Don’t believe the hype: ‘Ex-gay’ group is just re-branding

When news broke yesterday about Exodus International, I was immediately dubious. The pray-the-gay-away franchise disbanded its board and leaders publicly apologized:

The president of Exodus, Alan Chambers, issued an apology, stating that “from a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters” and that “Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom.”

It sounds good, right? It sounds like Chambers has had a true come-to-Jesus moment. It sounds like he’s finally seen that our religion is not a bludgeoning tool for a hate doctrine and, more specifically, that Jesus commanded tolerance — or better yet love — for all people.

Don’t believe the hype. This is a re-branding gimmick. As Huffington Post reported yesterday:

But as Truth Wins Out, the group that monitors the conversion therapy charlatans, notes, many who led these programs are now embarking on a re-branding rather than shutting down.

In response to Exodus’s movements of late, hardcore fundamentalist “ex-gay” figures have moved to create their own new group, the Restored Hope Network, which is chaired by Anne Paulk, the estranged wife of John Paulk, the former poster-boy for the “ex-gay” movement who now admits that he is an openly gay man. Restored Hope’s co-founder, Andrew Comiskey, has claimed that “Satan delights in homosexual perversion,” which shows that this new group is committed to doing as much as or more damage than Exodus ever did.

In a world where many children are taught by families and churches that their sexual or gender difference is some sort of sickness and is condemned by God, there will always be those who are desperate to “change,” no matter how wrong and futile that will be. And there will always be those who are willing to help them try to do that, either because of their own warped beliefs or to make money or both. The last thing we should be doing is believing “ex-gay” therapy is dead simply because the largest group has shut its doors.

They’re just gearing up for Hate 2.0. Much like the anti-choice movement has shifted their attacks on abortion rights to a personhood movement that seeks to legally define life as starting at a fertilized egg, the anti-LGBT Christians are just re-tooling their matrix.

As a progressive Christian, I am angered by groups that use my religion (or any religion) as tools of hate. You can’t re-program gay away any more than you can re-program curly hair away. We are each born who we are — gay, straight, transgender, asexual … Religion in its ideal form should be free of politics and a space for solace and enlightenment. It should be a space for us to search our hearts and minds for truth and peace and feel the divine presence in our lives. It hurts us all — believers and non-believers alike — when it is used as a bludgeoning tool for hate.

Here’s hoping that the re-branded ex-gay groups fail as spectacularly as the current versions are. And I sincerely hope that as our culture becomes more enlightened on LGBT issues, we will find less pain and suffering put on LGBT people.

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