Last month, Liberty University announced the retirement of Dane Emerick, a campus counselor whose “primary objective was to disciple [students] and lead them closer to Christ.”
They didn’t explain what Emerick was best known for, though.
He’s the guy who told gay students they could turn straight.
He’s the guy who used conversion therapy on generations of students.
In a piece for Religion Dispatches, Lucas Wilson — who was one of those victims — explains what students like him went through under Emerick — who, by the way, wasn’t even a licensed therapist.
Joshua Grubbs, a 2010 graduate, explained his involvement with and thoughts on Emerick this way: “I participated in his porn groups, and I honestly think that he is a perfect example of how great intentions and a kind heart can be destructive as hell when your beliefs are wrong. I think Dane genuinely thought he was helping people, but his theology was inherently harmful.” As is suggested by Grubbs, who’s now an Assistant Professor of Psychology and an expert on porn consumption, Emerick was, in truth, not malicious or malevolent in his intentions to “fix” us students. But as intentions matter not, and as the damage of Emerick’s work was indeed done, it remains clear that the school’s long-time conversion therapist has much to account for.
Of course, what conversion therapists don’t seem to understand is that if it weren’t for their and others’ acute attacks against us queers, we would be significantly happier and would be much less prone to suicidal ideation. It is conversion therapists who contribute to this problem, not queer individuals themselves.
[2013 graduate Andrew] Hahn, further reflecting on Emerick’s retirement, explained: “I am so happy he’s gone. But while I’m relieved Emerick is gone, I can’t help thinking about the generations of queer people he’s irrevocably damaged during his ‘ministry.’”
Wilson also wants to know if there are any plans for Emerick’s eventual replacement to continue that harmful practice — because now would be a perfect time to just let it fade out. I can’t imagine Liberty will suddenly see the light on LGBTQ issues, but if there’s enough public pressure, they could at least start promoting the slightly less harmful belief that homosexuality can’t be changed. Under that view, acting on one’s sexuality remains a problem — which is also idiotic and harmful — but there’s no need to try and change someone’s sexual orientation because the underlying thinking is that God made you that way.
If Liberty found a way to get past Jerry Falwell, Jr., there’s no reason they can’t turn the page on this problem too.
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