Maybe Exodus International Can Save Women From Christian Domestic Discipline

A marriage license and daily prayers don’t make domestic abuse any more legal.

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Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, answers a question during an interview inside a conference center, near Black Mountain, N.C., Wednesday, July 20, 2005. Chambers said he left a homosexual lifestyle for marriage and heterosexuality.

Religious conviction makes people do and say crazy things, many of them not remotely rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ or other icons of people of faith. Sometimes, those people see the light and realize hate and discrimination are not the goals of any true and sincere religion. And sometimes, those people are so threatened at the thought they might lose control over other groups of people, they double-down on the crazy.

On the hopeful front, we have Alan Chambers, who recently apologized to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for his years trying to "fix" gays and lesbians by offering "reparative therapy" to make them straight. Exodus International, a Christian ministry, decided to close its doors after 37 years and stop trying to turn gays into heterosexuals. Said Exodus president Chambers in a statement on the group's website:

For quite some time we've been imprisoned in a worldview that's neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical. From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we're all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal's older brother, trying to impose its will on God's promises, and make judgments on who's worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.

This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation. Our goals are to reduce fear (reducefear.org), and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gay marriage.]

The idea that homosexuals can simply be trained to be sexually attracted to people of the other sex is absurd, and defies logic for two contradictory reasons. An initial thought is that if homosexuality were a choice, we might have a lot more lesbians. Why not double your shoe wardrobe, never mind avoid conversations with your female friends, after a breakup, about how you'll never understand male behavior? The second thought is that if one could choose one's sexual orientation, why make a choice that will make you the target of discrimination, violence, hatred and even murder?

Perhaps the idea behind it is that Christians are supposed to hate the sin, but love the sinner. It's a tremendously impressive step that Chambers has realized that the so-called "sin" was merely being "the sinner" – and that it is wrong to demonize people simply for being who and what God or nature made them.

Score one for tolerance among those claiming to be motivated by religion. It's been undermined a bit, however, by a group (a small one, thankfully) that thinks men should spank their wives in the name of Christian discipline.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should the Boy Scouts of America Lift Its Ban on Gay Members?]

Both The Daily Beast and Jezebel have written about the practice of spanking for Jesus. Called "Christian Domestic Discipline," the practice is meant to keep wives in line by domestic violence – or, as its adherents call it, just a way to keep a woman in her rightful, submissive place. As The Daily Beast's Brandy Zadrozny reports:

Referred to as CDD by its followers, the practice often includes spanking and other types corporal punishments administered by husbands—and ostensibly ordained by God. While the private nature of the discipline makes it difficult to estimate the number of adherents, activity in several online forums suggests a figure in the low thousands. Devotees call CDD an alternative lifestyle and enthusiastically sing its praises; for critics, it's nothing but domestic abuse by another name.

Good lord.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should Gay Marriage be Legal Nationwide?]

Jezebel's Callie Beusman writes about the women being under constant supervision and monitoring by their husbands, who punish the adult women with such child-rearing tactics as time outs and having phone privileges taken away.

This isn't a lifestyle choice. It's abuse, and it's no less illegal because it's being done in the name of religion. It's the same mindset that led to what Ohio authorities say was the enslavement of three women by a local man who beat them, raped them and kept them from leaving the house. A marriage license and daily prayers don't make it fundamentally any different.

The leaders of Exodus have joined the modern world, realizing they can't "save" gays and lesbians from being who they are. The ministry is planning to open under a new name and mission. Perhaps they could rescue the women being abused by CDD followers.

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