Not All Christians Are Like That

Not All Christians Are Like That September 4, 2013

Today, John Shore, Dan Savage, Wayne Besen, and Evan Hurst launched the Not All Like That Christians Project. Modeled after and inspired by It Gets Better, NALT is a place for Christians to tell the media and the world that the homophobic, fear-mongering Christian leaders who get the most press aren’t the only Christians out there. In fact, in my contribution to NALT, I make the claim that they aren’t even in the majority anymore. A young, open, progressive generation of Christians is rising, and we are the future of the faith in the West:

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  • Awesome!

  • I am all for passionately modeling a different expression of faith that I believe is closer to what Jesus lived and taught. But to create a campaign in which Christians explicitly announce “We’re not like that (aka, as bad/stupid/ignorant as them)”? makes me uncomfortable. It’s so easy for us to sound like the Pharisee who thanked God he wasn’t like those “other” people (Luke 18). None of us has all the answers and building up us/them walls only hinders our call to create community with others, including those whom we think are wrong – both within and beyond our Christian tradition. Isn’t there a more organic (which might also = more powerful) way to live out this passion, without turning our message into something so divisive?

    Maybe such a strong and definitive voice is needed in the midst of such hurtful words and actions by some within the church, but I can’t help but wonder if this is the best way to extend love (“oppenness and acceptance” were your words) to those who are different from us – in both directions (that is, the LGBTQ community and the evangelical community).

    • To clarify, by “different from us” I meant different in the sense that someone like you or I are allies, though not a part of the LGBTQ community itself.

      • Ben Hammond

        I agree with what are trying to say Becky. I think it’s much easier to create another enemy/Other than to speak out from in the midst of your family. For me, I support this initiative, but will do so from within my local Christian community. If they want to burn a bridge that is up to them, but the bridge burning will not come from my side.

        As a side note I can also understand that there are probably some that have been hurt by their Christian family to the extent that they cannot speak out from within. Connected to this, I will speak out from within to the extent that it is personally emotionally healthy.

    • Craig

      Is it bad to be divisive in this case? I think it is good for sensible Christians to publicly point out and separate themselves from the morally repugnant ways of other Christians. There is otherwise a danger of giving cover to that stuff, lending respectability to it by one’s own association with it, and of failing to express a clear alternative.

      I’d like to see a “coming out” of the sensible Christians in every church group. Each should vocalize his/her dissent. This would go a long ways in weakening the influence of their idiots.

      • Thanks for your reply, Craig. I’ve been wrestling with this topic all morning. After chatting with a friend over lunch (the best outworking of thoughtful blogs like this one – thanks, Tony!), I began to wonder if it’s largely an issue of semantics for me. It’s the act of defining ourselves by a negative that doesn’t sit well, that makes it feel perhaps more divisive than necessary. We can still make powerful statements (and actions) without the overt negativity.

        An example that came up in our discussion was the response that arose out of the creation of the Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The result was an alternative organization that countered the CBMW’s view – not by defining themselves by what they were against (Center Against Misogynistic Christians, perhaps) but what they were FOR: Christians FOR Biblical Equality. It just seems better-natured, even while directly challenging another view. (For the record, I am from Canada, otherwise known as Not America 🙂

        A couple examples of how powerful our love and inclusivity-inspired actions can be are this:

        And this:

    • Well said. Your reference to the Pharisee’s prayer is particularly thought-provoking. But this campaign is called “Not all Christians are Like That”, as opposed to “Not all Christians are Like Them.” Maybe the difference is somewhat subtle, but I think this is more about rebutting the stereotypes that the media seems to reinforce,rather that taking a “holier than thou” stance vis-a-vis conservative Christians. At least I hope so.

      • I wondered about the them/that difference, Bill. But I’m not convinced the subtle difference doesn’t still reinforce an implied connection – especially when we are naming names of who we’re not like. It’s something I’ve been struggling with in my own attitudes – my tendency to villanize the public figures themselves, rather than just calling out their crappy theology.

  • Thursday1

    A young, open, progressive generation of Christians is rising, and we are the future of the faith in the West

    Doesn’t this depend on the definition of Christian? If you’re talking about cultural or nominal Christians, you’re totally right. If you’re talking about people who put their bums in pew, I’m skeptical.

    Remember your failure at the cave.

  • I am rather surprised that anyone not sleeping through life would be unaware of the starkly different Christian takes on sexual ethics. It is the issue that is fueling the great schism of our time. One would think, from the internet, that the Christian religion is primarily about opposing or promoting homosexuality.

    What I think about is the implications for any future ecumenicism, when those communions that have not abandoned their committments to traditional notions of chastity and marriage have, for a generation, been lambasted as “homophobic” and “fear-mongering.”

    • Craig

      I optimistically suspect that, in the future, most will have distanced themselves from the homophobic, fear mongering past–just as most Southern Christians today have distanced themselves from explicitly racist, pro-slavery sentiments.

      • One of the more interesting aspects of this controversy is that the advocates for the new invariably compare it to the pathology of American post-slavery racism. It looks to me much more like an extension of the old Reformation debates over whether marriage is a sacrament, and the allowability of divorce and re-marriage.

        It is always assumed that the new enlightenment will sweep away the old. It is often overlooked that the opinions of the young sometimes pass with youth. But if the new does, in fact, sweep into the status quo, as all current indications suggest, there will nevertheless always be those for whom Scripture and Tradition require a more limited arena for human sexuality, and who will see the “progressive” as more a return to the personal mores of the Greco-Roman world in which the faith first grew. Are we, I wonder, entering into an era of bitter inter-Christian conflict as contentious as that which followed the Protestant Reformation?

  • I just finished my video and I’m waiting for the abysmally slow quicktime to upload it to Youtube. Clearly I have it in some behemoth file that is taking forever. I am not a fan of the “not all like that” name either. (It has some undertones of snoody and it’s also lifting out the wildly caricatured and hateful voices and representing them as mainstream Christianity. Maybe it’s the pool I swim in, but that’s less and less mainstream every day.) In spite of the mediocre name, though, this project has the potential to be amazing. I hope it takes off a la it gets better. I hope it ends up featuring hundreds of thousands of videos.

  • Tony, have you seen this response.

    What do you think?

    • Obviously I’m not Tony and I’ll go cross post this comment on your blog as well, but as food for thought… I think parsing out the name as a reason to not participate in the project is a mistake. I see the project as attempting to address this claim: Christians are hate-filled and anti-gay. Answer: Not all Christians are like that. I think you’re overreaching when say it’s being used as a litmus test. Nobody is saying that you have to post a video to this specific site in order to pass the ally test. The site itself isn’t saying that, in my view. It’s trying to draw out people who wouldn’t normally *tell their stories.* If we learned anything from the It Gets Better project, we learned that telling our stories is powerful. Up until now there’s been no central clearing house for Christians to tell their stories. I think it would be very easy to say “This is my story, I’m adding it to the other voices. PS, I wish the project had a different name.” That’s my plan, anyway. 🙂 <—–NALT VIDEO

  • Chris Erdman

    Bravo, Tony…and those involved in the NALT project. Thanks for the link. This is a great movement.

  • Jimmy Z

    Sorry, GOD said it. Christians didn’t make it up. It is an abomination.