Alan Chambers. My Exodus: From FEAR to GRACE. Zondervan, 2015. (222 pages)
When the men [in John 8:1f.] chose not to condemn–because they were unable to when faced with their own humanity–they walked away and left the woman alone with Jesus. (16)
There’s freedom in not having to define him based on who he is or isn’t attracted to–other than, of course, the binding tie of “Yours” at the end of every note he’s ever left me. There’s freedom in loving him as he is and not wanting to change him. There’s freedom in understanding that it’s not my job to change anyone, for that matter, let alone to declare that a gay person should change. God’s love transcends sexual orientation. God’s love transcends everything. My purpose in life–in our marriage, with our children and our neighbors–is to love. Radically, fully, beyond measure, without hindrance. (128)
Attractions are different from temptations. (156)
So who am I? I’m a son of God, a husband, a father, a son, a son-in-law, a brother, a brother-in-law, an uncle, a cousin, and a friend. I’m Alan. And what’s my orientation? Leslie. My orientation is Leslie. (157)
If Exodus wasn’t a safe haven for people in need of a judgment-free zone, then we were no different than the fundamentalist, legalistic, pharisaical parts of the Church we had once run from. “If actively gay people can’t be Christians, then no one can,” I retorted to my critics. I would not be controlled by threats of dissension and withheld financial support, and it was not my job to control anyone else’s behavior. (191)
God’s love is the truth. God’s love brings life. Grace doesn’t balance truth or soften it. It just is the truth. | I could no longer mix the life-giving good news–that in Jesus, nothing can separate us from God–with the deadly message that our good behavior or self-righteousness affects our standing with God. Velvet or not, that brick wounds and kills. (209)
There were a lot of reasons we closed Exodus. But the single greatest reason was because of grace. In a world where people are clamoring for position and demanding clear declarations for or against all things gay, Leslie and I choose grace. (214)
— via reflections —
I finished this book on a flight to the Houston GCN conference with a few friends from church. The Chambers’s story is an extremely important one in the public discourse around sexual identity/orientation and religion. Their journey, culminating in the shutting down of Exodus International, must be accepted and philosophically and culturally adjudicated on its own terms. It should not be dismissed as many perhaps are wont to do. Add to that the studies done on Exodus International, including the Jones/Yarhouse 2009 report (online), and the the stories of Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, and you have compelling arguments for the truth behind “ex-gay” ministries and “reparative therapies.”
Perhaps because of my expectations from Chambers’s first book after his public renunciation of Exodus, but I felt this book fell a bit short in being fully transparent and honest in all of those aspects mentioned above. In sincerity, it is their story (Alan & Leslie’s), but it does not provide the robust thinking or data points that are necessary for making cogent argumentation for what does and does not describe reality.
For example, when he states his “orientation is Leslie,” this is beautiful statement regarding his covenantal relationship, but it does not tell us about his biological and psychological framework. They shut down Exodus for the reasons of “grace,” but was grace ever at odds with “reparative therapy?” Again, these are wonderful sentiments, but I wanted more “real” answers.
Again, my reflections above are more reflective of my expectations. Thanks to Alan & Leslie for being brave with their stories, and following the grace wherever it may lead them.