Words are strange. In the Bible, the Exodus refers to coming out of the desert experience, and leaving the years of bondage to Pharaoh. It was coming into the promised land.
Exodus International has taken the name and the image to show how you can come out of homosexual bondage and orientation and enter the promised land of heterosexuality. They admit it’s a long journey and there are casualties along the way. Support groups are established in almost every denomination and state, as well as many foreign countries.
People of all ages, broken by the guilt of failure to overcome their homosexual orientation, seek out the support groups and follow rigid guidelines of retraining their behavior, supported by Bible reading and prayer. The arrival at the promised land is an illusion for most of the men and women on the journey because the premise is faulty. God will not change an orientation that He has given to His gay and lesbian children.
I directed one of those ex-gay support groups in Hayward, Calif., for almost 10 years. We were known as paraklete — the term for the Holy Spirit who comes alongside to give aid and comfort. I was a licensed minister with the Foursquare Church and had written several books and hundreds of articles on my “deliverance” from homosexuality. I was an instructor at several Exodus conferences and appeared nationally on their behalf on such television programs as Jerry Springer and Sally Jesse Raphael. I held down a full-time secular job in addition to all my “ministry” commitments and fully believed my lack of attraction to women was an indication that I was truly “ex-gay.” I had been active in the gay community for over 17 years, and now I was free of homosexual feelings and attractions. As an ex-gay leader I was on the fast track and a poster child of proof that the program works.
Imagine my surprise, shock and horror when I realized I was wrong. I was the speaker at the Western conference of Foursquare women in the early ’90s. The most beautiful woman I’d ever seen walked into the auditorium and sat in the front row. It was as if the final piece of a puzzle snapped into place and I knew she was God’s gift to me. All the Exodus teaching and theology in my brain took a back seat to the intense attraction I experienced the entire hour of my workshop. It took a couple months to work out, but she felt the connection also, and we both knew that God was bringing us together.
We prayed and searched the scriptures and challenged all the concepts I had been taught and was teaching at my ministry. God couldn’t go against His own nature. He could not create someone with a homosexual orientation and then condemn that person for acting on those instincts. He couldn’t call something sin that was His own creation! Exodus and I were not in agreement.
Exodus believes that homosexuality is a sin and that God needs to deliver you from that sin. I believe that Jesus saved me from every sin through His precious blood, and that he didn’t once specify homosexuality in all of His teachings to the church. Des and I shared our lives for 12 years until she lost her battle with breast cancer. She was totally amazed that all my “friends” in Exodus were not pounding at our door to try and woo me back to the fold. When I closed my support group and was asked to resign from the Foursquare Church, Des was certain those who were so into marking the change of hundreds across the country would not let one of their own go quietly. We waited, however no such outreach ever happened. I longed to tell the story of freedom and my own exodus from the legalism of confusing being numb with being healed.
Last year, I read a book that changed my life and put the Exodus experience in perspective. It wasn’t the Bible or a new pop psychology offering. It was a children’s book titled Old Turtle and the Broken Truth.
It tells the story of something falling from heaven and being found by certain people. It was beautiful and amazing, and the people began to worship it. It had a message of truth, and the more they worshiped the truth, it became the only truth. It read, “You are loved.” Soon there were monuments erected to protect the truth, and no one seemed to notice that the object was broken, and no one wondered what else might be written on the rest of the object. Battles were waged over the truth and much opposition arose when anyone began to question the truth. A little girl set off on a journey to find Old Turtle, who in her aged wisdom knew everything. The little girl found the Turtle, and eventually the broken other half of the truth. She brought it back to the people and it put it together with the side that read, “You are loved.” Her half read, “And so are they.”
As children, we were told that sticks and stones will break our bones but names will never hurt us. That was one of the first lies we believed, and it is a broken truth. We have spent our lives being wounded by rejection and cutting names that separate “us” from the saving grace of Jesus Christ. John 3:17 says that Jesus came into the world not to bring condemnation upon His children but to bring salvation. God sent Jesus to bring the healing balm of grace into our lives and draw us to Himself, not with a “blue light special” type of limited salvation of restrictions and guilt, but with a love that nothing can ever separate us from the heart of God. That is the whole truth, and Exodus has spent over 25 years sharing only a broken truth. My mission for the rest of my life is to stand with my partner Becky and declare that God has created us and blessed our lives as Christians and as lesbians, and the whole truth is… He wants to do the same for you. Jesus is the Way… the Truth… and the Life. Exodus truth may be sincere, but it is a broken truth — and at that, it is sincerely wrong!
Darlene Bogle is a former director of an Exodus ministry. She was a speaker and instructor at conferences around the country and authored three books and dozens of articles while promoting the ex-gay ministry. She appeared on Sally Jesse Raphael, Jerry Springer and 48 Hours. She left ministry in 1994 and appears in the 2006 documentary God and Gays: Bridging the Gap.