An article published last week by the Christian New Man Magazine claims to interview Exodus president Alan Chambers, but a careful reading suggests that the questions could easily have been written by Chambers or his handlers.
The answers are boilerplate ex-gay rhetoric; what makes the interview interesting is the narrowmindedness and political correctness of the questions.
In this post, I will assess the first half of the interview.
New Man question: You struggled with same-sex attraction yourself. Did that experience lead you to the ministry you’re in today?
Translation: As a teen-ager, for a period of approximately two years, you considered yourself either gay, bisexual, or confused. Does a brief period of confusion justify a lifetime of political warfare against the equality of gay people and cultural warfare against their families?
New Man question: Your ministry is inherently controversial. You have been interviewed by a number of news outlets and you’re unapologetic about trying to change homosexuals. What is your response to someone who says, “They can’t change”?
Translation: For political and financial reasons, we are deathly afraid to discuss what kind of change, or how much change is possible, and so, in the form of a question, we parrot the meme that “change(1) is possible(2).”
The fine print:
1. “Change” means either celibacy or episodes of sexual compulsion, plus unchanged same-sex attraction, plus an unsupportable claim to have a “heterosexual identity,” plus outspoken political rhetoric, plus vindictive behavior against openly gay, bisexual or transgender people and their families. “Change” is likely to mean depression, alienation, self-blame, family disruption, loss of self-esteem, and loss of faith in God, as evidenced by the ex-gay survivors’ movement. But his sort of “change” is not acknowledged by Exodus, its programs, or its promoters (including New Man magazine).
2. “Possible” may mean less than 10 percent chance of significant change in sexual attraction, and near-zero percent chance of complete change of orientation, in 95-plus percent of the general population which considers itself predominantly attracted to the same gender.
Chambers’ answer: Well my first response is that we don’t change people. I want to be very clear about that. We are people who simply point to the truth and Scripture, to the truth of our testimonies and to the grace of a God who promises He’ll free anyone who submits his will to His Lordship. It will be different for different people. I know a lot of people that didn’t experience a change in their feelings. They didn’t experience the same freedom I did, which is sometimes hard to understand.
Translation: The individual or God is to blame if our programs fail to change anyone. We are blameless, and in fact some of our client contracts legally absolve our programs of responsibility for any harm caused. Many of our programs, by the way, rely upon the wisdom of abandoned strands of 19th-century secular psychotherapy, not God or the Bible, for the root belief that parents, abusive relatives, and absence of strict gender-role models are to blame for homosexuality. I acknowledge that program outcomes may differ for different people. But as an ex-gay activist, I cannot understand why few people’s experiences conform to my own, and therefore I cannot understand why our programs suffer failure rates so severe that we refuse to accurately monitor or report them.
New Man question: How do you respond to the naysayers that say it is not even possible for people to change?
Translation: If someone dares to ask what “change” and “possible” really mean to Exodus, please call them a “naysayer.”
Chambers’ answer: Well I say you can’t tell me that my life hasn’t experienced radical change. To presume things for me would be as inappropriate as me speaking for you. I can’t tell someone that they haven’t experienced something that they say they have personally experienced. And for me that’ the truth. You can’t deny the fact that I’m different than I was 18 years ago.
Translation: Pay no attention to the ex-gay movement’s own studies — Spitzer, Jones & Yarhouse — showing little change in sexual attraction among the movement’s strongest success stories. Pay attention instead to my moral relativism and egocentrism: Because an experience is true (or politically correct) for me as an ex-gay activist, it should be correct for you as well.
New Man question: You mentioned that some people might not have the same freedom that other people experience. Does same-sex attraction ever go away?
Translation: We have redefined freedom to mean “freedom from sexuality” but it sounds nicer if we say “freedom from homosexuality” or better yet, just “freedom.”
New Man question: How big of a problem is the fear of people who struggle with homosexuality in the church today?
Chambers’ answer: In some places it is more apparent than others, maybe even in certain denominations. That’ not to knock parts of the country or certain denominations. You know it’ a matter of ignorance in my opinion and that’ not really as ugly a word as it sounds. Some people just really don’t understand it. They need to take a deeper look and have an understanding of why people do what they do. It is a problem. But I also think it’ changing. My caution to people is that as they move out of ignorance and into a more accepting posture, that they don’t toss truth out the window for grace. At the same time they shouldn’t toss grace out the window for truth. It’ a tightrope.
Translation: We are exceedingly careful never to admit, first, that violence against gay and gender-variant people is extensive in the United States, and second, that close allies of ours — including Exodus conference speaker Ken Hutcherson — lead religious groups such as Watchmen on the Walls which explicitly encourage such violence. Vague godtalk about grace and truth help us avoid some key liabilities.
Go to Part Two