As shocking as it is to know that an organization that Exodus International existed…for me…it’s not that shocking. I went to a nondenominational, charismatic church for around seven years. I got invited after confiding in a college classmate that I struggled with anxiety and possible Post-Traumatic Stress. What, at first, was a haven, eventually, became a place where I felt judged, hurt and, in all ways, insufficient.
My needing crutches or a wheelchair was a distraction - one certain people in the church and its community sought to fix. For someone who was also dealing with far more pressing issues, it was hurtful that the only time anyone approached to offer prayers it was “for my legs.” What about my heart? What about my soul? What about my spirit? What about the fact that I felt like I was drowning?
|[Image is: a child beside a pair of Canadian crutches]|
Still, I kept coming back, craving community. Craving acceptance. Not caring that ultimately, going there made me feel unworthy every single day of my life. Not caring that prayer for my physical healing failed at a conference in front of an auditorium full of people…and I was blamed. In 2007 (six years after the botched healing prayer) I finally stopped going, feeling that I had been sought out BECAUSE I was vulnerable…feeling kind of…preyed upon. Almost all of my friendships from the church were disintegrating.
On June 2, 2008, I wrote:
So much time has passed but not much has changed. Whatever happened to my faith? To my desire to pray and praise and be with God? It’s like I’m so wounded now that there’s nothing left but defensiveness. It feels like the whole faith is contrived and underhanded…It just seems like everyone around me has given up on me regarding God…It’s so easy to throw in the towel when everything is contingent - dependent on how good I’m doing or what I’m doing instead of who I am. I’m sick of using Christianity as a mask. I’m proud of who I am and my faith should be a part of me - not something I use to hide the truth in me. I am who I am. And that HAS to be enough for God. No one should live a new life just to please others or because they came to believe that who they were before wasn’t enough. They should live a new life because they know they’re worth it just as they are. Well, I’m not hiding anymore…
In short, I guess, Lisa Ling’s report didn’t surprise me. Hearing about people being blamed for their personal losses because they were honest about who they were… People being pushed to receive prayer… It all felt twisted, and familiar. Because I’ve been there…I’ve felt that. For me, it wasn’t about being gay, it was about being different. I was born with a disability, and that's not something I can fix. I can fix. It isn’t right to bully or abuse people under the guise of faith.
I related so much to the side of the discussion filled with people who tried to change themselves…who felt isolated…and I guess I’m just trying to say that this kind of Christianity is not so uncommon. It’s not just Exodus International. It’s smaller churches, who in big and small ways pressure parishioners into fixing the unfixable about them. When youth pastors are completely out of their depth and simply do not know how to cope with a gay child in their midst…
It’s a start…Exodus International closing down…but days like today…I just feel like there is so much farther to go.