Last Thursday, the cult-like Bethel Church in Redding, CA posted the following to Facebook:

Many thanks for the heads-up from an observant reader. Bethel church is attempting to project the image that it is LGBTQ friendly. In effect, what they are saying is that the church won’t force you to change but, if you want to become heterosexual or cisgender, we can help you do so. Thus — according to the church and in defiance of science — sexual orientation and gender identity are choices that people are free to make.

Conversion “therapy” and pray-away-your-gay exist primarily to justify persecution and discrimination. These endeavors to change one’s sexuality do not stand up to scientific scrutiny. Furthermore, there is the implication that people should change. The key lever of conservative religion is shame. Bethel Church is still in the business of shaming LGBTQ people. They just claim that their shaming isn’t shaming.

The message at the link concluding the post reads:

CHANGED is a community of friends who once identified as LGBTQ+. Today, we celebrate the love of Jesus and His freedom in our lives.

They are promoting “freedom” from homosexuality and gender diversity which means that gay people and people who are gender diverse are slaves to their sexuality. All of the happy-talk in that Facebook post is exposed as bigotry. This is further amplified:


who have explored the depths of our identities and found freedom. We have confronted the pain, rejection, and despair that often accompany the homosexual experience; and so our approach is sensitive. Compassionate. Genuine.

What they are directly saying is that most gay people are miserable because they are gay. What is “genuine” about that? It is bigotry voiced with an attempt to obscure the hate.

On our website you’ll read the vulnerable, authentic and sometimes raw accounts of the hope and prosperity all of our journeys offered as we questioned our sexuality and gender identity.

In other words, once they question their sexuality, gay and gender diverse people no longer exist but their god loves them anyway. Someone by the name of Kristi Sterling says this: “I realized I was no longer bound by those rules, but had the freedom to make my own decisions for my womanhood.”

That translates to the idea that people can decide not to be lesbians. Not uncommon among so-called ex-gays is the claim that their sexual orientation is the result of childhood abuse (something that science rejects). According to one Brooke Smith: “My trouble began in the 3rd grade, when I was sexually assaulted on numerous occasions.” They often make this claim in order to project the idea that their sexual orientation is not their fault. According to Smith this is how things work:

One night, I met a homeless man who was crying. When our eyes met, I was overcome with the most incredible and overwhelming feeling of love. It felt like I was looking directly into the eyes of Jesus. This incredible love softened my heart to pray a prayer of surrender. Over the next few weeks, I began to feel that I needed to choose between God and my girlfriend. I chose Jesus. I left her and flew to South Carolina to live with my parents. My heart was so broken from the loss of the life that I had with my girlfriend. Following Jesus had cost me everything. Slowly my heart began to mend. Over the past 22 years God has used so many people to love, encourage, counsel, and help me. Now I have a gentle, kind, and loving husband whose love has brought out a new woman within me.

The all-too-familiar territory of gay people are broken. No, we are not broken and we do not need to be fixed. Freedom means freedom from religious crackpots who are promoting this bullshit. Call me a cynic if you want. I am an ethnic Jewish atheist. The idea that someone would split from a lengthy relationship (although there is no mention of being married) due to meeting Jesus in the eyes of a homeless man who was probably schizophrenic which then caused her to pray makes not a whit of sense.

I am pretty sure that Bethel Church is behind the so-called Freedom Marches. I also think that Pulse Nightclub survivors, Luis Javier Ruiz and Angel Colon, are on Bethel’s payroll. They, in turn, have formed an organization called Fearless Identity. I will have more on that in another post shortly.

Meanwhile, when Bethel stops all of their activities promoting sexuality change then I might believe that they actually believe what they are pushing. Until then they are just one more collection of bigots excusing their prejudice with conservative Christian dogma.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.