The Nashville Statement: No Big Deal?

God has historically demonstrated, time and time again, that turning a bad situation into good is His spéciale. (cf. Gen. 50:20; 2 Sam. 16:10, 11, 12; Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18; 1 Peter 1:6, 7) Jonathan Merritt, whose Southern Baptist father, James Merritt, signed the ill-timed anti-LGBTQ Nashville Statement, suggests that those who signed the document did so not out of hate but out of conviction. (link) Jonathan notes, though, that the statement is devoid of any semblance of repentance from evangelical Religious Right advocates of their malicious statements against LGBTQ persons who retain the image of God. (link) Moreover, he emphasizes the fact that fundamentalists and evangelicals perpetuate a history of marginalizing their opponents, in this case LGBTQ folk. (link) How can this evangelical negativity be turned toward the good for us today?

This thought regarding the Nashville Statement crossed my mind today: the more evangelical leaders in the Religious Right make negative statements about LGBTQ folk the more of a martyr they render us. They anathematize, and preach "Abomination!," and we, the marginalized and disenfranchised, curry favor, pity, affirmation and support from, at times, the most unlikely of candidates -- even some evangelical believers who disagree with either the tone or the entire context of their anti-LGBTQ Religious Right agenda. So I thought to myself: Let evangelical leaders continue to spew all the self-righteous indignation against LGBTQ people and "homosexuality" that they desire. When they do so, they make us martyrs, and we garner more and more support.

"What 'malicious statements' from the evangelical Religious Right am I referring to?" you ask. I'm so glad you asked. Allow me to offer you a small sampling that evangelical Religious Right folk have stated about LGBTQ people. One of my all-time favorites comes from Baptist pastor Charles Worley, who discovered a way to cure the gayness from our land, suggesting that LGBTQ people be herded like cattle in the mid-West until we die off. "But," you might argue, "more LGBTQ people would be born to heterosexual couples in the future. That wouldn't cure the gayness from our land." Yes, my friend, you are correct. How wise of you to intuit the gaping hole in this Baptist pastor's flawed logic.

But how could a professing Christian even wish the death and extinction of other human beings created in the image of God merely for wanting to love another human being of the same gender? That is disturbing, to say the least, the very least. Okay, fine, so you hold a different interpretation of five (not seven, five, and only barely five) passages of Scripture, two from the Old Testament law (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), and three from the New Testament (Rom. 1:24-28; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:10). (All of these passages have been addressed and explained on this site.) But do you have to wish their death, their eradication from this earth? How is that any semblance of Christian love, grace, mercy and compassion?

How is that any semblance of loving thy neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40)? Who is your neighbor? Everyone (Luke 10:25-37), even that LGBTQ human being you disdain, whom God loves and for whom Christ died. (John 1:29; 3:16) What is love? Love is laying down your life for another human being. (1 John 3:16) If you are wishing for the death, the very extinction, of LGBTQ people then you demonstrate the murderous intent of your unregenerate heart. (Matt. 5:21-22) Vicious Baptists like Charles Worley cause a deep unsettling within me. The level of his wickedness is akin to demonic Alt-Right racists who wish for the eradication of a group or groups of people whom they, for some reason, find utterly repulsive.

The Nashville Statement, however, contributes to and encourages notions held by Charles Worley, or someone like Steven Anderson, who currently still believes that LGBTQ folk should, today, be stoned to death. With every affirming clause, in the Nashville Statement, there are murderous evangelical Religious Right advocates who say a hearty "Amen!" and continue their assault of LGBTQ people, encouraging their followers in this same vein, and seek to legislate their ideas through Republican means. Granted, we may garner support and affirmation with every onslaught of the evangelical Religious Right, but the threat against our very lives is also at stake, and is very real, during each new incident.

Allow me further reflection upon the evangelical hatred for LGBTQ persons. From an article for the Religion News Service, Jonathan Merritt notes some disgusting rhetoric:
  • Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart once said, "If a gay man ever hit on me, I'd kill him and tell God he died." [That is ironic given Swaggart's sexual misconduct with prostitutes.]
  • Presbyterian pastor [the late] D. James Kennedy reacted to a notion of gays serving in the military by sending out a letter asking, "Honestly, would you want your son, daughter, or grandchild sharing a shower, foxhole, or blood with a homosexual?"
  • Founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network Pat Robertson declared that for him, "[Homosexuality] is sodomy. It is repugnant."
  • Ten Commandments crusader and Alabama Judge Roy Moore called homosexuality an "abhorrent, immoral, detestable crime against nature" that should be punishable by law. [This is why Religious Right evangelicals enter Republican politics: they want to outlaw LGBTQ people from living normal and healthy lives.]
  • Calvin Beisner of the Christian Cornwall Alliance wrote an article arguing against the "militant homosexuals" who were calling for an increase in federal spending on AIDS research, treatment and education. Beisner asked if it was "rational" to increase funding to "fight a disease that is almost 100 percent self-inflicted by people intent on immoral and irrational behavior? Not when there are more pressing matters that ought to take priority."
  • In the 1990s, leaders such as Jerry Falwell led an effort to block funding for AIDS relief and research. Countless gays and lesbians -- that is, men and women who are made in the image of God -- have perished as a result.
  • Thabiti Anyabwile, a pastor and blogger at The Gospel Coalition, wrote an article asserting that Christians need to recover their "gag reflex" [an overt allusion to male-to-male oral sex] when speaking about gays and lesbians. This article remains on the popular conservative website even today. (emphases added)
Added to these statements is Franklin Graham, who calls LGBTQ folk and their supporters godless; Mike Pence, who stated that gay couples signal a societal collapse, and that protection for LGBTQ people in the workplace is a threat against religious freedom; Mike Huckabee, who compared marriage equality to incest; Tony Perkins (who paid American "white nationalist, politician, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, Holocaust-denier, convicted felon, and former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan" David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list), personal friend to Franklin Graham, claimed that the human race would become extinct if homosexuality was deemed "normal," defended Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill, insisted that there is a direct link of homosexuality to pedophilia and claimed that the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell bill in the military would inevitably lead to "suicides, sexual assaults, the Secret Service prostitution scandal and the inevitable reinstatement of the draft." Should I offer more evidence? I could. Because this list is paltry at best.

Because of the assault on America by Trump, his anti-gay administration and his Religious Right and other defenders and supporters, the lives of LGBTQ folk are at great risk: 2016 already witnessed the deadliest on record for violent acts against LGBTQ persons to date (link); and the evangelical Religious Right merely add fuel to an already-burning firestorm against LGBTQ persons. Is the Nashville Statement really no big deal? No, my friends, it is a big deal. The Nashville Statement reaffirms every scare tactic that the evangelical Religious Right have been preaching for decades now. Did we even need the Nashville Statement? Of course not! Evangelicals constantly remind us, week after week, their view that "homosexuality is an abomination." We certainly didn't need a formal declaration from them that sets this notion in stone: it was already set in stone in the minds of generations of U.S. citizens.

The only good that can come from this evil is that many more people will open their eyes to the outright tyranny of the evangelical Religious Right, and Republican leaders, against LGBTQ people and that these enlightened people will come to our defense and support. I've already witnessed that support in my own Red-town community. Thank you all so very much! We are, obviously, a minority. We cannot carry this torch by ourselves. We need the help and defense of honorable citizens of an America that respects the worth of LGBTQ people, as well as all other minority groups, regardless of religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. What the Nashville Statement has demonstrated for us all is that there is still much work of education, reconciliation, and equality left to carry out.


Hugh Krone said...

Oh well here goes

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.