The real question with genuine societal and political implications is, and has always been, “can homosexuals change?” Fortunately, Exodus President Alan Chambers answered that question with vivid precision in several mainstream media outlets when he acknowledged that he does “not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included.”
His conclusion was in line with that of John Smid, who used to lead Exodus ministry Love in Action: “I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual,” admitted Smid.
Additionally, the group rejected reparative therapy, disowning the barbaric practice and allegedly purging the organization of books that promote it.
Of course, positive changes within Exodus are welcome. But the reality is that it remains a puny organization full of small-minded people whose actual programs directly impact the lives of a relatively small number of Americans. It was never truly an expansive service organization; its real function was as a Trojan horse that allowed religious extremists to declare, “See, those homosexuals don’t need equal rights. They need prayer and therapy to become straight.”
Yes, many survivors were ensnared in Exodus’ web of lies and deceit. But the overarching “big idea” that Exodus represented – that change was possible — has always overshadowed their actual programs, which consist of poorly attended, ideologically inconsistent, and badly disorganized ministries. (When I researched Exodus for my book, Anything But Straight, the organization’s local support groups usually had less than ten people in attendance. Yet, to hear the propaganda, there were tens or hundreds of thousands of invisible “ex-gays”)
What Exodus does or doesn’t do going forward is largely irrelevant. What matters is that the very idea of change through prayer and therapy is irreversibly tarnished and the dream of magical transformation through “ex-gay” programs is history.
Please, don’t get caught up in the entertaining, yet immaterial soap opera of Exodus’ next move or the wildly vacillating and muddy mutterings of Alan Chambers. It is certainly fun to speculate and try to read the tealeaves on Exodus’ future – and we definitely have offered our share of analysis. But what happens at Exodus, including policy changes, is nothing more than inside baseball, idle chatter, or an amusing parlor game.
What genuinely matters is the teenager in a small town who is trying to come out in hostile circumstances. Or the panicked parent in crisis over learning they have a gay child.
In 1998, the child or parent in such situations would have been met with flashy ad campaigns and a barrage of lies that promised “freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ.” And there would have been hopeful brochures bursting with optimism and deliriously happy looking “ex-gays” promising “change.”
Today, that same child or parent is limply told that change is likely not going to occur. This is hardly a hopeful or inspiring message — and this is good because it will likely expedite the coming out process.
So in this broader discussion, I urge our readers and those who follow this issue not to lose sight of the forest (whether people can pray away the gay) by focusing on the silly trees (Exodus’ policies). Exodus is a mere sideshow, a distraction, and a declining circus act.
The major culture war question that has dogged the LGBT community for so long — whether gays could change — has finally been settled. And whatever Exodus, or some hardcore “ex-gay” splinter group, does from this point forward can never erase Alan Chambers’ and John Smid’s confessions that so-called “ex-gay” programs don’t work.
The die has been cast and the damage has been done to the Religious Right. Yes, they can continue to beat this dead horse and I’m sure they will. But make no mistake, their favorite political horse really is dead and certainly won’t be winning any races.