This is another scene in a continuing story that L.T. Miller will be sharing with us over the coming weeks about his adventures in (and coming out of) an ex-gay ministry.
January 6, 1996. We hiked to the top of Mount Tamalpais – our first outing as a group. It was a gorgeous day – no fog, not a cloud in the sky, and unseasonably warm. Once we reached the summit all of the new “converts” and I posed for photos. We sprawled ourselves around a big rock and smiled our cheesy grins while Damon, one of the leaders, snapped away. There in the middle of us sat Jake, looking like he’d just ridden in with the hells angels. I still wasn’t sure what to make of him.
Damon spoke that day about the importance of starting each day with a clean heart. He talked about purpose. “Without a vision,” he said, “you will perish. Be ready to hear the Lord. Each class, each church meeting, each devotion – ask for God’s anointing. Press on; persevere despite what you’re feeling. Pray. We must continuously point one another to Christ”.
Damon was an imposing man – both in stature and personality. I don’t think he ever worked out a day in his life, and yet his body was built like that of a football player. Because of his muscles it was easy for him to butch it up, but the minute I met him the gaydar went off – there was no way in hell he would ever be able to completely hide the diva within. My relationship with him over the next year would prove to be contentious to say the least, but in the beginning I considered him a saint.
“Sometimes you’ll have to exhort a brother. Confrontation is uncomfortable, but sometimes necessary. There cannot be any sin in the camp. We are called to live holy lives.” He paused for a moment, wiped the sweat from his forehead, and continued, “We must strive to keep our thoughts pure, our words edifying, we must keep our eyes on Jesus. Each of you is here by divine appointment. God has brought you all together so that you may learn from one another.”
I was half listening, half daydreaming – it was so utterly beautiful there atop that majestic mountain. My heart sang. I was thrilled to be back in California. My brief stint back in North Carolina had shown me that my spirit would forever be attached to the golden state. And after just a week or so of adjusting to my new life in the ex-gay commune, I felt at home. I took heed to Damon’s words: “You are here by divine appointment.” I contemplated his words. “Thank you Jesus,” I whispered.
I remember him saying that we must not be afraid to speak truth into one another’s lives. “Your brother may be angry with you for a while, but when he sins, it is your duty to point it out to him. We are taught to rebuke sin. We are to continuously lift one another up in prayer throughout this journey.”
I looked around at the men surrounding me. In just a week’s time, I felt like I’d known them forever. We had been together literally twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Our lives were structured almost from the time we got up in the morning until after ten o’clock at night. I knew that pure solitude would be a rare luxury.
We were to follow the “three man rule” at all times. We could not leave the house alone for any reason, lest we fall into sexual temptation. There had to be accountability. Two men alone was not an option either. I suppose the possibility of a threesome wasn’t considered. I resented the “three man rule.” I was twenty-six years old and still a virgin. I had no desire to have sex in the bushes. But if I was going to stay here – I had to abide by the rules.
Damon was sweating profusely now and his face reddened. He reached for his water bottle, took a big gulp. “Our days are long. You will get tired. Keep pushing even if you’re exhausted. Be willing to carry not only yourself, but your brother as well should he fall in spirit.”
At this point Jake chimed in, “Forsake self, and focus on loving and supporting your brothers in Christ. Know – without any doubt – that God will be faithful. He will deliver each of you from your homosexual desires.”
Damon concluded with a Bible verse: “And the Lord is not slack toward His promises toward us. II Peter 3:9″
“Change me, God, Change me,” I prayed to myself. “Please, I implore you, heavenly father, to take away these evil and impure thoughts. Keep me strong that I may not act on these despicable desires. Please, Lord, heal me.”
But that prayer went unanswered.
L.T. MILLER was born in a small southern town. While in college, he became involved in ex-gay support groups, and in 1996 was accepted into the New Hope Ministries residential program in San Rafael, CA. During his two year stay, he questioned everything until finally he completely abandoned a misguided ideology that made less and less sense. He found a gay church in San Francisco where he was accepted for who he was, and with the loving support of a lesbian pastor he was able to begin life anew as an openly gay man. L.T. Miller is the Ex-Gay Survivor.