Reflections on Some Exodus Ads

May 29, 2006

“Question Homosexuality” was the theme of an Exodus ad campaign which started a couple of years ago. (ad 1 , ad 2 ) At first I found that exhortation (and similar statements like “I questioned homosexuality”) somewhat baffling. It didn’t seem to me that homosexuality is the sort of thing one questions. One might question homosexual people, or particular theories and views about homosexual attractions. But “question homosexuality?” That looks like a category mistake to me.

It seems that the heart of the message is supposed to resemble that famous bumpersticker slogan “Question Authority.” Homosexuality is the new Authority, the stodgy creature of political correctness, and young, vibrant, thoughtful exgays and their allies are challenging that authority and subversively questioning it. Independent free-thinking nonconformists like Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas could not be cowed by homosexual activist dogma, and through their intrepid questioning uncovered the truth: Change Is Possible.

Well, bully for them I suppose, but I know that I did not take up an exgay path because I was cool enough to rebel against and question the liberal mainstream and its presumptions. Rather, I took up an exgay path because I encountered Jesus Christ, submitted my life to His Lordship, and followed what I believe He was calling me to. Judging by their testimonies on the Exodus website, it seems that it was the same for Thomas and Chambers. But that's not the impression one gets from their stories as presented in their “I Questioned Homosexuality” ads, linked to at the beginning of this post. Not a single mention of God or Christ or faith graces the ad versions of their stories. It’s all self-motivated and self-empowered. They simply found homosexuality unsatisfying and abandoned it to pursue a more satisfying hetero life, which they achieved with hard work, perseverance, and a little help from Exodus. Just another variation on the American Dream.

They imply that it is the same for the tens of thousands of exgays “just like” them. Well, they had better not be counting me!

I am not exgay because homosexuality is so terribly bad, because I “questioned” it and found it wanting. No, I am exgay because Jesus Christ is so unbelievably, amazingly good! The pivotal choice which set me on an exgay path had nothing to do with the relative merits of heterosexuality vs. homosexuality; rather, it was “Will I follow Christ (as best as I can understand how) or not?”

The more recent “Unhappy? Gay?” billboard campaign was even more distressing to me. It suggests that the exgay life is a joyously gratifying experience of self-satisfaction: Being exgay will make you happy. Come on, don’t you want to be happy?!?

Whenever I hear that sort of rhetoric, my jaw just drops. I did not become exgay because I was unhappy or disillusioned with being gay. My decision to pursue an exgay path had nothing to do with self-fulfillment, and everything to do with self-denial. It was the scariest and most painful decision of my life at the time. It had nothing to do with looking for a better life for myself, and everything to do with dying to myself and all that I knew, that Christ might live in me. It was about walking by faith, and not by sight.

It’s a good thing, too, because if I had pursued an exgay path out of a search for worldly happiness and an easier life, I’m absolutely certain I would have given up at some point during the four years of incredibly difficult struggle (and the subsequent two years of somewhat reduced difficulty) that I went through before experiencing the slightest hint of attraction change. Here’s a little of what I experienced during those years:

  • Clinical depression (I had struggled with this earlier when I was gay-affirming, but it came back with a vengeance when I took up an exgay journey)
  • Self-injury
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • A dead-end relationship that I couldn’t resist despite my beliefs, that caused much pain for all parties involved
  • Sexual struggles of mindboggling intensity, leading to pornography problems and a masturbation addiction that I had never had before going exgay.
  • Enormous amounts of emotional turmoil inflicted by myself and others trying to dig up the “roots” of my homosexual attractions–dredging up painful memories, wallowing in them, and exaggerating them to make them even worse, also putting stress on my relationship with my parents
  • Profound soul-weariness, wondering each day how I was going to make it through another day.
  • Fear of a long life of singleness, of growing old alone.
  • Grieving the absence of romance and loving relationships in my life, as well as the loss of gay friendships
  • Desperate and constant arguing, begging, and pleading with God for release

I could go on, but I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say that for me, embarking on an exgay journey was not about lifestyle enhancement. Yes, God has blessed me richly with a fulfilling marriage to a wonderful man, and with great happiness, but these were not the goals for which I took up this path. If they had been the goals, I would have given up a long time ago.

So frankly I find it somewhat insulting when others present the exgay journey as a path to worldly personal fulfillment. For me it was a difficult, painful journey that I undertook out of a love for God and a desire to please and glorify Him.

It might be wonderfully convenient (for those who want to use exgays’ lives as a political argument) if the exgay path had nothing to do with God and faith and dying to self, if it were simply about opening one’s eyes to some universal unhappiness of gay life and making the switch to a more enjoyable straight life instead. But that wasn't the reality of my journey, and I don't think it was the reality of the journeys of most of the tens of thousands to whom Exodus refers in their ads.


Slight Site Changes

May 12, 2006

I've updated the "About Me" page, to make it somewhat more informative. I was paranoid about giving away my identity at first, but having discovered that people who actually know me could stumble across this blog and not have a clue about who the author was, I've decided to lighten up a bit about that.

I've also added some links, pointing to other blogs where these issues are discussed. No link should be considered to imply agreement or endorsement–I'm just looking to provide information and direction for those looking to explore these issues further and learn about different perspectives on them. For usefulness toward that end, I've segregated the links into three categories. If I've miscategorized you, let me know!

And hopefully a real post will be forthcoming soon.

Gay Non-Christians, Gay Christians, and Pro-gay Arguments

May 4, 2006

In the comment thread on "Is Repent America Really Loving?", while trying to persuade a supporter of RA of the misguidedness of their approach, I said:

As you probably know, there is sadly an enormous amount of effort today spent developing arguments to rationalize and justify homosexual sex and relationships.

Mark Poole of Prodigal Sheep responded:

I’m glad you recognize the efforts of Repent America as self-aggrandizing and offensive. But you’re in danger of repeating the mistake yourself in describing the efforts of GLBT Christians to develop theologies of affirmation, resistance and transformation based on our experiences of God and our understanding of the biblical witness as “arguments to rationalize and justify homosexual sex and relationships”. Queer theology isn’t about justifying gay sex any more than traditional ‘heteronormative’ theology is about justifying indiscriminate heterosexual intercourse. To characterize the gay and lesbian Christian witness in this way not only diminishes our faith and struggle but I think it also diminishes the one who makes such a characterization.

I chewed on this for a long while. I looked over my comment for something I could "take back", something I could say I didn't really mean. While I don't normally say the sorts of things I said in my above comments, except when defending myself to the "Jason Alexander"s of the world, I realized upon reflection that I believe and mean every last one of them.

There was so much I wanted to say, but knowing that I tend to err in saying too much too quickly, I simply said this:

I do have a rather low opinion of pro-gay Christian apologetics. But I haven’t studied the matter in depth since 2000, so if there have been significant advances since then, I’d be interested in hearing about them.

Having slept on it, I'd like to do his comments a little more justice than that.

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