Thursday, June 27, 2013

Blogosphere Roundup

It's been a very long time since I posted three times in the course of a week.  Don't count on that pace continuing, but it does feel good to be back in the saddle (with shoulders that are feeling better than they have for the last two and a half years - whatever my physical therapist earns, it's probably less than he's worth).

There's more than enough commentary being posted already over the Supreme Court's big gay rights decisions yesterday, and I don't feel like I have much to add to that.  But here are a few links related to various things that are worth not missing:

1. Christine is back in the blogosphere, at least for the moment, and she has a thoughtful take on the closure of Exodus International that I haven't read elsewhere.

2. This wonderful post from a straight ally is not to be missed.  If we had more people like her in our churches, we might not have the problems highlighted in #3:

3. Since it apparently still needs saying, here is a quick recap of the religious right's legacy to American Christianity.

4. Finally, a quote shared by a friend of mine on Facebook.  It's a timely reminder that our current situation is not so different from the conflicts faced by previous generations.
"The tree of abolitionism is evil and only evil - root and branch, flower and leaf, and fruit; that it springs from, and is nourished by an utter rejection of the Scriptures. When the Abolitionist tells me that slaveholding is sin, in the simplicity of my faith in the Holy Scriptures, I point him to this sacred record, and tell him, in all candor, as my text does, that his teaching blasphemes the name of God and His doctrine.”
-Rev. Henry van Dyke, Princeton-trained theologian and minister, 1860

The more things change, the more they remain the same...

(A shorter version of this statement was quoted by Rachel Held Evans a few months back.)

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.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Turning Points

Exodus International Closes Its Doors

When the news first broke last night I was stunned, but in reality the writing had been on the wall ever since Alan Chambers admitted that orientation change almost never happens at the 2012 GCN conference.  Of course, Exodus isn't really going away completely, but it is morphing into something that appears at first glimpse to be considerably more honest.

It's not the end of the ex-gay movement by any means, but it is a crossroads - a parting of the ways between the ideologues (who have already formed their own splinter group, the ironically named Restored Hope Network) and those who genuinely value people ahead of dogma.  Exodus is going away because Alan Chambers and some of his colleagues cared enough to listen to the people they were trying to serve - and for that they have my appreciation, even if we still disagree on some important things.

So today we have something to celebrate, though I still find it to be a bittersweet occasion.  I'm happy for the progress that this represents, but sad that it took so long to get even this far, and more than a little frustrated that so many of us had to spend so many years trapped in a wilderness of false expectations and self-hatred before the evangelical church could begin to awaken to its error.  For me, those lost years lie largely in the past; for others, the damage runs deeper.  For a few, the wounds ran so deep that it cost them their lives - human sacrifices on the altar of doctrinal purity.

And the struggle isn't over.  While it's unlikely that RHN will ever be as large or as influential as Exodus once was, it still wields enough power to cause harm to thousands before history finally reduces it to a footnote.  Numerous conservative Christian groups continue to fight hard against equality and would still take away the right of LGBT people to even exist, if they could.  And in many parts of the globe, religiously motivated governments still do deny our right to exist.

Today we celebrate, but there's still much work to be done.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Brighter Than Gold, by The Cat Empire

No deep thoughts here - just a song I don't at all mind having stuck in my head...

Thursday, June 06, 2013


[G]roups define themselves and even hold themselves together largely negatively—by who they are not, what they are against, and what they do not do. We need a problem or an enemy to gather our energies. We usually define ourselves through various “purity codes” to separate ourselves from the “impure” and the presumably unworthy. Simple worship (“what we are for,” or in support of, and what we love) is much harder to sustain.
-Richard Rohr

(hat tip: Wendy Gritter)