Monday, June 24, 2013

What Comes Next

The impending closure of Exodus changes many things - but it another sense it changes nothing.  It does symbolize the sea change in American opinion on the issue of gay rights.  A mere decade ago, the religious right was still parading its handful of "successful" ex-gays before an anti-gay majority to prove that LGBT individuals didn't need rights because they were just repressed heterosexuals.  Today, even many evangelicals who still oppose gay rights recognize that the sort of change Exodus once promoted (at least implicitly) isn't, in fact, possible for the vast majority.

At the same time, the ex-gay movement lives on through the Restored Hope Network, PFOX, NARTH and other smaller organizations.  And the leaders of Exodus themselves are merely changing how they do business; they still hold strongly to a Side B viewpoint theologically, even if they have largely pulled back from the political side of the culture war.

Wendy Gritter, who moved her ministry away from the ex-gay realm several years back, offers some valuable insights on the process of building the sorts of bridges that Alan Chambers seems interested in.  One of the largest questions Chambers will have to confront is whether one can truly build those bridges while still holding to a Side B stance.

The idea that gay people are "broken" may seem pretty basic from a conservative perspective (everyone is "broken" in one way or another, and all have sinned), but I have yet to hear an articulation of that belief that doesn't sound condescending and belittling to any gay person who doesn't hold Side B beliefs.  So while I don't question the sincerity of Chambers' apology (both because I understand where he's coming from, and because of how he has reached out to Jeremy Hooper and others), I do think it's valid to question whether his apology is adequate to build any bridges or initiate any sort of healing process.

And in the meantime, the religious right shows no sign of repentance.  The threats they've been issuing over the advance of marriage equality may well be bluster, as Fred Clark theorizes, but in any case we can still count on them to do their best to burn down any bridges that do start to go up between the two sides in this conflict.

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