Exodus Part 4: The Ordinary

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.

1 Opposite-sex attraction.

16 Comments on “Exodus Part 4: The Ordinary”

  1. Your last paragraph is such a provocation for me. I know the Church needs to be doing more to help fill that hole, but what? I’m at a loss as to what I as a lay person can do, other than love the people God puts into my path, regardless of their sexual orientation. Do you have any thoughts on actions that parishes can take? One thing I’ve thought quite a bit about recently is the fact that so often when I hear faithful Catholics talking about anything related to same sex marriage or homosexuality in general, they speak as if “gay people” are a whole other species or as if all men and women with SSA are enemies of the Church. Obviously, we can’t be afraid to speak the truth (in love) about the Church’s understanding of human sexuality, but that doesn’t have to mean lumping “gay people” together into an amorphous whole and then villifying them. I can only imagine how utterly isolating it would be to be a person with SSA, regardless of his or her agreement with the Church, sitting in on one of those conversations. Anyway. I welcome your thoughts, and thank you for this series.

    1. City Boy says:

      First of all Christina, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your comment. After the venom I experienced today, it really warms my heart to know that not all Christians are bent on isolating and vilifying people with SSA.

      As I stated in an e-mail to Steve today, I attempted to explain the importance of Catholics reaching out to people with SSA on a Catholic website. The other posters, however, were insistent in perpetuating an “us vs. them” mentality and advocated a total separation from people suffering from SSA even if they were non-practicing homosexuals. I ended up being branded a “gay activist” and barred from posting on the site. I saw no light of God in those people today and I think it’s sad that they are so blissfully unaware of the damage that they do by propagating an “us vs. them” mentality.

      Their message: “Make sure you’re chaste and don’t have homosexual sex, and also make sure that you do it as far away from my family and I as possible you evil, perverted monster.” I think this message is mixed and all wrong. You want me to be chaste yet you’re not willing to offer me a welcoming and safe environment where I can grow in my faith? What kind of sense does that make?

      You’re absolutely right, when they speak of me as if I’m some kind of animal, it does make me feel very isolated. All I can do at this point is chock it up to the nature of our cold, cold world and be thankful that God has blessed me with people like you who actually recognize the lack of love that people like that truly show.

      My advice? Continue to reach out to people with SSA that cross your path and warmth and compassion while still upholding the truth regarding the design of human sexuality. Everyone remembers the second part, very few remember the first part. By serving as examples perhaps there might be hope for a Church that is not so eager to castigate, demean, and isolate SSA attracted people who are attempting to live according to teachings of the Church…like I am.

      Take care and God Bless.

    2. Marge says:

      Yes, you can help, and thank you for asking. Here are some suggestions:

      Host a viewing of the Desire of the Everlasting Hills and invite your local Courage chaplain to field questions afterwards from the viewers.

      Post notices in your bulletin about Courage and for Encourage too! There is information which you can copy from the website http://www.couragerc.org.

      Print some brochures from the resource page of http://www.couragerc.org and leave them in your church or bring them to a prolife meeting and share with others.

      Promote awareness of the Courage/Encourage Conference, a wonderful opportunity to hear speakers, grow in faith and in community with others who share the experience.

  2. Lalaland says:

    Hello Steve,

    Perhaps you could explain this statement for me: “Life, not paradise, is the goal…” I don’t mean to take your writing out of context, but honestly I found that sentence (fragment) very upsetting. (Granted I am quite an anxious person). It sounded as if you were saying that the ultimate goal is a good life and not Heaven. Am I misunderstanding you?

    I must say, so many of the things you write about sound like thoughts plucked straight out of my own head. You have a powerful ability to express abstract ideas so articulately.

    Blessings. xoxo

    1. Oh, thanks for the compliment.

      Well, first of all, I make a distinction between Paradise and Heaven. The former is where Adam and Eve lived, and where we can never get back to: just because the story changes tremendously after the Fall.

      Second, I meant to speak strictly in the context of this life. There’s a certain mindset (which I’ve sometimes fallen into) that says “No, everything must be *perfect*, here and now, or I won’t be satisfied!” Whereas of course we do hope for perfection, but not till this life is over. So we have to keep our expectations reasonable.


    2. Marge says:

      I had the same response to that line.

  3. debora gorton says:

    your ability to articulate what feel like my own thoughts rumbling around in my chaotic head is amazing. I am completely devoid of any writing talent, and to see similar thoughts to mine so neatly written down , has an amazing calming effect on me. I love reading you.

  4. Mark from PA says:

    Great thoughts here. Thanks.

  5. Peter M. says:

    Thank you for writing this. I think that you’re correct.

  6. Jim Russell says:

    Hi, Steve–I saw this and I saw the interview at Patheos, which concluded with a quote from you in response to a question about chastity: “I don’t know what chastity is yet. No one I talk to does, either.”

    Seems like chastity is, in fact, the answer to all the questions pertaining to how one copes with inordinate sexual desire, whether opposite- or same-sex. If our appetites/passions lead us to a desire that is inordinate, we have to discover in ourselves the capacity to say “no”, always. Which is often very difficult, but not impossible…

    The CCC section on chastity is really strong and helps articulate this point.

    The same principles apply, in distinct ways of course, to how we cope with every variety of inordinate desire–and the remedy is always grace, which aids our will in bringing our passions under the control of our intellects or use of reason.

    In my view, this is also why we shouldn’t shut the door on reparative therapies that may well open the door to folks with SSA finding themselves called to (opposite-sex) marriage. The SSA struggle will continue, surely, but like any other married person with “baggage” that contradicts the meaning of marriage, there remains a reasonable hope of living out such a vocation because of the grace that helps make us and keep us chaste and pure.

    Perhaps you can elaborate on some of this and help me understand more clearly what you meant in your comment on chastity?

    God bless you,

    Jim R

    PS–just saw your comment above, in which you mentioned “Whereas of course we do hope for perfection, but not till this life is over.” But I would counter this statement a bit, by pointing to the fact that the Church teaches us that “Christian perfection” is indeed attainable in this life as a foretaste of the heavenly perfection to come. “Christian perfection” in this life is our call to holiness and the universal invitation to that intimate union with God (“the spiritual life”) exemplified by our “mystic” saints. So even in this sense we can hope for a deep and abiding growth in holiness by setting “Christian perfection” as our goal even in this life…

    1. Rivka says:

      Hi Jim. I think Steve is an excellent example of Chastity in practice. He knows how (with God’s Grace) to say no to temptations to sin. Perhaps you took his remark the wrong way. Perhaps the remark sprang more from awe at the Mystery of Christian virtue, rather than from actual ignorance.

    2. Rivka says:

      I think the “perfection” he was speaking of was perfect happiness. He was not referring to perfect virtue or perfect sanctity. We can aim for perfect sanctity with God’s grace, but we know that perfect happiness only exists in heaven.

  7. Val says:

    About the ‘reparative therapies’ (i really don’t like the word ‘reparative’, it sounds like there is something broken that needs to be fixed), some of the ex gay here in italy says that they found them useful, so good for them but those therapies are not the only way for people with SSA to live as christians. 

  8. Paul McMichael says:

    I doubt you’re referring to yourself here:
    “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.”

    Speaking as a happy well-adjusted gay Catholic, I’ve been with one man for 25 years, 26 in September. I have never frequented, not once, been to a truck stop.

    Who’s the real sinner? The SSA struggler? Or me.

    I find Jim Russell’s complacency about a gay person (if the Pope can say’ gay’ then so can every single Catholic), finding the door open to marriage frighteningly hypocritical. The idea that marriage is anything less than a whole-hearted and authentic meeting of two minds and bodies, their love utterly directed towards the other, goes against everything that the Church teaches yet Mr. Russell can glibly toss all that aside for some kind of mixed-orientation coupling that is most certainly not a marriage by any definition of the Church. Sheesh.

  9. Sue says:

    “The Pope says ‘gay'” but he also (via the Catechism and the hermeneutic of continuity) says gay is not okay – it’s disordered – “broke”, if you will. “Go and sin no more” type of broke. Lead no others into the sin (either directly or through whizbang rhetoric) type of broke. Yes, celibacy if you must be “gay”. But many naive souls will hear the gay and not the concommitant (and cruciform) call to celibacy and will be recruited into the arms of Sodom.

    I think (and Fr Harvey of Courage has made the case) that the word “gay” is a stumbling block. It is broken, to be eschewed and avoided like a broken leg. Okay, some people have lifelong paraplegia and must deal with that and we must support them, but many may have broken legs and should not try to live life or identify as a permanent cripple.

    The whole notion of homosexual (not the behavior, but the identity) is a recent (150 years or so) invention. It fits too cleanly with sexual liberation brave new world (basically fascist) ideology. It is being used as a weapon in a great spiritual war, and many unwitting are being sucked into its ranks. We need everyone we can get on the other side (see Roback Morses’ “Marriage Ecology” website, for instance).

  10. Stan says:

    Hi Joseph,

    I think you are wrong about gay therapy sessions. I know that there are many people who do therapy wrong and it is damaging. But there are many people who do therapy right, and it has led to many SSA people changing and leading healthy, heterosexual lives with their new opposite sex spouses.

    I encourage you to try not abandon your pursuit of heterosexuality. Not because heterosexuals are the happiest people on earth. But because that will make you happier. God did not create you to have SSA. Your SSA is the result of sin’s presence in this world. But you can overcome sin and by being closer to God. Through constant prayer and counseling, you can eventually attain a level of OSA that will enable and perhaps cause you to live a more fulfilling life.

    Please do not be complacent with just a life of chastity, but go 100% towards battling this inner spiritual brokenness and continue your reparative therapy.

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