The perils and potential of N.A.L.T. (Not All Like That)

Columnist Dan Savage has a message for “liberal Christians”:

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In this video, Savage says:

Sometimes I forget to qualify “Christian” with “fundamentalist evangelical right-wing bats–t Christian.” And I’ll write something taking “Christians” to task for their abuse of queer people. And I’ll get emails and I’ll get calls from liberal Christians, whispering in my ear, “We’re not all like that. Psst, we’re not all like that.” I call them NALTs now, for Not All Like That Christians. NALT Christians.

When possible, I try to avoid that kind of phrase — “We’re not all like that,” or “Yes, I’m a Christian, but not that kind of Christian.” I don’t like the idea of defining or identifying myself based on what I’m not — or based on what I’m against.

Plus that just seems like setting the bar way too low. There’s more to following Jesus than simply not being a right-wing batsh–t loudmouth or not abusing others. That’s a minimal threshold of human decency, not the pinnacle of discipleship.

Dan Savage wants Christians who aren’t anti-gay to stop telling him we’re Not All Like That — and to start saying it to our fellow Christians who are like that.

Also, “I’m a Christian, but not that kind of Christian” seems like the sort of thing that has to be shown rather than just said. If I put myself in a situation in which it is unclear whether or not I am an abusive loudmouth, then it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to clarify things at that point just by asserting that I’m not.

Having said all of that, “Christian” remains a vast and immensely diverse category. There are some 2.3 billion Christians in this world and there’s a great deal that we do not all agree on. Belonging to a group that large and that diverse makes it inevitable that every Christian will, at some point, need to say “We’re not all like that” about something. We may need to say it in response to inaccurate stereotypes or to broad generalizations based on someone’s limited experience with only one particular kind of Christian.

If I meet someone whose only idea of Christianity comes from seeing televangelists, it may be necessary to relieve their fears by reassuring them, “Don’t worry, we’re not all like that.” And if I meet someone whose only idea of Christianity comes from reading the Gospels or a biography of Martin Luther King Jr., it may be necessary to disappoint them by saying, “Alas, we’re not all like that.”

But there’s yet another context in which saying, “We’re not all like that” can be more than just a useful clarification. There’s a context in which Not All Like That can be a powerful tool for transformation.

When those words are said to others — to those standing outside of Christianity and looking in — then they seem at best merely practical and at worst disingenuous. But when those words are spoken within Christianity — by Christians addressing other Christians — they can be a source of hope, relief and liberation.

When spoken to other Christians, those words can be a revelation — the delightful news that there are choices, options and possibilities they may not have realized (or been allowed to realize) existed.

Dan Savage seems to understand this. He addresses his NALT Christian friends:

But the reason so many of us have the impression that you are all indeed like that, and why Christian has become synonymous with anti-gay, is because of these loud voices on the Christian right. And they’ve hijacked Christianity, with your complicit silence enabling their hijacking of it.

And you know what? Liberal Christians, you need to do something about it. You need to tell them you’re not all like that. We know — liberals, lefties, progressives, queers — we know that not all Christians are like that. The religious right: They don’t know. Tell them.

… If you’re a NALT, stand up for your beliefs, stand up for liberal Jesus. Start a dialogue with your chapels and churches. … Figure out ways you can make your place of worship, your church, a more welcoming and tolerant place.

So stop writing me and telling me that you’re Not All Like That, and start doing something about it. Start telling them you’re Not All Like That.

 

  • Darkrose

    I really, really dislike Dan Savage. But in this, he’s dead on.

  • LL

    Yes,  Christians who aren’t hateful assholes should definitely start saying these things to the ones who are. And you might want to see what you can do about getting people to represent Christianity on TV who aren’t Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen or that  jerk whose name I can’t remember who talks about how men need to be manly and women need to be submissive. 

    Those assholes are giving you all a very bad name. They’re the go-to talking heads for all the liberal elitist media. You should do something to change that. Maybe bombard them with angry calls every time you see one of those jerks on TV “representing” you. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    When possible, I try to avoid that kind of phrase — “We’re not all like that,” or “Yes, I’m a Christian, but not that kind of Christian.” I don’t like the idea of defining or identifying myself based on what I’m not — or based on what I’m against.

    This reminds me of all the Communists who keep trying to insist that the Soviet Union was “deformed state capitalist”.

    Sure, the USSR wasn’t what Karl Marx intended, and to a great extent Stalin’s influence can be seen in why Communism gets a bad rap, but the fact that the political-ecomomic doctrine lent itself so well to that kind of abuse is something that can’t be ignored.

    There is a lesson for the “NALT” Christians there.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Part of the problem is that right-wing arsehats seem to be the mainstream media’s definition of Christianity – covering every word that oozes out of Pat Robertson’s mouth, for instance. Part of it may be because quoting hateful arsehats garners ratings where quoting peaceful live-and-let-live types does not; part of it may be that a lot of hateful arsehats have money and celebrity status.

    How do liberal Christians wrest the megaphone back from rich right-wing arsehats purporting to represent Christianity with their publicity teams and their mainstream media magnetism? How does someone like Fred go up against the celebrities like Pat Robertson – other than by doing what he’s already doing, which is being a constant voice on the internet doing exactly what Dan Savage wants to take him to task for not doing? How can he do it more effectively without cooperation from pundits, media moguls, etc.?

    I’m not making excuses with this, but I am trying to highlight a problem with Dan Savage’s criticism: in many cases, liberal Christians are already doing exactly what he claims they aren’t; and the extent to which they aren’t able to do it LOUDER and IN FRONT OF MILLIONS with THE BACKING OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS is something I’m stumped as to how to correct.

  • Daughter

     The same criticism is often lodged at moderate Muslims for not challenging the extremists. But many of them do; their voices just aren’t heard.

  • Darkrose

    I think some of it is that the liberal Christians hold themselves to ethical standards, while many of the extremist are willing to bully and scream and lie until theirs are the only voices anyone can hear.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    FWIW, if someone were to assert that Haredim were typical of Judaism and therefore judged me on the basis of their actions, I would consider that person simply mistaken, and I would not feel compelled to contact the Haredim at that point to let them know they don’t represent me as a Jew.

    If ten people were to assert that, the same is true. Ditto for a hundred.

    It’s not clear to me how many people have to believe that Haredim represent Judaism before it becomes my job, not to explain to them that they’re wrong, but to accept their judgment and concentrate my attention on changing how the Haredim behave.

    Or, for that matter, why there should be some threshold number of people that has that property in the first place.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I have to wonder if his point isn’t “Get out there and prove your existence,” but “Stop telling us already. We know you exist, and we know you don’t like being lumped in together with them. But that’s how you’re viewed by the outside, so that’s how you’re going to be addressed. Stop telling us you don’t like it and go tell THEM.” 

    Because complaining that the Right doesn’t represent everyone doesn’t really do anything except let the complainer get offense of their chest. But if that person were to use that energy to add to the effort of getting the NALTs heard, eventually it’ll be too big to ignore. 

  • Morilore

    It’s not clear to me how many people have to believe that Haredim represent Judaism before it becomes my job, not to explain to them that they’re wrong, but to accept their judgment and concentrate my attention on changing how the Haredim behave.

    It’s not about the number of people, it’s about the power relationship.  If one is part of a hegemonic group in a given society, the responsibility to make sure that group doesn’t hurt others outweighs the responsibility to protect it from others, because it endangers others more than others endanger it.

  • Darkrose

    Imagine you were a white person in Tennessee in the 1960′s. You, personally, haven’t lynched anyone, you’re not in the Klan, and you’ve actually used “Mr.” or “Mrs.” when talking to a black person. You genuinely believe that Jim Crow is not a good thing. But when you have a chance to stand with the Freedom Riders publically, you choose to stay quiet other than to say “Hey, now, all white Southerners aren’t like that!”

    That’s kind of what I feel like sometimes. Of course all Christians aren’t Fred Phelps. But just saying that isn’t enough. If you want to actually show solidarity, then you have to make it clear what you stand for other than “Not as bad as those guys over there.” 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    I think this is a more general problem, though: it isn’t limited to Christianity, religion, or conservatism.  The most extreme people in a group tend to be the loudest, and the loudest people tend to get heard more often.  Hence there’s a tendency for people with more extreme views than the group as a whole to nonetheless tend to become the public face of the group.

  • Worthless Beast

    I’ve found a lot of NALT moments in my life - and not always about religion.

    One of these that was: I was visiting some of my fiance’s realitives and an evening conversation cropped up about politics and theocrats – most members of this family are a mix of agnostic, Pagan and Buddhist.  I wound up speaking up that I “followed Christ” but wasn’t into church and pretty much had the same thoughts on the theocrats as they did.  This is not something that would have come up unless there had been a conversation specifically about it already going on, complete with eding toward stertopes.  My fiancee had a NALT-moment then, too, when he said “Um, I’m a Republican.”  (To be fair, I don’t think he’s actually *voted* Republican in a long time, he’s really more Independant/equal opprotunity critic of politics in spirit)…

    I sometimes feel like screaming “NAAAAAAALT!” to the world whenever I see the news handle a mass murder tragedy because it seems like they play a game of “Was the gunman gregarious with loads of friends? – Ooooh! How could this even happen?” / “Was the gunman a shy loner?  Oh, that’s just typical troubled loner behavior!”  — Posting junk on blogs on the Interent is about as social as I get most days.  I am an introvert, some might even say slightly misanthropic – No, world, I do not stockpile guns or plan the downfall of my neighborhood.  I stockpile books and movies. This is another kind of sterotype… but… no, Not All Loners Are Like That.

    Let’s talk about mental illness.  I have one.  One of the “still can function at least somewhat” ones – bipolar disorder.  Again, I do not stockpile guns.  I understand the difference between dream and reality even if I’m a tad emotional.  I will not hurt you unless you try to hurt me first. Also, you do not need to condesend to me and speak to me like I am a child.  Not All Like That.  

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I get a bit uncomfortable saying “The ‘good’ christians need to police their own and take responsibility for calling the hateful ones out,” because, like, if I said “The good atheists need to police their own and take responsibility for calling the hateful ones out.” it would be a fucking flamewar in here.

  • Aliciabrighton

    You could also get active politically. There is a definite tendency in US society at least to essentially surrender terms like “morals” and “values” and “faith” to extremely conservative / reactionary types. It’s reached the point where it’s almost too easy to assume that identifying as an “evangelical Christian” means that you also oppose the estate tax, support lowering the top marginal tax rates, support increased spending on the military, oppose EPA regulations on carbon emissions, back the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, oppose federal spending on high-speed rail initiatives, and want to repeal the PPACA. Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with these positions from a Biblical perspective, but it’s disturbing that the media can comfortably portray all of these things are being more or less directly from the Bible, as if Ronald Reagan was allowed to publish a new apocrypha while no one was looking.

    It would be very helpful if we could decouple  conservatism and right-wing politics from Christianity; if non- right-wing Christians would get involved visibly in the political arena, it might help out that image. It would make it easier to show people that, yes, you can be Christian and left-wing or Christian and centrist or Christian and feminist or Christian an environmentalist, just like how you can be Christian and right-wing or Christian and libertarian or Christian and fundamentalist — you’re free to choose and there isn’t that bizarre inextricable link between a certain set of purely secular political positions and a dominant religion.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     I get a bit uncomfortable saying “The ‘good’ christians need to police
    their own and take responsibility for calling the hateful ones out,”
    because, like, if I said “The good atheists need to police their own and
    take responsibility for calling the hateful ones out.” it would be a
    fucking flamewar in here.

    Depends.  There are two basic responses to this:

    1.  Right about the time atheists actually get enough political power to deny rights to people because they don’t like ‘em, we’ll talk about the need for atheists to police their own.

    2.  By the same token, I’m an atheist but I don’t generally self-identify as an atheist because, holy shit, there are a lot of annoying atheists out there.

    But that gets back to point number one.  There’s a huge different between, say, PZ Myers, who increasingly pissed me off until I stopped reading his blog and Pat Robertson.  One of them has his own TV network and is part of a group that holds an entire political party under its sway.

    The fact is, though, that I can’t do anything about PZ Myers or Pat Robertson.  Assholes gonna be assholes, I suppose.  So, really, Dan Savage’s entire point becomes a fool’s errand.  What needs to happen is that Pat Robertson needs to be put at a point where his religious belief has exactly the same political power as PZ Myers’ lack of religious belief.

  • Dana

    Kudos to Dan Savage here.

    In his position, it’d be really easy to be prejudiced against religious people generally. I see a lot of people who want to insist that Christianity intrinsically = whatever the worst possible expressions of so-called Christianity show up in our society, and scoffing at liberal Christians who suggest otherwise. I can even sympathize with that response, to an extent, given that it’s coming from people who have been wronged by Christians and aren’t seeing much or any of its good forms in the world around them.

    Dan’s willingness to take people at their word that they’re both (genuinely) pro-equality and (genuinely) Christian is much appreciated.

    That said, I think he might overestimate how much a liberal Christian might be able to do. If we try to speak up and say “that’s not Christianity” to conservative Christians, those conservative Christians are not going to be interested in what we have to say.

    When scores of mainstream churches, representing a large percentage of America’s churchgoing population, get together and sign off on a document supporting marriage equality, this barely gets a mention in the media. But the folks speaking against gay marriage get lots of air time. So even when liberal Christians are trying to speak out and are doing so in massive numbers, the message that the country as a whole is getting is that “Christians are opposed to gay marriage.” When the narrative is already set and the media marginalizes attempts to change that narrative, it’s hard to see how those liberal Christians are at fault, because despite their best efforts their voices aren’t given the same attention as the anti-gay crowd’s.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    You don’t think it’s at all different when we’re talking about the (by far) most privileged religious group in North America (and many other places on the planet, lest I get flamed for inclusion/exclusion of other nations)?  You don’t think it’s at all different when we’re talking about a group with an almost unbelievable level of power and influence, the “norm” for so much of society, versus a minority?

  • Pseudonym

    Daughter, you are so right about that. Every week we hear about another rocket attack, or terrorist incident, or some unfortunate young woman in the wrong place at the wrong time being sentenced by a provincial judge to some horriffic punishment, in the Middle East. But we never hear about the significant nonviolent resistance movements there.

    The problem with Dan Savage’s suggestion is manyfold, but the main one is that “they” don’t listen to “us”, either, and moreover, “they” are taught not to listen to us because we’re evil deceivers or something. We’re all up for some interfaith dialogue, because that actually works if everyone wants it to work. “They” don’t want to be in on it.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that we’ve got our own programming which stops us from doing this at times. Those of us on the Christian left tend to shun the whole “us” and “them” dichotomy, after all. Moreover, we get very nervous of engaging in anything which could potentially result in sectarian conflict.

    I know my history. Most of us here do. Christians fighting Christians never ends well. We’d rather not repeat that.

  • Pseudonym

    That last point is very important. If we had millions of dollars to spend, pretty much none of us would waste it on buying cable TV channels. We’d fix the leak in the manse’s roof and spend the rest on the poor, homeless and hungry.

  • j_anson

    Yeah, I love Dan Savage, but when he says this stuff I find it super-frustrating. My church, the US Episcopal Church, has been courting schism with the broader Anglican Communion for a while now largely BECAUSE we are vocally defending gays; it’s certainly caused a lot of upheaval within the US church because some of our members didn’t like hearing that, but we were saying it anyway.

    The frank fact is, there ARE a lot of liberal Christians who ARE making a point of speaking out about this. But when you’re going for sheer volume of response, screaming spittle-flecked bigotry just has a natural advantage over reasoned, compassionate, inclusive messages. It’s easier to hear. It’s more memorable. And it gets more news coverage.

    I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with encouraging more liberal Christians to try harder – that is always a good thing, of course. But I find it frustrating that Dan Savage divides Christians into 1) the bad ones, and 2) the ones that don’t do anything.

  • Ben English

    Part of the problem is that the media itself, liberal and conservative alike, has narrowly defined Christianity in the public discourse. It’s not just the ‘issues’ like abortion and gay marriage: Christianity in the popular consciousness is all about not having sex, using drugs, or boozing it up. It’s about pretending you don’t even thinking about sex unless it’s strictly with your heterosexual spouse, about setting yourself apart from the world by watching terrible alternative movies and avoiding Harry Potter and Twilight and all sort of other ‘DON’T DO THIS’ bullshit. And about getting sweaty and loud for Jesus and crossing yourself and saying ‘ave Maria’ but not ever, ever, challenging the status quo.

    Meanwhile the mainline Christians look, to those inside the Evangelical bubble, like pretenders and fakes. After all, they don’t adhere to the tribal markers!

  • j_anson

    Oh no! Now you’ve said it! :)

  • esmerelda_ogg

    I think he might overestimate how much a liberal Christian might be able to do.

    Well, yeah. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across right-wing Christians casually remarking that of course Episcopalians aren’t real Christians, generally because we don’t marginalize LGBT people. So the likelihood that Pat Robertson and company would pay the least attention to anything we say? Does. Not. Exist.

    Trying to get the point across in the mainstream media has a slightly better chance of working, though as others have noted the media usually prefers to report the most outrageous and offensive positions they can find; drama sells.

  • lawrence090469

    I used to be an Episcopalian, a Sunday school teacher, a vestry member, a Republican. I am none of those things now. I learned, from Evid3nce on Youtube, that I have been an atheist by technicality since I decided God does not answer prayers. I have a decent speech about why I think that. Sam Harris gives a much better one, in that one clip where he is using William Lane Craig for a punching bag. As an Episcopalian Deist, my real deconversion started in Bush 43′s first term. It started with my raw revulsion of the Religious right, and my anger with Christian moderates for letting them frame Christianity uncontested. And I don’t believe for a minute that if the leaders of the Episcopal and Methodist denominations held a press conference where they declared that the Cardinal of Rome is a criminal, James Dobson a heretic and a fiend and the fundraising arm of the vile Dominionist movement, that the press would refuse to tell the story. It would be huge news. There are many reasons why this does not happen. One is that there is always a few crabby old fossils in every congregation who are still bitching about using the “new” book of common prayer, and who reject modernity generally but are culturally attached to their denomination. And they put money in the plate every Sunday. More than young parents can spare. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I understand your feeling that way, or at least I think I do.

    And I agree that making it clear what I stand for as a non-extremist Jew is an important part of dealing with extremist elements within Judaism.

    That said, I think the way I do that is by talking about what I think Judaism is, and about what I value, and by living my life visibly as a Jew.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Agreed.

  • James Probis

    I think the real issue Dan has is that the overwhelming majority of those who _claim_ to be “liberal” Christians only ever say that when they are yet again bitching at a gay person who showed just the slightest bit of anger at being treated like shit. People always manage to stand up and self-righteously proclaim how strongly they support gay rights when it comes to yet again shutting some uppity faggot up, but they never seem to bring up their supposed support of equality at any other time.

    To hear Christians tell it every church in the country must be open and accepting, and Christians can barely walk down the street without tripping over all their gay friends.

    If every Christian who self-righteously tries to silence gay people whenever we speak up were a member of Soulforce, we wouldn’t have a problem with the religious right in this country. The problem is that the vast, vast majority of those Christians who proclaim how much they support gay rights never, ever _do_ anything about it. Hell, I _know_ people who proclaim themselves to be pro-gay Christians who have sat silently in the pews while gay people are demeaned from the pulpit. That doesn’t seem very pro-gay to me.

  • James Probis

    And for all those Christians congratulating yourselves for being so reasonable and refusing to show the slightest bit of anger towards bigots: where does that reasonableness go when you’re talking about people like Dan Savage? I have seen _plenty_ of spittle flecked rage directed at him from Christians who claim they aren’t anti-gay.

  • Ben English

     On the other hand, I think it would be a good deal easier for them to resist the hateful ones, considering atheism doesn’t have two millenia of dogma and tradition, or the fundamentalist brainwashing apparatus that any progressive Christians will run smack dab into when confronting hateful believers.

  • Ben English

    Are you addressing anyone in particular on this blog? Because anger against bigots is a pretty common theme here.

  • James Probis

    I’m addressing the idea that somehow Every single Christian is a special snowflake. I’m addressing the idea that gay people are never, ever allowed to show the slightest bit of anger at being spit on by bigots without a million Christians crawling out of the woodwork to berate them and declare “were not all like that!”

    I would just like to see supposedly moderate Christians show the slightest bit of the irrational rage they show whenever people like Dan Savage speak up directed against the bigots who are destroying families and lives. I would like for “were not all like that” to be something more than a self-congratulatory deflection of legitimate complaints.

  • Ben English

    I agree with you. It’s just… nobody here is saying the things your railing against. Hence the confusion.

  • James Probis

    Maybe nobody _here_  is saying that, it sure as hell happens a lot though. And I was explaining _why_ Savage made the statement he did. This is essentially a rephrasing of what he said in response to being endlessly smeared by supposedly moderate Christians in response to a group of Christian students making a huge show of marching out of a speech he gave.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    The frank fact is, there ARE a lot of liberal Christians who ARE making a point of speaking out about this. But when you’re going for sheer volume of response, screaming spittle-flecked bigotry just has a natural advantage over reasoned, compassionate, inclusive messages. It’s easier to hear. It’s more memorable. And it gets more news coverage.

    I was a member of the United Methodist church before I became UU and there’s also a large pro-gay movement in the UMC as well.  Unfortunately they have so far been unsucessful, but there are people in the church actively trying to change things.

    So when Savage writes, “So stop writing me and telling me that you’re Not All Like That, and start doing something about it. Start telling them you’re Not All Like That,” my response is… people ARE telling them.  People ARE doing something about it.

    However, unless the pro-gay Christians start “doing something about it” by killing people or beating people or driving people to suicide, they’re not going to be anywhere near as visible as the anti-gay folks, because “Minister gives excellent sermon on why they think homosexuality is NOT inconsistent with Christian teaching” or “Minister counsels gay youth that God loves him and there’s nothing wrong with being gay” doesn’t make for exciting headline news.

    I mean, don’t get me wrong.  One of the reasons I don’t see myself ever going back to the UMC is that I’ve decided that if your church wouldn’t let an openly gay minister marry a gay couple, I don’t want to swear to uphold it with “my prayers, my presence, my gifts, and my service”.   The fact that so little headway is being made is a bad thing.  But it’s not because there are no liberal Christians fighting for acceptance of gays.

     Should there be more?  Sure.  Do people keep their mouths shut because they’re afraid of being shunned by their congregation when I wish they would speak out anyway?  Yeah.  But there ARE Christians who are doing something, and a non-trivial number of them, too.

  • Keromaru5

    To be honest, I’ve gotten frustrated in the Episcopal Church, partly because my old parish has become “NALT” to a big degree.  Actually, not just “Not all like that,” but “Thank God we’re not like that,” which I find incredibly arrogant and condescending.  That was the tone of the last sermon I heard there, about how great it was that they get to read skeptical authors like Spong.  It’s also what I felt at another service, when a nave full of middle-aged and elderly white people sang a negro spiritual.  Yes, let’s pat ourselves on the back for how progressive we are!  We’re not like those people.

    It’s a risky spiritual road to tread.  It’s almost literally the prayer of the Pharisee: “The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector….  But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

  • Keromaru5

    And of course, I screw up the boldface.  Phooey.  

  • James Probis

     You know what the news tends to cover? _Disagreement_.

    I can guarantee that if a bunch of Christians were to muster the sort of self-righteous haranguing you direct at people like Dan Savage the news would cover it. If a denomination were to proclaim from the pulpit that Pat Robertson is wrong and that he is harming people and that such harm is something that must be opposed- that would get news coverage.

    There is a hell of a lot of middle ground between nodding along with a pro-equality sermon and driving conservative Christians to suicide.

    There are groups like Soulforce who actually _do_ something about equality. Imagine if every Christian who self-righteously goes off on a rant because some gay person somewhere got a bit upset were a member of Soulforce. Imagine if a rant like this were directed against every single anti-gay Christian.

    Don’t tell me you’re better than the bigots because you don’t get angry. Your reaction to people who have a problem with religiously motivated homophobia demonstrates you are perfectly capable of anger. You just choose to direct that anger at people like Dan Savage rather than at the bigots who destroy lives.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Should there be more?  Sure.  Do people keep their mouths shut because they’re afraid of being shunned by their congregation when I wish they would speak out anyway?  Yeah.  But there ARE Christians who are doing something, and a non-trivial number of them, too.

    Absolutely, and more power to them.
    I know many, and they are deserving of praise.
    And, yes, there should be more.
    And, yes, people do keep their mouths shut, and that silence causes suffering.

  • stardreamer42

    This has always puzzled me, because another thing that’s guaranteed to get ratings is controversy. Wouldn’t showing the disagreement between left-wing and right-wing Christianity be good for that? Especially if the left-wingers were specifically saying, “We’re not all like that, and this guy does not represent either us or mainstream Christian thought”?

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    I can guarantee … If a denomination were to proclaim from the pulpit that Pat Robertson is wrong and that he is harming people and that such harm is something that must be opposed- that would get news coverage.

    Has happened in several congregations, actually. Didn’t hear about it? That’s because it didn’t get news coverage.

  • stardreamer42

     Well… there has been some noticeable pushback against Dawkins for being a misogynist prick. I’d say that counts toward “atheists policing their own”.

  • Keromaru5

    “Wouldn’t showing the disagreement between left-wing and right-wing Christianity be good for that?”See, I’m not convinced it’s really all that newsworthy.  Just look at how much disagreement there is in Christianity already.  Protestants disagree with Catholics on the authority of the Pope.  The Pope disagrees with everyone not in the Magisterium.  Pat Robertson certainly isn’t going to care what Episcopalians or Lutherans or Methodists think.  And the Orthodox regularly criticize Catholics and Protestants alike for their respective heterodoxies.  It’s not that remarkable.Just take the Episcopal Church: it has ordained gay bishops and a woman as Presiding Bishop, and thrown the rest of the Anglican Communion into an existential crisis.  At this last General Convention, it approved rites for same sex blessings and canons for transgender priests.  Now the diocese of South Carolina has broken away from TEC.  How much coverage has this gotten?  It may get headlines for a day or two, but what else, beyond that?

  • stardreamer42

    Unfortunately, it only takes 1 side to make a fight — and an awful lot of the hate-based Christians have no qualms at all about taking on those they see as “not Christian enough“. If they ever do come to the secular power they covet, being Christian will not save you.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     I also think part of the problem is that people don’t really know what they can or should do.

    Like I said, I used to be United Methodist, and despite their being a large pro-gay movement in the UMC the organization as a whole is definitely NOT one of the good guys when it comes to acceptance of homosexuality in mainline Protestant churches.

    Now, this is my personal experience and may very well not be representative, but as a straight person I have to say the number of times I’ve heard someone express an anti-gay sentiment in a UMC church (let alone from a position of authority) is exactly never.  (In fact my general experience is that the sermons, etc in the UMC tend to shy away from any topic that might create any sort of controversy whatsoever, but YMMV.)

    Now I expect that my experience would have been totally different had I been gay, but I’m assuming the suggestion that pro-gay liberal Christians need to do something isn’t directed primarily at gay Christians.  So the question is, as a pro-gay straight Christian in an organization that I know is anti-gay, but never hears the issue actually addressed in church because that might upset someone and half the worship committee is already mad of the other half over whether the “contemporary” service is too contemporary so goodness knows we don’t want to make any more trouble… what should I do?

    I mean, personally I left (and the UMC’s anti-gay stance was one reason, though not the only one) but for someone who’s not prepared to leave… then what?

    Giving people suggestions about WHAT to do will get a lot more people doing things than just telling them they should “do something” will.  (And of course “what to do” is probably not going to be a one-size-fits-all-Christians thing, but will vary by denomination.)

    I’m afraid I personally don’t have clever suggestions along these lines.  (I never really understood how the power structure in the UMC worked except that I didn’t have any.)

  • stardreamer42

     One of my gay friends, who is out to his family and has found them quite supportive and loving, once told me about his sister mentioning that the pastor in her church had given a pretty strongly anti-gay sermon… but “we just didn’t say anything”.

    He was pissed. I was livid on his behalf. If that doesn’t count as betrayal, what the hell does?

  • http://snarkthebold.blogspot.com/ Edo

    Wouldn’t showing the disagreement between left-wing and right-wing
    Christianity be good for that?

    No.

    You’re assuming that our dissent would be both perceived and portrayed as legitimate and representative of an alternate vision of Christianity. No such thing would occur: the portrayal would be of an opinion as fringe and sectarian as snake-fondling or Old Order Amish dress codes.

    It would then be immediately followed up by the rightists dogpiling whatever poor bastard did most of the speaking in that disagreement (which would get reported), and the poor bastard’s own denomination being forced to either purge them or tear themselves apart as their own tame rightists break away (which would also get reported.)

    And then, just to salt the wounds, Ross Douthat and his ilk would write a bunch of patronizing homilies to the tune of “LOL, f*cking liberal churches aren’t Biblical and [deserve to] die because of it,” and those would also get published.

    In the same way the official story of the 2012 election was a horse race with Romney at least neck-and-neck with Obama, the official story of American Christendom is that liberal churches are dying, and more importantly, ought to die.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     Exactly.  Entire denominations are breaking up over this very issue, with minimal news coverage.

    Why no news coverage?  I don’t know.  Just like I don’t know why we get news coverage of the latest celebrity pregnancy instead of news coverage of famine or genocide or civil unrest in other parts of the world.  And just like I don’t  know why we got news coverage of the latest candidate “gaffe” instead of actual substantial coverage of the issues at stake in the election.  And.. well, I could go on, but that’s another discussion altogether (and one I suspect I’d be preaching to the choir about here).

  • James Probis

     There are groups like Soulforce who actually take action to promote equality. When anti-gay churches shell out millions of dollars to promote discriminatory laws I don’t think a few sermons counteracts that.

    I just get the feeling a _lot_ of the Christians who get all bent out of shape whenever someone like Dan Savage speaks up really don’t comprehend that we are talking about injustice being done in the name of their faith. They seem to think a few pretty words counteract the real world action anti-gay Christians take to cause harm to people.

    Anti-gay Christians buy ad time to promote their hate. The few Christian groups promoting equality have their ads rejected by supposedly liberal Christian magazines like Sojourners. And really that is the perfect example of what I’m talking about: supposedly liberal Christian magazine Sojourners rejected pro-equality advertisements because they didn’t want to upset their readership.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

      Well… there has been some noticeable pushback against Dawkins for
    being a misogynist prick. I’d say that counts toward “atheists policing
    their own”.

    Oh, I totally agree with you.  I think the atheists do police their own to a certain extent.  It’s just that I also don’t think it matters much.

    When I was still a Christian I bought into the whole “Richard Dawkins is a fire-breathing asshole” thing that got leveled against him.  Then I stopped being a Christian and realized that Dawkins, at least when he’s talking about atheism and religion as a whole, is a complete and total gentleman.  After Elevatorgate I found out that he’s a misogynistic asshole, but that doesn’t take away from my impression that he’s an English gentleman, but an English gentleman who has a spectacular blindspot towards issues of gender.

    That’s why I brought PZed into it, though.  I used to like PZed quite a bit.  I agreed with him on most things.  I think he was completely and totally on the right side of things with Rebecca Watson and Elevatorgate and one of the most important voices calling out the misogynistic assholes for being, well, misogynistic assholes.

    Shortly after that, however, came Atheism+.  I agree with Atheism+’s aims and methodology.  I do not agree with the way certain people, as exemplified by PZ Myers, pushed for Atheism+.  They basically said, “Either you agree with me or I don’t want to associate with you.”  He’d been saying a lot of other things that pissed me off in the lead-up to that, so this wasn’t just something in a vacuum for me.

    I grew up in Evangelical Christianity.  I grew up with pastors who said, “If you don’t agree with me than you’re an enemy of god.”  I left Evangelical Christianity and then I left Christianity because I thought that was bullshit.

    I am an atheist because I don’t think there’s a compelling argument or a valid proof for the existence of god.  I came to that conclusion without needing Richard Dawkins or PZ Myers.  So to have them tell me that I have to agree with them in order to be accepted in their club is not a compelling argument for me.  I say, “Fuck ‘em.”  I don’t need anyone like that in my life anymore.

    But, again, that’s kind of my point.  I agree with PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins on a lot of stuff.  I also don’t really give a flying crap about what they say and if they reversed their opinions on things tomorrow it would have zero impact on my beliefs and opinions.  So someone who hears “atheist” and thinks “PZ Myers” will get a NALT from me.  But that doesn’t really mean much of anything.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    Giving people suggestions about WHAT to do will get a lot more people
    doing things than just telling them they should “do something” will. 

    True.

    Mostly I think the most useful thing we can do in cases like this is take opportunities to let the people around us know that we are safe people to trust.

    There’s a million ways to communicate that.

    Sometimes it’s as simple as being inclusive in language and presumption… not assuming that all partners and spouses are opposite-gendered, for example, or making a point of using different kinds of people and different kinds of families in examples anecdotes… and politely correcting others when they fail to be.

    Sometimes it’s as messy as suggesting the church do outreach to a local Pride parade, or invite a GLBT speaker to do a presentation for interested parishioners, or devote some time during the children’s program to a discussion of different types of families. (Which, yes, that suggestion will almost undoubtedly get rejected. But people see us suggesting it, and that lets people know we’re safe to approach.)


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