Christians opposing the shameful “Values Voter Summit”


Here’s a snapshot of the speakers at yesterday’s NALT Christians press conference, held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., as a “prebuttal” to the shameful (and for some reason illiterately named) Values Voter Summit, which starts today. From left to right are: Andy Lang, Executive Director, United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns; Brent Childers, Executive Director, Faith In America; the Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral; author Frank Schaeffer; Vivian Taylor, Executive Director, Integrity USA;  NALT Christian co-founder Wayne Besen, from Truth Wins Out; myself and my wife Catherine (co-founders of NALT). Not shown is Michael Keegan, President, People for the American Way. (Behind the camera was Aliza Worthington.)

A great and comprehensive article about the press conference is: LGBT Affirming Christians Issue Prebuttal to Values Voter Summit. Yesterday we also debuted NALT Christians videos from Bishop Gene Robinson, Jay Bakker, Ray Bolz, Mel White, Randy Roberts Potts, and Justin Lee. You can view those videos (and read a a bit about their makers)  here.

Here is what Catherine and I said at the podium:

JOHN: After my wife Catherine and I had spent six years as members of the very first church home for either of us, we were elected deacons of that church. But before we could become deacons, our church surprised us by asking us to sign a document asserting that we personally believed that no “unrepentant homosexual” should be allowed to hold any position, of any authority whatsoever at our church. As both of us had lifelong gay friends, we declined to sign this document. The following Sunday our pastor placed in the lobby of the church stacks of an article he had once written about how Christians who don’t hold the “correct” view on homosexuality are heretics.

That’s the word he used, repeatedly: heretics. And every person at our church knew who he was talking about.

Being forced to choose between our conscience and our church, we lost our first church home.

Cat and I turned to the Bible. What we realized is that Christians do not obey small passages of the Bible if those passages conflict with the overriding biblical principles of love, compassion, and conscience—if they run contrary, that is, to The Great Commandment. For example, in contradiction to the Bible, Christians DO allow women to speak in church, DO accept divorce, and do NOT believe adulterers should be sentenced to death.

Christ proved he wants us to always choose compassion over legalism when he healed the man at the pool at Bethesda. He did that in violation of the fourth commandment not to work on the Sabbath. He broke the law for love.

Christians do not take every passage of the bible literally. For instance, the Bible says that it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. Yet Christians do not believe that the rich are irrevocably bound for hell.

CAT: The Family Research Council claims to speak for Christian families. But LGBT persons are our families: they are our brothers and sisters, our sons and our daughters. The anti-gay Christian preoccupation with fighting LGBT equality negatively impacts both our straight and gay youth, encouraging intolerance and bullying in one, and profound struggles with self-esteem in the other.

A recent study by the Family Acceptance Project found that parents who identify as “strongly religious” were significantly more likely than any other group to reject their LGBT children. According to the Center for American Progress, there are an estimated 300,000 homeless LGBT youth in our country, and the leading cause of their homelessness is family rejection.

The relentless anti-gay-Christian messaging is damaging to Christianity itself. According to a BARNA survey, 91% of non-Christians ages 16 through 29—and 80% of Christians the same age—first associate Christianity with “anti-homosexual”—an association followed closely, in both the non-Christian and the Christian groups, by the words “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” “old-fashioned,” and “too involved in politics.”

What these young people are responding to is the manifest hypocrisy in straight Christians spending all that time, all that energy, and all that money condemning the one and only perceived “sin” in the Bible that they themselves are not tempted to commit, rather than utilizing those vast resources to serve the biblical mandate to care for the poor, the sick and the persecuted.

JOHN: Jesus said the most important commandment of all is to love God with everything you have, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Most Christians get that. Increasingly, Christians understand that because being gay is a God-given attribute and not a choice, it is anything but Christian to deny LGBT people full equality.

The vast majority of the negative messages in the media about LGBT people come from anti-gay Christians. We launched the NALT Christians project so the whole of the Christian community could be more accurately represented. LGBT-affirming Christians kept telling me how deeply they yearned for a platform from which to refute the anti-gay Christianity that too many people think is the only Christianity out here. is that platform.

It’s purpose of The NALT Christians Project is to give any and all LGBT-affirming Christians a means of sharing their belief that there is nothing anti-biblical or sinful about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. That Christianity is the Christianity of the future. And The NALT Christians Project is one big step toward that future.

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  • Afiba Johnson StárKíng’Gúrll

    In my view he didn’t really break the law about suspending work on the Sabbath. For the Law of Love is the Supreme Law, and thus supersedes all of the others, just as Federal law supersedes local laws. This is also true for us in our own lives, and in a similar way we should let the Law of Love guide us and be the Supreme directing force in our lives.

  • Enjoyed the article and the video was very inspiring!

  • When NALT first launched, I read a criticism that really irked me. This queer Christian group worried that NALT “erased” people who were on their journey from non-affirming to affirming by forcing polarization. That’s a load of crap. I know from experience that the journey is a slog when the only Christian voices speaking out say affirmation is heresy. My shoes got stuck in the mud of their moral certitude.

    I’ve said for a long time if the Church is serious about loving people who are queer better, we must change our theology. We must believe differently.

    NALT gives non-affirming Christians permission to believe differently, and it shows them what that new belief looks like. And for us queer people who feel wounded, the NALT videos are a balm.

    NALT is prophetic.

    Thank you, John, for creating this platform. I’m so grateful to you and all who continue to drive this important project.

  • Thanks, David; this means a great deal to us.(It was so weird, some of the criticism NALT so immediately engendered! But that sort of thing is bound to occur, of course. And as far as I know, most all the criticism has stopped now, which is nice.)

  • Jenell Brinson

    As I became aware of the NALT movement, I was at first positive about what it is about, but as I explored what is going on in it, I am considerably less so. I don’t think it addresses the underlying problem, error, or whatever you would call it, within Christian religious attitudes and practices.

    I am disappointed to find that NALT is about fighting for the right of LGBT to a place of acceptance and equality within the church. Now, it is not at all that I think that is a ‘bad’ thing. I too am supportive of that. However, it is still avoiding confrontation of the real underlying cause of such problems in fair and loving acceptance of any that would seek acceptance and fellowship within the Christian church and community.

    LGBT are merely the particular group, class, or category of people whose heads have been/are on the chopping block of church/religious c0mmunity condemnation and exclusion, that are presently in the spotlight of controversy and recognition of the moment. It is a chopping block upon which many people, individually and categorically, have been and are commonly even now ‘beheaded’ through condemnation and exclusion from acceptance by church and church community.

    At first seeing this new NALT movement, I thought it may be, at last, coming out of the need to get serious about the all too common attitude within the church and among too many Christians, that causes s many people so much hurt, in being abused and rejected, marginalized and excluded, for an infinite and even boundless list of “sins and offenses” of merely being what someone is, or for something that has happened to someone in life, of even having been a victim themselves of the sins and offenses of others.

    NALT. We are not all like that. I cannot even begin to count how many times I have heard that over the course of my life, and always spoken by some in the church as if to defend the church, and dismiss the reality and valid cause for someone’s hurt suffered through such bad treatment. Sometimes, my own expressed hurt, and having found myself so judged, marginalized, and excluded, sometimes, in matters of others so hurt.

    Anything the church sees as related to sexuality, especially, has and is targeted, divorce, remarriage, unwed pregnancy, single mothers (ironically single Dad are usually sanctified and even heroic) and even the victims of sexual child abuse, adult relationship/sexual abuse, and rape victims. But even so many for ‘reasons’ so vague and absurd, there is no bounds to the list, for that virtually anything can and has been and too often is made as offense that justifies abusive treatment, a person ust seems ‘different’ in some way. talks or acts differently, perhaps has poor social skills, or neuro-atypical traits (autism, ADHD, other developmental disorders) even, hard to believe but true, exceptional intellect.

    And the standard defensive cry so often heard from those in the church and church community when any person expresses their hurt, frustration that has led them to leave the church, stop trying again and again to find a place in the church, is so often, But we are not all like that!”

    And how many times can one believe that, try again, and hit the exclusions again and again, if not for being one thing, then another, before but we are NALT! can no longer be trusted.

    If a NALT movement is to be valid, shouldn’t it be addressing the underlying attitudes and practices of judgment, condemnation and exclusion, as within the rightful power and authority of the church/Christians, itself? Else what progress that the church and church community is finally forced by prevailing changes in culture and society to accept LGBT, as most have been forced to accept divorced, divorced/remarried, and many others, for if that underlying problem isn’t addressed, then the next ‘battle’ will merely be the next category or group that are made the sacrifice victims on the altar of religious exclusion?

  • Matt

    Hi Jenell. I can see where you’re coming from. But I do think that NALT addresses the underlying habits of judgement in the Christian church–it just happens to be, shall we say, LGBT-flavored for now. Talking about things openly and honestly has surprising and unpredictable impact, and we as humans tend to take our change in waves. But the effects continue well after the initial movement has peaked. I think that we are working towards a church that really does accept everyone as being made in Christ’s image, and so has worth beyond measure.

    But still, I’m so sorry that you’ve been hurt by the church. It’s not right, and no one should be treated that way. I wish I could fix it, but I can’t. So I’ll just let you know that you’ve been heard, and I’ll be sticking around if you still need to talk.

  • Jenell Brinson

    John, it should not seem weird that any action toward addressing abuses and abusers of any kind so quickly generates negative, and very emotionally loaded, hostile response. It is, rather, to be expected. If there is NOT that immediate hostile response to raising some abuse issue, then you are probably NOT raising it effectively, for it isn’t being taken as a real ‘threat’ toby those abusers involved. Translate that.. take it as a validation of your effort.

    Surely we all know this abut human nature even in the most daily personal level interactions with abusive people and incidents of abusive behaviors of every day life. It is an immediate and natural action of abusive people or one that has treated another in an abusive manner to immediately attempt to discredit in any way they can, their ‘guilt’ of anything ‘wrong.’ It is also human nature of even those not actively engaged themselves in an abuse to be averse to having one’s comfort zone boundaries threatened by having to recognize and acknowledge there is abuse going on within their circle of community and potential influence, for that by doing so, they would also be made to confront their own unwillingness to be inconvenienced, perhaps place their own heads on the chopping block, if they were to act to try to address and call out the abusers.

    Abusers themselves classically work to get the advance jump on the risk of their victims trying to speak out, and perhaps finding support from others. No doubt many of us have experienced an abusive behavior from another, and discover that even before we might speak out, the abuser has already been working against our credibility among those we might have turned to for support? As a woman, and of an age cohort (65) that experienced attitudes and abuses toward women once more common in society, that often meant being subjected to sexual abuses and harassments that society in general, and the church in particular, too often refused to acknowledge, I have myself experiences and known many many other women having experienced just this to a shocking degree. Such incidents as a woman having experienced an inappropriate advance by a man, that whether she ever actually tried to speak out about it not, quickly found her reputation has been slandered within her community, a ‘defense move’, by the man, just n case she did. Even this is not behind us, especially within the church community, where it seems to remain easier to believe that any woman is a lusting harlot than that a man might have sexually violated her against her will. And the victims of abusers are often so submitted to the authority of the church that teaches them it is a sin to leave, the real life abuses are often horrible, while the victims are made to blame. Just several years ago, a young, very soft, timid, and submissive young woman within my family, raised in fundamentalist traditions, was sexually assaulted, seduced/raped, by an evangelist visiting her church, under the guise of offering her “spiritual marriage counseling” to help her with problems in her marriage. Despite information emerging that similar complaints had been charged against the man at a good number of churches he had visited previously, she ended up being made the “weak” one that had “given in to lust” and engaged in seducing HIM into sin! And he continued on in his “career” as a visiting evangelist in “church revivals” in that church community! I do not, cannot, understand HOW she could remain within that church, that church community, after that, but she has, and she even still defends it and how she was treated within it. This is true no matter the nature of the abuse, sexual, spiritual, or even material. When a scandal involving a supposed Christian investment opportunity scheme that turned out to be a scam that targeted people in churches of a particular denomination emerged a few years ago, that had bilked a great many people that had been hooked in through presentations actually given in their churches, the defense of the abusers that arose from with the very community that had been the targeted victims was irrational and almost unbelievable. Even many of the victims took positions of defending those that had abused them, robbed them, as if what had happened was really just a “well meaning” investment plan that “failed,” and persisted in that despite legal court proceedings that proved the intentional criminal nature of the matter. (Google Arizona Baptists)

    So why do so many in the religious community so quickly rise up against those that would call out, expose, abuse, and abusers in their own midst? A collective mindset, that extends any ‘attack’ on any within the church to be an ‘attack’ on the church itself? Or perhaps, an attack on not only the abusers, but their own complacency in not addressing it themselves?

  • Elizabeth

    Hey Jenell. I’ve been ‘accused’ of being a half-dozen items on that list: too smart for a dumb blonde, too sexually aggressive, too experimental in my callow youth, two abortions so I could graduate Oxford, habitually attracted to older men who should really know better, a touch of OCPD… I could go on, but this isn’t about me.

    It’s about my mother. The kids at school said, “Your mother wears combat boots.” She did not. She’s a girly girl. She had shoe boxes up to the ceiling and always wore immaculately matched outfits. I demanded she stop them.

    She laughed until her sides hurt. That’s still her favorite imitation of me. That, and me muttering, “Sucky, sucky, sucky.” She’s taking an OT class at her nursing home. She described — with awe — an openly-gay Methodist minister who spoke, and how almost everyone listened and returned for the next lecture. She’s in a small town in Western Michigan. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. LGBT and affirming Christians aren’t a demographic checkbox. They’ve always been there. Now they can be heard.

  • Jenell Brinson

    No, you can’t, nor any other fix it. and neither you, nor any other not involved, owe me any apology. That, too, I think is a dysfunction in the church community sometimes, that we feel we, or any, somehow owe apologies for things offenses by others, that we had no part in. For anyone, in any place, that has to recognize, and confront, they may actually have had some part in either an event or abuse or even having been complacent in that abuse, I feel there is place for apology. Jesus said, that before we take our offering before the altar of God, and remember that any brother have ought against us for our offense, leave our offering there and go first to our brother and reconcile. There are so many times that alone, if taken seriously and heed, would make so much different in outcome of situations of abuse and mistreatment. In one of those clear examples to me, in my life experience, of both the problems related to that, and what that scripture addresses, as well as the principle of ‘seeing through the eyes of a child,’ I was very affected in my childhood, for observing adults in my life act in abusive and offensive ways toward others, that if they came to recognition of having done so, were quick to bow their head and pray, “Lord forgive me,” but never ever go to the person they offended against, or others to whom they may have spread malicious gossip, to try to set the matter straight. Even after their prayer of “repentance and request for forgiveness,” let alone before.

    But harder to recognize, and repent, is anyone’s own complacency in situations they personally knew, and didn’t speak out. If you must recognize any such times in yourself, to those you may have harmed, you own apology. And for any of us, that have known of abuses, and failed to speak out, yes, for that, too, we may be due repentance and owe apology. But repentance means a change of heart, a turned of ways, and as that any have come to conviction that demands they speak out, begin to address an abuse situation, I feel their sacrifice and offering for forgiveness of past complacency is made clean, and ready to be laid upon the altar.

  • Jenell Brinson

    Elizabeth, you are so right, this isn’t about me. when I tell of abuses and hurts toward me or others I’ve known, when you tell of yours, that is part of the very walls I feel we feel driven to be a part of knocking down. When I share my experiences, when any of us share such experiences, yes, it is all too often immediate seen as ‘this is about me.’ About my hurt, about the hurt of people I now and care about. And that is often how people react to us when we do so. such as John here, and others, in what I know is good heart and intention, thinking he or any other “owe” me or any with such stories an apology. No, they don’t. Because when I, and you, tell our stories, and support one an other in telling out stories, and tell the stories of those we’ve known that can’t tell their own stories, no, it is not about me. It is not about any of us. IT IS ABOUT ALL OF US. We are putting faces, names, real life examples, of what we feel needs to be recognized and acknowledge and addressed.

  • Elizabeth

    Tip I learned from my gay BFF: never apologize. Thank you for elaborating.

  • Matt

    That’s something I should get on board with! It would remove a lot of shame and stress from my life. Thanks, Elizabeth.

  • Hi Jenell,

    You have been hurt by the church; too many have been hurt, and they are hurt in various ways.

    I am sure, as Matt suggests, that those supporting NALT are overwhelmingly in favor of supporting people who have been judged, condemned, and excluded by church people for other reasons besides being gay.

    However, it is difficult to focus on all these issues at once. I think we must advocate for all of them, but if we try to do it in one effort the impact is watered down.

    I support blogs and groups that focus on other issues of religious abuse of children and adults but rarely mention gay issues. Yet they are some of the same people who support the NALT project. If we change people hearts on one issue, it tends to affect other issues as well. If we try to cover all issues with one effort we might not reach nearly as many.

    We can never fix the dysfunctional church, but we can reach the hearts of individuals, and those individuals can help transform their churches from judgment to love and acceptance of all people.

  • Jenell, this is a REAL priority problem. I am glad to see in recent years that more people are calling out leaders who abuse the people and yet are allowed to continue in their ‘ministries’.

    Even in fundamentalist circles there is an outcry against this misuse of power. With these incidents becoming more public, discussed more, and challenged, perhaps more followers will refuse to let leaders off the hook to hurt more people.

    One teaching that I see under attack is the concept that if a man sexually abuses a woman (or girl)–it is her fault somehow for causing him to lust. No way! Men must control themselves, and it is their fault for sexually assaulting others. ‘You caused me to lust’ is no excuse.

  • Lymis


    One the one hand, you aren’t at all wrong, on the other, I think you’re badly missing the point.

    NALT wasn’t, as near as I can tell, created by people who felt the mission was to fix everything that is wrong with Christianity, but out of compassion and outrage specifically about the treatment and rejection of LGBT people.

    To say that the organization is a failure because they aren’t focusing on everything at once is to miss the point of what they are trying to accomplish. Yes, the church deeply wounds people who divorce and remarry, or never marry, but 91% of people polled don’t associate “opposed to divorce” as the primary characteristic of Christianity today, and while I can’t say for sure, I am certain that the number of teenagers who commit suicide over the fact that they are likely to grow up and divorce is somewhat minimal – unlike the numbers of LGBT kids who kill themselves, try to, or are thrown out of their homes.

    NALT chose it’s focus. I’ve never heard them say that NOBODY should be working to reform the church on those other issues. I’ve heard them say this is what they are passionate about. Mary and Martha. Don’t fault someone for making a different choice.

    At the same time, I think that a fundamental shift within the church on something that it has invested so much into – so much work at declaring LGBT people to be other, to be unlovable, to be unloved, to be automatically damned, and for homosexuality to be the ultimate sin – shattering that prejudice necessarily forces a reevaluation of the prejudices around ALL sexuality and sexual outliers, and a reconsideration of what sex, gender, and sexuality itself is for, from which at least some of the things you raise will necessarily follow.

    The underlying problem is that people are people, not our actions, and God’s love is not conditional on our fitting neatly into society’s preconceived boxes. If we love, we know God and God loves us. If we don’t, how properly we behave by societies rules of propriety is meaningless. Making a fundamental change in the way people look at LGBT people necessarily carries a LOT of other things about sex, gender, family, and social roles right along with it.

    NALT is doing more than you think they are. But the Holy Spirit usually works that way.

  • DR

    I’m confused – what exactly are you looking for? NALT addresses the root causes of much of what you’ve discussed here. It seems like you want NALT to perform according to some very specific terms, otherwise it’s invalidated. I don’t understand your agenda here.

  • DR


  • Allie

    Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Your post reminds me of the people who frequently visit the page of a group I donate to which advocates for animal welfare, saying, “But your group doesn’t advocate for abused children!”

    No, NALT is not all things to all people. It can’t be nor should it dilute its message by trying to be. It is one group focusing on one issue.

  • DR

    “Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.”

    I’m stealing this, it’s SO GOOD. Thank you.

  • DR

    Again Janelle, you’re asking questions of a group that is actively doing what you’re suggesting so for me, it’s still so hard to understand what you’re after. Change happens one fox hole at a time and NALT is in one fox hole that when gained from the enemy, helps us up the hill a little bit and expands our view so we can go after another fox hole. I’m glad you’re here offering your thoughts though, you are a great writer!

  • I really like the approach of NALT, and especially appreciate the pre-buttal. You guys are doing good work, necessary work.

  • Thanks, Lymis, very much.

  • Lymis

    At the risk of speaking for John, I suspect that the “weird” criticisms he’s talking about aren’t the ones coming from the people you cast as “abusers” but rather the criticisms coming from the “abused.”

    These aren’t stupid or naive people, Jenell. I’ve followed the writings of a number of the more visible founders for years. I guarantee you that not a one of them was surprised that narrow-minded Christians and individuals and organizations that center around being vocally anti-gay came out swinging against them. After all, if you’re willing to condemn people to hell for loving each other, it’s not a stretch to condemn people for loving their neighbors. I suspect that most of the attacks coming from the conservative anti-gay parts of the church are not remotely unexpected, and if they are seen as “weird” in any way at all, it’s because they are dishearteningly shallow, repetitive, and petty. You’d think (possibly even hope) that such high passionate hatred and unrelenting oppression would at least be based in something more substantive than “ick.” But it usually isn’t.

    My guess is that the “weird” in John’s comment are some of the criticisms from LGBT people and pro-gay organizations, or even from atheists. That some of them take the form of “If you can’t fix it instantly, why are you even trying” and some take the form of “We’ve been burned before by people claiming to have positive Christian messages” and “Since all religion is inherently bullshit, you people are buying into the very cause of the problem, even while you are deluding yourselves into thinking you are different.” I know for a fact that a lot of the criticism took the form of “You can’t be speaking for Christians, because we’ve met Christians, and they don’t talk this way.”

    There comes a time when you’ve been so badly burned and betrayed by someone or something that you don’t dare let yourself trust again. A lot of people have experienced that around religion, especially where religion meets sexuality. So when a group like NALT forms, some people who would appear to be the people who should most eagerly leap for joy and in support of the message will lash out. And since that lashing out comes from pain and personal betrayal by someone other than the people with the positive message, sometimes that will take very strange forms indeed.

    And of course, it’s just that “weird” that NALT is specifically designed to address. They are standing up and saying, loudly and clearly, that the “party line” that people have been fed about what “all Christians believe” is simply untrue. That there are other views, positive views, that people are so unused to hearing that many of them think they can’t even exist, and so NALT must be playing some sick and twisted game with a hidden agenda. The forms those accusations take will be far “weirder” than the “it’s in the Bible, end of story” drivel coming from the Right.

  • Oh, man, I’m so grateful to you, Lymis. You’ve said what I just didn’t have time to. You’re exactly right. What’s “weird” about some of the initial criticisms of NALT was that they came from gay people, who accused us of … all kinds of things that weren’t true; e.g., NALT was started by straight people who sought only to crow about themselves (a criticism which ignored or was ignorant of the fact that two of the three founders of NALT are gay atheists); NALT ignores the voices of gay people (despite the number of LGBT people who made NALT videos); NALT is nothing more than an attempt to convert gay people. Some Christians complained because Dan Savage was part of NALT; some gay people complained because I, a straight Christian, founded NALT.

    There are always people who complain about anything, of course. In the case of NALT, those complaints have largely if not entirely (as far as I know) evaporated. And that’s great. But it was never anything we … could do anything about, obviously. And there was never enough of it to … I dunno … divert us, basically. Like anyone seeking to do good work, we were always open, and will always remain open, to ideas about what we’re doing wrong or should be doing right or better. That’s just part of the process. But in this particular case, NALT itself, just as it is, so utterly addressed the complaints against it that we only had to wait for those complaints to, of their own accord, wither. And they did.

    Anyway, thanks for saying what you have here. You got it just right, as always.