In his latest newsletter, Exodus Youth Staffer Michael Ensley has some interesting things to say. I thought I would share some of them along with the thoughts that came to me while reading it.

Let’s face it; homosexuality isn’t really the problem here. We’re addicted to lust and satisfaction. We want to experience the same selfish thrill we enjoyed through acting out in the gay lifestyle, where there are little or no boundaries. [emphasis added]

… what a lot of “straight” guys are experiencing isn’t His will for their sexuality, either.

I’ve noticed that what ex-gays often call “the gay lifestyle” could really apply to anyone, gay or straight. It is a life of excess, substance abuse and sexual addiction. You don’t have to be gay to make lousy choices in life, though I can see where having one’s very existence challenged as evil and sinful could lead to a less than healthy response.

We have seen this pattern in countless ex-gay testimonies from Exodus, PFOX and SBM to name only a few. The problem isn’t that the subjects are gay, rather it is the choices they have made in their lives. The challenge should be how to face those issues that led to the negative behavior and deal with them – just like anyone else. For some, it’s just easier to blame the bogeyman of homosexuality and lay that at the altar instead.

Those of us who work in this ministry—especially those who have struggled with this issue personally—know that homosexuality is about a whole lot more than just being physically attracted to the same gender.

Of course there is more. Sexuality is a substantial part of the human experience, but it’s certainly not all there is. There is intellect, spirituality, intimacy, trust, a sense of family, charity toward others, and for some procreation. For those who are gay, life with a partner of the same sex involves all the wonderful intangibles that life with a partner of the opposite sex does for those who are straight.

I have to tell you, I have not experienced a full “conversion” of sexual attraction. Is that failure? Does the fact that I sometimes still feel attracted to men mean that I was born and destined to be a homosexual? Or is it the effect of having spent five formative years of my life drowning every sorrow and insecurity in homosexual behaviors?

Here are those bad choices again. Replace “homosexual” with “sexual” in that last sentence and the meaning becomes more clear. Using sex as an escape is unhealthy for anyone – gay or straight.

Many people have asked me, “Do you like girls now?” What they really want to know is if I lust after women with the intensity that I once lusted after men. Should that be my goal? Even if it was, how would I make that happen? Should I look at straight porn or fantasize about women? A lot of people who begin to search for change want to experience this total overhaul, and they are disappointed. [emphasis added]

Yes, I ‘m sure they are. But where do you suppose these pour souls got the idea that “change is possible”? Or that one can “escape from homosexuality”? Perhaps they got it from those who say they “[are] no longer attracted to men at all.” In almost Clintonesque fashion, it has been very difficult to pin Exodus or other ex-gay ministries down on just what their definition of “change” is. So when a gay person reads that homosexuality is a sin, imposed and not innate, and can be “cured”, well Michael you will have to forgive us for assuming that change means, well… change.

I know there are others with this same struggle that have come to experience and enjoy God’s intent for their sexuality in marriage to a woman. It’s okay that I’m not there yet. Beyond just attractions, there are a lot of ways in which I’m not ready for marriage in this season of life. What good would heterosexual urges do for me right now?

Reading this piece I feel a bit sad for Michael. Parts of it read like a diary entry in which he is trying to convince himself that something is so, even over the objections of his own heart. It’s really hard to read that last line without having some empathy for the guy. Step back Michael and realize what you are trying to tell yourself.

Feeling guilty and ashamed over something I can’t change isn’t repentance.

You won’t get an argument from me on that one. From where I sit, the ex-gay experience is one doomed to failure because it focuses on the wrong issues. Imagine telling a straight person who has an addiction that they need to go through therapy to lead them out of the “straight lifestyle”. Sounds silly doesn’t it?

Now if an individual is well informed of the risk of failure, and the dangers of pursuing such a goal, then more power to them if they still want to try. And for those who decide to remain celibate, that is always a viable alternative and people should be free to make that decision for themselves. My problem is with the organizations that use these people’s lives for their own political, religious or financial aims. Michael even mentions this but offers no further commentary on it.

If you’ve followed the ministry of Exodus at all, you know that the world around us is pretty skeptical about the idea of “change.” Sometimes even within the church people who are more excited about the political aspects of the ex-gay movement still scoff at the idea that a person who struggles can find lasting healing. [emphasis added]

To a person whose life is a mess, the ex-gay message can be a powerful lure. It’s always easier to point to a specific thing and say there, that is the root of all your problems. Get rid of that and you will be all better. It is also comforting to shift responsibility for bad choices from us to the “homosexual lifestyle.” And finally, to the person who might already feel like an outcast, the most important thing might be that “rejecting the gay” gains them acceptance – they are “normal.”

Then when it all fails, and the ex-gay is just gay, where does he go? Who will take responsibility for what happens next? Will you Michael?

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