Following Al Mohler’s controversial article Is Your Baby Gay? last month, evangelical monthly Christianity Today enters the gay gene debate with Re-engineering Temptation. Of interest to XGW are the comments by Alan Chambers of Exodus:
This conversation puzzles Alan Chambers, president of the ex-gay group Exodus International. Christian leaders aren’t pushing for a medical answer to alcoholism or pornography, he noted. Instead of looking to science, Chambers said, Christians should study the struggles of reformed homosexuals.
“People like me who struggled with it and found freedom are more than sufficient proof that we can overcome our genetics,” he said. “Science will never trump the Word of God.”
Did Chambers just concede that homosexuality is genetic? If so, he is clearly referring to homosexual orientation, rather than behaviour. Furthermore, he claims to have “struggled with it and found freedom.” And so the cycle of slippery terminology and elusive meaning continues.
“Freedom”? Like “healing”, “overcoming” and “changing,” there’s a word that slides over the question of whether reversal of homosexual orientation is really possible. As I noted in my analysis of British ex-gay James Parker’s interview last month, trying to get a straight – um, plain – answer on this issue from an ex-gay leader is difficult. In response to the question, “Are you still attracted to men?”, James Parker immediately responded with “Let’s put it this way,” going on to answer a question of his own choosing instead of giving a yes or no to the question asked. Alan shows the same reluctance when asked the same direct question:
[Do you still have attraction to men? You're just choosing not to act on it?] My attraction greatly diminished over the course of many years. Sixteen years into it, my life isn’t even remotely the same as it once was; but I often say that I will never be as though I never was; and the truth is that I’m a human being, and for me to say that I could never be attracted to men again, or that I couldn’t be tempted, would mean that I’m not human, and that’s just not the case.
Is he still attracted or not? Despite a veneer of honesty and self-disclosure, this answer still leaves me clueless whether Alan Chambers, and by extension the ex-gays he represents, still consistently live with homosexual attractions.
I am convinced that semantics is one of the major battlegrounds in challenging the ex-gay movement. There is a divide between the rhetoric and the reality, and as long as leaders continue to use language in such a slippery, imprecise way, inventing their own hazy definitions, we must continue to press Exodus and other ex-gay groups on this.