My Interview with Alan Chambers, the former president of Exodus International


On Tuesday, I wrote about My Exodus, the new book by Alan Chambers.  After reading Chambers’s book, I had lots of questions. Rather than offering this Q&A laced with my thoughts/opinions, I elected to simply offer you my questions and Alan’s answers.

To order My Exodus, click here.

Matthew Paul Turner: First of all, why write a book? Why did you decide to put yourself in the spotlight again? 

Alan Chambers: Following the close of Exodus, 24 different publishers contacted us and Leslie and I considered what we might have to say. Initially, out of habit really, we wrote a book filled with our opinions but with the help of our dear friends at Zondervan and our editor we chose to start over and simply tell our story. The change fit. After all, an understanding God’s love and grace has taught us to re-think everything

I ask that because I can only assume that having a break from the media frenzy has been nice…

Time is a friend indeed and it has given me rest and perspective. I needed both. I’m also keenly aware that people needed me to go away for a while. With a clearer head and with a focused heart, I’m ready to jump back into the frenzy. I can’t wait to tell people, especially the next generation of LGBT people, about a God who loves and accepts them as they are. In my humble opinion, they can have as vibrant a relationship with Jesus as any straight person.

You write a good deal about your childhood in My Exodus. As you re-enagaged your childhood, what did you learn about yourself or your story or your family’s story that you didn’t know before or had forgotten? 

As a child I was full of dreams that were handicapped by fear and shame brought on by religion, rules, and cultural expectations. For many years into adulthood I held myself back because of those same religious rules and cultural expectations; they were my guiding principles and foundation. I was ashamed of who God made me —the little gender-non-conforming boy who loved fashion and Barbies and dress up was precious and not flawed. My story wasn’t one to be ashamed of but one to view as unique and beautiful. While writing I found myself sad for little Alan Chambers who felt very alone and who spent most of his life hiding in fear he’d be rejected.

Writing the chapters about my youth allowed me to re-live those years from the perspective of a completely restored relationship with my father. My dad went to Heaven in 2007 having fully embraced and accepted me as his son—I feel about my dad in much the same way John felt about Jesus that I was the son my dad loved most.

I think writing helped unearth some of the missing or hidden or rejected pieces of myself. Accepting those pieces and allowing them to fall into place, fills out the puzzle that is my life and now, more than ever, I like the picture it’s portraying.

But most importantly, it’s helping me encourage my kids to see themselves as God sees them and to know they are loved. Not everyone gets or takes that chance and I feel very fortunate.

 For the most part, you don’t write much about your high school years—in the book, you skip from being 11 and letting go of your alter ego “Alice” to your first counseling session at Eleutheros, the local organization associated with Exodus International that you began frequenting when you were 19. Was skipping those years intentional?

Skipping my late middle and high school years in the book wasn’t intentional. I guess they felt unnecessary to the story. But as I think about it they were really my own personal dark ages. During those years I perfected my outward persona. I became an outgoing leader resolving to be voted funniest, best dressed, and friendliest. While those things were true of me, I exaggerated them and they were facades I hid behind to keep people off the scent of Alan Chambers, the gay kid. Don’t get me wrong, I had some fun in high school—a lot of fun, but I also allowed fear to become my primary motivator and hunkered down into a belief that God could never be okay with all of me. It was during those years, I played hard and prayed for God to “fix, cure, heal, or kill me”.

At Eleutheros, you write that you feel at home—that it was a space where you could be yourself. Did everybody who attended those gatherings feel the same way? Did you hear or know of any person whose experience was negative or different than your own? 

Eleutheros’s clientele, not unlike most ministries of its kind, could be broken down into thirds: 1/3 came and went quickly, 1/3 stayed for a significant period of time and became believers in the work that was being done, 1/3 came, went, came again, and went again. It was that last group of people I felt sorriest for—they were tortured souls who desired “freedom” but didn’t find it anywhere and kept going back and forth between gay and legalism. The 1/3 in the middle, people like me, found something that kept them there whether that was sheer legalism and determination to succeed at any cost or like me, a place of happiness and contentment. The 1/3 that came and went quickly might just be, in hindsight, the ones with the highest concentration of success stories. After all, many of them realized gay couldn’t be changed and chose to live their lives accordingly whether embracing gay life, celibacy, or living honestly within their marriages. But, yes, there were people, especially in that middle 1/3, who gave a lot of their time, energy, and emotion to being “free” only to fail at that and become hurt and bitter. During my time as a leader at Eleutheros there were people I loved dearly who left and wouldn’t speak to me anymore. That was very hard.

There’s a “turning point” moment that you write about when you hear God speak to you. At the time, you’re in your early-to-mid twenties. You’re sitting all alone at a gay bar. In thinking about that moment in hindsight, as you’ve moved from “fear to grace,” has your perception of that encounter changed at all? In other words, 20 years later, what do you believe God was saying to you back then? 

I was 20 years old that Easter Sunday night in the gay bar and the dialogue was powerful for me. God affirmed me, a gay young man, in my identity as a Christian. At the time I knew he was leading me out of a season that was at best distracting for me and at worst destructive. I thought he was also leading me out of a gay identity and lifestyle. He told me, “I love you but I have something better for you.” What I didn’t realize until writing this book, and specifically until Leslie edited the section and gave me her perspective, that he wasn’t calling me out of the bar. He was calling me out of the cauldron where I was mixing law and grace together. Law told me I needed to be straightened out. Grace told me God loved me. I was hot for change one minute and hot for guys the next. It was killing me. Literally. He came so I might have life and he wanted me to live. I cannot add anything to his abundant love. Today I know he would have blessed me whichever way I’d gone. And, he has.

As a progressive, I can list off a hundred ways the American church has failed (and often abused and bullied) the LGBTQ communities—that’s easy for obvious reasons. But as you look back on your experiences and your past career, is there anything that you believe the American church has gotten right as it relates to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters?

As it relates to my past career, and my experience with various churches, I witnessed many churches who lovingly provided safe places for lesbian and gay folks like me who have found their authentic reality to be one that embraces celibacy as the best option for their gay orientation or who have found life-giving opposite sex marriages. They served this population well and without agenda. Many churches also embraced a welcoming and affirming attitude towards gay people. Where we could improve is in the area of loving those with whom we disagree.

Contrary to some of the squeakiest wheels in the Christian Church, I believe we are in the midst of or on the cusp of our finest hours in the American Church. I believe the legalization of gay marriage should be a wake up call for social conservatives – or the religious fundamental right. Because this particular battle is now over, we have been given the opportunity to lay down any weapons we are still holding on to and instead rest by letting God be God. We must follow Jesus and even the Apostle Paul’s example and welcome everyone.

Leslie and I don’t watch the news much, but the day SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality I turned it on and surfed few stations with national coverage. I saw God being glorified by people on the steps of the Supreme Court—LGBT folks who gave God all the glory for their lives and for the decision. I saw spontaneous acts of patriotism and goodness. I watched groups of people holding hands and praying and I felt lucky to be on this side of grace witnessing marginalized people receive a gift. They could have pointed in the cameras and rubbed it in the face of their opponents but they chose instead to thank God.

During your mid twenties, you started talking a lot about your story of faith and “same-sex attraction.” You told your story to individuals, groups, media—have you ever regretted allowing your story to become attached to the narrative of Christianity and “same sex attraction”? 

Hindsight is 20/20. Everyone has regrets. I cannot go back and change how I once told or used my story or allowed it to be used. If I could, of course there are things I’d change, but I have to trust that God redeems the past. I’m not sorry that my story is attached to Christianity because I think Leslie and I have an amazing opportunity to share authentically and help others who are trapped in the same religious system where we were both captive and captor. Had I not been among Exodus’s success stories, I wouldn’t have been president. If I hadn’t been president, I wouldn’t have been among those who closed Exodus. If Exodus hadn’t closed, I wouldn’t have the opportunity I have now to share what I consider to be real freedom. Everyone has regrets but living there is a chosen paralysis that serves no one.

In one of the later chapters in My Exodus, you write about labels and about how different groups of people want you to identify as gay or ex-gay or straight. You wrote that none of the various labels truly reflect your personhood. What are your thoughts regarding labels when, for many people, sexuality seems to be far more fluid than what the labels allow? How has the pressure to fit one or wear one affected you and your story?

I think labels are often used as a symbol of belonging and community. Solidarity even. When minority groups are marginalized, a common name unites them. The black community, the gay community, and others have found strength in numbers and galvanized their communities. Labels engender support and recognition. Labels are used powerfully and necessarily.

My frustration with labels comes when a label overrides or transcends individual identity. The label gay or straight or even bisexual – for me – imply more than is true of me. As such, I have chosen to galvanize my life around other truths.

Alan, one of my biggest frustrations with My Exodus is how you end up defining your orientation. You end up writing something like, “I am a man. I am a son. I am a brother. I am a husband. I am a father. I am a child of God… and my orientation is Leslie.” That’s a frustration for me because it feels like a cop out, like you’re attempting to answer a multiple choice question with an answer that isn’t one of the options. Why offer any answer at all if the one you give really only satisfies you and those who are invested in you? And too, why not identify as bisexual?

I am compelled to give an answer because so many people ask the question. I remember taking tests as a high school student where the teacher gave us the option of choosing “other” with space to explain. That’s my answer and I’ll keep trying to explain.

I have heard from several critics that not everyone needs to claim a label based on their sexuality, but I should. I must wear gay or at least bisexual in order to undo damage from my days as the leader of Exodus. The problem is, the minute I pick up and wear one of those labels, it takes center stage. At this stage of my life, my sexuality – the label I wear in connection with my sexuality – is all about Leslie. With her, I am neither gay nor bisexual. Marriage is committing to one person until death you do part. Your orientation becomes that person. I don’t believe married people who have healthy relationships and sex lives continue to have sex primarily because they are gay or straight. I believe they have healthy relationships and sex lives because of the actual person they are married to, are in love with, and have chosen to share a life with. That is the story of Alan and Leslie Chambers—two people who are madly in love with one another who choose each other above all else. Leslie is my sexual orientation. While potentially offensive to some, this resonates and satisfies others. And even if it didn’t, it satisfies her. And that’s what matters most to me.

One thing you don’t discuss much in My Exodus is the Bible, specifically those verses that people use to suggest that homosexuality is an abomination. Why not?

So much has been written already. The handpicked abominations get enough airtime – notice “haughty eyes” is rarely referred to as an abomination though it clearly is one.  Everyone is guilty of committing one abomination or another from time to time if we are honest. While I love my Bible and spend a great deal of time reading and studying it, I am not a Bible scholar. Leslie and I chose to write our story—to show more than tell. We believe that in our story the goodness of God shines through brightly. Jesus himself used stories to talk about his good Father, we decided his was an example we could follow.

But I have to ask: In your opinion, is gay sex a sin?

Matthew, I’ve stopped being in the sin management business. Right now, I’m in the process of learning how to love my LGBT friends well–with grace and without any judgment whatsoever. I just want to love people–all people–and stay out of their sex lives.

When you were writing this book, who were you writing it for? Was there a face or person you thought of as you put your story down on paper? Was it for you? For your family? 

I thought of my family, my children. I thought of people who were hurt by Exodus and therefore me. I thought of my friends who found Exodus helpful and who loved it. I thought of the Christian Church and how Jesus asked us to love him and to love others. I thought of the Christians who want to “know what to do”.  I thought of LGBT who need to know they are loved and accepted. I thought of people outside of the Church—whether Christian or not, people who don’t, won’t, or can’t go to church. I wanted the book to be something real. Something that would have street cred. Something that my kids would read someday and be proud of. Ultimately, I wanted a story whose protagonist–God–is a good Father and whose moral enables people to know they are loved.

How much have your kids been subject to the Exodus narrative? Have you been able to protect them from the onslaught of negativity you’ve endured? 

We’ve been age-appropriately honest with our kids since before they were able to talk. Leslie and I adopted both Isaac and Molly at birth four and a half months a part. Because they are so close in age we have always been asked, “Are they twins”? From the beginning we’d go through the schpeel, “They are four and a half months a part, both adopted.” When Isaac was two, we overheard him introducing Molly and himself to another child on the playground using those exact words. “Hi! I’m Isaac and this is my sister Molly. We are four and a half months apart. Both adopted.” The other kid quizzically looked at him and then offered to push him on the swings. We have a unique story as a family and we own it.

My kids understand I’m well known in certain circles. They know some people love me and others don’t. They don’t know specifics, but because we are teaching them about Jesus through the reality of grace I’m not anxious as I contemplate the time when all will be disclosed. So far, they’ve been sheltered from the anger and negativity we’ve experienced. They do know we’ve made mistakes related to our understanding of the Bible and are on a journey to making grace the prevailing message of the Church. I think being honest about our mistakes helps them as they learn and grow and make their own mistakes.

What do you hope your critics will take away from reading My Exodus? 

Well, we live in an interesting spot–with critics on every side. I hope our critics in the conservative church will choose to lay down their weapons and opinions and consider the reality of our true story. We’ve seen too many of our LGBT friends leave the Church when they enter into gay relationships because they are dismissed and their stories are not considered or valued. Leslie and I have known too many people who, when they decided to give up trying to be straight, they gave up on God as well. It doesn’t have to be that way.  We hope the Church can be a better representative of Jesus. Jesus did not condemn. Jesus loved and told us to love others. I hope, for those who are critical of us for not taking a firm stance on sin will be inspired to be kinder. More thoughtful. More at peace with themselves and the world in which they live.

For our LGBTAIQ critics, I hope they will feel loved, accepted, affirmed, and experience some healing. I hope it will be seen as a sincere desire for relationship. What I know is that my LGBT friends now champion Leslie’s and my story in a way many evangelicals no longer will. Because we aren’t using our unique and minority story to prove gay people can or should change it’s no longer a threat. My hope is the LGBTAIQ community will see us as friends and allies and no longer as enemies. I hope they will experience the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.


Love him or hate him, give Alan Chambers’s book a chance…


Full disclosure: Zondervan, the publishing house for My Exodus: From Fear to Grace by Alan Chambers (with Leslie Chambers) is compensating me in return for an honest review about the book.

I offer that information upfront because 1) it’s the law that I disclose that information and 2) because (if I’m honest) that’s probably the only way I would have ever given Chambers’s book a chance.

I’ve never met Chambers. Last week, he and I spoke on the phone for more than an hour (because after reading his book, I wanted to interview him, which I’ll post in the next couple days), but that was our first time talking. But again, if I’m honest, though I didn’t actually know him, I didn’t really like Alan Chambers. Despite us never meeting, I had a long list of reasons for not liking him. Up until 2013, he was the president of Exodus International, the Christian ministry well known for its mission to “pray the gay away.” Over the years, I’ve loudly proclaimed my dislike and distrust for Exodus and its plethora of sub-ministries. I did so because I believe that many of their tactics were spiritually and emotionally abusive, counterproductive to the Gospel, and often put the LGBTQ communities in harm’s way. Reading My Exodus changed none of my feelings about that ministry.  I’m happy it’s no longer in existence, however, I also know that its lingering impact still haunts the livelihoods of so many people.

Which is why I expected to hate Chambers’s book. Oh, I’d heard rumors that the former president of Exodus had had a change of heart, that time was softening his public stance against LGBTQ people, and that, underneath that seemingly dogmatic persona I’d witnessed time and time again on CNN or MSNBC or some other media outlet, Chambers was an actual human being.

That might be the best part about My Exodus: the story and prose almost immediately breaks down all of my assumptions about Alan Chambers. He’s not a vampire. You laugh, but that’s not too much of an exaggeration. I did think of him as a bit of a monster, one who wielded chapter and verse like a weapon and desired little more than to raise biblical hell for gay people who loved Jesus and raise a different kind of biblical hell for gay people who didn’t love Jesus.

But that’s why I’m glad I gave My Exodus a chance. Not because I agreed with the book’s every nuance but because I was quickly introduced to Alan, the human being, Alan, the child, Alan the hopeful 19-year-old, Alan, the husband and father, Alan, the man who seems to be grieving his mistakes and evolving into a more gracious and less certain person of faith.

In My Exodus, Chambers writes down his personal story. And for the most part, he sticks to retelling that narrative. Sure, there are moments when he expounds on the lessons he’s learned and what he believes to be true (sometimes newly true) about God; but this isn’t a book about defending his former career or one that passively aggressively aims to save face. This is a story about a man who’s very much in process, a man who is still learning the effects of fear in his life and desires to embrace grace fully. In talking to Alan about his book, I honestly think he reveals more about himself in My Exodus than even he realizes. Which I think is a testament to his desire to be vulnerable and honest in retelling his story.

Now, this book is certainly not a cure-all tale that makes every action or hurt that people have experienced via Exodus International all better. And Alan, I believe, knows that. But this book is indeed one that people on both sides of the Exodus idea–supporters and critics alike–should read. It’s likely not going to satisfy all of people’s questions or address every frustration or concern, but I think many, especially those of us who grew up in the church, will find bits and pieces of our own story amid Alan’s and might be willing, in time, to give “the monster” a chance. And I say that as somebody who, despite rolling my eyes a few times while reading My Exodus and at times, wishing he’d said more or “evolved” more, feels as though Alan Chambers deserves a chance to be heard.

Though you might not agree with every thought, I think, if you give My Exodus a chance, you’ll read about a man who has changed, and one who is still very much changing. In my interview, I ask Alan a variety of questions, ones that focus on his story and offer him a chance to give more detail and I also push him on some of the frustrations I felt while reading his book. But last week, toward the end of our phone call, I said, “Alan, we don’t agree on every detail. And there were certainly moments when your book frustrated me. But despite that, it’s a good book. You’re a good writer, especially for somebody who isn’t a writer by profession. And I really do hope that people, those who hate you and also those who supported you, will give this book a chance.”

And I do hope you will. Because I think this is a beginning of an exodus for Alan, a journey that is in process, an important and crucial part of an ongoing story, one that reveals a man’s heart and his desire to love and support those he once advocated against. 

Look for my interview with Alan on Thursday.

Until then, give his book a chance.

My embarrassing addiction…


I’m currently on day 6 of Whole30.

If you’re unfamiliar with Whole30, it’s basically one of the current healthy eating trends, a month-long dietary guide that, according to the authors of the idea, will lead to “total health and food freedom.”

Now, whether or not I’ll experience total health and food freedom remains to be seen—right now I’m trying to learn how to eat healthily, work through my cravings/withdrawals, and avoid public fits of unintentional rage. I mostly kid—but wow, while I knew this was going to be hard, I didn’t know it would be such an emotionally-charged journey.

But I guess like most types of freedom, food freedom comes at a cost. And food freedom is my ultimate goal. Sure, I’d like to lose a pound or two. And yes, I want to/need to learn how to eat in such a way that my body is fueled for energy and “living.”

But my ultimate goal? The reason I need to do this? I want food freedom…

Because… I’m a sugar addict. I know that sounds ridiculous. And for years I avoided using the term “addict” as it relates to my body’s unhealthy relationship with sweet things. But it’s true; my behavior as it relates to things like cake, ice-cream, certain kinds of candy, brownies, cookies—am I grossing you out yet?—“fruit” flavored ice pops, milkshakes, pies, tarts, cereal, syrup, etc. is pretty consistent with what I know about addictive conduct.

Googling “sugar addiction” will bring up a host of professional opinions about why sugar is addictive substance and other opinions as to why it’s not.

But all I know is that I love sugar. And I’m not proud of it. I’m ashamed.

In fact, what I’m getting ready to write is downright embarrassing for me. But I’m writing it because 1) it’s the truth and 2) because maybe somebody else might relate to my story it’s the truth.

In 8th grade, I ate 2-3 KitKat bars nearly every day until my mother found out that I was 1) eating 2-3 KitKat bars a day and 2) using my allowance to buy 2-3 KitKat bars every day. That was not a good experience.

In college, I’d often buy a box of Twinkies or Swiss Roll Cakes after I was finished with my classes and eat the entire box before bedtime.

Yeah, my body needs sugar.

I have an inability to just eat 2 Double Stuf Oreo cookies. I almost always start with 5. Then go back for 4 more. I take a break for few minutes, maybe an hour or two, and then I’ll eat 3 at a time until they’re gone.

Two months ago, I bought a Pepperidge Farm “Birthday Cake”—it was not my birthday—at the grocery store. At 5:30pm, I had my first piece. I ate the last piece 12.5 hours later… for breakfast.

These kinds occurrences aren’t everyday happenings. Usually, my weakness for sugar can be satisfied without gorging—but it always gets satisfied with something. Sometimes I can go a couple days without eating “too much sugar”—but usually those days are guilt induced or right before my annual visit to the doctor for my checkup.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night (usually between 2 and 3 a.m.) craving something sweet. And I’ll spare you the pitiful stories. But trust me, they aren’t pretty.

Friends are shocked when I confess my sweet addiction. I think they’re mostly surprised because I wear my problem pretty well. For the most part—but for that short stint in my early 30s when I was on antidepressants—I’ve never struggled with my weight. I workout enough to maintain in reasonably decent shape.

But I’ve long feared how my unhealthy eating habits would affect me down the road. While nobody in my immediate family is diabetic, my father’s extended family has a long history of the disease.

I’ve long hated myself for not being able to enjoy cake or cookies in moderation. A couple weeks ago, Adeline, my 4-year-old, made a passing comment about “Daddy eating lots of junk…” And that, of course, made me feel pretty much like you’d suspect—terrible.

But I’m honestly grateful she said it. I needed to hear it. I needed those cutting words to be said aloud. And honestly, if anybody else had said them, I’d have likely become defensive. But hearing her say them—in her adorable cutesy voice—was, well, gut-punching in the best possible way.

When I started Whole30, I had no intention of writing about it or using social media as an outlet to express my frustrations and struggles working through the program. But I don’t think I realized how emotional this experience was going to be. I don’t think I realized how much about myself and my habits I would begin to learn as I engaged the process of learning how to eat. Am I afraid of failing? Yes. Am I afraid of being successful for 30 days only to fall back into my old habits. Yeah.

But I’m 6 days clean. Sure, it’s felt like hell at times—headaches and mood swings and sleepiness and a bout or two of deep sadness.

But so far, I’m doing it, one well-balanced meal at a time.

So, yeah… My name is Matthew and I’m addicted to sugar. And that sounds cheesy and even ridiculous. But it’s true…

Christianity™: A story about Nashville and faith-based privilege


EDITOR’S NOTE: While this post is specifically about Nashville, it’s likely not just about Nashville.

For more than 20 years, I’ve been emotionally connected to Nashville, the city that I call home.

I love Nashville because I love music–the Bluebird cafe, Ryman Auditorium, and the lights and sights of Broadway. I love Nashville because of its strange (and sometimes unbalanced) mix of southern hospitality and progressive politics. I love how green this town is.  Not green as in “energy saving”—I wish we were more environmentally minded—but green as in its trees.

At any given time between the months of April and September, I can walk out on my deck and become overwhelmed by the variety of shades of green on display across the horizon.

I could go on and on as to why I love this city.

However, my reasons for loving this town today are not the same as those that brought me here.

In 1993, when I first moved to Music City, I came here because this was where the Christian music industry was, and I had dreams of becoming the Michael Jackson of Christian music. As a college student at Belmont University, I immersed myself into the culture of Nashville’s CCM world. At the time, I loved everything about the Christian music industry—well, except one thing: It was run by rich old white men, an exclusive group of “gatekeepers” (as many called them) who ruled “the Kingdom of God” in Music City.

But this wasn’t just a problem in the Christian music world; I soon realized that old white male gatekeepers were in charge of almost everything Christian that happened in Nashville. They ran church organizations, publishing houses, nonprofit organizations, media conglomerates, radio and television stations, and booking agencies. They were the CEOs, the mega-selling authors, the Christian influencers, and the pastors of the largest churches. During a conversation about an internship I was pursuing, a music business professor said, “Jesus can do anything he wants, just as long as he has the gatekeepers approval.”

And you know what’s sad? It hasn’t changed all that much. Sure, it’s evolved some, but not nearly as much as you might think. Nashville’s brand of Christianity® is still, for the most part, run by a homogeneous group of people, a people known for making careers and also breaking them.

A few of Nashville’s gatekeepers from the 90s have died. But in most cases, these privileged few, prior to dying, took younger white men under their wings and trained them to take their places at the gate. The only major difference between today and when I first moved to Nashville is that the gate is kept/guarded by a larger and slightly younger group of mostly Caucasians who (but for a few) possess penises.

Even today, many of Nashville’s most influential Christians are pouring their time and energy into molding future white male gatekeepers. Are their actions toward avoiding diversity intentional? Well, that depends perhaps. Certainly their desire to mentor tomorrow’s leaders is intentional–most of them publicize their love for mentoring. But whether or not they intentionally choose younger versions of people who look exactly like themselves to lead tomorrow’s Jesus, Inc. is hard to say. I have my suspicions. But I could be wrong. Frankly, I hope I’m wrong.

However, here’s what is certain: None of the gatekeepers and those being trained up to be tomorrow’s gatekeepers seemingly see the lack of diversity as a problem. Which of course is a problem. And 2) the majority of the gatekeepers aren’t intentionally choosing women or people of color to mentor. And that too, is a problem. And them not seeing it as a problem is perhaps the bigger problem.

Because that’s the only way to break this troubling cycle of white Christian male influencers replacing white Christian male influencers as this town’s gatekeepers of Jesus™. Heck, it might also be the best possible way to rid this town of its addiction to needing (and creating) Christian gatekeepers. But if there’s going to be gatekeepers (or influencers who inspire faith-based creativity, leadership skills, and the like), why not make it a diverse group of people that best reflects the diversity of God’s kingdom? And not just a token person or two. But true diversity.

So, just in case any of Music City’s well-established Christian influencers or those being groomed by these influencers to be tomorrow’s influencers read this post, here’s some food for thought:

Use your privilege to inspire change. You’ve been granted a status that allows you to influence either a current or future influencer, so use it to inspire that person to intentionally seek to change the status quo.

If you’re among a group of people who are all white and all male, use your privilege and ask why. To not ask that simple question is to be a part of the problem.

You probably didn’t ask to be put in this position of influence. I get that. Or heck, maybe you did ask and somebody said yes. But either way, if you’re only using your Christian privilege to puff up your own platform and are avoiding all attempts to inspire change, to inspire diversity, to bring others who don’t look like you into the light, you’re just helping Nashville’s good-ole-boy country club to become bigger, whiter, maler… and that’s little more than a caricature of the body of Christ.

92-year-old woman booted from church for not tithing…

KFVS12 News

In what seems to be a new level of Christ-centered terribleness, Bainbridge’s First African Baptist Church allegedly sent Josephine King a letter (signed by the pastor) which stated:

Josephine King is no longer considered a member of the First African Baptist Church of Bainbridge, Georgia…

And why was Ms. King kicked out of the church she’d been a member of for more than 50 years?

According to The letter, signed by Senior Pastor Derrick Mike, stated that Ms. King “has shown non-support” towards the church in the areas of “constant and consistent financial and physical participation.”

King’s nephew says his aunt isn’t the first person to receive such a letter from the church. Other longtime members have also been booted from the church for not tithing.

And too, Ms. King has been sick, which is the reason she hadn’t been attending. As if that should even matter. She’s 92 for godsakes. If she doesn’t want to go to church, she doesn’t have to go to church…

You have to have money to make these churches run, but it’s not about money,” King’s nephew told “It’s about God. You have to put God first.

But as most of us know firsthand, at some churches, money is “God”…

Sources: Christian Nightmares & The Friendly Atheist

I don’t know when life begins. But I know it begins…


Chances are, you’ve at least heard about the video that everybody is talking about online (maybe you’ve seen it), the one about Planned Parenthood, abortions, and the “selling” of fetal body parts.

I rarely discuss the topic of abortion online.

Personally, I don’t like abortion—but does anybody really like it?—I don’t think so.

But I’m slow to speak up about this topic because…

1) I’m a guy. And I think it’s very easy for a man to rage against abortion.

2) I know that abortion, regardless of which side you’re on, is a deeply personal issue to many people and I desire to respect that…

And 3) despite being an advocate for life—life before birth and life after birth—if my wife and I were put in a situation in which the life of our baby put the life of my wife in danger, if I’m honest, I would want us to have the ability to make a choice. I’d want options. And I wouldn’t want to have to jump through any state regulations or church hoops in order to have those options, either. If somebody I know and loved was raped and became pregnant, I’d want her to have the power to make a choice, whatever choice that might be.

Moreover 4) despite believing that God creates life, I do not believe that my religious understandings should control other people’s choices.

But having said all of that, I watched that undercover video about Planned Parenthood and I was grieved by its content.

Yes, I know it was made by a right wing group that looks for every opportunity to bring down Planned Parenthood and paint them as devils.

And yes, I do think that video was misleading in how it was edited. It felt choppy from the beginning. It was clearly made by people with an agenda.

And no, I do not think Planned Parenthood is actually selling fetal organs. However, I do think that the health care organization’s practices should be thoroughly investigated.

But despite the right wing spin, that video is still quite telling. The casual manner in which Deborah Nucatola, a Planned Parenthood director of medical research, talked about her processes for extracting a late term fetus was disturbing and seemingly callous.

Now, I’m well aware that Planned Parenthood performs numerous procedures that have nothing to do with abortion, and often these practices are provided to low income families. So I’m certainly not going to pan an entire organization based on Nucatola’s uncaring demeanor. But my heart ached when I listened to Nucatola describe in gross detail her careful process for aborting a fetus without harming its organs.

In fact, I haven’t been able to get her words out of my head.

Which is why I decided to say something about how her words made me feel. Yes, I’m progressive. Yes, I’m not as hardcore on this issue as evangelicals. But I care about life, all life.

While I know that many Christians seem certain beyond all reason that life begins at conception, I’m frankly unsure when life begins. Maybe life does begin at conception. Or maybe it’s a few days or weeks later.

But at some point it does begin.

And certainly, by all accounts, Nucatola’s words were describing a life.

Maybe dehumanizing the procedure is the only way she’s able to perform it. Or perhaps, like many doctors and medical professionals, she’s fallen prey to all of those years spent discussing health care using only medical terms. Whatever the reason, the blunt manner in which she talked about what to “crush” and what to preserve felt terrible, a verbal scene that broke my heart.

It still breaks my heart.

I waited until now to speak up because I do not trust most right wing pro life groups. I think they’re dishonest. I think the makers of the video in question were being dishonest in how they sold their narrative. That video wasn’t ever really about “selling organs”—that was just a headline they used to get people to hear how heartless Nucatola sounded as she described her methods.

I think many pro life groups’s tactics, memes, and political strategies are terrible—often dehumanizing and mean spirited. Furthermore, I believe if they were half as concerned with life after birth as they are with life before birth, we might actually reduce the number of abortions that happen in this country, which I think all of us can agree would be a very good thing. It’s very easy to be ultra pro life when that life is unborn. All it requires is a strong point of view and a sign. Being pro life after birth is much harder and actually requires more skill than the ability to be obnoxious.

And that’s why I waited to speak up. Because almost every organization and influencer that talked about it on Tuesday did so not as ambassadors for life but rather as @ssholes with an agenda.

However, I’m not going to let the right-to-lifers’ tendencies to be terrible keep me from speaking up for all of those little baby boys and girls who Nucatola referred to as “livers.” Or “hearts.” Or “lungs.”

Sometimes both sides get so hung up on the what—whether it’s the fight against abortion or the fight for the right to choose—we far too often forget the who involved, a mother, an unborn child, a family who may or may not know their loved one is pregnant, and even a medical professional like Nucatola who seemingly has grown numb to what the procedure entails…

We like to add our own stories to all the whos involved. And in most cases, we really don’t know the stories. We too often don’t care about the stories. We simply hate abortion. Or we simply support abortion.

But at some point amid pregnancy, life does begin. Maybe that’s at the beginning. Maybe it happens later during the gestation period. I don’t know. If we’re honest, none of us know. We might believe we know. But we don’t know for sure.

However, at some point, abortion becomes a procedure that takes life away. And if nothing else, that video about Planned Parenthood reminds us of that. And we need reminding of that. All of us. Women. Men. Conservatives. Progressives. Believers in God. Non believers. All of us need to remember that…

I know I’m a guy.

I know I’m talking about an issue that is deeply personal and I respect that.

And I know this issue is layered and involves a multitude of stories, most of which I’ve never heard.

But at some point, abortion is an issue that involves a person who has no voice. She’s not a liver. Or a heart. Or a pair of lungs. She’s a life.

I must speak up for her. 

Get ‘God Made Light’ for only $10! Why? Because a publisher finally said yes!

Last October, when I self published God Made Light, I told you that the reason Jessica and I released the book ourselves was 1) because we believed in it and 2) because 11 publishers said no.

In January, a couple weeks after Ezra was born, I started writing children’s book number 2. For 9 weeks, I worked on the new book’s prose and then spent 3 more weeks fine tuning the rhyme and meter.

And I’m happy to report that just a couple of weeks ago, I was formally offered a 2-book deal by one of my favorite publishers! In addition to releasing the new book, they’ll also be re-releasing God Made Light. And I can’t even explain how excited I am.

But one of the drawbacks to signing this book deal is that this first edition of God Made Light will soon be out of stock and unavailable for quite some time. I’ll be working with a new illustrator for both books, so when God Made Light is released in 2017, it will look very different.

Which means… there are only a few copies of God Made Light (THE ORIGINAL) left!

And all the copies left are now on sale for only $10. And yep, if you’re a Prime member, you still get free shipping.

Click here to go buy a copy!


Let there be light!
That’s what God said.
And light began shining and then started to spread.

In flickers and flashes,
In spills and in splashes,
Shine began shining across nothing but blackness.

Light glared and glimmered.
It flared and sparked.
And wherever light shined,
Dark stopped being dark…

The Part (still) Unknown: my review of Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Close to the Bone’ live show

Dinner wtih Anthony BourdainJessica and I went to see Anthony Bourdain last night at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC). Though my wife is familiar with Bourdain’s show on CNN, the tickets to his Close to the Bone show were a Father’s Day gift for me. As an avid traveler, I find Bourdain’s Parts Unknown to be a richly honest and interesting commentary on the world’s people, places, and cultures. As a chef and sincere lover of food, Bourdain’s brilliance is in how he utilizes his gourmet passions to showcase the stories of those he meets in countries all over the world. In Parts Unknown, Bourdain’s raw and authentic presence is masterful in many ways, and rare, too. Bourdain entertains. Bourdain is unafraid to be educated on screen. And at times, Bourdain drops his cool and comfortable persona and gives us a glimpse of a vulnerable human who is sometimes uncomfortable in his surroundings. No other show offers such an honest picture of the world around us, showcasing how we are unique and how we are the same.

I didn’t know what to expect from an Anthony Bourdain live show. I only know his work on television. I haven’t read his books. And I only knew a few small anecdotes about his personal life. Would the stories and rants we experience in the theater be similar to what we encounter on Parts Unknown? Or would we be introduced to a more extreme version of Bourdain’s television persona? I couldn’t wait to find out…

Upon introduction, Bourdain walked casually out on stage to the cheers of an adoring fan base that consisted of college students, hipsters, culinary professionals, travel geeks, and a number of folks who looked like the kind of people who listened to NPR and almost voted for Ralph Nader a time or two.

Bourdain began by telling us how nervous he was. Which I think was true. Nashville was not only the first stop on his 10-city tour, but his first live gig in years. He told us he hadn’t been sleeping, which he said was a symptom of a medication he was taking. The meds were also giving him terrible dreams. 

And then he told us about last night’s dream, a nightmare in which Bourdain was being held captive in a foreign prison and sharing a cell with Guy Fieri, the celebrity chef who hosts like 12 shows on the Food Network. In his dream, Guy had Bourdain pinned down and was pouncing him on his back and head. And then Bourdain told us he suddenly felt creamy white stuff all over his back and head. “I think it was ranch,” quipped Bourdain, “f*ck, I hope it was ranch.”

That’s how Bourdain’s show in Nashville began, with a retelling of a dream in which Bourdain is possibly being sexually assaulted (raped?) by the host of Diners, Drive-Ins and DivesThat began Bourdain’s nearly 30-minute raunchy and passive aggressive roast of nearly every past and present celebrity chef on the Food Network. He bashed everybody from Emeril and Bobby to Paula and Alton and several more in between. When discussing Alton, Bourdain said, “It’s true; that dude eats a lot of dick. He loves it.” But Bourdain saved his most vile critique for Guy, offering the famous chef a complete tongue-whipping, one that felt like it was an inside joke and only a handful of the people in attendance were in on the joke. 

But that was one of the biggest takeaways: Bourdain loathes Guy.

Amid his rant, a long and uncomfortable diatribe that at times seemed very much planned and other times seemed to be off the cuff, Bourdain used the word f*ck no less than 100 times, as a noun, as a verb, as adjectives and adverbs. 

Anthony clearly had a plethora of f*cks to give… and give… and give again.

He used the word so often it almost came off like a tic. It was distracting and really undermined his brilliance, which was already difficult to experience considering his bitterly expressed rants about Food Network’s celebrity chefs. And too, his crass quips about hookers and anal sex and his numerous punch lines about blowj*bs often (even most of the time) fell very flat.

He tried desperately to be funny. But I wasn’t working. For instance, during a rant about how much he hates the show Man v. Food Nation, Bourdain told us that the Travel Channel show was huge in countries like Yemen, Iran, Syria (he mentioned several Middle Eastern nations), joking that in these countries the TV show was basically an ISIS recruitment promotion. That joke might have worked (MIGHT HAVE) had he not mentioned ISIS two or three more times. His delivery, especially in regards to his humor and punch lines, came off very unrehearsed, poorly timed, and worst of all, only occasionally funny.

To be honest, he sort of seemed high.

In his hourlong performance there were a couple of moments in which we saw a more vulnerable and likable Bourdain. His stories involving his daughter were sweet and human and gave us a glimpse of the 59-year-old as “dad.” And on a couple of occasions, when his stories took us to one of the distant locations that he has visited, a thoughtful, much more interesting Bourdain was revealed.

But sadly those moments were few and far between. I wanted to love Bourdain. I wanted to become engulfed with interest in his stories, experiences, and passions for food. But his negativity made that nearly impossible. I mean, the man spent 10 minutes bemoaning America’s love revolution with food. Later, during the Q&A portion, he told us how embarrassed he was to have played a role in helping our country’s food trend happen.

Despite most of the people in the room being fans of Anthony Bourdain and believing there was something really cool about the guy, Bourdain said he’d stopped trying to be cool years ago. “I’m no longer cool.” 

He said he realized his attempts at being cool were finished the moment his daughter was born. “That’s when I knew I had to stop wearing my Ramones teeshirt.” And yet, even that seemed to contradict the persona on stage donning skinny jeans.

And then he opened up the floor to questions… And that’s when we all became enthralled with the Bourdain we knew and loved. He told stories and offered behind-the-scenes tidbits about events that happened on the show. Bourdain talked about Iran and Cambodia. He dissed beer snobs and sweet things. He talked passionately and devoutly about his love of Japanese food and how Tokyo was the city where the best and greatest food was created and served. He still said f*ck like an actor in a Quentin Tarantino movie and made a couple more jokes about fellatio, but those things weren’t driving his narrative. He still offered blunt opinionated rants about a various number of topics (patriotism and gluttony included) but he also stopped talking like a bitterly spoiled brat who was deep down jealous of Guy. During the Q&A, he even spoke beautifully of Rachael Ray. During those final 30 minutes in which the conversation was driven by the audience’s curiosity to get to know Bourdain’s likes and dislikes, favorites and least favorites, bests and worsts, we all got a bit closer to a seemingly more comfortable and relaxed and interesting Bourdain.

And those last 30 minutes even offered his best line: When asked about a story he wouldn’t share in a book or put on the show, he said, “I’ve snorted coke through uncooked penne.”

But what struck me as odd was how, during those 90 minutes, Bourdain didn’t talk about himself at all. In fact, it was shocking how little time he spent discussing any part of his personal narrative. Oh, he talked about his accomplishments and his Emmy awards and his glorious experiences with foods in various geographies. But candid stories about himself involving where he came from or who he loves (other than his daughter) or about mistakes in which he learned valuable lessons were all but avoided. He told a joke or two in which he was the point of reference. But that was rare.

During those 90 minutes, I learned more about Bourdain’s hatred of Guy Fieri than I did about Anthony Bourdain. His 60-minute planned show was nearly void of anything remotely helpful, thoughtful, or personal. But perhaps Bourdain doesn’t like talking about himself. Maybe becoming vulnerable with his own story feels foreign, a place he’s unwilling to visit or share, a part of his life that he feels is better left unknown.

My kids don’t understand poverty. But they know the word ‘help’…

On a hot summer day when I was 9 years old, my younger sister and I decided that we were going to set up a lemonade stand at the end of our driveway. Upon telling our father about our plan, he grimaced slightly. Now, Dad wasn’t exactly against the idea of Elisabeth and me selling mediocre lemonade to the people who drove by our house, he just worried that our backroad wasn’t an ideal location for that to happen.

But Dad’s concern didn’t stop us from making a couple of signs, mixing together water, sugar, lemons, ice, and more sugar, and setting up a card table at the end of the driveway.

Unfortunately, Dad ended up being right. Only a few people drove by our house. And not one of them stopped to buy our lemonade. A couple of them waved. In the end, only one person bought our lemonade—our neighbor, Mr. Vandyke, who I swore my father had called because he felt sorry for us.

A few weeks ago, as my wife and I were preparing to have a garage sale, Jessica looked at me and said, “What if, during the rummage sale, Elias and Adeline have a lemonade stand? They could use it as a way to help World Vision! Don’t you think that’s a good idea?”

As a child, Jessica loved having lemonade stands during the summer months.

At first, perhaps because of my own childhood failure selling lemonade, I might have grimaced at Jessica’s question. But then, after the kids thought it was an awesome idea and had already started making their first official lemonade stand sign, I easily warmed up to the idea.

My kids just turned 7 and 4, so while they know the names of the children that we sponsor through World Vision and Jessica and I try to explain why we believe God calls us to sponsor them, Elias and Adeline are still many years away from having any idea about the devastating hardships that the kids we sponsor experience every day of their lives.

But despite their young minds not being ready to grasp concepts and realities like unclean water, trafficking, malnutrition, stunted growth, malaria, or any of the other terrible symptoms of poverty, they do understand the word “help.”

On the day of our garage sale, as people browsed through our old stuff looking for “steals,” I heard Elias say to one lady, “Would you like to buy a cup of lemonade?” And without missing a beat, Adeline added, “We’re helping World Vision kids!”

It’s never too early for kids to learn what it means to “help” somebody in need.


Last year, when 11-year-old Tyler Brunst from Loomis, California launched his very first lemonade stand, he did so because he’d realized how many kids worldwide don’t have access to clean water. Upon telling his mother that he wanted to raise money to help build clean water wells in Africa, his mother smiled and happily agreed.

With his first lemonade stand, Tyler raised $400, eventually raising $16,000!

Like Elias and Adeline—and like Tyler—anybody can do something seemingly small and make a big difference.

Including you.


Through World Vision’s social fundraising platform, we provide you with all the tools you need to start a lemonade stand or other project to raise money for clean water! Do something small and make a big difference this summer. Click here to get started right now!

I might be progressive and not very patriotic, but I love America. Here’s why… 


I love America. 

I really do. I might not be patriotic in the way my father’s generation is patriotic. But I still love my country. That said, I don’t believe this country is the best or perfect. Clearly, we as a nation have a laundry list of issues–big and small issues–that make life in this country very difficult for a lot of Americans. And that’s not okay. That will never be okay. Still, I love America. 

Amid all of the debates, fights, and conversations surrounding the social, political, economic, and spiritual divisions that exist in this country, I think it’s easy to forget the numerous liberties and privileges that a United States citizenship offers us. We have the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly and the freedom to celebrate God however we deem appropriate or if we don’t want to celebrate/believe in God, not at all. And while in some cases those freedoms have been amended to protect the rights/freedoms of individuals/minorities and oftentimes, prior to enjoying those freedoms, you have to fill out lots of paperwork and/or seek permission, those freedoms exist. 

Sure, some Americans take advantage of those freedoms. Some Americans use those freedoms as a way to limit or hurt or make life difficult for other Americans–a frustrating symptom of being a free people. But the large majority of the 330 million Americans–despite disagreements or varying ideologies–celebrate and honor those freedoms with sincere dignity. 

And that’s a beautiful thing.

Many of us complain about our government–and my gosh, there are certainly good reasons to complain–but as somebody who has a U.S. passport and has, over the last 10 years, traveled to numerous countries around the world, I’ve started to realize just how much our national, state, and local governments get right. While our laws and leaders are hardly perfect (in some cases, they’re corrupt), most do provide and manage for the majority of us a very functional way of everyday living. And while some may not like admitting this: our governments are pretty awesome! I mean, because of our governments, we have people who build roads, people who fix roads, and people who work to ensure that those driving on the roads are doing so safely and according to the laws. While mass confusion on the highways is unavoidable at times, because of our government, those instances are somewhat rare and when they happen, people show up to guide traffic in a safe and orderly manner. Because of our governments, we can dial 911 on our iPhones and in most cases have an entourage of trained professionals show up within minutes to help us navigate any number of emergency situations. And while that might not seem like a big deal to those of us who live here, the majority of the world’s people don’t have access to that kind of help. They don’t have people to call. They don’t have processes and people that are paid and/or volunteer to come assist them. Sure, sometimes the systems breakdown or a person fails to do their job, but again, those instances are rare. When we’re in trouble, a rescue team is sent. When we are sick or hurt, we’re taken to amazing hospitals where we are served by trained health care professionals who not only help us to the best of their abilities, they wash their hands before and after. 

For all that is wrong in America our governments, our laws, our freedoms make living here pretty awesome for the majority of us. And even when people and processes fail, usually there’s a method in which one can engage to make it right. 
I love America. Yes, wealthy people seem to have special privileges in this country and in many cases, that sucks, but here in America, we’re also blessed to have a wide variety of welfare programs available to help people in need or people who are down on their luck. In America, we have shelters and housing programs to offer people a place to stay or, in some cases, a place to live. In many cases, here in America, we have programs available to help people who are fighting addictions, processing grief, overwhelmed by debt, unable to find jobs, being abused by a loved one, and the list goes on. Here, when we notice something that isn’t right, we usually have somebody to call to complain to, to ask for help, to complain to and then ask for help. Again, these programs and processes aren’t always managed perfectly, but we have them in place and for many people in a variety of circumstances, they work. 

America might not be perfect, but we have public schools, public libraries, NPR, national and state parks, rest stops, monuments, the FDA, the FBI, interstates and freeways, bridges and tunnels, scenic highways and overlooks, public beaches and bathrooms… And we have signage! Do you realize how lucky we are to have signs–road signs, warning signs, tourism signs, etc.? Heck, in some cases, we have signs that are just there to make you aware of future signs. That’s amazing.

I get frustrated when I hear people say that America is going to hell in a hand basket because a law has changed or because a new people group is given equal rights under the law. Because I, like many of you, have met people around the world who live in places that look, feel, and smell a lot like hell and many of them would give up a whole lot in order to have the privileges that one experiences just because they’re an American. That’s one of reasons why I thank God for our freedom to protest, our freedom to picket, and our freedom to speak out against America when we believe that’s necessary. I love America because I believe this country has the capacity to change, to unite, to make progress, and when necessary, to change again and sometimes divide in order to make progress. It’s not always pretty and it’s not always quick. But most of the time, we have a voice and if we combine with other voices, we can make changes. 

For all that we get wrong in this country, we often showcase an ability to evolve, to make our wrongs right, and to change our laws when somebody or lots of some bodies aren’t being treated equally under the law. 

Sure, we have a long way to go. And we’ll never be perfect. 
But let’s not allow all of our country’s flaws keep us from realizing, celebrating, and putting to good use the numerous liberties and privileges that most of us enjoy as Americans. 

I’m not very patriotic–I mean, if I’m honest, the Pledge of Allegiance makes me squirm–but that said, I do love America. And I will always do my best to acknowledge, celebrate, and utilize the liberties and privileges that my country provides me to better what I can, to speak up for those who can’t, and to empower my children in hopes that they will do the same. 

I might be progressive. I might not be overly patriotic. I might hate that Lee Greenwood song. But I love my awesome but imperfect America.

Happy Fourth of July…