Four Qualms with Alan Chambers’ Apology from the Exodus International Platform

If you have not heard about Exodus International and the recent apology by its president, Alan Chambers, you can read his apology here. Just Google it and you will get all the background you need. 

By Scott Fowler

The recent apology by Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, is quite the hot topic this week. There may be any number of issues we could discuss, but he said four things in his apology that I would like to address in this article.

Item One:

Today it is as if I’ve just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church.

This is a loaded statement that leads me asking, Which church? In what way is the Bible-believing, evangelical church angry with Exodus International? I can’t say that I am aware of the feedback Exodus International has gotten over the years. Apparently there have been gross indiscretions in its operations at times. If this is what Chambers means, OK. But I kind of think he must be trying to say that somehow the church is angry at his stance towards homosexuality, same-sex marriage, reparative processes, etc. If this is what he means, then he is talking about a certain part of the “church,” an inclusive part that is no way to be characterized by what used to be known as evangelicalism. So my complaint here is that it seems as though he is reflecting a change in the believing Church’s stance on homosexuality and that is not the case. My words here are not in defense of any abusive behavior towards the LGBT community which no right-headed genuine believer would advocate anyway.

Item Two:

But if the Church is a body, with many members being connected to the whole, then I believe that what one of us does right we all do right,and what one of us does wrong we all do wrong. 

This is nice fireside, “kum bah yah” language, but it doesn’t wash. First of all, there are too many instances where this statement on its face is disproved over and over and over. Second, I sort of resent Chamber’s appointing himself to speak for the church and to drag the church into what he is saying. I am tired of people beating up on the church. How easy it is to cherry pick all the things that the church has done wrong over the years and blame everyone for it. How easy to dismiss righteous claims because some individual skewed off-center and did something shameful. So, on one hand Chambers is facing “an angry church” and on the other he is saying the church did wrong with him. Well, the jury is still out on the reasons for Chambers’ apology, but in the mean time he isn’t speaking for the believing Church.

Item Three:

 And then there is the trauma that I have caused. There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there.

The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.

I am truly not trying to be unkind or even judgmental, but this sounds like Chambers is “coming out.” It also sounds like he is trying to say that he was “born this way.” He also seems to be suggesting that God accepts homosexuality, or at least its desires, as normal and OK. And it all seems to be firmly based in Chambers’ subjective experience and perspective. Finally, his message would seem to be, “Don’t be ashamed of your homosexual desires. They are normal and God accepts them.” Again, Chambers does not speak for the believing Church if indeed this is what he is saying.

Item Four:

You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours. I hope the changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good. Moving forward, we will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing.

I wonder what the changes are going to be in Chambers’ own life? I also want to know what kind of “resolution” Chambers is hoping to bring about? Who has shown displeasure to Chambers with such ferocity that he has arrived at this moment of what many will call capitulation? But here is the part I am most concerned about with this quote. His future focus on “peace,” “common good,” and “human flourishing.” My problem is not that those things aren’t good, but they can be disastrous when the foundation they are built on is compromise or fear of man.

Conclusion

I must reiterate that I am no expert on Exodus International, nor do I have any insight into the spiritual or theological veracity of Alan Chambers. It is not my desire to castigate him or his walk with God. But even though I have stated here that he is not an official spokesman for the believing church, when a leader like Chambers speaks out the culture invariably groups the church in with his words.

In response to a response from crazyqueerclassicist:

By Scott Fowler

I am writing this article in response to one written by Chris Delmore who took exception to Roger Erdvig’s Boys will be boys . . . or will they? post of a couple weeks ago. By Chris’s own admission he intended to write an article that would be unexpected and annoying. It was unexpected (though not the ideas within, but the time taken to articulately respond to my challenge and Roger’s article), but it was not annoying.

It is not my intention to respond for Roger. Perhaps he will do that at a later date. But I do have some thoughts and questions for Chris.

Definitions

Chris immediately took exception to Roger’s dismissal of the transgender claims of children referred to in his article, demanding respect for their assertions. I would plead for understanding and patience on Chris’s part as far as we evangelical’s1 are concerned in even understanding where our language would be offensive in these issues. Your average Christian is unaware of the intricacies of transgenderism2 and all that it entails. But, I can say that we do not, and should not, say what we say in an effort to disrespect. But one must understand that evangelical Christians come at this issue with a different worldview; one that is less interested in making people comfortable in their choices or situations and more interested in addressing what to us seems like a tragic condition. It seems strange to simply accept that a little girl has begun to identify as a little boy and not try and find reasons for it. Why? Because our worldview says that God has not made people this way. So, since that is what we firmly believe, we look for solutions; for answers. The idea that gender is “by definition . . . a psychological concept” is a strange idea to us and one we cannot accept, and one that, in spite of the sources cited in Chris’s article, is one that probably has not been accepted by anyone for very long. In 1828 gender simply meant “a sex, male or female. . . . a difference in words to express distinction of sex.”3 The American Heritage Dictionary still retains this definition, though it opens the door for a distinction between “sex” and “gender” by defining gender as “sexual identity, especially in relation to society or culture” as well. So, the idea that gender is a psychological concept and that it and sex are “entirely separate concepts” is not one that we accept, in spite of Stryker and Butler and the massive intellectual fire power Chris wheeled out in order to make this point. It is hard however to reconcile the idea that gender is a psychological concept and yet see it defended as something that cannot be changed and, by implication as something that is not chosen or at least engendered by one’s familial environment, etc.

Clashing Worldviews

As for using God as support for our arguments, it is simply inadequate to say that such reference points are meaningless for those that do not believe in “a single, omnipotent, creationist God.” I assume that Chris embraces a postmodern philosophy that does not allow for absolute truth (in contrast I love the simplicity of Aquinas who asserts, “The existence of truth is self-evident. For whoever denies the existence of truth grants that truth does not exist: and, if truth does not exist, then the proposition ‘Truth does not exist’ is true: and if there is anything true, there must be truth.”), though in one place Chris expresses agreement with Roger about truth. And I am unaware of Chris’s religious beliefs. In any case, just because there are individuals who have decided that God does not exist, does not mean He doesn’t exist. And there is no clause that allows for each of us to choose our own universe or our own eschatological destinies based on preference (i.e., the idea that since I don’t believe in God I won’t have to answer to God). Either there is a God or there is not. Either it is the God of the Bible, the Christian God, or it is not. Either the tenets of Scripture (the Bible) are true or they are not. This is the issue.

Do we find certain situations in the world that we cannot explain? Yes. Are there actually people who, as far as they know, are gay or lesbian or identify as being of a gender opposite to what the transgender literature describes as their “assigned sex”? Yes. But human experience does not define the Bible. The Bible defines human experience. Any Christian who sincerely thinks that every person involved in the LGBT community is simply, consciously trying to rebel against God should do some deeper thinking and investigation (though there certainly are those in the LGBT community who seem to be doing just that). But just because there are good-hearted, kind, well-meaning, even god-fearing individuals out there in the wide world who are attracted to the same sex or who identify opposite to their “assigned sex,” that does not make it acceptable. It does not, in and of itself, mean that those realities should be normalized or canonized into the list of normal human experience. The question here is which standard of truth will we adhere to?

Bottom-up Subjectivity4

I found interesting the four explanations to Roger’s rhetorical, “How did we get here so fast?” particularly, number three: the idea that acceptance comes to the LGBT community because people do not want to hurt their loved ones who have come out as LGBT. Of course, it is laudable when people love their friends and families and don’t want to hurt them. Any other intention would not make sense. But from an evangelical Christian standpoint, our commitment to God and to truth trumps our sentimentalities and even our staunch devotion to our loved ones. In fact, changing the truth in order not to hurt someone’s feelings is like a doctor not revealing a potentially fatal disease to a patient because he or she does not want to hurt the patient’s feelings. When we stop valuing and pursuing truth, all other ills find a home where truth once lived.

I respect Chris’s strong assertion that gender is not a choice; that trying to change one’s “crippling sex-gender incongruence” does not work. I care about the word crippling. And in spite of those evangelical Christians who seem to preach about hell like they want you to go there (we all know the type), I think we all are concerned about the word crippling. But our approach is to ask “What can we do to change the situation?” rather than to simply try and make the world more accepting. It’s like the difference between radical surgery and hospice. One you do because you want to fix it. The other you do because nothing else worked and you resign yourself to what doctors say is inevitable. Genuine, Bible-believing Christians want to fix it. I understand that we have not expressed that in love, and I understand that even when we do, those words may still be heard as offensive to the segment of society who is experiencing life as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person. But we want to fix it.

Unfortunate Disconnects

Finally, I think Chris’s last paragraph asserting an improper fixation on children’s genitals is unfair and is as unnecessary as is the implication that any of us would ever condone violence against transgender individuals (or anyone in the LGBT community). That’s not who we are. And I guess I want to address the concept of “homophobia” or “transphobia,” though not here and not yet, except to say that I don’t identify with the idea that we are afraid of homosexuality or transgenderism, etc. in the sense that we are concerned that it may hinder our quality of life or that we are necessarily afraid that we ourselves will become homosexual or transgender (though since we largely see these as being in the realm of choice or at least being environmentally influenced some of that may play a part). Ours is a pursuit of truth and a desire to fulfill the Great Commission, and a genuine concern for people.

I do have some questions:

-What was the earliest point that behavioral scientists or psychologists began to make a distinction between sex and gender?

-How much influence does environment play in gender identity?

– Are there transgender individuals who are happy to be transgender?

-Do transgender individuals claim that there is absolutely no reason to think that the elevation of transgenderism, etc. will ever have an effect on children who are what you refer to as cisgendered but who are bullied for other reasons, thereby leaving them vulnerable to suggestion?

1 I use the word “evangelical” with more and more reserve since I can no longer be confident that everyone is reads the same meaning into it any more. But the word “Christian” is worse since even more heresy is found under that rubric than the word evangelical.

2 Not sure is transgenderism is a fair way to reference here.

3 American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster 1828, (New York: S. Converse, 1828), gender.

4 The concept of “bottom-up” or “top down” applies here in that a growing number of people want to choose truth based on what humans experience or desire rather than from a perspective of what God desires.

 

Scott Fowler is the founder of the Christ and Culture Initiative. He is a pastor/theologian living in New York. You can learn more about him at:  http://scottythinks.wordpress.com/about/