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Exodus International Drops “Reparative Therapy” Books

Jim Burroway

January 26th, 2012

As further evidence of a possible shift of Exodus International’s focus, Warren Throckmorton pointed the removal of books on reparative therapy from Exodus’s bookstore. When Throckmorton asked Exodus International president Alan Chambers for comment, he responded:

The reason I removed RT books from Exodus Books is because I don’t agree with using this research as a means to say that “this” is how homosexuality always develops, “this” is the primary means in which to deal with it and this is “the” outcome you can expect.  Too, Exodus, as a whole, is not a scientific or psychological organization…we are a discipleship ministry and that is where I think our strength is and energy should be focused.

This comes two weeks after Chambers told an audience of gay Christians that “the majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.”

Before we jump to conclusions here, it is important to step back and unpack this a bit to understand what is happening. When most people think of the phrase “reparative therapy,” it is generally assumed that what is being “repaired” is a person’s sexual orientation. But clinically, that’s not what is meant by “reparative therapy”. Reparative Therapy is a very specific term which describes just one particular type of therapy out of a large array of therapies aimed at changing sexual orientation. Reparative Therapy in particular derives its name from the theoretical underpinnings of this particular form of therapy, which is based on the assumption that gay men become gay because they suffered a “masculine deficit” due to the failure to form a healthy bond with their fathers. That “masculine deficit” sets up a “reparative drive” in the son. That “reparative drive” is defined as the son’s impulse to “repair” that masculine deficit by his seeking out relationships with other men. As Joseph Nicolosi suscinctly sums it up: “We advise fathers, if you don’t hug your sons, some other man will.” Reparative Therapy, therefore, is aimed at addressing that “reparative drive” by ostensibly increasing the client’s self-perception as a male and reframing the boundaries of his relationships with other men.

Reparative Therapy, strictly speaking depends on one single theory of male homosexuality, and it is quite rigid on that point. This is why we here at BTB do not use the phrase “reparative therapy” as a generic term for sexual orientation change therapies. We use the term only when we are talking about this particular form of therapy intended to address the theorized “reparative drive.”

While Reparative Therapy does not describe just any form of sexual orientation change therapy, it is a central focus, almost to the point of being the exclusive focus, of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), an organization which was co-founded by Nicolosi. He is not only known as “the father of Reparative Therapy,” but he literally wrote the book on it (see Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach). Although Reparative Theory doesn’t represent NARTH’s official position on sexual orientation development (officially, NARTH has none), it is nevertheless the predominant assumption behind much of NARTH’s literature and web site, and it is also fervently embraced by much of NARTH’s membership.

In contrast, Exodus’s official statement regarding Reparative Therapy reads:

Reparative Therapy is a specialized counseling approach that focuses on resolving relational deficits and/or trauma believed to be a contributing factor in the development of same-sex attraction.  Exodus International believes that Reparative Therapy can be a beneficial tool.  Exodus International is not a clinical facility but does affiliate, within the Exodus Professional Counselor Network, with licensed therapists.  A minority of these professionals may ascribe to some aspects of Reparative Therapy.

Reparative Therapy has been beneficial to some within our network therefore Exodus does provide limited referrals to a select and small group of independent and licensed Christian professionals who offer this resource.

By removing Reparative Therapy books from Exodus’s bookstore, Chambers has now signaled something of a dissatisfaction with RT’s underlying assumption that the reparative drive is the only explanation for sexual orientation development. This is not a new position for Chambers. In fact, it’s not even new for him to consider the possibility that biology can play a part. When I attended the annual Exodus conference in Irvine in June 2007, I heard him challenge his audience to consider the possibility that there may be a biological basis for homosexuality. I don’t have the exact quote with me, but I do recall that he then went on to challenge his audience to remain committed to living according to what he considered to be “God’s best” for them (i.e. a life of celibacy or sexual monogamy with another person of the opposite sex in marriage) regardless of whatever sort of biological errors (my words, not his) may have occurred.

This, of course, is anathema at NARTH. But seen in the overall context of the past half-decade at least, Chambers’s recent moves do not represent a dramatic departure for Exodus. Exodus was always more ministry than psychology, and it appears that Chambers is moving to sharpen the organization’s focus toward the former and away from the latter. But those moves may signal a growing split between Exodus and NARTH (which bills itself as a “scientific” organization), both in approach and tone. That change hasn’t gone unnoticed at NARTH. As evidence, Throckmorton points to an article by David Pickup, who frequently presents at NARTH’s convention and who runs NARTH’s private Facebook page. Pickup blasts Exodus for deemphasizing Reparative Therapy:

In my experience, Exodus has, quite unintentionally for the last 20 years, failed to understand and effectively deal with the actual root causes of homosexuality and what leads to authentic change. I laud their willingness to admit their naiveté’, but I do not see anything so far that indicates they now truly understand the psychological, developmentally-based causes of homosexuality or what produces real change.

…If Chambers and Exodus do want to truly understand the nature of homosexuality, then they should be open to understanding the psychological underpinnings of these issues and start to recommending qualified therapists who are experts at facilitating significant change. If not, then Exodus will fall into deeper controversy than they are in already. They will be reduced to the myopic ministry of simply helping people to deal with their homosexuality through behavioral changes, which, by the way, reflects the American Psychological Association’s belief about Reparative Therapy: that real change is not possible and people may be helped only in the sense of conforming their behavior to reflect their religious beliefs. In short, Exodus will eventually lose even more effectiveness and begin to flounder.

For an idea of how Pickup addressed his reparative drive, check out this video.

So what does all of this mean? It’s hard to tell at this point. Exodus may not sell books on Reparative Therapy, yet a number of reparative therapists are a part of the Exodus referral network. Chambers may acknowledged that “99.9%” of people don’t change their sexual orientation, but the Exodus website says otherwise, and even dangles out there the carrot of marriage:

Exodus affirms reorientation of same sex attraction is possible. This is a process, which begins with motivation to, and self-determination to change based upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We facilitate resources for this process through our member ministries, other established networks and the Church. The key outcome of this is measured by a growing capacity to turn away from temptations, a reconciling of ones identity with Jesus Christ, being transformed into His image. This enables growth towards Godly heterosexuality. Exodus recognizes that a lifelong and healthy marriage as well as a Godly single life are good indicators of this transformation. [Emphasis mine]

But it does look like there have been some nips and tucks in other areas which may reflect Exodus’s increasing autonomy from Focus and NARTH. For example, in 2007 I attended Love Won Out, Exodus’s traveling infomercial for ex-gay ministries, which featured a detailed exposition of Reparative Theory as the only significant explanation for male homosexuality. The lecture was delivered by Nicolosi, who spent about an hour making the case first thing in the morning. When Nicolosi left LWO a year later, his place on the schedule was taken by former Exodus president Joe Dallas, who delivered Nicolosi’s talk on Reparative Therapy with only a few minor changes here and there. That was when LWO was a joint venture between Exodus and Focus On the Family. Beginning in 2010, Focus bowed out and LWO became an exclusively Exodus project. Since then, the published agenda for LWO has changed drastically. I can only assume that the changes reflect a change in Exodus’s emphasis, but I can’t be certain from this vantage point. I guess this means I’ll have to book a flight and attend another conference to get caught up to date.

Comments

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Charles
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Why do these groups emphasize on what cause a male to become gay within these groups and not females? All of these groups have had extensive experience at attempting to change highly motivated people who have same-sex attraction to being straight. And, as far as I know none of them have published any peer review papers. I can not take anything what they have to say seriously. I do believe that they take advantage of people who have same-sex attraction who have been taught/indoctrinated that they need to be made normal. When in fact they are normal.

David Roberts
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Thanks for clarifying Reparative Therapy as a specific type of SOCE. From recent actions, I would say that Alan and company are emphasizing externally things which they have more or less acknowledged internally (and occasionally even externally) for many years. Perhaps this is as far as they can make themselves bend in their re-branding efforts. If a few more people manage to avoid the ex-gay trauma due to this new emphasis, that’s always a good thing. Exodus, however, is still a bad thing.

Let’s all remember that it took a need for funds to drive them even this far.

TampaZeke
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Be all that as it may it doesn’t change the fact that Chambers and ALL of his associates in the “Ex-gay” industry are disgusting, deceitful and dangerous scumbags.

Ezam
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

Oh Exodus, you are going to suffer a miserable, lonely demise. The Religious Right will disown you and LGBT folks will never forgive all the harm you caused them.

Aaron
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

I was there at the GCN conference. In my opinion Alan is going to clean up Exodus International but continue to refer people to the member ministries, which do all the footwork anyways. Until Alan begins taking action to remove or reform member ministries that are in the business of turning people straight, it’s difficult to see how much these little actions that will only effect the umbrella organization will help.

bill johnson
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

Aaron is right on the money in his post, the important thing to look at is what organization’s Exodus refers people to and not just the changes they make to their own public face.

I agree that Exodus is making some positive changes to their own public face and distancing themselves from NARTH is a good step but for that change to be real they need to not only change their own standards but also project those same standards onto the groups that they refer people to. At the very lest they should warn people that they don’t agree with some of the stances of their member groups if they are going to continue referring people to them.

If this doesn’t happen the changes are just to their facade and not really to their substance.

Jim Hlavac
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

So, logically, anyone (oh, the .01% since 99.9% never change, even the most motivated,) who “changes” or are “repaired,” are not “ex-gay” but “ex-ex-heteros.”

For NARTH, Exodus, JONAH, and the rest of them, right down to Santorum & Gallagher, Perkins & Sprigg, et al, etc., claim it must be true that we are born heterosexual – and then at some early point, (and one would imagine multiple moments of conditioning, and not just one event,) probably in toddlerhood, and definitely pre-teen, we are “made” gay by some forces beyond our control, presumably, by something our fathers did or did not do.

So, first, it’s not our fault — for we could not “choose” to get this amorphous, indeterminate, unexplained, unquantified, unknown conditioning. And second, it’s not our father’s fault, for it must be unknowing, for what father would condition his son to be gay? Indeed, if it was known, these things our fathers do or don’t, then child rearing books would point to them and say “don’t do this,” or “do this,” to prevent the gay son. Third, it still leaves the odd reality that it only happens to one son, usually, out of a handful of sons — that is, most gay men are the only ones in their family who are gay. In my own, two brothers hetero, and some 10 male cousins in a close knit 7 year span we’re all born, hetero — and me the only gay one.

And then, to make us hetero again, they need to impart to us some, again, amorphous, indeterminate, unknown, unquantifiable, unexplainable, conditioning not only by an outside source, but from within too. And they can’t get any clearer than “find Jesus.”

And so, we’re hetero, then ex-hetero (aka Gay,) and then we must be made “ex-gay” which means, to follow the train, ex-ex-hetero. And well, other than the astounding mush of it all, it’s rather clear that they use the wrong term; perhaps “re-heteroized” is better for their plan. Meanwhile, they are absolutely 100% clueless of what they speak, by their own admission, — but only are clear that being gay is “wrong” and oddly — “not natural” — despite, by their own admission and explanation of the process, however vague they are, it occurs naturally. Yeesh.

Occam would simply slice through it all and point out the simplest theory is the best: we’re born gay.

Charles
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

All these reparative groups seem not the least bit concerned about what causes a female to become a lesbian, can someone tell me why?

Priya Lynn
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

Jim Hlavac’s comment made me think about another big hole in the theory that fathering style causes gayness. While it wouldn’t be unusual for a father to treat one son differently than the rest its much more common that a father treats all sons the same and if fathering style were a cause of gayness we should see with regularity families in which all sons are gays. We practically never see this however, it’s almost always one son out of 2 or 3 or 4 that is gay instead of all 4. This wouldn’t be the case if fathering was a significant cause of gayness.

Priya Lynn
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

Charles asked “All these reparative groups seem not the least bit concerned about what causes a female to become a lesbian, can someone tell me why?”.

Because most anti-gay people find anal sex disgusting and men in general sexually disgusting. The thought of two women together isn’t unpleasant to them.

StraightGrandmother
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

The Longitudinal Lesbians Study (children conceived via a sperm donor) of children with 2 mothers shows that 100% of their boys are heterosexual. How can that be? If lack of bonding with your father results in male homosexuality, then why are all these boys with no biological father in the home to bond to, heterosexual? It doesn’t make sense.

Jim Hlavac = “it’s rather clear that they use the wrong term; perhaps “re-heteroized” is better for their plan.”

StraightGrandmother = “re-heteroized” LOL! Too funny.

StraightGrandmother
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

Oh and Priya Lynn, I think you are right.

Fergie
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

“All these reparative groups seem not the least bit concerned about what causes a female to become a lesbian, can someone tell me why?”

I would suggest that the Latter Day Saints (big time supporters, promoters, and consumers of questionable RT programs)largely ignore women because only LDS Males can hold the Priesthood and all of its paternal hierarchical authority.

Women are basically an after thought.

cowboy
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

LDS’s Evergreen is going to be years behind Exodus in progressive ideology. Mostly because of the close association of high-ranking Mormons with NARTH.

Sad. I just wish some investigative journalist would expose Evergreen. And I would wish someone would come forward and sue Brigham Young University for its role in the disastrous electro-shock aversion therapy…which was not that long ago.

Charles
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

“Because most anti-gay people find anal sex disgusting and men in general sexually disgusting. The thought of two women together isn’t unpleasant to them.” – Priya Lynn

I understand that aspect of the equation, but I have read and heard invective spewed from numerous people about lesbians, too. The great fear of parents is that they might end up having a gay son. Parents know that a gay son will have a much harder time in our society than any straight son. And, most women and men seem to give lesbians a pass.

Priya Lynn
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

I agree Charles, there are lots of people who heap scorn on lesbians as well, but on the whole there are a lot less people who feel strongly anti-lesbian than there are people who feel strongly anti-gay.

Reed Boyer
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

Especially interesting for me, as a service brat, is the notion that an “absent father” leads to a boy being gay.

If so (and I don’t believe it for a minute), then one could reasonably argue that our protracted wars, police actions, and adventures in nation-building are all going to cause an ENORMOUS explosion in the numbers of “the gheys” in coming years.

And yes, I’m aware of the deeply sexist aspect of this line of reasoning.

Regan DuCasse
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

Excellent, Priya Lynn: the issue of siblings in the same household not being gay is the biggest hole in their template on the ’causes’.

True also of the demographic of single motherhood, highest among black women. And of course, military families where long absences of the father are significant.

It’s been stated that women are less relevant to the cause of anti gay rhetoric. Because women have less social (and physical) power than men. In other words, they don’t pose the same threat to men, as other men do.

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