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Ex-Gay Leader Reconsiders Criticism of “It Gets Better” Commercial

Jim Burroway

October 12th, 2011

Back last May — so long ago that I imagine many of you have forgotten about it — Exodus International president Alan Chambers reacted to a Google Chrome ad featuring Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign. The ad portrayed ordinary people using YouTube, a Google-owned service, to post videos encouraging young people to just hang in there for just a short while longer, a message that had been inspired by a wave of suicides of LGBT youth.  Google’s fast-paced ad showed tiny snippets of celebrities who contributed to the project. One of them was the character Woody from “Toy Story,” who says simply “You’ll be fine, partner.” His cameo made up all of two and a half seconds of a ninety second commercial. That was enough to send Chambers to his keyboard:

“Children all over the world, including my two children are fans of ‘Toy Story’ and to see a character like that endorsing something that at this point children have no need to know about, it’s disappointing,” he told The Christian Post.

Chambers, who overcame homosexuality and is now a father of two, suspects that if the commercial airs while he and his children are watching a show and “if they happen to see that and ask questions and if they get the full understanding of what the commercial is actually about, we will have to have the conversation. It’s not something I plan to talk to my kids, 5 and 6, about.”

As I wrote at that time:

The conversation Chambers could be having with his children is how to handle themselves if they find themselves being taunted and bullying in school. That’s what the commercial was about. If Chambers really isn’t prepared to have that conversation, then he is really falling down as a father.

But of course, that’s not what Chambers is worried about. It’s the message that, even for gay teens who feel very much alone, it will, at some point, get better. Chambers protests, ““For organizations like Exodus International, which has thousands of men and women like me who have lived a gay life, it obviously didn’t get better living a gay life for them.” Perhaps he’d be happier with an “It Gets Worse” campaign instead. After all, that is at the core of their message

Five months later, Chambers has reconsidered his earlier opposition to that ad. In a blog post at Exodus International’s web site, Chambers writes:

A few months ago I went on record criticizing the “It Gets Better” campaign that has gone viral with an anti-bullying message for LGBT teens.  My criticism was over the use of “Woody,” the fictional star from the box office smash Toy Story trilogy.  I reacted because I hate when iconic children’s heroes are used to further what I perceive to be adult causes.  With further reflection and thought, though, I have to admit that I was wrong to question their marketing strategy without expressing my full support for what is the heart of their campaign – encouraging LGBT teens to choose life.

…When it comes to kids killing themselves, I can’t justify criticizing a campaign that, at its deepest core, is most about saving the lives of LGBT kids.  I care MORE about a kid choosing life than whether or not he or she embraces a gay identity. Life comes first. Living out our biblical convictions means fighting for the lives of young people at all cost.  Can any of us actually say we’d rather our teens, neighbors, friends or complete strangers kill themselves than be gay?  I certainly can’t.  Regardless of where someone falls on the debate over sexuality, I hope we can all agree to move the issue of bullying and suicide, especially where kids are concerned, to a non-polarized, non-politicized and non-divisive issue. [Emphasis in the original]

Chmabers’s commentary is well thought out, at least until the penultimate paragraph, where Chambers tacks on his message to kids being bullied. That paragraph goes on to reinforce the core Exodus message that being gay is a choice that God doesn’t approve of:

By the way, for kids being bullied, it does get better.  No matter what you decide to do in life, don’t allow others to cause you to question whether life is worth living. The truth is that God gave us the freedom to choose the life that we want to live and death is the end of that choice. What I discovered as an older teenager was that those few years when I was bullied didn’t accurately reflect who I was.  The names that were hurled at me were careless and ones that God would never say. We serve a great God who created us for more than we often settle for, but He never belittles us for the decisions we make, even if those decisions don’t line up with His best for us. [Emphasis in the original.]

Given the hopeless messages that many gay kids already receive from their churches that God isn’t terribly happy with them as they are, I’m not sure how constructive Chambers’s approach will be by delivering the same message. Yet a very astute kid could read that same carefully constructed passage and come to an alternative reading: that if they can hold out just a little bit longer, they may discover that what Chambers would have them settle for isn’t necessarily what God would have them settle for. Here’s hoping that they do.

Comments

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TampaZeke
October 12th, 2011 | LINK

It’s amazing to me that Alan Chambers always takes MONTHS to over a YEAR (Uganda Kill the Gays bill) to come around to these positions. It makes you wonder just what kind of conversations he has with his God and what it is that his God is telling him. Is Chambers’ God changing His mind or is Chambers just not listening accurately to what his God is told him in the first place. I’m completely serious about these questions. I would like to have Chambers tell us more about how this process works because one way or the other he or his God comes off looking like a real asshole.

TampaZeke
October 12th, 2011 | LINK

And one more thing. Why does Chambers make sure that his anti-gay screeds go out to mass publication like to the Christian Post or World Net Daily, but then he puts his change of heart commentary ONLY on his personal blog? Why didn’t he send this mea culpa to the Christian Post which printed the original heartless, no mention of concern for the suicide victims, commentary?

Andrew
October 12th, 2011 | LINK

lol… I guess when it comes to Chambers, it’s more like “this is as good as it gets”. I say, take the sentiment and run – you really can’t expect any more from someone who has predicated his perception of reality around being ex-gay. It would be like telling the guy in the water, holding on to the life raft, that you’re taking away the life-raft (oh, and by the way, put your feet down – you’re only in 3 feet of water, and the water’s just fine).

Blake
October 12th, 2011 | LINK

Come on now. He’s admitting gay kids exist. He’s admitting he was wrong to oppose an outreach toward them. The majority of his article is an endorsement of the it gets better project.

All of the above are mile-markers of our victory. Further this stance is more consistent with his statement regarding David Kato’s murder (or is 10 months too long to remember martyrs?) here)http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2011/01/27/30100

And consistent with his ministry’s walking away from Day of Truth (or is that too far in the past to remember too).

All of this points to an attitude of a man who is tired of being used by more extreme fundamentalists to justify violence against gay people. If we’re all going to exist in this country together this IS WHAT EX-GAY MINISTRIES WILL LOOK LIKE!!! In a free society there is no way to completely eradicate ex-gay ministries. Only time and truth will overthrow them.

Further, it took courage to back away from a position which was popular in his echo chamber. He will certainly catch flack for this from his “allies.”

Remember this is THE FACE of ex-gay ministries. He’s been the face of ex-gay ministries for a number of years now.

Here is the face of ex-gay ministries laying out a compassionate way for evangelicals to approach the issue of bullying. Before all we heard was: “They [gay kids] deserve it.”

Look, we’re always going to be living in sin in these people’s eyes. At least now they’re addressing the fact that they have done a poor job educating their children on how to treat other children.

This is huge.

cowboy
October 12th, 2011 | LINK

I agree with Blake. Mr. Chamber’s re-discovery are somewhat startling…just my opinion.

Regan DuCasse
October 12th, 2011 | LINK

Tampa Zeke has a point. Sometimes a change of opinion can be an empty or very tiny gesture that doesn’t carry NEARLY the weight their original opinions and reach does.

My friends, there are times we’ve argued among ourselves about being thankful, or at least not angrily critical when such things are said or done by our opposition.
That ANY change in tone is acceptable because the opposite is so damaging and difficult to counter.

I don’t know of many straight allies other than myself that regularly post here but let me say this: I’ve learned that it really doesn’t take a thing like courage or strength to BE an ally. All it takes is…respect. And even better, love.
Chambers has relied on something exceptionally bad to sustain himself: the libel of gay people and the confusion and expectation that it’s gay people who can and must change.

He’s part of the set up that gay kids have to confront and who have to CONSTANTLY and exhaustively defend themselves. The damage was done before they were born.

And he still won’t concede that he’s part of the problem and gives WAY too much power to those still with the knowing influence over the damage.
Chambers is trying to put a Band-Aid on a major hemorrhage. And there is no person more tiresome who see that their gesture won’t really work, but don’t care and hope that no one will really notice.
So that if criticized, it’ll look like gay people are ungrateful after all. Especially to people like him. He thinks he’s accomplished something important and wonderful.
When I’ve said this before, being one’s sexual orientation ISN’T an accomplishment.
It’s an accomplishment to be true to it, despite all the threat to your life and well being in doing it.
And that accomplishment then goes to gay folks, not people like Chambers.

He’s a weak person, that made a weak attempt at something WELL after some well deserved criticism came his way. He simply couldn’t take the heat. And that is the part of his character that is so not surprising.

Timothy Kincaid
October 12th, 2011 | LINK

I speak Evangelical. Or, at least to some extent. And knowing the language, I have to say that Chambers’ comments actually go a lot further than it might appear at the surface.

Here is the translation:

God has amazing things in his plan for people. But sometimes we settle for less than what he would have for us. Yet he doesn’t belittle us for choosing something else; he gave us the right to do so.

Set aside, for a moment that it’s Alan and consider just what it means – in that particular religious community – to say what he said. Look at the language he chose. No sin, no immorality, no rejection, just the mild and vague ‘settle for less than best’ like we’re talking brand of hot-dogs.

Now, it might not be the “It Get’s Better” message that appeals to you or me, but it is exactly the message that needs to be heard by the young Alans out there who don’t want to be gay, fear for their soul, and who think that now God hates them too.

To tell her that even if she choose to become a radical militant homosexual activist, God still loves her and that the bullies are still wrong can truly be a revolutionary life-saving statement.

God’s approval is by far the most effective argument on the side of those who would have a same-sex attracted young person seek to commit to reorientation or celibacy.

Alan just took it off the table. That, folks, really is a selfless act of kindness.

Lindoro Almaviva
October 12th, 2011 | LINK

Alan Chambers throws a hissy fit….

Alan Chambers (months after the fact) realizes he is once again relegated to irrelevancy…

Alan Chambers issues some half baked apology for throwing a hissy fit while at the same time reminding people that he exists and that he has “changed”

Not much change when the situation repeats itself over and over and over.

Alan chambers…
yawn…

Joe-Allen Doty
October 13th, 2011 | LINK

Alan Chambers has never “overcome homosexuality.” He admitted to a reporter for “Anderson Cooper 360″ CNN program that after being married, he still experiences sexual attractions towards other men. He’s just a heterosexually-married closeted homosexual.

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