Men and women are different. Sex is intended only for marriage. Sexual expressions other than those that are monogamous, heterosexual, and cissexual are in error. God’s love and forgiveness is for everyone.
These are the earth-shattering ideas affirmed by the Nashville Statement, evangelical Christianity’s attempt to speak up for itself in a time when its views are quickly being pushed from the public square. The reaction from many corners of our culture have been as predictable as they are outraged:
- Christians are a bunch of intolerant bigots/homophobes/hypocrites
- What backward nonsense, don’t they know this is the 21st century?
- This is an attack on LGBTQIIWTF?s, they don’t want them to even exist!
- I may be an atheist pansexual transunicorn, but let me tell you what is correct Christian belief
- Donald Trump (!???)
Look, I get it. Many people disagree strongly with these views. They directly contradict the non-traditional values held by a large swath of the population, perhaps even the majority. But there can be no doubt that the Nashville Statement represents the views and beliefs of a significant number of Americans (also, perhaps even a majority). That is why it was especially galling to see public officials denounce the statement, particularly the Mayor of Nashville, who said:
The @CBMWorg‘s so-called “Nashville Statement” is poorly named and does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville
— Megan Barry (@MayorMeganBarry) August 29, 2017
Actually, Ms. Barry, it does represent the values of many, if not most of the people of Nashville. It’s remarkable that a public official feels so free to slander the views of such a significant portion of her constituency, and declare with the imprimatur of government that such views are unacceptable in the public square. A more appropriate response from a government official would be:
As a government representing citizens of wide-ranging beliefs who are free to express them, and bound by the U.S. Constitution to neither endorse nor prohibit the free exercise of religious belief, the City of Nashville takes no position on the so-called “Nashville Statement”.
The public, secular argument about the Nashville Statement is remarkable enough, and worthy of debate in the comments below. Issues like faith’s role in the public square, what it means to be ‘tolerant’, how to approach transgenderism, ‘hate speech’, coerced cake-baking, and the like are all worthy topics of discussion and tie in to the Nashville Statement. But I find the debate within Christianity itself to be especially interesting. These issues of sexuality have been tearing apart many Christian denominations, which have struggled to reconcile their historic beliefs with today’s culture. While most evangelical denominations have held fast to traditional beliefs, the so-called “mainline” churches, the often larger and more established denominations (Episcopal, PCUSA Presbyterian, United Methodist, ELCA Lutheran) have fairly rapidly departed from them.
Christians at the dawn of the twenty-first century find themselves living in an exciting, beautiful, liberating, and holy period of historic transition. Western culture has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being by expanding the limits and definitions previously imposed by fundamentalist Christians.
How exciting, how historic, this upending of millennia-old beliefs and traditions! Such sentiment is widespread in progressive Christian corners, which revel in their unmooring from scripture, and wear their heresy as a badge of honor. They engage in too-clever-by-half reinterpretations, selective reading, and feelings-based decision-making to arrive at doctrinal conclusions that oh so neatly track with the values of secular culture. The result, in the mainline denominations most affected by this, is chaos and schism. What about all that talk about not serving two masters, families being divided over belief, and how people will be persecuted for their Christian belief? Ehhh, we wouldn’t want to hurt people’s feelings, after all.
Other Christian responses have been supportive, eye-opening, and even humorous. Many are taking the release of the statement as an opportunity to discuss and explain the nuances of what is a very nuanced topic. A lot of commentary focuses on the need for Christians to stand up for their beliefs in this age, and asking for respect for these beliefs from those who proclaim their tolerance and inclusiveness. One of the most interesting responses is from someone who has herself struggled with the conflict of her faith and sexuality, and in doing so, offers a powerful testimony and example for those with similar struggles.
As a Christian myself, I read the Nashville Statement and have a really hard time finding anything I disagree with. Perhaps it could be more clear about the duty of Christians to love those struggling with sexual sin, but there is already ample content in the statement affirming this. One of the worst parts of this whole thing is the mischaracterization of the statement as “hateful”. Wrong. The statement is clear in its condemnation of sin, no doubt, but it is love for the sinner is also clearly stated.
But in an age when the culture breaks people into identity groups, instead of individuals, and teaches people to incorporate their sexuality as a core part of their identity, no wonder people have trouble with it. When our culture conflates words with violence, of course there would be attempts to silence people. And when a believing person’s polite disagreement is considered hate, no wonder such people are vilified, attacked, and ousted from society.