In a post by Brad Sargent on the Exodus blog, the success rate of ex-gay therapy is addressed. 25 years ago, Brad became involved in Exodus. He started working for them in 1991, and was often addressed with the question, “What is your success rate?” Unable to give any numerical result, he was forced to respond thusly:
That question popped up so often, it became a frustration. There were no formal studies available from Exodus ministries then – who had funds or time to conduct such research? And yet, callers were anxious to know: If I’m going to invest myself in a transformation process, will it pay off? It’s just part of human nature to want a guarantee, but there was (and is) none we could give. What was our success rate? I was at the point of saying, “Well … 100 percent for those who follow Jesus Christ the rest of their life.”
Unable to give a clear, solid answer then or now, Exodus relies on the false dichotomy that “gay” and “Christian” oppose one another. And in fact, they incorrectly interpret- and therfore, deflect – the question at hand:
…I had to realize the REAL question hidden underneath the surface question. It was not ultimately about success rates, but about hope. Can I change? Can things be different? Can I live a normal life? Can I have hope?
Actually, when someone asks what the success rate is, it’s probably fair to assume that this is exactly what they’re asking for. They want some kind of hard data to assess whether it would be worth spending years – sometimes decades – of their lives and possibly thousands of dollars on therapy that will ultimately not make them any more opposite-sex attracted. If somebody gives a success rate of 15%, that person might not think it worth it to enter into a ministry. Others might cling to such a number, thinking they might be in the lucky 15% that wins the heterosexual lottery, so to speak. But giving an answer of “unknown” does not generally instill confidence.
What is your success rate? The answer never really was a WHAT. It always is a WHO. Jesus Christ is “success” because He was obedient to the Father’s plan. When we find our identity in Christ and not in our own strengths or weaknesses, we too can find success in living. Not perfection, but perseverance. Not absence of temptation, but freedom from feeling we have to give in. Not a guarantee by following rules, but genuine hope empowered by grace.
This ignores, of course, the many LGBTQ’s who indeed have a strong relationship with Jesus and their Creator. If “Jesus Christ is ‘success'” and those sexual minorities indeed have an “identity in Christ,” then would Exodus consider those people to be success stories? Probably not, because in their view, being “gay-identified” – in other words, honest about one’s attractions – is identifying with one’s “weaknesses.” Plenty live “normal” lives and are fulfilled spiritually.
One can, however, be romantically and sexually honest about their attractions without acting upon them, if they find that is contrary to their convictions. This is known by many in the gay Christian community as “Side B.”
Perhaps the deepest success of Exodus has been in restoring a sanctified imagination to those who’ve grown devoid of hope. From that beginning point, we can engage in a trajectory of transformation toward overcoming, restoration, and wholeness.
So it can be deduced that Exodus’ greatest success is not in making a gay person change into a straight person. Otherwise, they would have mentioned it. But this is what many people are looking for when they turn to an ex-gay ministry. This article gives the impression that Exodus is unable to provide this.
At the end of the post, Brad mentions a “scientific study” that they at long last have to reference – the Jones and Yarhouse Study. But this publication has been repeatedly exposed for its glaring flaws in the manner in which it was conducted. Even if the results of the study – a “23% success rate” – are to be taken at face value, that still points to a 77% fail rate. And even the authors themselves admit that said “success” does not necessarily mean “opposite sex attracted,” it means “chastity or celibacy.” Not one “success” story is reported to have relinquished their same sex attractions.
If Exodus’ goal is to help gays live a celibate life, they should say so outright. Touting a false dichotomy and a flawed study as evidence of “success” hides a non-existant gay-to-straight success rate and misleads those looking for such results.