Change Was NOT Possible–part 2 of 3

This is the second in a three part series. Part One: What Was I After and Why?
Part Three: Living on the Outside

Part Two–What Happens When Change is not Possible?

After all my efforts, my faith in the Bible as I understood it and my faith in God and the working of the Holy Spirit, the change from gay to straight never came. In fact, the more I pursued what I thought was God’s ordained gayless path, the more I desired men, the more severe the struggle became, the more bizarre I acted out.

Finally after losing my marriage, my job as a missionary in Zambia, my close friendships and the support of my home church, I became desperate and enrolled in the Love in Action (LIA) residential program in Memphis, TN.

During orientation the staff informed us how we should envisage the program. How disappointing to hear John Smid, director of LIA, announce that none of us should expect to become heterosexual! He considered such a goal to be unrealistic and stated that most likely we would struggle with these same-sex desires for the rest of our lives.

I despaired. What a weak, powerless Gospel! Hearing this, one of the elders in my church back home questioned the spirituality of LIA. But after 15 years of believing I could and must seek to change my sexual orientation through the power of God, in deep grief I accepted the fact that such a change was not possible for me. It rocked my faith and challenged everything I had believed about the redemptive work of the cross and the blood of Jesus.

It turns out that Exodus now teaches this very message—change in orientation is not possible—although they share this mostly behind closed doors. Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, spoke at the Love Won Out (LWO) conference in Phoenix earlier this year and via a transcript of his talk, Hope for Those That Struggle, I read what Alan had to say about same-sex attractions and change.
(hat tip to Jim Burroway, who is working on his next installment of his LWO series).

And I’m going to shatter your world here: heterosexuality shouldn’t be your number one goal. Whether that’s for yourself or for your kid or for your loved one or your friend or your family member. Heterosexuality shouldn’t have been my number one goal.

The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality. It’s holiness. And I think we in the church often get that wrong. We think, “okay, the best thing for this person who’s involved with homosexuality or involve with lesbianism is that they come out of that lifestyle and go into heterosexuality.

Well if that’s all we think is necessary, we’re setting people up for a terrible fall. The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality. It’s holiness.

This is not the first time I heard the mantra about homosexuality versus holiness. (Is it an ex-gay creedal statement or a think-tank created mind-bending talking point inserted intermittently to stir up shame and fear?)

In many ways this statement proves more sinister and harmful than statements promoting the false assumption that change in orientation is possible (which most Exodus ads still suggest to this day.) What I hear in the mantra is that anything homosexual by default is unholy, unclean, dirty, ungodly, evil and demonic—the opposite of all things holy. I heard this same message over an over in my youth be it on the playground, in the media or at church.

In his statement, Alan Chambers declares that people with same-sex attractions, who refuse to renounce these attractions, are unclean, much like the leper or menstruating women in Jesus’ day. These ceremonially unclean members of society were denied access to the temple and intimate relationships. Anyone with a conservative church background today can decode Alan’s message to mean that people who accept their same-sex attractions are denied access to God and to heaven. It may not be what Alan intends to say (or it may be), but the statement exudes this damning message all the same. Only the righteous enter the holy Kingdom of Heaven and homosexuals are NOT holy.

Back at Love in Action, I understood that although change in my orientation was not possible, I still needed to sort out my same-sex desires and get the victory over them. I stood with a choice-my faith in Jesus or my same-sex attractions? I chose Jesus.

At LIA I determined to gather the necessary tools that would enable me to manage and contain my sexual desire. I still dreamed for the miracle of complete deliverance from same-sex desire, but I knew not to expect it. So with the goal to be a faithful soldier of Christ, denying myself and taking up my cross and bearing it daily, I plunged into two years of treatment at LIA.

I devoted my time, energy and heart to the effort. I allowed the program teachings to soak into my mind, much of it stuff I already knew from ex-gay books I had read but with a more therapeutic spin on them, but also new techniques, ideas and theories. The program took on many approaches (some times changing approaches weekly) and in some ways incorporated the “best” of what was offered in the ex-gay world.

Though writing hundreds of Moral Inventories, I re-interpreted every non-straight sexual experience I ever had and re-labeled them dysfunctional, inappropriate and addictive. I continued to spend time in prayer and Bible study staying in close contact with God and looking to God for strength. I also submitted to LIA’s training to make me more masculine by changing the way I dressed, my affect, my tastes and hobbies. In the language we used at the time, “I worked my program.”

Next–Part Three: Living on the Outside

This post has 7 Comments

  1. Bruce Garrett on July 26, 2007 at 3:01 pm Reply

    I guess for me the open question is how well, if at all, does the ex-gay leadership realize how damaging this “The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality…it’s holiness” message is on the psyche of gay people. They must, at some level, assume the desires will go away eventually. Otherwise to tell gay people this is to send them down a path where they feel themselves unclean Every Time desire makes itself felt. Except they’re saying now, at least in private, that they understand that the desires won’t go away.

    And this is loving compassion for the homosexual? Somebody explain that to me, I still don’t get it. If they were deliberately trying to make gay people hate themselves, constantly, relentlessly, hopelessly, they couldn’t do much better then this little slogan, could they.

  2. Barry on July 27, 2007 at 4:16 am Reply

    “John Smid, director of LIA, announce that none of us should expect to become heterosexual! He considered such a goal to be unrealistic and stated that most likely we would struggle with these same-sex desires for the rest of our lives.”

    Well, at least I give John credit for being honest in that regard to the “clients”. Too bad he had billboards (at least one) in town with his picture with wording that read, “I used to be gay”, giving the opposite impression to the public to appease the church-ians.

  3. Lynn David on July 27, 2007 at 10:13 am Reply

    I’m really confused. Alan Chambers has said that he doubts he has ever met an ex-gay, meaning a change in one’s orientation does not occur. So when he says, The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality. It’s holiness. What is he talking about concerning ‘homosexuality?’

    There are two definitions to the word one being behavior the other an internal state of being. One would think Chambers is talking about the behavior, a person’s action when you consider his other statements of late. Not the state of being or that he means one must renounce the attractions (or does he?).

    But just like people say they are gay no more, this homosexuality versus holiness mantra is a duel-edged sword. While he may mean behavior the gullible might take to mean that “internal state of being.”

    And that brings me to your LIA stay. Was it designed to allow you to simply accept a celibate life? It sounds as though it demonized your “state of being” -that of a homosexual, trying to suppress that. Why? Would it try to demonize heterosexuality in monks before it simply worked at celibacy for them?

    It seems that by focusing on homosexuality LIA focused your attention upon your pathway to sexuality and not your sexuality. And was therefore doomed to failure Why worry about whether you have an affect or an effeminate nature? Can’t you be a flaming celibate?

    Eh…. this (ex-gay programs) just makes no sense to me.

  4. Alan & Mihai on August 5, 2007 at 4:09 am Reply

    It is not surprising that the ex-gay movement would make such a claim as “The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality…it’s holiness,” but it is appalling. But Evangelical Christianity rarely looks to Christ and his teachings for their doctrines anyway.

    In the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew, Jesus tells the Mosaic Jewish community what a “real” man is – a Eunuch! For the Jews of Christ’s time, being a man meant having a male son. A man was not truely a man until he had a son born to him. That’s why divorce was so necessary, because if a wife did not produce a male son (because they believed it was her fault if she didn’t) then the man needed to divorce her and find another who could provide him with a male heir. So marrying a woman was the first step in making a man a “man” for the Mosaic Jews. Only a real man could worship in the Temple and offer sacrifices.

    But Jesus declared who a real man is: a Eunuch born at birth, one made a Eunuch by castration, and those who chose to be a Eunuch. Eunuchs were not considered impotent (except the ones castrated), and neither were they incapable of having sexual relations. They were, however, according to the Mosaic Jewish religion, a third class of sex, neither male or female, and because they were not “real men” they could not worship in the Temple. They were not holy. And yet, Christ said that they were capable of being holy, especially those who dedicate themselves to the work of the Lord!

    For there are eunuchs, who were born so from their mother’s womb: and there are eunuchs, who were made so by men: and there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.
    (The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ – St. Matthew 19:12

  5. Anonymous on August 5, 2007 at 5:27 pm Reply

    I don’t feel that the goal is to become straight. The goal is to live the Christian life in wholeness. I believe that some people are able to develope straight tendencies, but ultimately, this is not the message of “ex-gay” ministries. Living a life consistent with Christian teaching is the goal.

  6. Alan Mihai on August 7, 2007 at 7:55 am Reply

    FOR MY FULL BLOG ENTRY GO TO: http://alan-mihai.blogspot.com/2007/08/what-ex-gay-movement-is-really-all.html

    If Jesus was born in the USA in our times to Biblist parents, I think the Ex-Gay movement would have snatched him up. His parents would have had him at a gay boot camp faster than it took the Archangel Gabriel to announce his birth. While Jesus may have been strong (he did knock over a few money tables at the temple), there is no indication that he was athletic. If Jesus was athletic, he would probably had wanted his football team to be known as the “Nazareth High School Lambs” instead of something like the “Bethlehem Bulls” or “Jerusalem Jaguars.” It appears Jesus was more into wine than beer. There is no indication as to whether he hunted or not, or ate meat (he seems to be more a fish and bread man). But if Jesus was born in the USA today to Biblist parents, I think the big red flag would be that Jesus wouldn’t be dating anyone. No girlfriends brought home to meet the family. And no marriage plans. And no little Jesus Junior. At school, instead of beating the crap out of somebody for knocking him over, he would turn the other cheek. His Biblist parents would be going crazy because Jesus would talk to the Mexican neighbors, and invite the Korean neighbors over for dinner.

  7. Alan Mihai on August 11, 2007 at 9:24 pm Reply

    Many people follow the Bible, few follow Christ. As Christians, we need to follow the teachings of Christ. Once we begin to follow Christ, it becomes clear to us what things in tbe Bible are no longer part of the New Covenant. We understand that St. Paul talks about not participating in pagan sexual rituals because we are to love ourselves and know we have dignity. That is why we can be in a monogomous, caring, loving, and sharing relationship with a partner of the same sex. If we follow Christ, we are CHRISTians. If we follow the Bible, we are BIBLists. Jesus said, “Follow me,” and “hear me,” and “do my Father’s will,” not “read the Bible.” While the Bible contains God’s words it is no substitute for God himself.

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