The Inherent Misogyny of Exodus International
Reading this article in Charisma by Exodus International’s Alan Chambers, I was struck with a realization: these people really are misogynist pigs. In the piece, Alan is announcing the arrival of Gayle Haggard’s sadly misguided book Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made In My Darkest Hour. Under the guise of encouraging Christians to more openly and honestly minister to the wives of gay men (excuse me, “men struggling with same-sex atttraction”), Chambers lays out a philosophy that holds women hostage to their gay husbands, out of a desire to “serve the Lord.” It’s very twisted:
Having personally struggled with feelings of same-sex attraction, my heart is always burdened when I hear of such heartache. The truth is that while Mrs. Haggard’s circumstances are unique, her situation is not.
Alan is probably moreso burdened because, as a gay man, he has remained married to a woman, thereby hijacking her life and her opportunity to be with a man who truly wants her, all of her. But yet, instead of taking his inner conflict and at least keeping it to himself, Alan has chosen to use his perceived victimhood to victimize another. The fact that his wife may be oblivious to this is irrelevant. These men have simply taken the normal patriarchal control over women to a new, sick level, but it’s part of a theme that’s been running through religious ideology for centuries: women are not viewed as whole, valid sexual beings on their own. They are captives to an idea of “male headship,” and their needs — emotional, physical, mental, spiritual — are secondary to those of their husbands. Put simply, these women are caught up in a lifestyle where their husbands are the final arbiters of their needs.
There is no credible evidence that men like Alan can change their inherent sexuality. It goes against everything we know about biology, about sexuality, about men’s sexual responses to stimulus. The fact that men like Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas have chosen lives which consist of abject denial in the service of that which they wish were true, and have profited handily from it, does not in any way negate reality. They’ve admitted as much, as they’ve constantly moved the goalposts over the years. These days, only the most ridiculous liars on their side suggest that gay men actually become heterosexual. Most have changed the official message from “you can become straight!” to “Jesus will fill the hole in your life where men are supposed to be!” So they go about their lives, staying on message with the daily flare-ups of their chosen stigmata, and yet, the wives? They’re mostly ignored. Some are likely brainwashed fully into the belief that their husbands are truly attracted to them. Others are held in captivity like orcas, content to do tricks because they’ve been taught over the years that their actual feelings and needs are simply unimportant, desires to be squelched just like their husbands’ desires for men. Still others likely live in a silent hell because they know, instinctively, that everything they say they believe about their marriages, about their husbands, is simply not true.
I personally know many who have struggled with homosexuality as married men and women, sought help and like Gayle Haggard, witnessed powerful, albeit hard-fought, healing in their marriage. One of them is my good friend, Mike Goeke. Mike grew up in the church, buried his struggle with homosexuality for years and eventually married his wife, Stephanie, with the hope that it would squelch rumors about his sexuality and help ‘fix’ him. After two years of marriage, Mike left a letter on the door of their home telling his wife that he was gay and wanted a divorce. He jumped headlong into a gay life style and left the church in bitterness and anger. Even so, Stephanie courageously told him, “God put us together and I don’t know how, but I know He can repair this situation.” Over time and through a book his father gave him, he heard truth and though he argued with God, he heard only one response - I love you.
Eventually, Mike gave in to the call of the Lord and returned to Stephanie and they began the long and arduous process of rebuilding their marriage. The church that Mike had once resented became an integral part of their healing when godly men helped him find his true identity as a man and a child of God. The Goekes now minister to couples who find themselves in similar situations and hold a marriage seminar at our ministry’s conference each year.
Poor Stephanie. Snowed under by a fundamentalist lifestyle that devalues knowledge and information, she relied on “God” to “repair” something that biology tells us is not in need of repair. It’s sad that she ended up married to a gay man (then and now), but we all deal with sad things from time to time, and what we need in those times is not dogmatic brainwashing, but honest counsel and support.
These women may or may not believe, in their hearts, that their marriages are “repaired.” But they’re not, because their husbands are committed to an ideology that states that their wives are not important enough, as human beings, to be treated honestly. Their husbands are committed to an ideology that states that sex is shameful in the first place, so the idea of their wives experiencing true sexual fulfillment is simply not on the radar.
Yes, these women do need support. They do need love. They also deserve the potential to experience the fullness of life, and as long as they allow themselves to be tied up in the basement by their ideology and that of their gay husbands, fed the occasional table scrap of attention and encouraged to pray about the rest, they will not fulfill that potential.
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