Mike Ensley’s article in the latest issue of Charisma Magazine illustrates everything that is wrong with Exodus and the ex-gay movement. In What to Do When Your Child Is Gay, Exodus’s “Youth Analyst” warns parents against trying to control their teenage children – and yet achieves a more subtle manipulation through misinformation.
Unfortunately, while aiming to help parents deal with their child’s homosexuality, labelling it a “problem” is the problem in itself. By making sexual orientation (“same-sex attraction,” in his terminology) into an issue to be rectified, Ensley and those who share his ideology are the problem, and consistently defining homosexuality as a “struggle,” rather than a simple reality, is what makes it a struggle.
“Realize homosexuality can afflict any family,” are the first of Ensley’s words of advice to parents of SSA children, thereby tagging gay orientation with yet another negative label, “affliction.” He continues: “You need [support and resources] because you’re suffering, and your wounds matter simply because you matter.” Such words have a veneer of compassion, but ultimately they legitimize the characterization of homosexuality as an affliction, without ever questioning why it should be so, or whether those negative perceptions are the crux of the problem itself.
It is not long before the familiar specter of the “gay lifestyle” is invoked:
I find that [parents’] primary focus is to “fix” their kid—and it’s no wonder, considering all the danger, sin and uncertainty we associate with the gay lifestyle. Naturally a loving mother or father wants to rescue their child from the consequences of such a lifestyle by keeping him or her from becoming entrenched in it.
Here is a prime example of misinformation and myth-making, depicting homosexuality as a single, monolithic – not to mention dangerous – lifestyle from which children need rescuing. Ensley may disavow overt attempts at control, but such hazy, unsubstantiated rhetoric is simply a less obvious way to manipulate through fear.
“Discover your part in the problem,” is Ensley’s encouragement to parents. While denying that the “brokenness” of homosexuality can be traced to a single cause, such as a person or event, he surmises that a family’s “healthy and unhealthy turns” must be sought out in an effort to get to the root causes, and that they must identify “intentional and unintentional” sins and “repent of any unhealthiness.”
Ironically, after all this, Ensley observes that it’s the “shame and stigma surrounding this issue that keep young strugglers in the dark.” Has it not become obvious in the course of the article where that shame and stigma comes from? Christ “takes our guilt and shame upon Himself,” he assures his readers, but how did that guilt and shame get there in the first place?
Homosexuality a crisis, a problem, an affliction, a dangerous lifestyle, a sign of brokenness, an indicator of a family’s sins and unhealthiness? Regretfully, the encouragements to be understanding, compassionate and loving mean little in the context of an article peppered with language that perpetuates the very shame and stigma its author decries.
Message to Mike Ensley: Being gay is not the problem. You are.