The Exodus of Exodus: Paradigms & Possibility

Highway 49 from Jackson to Yazoo City, the entrance to the Delta, 1964

By now, the big news from Exodus International, to the tune that they are sorry and they are shutting down, is old news in the blogosphere. The conversation has turned from reporting to opinion: Just what does all this mean? Is this apology enough – or even close to enough? Is it some kind of PR cover for reorganizing an institution to market itself more successfully to a changing culture? Is it really just the same old homophobia in sheep’s clothing?

Or is it a meaningful, important shift – a step forward in the journey toward a more reasonable and humane understanding of homosexuality within the evangelical community?

Though there are notable exceptions, the majority of responses that I’ve seen from gay voices is that this, while better than the past alternative, is simply not enough. Whatever new organization or initiative rises to take the place of Exodus International, it’ll still be taking an essentially homophobic point of view and not really affirm gay people in their sexual identity. Sure, it’ll be gentler – but harm will still be done.

But my opinion is that there is a seismic shift taking place here away from the destructive dogmas of reparative therapy, even if it is not to the degree that the LGBT community may desire in general. It is a paradigm shift, a quaking and crumbling of age-old categories and an emergence of brand new ones. Specifically, the polarities once at work within Christian thought – affirming or not affirming, choice or genetics, sin or biology – have just been proven unworkable, and in their place a new way is rising. A pathway forward. Full of possibility.

The thing with paradigm shifts is that they occur in the context of the old paradigm. In other words, this is a shift within the evangelical community, meaning it is not operating by the same “rules” as shifts in other communities/contexts. Thus, the new categories will be unique to that community. But just because they are unique and don’t necessarily meet the expectations or desires of those in other communities, does not mean the categories are insignificant or negative. Again, I think something hugely hopeful is happening here. A door has opened, and impossible things are becoming possible.

In the words of Exodus president Alan Chambers:

Our goals are to reduce fear and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.

As the new categories emerge and a pathway forms, the process will begin toward the new paradigm itself. The possibilities will begin to unfold. And movement in the direction of healing will happen.

So, let’s get started.

What do you think about this bit of news? Is it encouraging to you or discouraging? Is it enough? Is there hope here for positive change, or is this just another Christian group caving to the culture and going back on biblical principles? I’d love to hear your perspective!

About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. He blogs here at Patheos and HuffPost Religion. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, released in 2012. Most importantly he binge-watches TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

Find him on Twitter & Facebook!

  • shoopscope

    I’m so glad you weighed in on this, Zach. You really captured this tension between “it’s not enough” and “step in the right direction.” In this case, I’m thankful for BOTH voices speaking out: those who welcome and accept the apology, and those who are justifiably skeptical and pushing hard to completely overturn the old paradigm. I identify more with the latter voice, but appreciate the former because it helps to start conversations with my conservative family and friends that would otherwise be impossible.

    • zachhoag

      shoopscope Thanks for that perspective, man. And yeah, the “not enough” viewpoint is not only justified – it’s NEEDED. Each community needs to speak honestly in the midst of this change, and that will help to shape the paradigms that are emerging. Thanks conversing on this.

  • ryanlrobinson

    That was my general reaction. Of course I would prefer that they say “oops, maybe the Bible isn’t as clear as we thought it is and maybe being gay isn’t a sin at all.” But that’s unreasonable to expect so suddenly. Considering where they started, this is huge. We’re probably going to see another full generation of “homosexual activity is sinful” but I do think we’ll quickly start to see more grace and love extended to LGBT persons despite that moral opposition. It’ll take time but we’re going in the right direction.

  • chrislinzey

    Why is a viewpoint of biblical morality and ethics considered “phobia”? I am all for treating ALL people well, as all people are made in God’s image. I can disagree with behaviors and lifestyles and still treat people lovingly. Why do I get saddled with the homophobe label?

    • ryanlrobinson

      chrislinzey We can get along very well. While by most measurements I would be considered a “liberal,” at least politically, and I’m not convinced that the Bible is as clear as some people think it is, I agree that there is a demonization that happens when we brand disagreement with the lifestyle (not the orientation, which they can’t help) as a “phobia.” There are many good and honest people who love LGBT persons to the best of their ability while disagreeing and I ultimately have no problem with that (some of my LGBT friends might disagree of course).

    • Runaway_Writes

      chrislinzey to most of us, we would say less “homophobic” than simply “judgmental”. The problem is that this gets thrown into our faces on a regular basis. And the fact remains, while you have a perspective, I sincerely doubt you’ve wrestled with these scriptures to the same extent that we have. And before you think I am simply biased towards affirming because it means I won’t have to suffer in singleness for my whole life, approaching affirming theology is terrifying because for so long we heard that our soul hung in the balance. We were Terrified to approach affirming theology. Between forever with Jesus or forever burning in Hell. 
      This is why I really more heterosexual Christians would approach this in a more humbling way instead of calling something “Biblical Morality” call it “Traditional” morality or “Literalist” interpretation, we’re all reading the same book here and Good and Godly people can see it differently.

    • zachhoag

      chrislinzey Chris, I agree with ‘homophobic’ as a proper label for something like the organization in question, because it cultivates fear of homosexuality, not least of which is the fear that ‘practicing’ gay folks are by and large hellbound.