Repairing What Shouldn’t Be Fixed

by Kate Wheeler

November 1, 1878. That was a particularly dark day for American Indians; the day that Captain Richard Pratt opened the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. His goal: to “kill the Indian, but not the man”–to “fix” Indians by teaching them that everything about being an Indian was wrong, and that Indian children needed to be as much like whites as they possibly could.

The staff at the Carlisle School and many others at schools like it continually represented themselves as working compassionately to “help” Native Americans find their footing in a White world. But the fact was that these schools were founded on bigotry, hatred, and an agenda to neutralize any future threat of Indian uprisings against Whites.

The Damage of Hidden Agendas

When President Hayes questioned whether or not Captain Pratt was needed more as a soldier than a teacher, Pratt snapped back in a letter that he was fighting a war to bring “civilization out of savagery! Industry and thrift out of laziness! Education out of ignorance! Cleanliness out of filth!” His actual feelings about the children he was “helping” is pretty clear in that passage.

Today, Indians throughout North America are still haunted with depression, high suicide rates, and substance abuse that are a direct result of the brainwashing their parents and grandparents endured in these schools, where they were told that nothing about themselves was right; that what was inherent within them needed correction or, better yet, abrogation.

History Repeats Itself

Do any of these techniques and results sound familiar? If you read the news last week, it should be ringing some bells. You would have heard of a dog-and-pony show that’s on its way to West Michigan with a similar message–put on by people who are attempting to create as much damage in the LGBT community as Pratt and his kind wreaked on Native American tribes. Love Won Out, a “reparative therapy” group, is going to be setting up shop at the Sunshine Community Church to help people with same-sex attractions heal themselves of their very natures.

Just like Pratt, Love Won Out, brainchild of the infamous James Dobson, professes public compassion for those who are “affected by homosexuality” and seeks to bring them “into the arms of their Creator.” This kindly language is mirrored by Dobson’s Family Research Council, which states “Compassion, not bigotry, compels us to support the healing of homosexuals.”

Two Faces, A Single Goal

But groups like this sound very different when they’re speaking to their base. Recently, as one example, Exodus International President Alan Chambers stated, “One of the many evils this world has to offer is the sin of homosexuality.”

And so Love Won Out and groups like them come to us with their hidden bigotry and their surface “compassion” and their agenda to kill the homosexual, not the man. And they offer their bizarre treatments, which range from suggesting prescriptions for Prozac to meditating on a tree when one feels same-sex desires to improving one’s hand-to-eye coordination (on the supposition that men who are bad at sports become gay out of pure shame).

Lack of a Scientific Basis

Although they claim a high success rate of turning gays into heterosexuals, the ex-gay industry never offers scientific data or actual statistics–mainly because their successes are mostly failures. These broken results were predicted by the American Psychiatric Association when it stated in 1998 that “the potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior…”

That scenario sounds so similar to the one being played out on reservations that you’d think that there’d be some value in the lessons of history–but apparently not.

Even worse, some ex-gay counselors insist to their clients that therapies to cure homosexuality are routinely used in mainstream treatment, a lie which is repudiated by groups such as the American Psychological Association. This professional organization issued a statement in 2006 which said, “For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure.”

Because the Bible Told Me So

With the force of all of the major mental health professional groups standing against them, how do groups like Love Won Out justify their ongoing march of reparative destruction? Why, because it’s mandated by the Bible, of course. The problem with that argument is that the Bible can be carefully cherry-picked to justify any evil under the sun, and has been. It’s been used as a call to war…as a justification for slaughtering Jews…as an excuse for empire-building and the eradication of native cultures…as a foundation for lynchings…as the rationalization for slavery. Remember that Jefferson Davis said in a famous speech, “Slavery was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible.”

The tactic of Biblical justification for human horrors once prompted Lord Byron to remark, “History is the devil’s scripture.”

When Love Won Out arrives in Grand Rapids, it will be funded by its $146 million budget. It will be fueled with a religious zeal to transform everyone into the same cookie-cutter view of what is acceptable–acceptable in the eyes of James Dobson, if not of God.

But the basis of this group, just like the philosophy of the Indian school educators, is absurdly flawed. Gays can’t be fixed any more than I could fix the fact that I’m straight, or five-foot-three, or that one of the major lines of my family is rooted not in Spain or Germany or Russia but in the Abenaki Nation. These things can’t be fixed because there’s nothing wrong with them.

We are each perfect in the richness of our differences. Someone should try that concept as a reparative therapy for the Reverend Dobson.