This is the final part of a four-part post. It began here.
There was a period in my life when orientation change was my first priority, and when I had the constant feeling that I wasn’t doing enough to achieve that end. If I missed an opportunity to play basketball, it meant I was cowardly; if I opted out of a social gathering, it meant I was lazy; if I left a party because I was emotionally exhausted, it meant I was weak.
I don’t do that anymore, partly because it was too exhausting, and partly because I have other things to worry about. I still pursue healing: through my friendships, through therapy, through prayer, through conversation. But by “healing” I no longer mean “heterosexuality”. If as a side-effect my SSA should diminish and my OSA1 should increase, that’s nice, that’s a bonus. But it’s no longer the point, and it’s not a prerequisite for my happiness or holiness.
If you’re in crisis mode, then your top priority is getting out of the crisis. So if you find yourself visiting truck stops at 3am every weekend, maybe it really does make sense to go to therapy twice a week and be a part of three different men’s groups, until the point when you can successfully Not Do That Anymore.
Not doing crazy dangerous miserable things, in other words, is a good short-term goal.
But if you’ve just got a cross to carry, you’ve got to figure out a way to carry it that doesn’t involve thinking about it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You’ve got to find a way to live life, not as an object lesson in suffering and triumph over adversity — what a monotonous way to live! — but just as an ordinary human being with ordinary friends, ordinary conversations, ordinary joys and sorrows.
Life, not paradise, is the goal; and anyway, heterosexuality is hardly the same thing as paradise. Ask any straight guy, ask your married friends, or ask the womanizers you know, or ask the chronically lonely ones. They’re all are as confused as we are, even if they don’t always know it.
So although Aaron Taylor and others are right to point out some of the extremely problematic things about the idea of orientation change, it’s not that simple. Some of the ideas promulgated by the ex-gay crowd are useless or poisonous; but some of them are lessons that every man needs, some of us more than others, and some straight men more than some gay men.
To the extent that Exodus helped men in these areas — the areas of relational brokenness, self-pity and self-isolation, disenfranchisement from masculinity — the hole it leaves behind is a large one. It remains to be seen whether anyone besides the enemies of the Church will step forward to fill it.