When Religion Goes Insane: the Ex-Gay movement

When someone tells me they’re gay, I don’t doubt it’s something they’ve always been. Knowing enough people who tell their coming-out stories with pain in their eyes, or recall their childhood with a mixture of sadness and confusion, I am convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that homosexuality is not a choice. It’s something you’re born into. Something you are.

Alan Chambers doesn’t agree with me.

Chambers is the president of Exodus International, “an umbrella organization that oversees hundreds of conservative Christian-based ministries all over world” which support the ex-gay movement. You heard right. Rehabilitation centers and programs are popping up all over the globe to help men and women become “un-gay”.

Many of the people who enroll in such programs have grown up Christian, feel connected to God, but also alienated by a church that does not accept their lifestyle. What do you do when your desire for spiritual fulfillment overrides your desire for personal happiness? You let someone brainwash you into forgetting a vital part of yourself.

“The ex-gay movement promotes the idea that the gay community is a monolithic place where promiscuity, drug use, and general hedonism are rampant” and most men and woman in ex-gay ministries “do not and cannot envision homosexuality as a positive moral choice”.

The sad fact is that ministries like Exodus and New Hope (in San Rafael, California) affect more than just the lives of people pushed towards them by inner and societal shame. In June 2006, when the Senate looked at the Federal Marriage Amendment, an amendment that basically tried to make it illegal for same-sex marriages to happen anywhere in the United States, Alan Chambers began an ad campaign with the help of Exodus which pictured him and his wife next to a quote reading, “Here’s the truth. If I had a gay marriage option 10 years ago, I’d never have dealt with the root issues of my homosexual behavior.”

Testimonies like the aforementioned have the ability to sway voters in discussions of gay marriage, same-sex partner benefits, and adoptions by homosexual parents. Not everyone is fully convinced that the gay lifestyle isn’t a choice, and if enough people claim they’ve “transformed” through vigorous religious “help”, the argument against complete acceptance could lose steam.

Like most things connected to Christian Conservatism, the ex-gay movement is mind-blowingly frustrating to me. What I learned from my 18 years as a Roman Catholic (before I was given the choice to either be confirmed or run from the church with all my might—immediately deciding to don a pair of sneakers) is that God loves everyone, no matter who they are or what they do. Telling someone their life will be ruined unless they follow directions drawn up by some dude with a superiority complex seems the very opposite of healthy to me.

Seeking a stronger relationship with your God = good.

Silencing the very essence of your being in an attempt to do so = bad.

…Now if you don’t mind, I have to go light a candle and pray for all the poor, misguided religious zealots of this world.

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