To be clear, this is a critique of the Nashville Statement through a series of questions. Hard questions. Questions which need answering BEFORE the articles of the Nashville Statement are found to be true. Questions which reflect a deeper desire to understand what God and scripture really have to say about human sexuality, not just assume to know. In order to ask these sorts of questions, an individual and/or individuals should be comfortable with deductive and abductive reasoning, not just inductive reasoning alone.
However, Evangelical Christianity in the modern era seems incapable of treating the subject matter of human sexuality with anything less than blinding presumption, even if it deeply impacts people (believers and non-believers alike) in the most intimate of ways. By speaking life or death directly into the spiritual and sexual lives of others, the leadership of Evangelical America seems to be failing at giving these issues the proper due process they deserve. In other words, maybe the issues surrounding the LGTBQ community can not be tackled in the same way we’ve process many other theological issues? Maybe, a group of heterosexual, predominantly white males (here is the list of those on the roster who helped draft up the Nashville Statement) don’t have all the answers the LGTBQ community needs in order to understand how to be reconciled and made whole with Christ?
It doesn’t take much to imagine how a member of the the LGBTQ community might feel, as they wrestle out their existence, without any spiritual guidance on issues concerning their sexuality, other than a list of “Thou shalt not’s..” We’ve effectively ripped these issues out of the hands of those whom it matters most, not only silencing their voice, but giving them temporal or feigned authority in the matter.
A person’s spirituality and sexuality are (hopefully) understood to be THE MOST private areas of their human existence, and revolve around such subjects as shame, confusion, desires for restoration/redemption, etc. Yet, the Nashville Statement stands as the stark representation of how the Western church insists on handling the subject matter…. from the “top down”, in an authoritarian manner, with conscious negligence and an unsettling distrust of anyone struggling with these issues.
To put it in context, if the church (or churches) were to decide on a unified policy over subjects such as treatment of the poor, minorities, race relations, roles of the sexes, etc, I wonder if they would handle the subject matter in the same way? Would they decide NOT to listen to the many voices of individuals within their denomination who deal directly and/or are impacted by the matter? Would they be ok making a unilateral decision with a group of leaders who are of the opposite demographic than the group impacted? Can those unaffected by poverty, racial tension, and/or the struggle of equality among men and women really contain enough internal, autonomous knowledge to understand the issue at hand?
Surely, this is the danger of placing knowledge above wisdom…it dehumanizes those under scrutiny, and places a stumbling block in front of the redemptive work of the cross.
Most importantly, would a church or organization be so hasty and definitive in their attempt to make a stand AGAINST any other current issues affecting personal lives today? Has the church recently made such a bold and expedient stand against any other “erroneous” beliefs surrounding our current culture…not only publicly displaying their articles of faith, but also gathering signatures of those who agree? I would think, with all the time and resources given to organizing and broadcasting the Nashville Statement, the American church could have also made a large, positive impact on other humanitarian issues such as poverty, human rights, and justice, not only in this country, but abroad.
The Nashville Statement is a document meant to END the discussion, not BEGIN it. In essence, it lacks the humility and personal security Jesus demonstrates as he walks among lepers and prostitutes and heals them.
To be very clear of it’s potential impact, the articles within the NS are generic enough to appeal to those already holding a negative (even anger-filled) sentiment toward the subject matter. Yet, they are NOT clear and decisive enough for any member of the LGTBQ community to know who they really are in the eyes of God. Therefore, it easily lends itself as a reflecting pond for those who already hold disdain for many of the topics discussed. It becomes the rallying cry of civil war and civil unrest in our nation and surrounding communities, NOT the good news of the gospels. The NS, at best, serves as a unified personal manifesto, and a dividing barrier for those of us standing on either side of this subject.
In addition, the NS can not only be seen as a declaration of war on the American people, but on the members of it’s own spiritual community.
Personally, it’s not very fun being the dissenting voice on these particular issues…
It’s almost certain I will stand as an immediate threat to NS sympathizers, and immediately disregarded and/or dismissed for holding opposing beliefs. But I am a distinct individual, with distinct opinions, and don’t see the world in a “either/or….ally/enemy” sort of way. I see the value of what conservative Christianity AS WELL AS progressive Christianity offers on these issues, and only desire peaceful, life-giving conversation between the two “camps”. This is NOT a zero-sum game, where winner takes all. Rather, it is (or should be) conversation by which Christ is magnified through the love we express within our differences of each other. His command to “love your enemy”, in this day and age, seems appropriately to land in the middle of the church aisle on these kind of subjects. The NS, seemingly, will have nothing of it. It is only concerned with extracting truth without processing it in Love….which is not truth at all, but religious distraction.
Perhaps if we all saw ourselves as those in need of rescue, the conversation might start on the humble foot it deserves. Maybe those most undignified and outcast, the “Samaritans” of our day, will be those who save us in the end. Perhaps, even those with authoritative titles such as “Priest” and “Levite” (Luke 10 vs. 25-37) have compromised themselves by their own actions….and Jesus is leaving the issues to be decided among His own people.
And so……..any good, fruitful debate needs founding goalposts and guidelines. Without these, we don’t have the proper mapping by which to follow a productive path towards truth. After all, truth was never promised to those who hold elite and specific power over the people, but to any and all who seek to find it. Truth’s revelation is for both the common man and the High Priest. It is the cumulative result of lovingly processing together, by which, we MAY be fortunate enough to arrive at some definitive conclusions. Even then, the arrival should be seen as only secondary to the way by which we got there.
And so, I’d like to address each article of the Nashville Statement with some important questions, to better understand what is presumed and what is inherently true. After all, our early Christian ancestors were expected to do the same. They worked their moral, ethical, and doctrinal beliefs through with the same diligence as any other Greek philosopher. Many of them did so without an official Bible in hand.
(CRITIQUE OF EACH ARTICLE COMING SOON…..)