"Be Not Deceived": The Sacred and Sexual Struggles of Gay and Ex-Gay Christian Men

"Be Not Deceived": The Sacred and Sexual Struggles of Gay and Ex-Gay Christian Men

"Be Not Deceived": The Sacred and Sexual Struggles of Gay and Ex-Gay Christian Men

"Be Not Deceived": The Sacred and Sexual Struggles of Gay and Ex-Gay Christian Men


Homosexuality has become increasingly accepted in mainstream America over the past two decades. Yet despite indications of progress that can be found everywhere from academia to popular culture, gay men and women remain the target of much discrimination and stigma, particularly within conservative Christianity.

In Be Not Deceived, Michelle Wolkomir explores the difficult dilemma that gay Christians face in their attempts to reconcile their religious and sexual identities. She introduces the ideologies and practices of two alternative and competing ministries that offer solutions for Christians who experience homosexual desire.

One organization-the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches-believes that God made people gay to suit divine purposes. Changing one's sexuality is therefore impossible and a defiance of God. In contrast, Exodus International preaches that homosexuality is a sin and a symptom of disordered psychological development-one that can be cured through redemptive prayer. By comparing participant experiences in these ministries, Wolkomir explores the paths and processes by which members learn to become gay or ex-gay Christians.

Through careful analysis of the groups' ideologies, interactions, and symbolic resources, Be Not Deceived goes far beyond the obvious differences between the ministries to uncover their similarities, namely that both continue to define heterosexuality as the normative and dominant lifestyle.


In the spring of 1995, the Reverend Jimmy Creech was a guest speaker at a meeting of gay and lesbian students on a university campus. Creech, a former Methodist minister defrocked because of his gay-affirmative ministry and activism (cf. Hartman 1996, 1–24), talked about the ridicule and harassment he had suffered because of his work and about the damage caused by his church’s tenacious assertion of heterosexist doctrine. When he finished, he invited comments and questions from the audience. Among the many speakers was a young woman, a newcomer to the group, who told a story of the confusion and betrayal she felt as she sought salvation in a church that condemned her.

She was a first-year student at the university who had experienced homosexual attractions since puberty. She despised these desires, she said, because she felt “they were against God.” Hoping to find a way to rid herself of these desires, she had recently confided in her pastor, who told her to pray and then quickly dismissed her. The next Sunday, the pastor preached a hellfire sermon against homosexuality, declaring that one of the “demonic” was among the congregation. His sermon so clearly revealed the identity of this “demon” that the woman left the church, humiliated. When she returned home several hours later, her belongings were in the driveway, the doors were locked, and no one answered her knock. She gathered her things and returned to school. “No one in my family has spoken to me since then,” she said . . .

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