The Asheville, NC Citizen-Times ran an article Monday on Exodus International’s annual conference, which started yesterday in neighboring Ridgecrest. The article profiles Exodus and its activities, as well as Equality Asheville, which is offering counter programming with the message “you’re okay the way you are.”
Both sides are given equal time, with quotes from Exodus leaders presented alongside statements by Wayne Besen and several members of Equality Asheville. For the most part, it’s business as usual. What stands out is a rather surprising comment by Alan Chambers:
“The truth is that homosexuality does not send people to hell. Gay people live in heaven. It’s not about fire and brimstone, it’s about an alternative option,” Chambers said.
While Exodus and its allies have for some time avoided directly stating that “gay-identified” Christians will end up in hell, this is nonetheless an extraordinary statement coming from the head of an organization founded on the premise that homosexuality and Christianity are completely incompatible.
Whether this latest admission really means anything in practical terms is a separate issue; Exodus has a track record of adjusting its public image to suit the situation without making substantial changes behind the scenes, as evidenced by Chambers’ announcement earlier this year that the organization was withdrawing from political activism.
In this case, Chambers’ statement appears calculated to reinforce the impression that Exodus’ highest value is the right to self-determination, and that it has no interest in converting GLBT individuals who accept themselves as they are. Given the progressive and gay-friendly nature of the Asheville area, it makes sense that Exodus would want to soften its public image.
However, while it may be accurate to say that Exodus does not directly try to convert people (that job can be left to churches and to other ministries), it seems less than honest to suggest that Exodus genuinely respects the rights of gay individuals to make their own choices in life. From actively opposing legal protections for GLBT individuals, both domestically and overseas, to characterizing such protections as “evil,” to ostracizing those who leave the ex-gay lifestyle, Exodus’ track record suggests that it values self-determination only for those who make the “right” choice.
That Exodus is willing to leave the question of each individual’s salvation to God is noteworthy, but it should not be interpreted as a lessening of its traditional hostility toward those it characterizes as “militant” gays.