Antigay youth activist Mike Ensley — along with his “ex-gay” colleagues at Exodus International — has spent years encouraging same-sex-attracted persons to stay in the closet, refrain from calling themselves “gay,” and falsely tell their churches that they are “heterosexual” people with an attraction issue that, surely, some prayers and reparative therapy can fix.
So when an ex-gay tells his youth pastor that he’s still “struggling,” Ensley feigns shock that pastors respond with feelings of betrayal. Ex-gay activists have made churches unsafe for persons who experience predominant and persistent same-sex attraction, and now Exodus needs someone to blame.
In an article in the current issue of Focus on the Family’s Boundless youth magazine, Ensley writes:
I thought that stunk. In fact, I was pretty ticked that Josh even had to be a part of my little group over at the Exodus ministry where I volunteered. Not that he wasn’t a good guy to have around ‚Äî always has been ‚Äî but all he needed was a safe place to be transparent and find acceptance and support. It saddened me that he felt his church couldn’t offer that. Knowing that a real community was what he needed, and not a special ministry group, I often encouraged him to open up to someone in his life that he felt was safe. Maybe just the youth pastor to start.
When Josh finally did tell his youth pastor about his secret struggle, things drastically changed for him. He wasn’t allowed to be in student leadership anymore, or participate in the worship band. For some reason, the youth pastor felt it necessary to enact almost every level of church discipline on Josh, despite that he wasn’t in rebellion and didn’t want to be. Worst of all, he added insult to injury by asking Josh to refrain from any contact with children on church premises.
Through misleading marketing about “change” and “freedom” — not to mention the parroting of far-right hate propaganda about homosexual child molesters and about uppity gays who dare to protest votes against their freedom — Exodus has made celibate gay Christians unwelcome and feared in the nation’s conservative churches.
Ensley continues that misleading marketing when he connects the plight of “Josh” to that of Christian singer Ray Boltz, who came out as a former ex-gay earlier this year.
Ensley falsely states that Boltz “has now chosen to embrace a homosexual identity in defiance of Scripture’s clear teaching.” False, I say, because homosexuality is a state of attraction, not an identity. False, too, because the Bible does not teach against sexual honesty — but it does teach against the lies and deceit of people who claim to be orthodox believers but — like Ensley — are not.
Ensley blames Boltz’s newfound sexual honesty on the inadequacy of ex-gay books and the absence of well-funded, well-armed ex-gay community groups. Ensley reasons that such groups could have helped reinforce Boltz’s self-deception and sexual dishonesty.
Ensley’s reasoning seems to be: If a little cyanide won’t cure someone, maybe a lot of cyanide will.
To his credit, Ensley criticizes the conservative Christian tendency to demand that church leaders be paragons of moral perfection — Ozzies and Harriets.
And we want our leaders and icons to exemplify that ‚Äî to be the ones that “made it.” Then when they finally reveal to us that they are not, we condemn them, we cancel their legacies out, we pretend they were never the real thing.
Can I just say, as someone who works in full-time ministry, and knows people who have been doing it much longer, that this is all crap? There is no magic bridge you cross or mystic fog you walk through that transforms this life into some ethereal existence. Being in ministry is not like working full-time with Jesus as your boss. I do not bask in His loving glow from nine to five, ensconced in signs and wonders.
Unfortunately, after that glimmer of insight, Ensley resumes his failed ex-gay strategy of demeaning people in order to coerce “change” from them. Ensley damns Boltz to hell; rejects sexual and spiritual honesty as an illegimate peace compared to the “real peace” of dishonest ex-gays; and finally, blames churches for pursuing a logical response to Exodus’ characterization of gay depravity:
Ray Boltz has also finally found a community where he feels at peace. I’m not going to say it’s real peace ‚Äî but it’s at least the inevitable relief that comes from giving up a years-long conflict. It’s still saddening to learn that anyone has chosen a path contrary to what Christ has saved us for. It’s worse to know that one of the engines of their rebellion has been our unwillingness to be the safe and Christ-like community they needed in their darkest moments.
We all want those brothers and sisters to come to their senses and repent. That’s their choice, though; we can tell them the truth but we can’t change their hearts or minds. But maybe we can at least show them what it looks like.
Exodus is in no moral position to show people what truth looks like. Nor are self-satisfied pastors who gullibly believe whatever antigay hate propaganda comes their way.
Ensley’s conclusion — “So let’s pray for repentance ‚Äî for ourselves first” — would be most welcome — if he had really meant it.