When I first saw about the launch of the NALT Christians Project, my reaction was, “Good, finally somebody telling people to put up or shut up when they use the "not all Christians are like that” line.“ I suppose I should have expected controversy, people don’t like being told that their favorite platitude isn’t particularly useful or helpful.
I didn’t, however, expect so many straight Christian progressives absolutely losing it, and in the process deciding that they’re the ones who get to speak for all LGBT people. The same straight Christian progressives who get mad when men deign to speak for women have demonstrated no problem speaking for all LGBT people.
And so, since I’ve already written a piece to non-affirming Christians, this piece is dedicated to the straight Christian progressives who are too busy chiming in to actually listen.
Dear straight progressive Christians, this isn’t about you. Not really. Sure, Dan Savage and John Shore are asking you to speak up in support of LGBT rights, but it’s not really about you.
Instead of getting your feelings hurt that they aren’t doing it the way you want, you need to stop and listen to the voices of LGBT people.
Now, I recognize that not every LGBT person agrees, we’re not a monolithic hive mind or anything, but if you’re busy dragging out your LGBT friends who agree with you and refusing to listen to anybody else, you aren’t really listening. You’re not seeing your friend as a person, you’re seeing them as a cudgel you can use to attack those who disagree with you. That’s a problem.
Picking and choosing who to listen to based on whether they agree with you and then using them as tools isn’t a good way to be a supporter. It’s divisive and it refuses to recognize or acknowledge that there is a diversity of voices. Whether you realize it or not, you’re saying that there are some "good” LGBT people and some “bad” LGBT people, and the measuring stick is whether they agree with you. That’s not how it works, and it’s not how it should work.
Good? Got it?
Not that’s out of the way, let me explain why a lot of us like the NALT Christian Project.
In my experience, someone telling me, “Not all Christians are like that,” is a pretty darn good warning sign that they’re going to proceed to be “like that.” It’s a way to attack the person who is voicing their frustration at the Christians who are like that and to try to make us shut up. Rather than criticizing those Christians who are bigots, they’d rather we stop pointing it out.
“Not all Christians are like that” is a line that’s designed to silence discussion. To silence criticism. To tell us that we aren’t allowed to talk about our very real hurts.
To help you understand how I feel about the line, “Not all Christians are like that,” let me tell you a true story.
I once posted a story to Facebook, I think about Alan Chambers admitting that ex-gay therapy doesn’t work, and posted it with some sort of comment that it was high time Christians stopped pushing harmful therapy on people. The response was the wife of my old youth pastor, someone whose kids I babysat for years, telling me that I shouldn’t group Christians together because “not all Christians are like that.” I left a reply where I suggested that rather than telling me that, she should tell the Christians who are like that to stop being like that. She left a reply that led me to think it was all good between us and she wasn’t offended.
Came to find out months later that she had sent an email to my mother. My mother. I’m an adult, but rather than talk to me like an adult, she sent an email to my mother complaining that I was harsh to her. Let’s get this clear. I was a thirty year old adult, and she told my mother on me. Because I suggested that instead of telling me that not all Christians are like that, she needed to say something to the ones who are.
The reason I tell this story on here is because I can’t work it out with her. See, she unfriended me after complaining to my mother and she hasn’t communicated with me since.
That’s what I think of when I hear the phrase, “Not all Christians are like that.” Being nice to my face, pretending to be affirming, and then running to my mother to complain about me.
“Not all Christians are like that” is a way to splash on a veneer of support while refusing to actually say or do anything. It’s about attacking the marginalized instead of speaking up to the powerful.
It’s time to say enough. Rather than telling LGBT people that “not all Christians are like that,” you need to tell Christians to stop being “like that."
That’s what the NALT Christian Project is all about. Telling straight Christians that they need to put up or shut up. That it’s not good enough to just repeat the line, "Not all Christians are like that,” they need to actually show that they aren’t like that.
So, straight progressive Christians who are busy complaining, how about if you take half the energy that you’re spending complaining about the NALT Christian Project and spend it on actually condemning the Christians who are like that?
Otherwise you’re just proving yourselves to be just another one of the cacophony of voices attacking LGBT people for pointing out injustice instead of attacking the injustice. And that means that yes, you are “like that.”