Revoicing History, Part I
Review of ‘Still Time to Care: What We Can Learn from the Church’s Failed Attempt to Cure Homosexuality’ by Greg Johnson
I just attended my own funeral. I chuckled as self-described queer/gay/’uranian’ (yeah, really) Greg Johnson pronounced repeatedly the death of any organized effort to assist persons on the rainbow spectrum to be reconciled to God’s design for human sexuality.
I pinched myself. Yeah, still here. As are myriad men and women happy to allow Jesus to take them down to the end of themselves so He can restore their original dignity—male and female, made in His image. Johnson, a reformed smarty pants, employs his take on the 40-year-history of Exodus International to make his point. ‘See, even Alan Chambers (the last Exodus president who shut down the organization in 2013) declared no-one changed.’ Honoring Chambers as a reputable mouthpiece is like believing Trump won the election after all.
Johnson cites me repeatedly as a relic, a well-intentioned cadaver (still toxic), yet he never bothered to pick up the phone and give me a chance to qualify his ‘take’ on me and the forty years of service to Exodus that I represent. Instead, he revises history from his roost as a Revoice leader—‘gay-identified’ folk who ‘care’ for their rainbow peers rather than the ‘cure’ approach of Exodus. To paraphrase Johnson, Jesus can’t or won’t alter one’s disordered desires so let’s just gather with the homies in St. Louis once a year (Revoice conference), sing hymns, hear heady confusing talks, and celebrate our status as sexual minorities and mixed orientation marriages. I may still be alive and well but I’m dead to that blather.
Still, Johnson claims Christian orthodoxy and gives us a solid take on Gen. 1-3 as the reason why he as gay/queer/’uranian’ can never in good conscience commit homosexual acts. Weird split: celebrate your gay ‘ethnos’ but don’t do the dirty deed. That seems disintegrated to me. Jesus came to redeem us at the source of all our adulteries—the heart (Matt. 5:27-30). We who still claim that Jesus can redeem our hearts enough to break lust’s grip and free us for normal love need not apologize. We are just living the Gospel.
The paradox? Johnson asserts that Exodus’ ‘change’ claim ‘obscures the Gospel.’ Huh? Bro, we are not foisting a yoke on fragile people. We are simply applying your Gen. 1-3 hermeneutic consistently. Jesus does free us to get back to the garden, sexually-speaking. Anything less defies our dormant nature, what God already placed within us. The catastrophe of sin that disintegrates all of us, sexually-speaking, is no match for Jesus, who gave all to redeem our deep divides. Through turning to Him, He awakens Eden-in-us, what is most authentic. That was Exodus. That is still Jesus’ way out of Egypt.
Perhaps it is you who obscure the Gospel, not Exodus.
And it is wrong, pure and simple, for you to add that Exodus ‘redefined spiritual growth as the absence of temptation.’ What? Said who? My Exodus experience always revolved around the rawest of disclosures, however inconvenient and crucifying to the perfectionist. The closer I got to Jesus, the more I saw and said the dirt. That’s still my ‘Exodus’ from sin.
I speak on behalf of a host of Exodus-related colleagues you codify as dead who are more alive than ever with the hope of Jesus: Anne Paulk, Joe Dallas, Garry and Melissa Ingraham, Linda Seiler, Elizabeth Woning and Kenn Williams, Bob Ragan, Jason Thompson, Stephen Black, and Ricky Chelette (to mention just a few). Their lives pour into the soil of churches everywhere to create deep rich ground for the redemption of fractured lives. You tread on sacred ground by framing them as ‘fostering emotionally unsafe and even abusive spaces…’ How dare you make holy, humble people ‘abusers’ to justify your dabbling in queer culture. And in Jesus’ name!
And therein lies my biggest squawk with your eulogizing us and revoicing our history. For the last 40 years, we have offered concrete care for persons that help liberate the transforming power of Jesus and His community. You offer nothing solid, just platitudes: Jesus loves you. Come hear me speak at Revoice. Join a church that embraces sexual minorities. Empty words.
You preach a truncated Gospel that acknowledges sexual design then abjectly refuses to apply it to persons with certain disordered desires. As a result, you bar Jesus from doing what He does best—rescuing sinners from what dishonors us, our fellows, and our God.