ‘We’ll wait for you to realize that being gay is wrong. When you find that out, come join Strength in Weakness!’
But, to his credit, Hammond’s rhetoric is precise and tactical. He’s careful not to use buzzwords, but that doesn’t make it any more difficult to see that he’s essentially targeting gay people.
He said toward the end of his speech, “The issue really isn’t homosexuality or same-sex attraction. The issue is that every single living human being is broken somehow,” directly implying that being gay is being broken. Essentially, he believes being gay is like being born with brown eyes – he thinks you’d rather have green eyes, and he has the contact lenses that can change the color for you. But a contact lens is just an aesthetic fix, and you will always have your original color. Brown eyes are part of your personal identity, and is something that can never truly be changed. Guy Hammond is a perfect example of what not to do when you are facing questions of sexual identity.