It’s not our fault people weren’t listening

A friend clued me into a HuffPo article about this thing Dan Savage is up to. Long story short, it’s an “It Gets Better” project in which Savage’s “NALTs” get to say to a camera that they aren’t bigoted.

I’ll have to think about whether I want to do this, or even support it. To be honest, I have a problem with Savage’s NALT stuff. It reminds me a little bit of conservative Christians who demand that Muslims denounce extremist Islam, all while the fact that many Muslims do denounce extremism on a regular basis and their denunciations are simply ignored by those who demanded the denunciations in the first place. I am part of a Baptist organization, the Alliance of Baptists, that has been vocally supportive of gays and lesbians publicly since 1993, well before many other  denominations, and regularly condemned anti-gay bigotry in public statements. I’m also a part of an organization, the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, that has been working on these issues since the days of American Baptists Concerned, decades ago.

Savage’s complaint about NALTs always seemed to be more that non-traditionalists didn’t have a good public presence, which relates far more to our being sidelined as credible voices of USian Christianity by more conservative Christians than to some failure on our part to vocally denounce anti-gay bigotry in Christian community. Dan Savage only got told “we’re not all like that” so many times because those of us in the W&A communities had been so thoroughly excluded from places of power for so long that we had no platform from which to make our denunciations resonate. When Dan Savage assumed that our Christianities were synonymous with these Christianities we didn’t follow, we were understandably upset that our efforts were being ignored not only by our co-religionists, but by the LGBTQ community we either were allied with or were part of ourselves. And we told him so.

I get where Savage is coming from, but the idea that the people Savage called NALTs were somehow only privately so, in a “just-between-me-and-Dan-Savage” kind of way, always seemed a frustrating sleight of hand that belied the relative power imbalance between traditional and non-traditional Christian communities. I’m just not sure if I can in good conscience support popularizing a term that I think is dismissive of non-traditionalist Christianities.

But I can see the good in the effort, all the same. Perhaps it is a vehicle for the heretofore diminished media capability of the Christian W&A movement to actually get some credit for doing what it’s been doing for decades in the midst of a thoroughly oppressive broader church environment. I just think Savage would do well to remember that most NALTs have not been quietly wandering through that environment. We’ve been kicking and screaming.