Exodus Co-Founder: I Regret Teaching If You Had Enough Faith You Would Be Changed

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

May 17th, 2010

My question to Michael, is there anything specific you regret teaching, produced an answer with two separate and distinct parts.  (We’ll have a video up tomorrow of the other half of his answer.)

First we look at the idea that if you worked hard enough in an ex-gay program you would be changed.  Michael now believes the only thing being a loyal Christian guarantees in life is sharing in Christ’s sufferings.  To teach otherwise Michael says is heresy.

Yes, heresy, you don’t hear that word thrown around on this blog very often.

(transcript below jump)

I’m Michael Bussee, I’m one of the original co-founders of Exodus International. I left the program in 1979 and have since reconciled my spirituality and my sexuality and now I’m a vocal critic of reparative therapy programs and of Exodus International.

[music begins]

[title: “I Regret Teaching If You Had Enough Faith You Would Be Changed”]

[voice of interviewer:] Now when I grew up attending a Baptist youth group one of our youth leaders once told us that AIDS was God’s punishment on a fallen world which included gay people, now I’m just curious, are there any specific moments of teaching, when you were teaching, that you regret, things that you taught?

Of course, I regret almost all of it, what I taught, what I believed.

When Exodus was formed, this was before AIDS so we didn’t teach that AIDS was God’s punishment for being gay because nobody knew about AIDS yet.  We taught that venereal disease was probably a result of stepping outside of God’s perfect order for sexuality but no we didn’t know about AIDS and didn’t teach that.

I think the part that I regret the most is teaching that you had to chose one or the other.

I think I regretted, I think I regret echoing that belief that if you had enough faith, if you believed enough, studied enough, fellowshipped enough that you would be changed.

I regret teaching that, we called it “health and welfare gospel” the name it and claim it gospel, I think that was a big theological mistake I don’t think that’s what the Bible teaches that if you follow God you’re guaranteed a life of happiness and prosperity and health, I don’t think the Bible ever guarantees that, in-fact I think it guarantees the opposite, that if you’re a follower of Christ you’re going to share in his sufferings and you’re going to experience trials and tribulations.  And that doesn’t mean that you don’t have enough faith.  The faithful have always experienced trials and tribulations.

So I regret that.  I think that was a… Looking back now I think that was probably the biggest heresy of the neo-Pentacostal movement and the ex-gay moment specifically, that name it and claim it, God will do it if you believe it strongly enough theology, I deeply regret that.

[closing credits]


May 17th, 2010

YESTERDAY, not 5 or 10 years ago, I was talking to a person I know who is a christian counselor, on the board of a ministry, etc., and even though she is well-acquainted with my history of trying to become heterosexual– which consisted of YEARS and years– probably 30 years of resisting Teh Gay– of prayer and bible reading and getting saved and repenting and getting filled with the Spirit and getting saved and repenting and getting saved (repeat 5,000 times) and going to christian counselors and secular counselors and psychologists and doing inner healing and hundreds of hours in church support groups and fasting and praying and exorcisms and more exorcisms and praying and ministering to others and confessing and being in church every time the doors opened and tithing and giving offerings and almsdeeds and reading every christian self-help book ever written– because at almost 50 years old, I quit trying to be hetero and accepted being a gay woman– she told me the problem was that I just didn’t want to change. I wasn’t “serious” about change. I didn’t try hard enough.

She said this YESTERDAY. And got all snippy because I didn’t want to hear her NARTH cr*p.

She also said “gay” is just a phase I’m going through. I’m not REALLY gay, even though I have been with my partner for 9 years and have known I was “different” since I was 3 years old. Yes, a 55-year-long “phase.”

You can’t fix stupid.


May 17th, 2010

Ugh. I was also accused of being unfaithful and unbelieving because I wasn’t suddenly hetero. Also because I continued to have sinus infections. Gee. Such wickedness.

How I HATE the “name it and claim it” bs. Back when I was a believer (25 years ago) it meant that I had no way of knowing when anyone was speaking something that was actually TRUE – see, you couldn’t even say “I have a cold” because that meant you weren’t naming/claiming “by his stripes we are healed” and were therefore CONDEMNED to have the cold… especially since as a child of God your words had the power of God (though I swear I don’t remember how the hell they twisted the Bible to get to that last bit).

In fact, it was the “name it and claim it” GARBAGE that finally broke Christianity and my lifetime of faith into tiny little pieces… what finally led me to realize that the whole freakin’ mess was nothing more than spiritual bullying, spiritual and mental abuse.

To this day, decades later, I can’t even abide hearing vapid New Age “positive affirmations” because of the Name-It-And-Claim-It ghosts it conjures up for me.

Such wretched, wretched, wretched things to teach. I am glad he regrets it.

Rick Brentlinger

May 17th, 2010

Thank you Daniel, for hosting this interview (you’re a gem!) and thank you Michael for your quiet courage and honesty.

Something you said in this segment encouraged me tonight. Many thanks!

Jason Hughes

May 18th, 2010

While it’s great that he’s ashamed of what he used to teach, sadly many that he taught now espouse those same lies of “change is possible.” It’s really a shame that the people teaching these lies today don’t come to the realization sooner, but I suppose that’s life–each individual gets there in their own time and pace, if at all in some cases… Still, I commend him on speaking about it now, and hopefully his new message will reach some of those still in crisis about their identity… Thanks for sharing this.

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