Minnesota’s Six Foot Pole pointed me to the ex-gay personal story of Michael David Wallen, an athletics staffer at the University of Minnesota.

If Wallen is happier practicing celibacy, then good for him. Celibacy is the best choice for some people.

Unfortunately, Wallen’s testimony misdefines homosexuality as a lifestyle and avoids numerous other issues that he will eventually find it necessary to confront. Wobbly understandings of sexuality, and stereotypes about non-exgays, have an unfortunate tendency to unravel with time, causing confusion and pain for ex-gays that often go unaddressed by the movement.

Wallen’s assertion that his homosexuality was caused by the absence of a father is not written as though it comes from Wallen’s heart. To me as an outside observer, the language sounds as though it were a mantra dictated to Wallen by a therapist, so that Wallen could repeat the mantra as often as necessary to push sexual thoughts or realities out of his mind.

He says he is no longer gay — but he never says that he is no longer attracted to men. Nor does he say that he is attracted to women. He suggests instead that he has replaced human love with love of God.

That’s his choice to make. But is it a choice that can endure, and is it fair to twist one’s words to lead others to believe one is no longer romantically or physically attracted to the same gender?

I wish safe journeys for Wallen. I hope his reflections mature with time, as he and his audience discover:

  • homosexuality is not a lifestyle;
  • many or most gay people do have spiritual lives, and many have already read the Bible;
  • few gay people are sex addicts; and
  • there is far more to the origin of sexual attraction than the manner in which one is parented.

Not all ex-gays follow this path, of course. Some elder ex-gays, like Alan Medinger, become more deeply entangled in conformist gender stereotypes and speak of same-gender sexual attraction as an “addiction,” even as they acknowledge the complexity of sexuality. Is Medinger happy this way? Probably, and that’s fine.

Where do both Wallen and Medinger go wrong? Both overstep valid ministry to the extent that they stereotype others, and to the extent that they aid the ex-gay movement in legislating ideological, political, religious, and sexual conformity upon all of humanity.

To the extent that any individual believes everyone else should be forced to conform to one’s own personal religious beliefs, that person practices a form of blasphemy. He claims divine authority for his own beliefs, which — being human — are always plagued by mistakes, misunderstandings, and transgressions against other people.

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