Video: Alan Chambers interview on MSNBC’s Hardball, July 10 (scroll down for commentary):
Exodus International President Alan Chambers gave characteristically vague responses when pressed for answers on MSNBC’s Hardball this evening.
After a few minutes getting no definitive answer on Exodus’s new approach to reparative therapy, host Michael Smerconish cut to the chase:
I guess what I’m waiting for you to say, that I gleaned from the New York Times but I’m not hearing on Hardball, is that it doesn’t work. Because in the Times, quote, “he said that virtually every ex-gay he has ever met harbors homosexual cravings, himself included.”
At this point, Chambers rejected the term “cravings,” preferring “same-sex attractions.” He continued:
My attractions, if you want to know, are specifically and always towards my wife. For me, those things have changed. My life is not the same as it was 21 years ago, when I sought help. But to say that I don’t have temptations or that I could never be tempted or don’t have same-sex attractions isn’t true.
His attractions are “specifically and always” towards his wife — and at the same time towards the same sex, confusingly. “I’m gay, but I’m married to a woman, and I love her, and somehow we’ve made it work” would be a refreshingly honest statement — John Smid made it at least that far — but we do get tied in semantic knots when the simple descriptor “gay” is such a fierce obstacle.
Will Exodus be apologizing to those who pursued change, believing the message that there was a way to escape their “innate feelings”? Did Exodus get it wrong? Smerconish asked. Alan Chambers replied:
Well, I think if someone hears my message and thinks that I am telling them that they are never going to struggle again, that those feelings are going to go away, or that … their lives are going to be anything like my life, I am sorry for that. That has never been my intention.
Chambers has not taken responsibility here. He is sorry if people misheard or misunderstood Exodus’s message — he feels bad they got the wrong end of the stick, perhaps. But essentially, the fault was in the hearer, not in Exodus’s message. He later makes it explicit, when explaining Exodus’s present stance on reparative therapy:
I wouldn’t say that I was defending reparative therapy a year ago. I think we broadbrush that. Reparative therapy is a very small and specific type of therapy that a few therapists use. That isn’t something that Exodus does today.
So Chambers never did defend reparative therapy, he says. This rejection isn’t so much a change as a clarification. And he’s using the term “reparative therapy” in a very specific sense to refer not to all sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), but to one particular psychological approach — that of NARTH, with its belief that making up for a deficient childhood is the key to orientation change.
In an email to Ex-Gay Watch, Alan confirmed Exodus ministries would no longer allow member ministries to practice or promote reparative therapy. On SOCE in general, he remains hazy. The most he would commit to on Hardball tonight is that he felt Christians placed an “overemphasis” on homosexuality in a way that wasn’t applied to other “issues.” To illustrate what he and Exodus are rejecting, he described only the most extreme examples:
So much of that type of technique and therapy is focused on changing attraction or changing temptation, when I don’t find that there’s a biblical reality that says people will necessarily change their temptations or change their struggles. … So much of the focus [of reparative therapists] is [on] changing … where they’re talking about 100% cures, and using that word specifically with me in private conversations, and then even introducing things like heterosexual pornography to help initiate or instigate or bring about heterosexual attraction. And I don’t find that that’s healthy or helpful or realistic at all.
So we know complete healing from homosexuality is out. Using pornography to turn gays straight is off the cards. And we still don’t get a statement one way or the other whether “change is possible.” The problem with reparative therapy is not that it offers change, Chambers told Smerconish, but that “much of the focus” is on change.
What we got on Hardball was an Exodus unwilling to say unequivocally whether sexual orientation change is possible, and an Exodus willing to disassociate itself only from a small percentage of those who make such claims. We have been waiting for years for Exodus to move past semantics and speak clearly — and despite some seemingly clear-cut headlines recently, we are still waiting.