This opinion piece is by Alan Chambers, former president of Exodus International.
Leslie and I stopped watching the news about five years ago when we got rid of cable. TV had become an expensive waste of time. We were paying nearly $200 each month and our only benefit seemed to be a stronger right thumb.
The news was always the same. The never-ending battle for and against gay rights, the incessant commentary on whether President Obama was killing or saving America, and the widening divide between political parties. Sometimes we’d get to hear about Kim Kardashian’s butt.
Because we’ve sworn off the news and any show with commercial interruptions, we often feel very left out of conversations related to current events. If it weren’t for #hashtags on Twitter we would likely miss most things from the recent earthquake in Nepal to the horrific shooting in Charleston. It isn’t that Leslie and I don’t care about these things, I just don’t think watching people fight about them is helpful.
I’ve spent my life listening to the arguments on both sides about gay rights and I’ve done more than my fair share of fueling the arguments. In 2008, I left all of that behind because I realized I was a part of the problem and not the solution. I thought I was trying to solve my perception of the problem by fighting FOR a Federal Marriage Amendment.
Alas, I was just walking on the futile treadmill of anxiety and war, as I was more accurately fighting AGAINST all things gay. Including any remaining gay inside of me, a leader in the ex-gay world.
I didn’t experience a simple switch on policy. Same-sex marriage is not a political issue for me. It’s a relational issue. It’s not about politics. It’s about people.
As I type, people everywhere are reacting to the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage and I know many in the camp I used to lead are gearing up for an organized war or at least some sort of religious gorilla warfare on social media. I sat for hours this morning trying to write my own tweet and couldn’t.
As one who once walked the halls of Congress and attended small gatherings at the White House all centered on my religious opposition to marriage equality, I just couldn’t bring myself to type exactly what I felt in 140 characters or less. I needed at least 940 words.
Where I once lived in fear of all things gay and mistook my religious homophobia as a passion for God’s truth, I can honestly say in this regard I am now anxious for nothing. Far from that space of worry, I realize I was living in true bondage—fear of disappointing God—failing him.
I was afraid of people going to Hell because I didn’t work hard enough to keep them out. I was afraid God would withhold blessing from me, or worse—punish me, for failing to represent him well. I was afraid I’d be labeled gay and cast out for daring to love other outcasts well.
And then I repented. I changed my mind. I chose to believe the truth about God—that he is indeed a God of love and grace. I chose to be free. I chose to love without reserve, starting with myself, and then others. I chose to embrace rather than to push away.
I chose to listen first — always. I chose to shut my mouth realizing I don’t have to say anything. To listen and be there is often what is truly best. I realized Leslie’s and my true story is just that — ours.
Changing my mind led me to recommend closing Exodus International two years ago almost to this very day. Repenting led me to apologize for everything I could think of to a group of people who needed someone, anyone who’d ever been in leadership to apologize. Knowing the truth — that God is love and full of grace –set me free.
So, while the battles rage on — because they always do — I know there are many Christians who will choose to embrace the change, pray for deeper understanding, focus on the God who challenges us to be like him: full of love and anxious for nothing. There will be Christians who, like Leslie and me, will see this as a wonderful opportunity to do nothing more than fulfill God’s laws: to love him and love people.
My prayers going forward will be for those who fear the results of the decision that was made today. Those who feel like they have lost their country and like evil is prevailing. As one who once felt that way I believe I can pray for them with great understanding and empathy. My prayer won’t be for them to change their mind on anything gay. My prayer will be for them to repent of fear.
Perfect love casts out all fear. Love never fails. I hope the 60 percent of Americans who won today will remember the 40 percent who feel as though they lost. This is truly an opportunity for the majority to do unto others better than they were once done unto. I believe this can happen because what I have found as a former conservative religious leader amongst the people I once opposed is love, acceptance, affirmation and friendship.
It’s time to end the war. It’s time for peace and rest. For Christians, I believe the Gospel demands it. There’s never been a better day for it than today.