Opinion: ‘Other’ Christians need to speak up

September 8, 2013


“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 hardcore 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., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.


Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 6 months ago

"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."

I don't think that statement expresses the truth very well. Jesus taught very little that was not Jewish thought contemporary to His time, or could be found in some of the teachings of the Essenes, of which He is believed by many or most scholars to have been a member.

Of course, except for the teachings of Jesus that can save you from Hell, which did not exist before the time of Jesus. There is no mention of Hell at all in the Tanakh, which could be called the 'Jewish Bible', or the Old Testament with the books sorted out into their correct categories.

In Jesus' time, as today, there were different movements (Very generally, Jewish = movement, Christian = denomination, Islam = sect) within Judaism. Of course, they all had different teachings. That is also true of the other two Abrahamic faiths, Christianity and Islam, today. There is no mention of Judaism or Islam in this article, but I'm sure the required length had everything to do with the decision to not discuss them. It's rather obvious that this short article could be expanded to be the length of a somewhat short book.

I consider it to be a problem that many Christians generally use only the Bible for source material, and exclude consideration of the writings that predate parts of it and others that supplement it. But, since some people consider the Bible to be the "infallible word of G-d, inspired by the invisible hand," and use it for the sole source for the teaching and understanding of Christianity, that makes sense, at least to them.

But, as with anything else in antiquity, we don't really know a lot of things for sure. It's very difficult to separate Jewish thought at the time of Jesus from early Christian thought because for about 50 years, Christianity was a movement within Judaism. If you wanted to be a Christian, first you had to convert to Judaism, and then you could select the Christian movement. But after about another 50 years, Jewish and Christian teachings had became so different in a large number of ways that they split into two different religions. Both Judaism and Christianity have evolved a great deal over time. That is why they have survived, and also adapted to our modern times.

FloridaSunshine 4 years, 6 months ago

Ron...excellent post, as usual. You always bring information that most people have no idea about if they have not studied the specific topic in depth. I have always enjoyed your vast knowledge of Judaism...and many other religious topics (as well as non-religious).

I quit coming to this site ever since we started having to answer a question to continue. Your pm made me curious! I will answer that after dinner this evening when I have more time to do so. Ron, I always wish you the very best...take care!!

rtwngr 4 years, 6 months ago

You can exclude Roman Catholicism, the original and largest Christian "sect" in the world, from using the Bible as the sole source for teaching and understanding Christianity. As a matter of fact, that was an idea spread during the "Reformation" and it is called Sola Scriptura. A lot of the modern day "Christian" teachings that are out there have no foundation in the original tenets of Christianity at all. It is true that all of the early Christians thought they were just being good Jews that had seen the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy but the rudimentary foundation of the Holy Church was established very early on at Antioch with the Pentecost. The only reason that the Bible is considered the inspired word of God is because the Roman Catholic Church said so.

asixbury 4 years, 6 months ago

Great info Ron! I do enjoy your posts.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 6 months ago

I am a GLWT atheist -- good luck with that NALT christians.

FloridaSunshine 4 years, 6 months ago

I've observed through the years, and am very surprised, that there are NALT Christians, if any, what with all the hate and malice aimed at even the NALT Christians from the homosexual community. I realize that homosexuals have had a hard row to hoe within the Christian community in many cases...and many other Christians realize this...hence, the NALT Christian "movement".

As we ALL have learned through the years, or so I THOUGHT we all had learned...we all certainly SHOULD have learned by now... that being abrasive and hateful has never solved a problem yet...and never will...from the Christians or the homosexuals...nor in regards to any other social problem when so many disagree in opinions. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of NALT Christians start changing their minds. yourworstnightmare...not a great comment to make when so many are TRYING to bring such diverse attitudes into tolerance and even acceptance of others who believe differently. Very abrasive and I don't see one bit of good your comment could possibly bring to the table. That's sad to me.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

The hate appears to be coming from the other direction to me.

It's the anti-homosexual Christians who want to deny equality to gay/lesbian folks. It's the anti-homosexual people who beat gay kids to death for being gay.

When have gay people tried to deny equal rights to straight people or beaten them to death for their sexuality?

Liberty275 4 years, 6 months ago

If we accept homosexuality as totally equal, can we still hate the Mormons for having six wives? How about the love between Kansas Cousins?

Can you make up a list of people who get equality? I don't have time to write it all down and a good cheat sheet would make my bigotry much easier to keep straight. You don't have to be specific down to the persons, just the groups that don't deserve equal protection. I'll hold...

tomatogrower 4 years, 6 months ago

I have no problems if people want to have more than one spouse, as long as they are 18 and willingly entering into the relationship. There are genetic situations when relatives shouldn't get married, if they are going to have children. I have not hate for even the Westboro church. In fact, I feel sorry for them, and hope love can enter their life and push the hate out. I just can't imagine living with hate 24/7 like some people do. They are wasting their lives and ruining others.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Not me. I favor acceptance of all forms of marriage. Why would I hate the Mormons?

Now, incest is a bit tricky for me - now that we have birth control, the old taboo against it seems outdated, but it still feels a bit "icky".

Brothers and sisters getting married? I just don't know.

Kathy Theis-Getto 4 years, 6 months ago

Oh, Florida, you seem to be confused again. Please explain what was hateful and abrasive about yourworstnightmare's post? I would also be curious to hear your version of facts to back up your statement that hate and malice against NALT christians is running rampant in the LGBT community.

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 6 months ago

There's a huge difference between Christians and "Christianists". The latter practice what my cohort calls "Cafeteria Christianity"; cherry picking verses and parts from the Bible that support their views and then loudly trumpeting it as the only valid path. The real truth is that, to quote a friend, "If Jesus ever did come back, he'd spend the first three days puking at everything ever done 'in His name'."

Liberty275 4 years, 6 months ago

Which kind are you? Do you follow just a few verses or the whole book?

The less of it they follow, the better, in my opinion.

Liberty275 4 years, 6 months ago

Mr Putts, there are no Gods. Delete that part of your life and move on. Feel free to ignore the ramblings of people that believe in Dark Ages mythology.

rtwngr 4 years, 6 months ago

I will tell you this, Lenny, Jesus was not a nice guy. He was kind and merciful but he was demanding.

rtwngr 4 years, 6 months ago

In recent years there has been an over humanization of Jesus. Most Christians like to choose the nice things that Jesus preached and then reject the difficult ones. What Pitts and all the other commentators on this blog seem to forget is that Jesus was also divine. He is God. The distinct meanings of his teachings get lost in the translation of modern day vernacular. We try to interpret his teachings through the modern day prism of semantics. This is not possible and does not render the true meanings of his teachings. It comes down to this. Jesus stated very clearly two things; 1) I am God. 2) If you're not with me then you're against me. There is no middle ground.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

That's your belief. Others have different beliefs about Jesus.

Please share your source for the idea that he said "if you're not with me, you're against me". That sounds a lot more like Bush 2 to me.

By the way, if you're interested, I majored in religious studies and seriously considered the ministry several times.

rtwngr 4 years, 6 months ago

On the "if you're not with me" statement, I paraphrased. I am interested to read that you majored in religious studies. I don't know what you would like me to infer from that other than you have some education in this area. I will engage in a discussion with you if we can keep it civil and apolitical. Even though I know we stand on different sides of the political fence, I will respect your political views for the sake of this blog.

Your statement that others have different beliefs about Jesus is true. So who decides what is right or wrong? Who decides the correct interpretation of what Jesus was saying? Where do we go to get the definitive meaning of what He was trying to teach? After all, He gave His life up when he could have recanted and saved it. That's pretty serious stuff for leaving us all to our own devices.

tomatogrower 4 years, 6 months ago

From where did you paraphrase? Can you give us specific quotes? Or is this just your particular interpretation. How are your interpretations anymore legitimate than other's interpretations that you have called wrong. I personally look at Jesus's deeds, not his death. I have had some Christians tell me that it doesn't matter what they do, because Jesus died for all their sinning. So they do all kinds of sinning. Do you believe this way?

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Paraphrased from what?

Yes, I have some education in religion, but also seriously considered the ministry, so it's not just an academic exercise for me.

As far as I can, tell, it would be a mistake to think that anybody can give a "definitive" interpretation or meaning to Jesus' life. There are numerous problems with translations, inclusions and exclusions from the Bible, etc. Paul added his own spin to a lot of Jesus' teachings, and that spin has become part of mainstream Christianity.

The search for the "real Jesus" is a valuable one, and I'd be as interested as anybody else if we could find that - he's probably the one person I'd be most interested in going back in time and meeting if that were possible.

But, people have been looking for that for years now, and don't seem any closer to finding it.

Everybody picks and chooses what they like and don't like in the Bible, and in Jesus' teachings, even if they're not aware of that, simply because there are many complexities, and numerous contradictions.

I tend to feel more connection to the teachings of love, compassion, forgiveness, etc. and find that he was urging people to live better lives and move past their limitations, much more than he wanted anybody to "believe in him". After all, he said "all that I have done and more, you will do" or something like that.

tomatogrower 4 years, 6 months ago

Jafs, I was responding to rtwngr. Sorry for the confusion.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

No problem, I figured that out :-)

tomatogrower 4 years, 6 months ago

Oh, yes. That Republican muscular Jesus who would never offer charity or heal the sick.

WaxAndWane 4 years, 6 months ago

Could you please cite the scripture where Jesus stated "I am God"? I've read several bible translations and have never seen that.

rtwngr 4 years, 6 months ago

John 8:58 "Before Abraham was, I am.

When Moses was speaking to God in the burning bush, he asked God, "Whom shall I say sent me?" God replied, "Tell them, I am."

This is but one link where Jesus expresses his divinity to his disciples. Now, he didn't say, "I am God." I was making a Christological claim with my statement. Paraphrasing for emphasis. It is clear in the reading of the Gospels, Jesus was well aware of his divinity. He was careful about how he revealed it until his time had come to redeem us all on the cross.

rtwngr 4 years, 6 months ago

@ WaxAndWane - A good translation of a Bible to own is the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition by Ignatius Press. A corresponding Bible Commentary is also helpful.

jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

Why do you think that translation is better than others?

Kathy Theis-Getto 4 years, 6 months ago

Rtwngr: "...If you're not with me then you're against me." I'm pretty sure that's what Darth Vader said to Obi Wan.

rtwngr 4 years, 6 months ago

I know. I bet Jesus is saying to himself, "Son of a gun, stole my line!" Frankly, I can't believe George Lucas ripped of Christ like that. I don't know if you can get out of that one at confession or not.

Eph289 4 years, 6 months ago

Your article seems to imply that their are 2 classes of Christians: Those that hate, bully and harass LGBT people, and those that are "NALT" Christians, which are those that love and accept LGBT people, their lifestyle and their agenda. How about those Christians who love LGBT people, but believe that homosexuality is a sin and are against their LGBT agenda. I believe this group represents the great majority of true Christians around this country and the world. A true Christian believes that the Bible is God's word to us. God says to us through the Bible that we are to love our neighbor, which would also include LGBT people. God also says that Homosexuality is a sin, just like any other sin. Therefore, as a Christian we are to love the person enough to tell them that the LGBT lifestyle is against God. It is in their best interest that they turn from this lifestyle and receive the loving forgiveness that Jesus offers them. Fortunately, here in America an LGBT person can, and should, live as they choose, without fear of persecution, as long as it does not infringe on another person's freedom. We also have the right to disagree with the LGBT lifestyle and agenda, based on freedom of speech and freedom of religion. This is not hate or bigotry. This is freedom to chose what you believe to be right and wrong, but I am commanded to love you even if I disagree with you. The concern Christians have is that the LGBT agenda will take away religious freedoms. We already see this happening in our country. In places such as Massachusetts, New Mexico and Oregon there have been businesses that have closed down for choosing not to reject their religious beliefs. Also, the Department of Justice now has a brochure which requires that employees speak out in favor of the LGBT agenda, among many other requirements, and that silence will be interpreted as disagreement. This is titled, "LGBT inclusion at work: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Managers". This forces people to go against their freedoms of speech and religion. I also have a request for Mr. Pitts - Can you also wright an editorial on LGBT rights in the Islamic world? As you may know, Islam is much less tolerant of LGBT people than Christians. Where is the outcry against Islam?

Armstrong 4 years, 6 months ago

That task would be well outside Pitts wheelhouse. Len makes his living pandering to the left.

asixbury 4 years, 6 months ago

Whether or not you agree with the LGBT lifestyle matters not one bit when it comes to their rights as citizens. Straight people can marry who they love, but in many states, gays and lesbians cannot. That is the only issue that matters...the equality one. Otherwise, I believe individual opinions on the lifestyle should be kept to one's self. It is not your life, so therefore, your opinion on it should not be expressed to them unless asked directly. Live and let live.

Jason Bowers-Chaika 4 years, 6 months ago

First, what did Jesus say about gay people? Nothing. Stop blaming Jesus for anti-gay bias. Now for religious freedom. What about the religious freedom of people who's religion is just fine with gay people? If I'm late for church and I'm speeding and get a ticket is that an infringement on my religious freedom? The business owners claiming religious freedom are in violation of discrimination laws. They don't get to violate the law and claim religious freedom just like I don't get to speed on my way to church.

Currahee 4 years, 6 months ago

I am a non practicing Catholic. I only take a few messages from the bible. Be a good neighbor, treat others the way you would want to be treated, etc. The message of love everyone conflicts with the anti homosexual ideology carried by radical Christians. If I face a God when I die, I would rather want to be judged by how I treated others rather than rendering judgement unfairly. This isn't just Christians though. Any ideological group will have its fair share of radicals who end up spoiling the image for the sane people.

rtwngr 4 years, 6 months ago

Spoken like a true non practicing Catholic that doesn't have the first clue what the Catholic Church has to say about homosexuality, final judgement, or love.

asixbury 4 years, 6 months ago

How about thinking for yourself...or is that too radical?

Currahee 4 years, 6 months ago

Jesus said "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." For me this means (in current social norm terms) "If you're perfect, then how about you start judging everyone?" ... It is not my place or other Catholics to judge. Now you understand why I am non-practicing. Your statement contradicts the true meaning of love. God hates no one.

patkindle 4 years, 6 months ago

Christians have lost such a foothold they will never regain the only thing that keeps the Catholics ahead are the Hispanics the Muslims will pretty well have the majority in a decade or so

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