This post deals more heavily with issues of the Christian faith than most. There is some “insider” language as a result. Most readers should be used to the fact that dealing with Exodus intensely means that one will be dealing with this topic, but for those who are new and may not share this faith, please bear with us.
Wendy Gritter, leader of New Direction, a former Exodus member ministry, has posted in interview format a conversation she had recently with Alan Chambers. The discussion came about after Gritter approached Chambers concerning an article he authored in Charisma which she felt caused a conflict between them. This is explained in Gritters post, Dealing with Conflict, on the New Direction blog, Bridging the Gap. In his response, Chambers made some statements which we find troubling.
I do not believe that the sin of homosexuality is just sexual. I think there is something far more troubling to the Lord when someone chooses an identity—regardless of sexual behavior—that is less than God intends for His creation.
This statement is supported by an earlier Charisma article by Chambers, and others in his first book, God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door, three years ago. The wild card here is the phrase, “less than God intends for His creation.” What on earth does one do with such a statement? One could easily ask Mr. Chambers if he is certain he might not have come closer to God’s best by actually procreating, instead of adopting. After all, that is a major part of marriage according to his interpretation. Did he miss God’s best by not waiting for his wife to become pregnant? Should they both have had more faith that God would provide a child the way, well, He intended?
Now of course, this is an absurd line of thought and certainly we do not believe those adopted children are any less “their kids” than if they had been born to the Chambers. Such a position would clearly devalue Chambers’ family. It would be an insult to the genuine love we feel certain they share with their children as a family. And yet he insults gays, and devalues their families and relationships because they don’t follow a “natural” pattern, or one which he understands as “God’s best” for them.
The heart of the Gospel is that each individual, through the course of their journey, needs to discover what is God’s best for them. This is not something that should be imposed from another’s own rigid views. For those who have been driven to believe their choice is either change or damnation, it creates an impossible goal which is always just out of reach. There’s no grace in that at all — that’s a gospel of works.
I believe the most important tasks before us are equipping, educating and mobilizing the Body of Christ to embody the model found in Jesus. He was 100% grace and 100% truth. We’ve, historically, gotten the truth part right but failed at giving grace. There are portions of the Body now erring on the side of grace, which in my opinion is just as dangerous as erring on the side of truth, Very few are doing both as Jesus did. We must encourage both!
How on earth does one “err on the side of grace?” And since when are grace and truth two separate things? How can there be grace without truth? Statements like that lead one to question Chambers’ basic understanding of the Gospel. But more tangible and obvious is the ability this position gives him in the discussion. The “truth” he speaks of, often designated with the capitalized “Truth” to identify his interpretation of absolute scriptural truth, is not open for discussion; to do so would invite compromise which is unacceptable.
In essence, this allows Chambers to play God. He does not compare notes and discuss understanding in the way that scripture says, “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17). Instead he issues oppressive demands which he attributes to God. He does not challenge others to see another point of view, he demands them to see things through his. And this attitude flows through the organization for which he is responsible, Exodus International.
As I have stated before, there are people “missing” from the Body and they can be found in the gay community and we would be far better off with them than without. God would rather have a handicapped child than no child at all.
The reader can be forgiven for stumbling a bit at this point. As odious as some may find the idea that they are handicapped in God’s eyes because of their homosexuality, there is a more basic issue here. With these two lines Chambers contradicts his earlier statement about how the “sin of homosexuality is not just sexual” but that it troubles God when we “chose and identity” that is “less than God intends for His creation.”
As vague as that sounds (Baptist identity? American identity? Ex-gay identity?), we can probably agree that Chambers means those who, in his words, “take on a gay identity.” But now he says that God would rather have them gay (handicapped) than not at all? Now who wants to have his cake and eat it, too? This is such a mess — why does he think these people might be missing in the first place? Could it be that he has no clue of the part which he and Exodus have played in that?
Chambers is trapped. If he were to give even a millimeter in the other direction, all kinds of things begin to fall apart. Exodus’ mission, their constant emphasis on change, their policy activities, donations, even Chambers’ own life, these things start to look very different if he is able to accept, even for a second, that one can lead a good life, pleasing to God, without also striving with every fiber of one’s being to be heterosexual and, preferably, married with children.
One last quote which may go to the heart of Chambers’ inability to grasp so much of this:
Two men or two women pledging their lives to one another in marriage is less than God’s best for them. I’ve been there and my desires were much deeper and values compromised. The best thing I ever did was flee such a situation because it was not healthy or Godly. [emphasis added]
Chambers has never written anything that we are aware of which would indicate he ever had a serious same-sex relationship. In fact, there is no indication that he was ever really “out” at all, or at least not far. He claims to have visited some gay bars at age eighteen (with gay Christians, according to his original account) and during that same year (or early the next year, depending on the version) he says that he “gave up the lifestyle.” He started with ex-gay ministries the next year and makes no mention of having any same-sex experiences since.
This means that he may have actually lived as a gay man (sort of) less than a year during his teens. On a personal understanding of what being gay is about, his are the views of an immature, mixed up, eighteen year old who experienced no more than some anonymous sex and visits to gay bars in 1990. It is no wonder that he, and Exodus, just don’t seem to get it. Chambers’ view of GLBTs is shallow because his own brief experience was. Now he imparts that to all the rest of us.
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Hat Tip: David Blakeslee for inspiring the use of the quote.