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Headline Rewind: Exodus International and Save Me

On weekends when the Walker Cinema is empty, Headline Rewind points out other worthwhile films that respond to headlines from the week that was.   News Event: Anti-Gay Group Exodus International Disbands June is Pride Month, and among the many LGBT victories that will be celebrated this year — changing policy in the Boy Scouts of America; […]

On weekends when the Walker Cinema is empty, Headline Rewind points out other worthwhile films that respond to headlines from the week that was.  

News Event: Anti-Gay Group Exodus International Disbands

June is Pride Month, and among the many LGBT victories that will be celebrated this year — changing policy in the Boy Scouts of America; a series of state legislative victories about same-sex marriage (including here at home in Minnesota); presidental support for the constitutional legality of gay marriage — is something that is perhaps less a “victory” than it is a barometer of a growing cultural shift. Until two days ago, Exodus International had functioned for nearly 40 years as an interdenominational “ex-gay” Christian organization whose mission statement, according to its website, was “mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality” — or rather, to change people’s sexual orientations.

But on Wednesday, Exodus International President Alan Chambers issued a statement ap0logizing for the harm he and the organization had caused, through action or message, to members of the LGBT community and their allies, and announced that the organization will disband. In a formal letter of apology (read it in full here), Chambers stated that:

“Moving forward, we will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing.

In an open letter of response published this morning in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Kevin Winge responds that “there is an art to apologizing,” and that in his words and actions this week, Chambers has “done something profoundly right.”

Film Recommendation: Save Me by Robert Cary

While Exodus International worked at the macro level in real life, the fictional Genesis House in Robert Cary’s 2007 indie feature Save Me serves as a complex microcosm for the kind of collision between faith and sexuality that Chambers’ organization hopes to move forward in addressing with compassion. Produced by and starring gay actor Chad Allen, who himself came from a strongly religious (Roman Catholic) background, Save Me follows Mark (Allen) as he navigates recovery from a near-overdose. His brother enrolls him in a home for homosexual men seeking to become “ex-gay,” and things invariably get complicated when Mark and his housemate Scott (Robert Grant) begin to develop a close connection that challenges the group home’s goal of curing homosexuality.

This is a necessary challenge, one that Alan Chambers has publicly recognized and affirmed this week, and this film presents it in a surprisingly nuanced way. Albeit melodramatic, there are strong performances from all sides of the argument; both Mark and Scott, and the head of Genesis House, played with a compelling ferocity by Judith Light, demand our sympathy. So while we most definitely have cause to cheer the changes heralded by Chambers’ announcement this week, this film is a perfect piece to bring into dialogue with recent events, in its ability to highlight the greyer areas of human emotion and experience and remind us that empathy is, like apology, an art worth practicing.

Save Me, which first screened at Sundance in 2007, is conveniently, streaming online at Netflix Instant, and if the recent news has you interested in Exodus International and its longer history of quiet dissent, you can also check out One Nation Under God, a 1993 documentary by Teodoro Maniaci. It chronicles the departure of two of the organization’s major figures in order to pursue a life together as male partners, and is also available for instant streaming on Netflix.