Politics, Public Policy and Progressive Faith

23 June

Exodus’ Exit Greeted with Relief, Skepticism

The big LGBT news did not come from the Supreme Court his week–that’s likely to be next week. Instead, it came from Exodus International, a long-time champion of “reparative therapy” to turn gay people straight (or straight-ish, anyway). Alan Chambers, leader of the 37-year-old organization, acknowledged that efforts to change sexual orientation are ineffective and apologized for the damage Exodus has done to gay and lesbian people. The dissolution of the group was covered on Our America with Lisa Ling in an episode alliteratively entitled “God & Gays.” Chambers says a new group, Reduce Fear (or possibly “Reducing Fear”), is being formed from the ashes of Exodus. Reactions to the announcements were mixed.

No one who believes sexual orientation is a given–not subject to nor warranting change–was sorry to see Exodus go, but the existence of the Restored Hope Network and the emergence of Reduce/Reducing Fear dampened the relief. And not everyone was impressed by Chambers’ apology. One of the best (read: snarkiest) take downs comes from John Shore (@johnshore), who identifies as an “Unfundamentalist Christian.” Shore, who frequently writes about how badly the Christian church has handled sexual orientation on his blog and in a recent book, doesn’t buy Chambers’ contrition. Says Shore in “An open letter to Exodus International’s super-remorseful Alan Chambers,” after reading the apology and listening to Chambers’ speech at Exodus’ last conference, held last week:

Not once in your speech—which I’ll be the first to say was veritably jammed with talk about God and forgiveness and healing and welcoming and redemption and reconciliation and peace and love and joy and salvation—did I hear you express regret for you and Exodus having spent over three decades helping to destroy the lives of gay people and their families through your peddling and capitalizing upon the message that God’s greatest desire for every gay person is that they cease to be gay.

I heard you say that you regret the way in which Exodus communicated that message. … And I definitely heard you repeatedly say that it’s high time for the church to start welcoming gay people, and all others who are marginalized and “in need.”

But (as opposed to them being “in need”) I never heard you say that it’s okay for people to be gay. You didn’t come close to saying anything like it. What you said—though one must resolutely gaze into the haze of the great many other things you said before this critical message of yours clearly emerges—is that your new house, Reducing Fear, will be built upon the same dark foundation upon which the ruins of Exodus now sit. …

I assume you’re aware of this, but just in case: acute remorse usually engenders a sense of profound humility. A lot of people find heart-wrenching regret incompatible with pride and ambition. I must admit that I am one such person. When I feel the full weight of something egregiously immoral that I have done, the last thing I want to do is go wading amongst the very people whom I’ve damaged, and start telling them about all my new plans for championing their best interests. But maybe that’s just me.