Earlier today news broke that Exodus International, the “gay cure” ministry that provided support for the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda, was “shutting down” and offering an apology of some sort from Alan Chambers, President of the organization. And the apology struck me the wrong way, and it’s been bothering me all day, so I have to write about it.
Specifically, this part:
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.
Among all the quote-apologies-unquote that the letter included, this was the part that stood out. Because this is the same old “love the sinner, hate the sin” horseshit. Here is someone who is supposed to be apologizing for the shame that his organization has caused; for the self-hatred, the trauma and embarrassment and fear it has caused in people who were genuinely confused and looking for help, and were instead told that they were sinners and broken and undeserving of love.
And yet the one thing he won’t apologize for is for continuing to believe the exact same beliefs that are the root of ALL that shame, the reason for the self-hatred and the fear. He just doesn’t get it: the reason suicide rates among gay teens are so high is precisely BECAUSE of those beliefs that he still embraces, which leads them to be cast out from their families and rejected from their peer groups. His “deeply held biblical beliefs”, the element that is the absolute core issue at stake, the beliefs that lead him to the conclusion that LGBTQ people are broken and need to be fixed, that they are sinners who need to change: those biblical beliefs that led him to join Exodus International in the first place… those are things he won’t apologize for. He still believes them, and feels no need to change them. And is there any reason to believe that his “new ministry” will be founded on beliefs that are any different than the ones he refuses to apologize for?
In spite of his apology, which he presumably believes is heartfelt, he has completely missed the point. And now that Exodus International is shutting down, they will be launching a new ministry that is “more welcoming” to LGBTQ folks.
You have to consider the context: Exodus International and its members have probably ALWAYS considered themselves “welcoming” to LGBTQ folks. That is, welcoming them into the therapy that is supposed to “cure” them so they can no longer be sinners and broken and deserving of punishment and definitely not deserving of equal rights. Do you really think that this new transformed organization is going to start working to defeat DOMA and fighting for same-sex marriage? Or is this just a re-branding exercise after the board of Exodus came to realize how much they had poisoned the well? If the board has been discussing this for a whole year before coming to the conclusion that they needed to shut down and launch a new ministry, wouldn’t they already have had a little time to set up their new website and help people understand what the new direction will be, instead of a “coming soon!” web page that contains zero information? Look for Chambers to make the TV show rounds in the next few weeks, making a big deal and raising publicity and awareness, and yet providing very little insight into what he intends to do to fix the trauma that his organization caused, or how his new organization will be the same in all but name.
Imagine if your favorite bully came to you during one afternoon at recess and offered an apology. “I’m sorry for all the times I stuck your head in the toilet. I realize that my beliefs that you were a four-eyed nerd who deserved to be punished caused you some pain. By the way, I still believe you are a four-eyed nerd who deserves to be punished, and that you don’t deserve the lunch money that I take from you, but I promise I’m going to change my name now, and I’m going to find a way to take your money that is less hurtful to you. And from now on I will be more welcoming and friendly to four-eyed nerds who have to give me their lunch money.”
Now imagine that this bully had caused you so much pain that you had been led to consider suicide. Imagine that this bully HAD ALREADY LED OTHER PEOPLE TO COMMIT SUICIDE. Imagine if this bully had traveled to another schools in the past to help show other bullies how best to lead other people to suicide. Imagine that in his apology to you, the bully crowed about the “thousands of people” his bullying had “positively affected.”
In an interview with the LA Times, Chambers said last week “We need to change the way we do things.”
Not WHAT we do. HOW we do it.
“I’m sorry for what I did, but I’m not sorry for the beliefs that led me to do them.”
If you truly understood the reasons you should be sorry, Mr. Chambers, you would understand why your “apology” should taste like the ashes of the dead in your mouth.
- Who would suggest that Exodus International’s apology isn’t sincere?
- What Does the Shutting Down of Exodus International Mean for the Christian Church? (patheos.com)
- Ex-Gay Ministry Exodus International Will Shut Down (patheos.com)