The forces of anti-gay religious bigotry and knuckle-dragging stupidity in the United States have suffered yet another blow this week, thanks to the news that Exodus International is closing its doors after 37 years of homophobic bullying through biblically-inspired behaviour modification techniques.
Exodus, you’ll recall, is the evangelical Christian organization that began the so-called “ex-gay” movement, which claimed that homosexuality could be “cured” (based on the assumption, of course, that it ought to be). EI’s president, Alan Chambers, says he still believes that homosexuality is a sin. Allegedly, he also regrets his own, ongoing same-sex attractions, which he and his wife have agreed to accept as “part of my life that will likely always be there.” However, while he continues to embrace traditional marriage and a fundamentalist view of sexual orientation, he says he has given up on the idea of converting queer folk who are happy just the way we are. “I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them,” he pledged, in his public apology yesterday. “I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek.”
So, what brought about this change of heart for Chambers? Apparently, all it took was several years of testimony by gays and lesbians who had suffered depression, suicidal thoughts, verbal and physical abuse, and social shunning, thanks to EI’s ministry, for the stench of hypocrisy to finally reach his nostrils. Chambers appears to have figured out that aversion therapy and other reparative theories of sexual orientation just don’t work. (On the contrary, he acknowledged that many who sought help from Exodus instead experienced “more trauma,” including “shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope.”)
Of course, someone with a fundamentalist Christian perspective might, conceivably, have difficulty recognizing bad science and bogus cures when he sees them. But it’s not like he hasn’t had a few clues. Here’s Chambers in 2011, being ripped a new you-know-what by a gay activist who met his lover through an Exodus ministry. And here he is a year earlier, being called out for “patronizing and insulting condescension.”
But hey, any kind of contrition should be welcome news in the God-fearing USA, right?
“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,” he said.
Amen to that.