Monday, June 24, 2013

Conversion Therapy Group Exodus International "Sorry"

Exodus International, "the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality, issued an apology to the gay community for years of undue suffering and judgment at the hands of the organization and the Church as a whole."

This news broke last week, but I wanted the apology to marinate a bit in my head before writing about it.  See, as I'm sure most of you know, not all apologies are created equal.

I'm a lesbian who, when I was first coming out many years ago, considered suicide, going so far as to contemplate actual ways I could have done it. When anti-gay folks have harassed me on the Internet, they have sometimes played on the notion that the world would be better of without gay people, by giving me explicit directions on how I could and should kill myself.

I had suicidal thoughts even though I was almost always okay with being gay and knew for much of my life that I was. It was greatly problematic to me that other people, pervasively powerful other people at that- like the most dominant religion in the US, who seemed to be not okay with me, or anyone else, being gay.

So, that's my filter, my personal background, when I read Alan Chambers', Exodus President, apology.  And, that's my filter, quite frankly, when I read any person's apology or purported change of heart for their prior anti-gay, anti-equality advocacy.

These apologies, retractions, and changes of opinion, I think, are going to perhaps become more frequent as Opposing Everything Gay becomes more of a political liability. The extent to which people own their harmful advocacy, even if they did not intend to harm people, is something that I, at least, will notice. The extent to which the apology looks like a sincere, thoughtful change of heart, as opposed to a politically calculated "harumph!" sort-of resignation to the reality that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are increasingly accepted in our society, is also something I notice. The extent to which formerly anti-gay folks go on to engage in dialogue and understanding with members of the communities they previously hurt, is also something I notice. And, the extent to which these publicized announcements, which are purportedly about apologizing to a harmed community, also serve as ways to self-promote New Projects and New Fundraising Appeals is also something I will note.

Accordingly, Chambers writes, in part:
"Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.....

....Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.....
 ....I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them.  I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself."
Exodus International is closing down and is beginning a separate ministry with the purported goal to "reduce fear."

I can graciously accept the apology of Exodus. However, I do so with extreme caution, perhaps as a defense mechanism from years of this organization hurting people. For, the harm Exodus inflicted may have been unintentional, but Chambers does admit that harm was happening and that it was harm that Exodus was responsible for. What leadership and moral authority in this arena do these people think they still have? Maybe slow down before starting and publicizing another big project, yeah?

For, from my reading of Chambers' apology, I believe that Chambers and Exodus also still hold, and may still spread, problematic views that can still contribute to the marginalization of LGBT people and same-sex relationships.

I'm certainly not looking for a softer bigotry of "love the sinner, hate the sin." I don't see a great need in the world for a ministry that teaches people how to continue opposing homosexuality and same-sex marriage while also knowing the right words to parse so as to "not appear" bigoted or hateful.

I don't want gay people's forgiveness of Chambers and Exodus to embolden them to think of new ways to continue to, even if unintentionally, hurt us. Maybe we've heard enough of the Exodus folks for now, and it's time for them to really listen and understand better where they went wrong.

So, time will tell in what direction this new ministry goes.


Not a Christian, But
To Forgive Without Apology
What Would You Do If You Witnessed Bigotry?
SPLC Sues Conversion Therapy Provider
An Open Letter to Exodus International's Super-Remorseful Alan Chambers

No comments: