Hey, Dan Savage – I’m Not Like That, And Neither Are Our Conservative Allies

Update: On 9/4/13, I wrote this follow-up post in response to Savage and John Shore launching the NALT Christians Project. I do support the NALT Christians Project, which addressed a lot of my concerns regarding Savage’s original challenge at its launch. 

I have such mixed feelings about Dan Savage. I love the It Gets Better project, and I think it’s pretty cool that Savage has endorsed Christian author John Shore‘s books on LGBTQ issues in the Church. On the other hand, Savage’s hotheaded, reactionary approach can be a real turn-off. And what is up with the biphobia? Did a bi guy leave him for a chick once or something, which I’m sure is so much worse than when a gay guy leaves you for a dude?

Anyway, in the last week both Libby Anne of Love, Joy, Feminism and Fred Clark of Slacktivist have covered a challenge Dan Savage issued to liberal Christians: Stop telling the LGBTQ community that all Christians aren’t homophobic and start telling each other.

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.

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.

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.

– Dan Savage

I think Savage’s challenge, though well-intended, misses the mark on many levels. Mainly in that, while he doesn’t outright state that there are no queer Christians, his wording does play into the idea that LGBTQ and Christian are mutually exclusive identities. They’re not. I, for one, am a bisexual Christian. Of course, Savage doesn’t think bi people are sufficiently queer anyway, so who knows what that’s worth to him. Regardless, there are plenty of Christians out there who are higher on the Kinsey scale than I am.

And here’s the thing: not all of them are liberal. Heard of the Gay Christian Network? It’s an international ministry with thousands of members that reaches out to LGBTQ Christians and their communities. Its executive director, Justin Lee, is an openly-gay conservative Southern Baptist. Conservative preacher boy Matthew Vines went viral this summer with his sermon on how he reconciles his gayness with his faith in an inerrant Bible.

Not all straight allies are liberal, either. I know many evangelical right-wing Christians who personally believe homosexual sex acts are sinful, but who still support civil rights for LGBTQ people. Perhaps more importantly, they treat LGBTQ individuals the same way they treat everyone else, i.e. the way they want to be treated.

Does Dan Savage honestly think the first American president to publicly endorse same-sex marriage was re-elected without the votes of evangelical Christians? Does he think no votes for marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota were cast by evangelical Christians? Okay, maybe these Christians aren’t shouting from their church steeples that, “I’m a Christian and I’m not a tool!” But maybe it’s not because they’re complacently allowing the likes of James Dobson and Bryan Fischer to hijack the issue. Maybe it’s because they’re too busy not being tools. They’re out there just living, being kind to people, treating the people in their lives with justice, mercy, and equality, and quietly voting for our rights in elections they can’t wait to be over.

Once more for the record, I am a bisexual feminist liberal Christian. And personally, I’ll take the conservative friend who says “You know I believe differently than you on this, but I just want you to be happy” over the liberal activist who says I’m not gay enough or loud enough any day.

12 responses to “Hey, Dan Savage – I’m Not Like That, And Neither Are Our Conservative Allies”

  1. Great post – I had always held Dan Savage in high regard, but after reading this post… I’m not so sure about that anymore. What I got from this was that labels in themselves are so dangerous; no one should be so quick as to saying that all Christians (NALTs, Liberal Christians, whatever) are for or against homosexuality, just like how we shouldn’t say that every single black person supports Obama.

    His comments about bisexuality, however, really frustrate me… not sure how to coherently convey my distaste, but he highlighted his own hypocrisy through his insensitive comments. Ugh.

    • Thanks! I think labels become problematic when we start thinking they mean more than they actually do. “Christian” just means a worshiper of Jesus Christ. “Gay” just means attracted to people of one’s own sex. “Bisexual” just means attracted to more than one sex. To borrow your example, “black” just means a dark-skinned person with ancestors from certain African ethnic groups. These labels tell very little about a person, and if someone wants more information than that, they should learn more about that person as an individual. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with these simple labels, but too often people use labels as an excuse for prejudice.

      Re: Dan Savage, like I said, I have such mixed feelings. It’s really frustrating when someone who makes a career out of fighting bigotry turns around and shows it.

  2. You seem to have missed Dan’s point. He knows you are not all like that, the christians he is talking about don’t know. They think you are all like them. Tell them.

    • I know that was his point. I was making different points in response to his point. And considering this is a public blog post, not a private message to Mr. Savage, I’d hope it would be assumed that it’s addressed to anyone with internet access, including homophobic conservatives.

  3. The statement that he made was actually quite direct. Your response belies the cowardice of many Christians in regards to self criticism. I get it though, you are a hip Christian.

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