The NALT Christians Project offers permission and an invitation

OK, here’s that Cool New Thing I mentioned yesterday, from Dan Savage and John Shore and Truth Wins Out.

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.

 

  • csiems

    What I think we should be saying is “None of us are like that.” After all, “whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

  • Jim Roberts

    Well, yes, except that Paul makes a point of saying that there are believers in every church he writes to, even the ones struggling with legalism or immorality or gnosticism.
    Bryan Fischer is in my tribe. If I’m going to be inclusive, actually inclusive, I need to say that he’s in my tribe, as much as it irks me that I do. That doesn’t mean that I endorse him, in fact, it lends great strength to my condemnation of what he says.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Do you really want to take the No True Christian path with dueling clobber verses?

  • JustoneK

    do I hear banjos

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Well. It’s a temptation to say that. But who am I to draw lines like that – who am I to want to draw insider and outsider lines for God, when I could so easily find myself on the outside of God’s lines if it weren’t for God’s love?

  • http://www.diannaeanderson.net/ Dianna

    This is still problematic because the phrase “we’re not all like that” is still addressed outward, toward the marginalized. If we’re going to find a way to give Christians permission to speak out, using a problematic phrase steeped in dismissal is not the way to do it. At best, the project is unclear about who the audience is – if your reading is that it’s for Christians on the fence, then the name needs retooling. If it’s addressed outward, at people hurt by the church, then it’s steeped in condescension and oppression. This entire thing seems fairly half-baked.

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

    That being said I think the theme of it fits with a phrase I often like to say:

    “You shall not side with the great against the powerless”.

    Those who have the wherewithal and the social capital to side with the great – and would find it in their best interests to do so – and refuse to in order to side with the powerless…

    Frankly, they’re just as needed as those among the powerless who can best rally those without power to stick together against the forces of those who would keep society divided and conquered in the name of preserving institutions of power which serve to purposely de-voice those who are considered socially out of the norm.

    EDIT: Oh, come on, who downvoted Dianna’s post? That was just mean.

  • The_L1985

    Except that we have to remember that the sort of Christian who’s been allowed to frame the LGBT debate is Like That, and that these sorts of Christian have insisted, repeatedly, that all Christians are Like That. A lot of non-Christians, hearing this, have believed it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard Pagans, atheists, or agnostics complain about how Christians are all busy ruining everything for everybody else–because the vocal ones are.

    Saying “We’re NALT” is also a way of saying, “I refuse to let hateful people define my faith for me. I refuse to be told that I am less religious or less righteous simply because I choose to be loving.

  • J_Enigma32

    I tend to agree.

    If you’re talking about sexism and abuse, and some clueless guy pops in and says, “yeah, but, not all guys are like that!”, it ends up derailing the conversation and puts the attention on them, rather than the issue at hand.

    Actions speak louder than words. Constantly criticizing the powerful who abuse their power, attacking and attempting to marginalize their positions because they’re harmful, and repeatedly pointing out how harmful they are, are far more useful than “we’re not all like that!” because any MRA can say “but we’re not all like that!” until they open their mouth and either prove or disprove the statement.

    Edit: or a shorter me – don’t tell me you’re not all like that. Show me.

  • Nicole Resweber

    Seconded. I got the impression that NALT, like It Gets Better, is directed to members of the LGBTQ community. If it is, worst name ever. If it’s supposed to be directed inwards, to Christians Like That, it still doesn’t really capture the challenge that YOU, dear viewer, don’t have to be Like That.

  • MaryKaye

    When there’s a discussion of, for example, campus rape, and a guy earnestly assures me that men are Not All Like That, I want to say “Yeah, sure–now, what can you do to stop men who *are* Like That?”

    You know who demonstrated that Christians are not All Like That in an effective way? The Christians who voted for marriage equality in my state. I may not know who they were, but I know that the census says my state is ~70% Christian (depends on where you draw the line), and I know that it passed, which pretty well demonstrates that a lot of Christians voted yes.

    Or, in a different context, the Christians (and Pagans) who sat on the front doorstep of our local mosque all night, every night, for six weeks after 9/11 to make sure it was safe. (Other mosques in the area had attacks. This one did not. Did we stop them? We’ll never know. But at least we were there.)

    This is not an attack on Fred, who has done plenty. But I don’t feel happy about this particular project. People who say “We’re not all like that” to me have not reliably turned out to be allies. Real allies say “How can I help?”

  • Emcee, cubed

    In Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, there is a scene between the lead character of Ned Weeks (an author insert worthy of L&J) and his brother Ben, that goes something like this:

    BEN: I’m sorry about your dying friends.
    NED: If you’re so sorry, join our honorary board and say you’re sorry out loud.
    BEN: My agreeing that you were born just like I was born is not going to help save your dying friends.
    NED: Funny – that’s exactly what I think will help save my dying friends.

    This is how I see this project. It’s a challenge. Saying “We’re not all like that” is easy one-on-one. Or in private. Or away from the eyes of power. Now do it in public, where the world can see you. Where when anti-gay people claim they speak for all Christians, we can point and say, “No, you don’t.”

    And co-opting the phrase is exactly that. It works for me because it is exactly what people claim. Now if someone says, “We’re not all like that”, it’s like, “Oh, really? Have you posted on the NALT Christians Project? Why not? If you aren’t like that, you should be willing to say so out loud.”

    Of course we can’t be sure that these people aren’t going out and voting against marriage equality or preach against QUILTBAG people from the pulpit or anything else. But being vocal that being anti-gay is not a defining characteristic of Christianity isn’t nothing, either.

    My apologies for rambling a bit, and I hope this makes some sense. Could there be problems with this? Sure. Does that make it not worth the effort? I don’t think so. Other may disagree.

  • http://www.diannaeanderson.net/ Dianna

    Bingo. And the fact that this has no action campaign attached to it besides the nebulous videos (who are we addressing? what about LGBT Christians? Do they exist?), I’m wary. There’s nothing about “here’s concrete action we’re going to take to make sure we actually act as allies.” It’s all sort of a hope on a thread that it will inspire someone else to act, and I just don’t buy it.

  • rrhersh

    The problem I have with this is that it seems to be an awful lot about getting Dan Savage to agree that we aren’t all nasty people. Much of his critique of non-bigoted Christians is their failure to make him personally aware to enough to satisfy him, as if his lack of education on the subject is someone else’s fault. My congregation has been a member of http://www.reconcilingworks.org/ for over ten years, printing a statement in our weekly bulletin welcoming people regardless of, among other things, sexual orientation. This extends to inclusion among the council and officers (as if any sensible organization would let anyone off the hook for holding office for being gay!). Is this good enough for Dan Savage? I find myself unconcerned.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    To a certain extent, speaking up in support of LGBT people is concrete action to take as an ally.

  • mary

    I believe we all try to “overthink” sometimes. Can’t we just accept this for what it is? To me it is a chorus of Christians who are darned tired of the “Westboro Baptist type Christians” getting all the attention. It is a large group (and growing larger every day) of true Christians who heed Jesus’ simple words of “LOVE THY NEIGHBOR”, take it to heart & practice it in real life. If knowing that there are many of us out here gets some Christian, who knows in their heart-of-hearts that what their church is teaching is wrong, to take the bold step to leave their church or speak out about it is all that NALT accomplishes…. it will be worth it!

  • Matt in PDX

    With respect, Dan Savage has said repeatedly that he knows there are tons and tons of LGBT-affirming Christians out there, but that instead of telling him (Dan Savage) that they’re LGBT-affirming, they should be reaching out to non-LGBT-affirming Christians (and to LGBT Christians themselves). He says this again in his NALT Christians Project video. So it seems to me that your statement above (“much of his critique of non-bigoted Christians is their failure to make him personally aware enough to satisfy him”) gets it backwards. He’s asking non-bigoted Christians to *stop* trying to convince him that they’re “not all like that”, because he doesn’t need convincing, and to instead start talking to other people.

  • Greg Douma

    Agreed. This page has already attracted trolls, it seems..

  • Frank McCormick

    Diana, Dan Savage agrees with you! Check his YouTube video — the purpose of the NALT project is NOT assure the dismissed and diminished that “we are not like that” — it to speak up to the dismissers and diminishers and say “we are not like you!”.

  • Cyn

    On the one hand, it’s great to see Christians speaking in favor of LGBT equality.

    On the other hand, Dan Savage is an extremely problematic transphobe and misogynist.

  • rrhersh

    Fair enough. I was using “Dan Savage” rhetorically, with him standing in for the LGBT community in general. This was not best way to make my point clear.
    Let me try a different approach. The problem is that he places the onus of poor education entirely on the one side. Let’s try this with other issues:
    “It is the responsibility of the black community to educate white conservatives that not all blacks of lazy thugs.”
    Does that statement seem reasonable to you? How about this one:
    “It is the responsibility of the Muslim community to convince Christians that not all Muslims are terrorists.”
    And so on…
    Surely it is more important for a local church to be genuinely welcoming than for it to run a good marketing campaign.

  • LunarG

    I’m so sorry Dan Savage hasn’t given your congregation a cookie.

  • rrhersh

    We didn’t ask for one. Indeed, that was my point. But this doesn’t fit the established narrative, so I suppose there is no getting away from the idea.

  • Emcee, cubed

    I have a lot of issues with first part of your comment, but my thoughts about it are so disjointed in so many directions about it, I don’t feel I can coherently say anything just yet.

    But the second part? This “Surely it is more important for a local church to be genuinely welcoming than for it to run a good marketing campaign.”? The answer is no. Neither of these two things are more important than the other. They are two sides of the same coin. Neither works without the other.

    Of course saying you are welcoming, and not being so is terrible. But who exactly are you being welcoming to if no one knows about it. To circle it back, that’s placing the onus of finding you on the QUILTBAG community. And yes, I think it is perfectly reasonable that if you want to include a demographic that has been traditionally excluded, that the onus is on you to reach out. The excluded have reached out plenty and been rebuffed. Your turn.

  • TheBCow

    You’re analogy is not analogous.

    One of the things that comes along with privilege is that other privileged people are more willing to hear what you have to say. Part of being an ally (along with learning how to listen) is using that access to say “Stop it!” to fellow members of the privileged group.*

    If your first analogy, you are talking a non-privileged group (African-Americans) talking to a privileged group (White people). In that case, the privileged have a responsibility to recognize that privilege and disabuse themselves of any stereotyped notions that they may have once allowed themselves to believe that their privilege was simply the natural order and to start working towards a just society. While this may be facilitated by education and discussion from folks from non-privileged groups, it is the privileged who must change their behavior.

    QUILTBAG people are not privileged relative to Christians. In fact, quite the opposite. Many very vocal Christians have tried to make the case that the full flourishing of Christians and QUILTBAG people are somehow mutually exclusive. What NALT seems to be about is encourage Christians to assert “I do not believe as you believe. You do not speak for me. Stop pretending like you do.”

    Being a welcoming and safe place is, indeed, crucial. That is “walking the walk” of acceptance, and that is good. However, “talking the talk” is also important. How welcoming is a church that does what is right, but won’t speak up for what is right?

  • Michael Pullmann

    I’m not sure how the latter negates the former.

  • Emcee, cubed

    THIS. This is the part I couldn’t address in my earlier comment. Thank you.

  • Parhelion

    Hmm. Well, I think there’s two answers to this, one general and one specific.

    Generally, I’ve noticed that when someone in a subcultural community does something dire supposedly based on community values, other members frequently rush to say they don’t share those values in any public forum they can find, much in the way that glbt leaders hurried to make clear they didn’t stand with that bad/sad nutcase who shot the security guard at the Family Research Council earlier this year. Given that normal, often even laudable, human tendency, I’d think many Christians would be pleased to have a new and easy way to distinguish themselves from the likes of Scott Lively and Pat Robinson.

    And specifically, aren’t Christians especially tasked to bear witness and share the good news of God’s love whenever they can? It seems as if yet another, pretty painless and easy, opportunity to spread that Word would make for happiness rather than crankiness about previous efforts not being good enough. I always got the feeling that more chances to witness were supposed to be joyous, not “I don’t have to explain myself to the likes of *him*”

    Whatever my opinions of Dan Savage might be (and I got ‘em) he’s not the one who made and viewed all the posts in his past projects such as “It gets better.” I imagine this’ll be the same again. I, for one queer, certainly am thinking more of my high opinion of Fred’s testimony to the world in his post to Not All Like That — Hi, Fred! — than Savage’s opinion of it.

  • Emcee, cubed

    Except you did. Your comment basically boiled down to, “We do X, isn’t that enough?” The problem is, the answer is, “No” and you don’t seem to be okay with that.

  • etseq

    She’s just trolling for attention…

  • etseq

    She just had a meltdown on twitter because no one is listening to her – she is VERY important apparently and we are somehow marginalizing queer trans youth by…not listening to her. BTW, isn’t she straight? Who appointed her LGBT spokesperson? And please drop the “queer” bs – most gay people hate that term and it comes off as very hipster. I could care less how many queer theory classes you took at college – in the real world the word has not been reclaimed and most gay people do not want to be anti-normative…

  • etseq

    Oh get over yourself….haters gotta hate

  • etseq

    Well you dont have to participate – much easier to criticize from behind a keyboard

  • etseq

    Yes Dan Savage is evil gay white man – he must be attacked at all costs

  • etseq

    Yep – haters gotta hate

  • etseq

    No its not – its lefty trolling par excellence.

  • etseq

    Dan Savage haters of the world unite! We must destroy all things gay white male – they are evil and can do no good. We could care less if actual gay kids are helped – ideological purity is our most important value!

  • Emcee, cubed

    Dude, fuck off. The only troll on this thread so far has been you. I happen to disagree with a number of the comments, but their concerns and issues shouldn’t be dismissed either. Even in the OP, Fred points out there are pitfalls to this kind of endeavor. So stop being an ass.

  • etseq

    Right back at ya – nasty mouth u got there btw…You seem heavily invested emotionally in what to 99% of the world (and most gay people, including myself) thinks is just intellectual masterbation by overly educated humanities graduates…So, you can argue about privilege with all the other online social justice warriors while the rest of us actually accomplish things in the real world.

    But feel free to take as much time as you want to insult an actual gay person, decrying multiple privileges, unpacking all your various knapsacks, etc. if it makes you feel morally superior. I think its pretty clear that is all that is at stake here…

  • Emcee, cubed

    Right, gee, you were a complete asshole to a whole bunch of people without using any “bad” words. Have a fucking cookie.

    And don’t wave your fucking credentials around here, I guarantee you’ll get slapped down, and damn fast. I’ve been gay since before you were fucking born, you self-absorbed, lying sack of shit. Here’s a fucking clue. You don’t speak for 99% of gay people, And neither do I. And, yes, when you prove yourself to be a flaming asshole, you will get called out by a whole lot of people, and many of them will also be gay. That tends to be the result of being a flaming asshole. The “I’m gay so you can’t insult me” card doesn’t really play around here.

    Oh, and the real world? Would eat a jerk like you for breakfast with your attitude toward – well, just about everyone that I can see. To get things done in the real world, one actually needs to work WITH other people, listen to their concerns, and actually address them. You’ve proven so far that you aren’t capable of any of that. You haven’t made one intelligent comment since you got here. All you’ve done is thrown out personal attacks at people, dismissed any concerns they had with dismissive handwaves, and bitch and moan that some people don’t like Dan Savage.

    And you know what? I don’t give a good goddamn fuck if you single-handedly found a cure for AIDS. Doesn’t negate that fact that you came into a space you have never been in before, attacked a whole bunch of people for (horrors!) expressing some doubts and concerns, and then when called in it, tried to speak for a whole lot of people you don’t actually speak for, including the one who called you out. Pretty much the definition of an asshole. Go away. You’re hurting the cause.

  • Emcee, cubed

    Translation: Everything that gay white males do is good and right and just and perfect with no room for criticism, and could in no way be helped by input from women, people of color, trans people, straight allies, or even other gay people.

    Bullshit. Get over yourself. If you want to actually listen to others’ concerns and address them rather than call them names, which seems to be all you can do, then maybe we’ll let you join the grown up conversation.

  • Baby_Raptor

    People who get upset over “bad” words are just tone trolls who will take any shallow excuse they can to judge someone. “OMGERD, you used a word that I don’t like that doesn’t harm me at all!”

    And, really, you shouldn’t pick on other peoples’ eloquence when you’re too lazy to type out 3 letter words.

  • J_Enigma32

    “Dan Savage is an extremely problematic transphobe and misogynist.”

    Sense much white privilege and resentment in you, I do.

    Back to “Being An Ally 101″, you go.

  • J_Enigma32

    What the hell is this shit? A fucking tone troll? Does bad language hurt your fee-fees?

    And what precisely do you think you’re accomplishing, anyway? Telling me that you’re not all like that? Why should I believe you? Any MRA or racist can tell they’re not racist. It’s when you turn around and open your mouth and prove it that we have something.

    Until then, this is all lip service and nothing more.

  • etseq

    Wow…someone has some anger issues…whatever floats your boat.

    I’m not going to be goaded into a flame war with some comment troll social justice warrior.

    I’d just think its sad that you have so much hate for someone you don’t even know.

  • etseq

    Oh piss off…

  • J_Enigma32

    It’s cute you think I’d waste my time thinking about you.

    You, however, don’t know the first thing about social justice. And you won’t learn sticking your head into conversations and running off at the mouth without knowing the whole story.

  • etseq

    Ha ha…Stick in your knapsack…I’m not in your little SJW cult so scream privilege all you want. Find some other sap to play oppression olympics with you…

  • etseq

    …says the troll you keeps flaming me….

  • J_Enigma32

    So being a misogynist and a transphobe is a-okay in your book.

    Got it.

    I’d tell you to stick this knapsack up your ass, but that spot’s already occupied with your head.


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