As a mobile app, the quality of Exodus International’s iPhone app is below average.
It downloads as easily as any other free apps via iTunes — but from there, the user experience feels less like Steve Jobs, more like an AOL dialup account.
Speed and readability
Nearly all of the Exodus app’s menu options load remote full-size pages from the slow and bloated Exodus International web site. None of the content is streamed, preloaded, or customized for iPhone display. As a result, the print is tiny unless one repeatedly zooms in. The overall effect is that of looking into the Exodus web site from one’s phone through a periscope.
The only direct-loaded, iPhone-optimized content is a single video promotion — and that video happens to be mislabeled.
Like too many apps made on the cheap, the Exodus app does little more than take a web site and put it on a phone, in a manner that purposely discourages people from leaving the web site to find related or opposing viewpoints.
Despite links to Exodus’ Facebook page and recent Twitter entries, the app does not help users share articles.
The app features five main menu options that have been borrowed from the same framework that is used by a thousand other free iPhone apps:
- Home (links to Exodus International, Exodus Youth, and the Exodus donation page)
- Latest News (current blog posts)
- Events (current antigay religious events)
- Video (one untitled video with a cryptic .mp4 filename)
All the controversial guts of the app are hidden under the More tab, which Apple frequently overlooks in its rush to approve apps on the basis of minimum functionality.
This tab is where Exodus makes the most use of clever language to disguise the organization’s well-documented antigay bigotry.
Under the More tab, there are several topical sections. They are easy to link to here, because (again) the app merely displays Exodus web pages.
Read on for detail about the specific prejudices that are fostered by this app.
And if the app is permanently removed from the App Store, here is what you missed:
In the “Responding to Bullying” section under More, Exodus downplays its official opposition to anti-bullying programs that mention LGBT people, while explicitly encouraging relentless antigay proselytization and religious stigmatization. Harassment, it seems, isn’t legitimate unless it’s physical.
In the “Real Stories” section, Exodus asserts through a series of anecdotes that homosexuality is caused and recruited via molestation, pornography, faithlessness, and bad parenting.
- In a web-hosted video, the daughter of longtime Exodus leader/employee Tom Cole boasts about homosexuality in a manner that even Exodus spokesman Randy Thomas half-apologizes for. Thomas says: “There are parts of the video that in my previous life I would have bristled at and been angered by. And even today I would want to clarify some of the things she says. But hello, this is a teenager taking the bold initiative of sharing something close to her heart with her own resources and skills.” The fact remains: Teen-age ignorance about sexuality and religion is hardly appropriate for an Apple-hosted iPhone app — or for an organization such as Exodus which seeks to operate a reputable youth ministry.
- Another article taunts gospel singer Ray Boltz over supposedly unanswered questions about his gay life that Boltz has actually answered with sincerity and integrity: answers that Exodus has declined to disclose to its audience.
In the “Real Answers” section, Exodus:
- refers parents to off-app resources that foster parental misunderstanding and political action against their gay children who “come out” during the holidays
- accuses watchdog organizations of refusing to acknowledge Exodus “testimony” when in fact the testimony has been thoroughly analyzed by watchdogs, mental-health professionals and reputable clergy
- accuses anti-AIDS organizations of “muzzling” antigay Christians
- cautions people not to trust “secular” professional mental-health counselors, and to trust only those who accept Exodus’ claim that Jesus as the sole cure for homosexuality
In the Student Blog section,
“Homosexuals detach from their fathers to prevent further hurt and/or not to identify with them. For some this may have been an unconscious, subtle detachment. But for others, it was an overt vow not to be anything like their father” (p.46)
“Behind these homosexual temptations…behind these homosexual ‘orientations’…is a root problem of envy…Men who are unaffirmed in their masculinity often don’t see their own masculine traits. They see only their undesirable traits, or they’re so consumed with what they want that they don’t recognize what they have” (p.81 & 82).
In the FAQs section under More,
- Exodus’ “Senior Director of Church Equipping & Student Ministries,” Jeff Buchanan, misdefines homosexuality and gender identity, and then swiftly changes the subject of his articles and advertises Exodus’ antigay political activities.
- Exodus author Joe Dallas ridicules all religious affiliations that tolerate LGBT people under the misleading label “gay theology“
- Buchanan perpetrates research fraud by mischaracterizing the work of Dr. Gary Remafedi
In the Find Help section, users are denied referrals to reputable professional mental-health counselors. Instead, users are steered toward Exodus’ networks of uncertified amateur Christian activists and churches, none of whom are monitored for compliance with standards of ethics and patient safety. Users also are referred to live-in boot camps, some of which allow parents to commit their teen-age children to involuntary detention. These referral networks practice a mix of ex-gay therapies (reparative, reorientation, and aversion therapy) and prayer.
The app’s More section concludes with a Featured Resource: “The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality” by Joe Dallas and Nancy Heche, for sale from Exodus. The book is a collection of antigay political rationales and bitter recollections by two prominent speakers on the “ex-gay” conference circuit. The book is sold via exodusbooks.org, so that app users won’t be exposed to the reviews of the book on Amazon.com. ExodusBooks also charges $6 more than Amazon. The authors are adamant in their support for reparative therapy and antigay prayer.
The Exodus International serves its purpose:
- It soft-sells antigay bigotry and antigay political activism
- It offers no accountable offers of a cure — only vague promises of happy chastity
- It confines users to a small, politically filtered sphere of ideas where Christian Right prejudices against homosexuality, gender variance, tolerance, and religious diversity are protected from differing opinions
- It misrepresents professional research (and expert authors) that Exodus dislikes
- It stereotypes people on the basis of orientation and gender identity; gay and lesbian parents; victims of violent hate crimes; and religious groups that disagree with Exodus ideology.
- It carries the Apple seal of approval.
The app functionally falls short of user expectations through its cheap web-hosted design and its failure to honor Apple terms of service which prohibit apps that denigrate entire classes of people.