By now many of you have seen the NALT project co-founded by John Shore and Evan Hurst. But just in case, NALT stands for Not All Like That – meaning that not all Christians are like “that”. Like what you ask? Well you know the type, the Pat Roberston, Tony Perkins et al type – the ones who I write about often, the ones who are judgmental, the ones who promote ex-gay ministry, the one’s who are most likely to be seen skulking around the scene of a bible drive-by. The NALT project, inspired by the It Gets Better project, invites Christians to share a video of themselves explaining to the world that not all Christians are homophobic fundamentalists with a cherry-picked, semi-literal scriptural ax to grind.
As I imagine you know, this is a controversial project. There are many Christians and, well a lot of others, who are celebrating the bold stand to take back a faith that has been hijacked by willful ignorance and political power-brokering. And there are many Christians and otherwise loving and tender people who reject this project as a polarizing and alienating move that pits Christian against Christian – which can equate to embattled and wounded families and really not move us forward in true kingdom building.
One such voice of dissent, a dear friend and wise soul, Alison Amyx, senior editor of Believe Out Loud, has written a lovely and intelligent open letter that challenges the NALT project. Alison says,
The truth is, all of us are a little bit “like that.” When I am honest with myself, I know I still hold stereotypes and participate in systems of oppression. The “us vs. them” narrative in the NALT framework erases people who are still on their journey toward inclusion.
At its worst, this negative framework encourages the bullying of Christians and others who disagree with our stance on LGBTQ equality. I have already seen the effects of this in online spaces as people who disagree with NALT’s message are pushed out of the conversation.
I am an ally to many communities, and I know overcoming internalized oppression is a difficult and lifelong journey. My own coming out was my first act of undermining homophobia, and I take steps every day to challenge the many internalized -isms I have been taught my entire life.
Saying we are “not like those other Christians” is a lie; these systems of oppression are deeply rooted in all of us. As Christians, we are called to overcome these systems in both ourselves and our communities as we work to build love and inclusion into our churches, our denominations, and our world.
Now as you can imagine I have mixed feelings about all of this. I shared those mixed feeling both with Alison and with folks via my FB timeline. Here are my first musings:
Hmmmm, I have to think about this a bit more. I agree with everything Alison says AND I agree with some of the people who disagree with her.
First, Alison is right, not all who still hold that gay and lesbian “behavior” is “sinful” are anywhere close to behaving like Pat Robertson and his cronies. Many are good and loving people who truly and deeply believe they are trying to save our souls, which if we look at it is really, radically loving even if it is dangerously misguided.
BUT – for some people it may be vital, life saving in fact, for them to hear that there are people of faith who do not believe LGBT folks are going to hell. And for some it may be necessary for them to hear us push back on those who have used the bible as a weapon for far too long. For some people it may be the very first time ever that a Christian has said clearly and faithfully that the faith-bullies out there do not represent all Christians and in fact do not represent Jesus. I do agree that demonizing is not the answer but as you know from how I write and where I am these days there is a place and a time to call a brood of vipers just that and a place and time to say that there are some people out there who claim the name Christian who are behaving like anything but. We are at an uncomfortable juncture in the Christian trajectory where some Christians are finally getting mad and standing up to take back what has been hijacked by willful ignorance at best and misguided power brokering at worst.
All that to say – thank you for making me think carefully and thank you for your voice in the world Alison. Much love and respect for your leadership in Believe Out Loud‘s ministry. I need to think about this a bit more…
In response to the above Facebook post, a wonderful dialog between members of my online community ensued. Heartfelt, faithful dialog that shared love and angst from both sides of the story. Daneen (co-producer of the film Seventh-Gay Adventists) and good friend Don went back and forth holding up their understanding of what is right and wrong about the NALT project.
I really appreciate both the content and character of the conversation between Daneen and Don. They represent core reasons I keep at all this craziness. We can work through complex ideas and feelings with grace and integrity and their dialog is evidence that we can disagree with love yet still hold true to our calling.
As y’all know I work pretty dang hard at bridge building in a loving and compassionate way. I am working long and hard on a post that will come out this weekend that will do a whole lot of loving and forgiving while still being very clear about what is right and wrong.
So here is where I am.
Daneen is 100% right that it is only through relationship that people’s hearts and minds are changed. And even if they are not changed the exchange itself is compassionate and healing. She is also right that we are all participants in nested oppressions. She is right that we are called to be loving and compassionate. “And, if I’m calling people to unconditional love, don’t I have to show some grace and generosity for where people are on the journey?” I am all about coming along side others who are on this crazy journey we call faith.
Don, is also 100% right. I am a Christian who has been deeply wounded, damaged even, by the kind of Christians who are not at all well intentioned and some who really believe they are well intentioned. And there are thousands of people being wounded by the same shallow rhetoric and ignorant theology right now. And I am a Christian who is sick and tired of the misrepresentation of the Gospel I love and claim. There are people who need to know that the Gospel is being misrepresented and that the dominant perception of who Christians are is only half of the story. There are people out there who believe that all Christians are hypocritical asshats and have no idea whatsoever that there are millions of us who actually take the whole “love your neighbor” thing seriously. There are millions of Christians who are really, really trying to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. I want to raise my voice and say, not all Christians are like Billy Humphrey, in fact I think that the behavior of folks like that is diametrically opposed to the love of God as revealed in the teaching, life death and resurrection of Jesus – that there are Pharisees and Scribes masquerading as followers of The Way.
Some days I am a gentle as a dove and wise as a serpent. Some days I extend a beckoning hand of tender grace. Some days I storm into the temple and overturn the tables. Both postures are holy although they may be very hard to experience and witness according to where you find yourself on the spectrum of abused or abuser.
So, I walk the line, straddled between faith and fury, between keeping the ends out for the ties that bind and keeping a close watch on this heart of mine, between being a fool to share a radical love of God that I can’t hide and trying with all my might to turn the tide.