Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

The Denial Of Alan Chambers

Jim Burroway

July 29th, 2009

Exodus International president Alan Chambers has a new book out, called simply Leaving Homosexuality. Typically, books like this come and go with little mention in the LGBT blogosphere, but this one appears to have caught a few people by surprise, namely because of this passage from Cambers’ second chapter:

When I was first starting out in ministry and sharing my testimony, I often heard the comment from gay individuals and activists, “You’re just in denial, Alan.” That comment always incensed me because it seemed to negate my message and intelligence. However, as I began to pray about it, I realized that we, as Christians, are indeed called to a life of denial, and as such I should not despise something the Lord commands of me nor should I get angry when someone calls me on it. Those who reject the concept of self-denial haven’t reaped the joys that result from it.

…Every day for more than a decade, I have made denial, as Jesus taught in this verse, the major focus of my morning prayer time. I am keenly aware that I am prone to blowing it in this area of my life and am, therefore, in desperate need of help. … And you know what? I love my life of denial.

Chambers repeated much of this in his CitizenLink interview:

CitizenLink: Now, I’ve heard it, and you’ve heard it: Gay activists are going to read that and say, again, “Alan Chambers is living a lie. He’s suppressing who he really is.” You make a great point in the book that is very applicable to anyone who struggles with any temptation—and that is, self-denial isn’t a bad thing. How do you respond to those who say you’re just living a lie?

CHAMBERS: For so long I’ve heard gay activists say to me, “You’re just in denial. You’re not grasping the reality of the situation. You’re just denying who you really are.” The truth is, I am in denial, but it is self-denial. I’m not in denial of who I used to be. I’m not in denial of the temptations that I could still experience. I am denying the power that sin has over me.

This has certainly gotten a lot of attention. Queerty and Dan Savage have both commented on this, among many others. Dan Gilgoff, at US News and World Report, wonders of this is the start of a new consensus between gays and religious conservatives. Unfortunately, he appears to have misread the statement as “shift away from promoting conversion therapy.”

For those who may mistake this as a new position that will somehow remake Exodus, it’s important to gain a historical perspective. Longtime readers of Box Turtle Bulletin may remember that this “new” line isn’t so new. As I reported two years ago, Alan Chambers said essentially the exact same words at a workshop he gave at Love Won Out. Later that year, I made a video in which you get to hears a small audio clip of Chambers making that statement:

YouTube Preview Image

When I attended the Exodus Freedom Conference in Irvine, California later that summer, I heard Alan give almost precisely that same talk on the opening night of that five-day conference. That was the same summer when Alan Chambers told the Los Angeles Times that he had never met a successful ex-gay.

Those who may be tempted to believe they detect a shifting position are mistaken. Chambers had staked this position out as early as two years ago, and he may have been exploring that theme even earlier. But despite that, we’ve seen little change on Exodus’ work in opposing equal protections and other public policy initiatives against gays and lesbians who choose not to pursue change. Exodus has turned the phrase, “Change is possible” into a mantra. But that doesn’t mean that change is likely from Exodus.

Comments

POST COMMENT | COMMENT RSS 2.0 | TRACKBACK URL

timothy kincaid
July 29th, 2009 | LINK

I’m reading Alan’s book now. I’m finding that it is slightly different from previous writings in that what might have been boldly stated before is now insinuated, but I see no change in message.

AJD
July 29th, 2009 | LINK

This is pretty consistent with the religious right’s general view of sexual orientation. They don’t mind that we’re gay, just as long as we don’t have gay relationships and gay sex. For them, it’s totally reasonable to expect us to date members of the opposite sex for whom we lack feeling or to just remain celibate altogether, while heterosexuals can have satisfying romantic and sexual lives.

This is also why they insist they’re not homophobic even as they condemn us as “immoral.” It’s not wrong for us to be attracted to members of the same sex, just to act on those attractions.

It’s bullshit, of course, like saying people can be Christian, just as long as they don’t pray or go to church and keep their beliefs in the closet. But I think the underlying issue causing a lot of homophobia is the morbid sexual repression that is the legacy of the Abrahamic religions.

Alex
July 29th, 2009 | LINK

Of course Exodus hasn’t changed, and it never will. It’s all about keeping up appearances — a concept with which Alan Chambers is intimately familiar.

Bruce Garrett
July 29th, 2009 | LINK

It’s the standard doublespeak. They get so used to talking out of both sides of their mouths that they stop noticing that they’re doing it. “Change is possible.” But there are no ex-gays, only people struggling with same sex attraction. But you said change was possible. Oh, no…I meant change of Behavior…

I’m no fan of John Derbyshire, but he did go on a good tear of the creationists in one column, calling them out for their shifty behavior. But that’s a necessary characteristic of any system of belief that elevates its own dogmas above observable fact. When you constantly have to tell yourself that what you know to be true from your own personal experience, isn’t, then mendacity becomes just another part of your daily life. When Morality consists of telling yourself hundreds of little lies every day, just to get through the day, turning a false face to your neighbor stops seeming wrong. The false face you give to your neighbor is the only one you have to know yourself by.

They speak of sin and the fall of civilizations when moral values collapse. But societies rise or fail on the mutual trust and respect of their members. As Jacob Bronowski said (paraphrasing), The state of mind, the state of society, is of a piece. When you discard the test of fact in what a star is, you discard in it also what a human being is. Alan isn’t denying his homosexuality. He’s denying his humanity. There’s your fall of western civilization, right there.

BobbiCW
July 29th, 2009 | LINK

I’m relieved. I didn’t get what the change was (subtle or not) in Chambers’ latest book, and I was starting to wonder what others thought they were seeing. I’m one of those intuitive types and I sometimes miss the obvious. Thanks for posting this.

Regan DuCasse
July 29th, 2009 | LINK

There is no credible psychologist or medical doctor that will agree that INVOLUNTARY, or coercive sexual repression is healthy.
Homosexuality, is an exclusive behavior to gay people, but all the other standard concepts around relationships, sex, consent and responsibility are not.

Repressed heterosexuals are not healthy people either. The frustrating thing for me, is the distortion and contradictions against gay people as being as human and needful as heterosexuals.
It’s cruel double speak AND double standards. On the one hand saying that sex is important, healthy and SHOULD be channeled and encouraged into commitment and monogamy through marriage and social support, and on the other forcing or insisting that gay people are healthier and happier WITHOUT any of it.

Or even worse, telling the lie that gay people are incapable of doing any of that, so therefore support isn’t necessary or even damaging to their lives and that of extended society.

AJD is right. It is BS. Dangerous BS.
As for the broad definition of ‘struggling’ with homosexuality, while denying struggling with the dominant culture to be so recognized as human and biologically legitimate, makes me wanna holler!
Which direction the struggle is coming from shouldn’t even be debated.

Young women struggle with anorexia. Is it because it’s wrong and unnatural to be curvy and full figured?
Or because of struggling with unrealistic and unnatural expectations of thinness?
Yet, no human being can be denied food and stay healthy.
Nor can a human being be denied intimacy, loving sexual relations, or the hope of a companion for life and expect to be happy and feeling secure, when all around them others ARE forming those bonds freely.

Nothing worse than being ‘denied’ (re: STARVED), while all around you others are feasting on what you need, and forcing you to watch them.

jim
July 29th, 2009 | LINK

Someone should tell this guy that dressing in plaid won’t make one heterosexual.

Brieuse
July 29th, 2009 | LINK

my Gaydar just pinged

Ben in Oakland
July 29th, 2009 | LINK

Change is possible. I guess if you can’t define change clearly, or possible clearly, all you have left is what the definition of “is” is. Who knew that Alan Chambers and Bill Clinton were sleeping in the same ideological bed?

Given AC credit for some kind of honesty. At least he doesn’t pretend that he is straight, he only acts straight, or as straight as a man who is actually gay can act.

His dishonesty lies not in how he chooses to live his life. His dishonesty lies in his failure to acknowledge his support of Exodus’s lies and political activism against gay people who do not accept Exodus’s views about either religious belief, G’s will, or homosexuality.

Like a certain other self-hating wanna-be-straight-but-ain’t writer I can think of, the animosity of the ex-gay industry is a mirror image of the animosity towards oneself as a gay man, and isj ustified on that basis.

As always, Transactional Analysis– I’m not OK, and you can’t be either lest either of us challenge my self-perceptions– explains and predicts it all.

Richard Rush
July 29th, 2009 | LINK

AJD wrote,

For them, it’s totally reasonable to expect us to date members of the opposite sex for whom we lack feeling or to just remain celibate altogether, while heterosexuals can have satisfying romantic and sexual lives.

I would like to ask how they would feel about their daughters dating a homo secretly trying to fake the hetero. That is a very real possibility. Relationships are difficult enough without the burden of one partner trying to fake it. It’s amazing how many men there are who have come out of fake marriages or are still in them while indulging in homo-sex on the side.

Surely a rational parent would see that society is better when homo men link up with each other rather than deceive their daughters. Or maybe faking it is okay when it’s with someone else’s daughter.

Timothy (TRiG)
July 30th, 2009 | LINK

Denial can, as Chambers says, be a good thing. Being in denial, however, is a rather different kettle of fish.

TRiG.

cowboy
July 30th, 2009 | LINK

Mr. Rush wrote:

“It’s amazing how many men there are who have come out of fake marriages or are still in them…”

Just last week I had a worker in my building admit to me he is in one of those fake marriages.

And you hit the nail on the head with:

“Or maybe faking it is okay when it’s with someone else’s daughter.”

Who would want their daughter to marry a guy with same-sex-attraction.

So, their only alternative for gays is celibacy. Lifelong celibacy. I wouldn’t doubt they may even suggest eunuchism.

Ephilei
July 31st, 2009 | LINK

I don’t think Exodus will change. But I’m holding out hope that Chambers will eventually leave Exodus, realizing that reparative therapy doesn’t work just as he keeps hinting.

William
July 31st, 2009 | LINK

Why does Alan Chambers’s message need to be draped in such a lot of tiresome verbiage? He should just state it plainly: it is possible, if you are gay, to lead a life of perpetual sexual abstinence, and although this is difficult, it may be easier if you allow yourself to be persuaded that it is what God demands of you, but it won’t change your sexual orientation. Anyone can understand that.

But perhaps the simple truth won’t help to sell Exodus.

Timothy Kincaid
July 31st, 2009 | LINK

William,

I suspect Alan’s message is complicated by his politics. While an honest message such as you propose would benefit those seeking to live according to a conservative Christian sexual ethic, it would not well serve those who seek to reduce, block, or eliminate civil equality for gay people and who use “they choose to stay gay” as their justification for discrimination.

Alan is every bit as much a political anti-gay activist as he is a minister to those seeking to not live as a gay person.

William
August 1st, 2009 | LINK

Yes, Timothy, I’m sure that you’re right. This accounts, no doubt, for

(1) books with misleading titles such as “Leaving Homosexuality” and

(2) statements like “For thirty years, Exodus International has offered hope and help to people seeking freedom from homosexuality. We believe and we have seen in thousands of lives that this freedom is possible….”; “you don’t have to be gay”; and “What you are really asking is whether there is realistic hope for change for men and women who do not want their sexual orientation to be homosexual. And the answer to that is yes!”

It’s no excuse for Exodus to plead that its message is being misunderstood, since that message has been deliberately framed in terms calculated to lead to such misunderstanding. In other words, it’s deliberate misrepresentation.

The decisive question about the ex-gay movement is (if I may be forgiven for using a cliché current in the UK at the moment), does it do what it says on the tin? The answer to that has to be no.

Timothy Kincaid
August 2nd, 2009 | LINK

William,

I recently compared Exodus’ message to an infomercial.

“I made $50,000 in the first month working from home!! (reinactment – actual results may vary)”

The ex-gay I was conversing with wasn’t much amused by the comparison. But it is pretty close. Exodus doesn’t exactly “promise” reorientation but they do everything this side of it.

Jeff
August 6th, 2009 | LINK

“And you know what? I love my life of denial”

With minor changes in word order and little change in sense this reads “I love my denial of life.”

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required)
(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.