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An Open Letter to Alan Chambers

Timothy Kincaid

December 3rd, 2011

Dear Alan,

Box Turtle Bulletin and Exodus have not always seen eye to eye on a number of issues. But that is not, as might be assumed, because homosexuals are afraid to hear the truth that change is possible. Nor is it because homosexual militant activists hate God and the church.

Rather, BTB has objected to specific messages, failure to own Exodus’ mistakes, and participation in efforts to deny or remove rights granted civilly. And to be honest, we didn’t much like the mean things that Exodus said about our community. (But I do want to take the opportunity to thank you for pulling Exodus out of the political arena.)

Word has reached us that Exodus International will be revisiting its purpose and positions in an effort to retool the organization into a viable and financially stable organization. As you consider changes, I’d like to propose a few recommendations.

Stop spinning about results. It isn’t fair to our community nor to your own.

It may be true that there is some tiny number of people who have changed their fundamental sexual attractions from persons of the same sex to persons of the opposite sex. But they are certainly rare, and one cannot base responsible policy on the achievements of the very few.

Surely you would not go about the country telling people about Mount Everest and the success that Sir Edmund Hillary had in conquering the mountain and encourage them to fly right off to Nepal and start climbing. That would be cruel and irresponsible and result in disappointment, wounded bodies and disillusioned spirits.

Yet Exodus has for many years testified of the reported success of some people who have struggled with unwanted same-sex attraction in terms that suggested that this could also be reality for those listening. It has been a cruel and irresponsible behavior and has resulted in disappointment, wounded souls and disillusioned spirits. It needs to stop.

Accept the discoveries, terms and language of our culture in discussing homosexuality.

Most people have come to an understanding that each of us have a sexual orientation, a direction towards which our attractions point. Furthermore, an increasing number of churches – including conservative evangelical churches – are reaching the conclusion that ones sexual orientation is not, in and of itself sinful or wrong or flawed or even intrinsically disordered.

It’s time for Exodus to join the rest of the world. Continuing to paint a homosexual orientation as though it were a moral failure (as “the opposite of holiness”) only places Exodus in the position of using language in such a way that it appears to either be delusional, dishonest, or theologically absurd.

Stop trashing my community.

At some point, when all one sees or says about a group of people is their negative attributes, when one feels pity for someone for no reason other than that they are part of that group, eventually it becomes clear to everyone else that you’re operating out of malice and prejudice.

It would be ridiculous and offensive to tearfully lament a poor soul “trapped in an Asian American lifestyle.” And you would feel petty for doing so.

It is no less offensive or illogical to talk about being “trapped in a homosexual lifestyle”. There isn’t such a thing. And using language such as “trapped” implies that one can “change” into a heterosexual lifestyle. It shames and demeans a person for what they are. It’s “sissy boy” and “look at that pansy” and “why are you so girly” all over again, just repackaged as “Christian concern”.

The gay community and Exodus need not be at war. We all know heterosexuals who have decided on celibacy until they marry and even though that prospect seems fleeting with each passing year we do not insist that they change their beliefs. We know those whose spouse may not be sexually compatible but who stay together and committed due to love for each other. Thats endearing.

And, contrary to the regular anti-gay meme, generally gay people have no problem with those who choose not to engage in sex – there are more than a few we know and love for whom this is a reality whether or not they want it to be.

Just don’t imply that the gay man ogling the hot guy is in any way more sinful than the straight man obling the hot gal. It isn’t Scriptural and it isn’t right.

Own the damage youve caused

While I appreciate that you no longer advocate for political mistreatment of gay people (thank you), that isn’t enough. Harm was done. And, more importantly, harm continues.

Invariably, whenever a politician or preacher calls for policies that harm the lives of gay people they justify it by saying that people can change. Sometimes they use Exodus by name.

To let this happen without objection is to endorse their positions. If you change nothing else, you have a moral obligation to clarify that that Expdus does not make the claims that these politicians and preachers use as their basis for discrimination and abuse.

Let go of insistence that homosexuality is in some way chosen.

When Exodus repeatedly denies the evidence in favor of the biological origins of homosexuality, it places your organization further in enmity to the mind. It build a dichotomy in which objective study, scientific research, and thoughtful analysis are pitted against unsubstantiated dogma and “faith”.

It is unnecessary and even blasphemous to insist that faith – real faith – needs to denounces the senses God gave us and to ignore what is evident. And, ultimately, it isn’t a battle that Exodus can win.

Currently, the best research we have suggests that for at least some gay men (there is less study about women), genetics contributes to their eventual orientation. Further, other factors may be biological in origin (though not genetic) or possibly other environmental factors possibly including experiences (though there is no evidence to support this). Most likely the path to each one’s orientation is unique to the individual.

Equally false – and equally offensive – is declaring that rape or early sexualization are responsible for “turning someone gay”. That one not only is absent of any evidence, it is clearly an attempt to give homosexuality a sheen of horror.

Regardless of the set of contributors, most have an orientation that is set – and often predictable – long before they are capable on conceptualizing morality or sexuality.

Let go of “change” as an expected result, a desired result, a hinted result, or even a possible result.

Exodus has strugglers. They struggle and struggle and struggle on decade after decade.

But very very few have any success in materially changing their orientation. They may change the language they use or what behavioral expectations they place upon themselves, but as the Jones and Yarhouse study showed, there just aren’t many (if any) gay men becoming straight men.

Alan, you know this. I do not doubt at all that you love your wife. I do not doubt at all that your sex life is meaningful and that your emotional connection is rewarding. I believe that you are content in your marriage and that it provides everything that you hoped – except for one thing. You remain a homosexually oriented man married to a woman.

And I have no problem with that.

But for God’s sake – and the sake of your participants – just stop struggling already. There is nothing anymore pleasing to God about trying to change one’s orientation than in trying to change any other attribute God gave you.

And furthermore, the fact that Exodus isn’t turning any strugglers straight doesn’t mean that Exodus has no purpose.

Exodus members should just accept their orientation and get on with finding out what to do about it.

So, in closing, I’d advise you to give Exodus a purpose that is theologically consistent, demonstrably possible, and which celebrates the Exodus member without trashing others. And just as important during this current problem, find a reason that potential donors are not going to have their children mock at dinner time.

Perhaps restructure Exodus into a Christian ministry that supports homosexually oriented Christian individuals to live according to their code of sexual ethics. I’m not suggesting that you change what you believe about the moral acceptability of same-sex behavior (though it wouldn’t hurt to be open to revelation). But if your faith says “no sex ever with anyone ever” to same-sex attracted people, then a reasonable and responsible role for Exodus might be to say “and here we are to help you with some tools that make this possible.”

Not every Christian kid is going to hear the message of “we can’t change you” and decide that they want to pursue eternal celibacy. But that’s a choice each must make before God, and seeking to influence that choice through false hope and empty implied promises is not an admirable goal for anyone.

But if you have real achievable goals for Conservative Christians who share your code of sexual ethics, then that – and not all the foolishness – may appeal to donors.

I hope you take this advice as sincerely meant and in the best of intentions.

Timothy Kincaid

Comments

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Karen
December 3rd, 2011 | LINK

I resonate with what you have said here Timothy. Its spot on. I hope he takes it to heart.

Charles
December 3rd, 2011 | LINK

Timothy, perhaps Exodus has finally had an epiphany. We can only pray that the organization has learned from their own experience with trying to help people who are highly motivated to attempt to change their God given sexual orientation and failed time and time again. Simply, in my humble opinion, they are doing more harm than good. I’m sixty years old this year. I don’t want any homosexual teenager to go through what I have gone through. You can’t pray the gay away. You shouldn’t become a recluse, hoping that it will just pass-by. In my situation my utter silence nearly ended in me taking my own life at the age of 55. We all need human companionship, support and love.

Steve
December 3rd, 2011 | LINK

So well said!!

I would add that they need to come up with a clear definition of the word “change”. The fact that it has evolved over time, and that they need to use a different definition depending on the group they talking to should speak volumes about the integrity in their message.

TampaZeke
December 3rd, 2011 | LINK

Alan Chambers will accept these changes ONLY when it is the very last option to save the organization that supplies 100% of his financial security and the crusade which seems to provide close to 100% of his reason for living.

Regan DuCasse
December 3rd, 2011 | LINK

If I could say something to Alan Chambers, it would be that he doesn’t understand heterosexuality very well. And expects gay people to go about it in such a way, that most straight people should be able to recognize as not authentic or with some creeping affect that’s not really gelling the way it SHOULD.

The ex gay industry DOES go on and on with the assertion that gay people are ‘broken straight people’.
Well, straight people don’t break. They especially don’t break from what the eg industry says they do.

If the eg industry agrees that certain kinds of mental and societal abuse are unhealthy, then they should agree that systemic prejudice, bigotry and abusive religious disciplines are unhealthy.
It goes back to the Clark doll study that I reference. Black children living under Jim Crow were subjected to similar rejection and abuses that gay children are.
And suffered damaged self esteem, and other forms of mental and physical deprivation that marked them over a lifetime.
The eg industry relies on the systemic prejudice that a lifetime of religious abuse to the esteem and sexual health of gay children exacerbates.

If the basis of the struggle is ignored or denied, then how to deal with it won’t be handled properly.
In effect, Exodus is worthless to the full function of a person’s mental and emotional and physical welfare.
He and his family are professionally REQUIRED to put on the game faces and give us a picture of married hetero life.
But most of the aspects that matter, are NOT public. And most hetero people respect that wall of privacy and won’t invade it.
They will when it comes to GAY couples, but they don’t with hetero ones.
On that, my point being, REAL heteros don’t behave like Alan Chambers and company.
There is a kind of caricaturish way that gays playing at straight give off.

But I think that what Exodus mostly does, is more like what I’ve mentioned before.
We live in a time when extreme thinness is glamorized and the wealthiest and most successful women are very thin.
Our society has a pathology that developed called anorexia.
As I’ve said, there are Asians who have had their eyes surgically altered.

It’s healthy to be curvy in the body, it’s normal to have an epicanthic fold in your eyes when you’re Asian.
And anorexia, and plastic surgery are painful things people are willing to go through to fit in. To live a life they think will be better because all around them, those who are thin and ’round eyed’ are treated better.

The incentive to be straight is powerful, and sold as the better, easier and more moral way to live.

However, being straight isn’t all it’s cracked up to be by the ex gay industry. It’s not magically going to make you have a successful marriage or sex life, it’s not going to give you prettier babies or a glamorous career. Indeed, what ELSE can Alan Chambers do or what has he done with his life?
But selling how wonderful he finds life as a faux straight person.

I think that being a successful and accomplished person DESPITE societal and political discrimination is a CHARACTER builder. I’m very impressed by gay people who are themselves, not by people like Alan Chambers who throw their gay brethren under the bus and act like he’s doing them a favor.
I wouldn’t think much of a light skinned black person passing as white who supported Jim Crow.
And even if they didn’t support Jim Crow, they think that passing for white makes them worthy of living like one.
What I say to that is, it’s a self serving purpose then.

It doesn’t take any strength to go with the flow of hetero supremacy and capitulate to doing whatever hetero people tell you to do and EXPECT you do.

I’ve been around too many civil rights advocates or people in situations that were dangerous for them for being out and authentic gay people.
I guess I can’t suffer cowards gladly, even if they THINK they are well meaning and doing God’s work.
I guess Alan doesn’t know any REAL heroic people enough to really compare and know the difference.

Erin
December 3rd, 2011 | LINK

If they took all your suggestions, they wouldn’t exist anymore.

Theo
December 4th, 2011 | LINK

Nice effort, Timothy, but this is a fail.

First, who said that Exodus has left the political arena? Maybe it has been toned down, but do you honestly think you won’t see their name on an amicus curiae brief to the US Supreme Court in the Perry case?

Second, if Exodus is having financial difficulties and is looking to increase its cash flow, it is more likely going to ramp up the political stuff. That is where the money is, not in lifetime abstinence tool kits.

Third, Jones and Yarhouse didn’t report a single full conversion from Kinsey 6 to Kinsey 0. So far as I know, there is no study that has shown this. Although Spitzer concluded that this may happen rarely, he did not personally conduct a study on this, but rather talked over the phone for 45 minutes with a small group of men and women who had participated in other studies and whose self-reported results were the best-case outcomes.

Fourth, and most importantly, you just don’t get the point of Exodus. The point really has nothing to do with whether orientation change is a realistic outcome or whether any rational person would or should have an expectation of success in such a venture. No, the point is just to show that it is statistically possible. One in a million, one in ten million will suffice. At the end of this comment, I’ll post a link to a recent piece by Bryan Fischer of the AFA. Read it and you will understand what this game is about. He would gladly take your Mt. Everest analogy and affirm hat if Sir Hillary can do it, then yes it is “possible.” In fact, he uses similar analogies to Barry Bonds’ and Wilt Chamberlain’s athletic exploits.

The rationale behind this is purely political and, they believe, legal. These people believe that government is incapable of recognizing or protecting any group if that group is defined by a characteristic that is, even to the slightest degree, mutable. So all they care about is the statistical possibility of change. The actual lives of gay people and the options available to them are wholly irrelevant. Exodus serves the purpose of spreading the message that change, however rare or difficult to achieve, is “possible” and thus gays are not entitled to any “special rights.” If Exodus stopped spreading that message, it would no longer serve its intended function.

As a matter of law, all of this is complete and utter nonsense, and I could write about 10,000 words taking it apart and exposing it for the drivel that it is, but they believe it and that is what matters. So your open letter to Chambers is a waste of time and will fall upon deaf ears.
_______________________________

From Bryan Fischer’s Rightly Concerned column:

http://www.afa.net/Blogs/BlogPost.aspx?id=2147513112

“How many examples does it take to prove that change in sexual orientation is possible?

One.

We know that it’s possible to bat .400 over the course of a major league season, because one man, Ted Williams, did it in 1941. We know that it’s possible to hit 73 home runs in a single season, because one man, Barry Bonds, did it in 2001. We know that it’s possible to score 100 points in an NBA game, because one man, Wilt Chamberlain, did it in 1962.”

David Roberts
December 4th, 2011 | LINK

Nice effort, Timothy, one I may have echoed at one point in the past. But to some extent I agree with Erin. The job of doing what you suggest is for individual churches and not only does it not require a million dollar organization, but is probably hampered by it’s existence. And even if they were to continue, the current leadership, including Alan, would have to go as a prerequisite for any change to be taken seriously.

Right now Exodus is an entity trying to justify it’s own existence, forced to consider superficial change only after threats to the same. Even in the 11th hour they’ve not learned their lesson.

It may be a year or two, but it’s over, and they have only themselves to blame.

Ty
December 4th, 2011 | LINK

Exodus has an “event” scheduled just outside of Atlanta on Jan. 24th. I went to their website to see what those events are and to investigate an organization I have heard so much about over the years. I am infuriated at the content, the lies, the shameless and disgusting propaganda and the damage they continue to do to young gay people! We must take action and confront these charlatans, we can’t allow parents to be misinformed and become abusive to their children.

I was particularly angered over a page in the student ministries section devoted to bullying and the “proper” way to deal with situations. The start of the page had good information that was clearly copied from another source and the bottom of the page contains dialog that encourages insult and verbal bullying!

Writing letters will not accomplish anything, organizations like this are impervious to logic, compassion, or anything that contradicts the misguided and hateful message they spew. I am hoping to organize a protest at the event here in Atlanta to stop the spread of this toxic and damaging company.

iDavid
December 4th, 2011 | LINK

I think all this has been said to Alan ad nauseum, tho I respect batting strongly when you feel it needs saying.
I have never felt guilt about my sexuality so I have a happy life on that level. It’s important to remember that in gay people’s lives where they are happy, happiness is the motivator.
I have to look at what motivates Alan Chambers to really get a clear picture as to whether “change is possible” ie with what you have written.
I believe Alan’s basic motivator is the opposite of happiness and the “opposite of holiness”, that being guilt combined with sadness and the belief he is evil. Those two motivators are pain-powerful enough for him to go to extreme measures to remove them at all costs. And they are powerful enough to align him with evil forces that mirror his inner torment. He is in essence, working for the devil, in Christian terms.
That is a very hard struck bargain, and comes with talons so deep, the very thought of a mind shift can cause a severe squeeze on his entire being to comply or die.
So with this in mind, words probably are not what is going to revel him into a “come to Jesus” moment. He is just too ensconced. He’s a gay Michelle Bachmann and he is as repetitive in his acrimony as she.
I think the goal was set long ago which is simply to put Exodus out if business through educating the public, and let the Goliaths of fear fall into the pits hell mentally where the burn from their crimes against nature, is probably the only salve that will wake their mangled hearts.
It took years after leaving Exodus for John Smid to ascend beyond his sins and apologize for his emotionally murderous rampage through societies innocents. I see Alan as having half the IQ of John, meaning, it may take Alan double the time.

Gerard Swan
December 4th, 2011 | LINK

Food for my soul. You have expressed so much of what I have struggled to articulate in other places. Thankyou for your clarity.

Stephen
December 4th, 2011 | LINK

I would agree with Theo. What can Exodus change into? Its very name – Exodus – tells its story: out of slavery into freedom. Slavery being homosexuality: freedom being a ranch-style house outside Denver. What should it now be? Shame? What can such a group usefully do? The discussion seems mostly to be about money and how to up the revenue stream.

I’m only surprised that they haven’t yet proposed a reality show in which a group of gay guys pray themselves straight and the lucky winner gets married on air.

Soren456
December 4th, 2011 | LINK

A well-put argument. But for the life of me, I can’t understand any encouragement toward the continuation of this enterprise.

But if they must, and because they are at heart a money-making venture, I offer just one word: Tupperware.

StraightGrandmother
December 4th, 2011 | LINK

iDavid, I think John Smid is a work in progress, which he himself has said, at least I hope he is not finished yet. Did you see his recent blog articles?

StraightGrandmother
December 4th, 2011 | LINK

Exodus serves it’s members (churches & ministries), and a large part of their budget must be membership dues. Stated another way, the churches and ministries do not serve Exodus, Exodus serves them. The churches and ministries are the customer. How can Exodus serve their customers by saying that a change in sexual orientation is unlikely when the biggest ministry at a recent Exodus conference (http://livehope.org/2011/07/20/investing-with-kingdom-dividends/) Living Hope Ministries clearly states on their website —————
“Our goal is not to transform people’s sexual orientation – that surely will happen when people’s sinful inclinations are transformed by the power of the Gospel – but to teach and proclaim God’s truth as we journey with those seeking sexual and relational wholeness through a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ!”
——————————–
The biggest customer of Exodus, at least in the south east United States, New Hope Ministries, promises that people WILL CHANGE THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION through their program. Remember Exodus serves their customers. I think it is unlikely that Exodus will ever back peddle from promising the “possibility” of sexual orientation change. They have to few customers now, why would they suddenly make a philosophical change that would loose them even more customers?

The most I would expect Exodus to do would be to drop their political efforts. They should demand that the many many political organizations that have links to Exodus, remove them. Example Cornerstone Policy Research in New Hampshire http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2011/12/kevin-my-group-pushes-ex-gay-therapy-smith-joins-nom.html

I do not believe Exodus will change their theology but perhaps they can get back to what they once were, a purely Christian ministry.

Richard Rush
December 4th, 2011 | LINK

In hindsight (at a point in the future), won’t the organization’s name, Exodus, appear ironic or prophetic in an unintended way, when they disappear? Really, isn’t the only question when they disappear, not if they do – while virtually all gay people accept themselves? That seems like an easy prediction. The only way I can imagine Exodus not disappearing is if they change their mission entirely – for example, to promote the exodus of people from the bondage of fundamentalist religion.

iDavid
December 5th, 2011 | LINK

StraightGrandmother

I am very impressed with John Smid as he is coming from the heart and I feel it. He is a work in progress for sure and I’m proud of him.

Alan Chambers and his ex-sex-thug Randy Thomas, are another story though. Randy is over at his gay blog (exgaysuperstar.com) bragging he is attracted to a woman. He’s attracted to countless guys but attracted to one woman. He’s nuts. It’s pretty funny to see a gay-face gay-voice as obvious as his say that, since in his gay finishing school class, graduated second to Rip Taylor. (he cried)
He’s doing Ex-housewife of Exodus International buy sending out hand painted Christmas cards to his bloggers, rarely if ever mentioning his past w Exodus. Truly nauseating considering the damage he is still doing. Thomas is acting like leaving Exodus gives him some sort of get out of jail free card, while gay kids are getting kicked out of their homes at Xmas and gay suicides are happening in towns across America. He is truly a screaming little pip.

Alan and Randy both need intense divine interventions from the man upstairs tho Randy is probably more open than Alan due to Alan’s kids and wife schtick. They both come off as fake fake fake religious frauds. I think the best we can expect from Chambers is that he resigns and fades away.

Thanks for pointing out John Smid’s blog. It’s filled with depth realism and authenticity, where I think we all can get something of value.

iDavid
December 5th, 2011 | LINK

PS Sorry if I got a little “off topic”. ;)

Jay Jonson
December 5th, 2011 | LINK

What a waste of bandwidth if you think that these people have an ounce of conscience.

Ty
December 5th, 2011 | LINK

The biggest problem with Exodus is the “youth” program. The parents are told it’s their fault, they are instructed to punish, isolate, and control these helpless children to the point of mental abuse! The children are humiliated, degraded, and bombarded with self-loathing to the point that serious psychological damage is inflicted.

If adults are so infected with self-loathing and feel the need to pretend to be straight it is sad but they are able as consenting adults to decide what path to take. Children do not have a choice, parents make them participate in these scam programs. I can’t help but wonder why child protective services or mental health associations have not intervened to stop the abuse and mental damage done by Exodus? Many children who are forced into these programs already face harassment and bullying in school, why must they be tortured by families and religious groups as well?

The gay community is too tolerant of these groups, we have an obligation to act, we MUST do something to stop gay children from being ABUSED! No wonder so many choose suicide! Writing letters is emotional masturbation, it might make you feel better but it is completely useless and does not help stop what we all know is wrong! I ask ALL of you, what can we do? Can we petition existing agencies to act? Can we sue them? Please help me help these children, we must act!

Timothy Kincaid
December 5th, 2011 | LINK

Ty,

To the best of my knowledge, none of the children in the past year or so’s spate of suicides were in ex-gay ministries.
Further, I know of no recent instances of abuse (much less ABUSE) of children in Exodus ministries. If you know otherwise, please provide a source.

Priya Lynn
December 5th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy, they tell people its wrong to be gay, that their god dislikes their gayness, they tell they are doomed to be lonely and unhappy, that is abuse.

Timothy Kincaid
December 5th, 2011 | LINK

Priya Lynn, here’s an oddity. In this instance you actually are not entitled to your own opinion.

Accusations of abuse to children are serious. And if they are stated at BTB, they need to be substantiated. And as abuse of children is illegal, such accusations have to stand up to the legal definitions.

And, so far anyway, “having theological opinions that differ from those of Priya Lynn” is not included under any child protections laws.

Ty
December 5th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy, I did not say Exodus caused these suicides! Are you actually defending Exodus? Priya is exactly right, and is entitled to her “opinion”, and you have no right to tell anyone to be quiet!

ABUSE is exactly what they do! I had no trouble finding accusations of abuse on the Exodus website in the comments sections and blogs, on their facebook pages and numerous other sources! They don’t even bother to erase them!

StraightGrandmother
December 5th, 2011 | LINK

Ty can you provide a link to “I had no trouble finding accusations of abuse on the Exodus website in the comments sections and blogs”
I would like to read them. Just one or two is enough.

Tim you are coming across as condescending, just so you know.

Timothy Kincaid
December 5th, 2011 | LINK

Ty,

I’m not defending Exodus. I’m requiring you to provide support for your claims.

You asserted that Exodus engages in the abuse of children, the sort of abuse that “child protective services or mental health associations” should address.

You made a serious claim. If you have any evidence of child abuse on the part of Exodus, provide it. I assure you that we will do what is necessary to address any child abuse and be certain the state agencies get involved.

But vague references to their website are simply not adequate.

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