Not All Like That: A Follow-Up

Last December, I wrote a response to gay rights activist Dan Savage’s challenge for LGBTQ-affirming Christians to stop telling him “We’re Not All Like That” and start telling other Christians. Since then, progressive Christian blogger and author John Shore has partnered with Savage to launch The NALT Christians project.

I feel like Savage has addressed the parts of his original challenge that I found most problematic. He specifically acknowledged the existence of LGBTQ Christians in his introductory video (embedded above), and the project partners with Truth Wins Out, a gay-led Christian organization. I’m fully in favor of this project. I’d love to see it become as big as It Gets Better.

But, going back to my original reservations, I’d like to add a challenge of my own.

To Christian LGBTQ allies: Don’t play into the LGBTQ/Christian false dichotomy. When you “reach out” to the LGBTQ community, please recognize that you don’t have to reach as far as you think. 

We’re not The Other. We’re not broken. We’re not washed and waiting. We’re not lost souls out there in The World that you need to bring to Christ. We’re not The Unsaved or The Unchurched. You want to reach out to us? Look in the pew you’re sitting in. There we are. There I am.

I am the little girl in Sunday School who’s always the first to raise her hand. I am the girl who gets the lead solo in the Christmas pageant every year. I am the teenager who plays piano for the worship service every fourth Sunday. I am the lady who hosts a small group in her home. I am the teacher in your kids’ Children’s Church. I am the Facebook friend who posts Rachel Held Evans‘ articles on your news feed all the time.  I am the friend who prays for you and with you every time you ask. I am Mary Lambert. I am Jason Collins. I am a Christian, and I am not an LGBTQ ally. I AM queer, and I am here.

And a lot of us are like that.

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.