World Magazine has awarded Exodus President Alan Chambers their 2011 Daniel Award. With this award, Alan Chambers joins the ranks of Kenneth Star, John Ashcroft, Phillip E. Johnson (“father” of Intelligent design), Peter Akinola (rabidly anti-gay Nigerian priest), and Stephen C. Meyer (Intelligent Design), among other past recipients.
In an article which appears in the December 17th edition, Chambers and Exodus are painted in glowing, courageous terms. Many of Chambers’ key talking points are covered nicely, while any opposition is portrayed in a one-dimensional fashion. This website is said to have “whole sections devoted to condemning Chambers and other ministries to homosexuals.”
We would like to think it is the facts which “condemn these groups, but then World Magazine hasn’t exactly attempted to cloak their own bias when it comes to Exodus. They have written this type of PR piece for Exodus in the past (the same author, Jamie Dean), and one has to ask if this is more of a corroborative effort than journalism. Could this be the first volley in the effort to re-brand Exodus International, or at least it’s president? If so, it seems skewed into the conservative space, heavy on “change is possible” rhetoric.
The World Magazine article contains several factual errors. Let’s give them a brief review of a couple:
Self-denial isn’t a new concept to Chambers. The 39-year-old president of Exodus International—a Christian ministry that helps people struggling with homosexuality—grew up in a Christian home but embraced homosexuality as a teenager. But through years of an active gay lifestyle, Chambers couldn’t shake the biblical conviction that what came naturally to him was also sinful. He didn’t want to be gay. [emphasis added]
According to an early account written by Chambers in 1999, there is no way to say that he had been through “years of an active gay lifestyle.” Even if one overlooks the generalization of “gay lifestyle,” (assuming that means open and sexually active for this purpose), Chambers could not be said to fit that description for more than a few months in 1990-1991, when he was barely eighteen years old. He says he had a couple of sexual encounters in Middle School (essentially experimentation during overnight stays), and one in High School. But all this ended when he was “outed” by the latter, which indicates he was not open before that.
Most of this time before age eighteen, he seems to have a on and off feeling of guilt with God, and does not like that he is attracted to men. He then has a revival experience and joins an Exodus support group. For a few months in 1990, he goes to gay bars, and meets some gay Christians, along with attending the group three nights a week. Not satisfied, he finds a place for anonymous sex. Soon thereafter he has another “mountain top” experience and starts working with the group in earnest. Further in the article Chambers pegs that point as September of 1991 (other accounts indicate earlier in 1991). So his time in an “active gay lifestyle” must be somewhat less (perhaps considerably less) than a year. And even then, it’s a poor example of a life of any sort.
We might also note that, according to one source who lived in Orlando at that time, there was only one “gay bar” in town that would allow underage teens and it served no liquor (“Thunders”). It is unlikely this was the kind of setting evoked by Chambers’ description.
If Chambers leads a nationwide ministry, you wouldn’t know it by standing outside the Orlando headquarters where he works. After a handful of security threats from opponents in recent years, the Exodus staffers don’t post a sign on the front door. They don’t publicize their address. They usually lock the doors.
While it may be possible that Exodus has received spurious threats over the years, Chambers was asked by this writer for their new address a couple of years ago. His direct response for the record was, “Exodus hasn’t been public with our address since 1996 when the Lesbian Avengers attacked the offices in Seattle.” He further clarified that this attack consisted of the “releasing of 1500 crickets.” He never explained how they knew that number so exactly. The point is moot, anyway, as their address is part of the public record, and became news here when discussing the purchase of the building and their financial condition.
Chambers condemned the legislation, but critics said he should have listened to pre-conference concerns about speakers at the event known for inflammatory language and views, and asked Schmierer to avoid it. Chambers eventually agreed: “I wish I had known the complexity of this initially and said [to Schmierer]: ‘Don’t do this.’ But I didn’t, and I’m sorry.”
It is important to note that Chambers “eventually agreed” only after fifteen months of heavy reporting on every detail of the subject. The only way he did not know about the ugly reality of both the legislation and Exodus’ part in it is if he purposely shut it out. Instead this makes it look like he was just a little confused in the beginning but then took his stand. He was taking the word of Scott Lively, a holocaust revisionist who writes books claiming that gays were responsible for the Third Reich and who himself was part of the infamous 2009 conference.
Overall this piece seems written to give Chambers an opportunity to smooth over some of his egregious moves with a sympathetic ear. A picture of the brave man who resisted the evil temptations of homosexuality, and through God’s strength has persevered to be a family man, with a wife, two kids and a picket fence. In contrast, gays are painted as militant, unrestrained, malicious activists looking to rework the fabric of society. Exodus has been saying basically this for years.
And the last line of the article brings us back to the same old Exodus, “Is change possible? If you know Jesus, anything is possible.” If this is re-branding, the brand hasn’t changed.
H/T: Commenter Straight Grandmother