If you’ve ever assumed that all Christians harbor animosity toward LGBT people, this organization has a message for you.
Inspired by Dan Savage‘s youth-oriented It Gets Better Project, a group of Christians have launched The Not All Like That (NALT) Christians Project, a campaign where “Christians proclaim their belief in full equality.” Savage himself helped develop the campaign, along with pastor and writer John Shore and Truth Wins Out leaders Wayne Besen and Evan Hurst.
Here’s their mission statement, in their own words:
The purpose of the NALT Christians Project is to give LGBT-affirming Christians a means of proclaiming to the world — and especially to young gay people — their belief and conviction that there is nothing anti-biblical or at all inherently sinful about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Like It Gets Better, the campaign will use a video-sharing platform to spread a simple message: Not all Christians are anti-gay. The campaign launched Monday with around 30 videos, mostly from allies. Here’s one example from fellow blogger Fred Clark:
Besen and Hurst’s organization, Truth Wins Out, already aims to fight anti-LGBT religious extremism, but the NALT campaign takes their mission a step further.
Frustrated that many people think Christians who oppose homosexuality and gay marriage like Tony Perkins, Maggie Gallagher and Pat Robertson speak for all Bible followers, [Besen and Hurst] reached out to Savage to see how they might create a platform like It Gets Better to help affirming Christians speak up. “People feel they have to make a choice between their faith and their sexuality, and for some people that is devastating,” Besen says. “Actually you don’t have to make a choice.”
According to TIME Magazine, young people (particularly young evangelicals) are a target audience for the project, which aims to counter the widespread image of anti-LGBT sermons resonating from evangelical churches. Besen told TIME that NALT wants to show young people how to be a Christian and also be supportive of LGBT people — through the words of Christians who have gone through the process themselves.
Supporters of the project now include Auburn Theological Seminary, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, Methodists in New Directions, and The Evangelical Network. Young evangelicals are one of NALT’s main target audiences. “Young people are very uncomfortable when they see these finger-wagging evangelicals who don’t seem to have much in common with the Jesus they believe in,” Besen explains.
TIME also raises the valid concern that it’s hard to tell just how many “NALT Christians” are out there, noting that the campaign’s true test will be to see how many of these supporters participate by recording a video of their own. But Shore seems confident in the project’s ability to unite unlikely allies for a greater good:
If you’re an LGBT-affirming Christian, there is a seat waiting for you in the orchestra of The NALT Christians Project. If you’re a Christian who either believes that God condemns homosexuality, or has not yet decided where you stand on the gay issue, please give our NALT Christians song a listen. It is a song — it is a movement — inspired by Christ’s Great Commandment that all of his followers — that all of us — love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
I wholly agree with the project’s founders that this campaign is direly needed, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. For this to truly take off, NALT must find a way to invite youth themselves into the conversation. It’s one thing to hear from assorted faces on a screen about how not all Christians hate LGBT people; it’s something else entirely to be able to share your experiences with faith-based bigotry, or faith-based acceptance, and allow members of a religious community to respond and react. Once we listen to those who have been hurt by intolerance rooted in religion, that’s when change will start to happen.
It also seems that young LGBT people who aren’t Christians might not feel so at ease with some of these messages (looking at you, “inspired by Christ’s Great Commandment”), even if they, too, are targets of anti-LGBT religious extremism. If NALT wants to succeed, it should make its content more digestible to those youth who aren’t Christian, but who may need to hear the same messages.
That said, it’s always a positive thing to add to the list of resources for LGBT youth from religious communities (whether they still belong to those communities or not), because these individuals are so often marginalized by their friends and families just for being themselves. Once this campaign figures out how to talk with youth rather than talk at youth, it will have the potential to do great things.