The opportunity for straight Christians

The Not All Like That (NALT) Christians Project caused a handful of gay Christians to complain that the project was too divisive.

This made a handful of straight Christians decide not to make a NALT video. Their idea was that any gay Christian thinking NALT was too divisive was reason enough for them not to go wading into, as one straight Christian said to me, “those very tricky waters.” Another straight Christian put it to me this way: “Ultimately, this issue belongs to gay people. If gay Christians think that NALT is ‘too divisive to the body of Christ,’ who am I, a straight person, to contradict them?”

So I thought I’d take a moment to address this.

It’s only natural for a few gay Christians to have a problem with NALT—or with any straight person vigorously advocating for the full inclusion of LGBT people into all aspects of Christianity. Many gay Christians coming out, or in any way asserting the validity of their sexual orientation, are in very real danger of losing or seriously damaging some of their most precious relationships. Their parents might reject them. Their family might reject them. Their friends might reject them. Their pastor might reject them. Their whole church might reject them.

Their lives might crumble.

Gay Christians may or may not be worried about the “the body of the church” being divided. But a great many of them are legitimately worried about their entire lives being fractured into a million pieces. So of course their instinct is to tread with caution. Rushing, or on this issue at all appearing militant, could have disastrous consequences for them.

That particular concern is not mine at all. It can’t be. I’m straight. Save the approbation of the occasional fundy blog troll, fighting for gay rights costs me nothing.

Being a straight Christian makes me morally obliged to combat the evil of Christian anti-gay bigotry. It does so because standing up against bullies is always the right thing to do, because Jesus calls us to defend the unjustly persecuted, and because it sickens me that the religion which bears the name of Christ has been for so long so radically perverted by anti-gay Christians.

I understand that some gay Christians might want to take the LGBT-Christianity debate slowly. But that’s no excuse for me to do the same. When you’re being bullied, picked on, denigrated, and maligned, you want people to unequivocally stand up for you, to defend you, to help right the wrong being done to you. You might not be ideally situated to mount a defense of yourself, of course. But that doesn’t mean you don’t want others stepping up to defend you.

If people in the majority don’t defend people in the minority who are being persecuted, no justice is possible. That’s never changed. It never will.

What we all want to do is make sure that we personally are on the right side of history.

For years I heard from straight Christians who desired a national platform from which they could proclaim their unqualified affirmation of LGBT people. As a result I and my friends at Truth Wins Out created the NALT platform.

Doing that was my job.

If you’re a straight, LGBT-affirming Christian, consider your opportunity to make a NALT video. If for some reason you’d rather not (and, frankly, personal vanity and/or an unwillingness to learn the simple steps it takes to make a video doesn’t count), then please consider doing something real and active and visible to champion the cause of gay people.

If you’re a straight Christian, you’ve got the power. God is watching how you use it. And, perhaps even more importantly, so are all the gay people yearning for a time when they don’t need defending at all.

 

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Matt

    I’m certainly watching. And I never fail to be excited about the straight Christians who contribute to the NALT project, however awkward they may perceive themselves to be. They give me plenty of reason to be proud. Those who stay silent, obviously, I’m less impressed with. Do they have any idea how tiring it is to constantly look over one’s shoulder? Obviously not, or mere vanity would never stop them.

    As conservative Christians realize that being anti-LGB is less acceptable and dependable than it used to be, they’re starting to turn their attention to transgender people. So straight Christians can not only speak up for gay youth, but trans youth who are even more vulnerable. We don’t have to leave the trans community to fend for itself. We can learn our lessons and prevent harm. That’s the kind of power straight Christians have, if they would wield it.

    • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

      Blessings to you, Matt!

  • http://thethreews.wordpress.com/ Ken Leonard

    Vanity?

    Heck, people … If I can make a video, odds are that you can, too. Really.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Ken! Your video so completely rocks:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al5VWY9izh4

      • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

        Well done, Ken. :)

    • https://elizabeth-fullerton.squarespace.com/resume Elizabeth

      So true. I’d never even used a webcam. I couldn’t find the software on my laptop. It’s really idiot-proof, and it paid me back 10-fold in other ways.

      • Matt

        I loved both your video and Ken’s!

        • https://elizabeth-fullerton.squarespace.com/resume Elizabeth

          I loved them all. Truly. Some were slickly produced, some were famous, and some were just folks who sat in their homes and spoke from the heart. Next, the day when you can make yours without fear of reprisal. Watch. :)

          • Matt

            That day is hardly coming soon. I can’t even think that far, there are so many things big and small that have to happen first. But I will see it, and it will be awesome for sure!

  • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

    I’ll say it loudly and proudly: I’m a man who is both Christian and gay. It’s not easy to make that declaration in either the Christian community or the gay community.

    In the Church, traditionalist theology engenders the stigmatization and marginalization of people like me. The theology pathologizes people who are gay. It says that gay relationships are inferior and immoral, and that the suffering of gay people is necessary for the flourishing of humanity. The Church abuse of gay people is as unsurprising as it is heartbreaking.

    In the queer community, the hurt runs deep. Religion-induced self loathing nearly erased many of us (and sadly ended the lives of so many others). Family rejection and abandonment has been emotionally devastating to many. The Church shouts it’s disapproval of us from the rooftops – Christian organizations spread vile lies about us, work to criminalize us, and fight for the right to discriminate against us in employment, housing, and commerce – all in the name of Christ. It’s unsurprising that sharing my faith is, to many in the queer community, an act of treason.

    The bitter fruit of traditionalist theology is undeniable. Look back at the carnage along the road. I say it often: if the Church is serious about loving gay people, we must change our theology – we must believe differently. That’s why NALT is so important.

    The objections about divisiveness are utterly unfounded. By far, the loudest voices in this conversation are the ones that judge and condemn gay people – the Catholic Church, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, Rick Warren, John Piper, Thabiti Anyabwile, Mark Driscoll, and the list goes on. Local pulpits too often echo these destructive voices. Pew-sitting Christians who don’t speak up are giving tacit approval to these voices; worse, they’re allowing this to be the only witness of the Church.

    Silence is assent.

    The NALT project is prophetic. It allows Christians to speak out against the abuses of the Church. It shows Christians a way to believe in a way that doesn’t cause harm. And it’s a balm to those who we have wounded so deeply.

    I am profoundly grateful and humbled by those who’ve had the courage to speak up. I know that, in many congregations, being an ally carries a heavy cost. But it’s so important. To any Christian who believes the harm must end, I implore you to join me in making a NALT video.

  • Bill Steffenhagen

    I have presented John Shore on my facebook page 3 times. So c’mon now, everybody. Put him on your facebook pages. Let the world see and hear.

  • Liya

    John, as much as I LOVE the idea you should broaden up the call a little, IMHO. Not everybody likes making videos of selves, it’s just the fact. Its not vanity, it can just be shyness for some. NALT can also use great short essays that us NALTs can do and present, or how about lets express our belief in a picture, in a poem, in a photo, in a humorous piece, in a support sign well designed to make a point clear.

    • Matt

      Liya, I like that you’re trying to accommodate those supporters who are shy. The fact remains that I’m shy too. But shyness doesn’t prevent bravery or courage. It doesn’t keep me from speaking up when I can, and I even began to make a video, then scrapped it. Fear of not being hired for a job (any job), or be allowed to go to nursing school is what keeps me quiet there. That’s why the short NALT videos are some of my favorites, because they are a clear message that nothing is going to stop allies from speaking up for what’s right–not even themselves.

      What’s more, I think that the videos give a much-needed human quality to the support. A poem, a letter, a picture can be absolutely well-meant and well-done, but there is just something about hearing another person’s warm tone of voice, seeing their brilliant smile, and receiving the words from their own lips that speaks directly to hurting people. For some of the people watching the videos, it may be the first affirming words that they’ve ever had from another person.

      • Liya

        sure, sure. I am not saying do something else at the expense of making videos. But in today’s world numbers matter, and he needs to expand the website and mainly, NALT facebook likes and posts :) Yes, we should speak in support as much as we can.

        • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

          Liya: I’m only one person; and I run two blogs (and am very busy dealing with a bunch of NALT-related stuff). I simply don’t have time to solicit, vet, edit, and present written testimonies. As I said in the post, my job, as I saw it, was to envision the site, create it, bring on board the organizations I did with it, launch it, and then bring it whatever attention I and my partners could. I spent months and no small amount of money making NALT what it is. And I’m still working hard, behind-the-scenes, to make of NALT what I know it will yet become.

          If you’d like to see NALT’s “numbers” increase, I of course welcome you to do anything you’d like to help make that happen. But NALT was never meant to be a one-man show. Either the community of LGBT-affirming Christians steps up to support and use NALT, or, for whatever reason, they don’t. I can’t control that part of the NALT equation; I wouldn’t even want to try.

          • Liya

            All right then. You doing a wonderful job, and good luck in the future.

  • lymis

    “Divisive” isn’t always a bad thing.

    Outspoken anti-slavery advocates were divisive in the Christian community of the time. So were people who advocated women’s voting and legal ownership of property, and later, people who made it clear they felt women had a right to more public and official involvement in the church, such as being pastors.

    Not having those discussions, or worse, hiding or keeping silent about the issues because it might upset people who are okay with the status quo would have been morally wrong.

    And yes, John, thanks for specifically pointing out that sometimes, it’s the people who have less to lose from a backlash who need to take some of the lead on the issue – gay people have to balance their own dignity and experience with the potential cost of standing up for ourselves, in ways that straight allies don’t.

    And often, people are only able to hear things from people they see as “one of us” rather than as “other.” A lot of white people were (and sadly, some still are) only able to hear messages of racial inclusion from other white people, A lot of people who take for granted that all gay people are degenerate moral perverts by choice, out to consciously destroy all that is good in society, simply aren’t going to hear a message of inclusion from gay people.

    And often, those of us who have been most deeply hurt are less able to express our truth without anger, and an “objective” ally may be able to straddle that divide better than we can.

    If discussion of treating your neighbor as a real human being with genuine feelings, experiences and rights, and as a real Child of God just the way they are is “divisive,” then its a division that needs to happen.


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