Al Mohler and Exodus International: Agree or disagree?
As noted last week, Southern Baptist Seminary’s President Rev. Albert Mohler recently told a reporter that evangelicals have “lied about the nature of homosexuality” and reinforced his sentiments at the recent Southern Baptist Convention conference. I think it is going to take awhile for Rev. Al Mohler’s words about evangelicals and homosexuality to sink in – even for those who say they agree with him.
In this Baptist Press article, Exodus International President, Alan Chambers, came to Rev. Mohler’s defense against critics who say Mohler is going soft on gays, saying (in italics)
“I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, and I am eternally grateful for what I learned there — the truth that I learned and the biblical foundation that I have,” Chambers said. “But there was no way that I was ever going to tell anybody in my church growing up that I struggled with these things. I am very thankful to say that that has changed [in that church]…. But we’ve still all got to do better.”
Alan correctly identifies his church as a problem. Although he doesn’t say exactly why, he is clear that he could not be open about his situation in his church. Apparently, they would not have handled it in a loving, accepting way. Chambers then says, we need to do better. I agree and I think one great example of that need is a recent post – of all places – on the Exodus blog.
In a June 21 post, Matthew Walker says (in italics):
I felt like killing myself as a teen not because of the church, but because of a very real spiritual enemy that was trying to destroy me anyway that he could. His whispers and lies twisted the Bible into a condemnation of me, not of the sin that was overtaking me.
Sounds to me like this man attended a church like Alan’s. However, Walker seems to think that his church was just fine, even though he was bothered enough to consider suicide. Reading this article, I am confused. Is Walker’s narrative an illustration of the church getting it right, or is this the kind of church that kept Alan silent and struggling?
Walker’s entire article, to me, seems like an illustration of just the kind of approach that Mohler critiques. Mohler wants evangelicals to be honest about homosexuality. Instead Walker stereotypes gays as miserable, and in denial about why they are gay. He writes (in italics)
I was honest with myself about how homosexuality developed in my life. Many gay men and women use the act of “coming out” as a great dismissal of the developmental history that shaped their gay identity. Genetics becomes the great enabler that keeps many bound to a life of destruction.
According to Walker’s narrative, gays have been crafted by some kind of knowable “developmental history” which they repress via coming out. Genetic research is not scientific inquiry but a devious means of keeping gays in denial.
In 2007, Rev. Mohler wrote that evangelicals should be prepared to acknowledge that biological factors may operate in forming same-sex attraction. By taking seriously biological factors, is Mohler facing facts honestly as he calls evangelicals to do? Or is he improperly enabling gays as described by Exodus’ Mr. Walker?
I am glad that Rev. Mohler voiced his views about evangelicals and honesty when it comes to sexual orientation. I have been raising these issues for several years now, but it take someone of Mohler’s stature to keep the conversation going. Despite Mohler’s influential position, his views are not universally accepted in SBC circles. Furthermore, it appears to me that even those who generally agree with Mohler need to work out, practically speaking, what that agreement means.
Mohler is certainly correct to say that gays do not choose to be attracted to the same sex and that their attractions are enduring and durable. However, there are many more stereotypes that evangelicals need to address. The Exodus article traffics in several of them. My hope is that evangelicals can follow up their general agreement that we need to do better with practical action.