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!
Follow Zach J. Hoag on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zhoag