Evolution, Adaptations, Social Pressure, and Pruning

As we have witnessed changes at Exodus International in their approach to ministry, their view of reparative therapy, and other developments, I want to reflect a little not on Exodus as such but on how Christians and various institutions and ministries evolve in response to a rapidly changing sociocultural climate. It is important that an organization is clear about what it believes and why, so that its primary motivation is to provide clarity about its brand.

One unintended consequence of organizations revisiting their brand is related to the positive feedback they receive from others. If that becomes the focus, they can get themselves into a dilemma. They do well to keep in mind that not everyone will support changes that fall short of a ministry reflecting a completely different conclusion than the one they hold doctrinally.

To return to the example of Exodus, consider the post over at ThinkProgress titled: “Ex-Gay Group’s Rebranding Makes it No Less Dangerous or Wrong.” There has been so much pressure on Exodus and other ministries to move away from a focus on change of sexual orientation that you would think that if they made that shift it would be seen as a welcomed development. The reality is, for some people and organizations, no shift will be sufficient if it falls short of a fundamental change in formed moral evaluation of all aspects of homosexuality, including same-sex behavior.

At its core, the organization clearly still believes that homosexuality is the cause of a person’s struggles, not the anti-gay society in which they live. Regardless of how these therapists attempt to treat homosexuality, they are still causing harm by trying to treat it at all — in complete violation of all social science research and ethics. As Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen notes in the AP article, “The underlying belief is still that homosexuals are sexually broken, that something underlying is broken and needs to be fixed. That’s incredibly harmful, it scars people.”

I haven’t really said much about the developments at Exodus. Generally speaking, however, I see a focus on identity, behavior, and spiritual maturity as a more constructive framework than a narrow focus on orientation, in part because that focus can become the measure of self-worth and spiritual maturity, which is a mistake in my view. That said, if a group makes changes in anticipation that others will cease to criticize them, they will be in for a rude awakening. (I’m not saying that is what happened with Exodus; I am saying that as a principle for Christians and ministries to consider.)

As Christians (and Christian institutions and ministries) take in new information, new data, respond to shifts in culture, and consider how they want to position themselves in relation to the topic and the people who are represented by that subject matter, they will benefit from making changes that truly reflect who they are, what their brand is. At the same time, keep in mind that the new brand–as accurate as it may be–will  still be utterly rejected  by some.

The question will arise: Can you hold convictions independent of the approval of others?

On the upside, these pressures help provide clarity about what people (and institutions/organizations/ministries) believe and why. It can be seen as a kind of pruning back the extra things that a person does not really see as critical, with the idea that what remains is essential.

7 Comments

  1. I am pleased with the changes at Exodus. I don’t have a dog in this race, i don’t know anybody who has ever wanted to change their sexual orientation. My beef with Exodus has been their blatant anit gay activities politically her int he United States and around the world.

    I was heartened to read the more positive words Alan Chambers has said recently particularly about the Jamaica fiasco, nobody wants to see an Exodus Board member ever go to Uganda again, whew.

    I think Exodus is doing the right thing by sticking to it’s core mission and that is ministry, pure ministry and not all the political and reparative therapy sideshows. Stick to Ministry and I think that is what Alan is trying and IS doing. Now it will remain to be seen if all his churches under the Exodus umbrella tow the official party line.

    There is never going to be a resolution between gay groups who want Exodus to say “it’s not a sin.” Exodus can’t say that because, that is at it’s core, that is what they believe. That IS their ministry. I don’t think there IS a resolution to that situation. You can’t argue with people about their religion. In other words you can’t force somebody to stop believing what they have been taught since birth. The most you can do is ask questions and it is up to the person to do their own seeking out for answers. You can’t force religion onto people, it doesn’t work.

    And in the same breath I WILL say people of faith cannot and should NOT force their religion onto others and try and shape our country into a theocracy with our civil laws mirroring religious beliefs simply because they are the majority. That is forcing others to abide by your religious beliefs. There are plenty of faiths who solemnize same sex marriage, what about their religious beliefs, what are they chopped liver?

    A lot of people are asking Alan Chambers to admit and make apologies for things they have done in the past because they HAVE hurt people. I see their point but I am more willing to let the situation develop and see how it goes going forward. I can say that of course because I am a non affected party. Much much different if you have been harmed by Exodus. I think when Exodus make apologies for past mistakes that they have then made, they gays are going to have to get off of their back because then and only then, ARE they functioning as a pure ministry.

  2. A trip down Memory Lane…

    In March 2010, Skyline hosted a “Love Won Out” conference organized by Exodus International — one of the biggest “ex-gay” groups in the world. According to Exodus’ press release, the conference featured “former homosexuals” explaining how they overcame homosexuality through the power of prayer:
    http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201206290001

    Jim Burroway from BoxTurtleBulletin is at the current Exodus Conference so we will find out what is happening on the ground by Exodus in 2012. So far he is reporting positively 🙂

    http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2012/06/29/46132

    My biggest concern is with the Youth. How are LGBT Youth being ministered to in their churches and then IF they are sent to Exodus. I would wish so much that the Youth are protected from being driven towards one path, and one path only, for their lives. How Youth are communicated with gives me great worries. To me that is a big question mark, but hopefully we will know more after Jim Burroway gets in some more reporting.

  3. I can appreciate your concern for youth. The tension, of course, is that parents have rights and responsibilities around raising their children, teaching them right from wrong, shaping their character, and so on. Raising a child is never done in a vacuum; it is done in the context of a worldview, including beliefs and values that are reflected in a religion (if the parents are religious).

    So what does it mean to be “driven toward one path” over another? If we are talking about a path of hate or disdain for an adolescent, then we will likely have a (near) cultural consensus that such a response is wrong. If we are talking about not teaching a child/teen a traditional Christian sexual ethic, a formed moral judgment (not prejudice) about sexual expression outside of the context of a monogamous union between a man and woman, then we will likely be adding more fuel to the culture war. (And, yes, I understand that not every Christian affirms the same sexual ethic.)

    On your reporter on the ground: You understand that he has his own biases, right? : )

  4. Yes the children who are expressing homosexual orientation is the most difficult. The only thing I can come up with, is well nothing. It’s hard. By pushing them down one path, and one path only, that would be to repress and reject their homosexual orientation and cleave to their religious beliefs. If they were an adult and you were treating them in SITF (what is that thing you and Warren developed?) you would not head your patient down any path, you would have your patient prioritize their world views and what is most important to them. But a young person is not yet developed enough to make those decisions.

    I worry so much the parents shove the kids towards “It’s our religion you need to learn how to stop this” and then send them off somewhere, when actually later on when the child grows up he finds he is happier finding a gay affirming faith and living as an open gay Christian person.

    And those years that he was lead by his parents, dropping him off and picking him up after some type of Church based anti gay affirming ministry meetings, will psychologically harm him. Being told throughout his youth that he is broken and a special kind of bad sinner. The other kids going to normal church youth group meetings are not told how broken they are, and how bad a sinner they are, it is all Light and Love and let’s have fun for them, but not for the gay kids who go to their Tuesday night anti gay meeting/counseling ministry. No Light and Love and let’s have fun going on in those meetings.

    Not only that, he won’t get to go to prom with a same sex person which is what his nature is telling him is right for him. These kids can loose a lot, if in their teenaged years they are lead down a path their parents choose for them, which turns out not to be the path they ultimately choose for themselves. It is NOT simply telling the gay kid, like you tell ALL the youth, not to have sex outside of marriage. They gay kids get told that they can’t even have a date with someone they are romantically attracted to. They are not allowed to associate with other same sex youth they have a crush on. You don’t tell the other kids that. You do not tell them that they can’t go to prom, with their opposite sex boyfriend/girlfriend. No they get to go to prom. (and I am using prom just as a concrete example).

    I don’t’ think youth should go to any anti gay ministry at all, they should go to a professional atheist counselor who can help him with survival of their teenaged years and not push him in any one direction or the other. Just hold his hand until he is more grown up. Just help him survive.

    I think Jim Burroway does an honest fair job. I do. You should read the comments on the article, Michael Bussee just entered some new comments and you should read TampaZeeks comments also.
    http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2012/06/29/46132

  5. If all of the changes so far are good, then the pressure was warranted.
    I want to put on record that all along it is the traditional church that has had to backtrack and apologize; and legitimately so.
    The church has had to have love and acceptance literally dragged out of it as it stumbled headstrong over this issue.

    It has, over time, been forced to acknowledge that much of what gay activit (and really just regular gays and lesbians) were saying was in fact the truth.

    So far have its originals assertions fallen out from under it, that the church’s best utterances on this issue are pregnant with a cautious language it was never known for before.

  6. It’s ironic, Christians of exodus international were trying for many years to change the sexual orientation of their patients. It was obviously a framework built around religious dogma and homoaversion. But the most plausible, scientific theory supports their cause; http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/depths-of-madness/ ; But as a consequence of being die hard Christians can’t support because it comes from the pathogenic theory of disease.

    Sir, can you critique his theory? I’ve seen many people trying to discredit Dr. Cochran but he is indisputably a genius. I’m convinced that its true.

  7. To the person commented above me, we’re just as valid as a sexual orientation as anyone else. Stop trying to say were a disease, alright? When I read your comment the first time I thought it was a joke. Its genetic dude, we were born this way.

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