Today, we bear witness to history.
Exodus International – the world’s largest “ex-gay” program — is shutting its doors and shuttering its windows. It is no longer promising desperate and vulnerable people that they can “pray away the gay.” It is no longer peddling snake oil called reparative therapy. It has ceased destroying families in the name of family values.
This stunning voyage began a year and a half ago. At the Gay Christian Network conference in Orlando, Florida — Alan Chambers, the President of Exodus International, stepped on stage and did something revolutionary. He looked the crowd in the eyes and he told the truth. Chambers said that 99.9-percent of his clients had not changed their sexual orientation. (And, the other .1 percent probably worked for him.)
Six months later, Chambers announced that Exodus would no longer support “reparative therapy,” which is junk science that falsely blames sexual abuse or bad parenting for causing one to be gay.
Still, it was quite a shock when Alan Chambers apologized yesterday to the world for harming LGBT people. And an even bigger surprise when he announced he was closing a mean-spirited ministry that had distorted the lives of LGBT people since 1973. Here is what Alan Chambers said:
Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.
More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.
Make no mistake. The closing of Exodus is an earthquake that is shaking the very foundations of the ‘ex-gay’ industry. We feel vindicated with our efforts to expose these groups and reveal their great destruction. The passing of Exodus casts a huge shadow of doubt on the ex-gay industry and cuts right to the heart of their credibility and misleading message.
Although this was a monumental victory, the fight is not over. Just as the death of Father Coughlin did not end Anti-Semitism. The election of Barack Obama did not eradicate racism. The death of Exodus is not the death of homophobia.
As long as there is prejudice and discrimination against our community, ex-gay programs will exist. They are a product of guilt and shame – where a person is made to feel embarrassed about who they are and ashamed of whom they love. Such public humiliation creates a demand for people who want to change – so they can fit in and be loved. And, there will always be charlatans and zealots who fill the supply side of this appalling cycle of cynicism.
Exhibit A is in Oklahoma City right now – and it is why we are here tonight. A new organization, the Restored Hope Network, is vying to fill the vicious vacuum left by Exodus. This group consists primarily of dead-enders who have defected from Exodus.
Indeed, this motley crew of malcontents represents the underbelly of Exodus. They are nastier. They more radical. They are more extreme than their predecessor. They are Exodus without the thin veneer of love that masks the underlying antipathy. This group is crass, and it has no class.
For example, Restored Hope Network board member Matt Barber, of Liberty Counsel has said: “There is nothing conservative about one man violently cramming his penis into another man’s lower intestine and calling it love.”
Another board member is Rev. Michael Brown. Each year, he holds his remarkably arrogant, “God Has a Better Way” rally, where red-shirted members of his church surround and intimidate Charlotte Pride participants. He said his goal is to, “raise up a holy army of uncompromising, spirit-filled radicals who will shake an entire generation with the gospel of Jesus–by life or by death”
Another board member is LeAnne Payne who is the author of The Broken Image. In her book, she compares gay people to cannibals. In her “Cannibal Theory,” she opines that homosexuals are not truly interested in making love with same-sex partners. Much like how a cannibal eats victims to ingest their traits, she says that gay people only have sex to ingest the masculinity or femininity of their partners.
Hilariously, Payne has an infamous anti-masturbation prayer, which I will read to you:
In the name of Jesus Christ I say that this creative energy from now on shall flow in its normal channel, and it shall not overflow anymore to the right hand or to the left hand. I build high dikes on the right hand and on the left hand and in Jesus’ Name I command that it shall not overflow to the left hand or the right hand, but it shall flow quietly in its normal channel.
This is what passes for sanity at the Restored Hope Network.
The catalyst behind this event is a bisexual woman – posing as ex-gay — named Anne Paulk. Even as she tries to peddle this conference as hopeful – she is in the midst of a painful divorce with her former “ex-gay” poster boy husband, John Paulk, who recently said:
“Today, I do not consider myself ‘ex-gay’ and I no longer support or promote the movement.” (If you remember, he is the man I photographed inside a gay bar in 2000)
The group’s co-founder, Andrew Comiskey, has written in his book, Pursuing Sexual Wholeness: “Satan delights in homosexual perversion” and claims the source of gay relationships is “demonic.
Comiskey is the founder of Desert Stream Ministries, which has a shocking history of sexual abuse and impropriety. On March 8, 2010, Comiskey wrote a blog post that said Desert Stream had “a longstanding staff person from Desert Stream had sexually abused at least one teenager who had sought help from us.”
Is this Restored Hope? Nope.
As one friend of mine says, this is really the “No Hope Network.”
I do have some sympathy for these individuals. Imagine dedicating most of your adult life to an unraveling hoax. You think you are on a journey, only to find, that for years, you have been aimlessly riding a bicycle in a cul-de-sac. That is a difficult pill to swallow.
What is the future for the “ex-gay” myth?
First, as they lose support at home they will increasingly seek markets abroad. For instance, Uganda, Russia, Poland, and Jamaica. Particularly in totalitarian societies where free speech can’t be used to counter their lies.
Second, there will likely be more lawsuits accusing these groups of consumer fraud. There will be more bills to ban quacks from practicing reparative therapy on minors. California has already passed such a ban. The New Jersey Assembly is poised to vote on a bill as early as next week.
Third, science will increasingly show that sexual orientation has biological origins, further undermining the obsolete theories pushed by reparative therapy con artists. I have personally interviewed the leading scientists and Truth Wins Out will be launching “The Science Project” in the near future.
Fourth, as public opinion continues to rapidly shift, there will be less demand for ex-gay services.
Finally, we will see more ex-gay defections and scandals. Because the greatest indicator of future behavior is past behavior. And history shows us that ex-gay leaders behave badly. Because they are like actors playing a role – until the final curtain of reality comes crashing down.
In 1998, the Religious Right called a $600,000 “ex-gay” advertising campaign the “Normandy Landing in the larger cultural war.” Right now, it must seem more like Vietnam – a messy quagmire with no end in site.
Going forward, the extreme right political groups have three unpleasant choices:
Number One: They can join the majority of Americans and accept LGBT people. Which is unlikely to happen soon.
Number Two: They can resort to fire and brimstone. However, this turns off the very mainstream audience they want to persuade. If this strategy wasn’t working a decade ago, it certainly won’t work now.
Number Three: This is their most likely option. They will express support for “ex-gay” programs. But they will not invest in them and they will not be enthusiastic.
Clearly, our opponents are in a serious bind in which Houdini could not escape.
In conclusion, although the Restored Hope Network is in town – we are the ones who should be hopeful. We defeated Exodus. We are taking down and dismantling reparative therapy. And we will defeat the Restored Hope Network.
Remember, they can never hate us, more than we can love.