The Christian right’s organized anti-gay hatred is a three-legged stool: anti-gay hatred indoctrination from a young age, the Bible, and the false belief that homosexuality is a choice. The last leg — the false claim that homosexuality is a choice — has been reinforced by the totally bogus so-called “ex-gay” industry. For almost four decades, groups like Exodus International and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) have spread these lies while damaging psyches of vulnerable homosexuals who, having spent years and decades being told they are evil, bad, deviant, not normal, sinful, and an abomination, would do and believe anything to change. Fortunately, now, that third leg is breaking.
Erik Eckholm, author of, “Rift Forms in Movement as Belief in Gay ‘Cure’ Is Renounced,” in today’s New York Times details “the ex-gay movement [which] has been convulsed as the leader of Exodus, in a series of public statements and a speech to the group’s annual meeting last week, renounced some of the movement’s core beliefs.”
Alan Chambers, 40, the president, declared that there was no cure for homosexuality and that “reparative therapy” offered false hopes to gays and could even be harmful. His statements have led to charges of heresy and a growing schism within the network.
“For the last 37 years, Exodus has been a bright light, arguably the brightest one for those with same-sex attraction seeking an authentically Christian hope,” said Andrew Comiskey, founder and director of Desert Stream Ministries, based in Kansas City, Mo., one of 11 ministries that defected. His group left Exodus in May, Mr. Comiskey said in an e-mail, “due to leader Alan Chambers’s appeasement of practicing homosexuals who claim to be Christian” as well as his questioning of the reality of “sexual orientation change.”
In a phone interview Thursday from Orlando, Fla., where Exodus has its headquarters, Mr. Chambers amplified on the views that have stirred so much controversy. He said that virtually every “ex-gay” he has ever met still harbors homosexual cravings, himself included. Mr. Chambers, who left the gay life to marry and have two children, said that gay Christians like himself faced a lifelong spiritual struggle to avoid sin and should not be afraid to admit it.
He said Exodus could no longer condone reparative therapy, which blames homosexuality on emotional scars in childhood and claims to reshape the psyche. And in a theological departure that has caused the sharpest reaction from conservative pastors, Mr. Chambers said he believed that those who persist in homosexual behavior could still be saved by Christ and go to heaven.
Only a few years ago, Mr. Chambers was featured in advertisements along with his wife, Leslie, saying, “Change is possible.” But now, he said in the interview, “Exodus needs to move beyond that slogan.”
Of course the religious right still believes they hold the threat of hell and the keys to heaven and have the right and ability to use that to demonize us. The Times continues:
Robert Gagnon, an associate professor at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of books on homosexuality and the Bible, last week issued a public call for Mr. Chambers to resign. “My greatest concern has to do with Alan’s repeated assurances to homosexually active ‘gay Christians’ that they will be with him in heaven,” he said in an e-mail.
Gay rights advocates said they were encouraged by Mr. Chambers’s recent turn but remained wary of Exodus, which they feel has caused enormous harm.
“Exodus International played the key role in planting the message that people can go from gay to straight through religion and therapy,” said Wayne Besen, director of Truth Wins Out, a group that refutes what it considers misinformation about gays and lesbians. “And the notion that one can change is the centerpiece of the religious right’s argument for denying us rights.”
Many of the local ministries in Exodus continue to attack gays and lesbians, said David Roberts, editor of the Web site Ex-Gay Watch, and they often have close ties with reparative therapists. He speculated that Mr. Chambers was trying to steer the group in a moderate direction because “they were becoming pariahs” in a society that is more accepting of gay people.
And while the Times and almost every other main stream media news outlet have published reports of Dr. Robert Spitzer’s denunciation of his own study that claimed gay people can change, the radical religious right continues to point to Spitzer’s work, along with that of long-time debunked quack Dr. Paul Cameron — who still stands by his lies.
Image: Alan Chambers by Phelan M. Ebenhack for The New York Times
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