Last week, I attended a meeting of pastors, scholars, and other Christians who discussed the text of the Nashville Statement. We deliberated, offered amendments, and ultimately voted to adopt it. While I welcome everyone to read it, the short version is very simple. It proclaims the traditional Christian teaching on sex and marriage. Homosexual practice? Still not okay. Sex-changes as an answer to gender dysphoria? No.
Why would anyone participate in writing and adopting such a statement? Haven’t we come far enough in our social evolution that we no longer impose such artificial boundaries upon marriage and sexual identity? Isn’t the whole male-female view of things just depressingly and archaically binary?
Let’s get more fundamentally to what the critics are really thinking. Isn’t the statement just mean? Aren’t these people just full of hate and all they can do is vent their spleen upon a world that is trying desperately to move forward (whatever that ends up looking like)?
I’d like to try to explain the motivation behind participating in the Nashville Statement to the people who think this way and so easily traffic in the lexicon of hatred and bigotry (applied to others). But first, I can’t help but note that those who accuse others of hatred (#thenashvillehatement!) vigorously cut off conversation. Whatever else one might say about the Nashville Statement, it is a clear attempt to set forth biblical teaching on the subject of human sexuality. Another person could step forth and argue against its contentions. The Bible and church history could be consulted as part of this discussion.
Indeed, that’s something missed in the reaction to the statement. Have all the angry respondents, such as the progressive mayor of Nashville, missed that the document is an attempt to argue about the Bible? Are these angry folks even qualified to carry out such an argument?
A few are, but they aren’t the ones who just dismiss haters amidst a vacuum of knowledge about scripture. Imagine a group of Muslim scholars issued such a statement. Would a mob of angry people be ready to tell them what Islam really teaches about human sexuality and the Koran? I hope the silliness becomes evident.
My Faith Means Nothing If I Am Its Measure
Why did I sign the Nashville Statement? The positive motivation is that I believe my faith amounts to nothing if it merely changes with the winds of culture. One sociological interpretation of religion is that we are simply worshipping our collective selves and values. In other words, there is no god and we are simply deifying things we like about our communities. While I don’t doubt that can be a valid description of some forms of faith, I don’t accept it as accurately describing Christianity.
If it did, I wouldn’t have spent the three decades since my conversion at college going to church, reading Christian books, continually trying to conform my behavior in the direction I believe God commands me, and working with students at a Christian college. Instead, I might have been more hedonistic, have embraced more flexible values, been married three times, made more money—who knows? I’d probably have spent those Sunday mornings reading The New York Times and golfing.
The point is that I am deeply invested in the Christian faith. That’s because I believe it is true and does not need to be reconstructed by the privileged denizens of the twenty-first century. I truly believe Jesus Christ was resurrected and that he is truly the lord of us all.
This Is about Truth, Not Personal Gain
Perhaps some people may think I experience some gain in signing the Nashville Statement. Have you actually read the news stories about it? Have you looked at what’s being said on social media? And let’s not get into the immediate fall-out in one’s personal life. There is no great benefit in adopting a statement that flies in the face of the entire direction of the culture of the most powerful nation on earth.
Whichever power center you choose, traditional Christian teaching is either washed out, in deep hiding, or conveniently manipulated. Look at Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street, and Washington DC. There is only a momentary confusion about President Trump as some kind of traditional Christian. I can assure you he won’t be backing the Nashville Statement. Have any senators or congressmen run to the microphone to endorse it? Not so far. Frankly, if they are smart they’ll probably try to avoid it.
No, I didn’t sign because I thought there was much of an upside. I signed because a fearful, sideline-standing part of myself would rather not. I keep thinking about what the Bible says about the remnant of believers, the ones who hold fast. We expect the world to go another way. The temptation is always to find a way to go with it while maintaining we are still true.
I come back to what Peter said to Jesus when he was asked if he would leave with a crowd who found Christ’s message too provocative and strange: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Something else resonates in my mind, as well. “God created them male and female.” I believe the same God communicated both of those things to us. So I signed.