Are ex-gays in bondage to false teachers?
In my opinion, many ex-gays are not free. Instead they are enslaved to the false teachings of ministries which purport to help people change their sexual orientation or stop being gay. Clients of the now defunct Exodus International and other ex-gay groups like Desert Stream, Living Waters and Restored Hope Network sometimes seem to exhibit Stockholm Syndrome, identifying with, supporting and defending their ex-gay abusers/controllers.
In abusive situations where ex-gay ministries nurture a cult-like mentality and redefine language and spirituality to mean only what they say it means, some of the following factors will often be present.
1. Positive feelings by the victim toward the abuser.
Clients/victims are encouraged to believe that an Exodus program is their only chance to become ex-gay, to have a normal life.
Clients/victims are encouraged to believe that the Exodus viewpoint is the only possible correct viewpoint on gay and lesbian issues.
Jesus loves GLBTs
All other viewpoints are viewed as anti-Bible, anti-Christian anti- the ex-gay ministry and against the will of God.
2. Negative feelings by the victim toward family, friends or authorities trying to rescue or support them or win their release.
Taking the abuser’s perspective is a survival technique with ramifications so intense that clients/victims develop anger toward those trying to help them.
The abuser/ministry already resents those who oppose Exodus tactics and provide emotional support for the victim. The goal of the abuser ministry is to make ex-gays. To that end, employing carefully developed manipulation techniques, Exodus seeks to isolate victims/clients and control their access to opposing views.
Thus Exodus member programs monitor or forbid their clients/victims use of TV, radio, media, designer underwear and fragrances, unfettered contact with friends and family. If it contradicts the Exodus viewpoint, Exodus seeks to control access to it.
Contact by the client/victim with people who oppose Exodus is monitored and clients/victims are threatened with expulsion from the program if they refuse to cooperate in their own oppression.
Gay Christians - stand fast in Christian liberty
Friends and family who disagree with the abuser/ministry are viewed as causing trouble. Their influence must be avoided and their anti-Exodus views must be rejected.
3. Support of the abuser's reasoning and behaviors.
In the enforced isolation of their residential treatment program, clients/victims tend to adopt the views of their abuser/ministry while rejecting alternative and possibly better views. The Bible, read in context, has much to say about lesbian and gay issues which is at odds with the strangely anti-biblical teachings of Exodus International.
4. Positive feelings by the abuser toward the victim.
Ex-gays (residential clients) who toe the line and parrot the views of the abuser/ministry are encouraged and lauded.
They are described as heroic strugglers (a Joe Dallas phrase) which comes across to some of us as deceptive. Knowing that no Exodus client changes from homosexual to heterosexual, the cynical ploy is used in which victims of Exodus are praised as strugglers fighting a spiritual battle. They are conditioned not to expect victory. Instead they are programmed to believe that they will always struggle with "unwanted" same sex attractions but that their struggle is normal.
This encouragement to continue struggling keeps them ensnared in the program, brings more money into Exodus' coffers and perpetuates abuser control of the victim. By continuing their struggle to become heterosexual, strugglers demonstrate they are more spiritual than ex-ex-gays, people who quit the program after discovering it doesn’t work.
It is said of people who quit Exodus, that they were never serious to begin with. Quitters are blamed by Exodus for their own failure. Its always the client’s fault and never the fault of Exodus.
As Exodus sees it, quitters made a choice to reject God’s truth just like they "made a choice to be homosexual." According to Exodus International, everyone is heterosexual. Gays are just heterosexuals who've made a choice to act out in a homosexual manner.
5. Supportive behaviors by the victim, at times helping the abuser.
The best clients/victims of change ministries are those who graduate to public speaking on behalf of Exodus. By supporting the abuser/ministry they validate its success and worthiness. "Look at me - I’m no longer gay," is the message they convey.
This validation sometimes produces financial contributions to keep the Exodus ministry afloat which attracts new clients or victims to join the abuser/ministry.
Though almost without exception every Exodus client/victim (including Exodus President Alan Chambers) admits that real change on the sexual orientation level never happens for them, their psyche has been carefully programmed to ignore or re-interpret this lack of fundamental change.
In cases where some clients/victims did gain victory over alcohol and drug abuse or the self-abuse of sexual promiscuity, those are regarded as proof that Exodus works. Of course, getting clean from a life of alcohol and drug abuse is a good thing. No question about that.
Yet the paradox is that no change in the underlying sexual orientation occurred. And that fact is ignored or touted as proof that God is still working (and therefore Exodus must work).
The reasoning runs like this. Since God gave you victory over alcohol, drugs and promiscuity, that proves the teachings of Exodus are correct.
Therefore even though your same sex attractions are still present and even though you feel no sexual desire for the opposite sex, as a heroic struggler, you qualify as no longer gay and you must struggle on. Because eventually God may change your same sex desires.
6. Learn what is expected of them and comply with the beliefs, rules, wishes of the abuser.
"D'oh! I knew that!"
Abusers manipulate their victims, using emotional, psychological and spiritual guilt to maintain control. Adept at eroding the self-esteem and self-confidence of their victims, they prey on people who already feel guilty. Their ex-gay programs are designed to take advantage of a victim’s guilt.
Many ex-gays are too emotionally burned out, too spiritually depressed to leave. Their inner struggle and failure to change one of the most fundamental aspects of their being leaves them vulnerable to the very Christians they turn to for help.
Don't be a victim
of Exodus International
Exodus strugglers learn to modify their behavior to satisfy the abuser/ministry. They learn to sublimate their real thoughts, their genuine desires, their innermost feelings, their thoughtful viewpoints for fear of setting off the abuser.
7. Inability to engage in behaviors that may assist in their release and recovery. This is an aspect of cognitive dissonance, ignoring conflicting information which makes you uncomfortable or would require a life-changing decision.
Ex-gay victims of the cult-like indoctrination they receive in Exodus affiliated groups have experienced a type of bonding which makes escape from the group more difficult for some.
The Emotional investment they’ve made is genuine. They gave it their all, believing the hype, expecting miraculous change. How can I throw away this emotional investment?
The Social investment they made has the potential to destroy their comfortable social circle if they admit defeat. How can I throw away this social investment?
The Family investment they made, the possibility of disapproval from husband, wife, children, parents, spiritual mentors if they fail is another chain difficult to break. How can I throw away this family investment?
The Financial investment can also be substantial. Having spent so many thousands of dollars on treatment which didn’t work, how does human nature respond? In for a penny, in for a pound. if I quit now, I’ll look like a fool. How can I throw away this financial investment?
Summary: Here then is the desperate situation many ex-gays face. They have identified with, adopted and defended the abuser/ministry’s beliefs and practices.
They struggle to defend the indefensible because to do otherwise requires them to reject ex-gay beliefs. That rejection sends them back to square one of the struggle they thought they left behind when they trusted the abuser/ministry.
Cognitive dissonance - the almost overwhelming desire to reject every view which conflicts with the views of the abuser/ministry, freezes them into analysis paralysis.
It is important to remember that GLBTs who desire to be “normal” are real people. And the Exodus folks and the ex-gays they deceive are real people too. In their attempt to solve a problem, they have built a ministry which works for some peripheral issues (like alcohol abuse, drug abuse and sexual promiscuity) but which is demonstrably unsuccessful in dealing with sexual orientation.
Ex-gays, victims of groups affiliated with Exodus are attempting to survive intensely difficult emotional, psychological and spiritual struggles. Their wrestling includes attempting sexual orientation change through christian ministries like Exodus.
When they eventually discover that Exodus ministries do not work and cannot make them genuine ex-gays, these real people, the walking wounded, need our compassion, encouragement, prayer and support while they work on building a healthy positive life apart from the ex-gay abuser/ministry.
Keys to regaining your freedom1. Reassert your ability for critical thinking, 2. assimilate accurate historical information about the meaning of the clobber passages in the Bible, 3. cultivate the ability to identify and reject fallacious reasoning and 4. learn to critique and reject psychological manipulation. These are key to ex-gays regaining emotional health and psychological and spiritual wholeness.
These normal functions of normal human beings often go unused in abusive situations like an ex-gay ministry. Yet over time truth continues to percolate in the hearts and minds of the abused.
Human beings have an odd tendency to be more loyal, more committed to that which is difficult, uncomfortable or even humiliating, like an Exodus affiliated ex-gay ministry. Experiencing an ordeal like residential treatment together forms strong bonds, making escape from these abusive situations more difficult.
For many ex-gays, the percolation of truth eventually leads them to reject the false definitions, false expectations, false paradigms, false teachings and false treatment modalities of Exodus and its affiliates.
Advice for victims of
orientation change ministries
1. The ex-gays designation need not be permanent.
2. Leaving Exodus does not mean you are leaving Jesus, as the information on this website demonstrates.
3. You can love and serve Jesus Christ without believing what Exodus believes about homosexuality.
4. Leaving the group does not mean that you are returning to alcohol and drug abuse or that you are returning to a sexually promiscuous lifestyle.
If Exodus and its affiliated ministries helped you clean up your life and break your addiction to booze, drugs and sexual promiscuity, that’s a good thing.
5. Leaving the group does not mean you will never be happy again or that you’re a failure or a quitter.
You can be a vibrant happy Christian as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered person. Exodus doesn’t have an exclusive patent on God’s truth or God’s joy.
6. Leaving the group does not mean you must become a secular gay person or that you must reject the truth claims of the Bible.
God has joy and fellowship, adventure and ministry and blessing for everyone who loves and follows Jesus.
And yes, there will also be difficulty and opposition, discouragement and trouble because those are part of normal life for all of us.
Yet God Himself will walk with you every step of the way because He dwells in the heart of every believer in Jesus Christ.
As you grow in grace and knowledge of God, we offer many resources to help your spiritual life. Wherever you are on the ex-gays continuum, explore our NavBar links and enjoy the riches of God’s amazing grace.
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This page updated February 5, 2017