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Yarhouse nails the post-Exodus problem

Timothy Kincaid

June 21st, 2013

In response to the announcement that Exodus will cease to exist and will be replaced with an organization that will “come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities”, Mark Yarhouse (co-author of the Jones and Yarhouse study on religiously mediated orientation change) had this to say,

When I think about what may be interesting in the years to come is this: Is there is room in a diverse and pluralistic culture for a Christian ministry to retain its beliefs and values about sexuality and marriage while moving away from the expectation of change (at least in the form of reparative therapy)? … A ministry would then have to ask: Is there an audience for that kind of ministry when many people (most?) who come to a ministry want the very change held out as normative in reparative therapy? All indications are that the message will be that of Christlikeness (or what Christian refer to as sanctification), and, I would guess, that the focus on sanctification will be independent of the question of whether attractions change.

Yarhouse is correct in noting that if a ministry seeks to encourage a life in accordance with one’s faith, then the question of whether one’s orientation changes is irrelevant. Whether same-sex attracted, opposite-sex attracted or possessed of little sexual attraction at all, we each choose how we express our sexuality.

But that isn’t really a revelation. Other than to the wackadoodles who (to comport with their own political and religious demands on society) insist that Christian doctrine demands that one make impossible changes, this is intuitive.

But Yarhouse does raise the one question that no one seems to have pondered: is there an audience for this message?

I believe that there is value in providing a safe haven for conservative Christians who are negotiating their sexuality. Those who are as yet uncertain – or even those who have concluded that they want a life of celibacy – can benefit from fellowship with others who share their experiences and values. And it goes without saying that many a conservative church needs to hear that their rejection of their gay and lesbian youth is an affront to Christ.

But does anyone want it?

Will the young conservative Christian man who discovers his own attractions seek out a support group that encourages celibacy? Or will he desperately look for a cure, a solution, a way that lets him be like his brothers? The old Exodus would have an appeal to him, but will the post-Exodus group?

And will the youth pastor confronted with a young woman in his church who discovers that her crushes on other girls is not a passing phase have any use for counsel that advises him to accept and support her and that she’s not going to ever fit the church’s presumptions? Or will he be drawn to a group that says, “you don’t have to mellow your rhetoric, she’s broken and we can fix her”? I suspect that the latter is less of a challenge to him than the former.

I think that the post-Exodus group has something to say to the Christian community. But I think Mark Yarhouse’s question is a good one, Is there anyone who wants to hear it?

Comments

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Ben In Oakland
June 21st, 2013 | LINK

Not to be snarky, but what Yarhouse is saying now– quite apart from his previous claims that people CAN change, a change he described as “difficult, complicated, ambiguous”– is what Alan chambers started saying a few years ago:

The goal isn’t change, which appears to be impossible, but holiness, which would make them postulants, and which, from all of the rest of the conservative Christian drivel I’ve heard, is also not possible, given what lust buckets of pustulent sin such postulant people are.

So, whatever they are looking for, it sounds to me like it will be neither holiness nor whole-iness, but dominion and a new stream of income.

Lavandula
June 21st, 2013 | LINK

I think a switch in evangelical understanding of and rhetoric about LGBT people has already taken place. They have simply changed the point where the “sinner’s choice” takes place. Instead of choosing his or her orientation, the LGBT person chooses identification as LGBT over identification as a Christian beset with same-sex attraction. A gay Christian who identifies as “struggling” with SSA is welcome in evangelical circles, despite his or her orientation. Because there is still a path to acceptance by the evangelical community, there will still be an audience for a program that offers help with negotiating the SSA “struggle” and therefore allows the evangelical to remain part of the church community without having to be completely closeted.

Priya Lynn
June 21st, 2013 | LINK

Well I sure hope there’s no audience for this message. Its immoral to tell gays and lesbians they need to be celibate to please an imaginary being. We can’t just keep overlooking this attack on innocent people because its religiously motivated. There is no room in a just and moral society for the idea that a god commands people to stay out of same sex romantic relationships.

TampaZeke
June 21st, 2013 | LINK

This discussion should also address what many, if not most, of these publicly pious “struggling” gay people when they think no one is watching. These people seem to be much more prone to going to extremes of sexual expression. The very kinds of extremes that they claim that ALL gay people do when in fact most gay people don’t go on meth-fueled fisting orgies or even sex in public bathrooms.

Peter
June 21st, 2013 | LINK

I think the answer at the moment is yes. A prime example of a community that is already established with these views is the Side B community of the GayChristianNetwork. Reducing Fear (whenever I type that I think Restoring Fear) could basically be called Side B Ministries.

I think the answer in the future will be no, though, as the legitimacy of non-heterosexual orientations becomes established in wider and wider circles of the globe. Especially when displaying same-sex affection was incredibly dangerous, Side B could be considered an option of survival as well, but with same-sex marriage rapidly becoming legalized, and the rights of LGBT people being addressed, I think there will be less comfort and more discomfort within the walls of the church (or rather, groveling at the church’s feet) which still says “see them out there? They’re having fun but you should be a good little Christian and not have any fun. Because what your body really wants is “Holiness”, right?”

Hollowness, more like. Because, of course, it’s not just sex that is proscribed (though that is still the gold standard for Christian ookiness), but romantic relationships as well. Because those would lead to sexual relationships and why shouldn’t they? Because the guy in the sky said so?

Again, not exactly convincing. Chambers’ apology and contrition is meretricious. He is still a threat to the self-worth of LGBTs and will still push for our rights to be denied us. After all, if something is illegal, it MUST be bad right? Which is why the proliferation of LGBT rights will help to dissolve any possible market that there is for Side Bers in the future.

Regan DuCasse
June 21st, 2013 | LINK

What a mess. This just sets up another layer of conflict about what a person is supposed to do with their very normal, real and sometimes intense feelings all the while being told they shouldn’t have them for something that’s intangible.
And nobody heterosexual has to go without.

That’s like requiring someone to starve for something while other people are gorging themselves and waving it in front of you as oh, so GOOD and wonderful and yummy!!!
But YOU can’t have it, unless it’s the kind that has no taste, won’t fill you up, and won’t have the satisfaction as what you REALLY want.
But everyone ELSE gets to have what THEY really want. And they always make it look SO easy and no matter WHAT they do to it, or how often they mess up, no judgement.

That is SO cruel and mean and will only leave a person malnourished. We KNOW it does.
And ultimately, who is it REALLY for? Who is REALLY happy in all this?
The person who is starving? Or the people who are starving them?
Indeed, where IS the audience for that?

Richard Rush
June 21st, 2013 | LINK

Thank god I’m an atheist!

Reading these stories of people suffering from the pain caused by religious poison makes my head spin.

I’d like to see Exodus reincarnated as an organization (still named Exodus) that helps people walk away from SSA (Superstitious Sectarian Attraction). My husband and I are living proof that change really is possible.

Mark F.
June 22nd, 2013 | LINK

Any organization that views same sex sexual and romantic activity as immoral is going to be problematic. Now, celibacy may be an okay choice for a few people, that’s fine. But not for many. And not just because some deity said so.

Phelim McIntyre
June 22nd, 2013 | LINK

God clearly states, and unlike slavery this is something that never changes from Genesis to Revelation, that sexual activity between people of the same sex is sin. To claim otherwise is to deny the Bible. As to change, the word used for salvation is diasozo. One of its meanings is to restore something to its original purpose. God created men and women to be in a sexual relationship with each other within a marriage where both partners are faithful to each other. If we are truly to engage in the process of salvation then we must pursue change of behaviour and healing of psychological issues such as same sex attraction.

Guglielmo Marinaro
June 22nd, 2013 | LINK

I agree with Priya Lynn and Mark F. If someone freely chooses a celibate lifestyle because that is what he or she genuinely prefers, then that is fine. But to try to convince people that they are morally obliged to adopt such a lifestyle, whether they want to or not, just because they are gay is absolutely improper. They have no such obligation.

Yes, some of the biblical authors – the few who mention the subject at all – do, as Phelim McIntyre notes, assume that “sexual activity between people of the same sex is sin”, but as the Dutch theologian Harry Kuitert rightly says, “if we were to do everything that is handed down in the Bible as God’s commandments, we would be bad people with abhorrent deeds.” We have long moved on in our thinking since biblical times.

Nathan F
June 22nd, 2013 | LINK

“Other than to the wackadoodles who (to comport with their own political and religious demands on society) insist that Christian doctrine demands that one make impossible changes, this is intuitive.”

Reality check: all supernatural doctrine is wackadoodle. If you believe a supernatural power can part the Red Sea, feed five thousand with two fish, or resurrect the dead; if you truly believe those things, why is changing who you’re attracted to startling?

It’s bizarre to me that people dismiss others’ supernatural beliefs without any self-awareness that their own supernatural beliefs are completely irrational.

Richard Rush
June 22nd, 2013 | LINK

Phelim, I’ll make you a deal: If you mind your own business and allow me to enjoy my same-sex sin with marriage equality, I will mind my own business and stop suggesting that you give up your evidence-free superstitious beliefs. Deal?

NotOnScript
June 22nd, 2013 | LINK

Trigger warning: talk of a judgmental God who sends sinners to Hell.

Yes, I know I’m “feeding the troll.” I’d just like to comment to anyone in the greater world who believes that repeating comments such as those by Phelim McIntyre is helpful. Yes, I’m speaking as a heterosexual single white male. No, I see no point in entering into a “discussion” with those who think that repeating Phelim McIntyre’s statements over and over and over again qualifies as “discussion.”

I’m in the process of conducting some research involving The United Methodist Church. (That’s a discussion for another time.) While going through the Journal for the 1916 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (not the Methodist Episcopal Church, South), I came across these statistics from the Episcopal Address (page 193):

“In 1867 there were granted in all the United States 9,937 divorces; in 1906, 72,062, or more than seven times as many as were granted forty years before. Divorces of late have increased more than three times as fast as the population. By far the greatest number have been on account of strong drink, defiance of all obligations by great wealth, and insubordinate selfishness. The alarm created by these startling facts has awakened several States to appoint commissions for the purpose of securing uniformity of legislation on the subject. The General Conference has always taken a firm stand in its legislation.”

Now perhaps Phelim McIntyre does not care what any major Methodist denomination believes about anything. For one thing, The United Methodist Church has an episcopal form of government. Another issue is that The United Methodist Church does not require its members to believe in the penal substitution theory of the atonement. My point here is this: fears regarding the “sanctities of the home” are not new.

Comments such as those by Phelim McIntyre might be wrapped as “warning against Hell.” Personally, I find this irrelevant. I’m in agreement with the philosopher Charles Taylor, as he said on page 656 of “A Secular Age”: “Hell, the ultimate separation from God, must remain a possibility for human freedom, but all the presumptuous certainty that it is inhabited must be abandoned.”

I assume — perhaps incorrectly — that Phelim McIntyre believes that Hell is occupied. Phelim McIntyre says, “God created men and women to be in a sexual relationship with each other within a marriage where both partners are faithful to each other.” I assume that Phelim McIntyre believes that anyone in a sexual relationship outside of a marriage between one man and one woman is committing sin. Further, I assume that the nature of that sexual relationship does not matter: a “trial marriage” between heterosexuals is just as sinful before God as any relationship that the soon-to-be-closed Exodus International warned against.

I have one simple rhetorical question for Phelim McIntyre:

When you stand before God’s final eternal judgment, will God think that you have done enough to warn heterosexual fornicators? All this talk about “sexual activity between people of the same sex is sin” might have given aid and comfort to heterosexual fornicators. God will not be happy with your double standard.

Sharon B
June 22nd, 2013 | LINK

Phelim: …unlike slavery. ..

Citation?

Ben in Oakland
June 22nd, 2013 | LINK

Unlike all of the other things that were declared by people who knew the mind of god as intimately as they knew their own assholes, where it turned out that they didn’t know the mind of god and certainly WERE assholes…well…

We finally, FINALLY have it exactly right as to whom it is that gawdamighty wants us to turn our holy book against as a weapon. ALL of the other times–witches, heretics, Catholics, Protestants, slavery, segregation, women, Jews, Muslims, atheists– were an unfortunate error. sorry about that.

asshole.

Priya Lynn
June 22nd, 2013 | LINK

Phelim said “God clearly states, and unlike slavery this is something that never changes from Genesis to Revelation, that sexual activity between people of the same sex is sin. To claim otherwise is to deny the Bible.”.

LOL, of course I deny the bible. You say that like its a bad thing.

And slavery didn’t change from genenisis to revelation. Christians like you are embarrased by what your bible says so you have to lie about it.

Ben in Oakland
June 22nd, 2013 | LINK

BTW, McIntyre is a professional small o orthodox Christian, who will provide life coaching and exgay services for $.50 per minute by phone, or $15-$50 by email.

Ka-ching!

Priya Lynn
June 22nd, 2013 | LINK

“McIntyre is a professional small o orthodox Christian, who will provide life coaching and exgay services for $.50 per minute by phone, or $15-$50 by email.”.

What an a-hole. “God’s word is whatever lines my pocket with money.”.

Patrick C
June 23rd, 2013 | LINK

Phelim, missing the obvious, writes:

“God created men and women to be in a sexual relationship with each other within a marriage where both partners are faithful to each other.”

Christian tradition tells us Jesus never married, thereby apparently going against God’s creative purpose for humanity. So, if disobeying your god’s creative purpose is good enough for Jesus, then it is good enough for me.

Now, before you argue what your deity does and does not think, don’t you think it would be helpful to demonstrate it exists?

iDavid
June 23rd, 2013 | LINK

AMEN

Ben in Oakland
June 23rd, 2013 | LINK

BTW, I do wish to announce– and I am certain priya will concur– that I do not wish to malign a perfectly useful orifice by comparing it to a person who charges 50¢ per minute to sell, er, offer god’s perspective to complete strangers.

Timothy Kincaid
June 23rd, 2013 | LINK

Like NotOnScript, I have a rhetorical question for Phelem,

Should you find that God, in his infinite mercy, has chosen not to populate Hell, not to send anyone to torment, not to banish a soul to eternal separation from Him, just how disappointed will you be?

Priya Lynn
June 23rd, 2013 | LINK

“BTW, I do wish to announce– and I am certain priya will concur– that I do not wish to malign a perfectly useful orifice by comparing it to a person who charges 50¢ per minute to sell, er, offer god’s perspective to complete strangers.”.

I do concur. After I wrote that I thought I should have said Phelim’s not an a-hole, rather that he’s gross, disgusting and useless.

TampaZeke
June 23rd, 2013 | LINK

Yarhouse is a big part of the problem!

Guglielmo Marinaro
June 23rd, 2013 | LINK

See here for Phelim’s statement in reaction to the news of Exodus’s closure:

http://aflame.blog.co.uk/

Richard Rush
June 23rd, 2013 | LINK

I want to note, without further comment, that Phelim McIntyre also goes by the name, “aflame” on his blog which is devoted to holy homo-bashing.

Norm
June 24th, 2013 | LINK

When Chambers took over Exodus, he took it out of the sexual ministry fringes and re-branded it as a simple, bold, solution palatable to mainstream consumer-oriented Christianity. I won’t underestimate him, but making celibacy, lifelong sexual struggle, and mixed-orientation marriages attractive to Christian consumers is a tall order.

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