"We’ve been asking people with same-sex attractions to overcome something in a way that we don’t ask of anyone else."
July 13, 2012 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Alan Chambers, president of the "ex-gay" organization Exodus International, has renounced the idea of reparative therapy.

Exodus was founded in 1976 as a interdenominational Christian nonprofit with the goal of treating "unwanted same-sex attraction." Its primary tool was reparative therapy (sometimes called conversion theapy), which encompasses a variety of counseling techniques to encourage the individual to embrace a heterosexual lifestyle. Reparative therapy has been condemned by the American Psychological Association, which noted that "there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation... is safe or effective."

Chambers, who has spoken of wrestling with his attraction to men prior to his discovery of Exodus and marriage to a woman, once spearheaded an Exodus publicity campaign called "Change is Possible." But at a speech delivered at the group's annual meeting last month, he said there was no cure for homosexuality and reparative therapy could be harmful to gay men and women, particularly gay youth. This followed a January speech to the Gay Christian Network Conference where Chambers said, "99.9 percent of [Exodus participants] have not experienced a change in their orientation." Around the same time, he pulled all reparative therapy books from the Exodus bookstore.

A statement on the Exodus website now reads, "Exodus International believes that every human life, regardless of sexual orientation, is of inestimable and equal worth to God and that defending this principle is foundational in offering a Christian response to any issue. As such, Exodus International has not supported and will not support any legislation that deprives others of life and dignity based on their sexual orientation or the expression of such within the confines of a consensual adult relationship. We stand with all who are defending this basic, biblical tenet and remain committed to sharing the compassion, hope and life-giving grace and truth of Jesus Christ."

Chambers' comments have set off a firestorm of controversy within the ex-gay movement and have provoked a variety of reactions from outside it. Chambers, for his part, maintains that homosexual acts are a sin, but says that, "I think it's time for us in the church to move on from that fight."

Exodus previously
posted by Rangeboy (42 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yay! (but also boooo hissss that so much damage was done in the meantime!)
posted by bilabial at 11:41 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. I hope this is a sign that overt homophobia is being ceded exclusively to the fringe.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:42 AM on July 13, 2012


I wonder if the next attempt will be voluntary chastity or something.
posted by The Whelk at 11:43 AM on July 13, 2012


Took them long enough, and I wish they'd never started in the first place.

This part in particular is very encouraging, at least: As such, Exodus International has not supported and will not support any legislation that deprives others of life and dignity based on their sexual orientation or the expression of such within the confines of a consensual adult relationship.
posted by rtha at 11:44 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think it's a pretty big step to say that "homophobia is being ceded." Basically this reflects not a shift towards accepting gay relationships within a church context, but a shift towards other essentially homophobic, conservative "family therapy" techniques:
Chambers said the ministry's emphasis should be simply helping Christians who want to reconcile their own particular religious beliefs with sexual feelings they consider an affront to scripture. For some that might mean celibacy; for others, like Chambers, it meant finding an understanding opposite-sex partner.
posted by muddgirl at 11:45 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


(I should note that I think that people who are gay can fall in love with and have fulfilling sex lives with people of the opposite gender, and people who are straight can do so with people of the same sex - I've seen it happen both ways. But if someone is experiencing cognitive dissonance between a harmless desire and a religious doctrine, in my experience 'just don't do it' has never worked very well. See: Masturbation.)
posted by muddgirl at 11:49 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: “I wonder if the next attempt will be voluntary chastity or something.”

Well, it'd better not be involuntary chastity, because heaven knows I've tried that.
posted by koeselitz at 11:55 AM on July 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


I wonder if the next attempt will be voluntary chastity or something.
posted by The Whelk at 11:43 AM on July 13 [+] [!]


It already is.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:57 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: "I wonder if the next attempt will be voluntary chastity or something."

That's exactly what they're promoting now, as per muddgirl's pull-quote. It's good that they're not regarding homosexuality as a disease that can be cured, but they're still a long way from recognizing it as socially acceptable behavior to act upon.
posted by mkultra at 11:59 AM on July 13, 2012


Some activists make the interesting, if somewhat vexing, point that if you want to make the biggest difference in how animals-raised-for-food are treated, get McDonald's to make changes in their policies, even very small ones. Similarly, improving the mileage of guzzling SUVs has a greater effect than adding 5 m.p.g. to your Honda CR-X's efficiency.

So he's still a putz who wants to teach that same-sex attraction is repellent to the creator of the universe, but his deciding to spread his views less widely can improve our society greatly. I guess that's a good thing.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:00 PM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]



In related news - Bradlee Dean, the homophobic preacher who once gave a prayer at the MN legislature has had his case against Rachel Maddow dismissed and been ordered to pay Maddow's legal fees.
“Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America. This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination … If America won’t enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that.”
He's addressed the matter with his trademark christian grace.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:01 PM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Whelk - that's the mormon position presently. they seem to mostly be moving away from praying away the gay or marrying opposite gender to "fix" it and more and more suggesting that gay church members basically have a lifetime of celibacy and loneliness in a religion that is founded around the idea of eternal families.

not that it's just a mormon problem - i was talking to my protestant closeted relative recently and he's very conflicted because he believes the bible preaches against homosexuality. we had a long discussion about how anti-gay churches don't push any of the other ideas from that chapter of leviticus, so why is laying with a man verse such a big deal? and how gay wasn't really the problem in sodom and gomorrah. etc. i don't know if i got through to him, but i hope so.

as to exodus international, any step away from changing the sexuality of gay people is a good step. i hope they continue to take steps until they realize that loving who you love isn't sinful.
posted by nadawi at 12:01 PM on July 13, 2012


yeah there was that whole "Mixed-Orientation Marriage" post that turned out to be from an ex-gay therapist and was all awful and sad.
posted by The Whelk at 12:02 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You may not agree with his views re: religion and homosexuality, but there does seem to be some positive movement in his comments, at least by illuminating the disparity of judgment and weight many devout followers put on homosexuality compared to others. From the NYT article:

“I believe that any sexual expression outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage is sinful according to the Bible,” Mr. Chambers emphasized. “But we’ve been asking people with same-sex attractions to overcome something in a way that we don’t ask of anyone else,” he said, noting that Christians with other sins, whether heterosexual lust, pornography, pride or gluttony, do not receive the same blanket condemnations.

It may not be a lot of progress, but it is some progress.
posted by tittergrrl at 12:04 PM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a couple of weeks old, but still great news.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:06 PM on July 13, 2012


i know i've linked to it a few times in similar posts, but in the 5 hour (totally interesting and engrossing) interview with benji schwimmer he talks about ex-gay therapy and how it fails and misunderstands the entire issue of sexual attraction.
posted by nadawi at 12:07 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]




Wait, that's Bradlee Dean? Looks like he could stand to read Leviticus a little more closely himself.
posted by KathrynT at 12:12 PM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Religious institutions are slowly waking up to the fact that same-sex weddings are going to be a lucrative cash cow and if you can't beat 'em, get them to join you.
posted by Renoroc at 12:12 PM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


This sounds like a good step when you read the headline, but... it kinda isn't:

"For someone to put out a shingle and say, `I can cure homosexuality' - that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth."

They're rebranding with the removal of "cure," but they're still calling it a "temptation" and a "struggle"-- this is still far-ass far from acknowledging that homosexuality is natural, healthy, and moral, and that it will never go away.

What I need to hear is the next step, when the "Othering Inc." institution of pseudo-moral hysteria and policing entirely falls into the regretted past and the finer print quotes that appear beneath the headlines follow through properly, #FTFY as~

"For someone to put out a shingle and say, `I can cure homosexuality' 'homosexuality is "wrong"' - that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure declaring as "wrong" any other common temptation or struggle any other trait or attribute that anyone faces is born with on Planet Earth." ~
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:14 PM on July 13, 2012


This reminds me of end-of-the-world preachers who have a date and then move it. This guy casts himself as an authority for, what, 30+ years, and now, it's "Oops, I was wrong... but let me tell you about this new strategy!" Seriously? Fuck this guy. Anyone who takes his word on anything--from homosexuality, the bible, or what breath mint tastes best--is deluded.

This asshole hasn't "learned" or "changed"--he's merely looking for a way to spin new bullshit. Hardly something to celebrate or congratulate.
posted by dobbs at 12:15 PM on July 13, 2012


Conversion: Pushing words into a person's ears until they come out of their mouth.
posted by Mooski at 12:20 PM on July 13, 2012


Sad To be Gay - BBC doc about a Brit trying American ex-gay conversion therapy . Warning: Sadness, emotions, futility.
posted by The Whelk at 12:23 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm still sharing this news as progress. Sure, I'm with the rest who are saying, "Nice, but this is a far cry from acknowledging that homosexuality is natural and there's nothing wrong with it." But at least it's one more case of positively-identified bullshit to share with conservative Christians and other small-minded bigots as an example of how flawed and unfounded their homophobic beliefs are.
posted by xedrik at 12:39 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's a pretty big step to say that "homophobia is being ceded." Basically this reflects not a shift towards accepting gay relationships within a church context, but a shift towards other essentially homophobic, conservative "family therapy" techniques:

Chambers said the ministry's emphasis should be simply helping Christians who want to reconcile their own particular religious beliefs with sexual feelings they consider an affront to scripture. For some that might mean celibacy; for others, like Chambers, it meant finding an understanding opposite-sex partner.

posted by muddgirl at 2:45 PM on July 13



At a glance, it looks like he's actually doing (at least, for some conservative Christians) what some therapists are doing: Living The Good Lie
posted by magstheaxe at 1:13 PM on July 13, 2012


Alas, this hasn't stopped the religious right from insisting that thousands of people 'leave homosexuality' (insert your own euphemism for 'cure themselves of the gay') every year.
posted by anaximander at 1:14 PM on July 13, 2012


They just want to be differently self-hating and homophobic, like the unicorn guy. Same old same old.
posted by Artw at 1:21 PM on July 13, 2012


Took them long enough, and I wish they'd never started in the first place.

That's what everybody said after World War 1.
The key here is not to allow for World War 2.
posted by philip-random at 1:21 PM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think that there's a difference between what Flanigan does (which is, according to him, support many different options when religion conflicts with sexuality, from changing religious beliefs to accepting sexuality without acting on it) and what Chambers is advocating (which is insisting that gay sex is immoral without allowing that religious beliefs are at least as alterable as behavior).

But that article is why I said that Chamber's change in thought isn't an embrace of homosexuality as a natural behavior, but rather a re-alignment closer to both mainstream psychological practice and evangelical doctine (ie, 'love the sinner, hate the sin').

(Although I stand by my prior statements about the concept of sexual identity, which seems to be used as a euphemism for wanting to maintain straight privilege. I wonder if Flanigan has every dealt with anyone who has a straight orientation but a 'gay sexual identity'?)
posted by muddgirl at 1:26 PM on July 13, 2012


I should note that I think that people who are gay can fall in love with and have fulfilling sex lives with people of the opposite gender, and people who are straight can do so with people of the same sex - I've seen it happen both ways.

Surely you mean SOME people who are gay? (At best???)
posted by Wordwoman at 1:28 PM on July 13, 2012


I don't make any claim as to commonality. I don't think all people who are gay can. I don't think no people who are gay can. Does my comment really imply the former?
posted by muddgirl at 1:33 PM on July 13, 2012


If so, then I amend to "a few", which is less than "some" but more than "few."
posted by muddgirl at 1:48 PM on July 13, 2012


Here's the key quote:

For someone to put out a shingle and say, `I can cure homosexuality,' that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth."

So instead of treating homosexuality as a psychological malady, a move which never really fit all that well with broadly orthodox Christian thinking on the subject, he's treating it as any other species of temptation. This would put it in the same category as any other sexual temptation, or to any of the other fleshly impulses Christian ethics tend to view as needing to be controlled.

There's no admission that acting upon homosexual impulses is okay. There's not even a move away from the "objectively disordered" position described by the Vatican. It's a shift in approach and maybe in category, but not really in ethics.

I think this is an important change, because the psychological approach didn't really fit with mainstream theological or psychological doctrine. But those aiming for the widespread acceptance of homosexuality by Christianity need to look elsewhere for positive news.
posted by valkyryn at 1:57 PM on July 13, 2012


There is a big, big, big difference between saying "Homosexuality is theologically unacceptable to people of our faith" and saying "Homosexuality is socially unacceptable to people of our culture," or "Homosexuality is legally unacceptable to people of our country." People are allowed to believe that all sorts of goofy things are wrong or theologically unacceptable or sinful or whatever language you want to use around that -- various branches of religion believe that divorce, or birth control, or tattoos, or cheesburgers, or coffee, or women working outside the home, or any kind of sex other than PIV, or what-have-you are wrong. That's OK. They are guaranteed the right to think that all those things are wrong.

What's ABSOLUTELY not OK is to say "And because our reading of this book says it's wrong, therefore we will work to make it illegal and socially unacceptable to be a gay person in the US." That's the point at which their actions start picking my pocket and breaking my leg. And that's why statements like "As such, Exodus International has not supported and will not support any legislation that deprives others of life and dignity based on their sexual orientation or the expression of such within the confines of a consensual adult relationship" is a big deal. The beliefs are still wrong-headed and backward, but they are allowed to be wrongheaded and backward as long as they keep it out of the secular, public, legal sphere.
posted by KathrynT at 2:07 PM on July 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


So instead of treating homosexuality as a psychological malady, a move which never really fit all that well with broadly orthodox Christian thinking on the subject, he's treating it as any other species of temptation. This would put it in the same category as any other sexual temptation, or to any of the other fleshly impulses Christian ethics tend to view as needing to be controlled.

...and I think even trying to claim that it as 'the same as' any other temptation is a bit disingenuous. Paul says that if you can't avoid the temptation of sex, then for heaven's sake get married! But conservative religions deny that avenue to people who are tempted to have sex with someone of the same gender. It puts same-sex attraction, even for single people, on the same level as adultery, which is (usually) a harmful act towards (at least) the person being cheated on.
posted by muddgirl at 2:11 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit conflicted over this. Unequivocally, their reasons for promoting sexual orientaion change are dumb, being fundamentally based on a flawed moral model and mispurposing of sex. Their methods (guilt and/or affirmation repetition) are questionable in the context, and the outcome and side effects of their existence as a cultural force are bad.

However to say that you can not change your sexual orientation, strikes me as incorrect, and to say that you may not, strikes me as morally wrong as well. I believe that sexuality and sexual identity are neurochemical phenomena, and there is evidence of humans (and to some extent other animals) who have experienced changes in sexuality in various directions as a consequence of brain tumor, brain injury, exposure to hormones, and exposure to hormone-catalytic chemicals.

The implication is that a process of doing this does exist, and it is subject to our understanding and eventually our control.

Now, as to whether we should; normal homosexuality as such does obviously no harm in itself and prejudices against it derive from belief systems that are themselves more harmful. Any "harm" that a homosexual person's sexuality does to themselves is due to being the victim of prejudice, and I would suggest that almost all desire to change it, stems from their experience as a victim. Still, if a gay person sincerely wished to become straight, whatever their motivation, including and in particular victim-trauma and culturally inflicted fear, I do not like the idea of denying them. It seems sociologically analogous to the mixed-race practice of "passing as white"; while the problem here is that human races are not treated equally by most human cultures, and it ought to be an unnecessary and even a bizarre thing to do, on an individual basis it would be hard to argue that passing if you can was a bad strategy in the pre 1990's USA and maybe even today.

However, homosexuality is not the only deviation from "standard model" sexuality and I suggest that some sexual orientations are (potentially) harmful to others and even to oneself; paraphilias involving pain infliction, unsanitary acts, pathological interactions with the ideas of consent and knowledge, etc.

To some extent this line of thinking tends to shade into prejudice against the BDSM community and I presume to say that this is a discussion that culturally, should happen, and the lines of reasonable objection on this side (what you shouldn't do) and unreasonable personal "squick" on that side (what I very much don't want to do) should be drawn. Pain-infliction and pain-desire are, prima facie, paraphilias. People ought to and in practice generally do have the right to express these paraphilias consensually. However, that guy or girl who ignores safewords, who prefers not to even have them, inflicts or desires lasting harm, etc, is not merely "an asshole". That is his/her actual sexuality. I suggest that wanting to change it, even to some extent against his/her will, is a morally reasonable position to take. And the same applies to pedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia, amputation-fetishism, cannibal-fetishism, arguably some expressions of scat/urine fetishism, and so on and so forth.

To deny a pathological impulse is one thing; to wish to be rid of that impulse entirely is another. As with anything that we might want to change about ourselves, or recommend or legally enforce that others should change about themselves, "harm (potentially) done" should be the standard. "Ex-gay therapy" is stupid. Alteration of sexuality and sexual drive, as a concept, is not.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:11 PM on July 13, 2012


Good News
posted by MegoSteve at 2:27 PM on July 13, 2012


There is actually a huge difference between "homosexuality acts are sinful" and "homosexuality is sinful". The belief that homosexuality per se is sinful implies that the subject is a bad person who is perversely choosing to be gay. I had a FPP about some people in the Orthodox Jewish community who experienced it both ways. They were much happier being treated like someone who eats cheeseburgers than being treated as if they were some outrageous performance artist of wickedness.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:18 PM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Paul says that if you can't avoid the temptation of sex, then for heaven's sake get married!

Yeah, that's not really what that passage is interpreted to mean most of the time. As a matter of fact, getting married as a way of avoiding sexual temptation is generally frowned upon.

Or it's supposed to be anyway. Lots of Evangelical types do say that. So if what you're saying is that the standard Evangelical concept of sexual ethics is weird and not even all that Scriptural, you'll get no argument from me.
posted by valkyryn at 3:30 PM on July 13, 2012


The passage starts out "It is good for a man not to marry. (some translate this to say "it is good for a man to abstain from sexual relations) 2 But since there is so much immorality..." and concludes "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. " (The King James version does leave off "with passion" which makes a delightful pun.)

Even assuming a jocular tone*, I don't see how that passage is mistakeable. Celibacy is best. The end is coming soon**, so devote your time to the Lord. If lustful thoughts are distracting you, get married. Otherwise marriage is probably a bigger distraction.

* Off-topic: Is it harder to judge tone on the internet (with the immediacy and lack of care in commenting), or across 2000 years and who knows how many painstaking copies (although hopefully Paul re-read his letters a few times before hitting 'post')?

**Unless you're a dominionist, then the end is coming sometime during just your lifetime and no one else's.

posted by muddgirl at 4:26 PM on July 13, 2012


Sorry, this is 1st Corinthians 7, in case anyone wants to follow along.
posted by muddgirl at 4:27 PM on July 13, 2012


At a glance, it looks like he's actually doing (at least, for some conservative Christians) what some therapists are doing: Living The Good Lie

"Living The Good Lie" was what men were doing in the pre-Stonewall 1960s. Lots of them. In fact, enough of them that they were fruitful targets for a nationwide blackmail ring.

Always remember folks, if you're being asked to live a lie, then you're living with shame. And shame is the opposite of pride.

The older I get, the happier I am that when I went in to my pastor during my coming out process and asked him, "is there any place in this church if I'm gay?", that he said "no".

I never went back, and while it was rough for a few years right after that, at this point I can honestly look around at the gays I know who are still in a church, and probably 80% of them are miserable. The other 20% are Episcopalian.
posted by hippybear at 6:56 PM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


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