Ever heard of the “Nashville Statement?” I light-heartedly started reading it, assuming it was a manifesto about the latest season of the ABC/CMT drama series, but alas, all I can say is: Dude.
It was fierce, dramatic, and fiery, totally like the series. And yet, it was also irrational, unscientific, and unchristian — and wholly NOT about the TV show. Oops. Statements like this one — signed by many, espousing crazy-making inferences about “God’s design” (as if humans have any nuanced insight into that) are getting so common that it’s getting hard to be a Christian for those of us who like actually following Christ’s example as opposed to putting words into his mouth.
So let’s unpack the nonsense, shall we?
First, the source: The authors of the Nashville Statement are referred to by some as “Evangelical heavy hitters.” This is true in the sense that they have a lot of conservative followers. It is not true in the sense that they are trained and respected theologians. Their words are, well, their words — and not the words of God or the Christ.
Now for the thoughts themselves. Picking from among the uninformed ranting, we have an embarrassment of riches. Let’s try to follow just a few of their outlined articles:
According to the good ol’ Nashville Statement, marriage can only be monogamous unions according to the Evangelical God. I’m in one of those kinds myself, and fortunately for us, it’s working. But I find myself in need of an open mind here, considering the God of the Bible actually established rules about polygamous unions, and some might logically believe that regulation presumes approval. Among the many of God’s heroes, the pre-eminent one, a “man after God’s own heart,” King David, had eight wives. His son, Solomon, in an epic “anything you can do I can do better” burn directed at dear ol’ dad, had 700. In Jerusalem at the time of Christ, polygamy was common. If marriages were all about “one man and one woman,” then Jesus’ silence on the matter is a bit odd. The truth of history is that, despite the Evangelical hubris, marriage does not belong to them. Humans have been forming strategic alliances to face life’s challenges as partners since the dawn of our species. Before the New Testament. Before the whole Bible. Before the invention of civilization. Marriage belongs to humans, and humans get to define it and regulate it.
According to this section, chastity before marriage is “God’s revealed will” and sexual intercourse before marriage is forever unjustified. This may be true of the Evangelical God, but the God of the Bible seems way less rigid and uptight. Then there’s reality: Our children become sexually mature at puberty, and the current median age of first marriages is close to 30. The evangelical prescription for sexual behavior is to just hang on baby for 17 years. It’s easy...just try it. but this only applies to legal marriages, that is, the form and not the substance. People are still forming strategic alliances, they’re just leaving the government and religion out of their intimate business. This trend includes Millennials, for sure, but it has included generations of grandparents as well.
Articles 3 and 4
The writers of the Nashville Statement deny that “the differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth.” Good thing they’ve done so much work toward, lobbied so hard to legislate and fundamentally supported equal pay for women and the Equal Rights Amendment, and good thing they so often powerfully decry the over 30 percent difference in pay between men and women staffers in the White House. Oh wait. Just kidding.
The reasons that Evangelicals are able to keep repeating their nonsense about gender are simple: The rules matter far more than the people whom the rules are meant to serve. The result is that they and the religion they represent are becoming increasingly irrelevant to Americans of every age. They are fast reaching the point where they and their views just don’t matter anymore.
Articles ALL THE REST
Now we get into the sexual meat of it: In summary, most of these articles suggest that we should pray the gay away and pretend there is no such thing as people being born with sexual anatomy that doesn’t correspond to their identity. The heart of this notion is that sexual orientation (gay) and sexual identity (trans) involve choice. For Evangelicals, gays and trans folk have made a very, very bad choice. Evangelicals, if we are to believe their leaders, believe that every day they wake up to a choice between good and evil, between hetero and homo, between conforming to your anatomy or being bad and complaining that you don’t feel like the girl parts you have or like the boy parts that feel “other.”
Funny, when actually asked if in fact they experience the sensation of having a choice, every Evangelical, every hetero I’ve ever spoken to, thinks for a moment to consider this outlandish question and then they say, “No.” Evangelicals and other homophobes usually bow their head in shame when they realize what nonsense they’ve been spreading when they say, “I just don’t agree with that lifestyle choice.”
Consider another thought experiment right out of 20th century eugenics: Imagine we were able to identify and then kill every single gay person out there. (Horrible thought, I know, but we’re dealing with horrible nonsense here.) What will be the percentage of gay people born into the subsequent generation of humans raised in a non-gay world? Well, it will be the same as every generation that has ever been born. Why? Well —surprise! — gay people don’t make gay babies, breeders do that.
The Nashville Evangelicals assure us that we can all be forgiven for our sexual behaviors — for our sexuality itself. But really y’all, do any of us want their forgiveness? Having such hateful people arrogantly presume to speak for God and then to God in a so very wrong way means they might want to seek a bit of forgiveness for themselves. Once upon a time, Jesus was asked about a man who’d been born blind: Who sinned — this man, or his parents that he was born this way? The startling answer from the Son of God: “Neither. This happened that the works of God would be displayed in him.” Cool, right?
Oh, Evangelicals, we will pray for you to find the path of righteousness. We will pray that you consider the tweets offered by Rev. James Martin, a well-known Catholic priest, author, and adviser to the Vatican on communications, who modeled your list with his own affirmations and denials — and pretty much rocked Christ’s example, if I do say so myself. And we will pray that you get your cool back. Maybe to start, you can watch an episode of Nashville, and ask yourself: What would Deacon do? Because I can almost guarantee, he’d do as deacons typically do: lead without judgment, and therefore summarily rebuke your misstated statement.
Marriage and Family Therapist Steven Ing (stevening.com) has spent three decades teaching clients about how to intelligently manage their sexuality in both their personal and professional lives. Tweet @StevenIngMFT or email him at askING@stevening.com.