Exodus Takes on the Celibate Menace

So I’ve just read God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door, by Exodus President Alan Chambers and other Exodus leaders. Some good, some bad, and overall a profoundly alienating experience. Maybe a review later, but I’m not really the reviewing sort, so probably not.
I’ve been listening/reading to Exodus stuff for quite some time, so there weren’t a ton of surprises in here. But one thing that shocked me was their hostility toward the celibate gay route. I had always thought they had a live-and-let-live attitude and were cool with the celibate gay Christians doing their own thing. It turns out I was just projecting.

Here are three quotes, with horrified commentary from me.

1. While listing various faulty Christian attitudes toward homosexuality, Mike Goeke refers to the “website” of a mystery denomination (he gives no further information, but he is quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church) which advocates chastity as the proper course of action for the same-sex-attracted believer.

The website states that “homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” However, there is a clear implication that true change is not possible. (64)

(emphasis mine)

When I first read this, I didn’t know whether to faint, puke, or rend my garments.

I mean, what have we become if we are portraying the gradual and resolute approach of Christian perfection as somehow not being “true change?” If sanctification isn’t true change for a Christian, then what is? I feel like I’m always trying to tell people that contrary to our awful reputation, we exgays really do see holiness and obedience and faith as the highest and most important things, and all the other kinds of change as secondary at best. Am I wrong about that?

2. Another bit from Goeke, as he again denigrates celibacy in comparison with the True Christian option. Let’s do this one as a quiz, okay? Fill in the blank in the following passage:

Many who leave homosexuality behind are unwilling to accept that their only option is to live a life of celibacy, simply managing unwanted attractions. What they really want is _________.

If, like me, you would put “to get laid” or anything having to do with sex or relationship or marriage, you’d be wrong. The actual quote:

Many who leave homosexuality behind are unwilling to accept that their only option is to live a life of celibacy, simply managing unwanted attractions. What they really want is a change in identity. They no longer want the gay label attached to them. (69-70)

This just doesn’t make sense. How does changing your identity and label free you from celibacy and the onerous responsibility of managing your unwanted attractions? Is “change in identity” supposed to be some sort of code for “heterosexual attractions and relationships?” I’m totally perplexed.

Look, I’m in favor of people taking their gay identity and nailing it to the cross. Really I am. But I think doing it primarily in order to improve your sex/love life doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And that’s what this passage seems to be implying. Tired of this long dry season you’ve been having? Switch labels!

Maybe I just don’t understand. In fact, I’m quite sure I don’t understand. But you know, I’ve been trying to sympathetically understand Exodus-speak for several years now, and I think I’m about ready to give up.

3. Alan Chambers this time:

This is why I believe that it is so important to clarify that just living a celibate gay life is just as sinful as living a sexually promiscuous one. The sin is in identifying with anything that is contrary to Christ, which homosexuality clearly is. (218)

(emphasis mine)

Wow.
If I understand that correctly, he’s saying there’s no sin in the gay sex at all. Right? If celibacy is just as sinful as promiscuity, then the sex makes no moral difference.

Whatever I believe about gay identity, it isn’t that.

I honestly don’t think we have grounds for declaring gay identity flat-out sinful. I do worry about it from a prudential/practical perspective–I simply haven’t seen it “work” in the lives of the many seeking-to-be-faithful-and-obedient homo-atrracted folk I’ve known, with the exception of this one guy (who has himself expressed doubts to me about the wisdom of identifying as gay.) It also appears to work okay for this chick, but seeing as how I don’t know her from a hole in the wall, I can’t really say.

My basic problem with Chambers’s statement, aside from its absurdity in declaring celibacy and promiscuity to be morally equivalent, is that there’s no acknowledgment of the complexity of the issue. There’s no sense that “identifying with” something can take a variety of forms, or that “gay identity” might mean different things to different people. And what does “contrary to Christ” mean? In what way is gay identity like or different from other kinds of identity in this respect? If he just means that our allegiance to Christ ought to trump and transcend all our earthly identities, well yeah! But if he means something more than that, and presumably he does, I think a bit more needs to be said by way of explanation.

38 Responses to Exodus Takes on the Celibate Menace

  1. Ron Belgau says:

    Thanks for the link–at least, the attempted link. In order to make it work on some browsers, you want to edit it to say “http://www.cityofgod.net/” rather than just “www.cityofgod.net”

    Anyhow, I would say that my “gay identity” consists of little more than not launching into a complex discussion of how I’m a “non-gay homosexual” or “same-sex-attracted but not gay.” I have little connection with the gay community, apart from posting occasionally at http://www.gaychristian.net/, where I was asked to contribute an essay defending the Biblical basis of celibacy.

    As for the Exodus stuff. Wow. How do you get such incompetence at the helm of such a high-profile organization? At least they’re not setting aside the word of God for some human tradition… like Freudian psychology. Because as everyone knows, only Catholics do that. Folks like Chambers know their Bible well enough to never fall into the trap of thinking God blessed celibacy.

    I dunno what to say. I try to remain polite about Exodus, and give them as much benefit of the doubt as I can. But this seems pretty hard to swallow.

    Thanks for tackling this stuff from an Evangelical perspective.

    In Christ,

    – Ron

  2. Hi Ron,

    Ack! Sorry bout your link. Duh! I think I fixed it now.

    As far as your identity goes, I was thinking more about “back in the day” rather than the present tense. Is my craptastic memory playing tricks on me, or did you not once apply the dreaded Gay Label to yourself? :)

    dm

  3. Noah Nehm says:

    Just for reference, here are the sections of the Catechism related to Homosexuality. The last sentence of the quote above is, in my opinion, an unwarrented inference from the text.

    Chastity and homosexuality

    2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

    2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

  4. Ron Belgau says:

    Ah, yes.

    Back in the day when you and I went to see “But I’m a Cheerleader” together, I did use the term “gay” fairly freely to describe myself. I would still use it now, but not as readily, because I am more aware of the potential for misunderstanding. I do tend to think, that “gay” is the least agenda-laden term currently in use, because it has become so widespread. If you hear a person say “so-and-so is gay,” you really can’t guess that much about what that person’s view of homosexuality is, or whether they believe so-and-so is having sex. But among conservative Christians, the word raises many hackles. So I try to avoid triggering those hackles by avoiding it.

    But for me, whatever term I end up using, it’s not to describe some “identity.” It’s simply to honestly acknowledge the fact that I’m attracted to guys, and that that doesn’t really seem to be changing.

    – Ron

  5. Noah Nehm,

    Sorry if I was unclear–the first blockquote is actually Mike Goeke’s words, only the stuff in his quotation marks is the Catechism. His final stance is intended (I think) as a commentary on the Catholic position.

    I’ve edited it to make it slightly clearer, I hope.

    Ron,

    Thanks for the clarification of your position. You illustrate a point I was trying to make, which is that people can mean a lot of different things when they call themselves gay, many of them not that nefarious at all. :)

  6. It sounds as if, for Chambers, Christianity is all about believing that God will do things in a certain way, and anything else is sinful.

    I also tend to think of “gay” as the word that says least about how a person thinks about or lives his or her homosexuality, so it’s the word I always tend to use for everyone in my head, but then, when writing, I wind up translating into the terms I think people would prefer for themselves (gay, living with same-sex attraction, queer, whatever), but more as a guess at people’s preference than as any careful taxonomy of my own. I’ve seen people online, though, get angry even at seeing the word “gay” applied to people who explicitly self-identify as gay, which is really weird to me.

  7. Jay says:

    Wow. I would blog about those quotes on my own, but seeing as I’m cross-posting everything onto my VOX blog now, and Randy Thomas of Exodus was the one who asked me to put my blog there, I might re-think that. I was was raised to be a “Stick-it-to-the-Man” type, but that only goes so far.

    Still, I totally agree with you. Do you happen to know what they mean by “gay identity?” I mean, let’s face facts. I’m attracted to guys, so in that respect, I’m gay. I really can’t get around that, so if that’s what they mean by gay identity, then shucks, I’m “gay identified”.

    Now, do they mean being part of “the gay community.” I’m not a part of it, but one doesn’t have to be a part of that community to lead a sinful homosexual sex life, either, so that can’t be what “gay identified” means.

    Do they mean adhering to social stereotypes about homosexuals? Once again, one doesn’t have to do that to be leading a sinful lifestyle. And I refuse to believe that my love for musical theatre is a sin! I’m just genuinely confused about what their getting at. What is sin but a set of behaviors? Take me for example: I’m not leading a gay sex-life, I believe homosexuality is a sin (and I’ll tell people that–nicely I hope), yet I still will tell people I’m gay because, well, it just sounds a whole lot better than “asexual.”

  8. Reading this post, I’m struck yet again with the fact that Exodus and much of the American “ex-gay movement” is a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant venture. I remember when I attended Love in Action in Memphis and Life Ministries in NYC and how Evangelcial Protestant faith was considered the only true faith. I learned to distrust my Catholic roots and my Dad’s Italian Catholic faith.

    And although there are abuses and dishonesty in all denominations, (even among my beloved Quakers), at least the Catholic approach looks at the issue honesty. People with same-sex attractions more than likely will not be able to change those attractions. They can change their behavior and even their attitudes, but to deny the fact that the person is living a celibate life while calling it something else smacks of duplicity and unhealthy Protestant mumbo jumbo.

    Thanks for the insightful commentary.

  9. And I refuse to believe that my love for musical theatre is a sin!

    They can have my musical theater CDs when they pry them from my cold, dead fingers :-).

  10. Joe S says:

    Jay, Randy Thomas doesn’t diss celibacy in his chapters.

    I struggled to keep a straight face when I read this statement from Alan Chambers (page 215):

    I have always liked decorating. I love to shop. I like clothes. My favorite channels are HGTV, The Food Network, and any channel that has a good makeover show. I can tell you what designer made what suits just by looking at them. Do these things make me gay? Apparently not because I still like those things, and I am completely heterosexual.

  11. Lynn:

    “I’ve seen people online, though, get angry even at seeing the word “gay” applied to people who explicitly self-identify as gay”

    Do you mean the “There’s nothing gay about homosexuality!” crowd?
    I’m with you on generally trying to call people by what they want to be called.

    Jay:

    Yeah, I ain’t tryin’ to stick it to the man or nothin’. It’s just that one of the things I like about the gay world (and blogosphere) is that people feel free to publicly disagree about a lot of stuff. I guess I feel like we don’t that quite enough in the ssa/exgay/whatever world. Also, if it makes you feel any better, I liked Randy Thomas’s parts of the book the best, and as Joe points out, he didn’t diss celibacy.

    I honestly am not sure precisely what they mean by gay identity. It seemed to me from the book that they lumped a lot of different things together. But it’s evident though that they don’t like people referring to themselves as gay.

    Peterson:

    Hey, thanks for the link! Like you, I find myself wishing that they would speak a little more clearly and straightforwardly, and talk honestly and consistently about probable outcomes.

    I’m not exactly the hugest fan of Catholicism myself (especially not with Reformation Day coming up so soon!) :) but I think right now they tend to address these issues a bit more sanely than we do, for the most part.

    Joe S:

    Yeah, that part made me giggle a little. :) I’m not quite sure what he means by completely heterosexual. I thought he had previously admitted to still having some same-sex desires at some point, but I can’t find anything substantial on it right now.

    Wayne Besen has a quote of Chambers saying, “Put me in a bathhouse, would I find people attractive or would it stir me, it probably would. ” But he doesn’t give a source or a date for the statement, so perhaps Alan could have completed his transition to pure hetero-attractedness in the meantime. But, given the confusing ways in which some exgay advocates use the word “heterosexual”, who knows?

  12. franksta says:

    DM,

    Wow. The underwhelmed-with-Exodus world makes for strange bedfellows. Who’d have thought you’d be defending us papists so strenuously? But, like Ron, I say thank you.

    I’m sort of freaked out by those quotes from the book, and sort of not. I am shocked that they would quote the Catechism and not have the balls to identify the source (even if they think that Courage wrote those words instead of finding them in the Catechism). It does all seem to point back to your idea of Protestants not having a meaningful theology of celibacy. It’s hard to understand how they can bash celibacy on the one hand and insist on a “change of identity” at the same time. Where does that leave unmarried ex-gays (like Randy Thomas, who happens to be a personal friend)?

    OTOH, I am still struggling with the whole issue of Christian ex-gays adopting the “gay” label. I had contemplated responding to Eve’s whole post on the topic, but couldn’t get my thoughts together. I do think it is a very different struggle for men with SSA vs. women with SSA. Like you, I don’t think it is inherently sinful, but I do question the wisdom of it.

    Frank

  13. ck says:

    Sounds like a ‘name it and claim it’ theology to me. The sin in being ‘gay identified’ is in admitting you have ‘gay’ feelings, thoughts, self-perception. If you are admitting that, you are resisting God’s work in your life. Something like that.

    I think the fact that celibacy is so threatening to the ex-gay movement (or some members thereof) is telling. Why? Because the Christian who is still ‘gay’ and yet not acting on those desires threatens the neat dichotomous world of ordained male-female interaction (which, as you know, is very tied into theology).

    Single heterosexual men and women have the potential for fitting into the creation order, although the older they get, single women are threatening. Single and celibate (and ‘obvious’) gay men can channel their resources into ministry, but my intuition is that single and celibate (and ‘obvious’) lesbian women are most threatening because they are ‘masculine’ and ‘usurping men.’

    If you’re interested, philosopher Ludger Viefhues at Yale has a paper on these themes from an epistemological standpoint; I’m sure you can Google for his page, or I can email you PDFs of his papers.

  14. ck says:

    Oh, and one more thing. If the ‘gay lifestyle’ = sex and the ‘celibate gay life’ = life without sex, then what is the sin involved? What is this thing which is hanging over the SSA person’s head which makes their life, abstaining from sexual expression (and for the sake of argument, fantasy) sinful?

    This is sheer fear-mongering. It comes as close to painting gay people as lepers as I’ve seen in Exodus literature.

  15. I have to admit, I’d never heard of “name it and claim it” theology before, but now that I do hear the term, it makes sense of a whole lot of what drives me nuts in certain segments of contemporary Christianity.

  16. Hank says:

    Labels, labels…

    I became aware of my homosexuality fairly late in the developmental spectrum. Before I was aware of it, I never labeled myself as straight, and after things became more clear (and made a lot of my emotional issues make sense), I never labeled myself as gay. To me, I wasn’t anything but myself, and I wasn’t anything but a child of God. That’s the best way I can explain it at the moment, although it may sound a little hokey.

    I mention this because I take issue with the need some people feel to label themselves, to put themselves in boxes. To call oneself “gay” means a number of different things to a number of different people. Oddly, to call onself “straight” connotes very little about oneself, and if you’ve ever noticed, there is very little proactive labeling of onself as “straight” among heterosexual people. A straight guy may assert his love of female flesh when his orientation is called into question, but generally I don’t see these people proactively labeling themselves. In this respect, perhaps the felt need to have a label is one aspect of the narcissism that is farily common among “the rest” of us.

    I would like to develop this idea further into a more defensible statement, but at the moment it is just a meandering thought…

  17. ck says:

    Hank, people who comprise the ‘norm’ typically don’t feel the need to put themselves in a ‘box’, because they are, de facto, the guideline/rule.

    While I agree that terms are slippery, there’s some broad consensus on what ‘gay’ means–being meaningfully attracted to someone of the same sex. That means more than incidental thoughts, though it doesn’t require you to act upon it. If those attractions (and subsequent romantic relationships and sexual actions) weren’t stigmatized, then perhaps we wouldn’t need to label ourselves.

    But they are, and so there’s use in those labels. My problem is with not allowing people to choose their own ‘boxes’, not in someone else’s decision to get into one.

  18. Frank,

    Yeah. Like you, I feel very much caught in the middle of all this, between the one hand and the other hand. :) If you ever decide to take up the question of identity/labels in a post, I’d be eager to see it. I’m still working on some posts on that myself.

    CK,

    Don’t even get me started on “name it and claim it.” It makes my blood boil, just as it apparently drives Lynn nuts.

    Regarding Viefhues (Viefhues-Bailey now, I guess), if you could email me a pdf that would be great. I agree with you at least in part about the uneasiness with celibate homo-attracted people. I think the situation is made worse by the fact that quite a few heteros are opting to postpone marriage indefinitely or ignore it completely. Ditto for childbearing/rearing. I think many conservative Christians feel that the traditional roles and institutions are crumbling or at least being threatened, which makes them more hostile toward the deviants.

    My own (extremely cynical) speculation about why Exodus is pushing this issue so hard in a book designed to equip Christians to evangelize gays is as follows: In a world where people are more-or-less cool with being gay or ssa or whatever, there is less internal pressure to seek exgay help. Generations before us found the stigma of ssa so terrible that they desperately wanted to be rid of it in whatever way they could. But our generation and later …not so much, I think. I turned to the exgays for help not because I couldn’t stand being gay, or because I wanted to be straight, but because I was having a real pain of a time with the celibate self-control that my beliefs called for. I see lots of other homo-attracted people with similar convictions who have no interest in doing the exgay thing whatsoever. So what the cynic in me wonders is this: Are they taking this hard line on the sinfulness of celibate gay identity in order to keep themselves in business, in order to stay relevant?

    Hank:

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    That’s awesome that you always saw yourself as just a child of God. I’m working/moving towards that in my own life.

    Narcissism might be a part of it, I’m not sure. In general, though, I’d lean towards ck’s take on the situation. It seems to me that any minority is going to be more likely to have a stronger sense of identity than the majority, and it also seems that stigma and opposition are likely to strengthen a sense of identity in any stigmatized/opposed group. This isn’t just true for sexual identities, but for ethnic, geographic, religious, political, and other identities. I mean, straight people put themselves in a lot of boxes too, just not boxes based on sexual identity.

  19. Kathy says:

    Thank you for bringing the celibacy issue up.

    I belive that some faith traditions are mroe tolerant
    of this route than others, it may also be this way because
    Exdous is primarly protestant, and evangelical, where
    Courage which is Catholic is supportive of celibacy.

    I also read the book, and for people who are unfamiliar
    with the issues of homosexuality this book is a must read.

  20. Aaron says:

    I’m more interested in the end results of either spectrum. Ex-gay to celebate.
    Who winds up with a more fulfilling life that causes less internal contention.

    And I may be a bit misinformed… but did Jesus ever have sex?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Sigh…if there was ever a time when I would be tempted to say, “See, I told you so”, it would be now.

    Yes, they (Exodus) have imploded. Surprised? I’m not. Where did you expect them to go anyway? They have returnee after returnee, ministries that go out of business for “sensitive” reasons — I mean WHERE are all these “hundreds of thousands” who have left homosexuality behind” anyway? Whatever that now means — celibacy or promiscuity — take your pick — however you want to spin it.

    Did you REALLY think that the religious right would be satisfied with anything LESS than uberstraights marrying and having “traditional” sex? NOT! So Alan Chambers has sold out? What is so surprising about that, given who is puppeting him?

    I realized several years ago that it was a smoke and mirrors trick — wishful thinking turned to moral imperative. Only time will reveal the devastation of this on human lives. And it took only time to reveal the *true* motives and inner workings of Exodus and the ex-gay charade.

    I rest my case.

  22. Anonymous says:

    DM,

    I think you are right on the money with the “relevancy” part as you describe the cynicism in you. Unfortunately, I am not as charitable as you: I sensed the “hard line” on its way awhile back. Confirmation, confirmation, confirmation with this book.

    This is one of the best topics that is being discussed on your blog; I love the information and insights that have been offered.

    If I may — and if I understand correctly — may I respectfully ask you a question:

    You went to ex-gay ministries not to turn straight but *because* you were having such difficulty with celibacy. That is understandable.

    But — were you to not have changed — IOW if the temptation persisted and you had not become heterosexual — would you –

    Returned to gay relationships or married heterosexually anyway and hoped for the best?

    I think this is a germane question because many others have traveled the same route with less generously successful results.

    Thanks

  23. sonia says:

    As one who leads a ministry in California (in existence since 1992, a referral of Exodus since 2003), I have seen the greatest quality of life in God for those who attend the ministry when their foundations are built not upon attractional change (which may or may not happen!) but upon knowing the heart of God. Then the commitment to stewarding sexuality according to His purposes becomes joyful and creative, regardless of what happens with sexual attractions.

    Based on years of service in ministry, it is evident that the attractions of many people do not seem to shift much even over years of time; such ones have to be given much more than a mere holding pattern that anticipates a relational outcome which is uncertain at best. At the same time, I know various men and women within Exodus whose attractions have shifted remarkably and whose testimonies should be celebrated, but to build people’s hopes for their relational destiny upon that merely circumstantial foundation is dangerous, and has led to spiritual shipwreck for many. It should also be said that the reliance upon unproven psychological theories regarding the origins of homosexuality is problematic; it is like mixing clay into alloys of the spirit that could otherwise withstand fire.

    This “lack of attractional change” is true of me personally. After some 34 years after the rather “intense” onset of puberty, I have not experienced any perceptible shift in the directionality (nor magnitude) of my attractions. I cannot be any less than completely honest about this with those who come to the group looking for answers and encouragement as they forsake homosexuality. For out of that level of raw trust emerges another, more solid trajectory: that those who are struggling will find in His holy love a wellspring that leads to great joy. (Psalms 16:11).

  24. [...] Among the comments on disputed mutability’s insightful post about The Homosexual Next Door, the recent book written by Alan Chambers of Exodus International, I found this one: After some 34 years after the rather “intense” onset of puberty, I have not experienced any perceptible shift in the directionality (nor magnitude) of my attractions. [...]

  25. ck says:

    Michael Bussee on the ‘name it and claim it’ theology in Exodus:

    http://www.exgaywatch.com/blog/archives/2006/10/exodus_alan_cha_1.html

    (Comment is towards the end.)

  26. For years now, everyone involved with Exodus has known that their agenda has been to put the MARRIED exgays front and center, and in positions of leadership. Their selling point, in the ads funded by the religious right political groups, has been the vague and misleading “YOU CAN CHANGE.” The fact that very few of their participants actually “change” into heterosexuals is hidden away. The celibates are mostly hidden away in the basement like the crazy old aunt we don’t want the public to see. Even Randy Thomas, who once committed himself to celibacy, now publicly announces that he has, as he puts it, “the girlfriend.” (How much more distancing can one hint at, rhetorically). I suppose he’s sending clues to the leadership that he’s ready to take Alan’s place after Alan retires, and that he is qualified.

    But this new public repudiation of the celibate life by Chambers (unless, of course, you fall in line and join their movement so that you can be kept under control and shoved down in that basement with the other “failures”) is the most transparent statement he’s made about his true attitudes towards those who are just not as good in God’s eyes as he is.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Just curious…has this discussion been dropped?

  28. Hi Anonymous,

    Nah, it ain’t dropped. I’ve just been extremely busy with Real Life. I hope to have some free time this weekend.

    dm

  29. Kathy:

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. I agree with you that there is a difference in tolerance for celibacy. I just think this is troubling, as many (Catholic and Protestant) who seek to be faithful to God in how they deal with their same-sex attractions end up being celibate at least for a rather long time. For reasons I don’t fully understand, it seems that God doesn’t always choose to bless people in the same way that He has blessed me (and you too, I think!) I believe, however, that He has other blessings in store for them.

    So I believe we need to do a better job of encouraging those who whether by choice or by necessity are living celibate lives. Attraction change is a beautiful thing that God sometimes does for His people. But in my opinion it cannot be central to what the exgay movement is all about. The best thing we have to offer is our testimony that salvation is available in the person of Jesus Christ to all who will receive Him. Attraction change, in my opinion, pales in comparison to the spiritual freedom, the redemption I have experienced in Christ. I want to tell people that Jesus will not spurn any who come to Him, that He has taken away the guilt and transgression of all those who come to Him, and that He will lovingly sustain them and sanctify them if they will be faithful to pursue intimacy with Him and seek His face. I want to tell them that it is not so much the size of their faith in God that matters, but the size of the God their faith is in, and luckily for us He is a very big God indeed. That it is not we who hang onto Him, ultimately, but it is He who has a firm grip on us and will not let His children go for anything. I want to encourage people to trust God even when it is hard, even when we don’t understand. I want to remind them of Paul’s words:

    “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

    “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

    Some anti-exgay folks accuse exgays of talking up the spiritual side of things because attraction change is a lie. But this is not my view. I believe significant attraction change happens for many, although I don’t think anyone really has hard data yet to support one claim or another about how often it does or doesn’t happen. So I believe it is possible. I do not believe that the talk of attraction change is inherently fraudulent. But I simply believe that attraction change is ultimately not that important. I worry that the emphasis on attraction changes distracts us all, married and celibate alike, from what is of the utmost importance. It breaks my heart when people tell me that they gave up on their exgay journey and returned to homosexual relationships because they tried for years and didn’t experience attraction change. As if that were all that Exodus had to offer them! As if that were the point!

    I agree with you that there was a lot of good stuff in that book, even as there was a lot that I disagreed with. I hope I’ll get a chance to give it a more complete review. I just wanted to let you know that I think you are right that much of it will be helpful to people in the church who have no knowledge of homosexuality whatsoever.

    Aaron:

    Regarding the question of who winds up with a more fulfilling life with less internal contention, I don’t really know. I have known fulfilled married exgays. I have known fulfilled celibate exgays who reject gay identity. And I have known fulfilled celibates who have identified as gay. I have also known unfulfilled, unhappy, and distraught people in every category. In my experience, dropping gay identity seems to be a good thing for most of the folks I’ve observed. But I don’t notice a huge difference between celibate and married exgays. I personally feel that the wisest route is not to demand or expect attraction change, but simply to pursue faithfulness in celibacy, and let God do whatever He wants to do. But then my own experience biases me overwhelmingly on that point. :) I also think that it is important for people to speak honestly and clearly with others and themselves about their situation. Dishonesty can make any situation unfulfilling.

    Anonymous:

    I’m going to interact with your second post rather than your first. Regarding your first post, I don’t mind your diversity of opinion, but I’d appreciate it if you would actually respond constructively to subject of the thread, instead of just randomly venting about Exodus. Thanks!

    Regarding your question in your second post. I should clarify that I turned to Exodus primarily for support in a celibate journey. I honestly found the idea of attraction change rather creepy back then, so I really wasn’t looking for that. I just wanted to become stronger in walking the celibate path. And whatever Chambers wrote in his book, the fact remains that exgay ministries “on the ground” often do a great job of helping people to live celibate, faithful lives, encouraging them on that journey. I probably would not have continued on this journey long enough to fall in love with my husband if it had not been for the support of Exodus ministries. Credit where credit is due!

    So, when I started to seek out exgay support, which I started to do almost eight years ago, about six years before I experienced any attraction change, I wasn’t saying “No celibacy for me! Either I’m gonna get hetero-married or I’m gonna go back to homosexuality!” What I was saying was “Wow, this is really tough. I need some support and some back-up.” I’ve tried to outline the excellent supportive aspects of exgay ministry in this post here.

    With that clarification out of the way, what would I have done if I hadn’t experienced attraction change? (I don’t consider myself heterosexual, by the way. Bisexual is more accurate, if we are talking about attractions. When I’m talking to people, I prefer not to use a label and just try to explain the situation.)

    Anyway, I would like to believe that I would *not* be pursuing homosexual relationships–that I would be living faithfully by God’s grace in accordance with my beliefs about what God commands. But who knows? I am a mere mortal, and a weak one at that. Perhaps I would have fallen and given in.

    Would I have pursued heterosexual marriage with someone I wasn’t attracted to? I don’t know. The thought had crossed my mind. As I have mentioned somewhere else on a comment threads of my blog, I think, I was actually considering a “practical” courtship and marriage match with another man when I suddenly fell in love with my husband. I wasn’t in love with that guy or attracted to him, but we got along well as friends and seemed compatible in various respects, and I wasn’t repulsed by him, so I wondered if it made sense to pursue something with him. If I hadn’t met my husband, maybe I would have gone through with that. But probably not–I had a lot of reservations about it, for obvious reasons.

    On a side note, I think it’s fine for people to enter into hetero marriage even if they haven’t experienced much attraction change as long as they are clear with themselves and their prospective spouse about what the score is.

    Sonia:

    Thank you for sharing your valuable perspective here. We are fundamentally in agreement, I think. Your “holding pattern” point resonates especially with me. I’d never heard of that image/analogy before.

    Thank you also for your courageous and beautiful testimony. As I think I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, the testimonies of “unsuccessful” exgays like you were far more striking to me as an unbeliever than the testimonies of “successful” ones. That a woman would worship and serve a God who gave her everything she wanted isn’t really all that surprising or interesting. But that a woman would worship and serve and love a God who asked her to give up some of her deepest desires for His sake, and then did not diminish those desires even through many years of prayer, healing, and faithful obedience–now THAT is something.

    Steve Schalchlin:

    I share some of your concerns about the emphasis on the married folks, especially as this ties in with politics.

    At the same time, though, I think it’s somewhat unfair to criticize Randy Thomas for getting a girlfriend, however he chooses to refer to her. Speaking from experience, it feels WEIRD to refer to a love interest of the opposite sex when you’ve been single for what feels like eons, and before that you were gay! Thomas also has the added weirdness of being at an age where most men (at least in Christian circles) are pretty much settled down, way past the “girlfriend” stage. So I personally wouldn’t read too much into his word choice there, however distancing or awkward it might sound.

    Like Thomas, I thought I was going to be single/celibate for the rest of my life. And then I fell in love. These things happen. :)

  30. On a side note, I think it’s fine for people to enter into hetero marriage even if they haven’t experienced much attraction change as long as they are clear with themselves and their prospective spouse about what the score is.

    I see two issues: 1) Honesty, with yourself and your prospective spouse, and 2) Not marrying in the anticipation that you or your prospective spouse will radically change. I wince at accounts of ex-gay marriages where it took months or a year or whatever to consummate the marriage, not because everyone has to consummate their marriage on the wedding day (or even ever) – that’s up to the two people involved, as long as they stand by their vows to each other with whatever sexual relationship they actually have. No, it’s more when those stories wind up sounding to me as if people are being told, well, maybe you’re not attracted to your future spouse yet (or maybe your future spouse isn’t attracted to you yet), but give it time, and eventually, some good long time after the wedding, you’ll both desire each other.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Disputed,

    I appreciate your honesty and candor in responding about your journey — the choices you made or might have made or not made. I think it shows a genuineness and realness about you.

    I am sorry that you feel that I am unconstructively venting about Exodus especially when you had a prior poster refer to Alan Chambers as “an idiot” and you made no repsonse to that. I have NEVER made such character aspersions about *anyone* in ex-gay anything. It is interesting to me that you did not address this other poster, but I am probably being nit-picky. After all, it is your Blog. :-)

    Understandably, if you found ex-gay ministries a source of support and help, you would defend them. I would do the same. However, I *don’t* hear you defending their rhetoric in the political and other realms. As a *group* I do not trust them to be truthful and honest as you seem to be. about *your* journey. I guess that may be deemed unconstructive venting, though – maybe you don’t like the way I phrased things.

  32. Hi Anonymous,

    I deleted Patrick Casanova’s comment about Chambers. I had initially planned on ignoring it, but I guess I should set some sort of standard.

    I felt your first post was unconstructive primarily because your criticisms were vague, without any specifics to back them up, Exodus “imploding”? Chambers a “puppet”? The “true motives and inner workings of Exodus”? (Which are what, exactly?) “Smoke and mirrors trick”? I don’t mind if you criticize Exodus, but I don’t find such criticisms constructive unless there’s some specific substance to them. Otherwise they just look like venting to me.

    Also, you seemed in that first post to be more interested in talking about what you perceive to be exgay “failures” than actually interacting with anything I or any previous commenter had to say. I understand you have strong opinions on the subject. But they aren’t the topic of this thread. :)

    dm

  33. Patrick Casanova says:

    >> I deleted Patrick Casanova’s comment about Chambers. I had initially planned on ignoring it, but I guess I should set some sort of standard.

  34. Patrick Casanova says:

    it seems like my follow up comments aren’t showing up in entirety… any thoughts?

    best wishes

    – Pat

  35. Patrick Casanova says:

    I certainly regret calling Chambers an “idiot”. Bad choice on my part. I was upset that Chambers was calling celibate homosexuals sinful. He doesn’t seem to really grasp just how HARD it can be for a homosexual to sustain life-long celibacy.

    Second, when I last checked Exodus *still* regarded homosexuality (as an orientation) as sinful if the person isn’t trying to change. I take enormous offense to that and see it as an attack on people like my friend Ron Begau (for the record: Ron never approved of my original comment about chambers). Ron has dedicated himself to God and has worked to keep up celibacy. He is a very honorable man and I won’t stand by quietly when people dismiss the sacrifice he has made for God.

    – Pat

  36. Patrick Casanova,

    Thanks for your follow-up thoughts–it’s good to hear more about where you were coming from with that. As another of Ron’s friends, I can sympathize with your feelings. I’d just like to keep this blog from turning into a free-for-all of short insult posts, like a lot of other blogs out there that deal with controversial subjects. I hope that makes sense.

    I’m not sure exactly what the Exodus position is about the sinfulness of not trying to change, but I have to say the book didn’t really give me the warm fuzzies in that regard. I’m fine with Exodus putting forward their theories about how all this stuff works, what causes homosexuality, what should be done about it, etc. But I would really like for them to be clearer about the distinction between their own (very human and fallible) theories and what I understand to be the teaching of Scripture. I feel as though they sometimes present their methods and theories as *the* path to holiness for the homo-attracted Christian.

  37. Patrick Casanova says:

    >> Patrick Casanova, Thanks for your follow-up thoughts–it’s good to hear more about where you were coming from with that. As another of Ron’s friends, I can sympathize with your feelings. I’d just like to keep this blog from turning into a free-for-all of short insult posts, like a lot of other blogs out there that deal with controversial subjects. I hope that makes sense. > I’m not sure exactly what the Exodus position is about the sinfulness of not trying to change, but I have to say the book didn’t really give me the warm fuzzies in that regard. > I’m fine with Exodus putting forward their theories about how all this stuff works, what causes homosexuality, what should be done about it, etc.

  38. Patrick Casanova says:

    ah, looks like I can’t quote with arrows on this site :P. I’ll just use good ole quotation marks then :)

    “Patrick Casanova, Thanks for your follow-up thoughts–it’s good to hear more about where you were coming from with that. As another of Ron’s friends, I can sympathize with your feelings. I’d just like to keep this blog from turning into a free-for-all of short insult posts, like a lot of other blogs out there that deal with controversial subjects. I hope that makes sense.”

    Of course. I just had one of those irritable moments that everybody has on occasion. Did you see Chambers on Montel Williams where he publicly said that the Exodus website “needs” to *remove* any assertion that they can change homosexuality??

    “I’m fine with Exodus putting forward their theories about how all this stuff works, what causes homosexuality, what should be done about it, etc. ”

    Well that makes one of us. Most of the members on Exodus’ board of directors have no formal training in social sciences, they don’t establish that subjects are really gay in the first place, they don’t do extensive follow-up research, they rarely tell people that the vast majority of subjects don’t change, they don’t talk about the many reorted ex-gays who later admitted to still being gay (including two men who played a role in the development of Exodus International), and they don’t consider the likelihood that any real changes are mediated by neuroplasticity and/or placebo effect (instead of by God — which explains why most people don’t experience any change). So I am not okay with them asserting their theories as being valid when their credibility is, in my view, non-existent. They certainly have the legal right, and I would never interfere with that, but I am not personally or morally comfortable with what I perceive to be deliberate omissions on their part.

    best wishes

    – Pat

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