Here’s how TWO’s Wayne Besen describes the “NALT Christians Project“:
The NALT Christians Project (NotAllLikeThat.org) was launched today, giving Christians everywhere an opportunity to rise up and proclaim their unconditional love and support for their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends and family members. This new movement, inspired by Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, encourages LGBT-affirming Christians to upload videos that unapologetically express their full acceptance of LGBT people.
This project was created by Christian author John Shore and Truth Wins Out, a non-profit organization that counters religious extremism. It will be an online platform that directly challenges the idea that anti-gay Christians represent all or even most of the Christian faithful.
“NALT” is Savage’s term, derived from all the Christians who have reminded him over the years that “We’re not all like that” — meaning, in Savage’s phrase, not all “fundamentalist evangelical right-wing bats–t” activists intent on denying equality, civil rights, and God’s love, to people like him.
Savage’s response was that he already knows that. He’s encountered plenty of Christians who were putting their shoulders to the wheel for justice rather than against it. So don’t tell me, Savage said, tell your fellow Christians.
I think he’s on to something there.
“We’re not all like that” can be a tricky thing. On the one hand, it can be a self-serving, defensive statement — a dangerously meaningless bit of self-congratulation. Used that way it’s little more than an attempt to exculpate oneself from collective guilt, similar to the way we white Americans are always seeking absolution from black folks, wanting them to bless us with some signal that we are personally exempt from complicity and blame for America’s history and America’s present-day reality. That’s dangerous because it lulls us into accepting the lie that if we can exempt ourselves from guilt then we also exempt ourselves from responsibility. That’s wrong. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
But, as I wrote last year when we first discussed this here — “The perils and potential of N.A.L.T.” — “We’re not all like that” can also be a prophetic statement. It can be a revelation, an invitation, and a challenge to our fellow Christians. For many Christians, ensconced within the bubble of their church or their subculture, the possibility of being not like that has simply never been considered. Still other Christians wish or want it to be possible, but don’t realize that it actually is. They regret that they’re “like that,” but they’re convinced that, as Christians, they have no other permissible option.
It always surprises me, and depresses me, to realize how many American Christians — white evangelicals, especially — are desperate for permission to love, for permission to stand on the side of justice rather than on the side of unfairness and injustice. (You are hereby granted permission, officially. There’s a downloadable certificate and everything.)
I think the NALT Christians Project is a good way of showing them that they have such permission. Here is the testimony of the faithful. Here are Christians from all over the place “unapologetically expressing their full acceptance of LGBT people.” And look! They’re still Christians. This love and acceptance is an expression of their Christian faith, not a rejection of it.
Here’s the Rev. Ray McKinnon from Charlotte. Here’s a lovely bunch of Christians from Brighton, England. Here’s Rosemary from Memphis. And Colby in San Diego and Dan in Montana and Liz in Goshen, Ky. and Candace and the Rev. Dr. Louis Shockley and some blogger guy.
And that’s just the Christians who have chimed in on Day One. More testimonies from more Christians are pouring in — Christians from all over the place denominationally and geographically.
They’re extending permission and they’re extending an invitation.