Exodus’ False Choice: Death or Change
May 26th, 2008
This month’s edition of the Presbyterian newspaper The Layman features two more shining examples of ex-gays who claim to have changed. The commentaries by Maria Cardenas and Brad Grammer are actually word-for-word reprints from their testimonies found on the OneByOne web site — an organization for which they both just happen to serve on the board of directors. Grammer is also the Executive Director of Exodus-affiliated Hope & New Life Ministries. Funny, but have you noticed that virtually all the ex-gays who speak publicly have some professional connection with ex-gay ministries?
But what’s not so funny is Grammer’s and Cardenas’ promotion of one of the worst messages ever to come out of the ex-gay movement: Death or change. Grammer begins his statement by saying,
Seventeen years ago, my life came to a crossroad. In my mind, I could either commit suicide or give God one more chance to change my life and bring it meaning.”
It was at this point I made a deal with God. I asked Him either to end my life or change it.
Death or change. According to Cardenas and Grammer, those were the only two choices before them. Given what they claimed were the only two options — as the ex-gay movement is all too often inclined to do — they chose “change.” They also chose to use their experience as fodder for denying civil rights to those who don’t buy into their false crossroads between death and change. Grammer uses his testimony to claim:
For the Church to make a decision to bless same-sex unions or ordain practicing homosexuals is to communicate to me, and individuals like me, that the transformation in my life did not happen and that I am obviously in an unhealthy state of denial.
What Grammer fails to recognize is that if a church makes a decision to bless same-sex unions or ordain gays and lesbians, it is not an act of judgment on his life. He is free to make whatever choice he wishes to make. But what it does do is expose the false argument that there are only two choices which can be made: death or change.
But exposing this false argument is what Grammer really fears, and he’s not alone. Exodus President Alan Chambers told NPR’s Terry Gross in 2006 that he opposed same-sex marriage because he feared that if it had been an option when he was younger, he might have chosen to marry another man.
A few days ago, I facetiously posted a “Heterosexual strategy” based on what the Alliance Defense Fund claimed was a “Homosexual strategy” to win acceptance for gay people. In my parody, the Heterosexual strategy ended with recriminalization of homosexuality.
The problem with my parody however is that it’s not the least bit funny. One wonders what the ultimate goal of the ex-gay movement really looks like. If they really got their way, what would my world — and yours — look like? Is it really their goal to make our lives so miserable that the false choice between change or death actually looks plausible?
It appears so. We’ve often heard them frame the problem with homosexuality in precisely this false choice between death and change. This has been their recurring theme for quite some time. And we also know that they believe that accommodating the civil rights or the spiritual needs of gay people necessarily comes at the expense of those who would have you believe that there are only those two choices before us.
And so if they feel threatened whenever there are gains in the LGBT movement, then maybe they ought to feel threatened — at least insofar as upholding this false message is concerned. Because tragically, too many LGBT kids and adults have bought into that false choice, and some have chosen to take their own lives when they discover the “change” that they were promised was not forthcoming.
We can agree to disagree when it comes to religious doctrine or even political positions. But when it comes to suggesting that there are only two ways to deal with one’s sexuality, there can be no agreement. The message of “change or die” must itself die. Better that than another struggling LGBT kid or adult.
Alan Chambers’ Death or Change