Decoding the Alan Chambers Apology:
Reactions were mixed, and, to be frank, a bit sensationalist. Shouldn’t we applaud this first step? Is this enough? Doesn’t this take courage? What will become of him? Isn’t this the first time he’s called himself gay? Is Exodus shutting down? (It is) Is Alan Chambers a liberal? Can we forgive him? Why did he wait a year to apologize, whilst he kept saying “Stay tuned?” Does Lisa Ling film all of his apologies?
All of these questions bypass two important ones. Like this one: What is it?
What is this apology? No really. What is it? What is it saying? I recently posted about the need for translation often from Evangelicals, and I could not have asked for a better example. This apology is at best ambiguous, and at worst, double-speak. Please read what questions he does not, in actuality, answer for certain, before you start applauding him. Because I really don’t think he’s saying what a lot of you think he’s saying.
As I’ve linked to the full apology, you can judge for yourself if I’m taking things too far out of context. I don’t believe that I am. For those who didn’t read the full apology, I’m selecting quotes from it that fail to answer many questions — quotes that I think many people are misreading as a wholesale endorsement of gay rights.
“Recently, I have begun thinking again about how to apologize to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message.”
The phrase “an experience or by a message” is weird. Does this include the damage he’s done in legislative stances, in voting against gay rights, in any testifying, talking, or in any way promoting viewpoints that resulted in people taking harsh stances on gay-rights legislation? What does this mean? What is it? Is he sorry about fighting against gay rights? In the US and other places, or only in Uganda?
“And then there is the trauma that I have caused. There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.”
Does that acceptance also mean accepting that we could be in a relationship with somebody of the same sex? Or does God only accept our sexualities if we refuse to act on it? Or does God only accept our sexualities if we refuse to act on it and we marry an opposite-sex spouse? Because God requires that we be more than human, right? So doesn’t accepting your homosexuality as “human” mean that you accept it the same way you do all sin, as evidence of a fallen world? Is acting on homosexual desire a sin?
“Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.”
Is that the only harm he’s done? Not acknowledging sexual abuse and failing to share that he’s still attracted to men? Does he know that there are other ways he and Exodus ministries have harmed people? If he didn’t harm people by intention, does that mean that he accidentally fought against gay rights? Does he acknowledge that he’s done more harm? Does he think that he shouldn’t apologize for that other harm?
“I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change.”
But he’s not sorry that they ended up in mixed-orienation marriages? Is he only sorry that they felt shame and guilt while being abstinent and/or married to an opposite-sex spouse, instead of feeling happiness and joy while being abstinent and/or married to an opposite-sex spouse?
“I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.”
Are the only beliefs about parenting and parenthood that he’s sorry for the ones that stigmatized parents? Is he only apologizing for saying “If a man is gay, his father was absent?” Is he not apologizing for teaching that parents must fill specific gender roles?
“I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse.”
Is he sorry for calling gays “broken?” For not standing up to people publicly who called us “broken?” Is he not sorry for saying “the opposite of homosexuality is holiness?”
“I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know.”
Capable of being amazing parents means what? Like, I’m capable of being an amazing parent because I can marry a woman and raise them in a traditional household with the same gender roles Exodus has promoted? Is that the only way I’m capable of being an amazing parent? Or am I capable of being an amazing single parent? Am I capable of being an amazing parent with another man? Will Chambers share that two husbands can be amazing parents together? Or can I only be an amazing parent by marrying a woman? Is Chambers only apologizing to gays who are in mixed-orientation marriages?
“I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart.”
Does this mean that he’s not sorry for implying that gay people must come to Christ in a way that straight people don’t have to? Is he sorry that he’s implied that surrendering their sexuality to Christ means being abstinent or marrying an opposite-sex spouse? Is he sorry for likening somebody’s gender identity to their sexual orientation? Or is he only sorry that he celebrated the end of relationships while celebrating the good of surrendering homosexuality to Christ?
“I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.”
Is he sorry for communicating that families with same-sex parents are less than families with opposite-sex parents? Or is he only sorry for communicating that mixed-orientation marriages are less than “real” straight marriages? (In this scenario, he’d be apologizing to people who couldn’t change their orientation, but were still married to opposite-sex spouses – apologizing for saying that their marriage wasn’t good enough because they hadn’t changed their orientation all the way, 100%. In this scenario, he would not be apologizing to LGBTQ folk that actually lived out their relationships and gender identities in their families) Does he even consider two moms and children a family?
“More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.”
Does this inseverable relationship with God extend to gays who actually have sex with people of the same sex? Why doesn’t Firefox recognize inseverable as a word? Are all relationships with God inseverable? When aren’t they?
“I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them. I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.”
Is he saying that he will no longer lobby against gay rights? Does this mean that he doesn’t support legislation that infringes upon the rights of LGBTQ* people? Does this mean he supports marriage equality? Does he support job protections for sexual orientation and gender identity? Does he believe that gays should be able to adopt? Does his refusal to fight against gay rights mean that he will fight for gay rights? Or does it mean he’s going to pull a Marin?
“You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours. I hope the changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good.”
Whose common good? What is the common good? Is that list of gay rights I made just a second ago part of the common good?
“Moving forward, we will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing.”
Does reducing fear mean reducing homophobia? Or would he say that gay people are also afraid of Christians, and he wants to reduce Christian-phobia?
I’ve seen too many first steps that double as last steps. And I’m skeptical. Especially having actually read his apology in depth and realized how much ambiguity there was in it. Some people may think I’m splitting hairs, but I promise you that these ambiguities exist to people who thought that it was a good idea to tell gay men that they must marry a woman and have sex with her.
I’m further doubtful after reading the preface to his apology, in which he says that he disagrees with the “vocal majorities” of gay people. That, to me, means he disagrees with the activists that are currently giving much of themselves to ensure equality for queer folk. Marriage equality, job protection, adoption rights, etc. This, to my mind, demonstrates how very little distance he has traveled. I’ve never heard somebody who is for gay rights refer to a “vocal” majority of queer folk as a bad thing.
I’ve no doubt that he’s sorry, that he feels dismay at the pain of queer folk. But I don’t think that he’s really apologized, that he’s taken responsibility for his actions and changed them dramatically to repair what he can of what he’s done.
But perhaps I’ve over-reacted. Perhaps he really does have a good answer to all of the questions I’ve posed. Perhaps he has a great attitude, is eager to learn, and wants to clear the air. Maybe he didn’t realize the ambiguity in his apology. If that’s the case, then I’m sure he’ll respond here, because I’ve messaged him, hit up some Exodus PR people, and put this on the Exodus page where they posted a link to his apology. If he does have good intentions, I’ve no doubt he can clear up this important question about his “apology”: What is it?
I hope that he’ll also answer the remaining question, an important question that I think may be the most telling of all. (Or it’s totally conspiracy theorist and wrong.) It’s one I haven’t seen people ask, in any case.
How much legal liability has Exodus and/or Chambers (by proxy) been released from because of Exodus’s dissolution? Because I’m pretty sure that if a psychologist admitted that he had severely harmed his patients in a publicly issued apology, he’d be liable for a lot of damages. But if he’s dead, there’s no way to hold him accountable. Likewise, with Exodus dead in the water, it seems that the brand new organization “ReduceFear,” and Chambers may be off the hook.
Let’s see that question answered. I imagine it could answer my other question as well.