Taking back Christianity
“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – attributed to Mohandas Gandhi
As Dan Savage tells it, it began years ago when he’d go on CNN or MSNBC to discuss LGBT issues opposite the likes of Tony Perkins. Perkins heads the Family Research Council, a leading purveyor of the fiction that homophobia and Christianity are synonymous and inextricable.
“And invariably, after I would have an argument with Tony Perkins,” says Savage, “I would get emails from Christians and calls reassuring me that, in these exact words, ‘We’re not all like that. We’re not all like Tony Perkins. We’re not all anti-gay, all of us Christians.’ And I would write them back and say, ‘I know you’re not all like that. My mom is a Christian. I have really great friends who are Christians. … You need to tell Tony Perkins you’re not all like that. He’s the one out there claiming to speak for all Christians. Get in his face. Don’t get in my face.’ ”
Savage, a gay blogger and author, coined an acronym for those people. He called them NALT – Not All Like That – Christians.
John Shore, a heterosexual author, blogger and Christian from San Diego who has known Savage for years, took that as a challenge. He and co-founder Evan Hurst went live last week with a new website, The Not All Like That Project ( notalllikethat.org). It’s modeled after a site Savage and his partner founded in 2010.
Their It Gets Better Project ( itgetsbetter.org) solicits videos telling bullied and harassed gay and lesbian kids that they’re not alone and encouraging them to hold on through the torment. The videos now number in the tens of thousands.
Not All Like That aims to replicate that success. It solicits videos from Christians tired of seeing their faith used as a club to batter gay and lesbian people. The site went online last week with a few dozen inaugural videos.
Shore is hoping – and, one suspects, praying – to see that number explode. He says he feels a “moral obligation to take Christianity back” from those who use it as a weapon. His target audience: Christians who are struggling to balance compassion with the dictates of faith. “So many Christians in the middle are just in that discernment process right now,” he says. “The best message those people can get is, there are a lot of Christians – and these are real Christians – who have a different take on this matter. And that that take is legitimate, it’s grounded in real scholasticism, it’s grounded in hard-core biblical study.”
The view from this pew can be condensed into four words: It is about time. Indeed, it’s well past. Jesus of Nazareth was the author of a revolutionary love that crossed lines and resolved separations, that pointedly included the excluded, invited the disinvited, touched the untouchable.
Two thousand years later, we’re told that love requires us to demonize and leave aside gay men and lesbians. Worse, many of us who know better have accepted this malarkey in complaisant silence. The NALT Christians Project offers a chance to correct that.
Christians used to get angry at him, says Savage, who is an atheist, for not telling Perkins they are not all like that. “It seems to me,” he says, “that if you’re a Christian and you’re not like that, it’s your job to yell at Tony Perkins, not my job.”
He’s right – not so much about the yelling as about the larger point of standing up and being counted. As LGBT people know all too well, there is something isolating about silence, going along with what you abhor, allowing people to believe you’re something you aren’t.
And there is, conversely, something liberating in standing up, speaking out, saying the truth. To do so is to offer others courage, to give others voice. That’s why we lionize gay people when they come out of the closet.
And why it’s time NALT Christians did the same.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.