Exodus International president Alan Chambers said last week that the ex-gay network had halted its aggressive antigay political advocacy as of August 2007.
Exodus youth activist Mike Ensley, however, vows to continue using his position in the ex-gay network as a soapbox to silence gay students, withhold accurate information from heterosexual peers of those students, and deny the existence of intersexed persons.
On his blog, Ensley writes that he is mystified at criticism of his program’s opposition to anti-bullying programs and his support (along with that of Exodus executive vice president Randy Thomas) for Tennessee legislation that would have prevented discussion or materials relating to sexual orientation (other than heterosexuality) in schools:
But I was kind of surprised to see my own name cropping up in the comments over at XGW under this topic. More than evident was a perception that I am some sort of vicious activist. It’s a weird feeling I get when I see people attributing motives and attitudes to me which I don’t have. It’s some weird entanglement of offense, amusement and disbelief.
I guess the perception comes from the fact that I talk about my views as they relate to political topics. But most of that is relegated to this blog, and this blog is hardly the focal point of my work at Exodus, and politics are hardly even the focal point of this blog.
Ensley misses the point of religious ministry: to aid people in need without regard to their politics. Since 2001, through their official and unofficial (but very public) political activities, Exodus leaders have marginalized themselves and their organization so that the ex-gay network’s appeal is now limited mainly to parents and pastors who are antigay, politically correct, socially conservative, Protestant, and Republican. Witness Ensley’s determination to inflict his political agenda upon parents and friends who just want help for their teen children and peers:
There seems to be a belief that those of us involved with Exodus have abdicated our individual rights to public discourse. I don’t see any reason for that and so I won’t live by it. I steward what I’ve been given–a voice and a vote–in alignment with what I believe to be right. Just like everyone. You don’t have to agree with me, but don’t try to paint me as some aggressive lobbyist when I’m anything but.
How many parents or friends of gay teens really want to hear Ensley’s political self-absorption? And how many are fooled by the idea that rounding up support for legislation to silence gay youths and misinform their peers isn’t lobbying?
Ensley has forgotten what ministry is all about: “ministering” to people, not silencing and punishing them, and not driving them away with political pipe dreams.
In arguing that his personal views should be exempt from scrutiny relating to Exodus, Ensley seems to be saying that youth activists, particularly those who seek access to public school students, should be exempt from analysis of their character and political intent — provided that these activists are antigay. Does Ensley feel the same way about advocates for tolerance?
We suspect not. In fact, Ensley admits to some envy: He asserts that if antiviolence lessons, conflict resolution, and constitutional tolerance of different faiths and orientations can be taught to teens by the nation’s public-school teachers, then we are to believe that Ensley somehow should be entitled to teach “politics, faith, social values and such” to the same teens in taxpayer-funded venues:
I don’t see why gay activists are the only ones who can educate others with their views on politics, faith, social values and such yet it’s a grave offense if I do it.
Ensley invents a strawman accusation that he somehow wants to see people bullied or harassed:
And to those who have made the accusation that I am out to see anybody bullied or harrassed, or that I seek to deny GLBT people equality, you’re way off and you know it.
He sidesteps the actual recent criticism of him, which was that his Exodus youth program refuses to support anti-bullying programs in schools and refuses to acknowledge either recent violence or the ongoing severity of violence against gay youths across the United States.
Finished with the strawman, Ensley tells us what he really wants from schools: Denial of the reality that people are anything other than heterosexual male and heterosexual female.
Here is the fundamental difference between what we believe: I don’t see people as “gay,” “straight,” “bisexual,” “transgender” or any other of the many labels that we keep needing to add to.
Note that Ensley not only rejects efforts to honestly identify the degree to which persons are attracted to the same or opposite gender, but also denies the reality of intersexed people — individuals who are born with the sex chromosomes, genitalia, or secondary sex characteristics of both sexes:
I believe we are created male and female, with art and purpose, and that while our feelings and experiences often stray from that, it is only because the world and everything in it is out of alignment with our created intent.
Ensley concludes with an assurance that he will continue proclaiming such ignorance:
And I’ll keep saying so.