Coming to Grips with Homosexuality
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, talks about his past and his longing for male love and attention which eventually lead him to seek fulfillment in a homosexual lifestyle. Joining Alan on today's program is his wife, Leslie.
Alan Chambers talks about his desire for male attention that lead him to seek fulfillment in a homosexual lifestyle.
Coming to Grips with Homosexuality
When Alan was in high school, he had already begun acting out on his homosexual desires, and he kept it a carefully guarded secret.
Alan: There were a couple of people who would say, "If I didn't know you better, I'd think you were gay," but I made every attempt to be socially acceptable. I went to every length to look good, to act good, to do the things that everyone else did. I didn't play sports, but I was at every sporting event, and I was friends with the popular girls and the popular guys just so people wouldn't make fun of me.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, January 30th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Today we'll hear from Alan Chambers about his experience growing up gay.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. A number of months ago I was in a setting where I was going to be asked to share the Gospel as a part of a presentation I was doing, and I just pulled back, and I was thinking, I was praying, "Now, what is it I want to communicate? Is there a fresh way to say what's on my heart related to the Gospel?" And as I was thinking, I thought, you know, the message of the Gospel is really about two things. It's about the universal need that every human being has for forgiveness, and when you stop and think about it, every person, if he just looks at his own life, he realizes there's some stuff I need to be forgiven for.
And then the second thing is the need that all of us have to be changed from who we are to somebody different and better than who we are. That's really the message of the Gospel. We all need forgiveness, and we all need transformation, and God is the only one who can do both of those, right?
Dennis: Right, and you just reminded me, Bob, of a passage of Scripture that I think those of us in the Christian community who have come to faith in Christ and know that forgiveness well need to be reminded of, and Paul wrote to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians, chapter 6 – well, he said it in verse 9 through 11. He says, "Don't be deceived. Neither fornicators nor idolators nor adulterers nor effeminate nor homosexuals nor thieves, the covetous, drunkards or revilers or swindlers shall inherit the kingdom of God." And then he's got this little phrase – "and such were some of you," "And such were some of you," but – and don't you love the but – that's just what you were talking about, Bob – "but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."
You know, I hope I don't ever recover from coming face-to-face in the Book of Romans with what Paul wrote there about being saved by grace through faith that I can be justified through faith in Jesus Christ, and He washes me, like he talks about here – He cleanses me, He makes me whole.
Bob: He forgives you then He changes you.
Dennis: Right. And I think sometimes in church, when we go to church, we forget who we're seated next to. I think we think we're sitting next to the redeemed, but we forget that they were adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, on and on. We've all been redeemed from something.
And, you know, with America headed in the direction it seems to be headed, and I say that specifically around the subject of gay marriage and redefining marriage to have same-sex unions, you and I, Bob, have agreed we need to take a healthy, balanced truth-and-love approach to this subject – one that's full of compassion and yet full of a standard that calls people back to the truth of Scripture.
And I had a chance to meet a couple of new friends at May Day for Marriage back in Washington, D.C. about a year ago. Alan and Leslie Chambers were there speaking at May Day for Marriage, and I had a chance to sit down in the back room for a few moments and chat. And I said, "Why don't you come to Little Rock and be our guest on FamilyLife Today, and let's talk about what the church can do to address the needs of the homosexual community and how we can communicate this subject of forgiveness to them?" And so they took me up on it. They're here and, Leslie, Alan, I'd like to welcome you to FamilyLife Today.
Alan: Thanks, Dennis.
Leslie: Thank you.
Dennis: Alan is the president of Exodus International. It's a ministry of training, of education, of outreach to equip Christians to minister to the homosexual community, and they live in Orlando, Florida, they've got a brand-new baby boy, four months old, kind of fun, chubby-cheeked little rascal that he is, and it's really great to have you all here.
Alan, this ministry is really born out of your own experience as a young man. You shared earlier that you'd had some homosexual inclinations as a teenager. What was your earliest remembrance of being attracted to the same sex?
Alan: I started being attracted to the same sex very early in life – four, five, six years old, and it wasn't a sexual attraction at first, it was a physical attraction, an over-arching need to be just with another man; to hang out with guys; to be loved and accepted in the male world, and that was something that I had a great deficit in.
Dennis: Had your father not met that need in your life or – was he there?
Alan: My dad was there. My parents have been married for over 50 years now, and he was very much the provider for our family, but he wasn't the emotional provider for our family. I was the youngest of six, and I got all of my needs met from Mom and from sisters, and God created little boys to have needs met by their dad; to have love and affirmation and acceptance modeled by Dad, and I didn't get that. I found all of my affirmation and acceptance from Mom and sisters, and I was craving male relationship, and it started very, very early and something that I was looking for basically in every male relationship that I ever had.
Bob: When did that craving become sexualized? At the point of adolescence when everything starts to get sexualized?
Alan: It became sexualized at puberty for me. However, a couple of years prior to puberty, I was molested by an older teenage boy who I looked up to, who was athletic, who was smart, who was good-looking, and that guy that I had looked up to and idolized paid attention to me in a way that I was not meant to be paid attention to, and that kind of started me thinking along the lines of maybe this is how I find male relationship.
Dennis: Mm-hm. I want to ask you a question about that. It seems to be a theme within the homosexual community, especially around boys; that they have had some kind of an experience, many times, around being molested. Do you have any statistics or hard data around that?
Alan: We find at Exodus, those who contact our ministry for help, and there are about 400,000 of those each year – of those people, about 85 percent of the men and women have been sexually molested prior to age 13, and that's a very high statistic. On the national average, I believe, it is somewhat lower, but it's in the 70-percent range for women and in the high 60s for men on a national average.
Bob: For those who are practicing homosexuality.
Bob: What is it in the general population? Do you have any idea what sexual abuse is like with the general population?
Alan: I don't know what the statistics are for the general population.
Bob: But the point of all of this is when somebody experiences, at a young age, a sexual violation, that does something to cross the wires, doesn't it, in the way you think about life and love and relationships?
Alan: Absolutely. Being molested didn't make me gay, but it taught me things about sex that I never needed to know, and my first sexual experience being with a man did set me up to struggle with this issue. It did take all of the things that was experiencing in life and turn it towards homosexuality. I don't know where I would have been without being molested, but I know that it was a significant event in my life.
Dennis: Leslie, I want you to comment on this as well as Alan – you both now are parents of a four-month-old baby. This boy you're raising, you must be thinking about the dangers of this culture and the possibility of him being molested. Now, the reality is it can happen in a very innocent way. Have you all talked about this already and what are you going to do to protect your son?
Alan: Well, I think that we take the simplest of precautions from making sure that we know who he is left with, if he is left with anyone – knowing where he is at at all times and, certainly, he's only four months old but thinking down the line of just simple things of not sending him into bathrooms alone in public places; not exposing him to people that he doesn't know or that he's not familiar with; making sure that he doesn't go to a friend's house that we don't know; parents that we don't know – simple things like that that some parents don't always think of.
Bob: Did your parents know and trust your molester?
Alan: They did. He was a neighborhood boy who – in the neighborhood I grew up in, there were just hundreds of kids. We played together all the time, and this one particular boy was just one of the kids on the block and, you know, he didn't grow up to be gay, but he was at a point in his sexual development where he was curious about sexuality; where gender was sort of neutral at that point, and I think that's something that parents have to look for as well. You know, not leaving their kid with someone of the same sex who is at that very critical age. I know I was a babysitter at 12, 13, 14 years old, and thankfully that wasn't something that I struggled with, but there are a lot of kids out there who might look towards a younger kid to experiment on, and that's something that happens.
Dennis: And so for you, as a young man, as a teenager, you began to experiment with other boys?
Alan: I did. I started as early as seventh grade experimenting with other boys in the neighborhood just shortly after that experience with this other teenage boy, and that continued into high school, where I was looking for someone to be friends with, but it always turned sexual in my head. If I found a good guy friend, it was almost as if I couldn't just have a friendship. It turned sexual. I wanted more out of that friendship, and it happened a couple of times where the other person took me up on that offer, and I found myself involved in homosexual activity as a young person.
Bob: Was the word around school that Alan's homosexual, that Alan's gay?
Alan: There were a couple of people who would say, "If I didn't know you better, I'd think you were gay," but I made very attempt to be socially acceptable. I went to every length to look good, to act good, to do the things that everyone else did. I didn't play sports, but I was at every sporting event, and I was friends with the popular girls and the popular guys just so people wouldn't make fun of me.
Bob: Did you have a girlfriend? Did you take somebody to the prom?
Alan: I took people to the prom – I was the best prom date there was, because I was safe, and I went to about 12 proms in my area because I was everybody's best friend, and I was the safe guy.
Bob: And I think the point in all of this is that – again, we talk about the wires getting crossed. In male relationships those have become abnormally sexualized. In female relationships, there was an innocence and a purity to those that it was almost a wholesomeness, it was like you were spared from some of the unwholesomeness that I experienced or that I was drawn to.
Alan: I think that's one of the things, when I look at men who have found freedom from homosexuality, I often say that they are some of the most godly, the most indicative of how God intended men to be, because they've grappled with the things that they struggled with; they've overcome these hard things; and they're brought into this purity of almost having ability to have a Garden of Eden experience with the person that they fall in love with – the person of the opposite sex.
And, you know, kind of going backwards into not wanting that type of relationship initially with a girl and what drew me to guys was I think we misunderstand what homosexuality is. It's not an inability to relate to the opposite sex, it's an inability to relate to the same sex. And what men who are drawn into homosexuality are looking for is their completion. For me, I was looking for what I was deficit in. God created me with a need to have same-sex relationships; to be affirmed and accepted and loved by my same-sex parent, by my same-sex peers, and when that didn't happen, I only had a growing cavern of need that I was looking to get met.
And so it wasn't really about sex for me, it was about relationship, and once that relational need got met, I was much more apt to go properly into heterosexuality, which is when I met Leslie.
Dennis: I want to underscore what you just said, because God made us to relate to Him as God, as our Creator and to be in a father-son relationship, or a father-daughter relationship, with Him through Jesus Christ. But He also made us to relate to others, and He designed us that we should have healthy, same-sex relationships and healthy opposite-sex represents. And I think just because of how homosexuality today is being promoted, I think it's really impacting a lot of men being able to have healthy friendships with other men. I think they are somehow afraid they'll be cast into some corner or someone will declare them to be homosexual because they have profound friendships with men. I don't think friendships, man-to-man, have ever been easy, but I think they are more difficult today than ever.
Alan: They are. I think men steer away from those things because they're afraid of being labeled, they're afraid that their co-worker or their best friends or their family members will say, "Oh, well, that's a little – that relationship's a little weird," when the very thing that organizations like Promise Keepers are promoting for men, in general, is to have healthy same-sex relationships because they know what God intended. God intended for us, as men, to have these healthy relationships so that we would be healthy in every area of our life. If a man doesn't have good same-sex bonding, good same-sex represents throughout the course of his life, then he will not be the kind of husband or father or disciple that God intended.
Bob: Do you ever today struggle with the desire?
Alan: Yes, I do, and I'll qualify that to say I am a man, and I struggle with my humanity, and I believe that's something that's common for all of us. Do I sit on the edge of my seat wanting to be involved in homosexuality or stopping myself from being involved in that? Absolutely not, that's not something that consumes my life today.
But there are triggers that were set up all along the way that can be triggered today. If I'm not in healthy relationship with other men, if I am not in healthy relationship with my wife, if I'm not seeking the Lord corporately and individually in my church setting, I can be susceptible to all sorts of things that have always been common to me, and that starts first with my insecurity and how I measure myself against what I see as the ideal versus what I feel is what I'm – who I am as a man.
Dennis: Leslie, I'm looking at you smiling at your husband.
Dennis: There are women listening right now, wondering, "What is she thinking about that statement?"
Leslie: I have no problem with the statement in its entirety. If he had stopped and said, "Yes, I still struggle with these issues," and that was it, then my mind would reel. But to hear the rest of what he said, if he's not in relationship with – right relationship with the Lord, if he's not in right relationship with me and other men and he has – what do you call them – your roadblocks – he's got roadblocks in place that I know about. Maybe that would make me wonder, but I know myself I have things that are common to me – that I will always struggle with my weight. I just will. We sat at lunch, and there were these little chocolates, and I really wanted them.
Dennis: Now, that's not fair, because I ate more than one of those little chocolates.
Leslie: That's all right, all right, but we all have struggles that are common to us. Now, hopefully, someday I can get to the point where I'm not white-knuckling it through lunch, holding onto my chair so I don't eat the chocolates, or maybe – you know, we all have things that we deal with, and it's – are we putting roadblocks in place so that we don't trip over them and stumble over them?
Bob: I remember talking one time, Dennis, to someone who struggled with drinking. That was a besetting sin for this person, and they had learned at Alcoholic Anonymous that when you are hungry, when you are angry, when you are lonely, and when you are tired, you are more likely to begin to entertain some of those things or to want to drink, and I think that's part of what I hear you saying. Do you struggle with these issues? Well, there may be times when you're lonely that are trigger points for some of those desires, right?
Alan: Absolutely, and that acronym is HALT, and that was something I learned very early on was what trips your trigger, and I learned to deal with the things that tripped my trigger, but the most basic thing that I came to find that helped me overcome homosexuality was that as unique as I am, God created me exactly to be who I am with the certain characteristics and the giftings and things that I possess, and I learned to love myself for who God created me to be; not measuring myself up against my athlete brothers and my dad, who was much different than me, and all of those things. And when I learned to be okay with who God created me to be, I stopped struggling.
And one of the things that helps me stop struggling is the fact that I can be honest; that can say, "You know what? I'm a human being, and I could struggle with this." I could walk out of here, walk down the hallway and see an attractive person, and my heart might beat twice, you know, but the fact of the matter is, I can be honest about that, and being honest about that takes all the desire away to take it any further.
Dennis: And when you keep things hidden, they remain powerful. You didn't tell your parents. You should have somehow, even at the age of 11, if that would have been possible for an 11-year-old to have possessed the presence of mind, enough maturity to have cracked open that door to your parents and say, "You know, I'm struggling with something. Would you help me?" But that seldom happens at that point. The child withdraws. The issue for the person who is struggling today is do what you're talking about, Bob – is bring your spouse in on the struggle.
Barbara and I have talked about different temptations that we've been through in our 32 years of marriage, and we're honest about those temptations. She's shared some with me, I've shared some with her, and the very thing you said occurs – it completely – well, it takes the firing pin out, it disarms it, it keeps it from becoming a volatile situation.
And I'm excited about Exodus International because you're all about equipping not just those in the homosexual lifestyle but parents, pastors, educators, and I hope folks will go to your website and get some information as to how they could perhaps minister to the homosexual community by linking up and locking arms with your ministry. It's a great ministry.
Bob: We've got the link on our website at FamilyLife.com to the Exodus website if folks want to come to our site. Click "Today's Broadcast" and that will take you right to the page where you'll get more information not only about how to get in touch with Exodus but some books that I know you recommend to folks who are dealing with this issue.
There is a book for parents called "Someone I Love is Gay," written by Anita Worthen and Bob Davies, and this book helps parents or family members know how they ought to approach a son, a daughter, a relative, who is practicing homosexuality. There is a book that Ann Paulk has written called "Restoring Sexual Identity," that is written specifically for women who are in a homosexual relationship. And then there is the book that Joe Dallas has written called "Desires in Conflict" that, for more than a decade, has been kind of the definitive must-read for those who look at male homosexuality.
Again, all of the information about these books is available on our website, along with information about how, as you order some of these books, you can receive the CD audio of our conversation with Alan and Leslie this week at no additional cost.
Go to the website, FamilyLife.com for more information. Click on "Today's Broadcast," or call 1-800-FLTODAY. Someone on our team can get you information on how you can receive these resources. Again, it's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we will look forward to hearing from you.
We want to say a special thanks, Dennis, to the folks who contacted us last week. We have some brand-new Legacy Partners who have joined with us, and that's critical for us as a ministry. We are listener-supported, and Legacy Partners are those listeners who say each month, "We will help as we are able to with a donation" of – well, any amount – $25, $35, $50, $100. We heard from folks last week at all different levels who are regular FamilyLife Today listeners and who said, "We can help out with your financial needs this year, and we want to help do that." So thanks to those of you who did contact us, and we're still hoping to hear from more before the end of the month.
If you did not call in last week but you'd like to join us as a new Legacy Partner, you want to find out more about what that means, go to the website, FamilyLife.com. Again, click on "Today's Broadcast," and you'll find information about becoming a Legacy Partner there, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and just mention that you're interested in finding out more about becoming a Legacy Partner, and we'd be happy to have you on the team. Once again, the toll-free number is 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY or you can go online at FamilyLife.com.
Tomorrow we want to pick up where we left off today and hear a little bit more of the story we've been hearing with our guests today, Alan and Leslie Chambers. We'll pick it up where we left off and hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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