Friday, September 1, 2017

Commentary on the Nashville Statement: "Strikingly Trumpian Brand of Redemption That Saves by Statements of Division"

Commentary I have read about the Nashville Statement and found good. I hope you will, too:

Zach Hoag, "The Nashville Statement is a vision of Christian salvation, Trump-style": 

[If the Nashville Statement doesn't clarify much about evangelical positions on sexuality and gender issues, it certainly reveals much about the theological heartbeat that currently animates the American evangelical movement. A Christian salvation available only to those who agree in condemning and excluding LGBTQ people is in keeping with a commander in chief who demands the exclusion of transgender troops, refugees, immigrants. It is a strikingly Trumpian brand of redemption that saves by statements of division. 
Sure, our country might be embroiled in a racial crisis and reeling from a natural disaster. But if the deep-seated theological agenda is exclusion, then the Nashville Statement is perfectly timed.

John Pavlovitz, "The Nashville Statement (A Plain Language Translation)": 

Evangelical Christians are at the precipice of extinction—and we know it. We are a profoundly endangered species coming to grips with the urgency of the moment, of our impending disappearance, of the whole thing going sideways here in the Bible Belt—and we’re in a bit of a panic. 
We are leaking people from our churches, watching multitudes walk away in disgust, and losing market share in the religious landscape, as well as the vice-like stranglehold we’ve had on American politics for the past 241 years—and we are rightly terrified. 
Yes, we made our bed with this President, which a few months ago seemed like a victory, but we now realize we are inextricably tethered to an absolute monster, and have no choice but to deny Jesus daily and double down on him, lest we lose every ally. 
However, we forgot that people aren't stupid, and they see the disconnect between the President and the Jesus we're trying to simultaneously claiming allegiance to—and we desperately need a distraction to muddy the waters; we need an easy battle to regain the credibility we’ve forfeited as we’ve sold off our souls and built our personal empires.

Eliel Cruz, "The Nashville Statement Is an Attack on L.G.B.T. Christians": 

The Nashville Statement's harm is more than symbolic. The hateful beliefs it endorses have real-life, devastating consequences. 
L.G.B.T. youths have disproportionately high rates of suicide and of anxiety and depression — problems that are undoubtedly worsened by the condemnation of those who hold beliefs like the ones in the Nashville Statement. Those whose families reject them, most of whom are from religious backgrounds, are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. L.G.B.T. youths also suffer from high rates of homelessness. Because of conservative churches' teachings about sexuality, some parents prefer their L.G.B.T. children sleep on the streets instead of in their homes. 
Evangelicals' promotion of "reparative therapy" that tries to change L.G.B.T. people's sexual orientation or gender identity, which has been condemned by every major medical organization, has also brought harm and death. It’s no exaggeration to say that when Americans believe their churches require them to embrace messages like the one in the Nashville Statement, lives are at stake. 
More broadly, the type of theology underlying the Nashville Statement is used to defend the denial of goods and services to same-sex couples. The political power evangelicals hold in the United States allows them to codify their beliefs in law. Dozens of "religious freedom restoration acts," primarily in the form of so-called bathroom bills, have focused on policing the lives of L.G.B.T. people. Since the 2014 decision by the Department of Education to include gender identity under Title IX protections, more than 60 Christian colleges have requested — and many have received — waivers to discriminate against L.G.B.T. students.

Daniel Schultz, "Nashville Cats Play Dumb As Backwards Preachers": 

Friends, I have read the Nashville Statement, and it is stupid. Like, really, really dumb. Final season of Friends dumb. Blotting out the sun dumb. So dumb that it forms less of a theological statement than a Facebook post masquerading as a creed of the church. It is so monumentally stupid that the largest button on the page is "Sign Now," as if taking the time to read the thing first would surely dissuade you from supporting it. . . . 
It's less Christianity than Jesus-flavored Stalinism, and it's invariably about maintaining rigid gender roles. I do not know why selective literalists have chosen feminism, homosexuality, and now transgender status as their hill to die on. But they have, and it’s killing the faith. . . . 
Those of us who study and proclaim the word of God owe those we speak to the humility to know that there is more to the divine than we can understand, imagine, or comprehend, even in the guidelines for moral holiness that have been passed down. Maybe, just maybe, even those people who don't follow the rules as we understand them might be on to something. Offering the grace of complexity seems like the least we could do, as followers of a prostitute’s grandson who tore down every barrier to God he could find."

Mark Silk, "Evangelical leaders try to hold the line on gender": 

In my view, the Bible is rather less clear on manhood and womanhood than the confident assertions of the Nashville Statement suggest, there being at least four wives among the three Patriarchs in Genesis, to say nothing of the polygamous and polyamorous behavior of David and Solomon, or David’s arguably homoerotic relationship with Jonathan. 
But as a devotee of the Free Exercise Clause I say: Go for it, guys. If that old-time heteronormativity is the hill you want evangelical Christianity to die on, be my guest. . . . So far as the Nashville Statement is concerned, God's holy purposes in creation and redemption boil down to body parts and procreation.

Fred Clark, "The ugly ingratitude of the 'Nashville Statement'": 

The idea that uncircumcised believers could be welcomed — or, in this case, LGBT believers — is something they find inconceivable and exasperating. Butbutbut the Bible! they cry. And — oddly, for a bunch of otherwise iconoclastic Protestants — tradition! "This is simply what Christians have always taught for 2,000 years!"
They are, like Peter on the rooftop, "greatly puzzled" by the suggestion that "What God has made clean, you must not call profane" and that "I should not call anyone profane or unclean." 
Their puzzlement is an example of what theologian Willie James Jennings sometimes calls "Gentile forgetfulness." I think that’s probably too generous a term. Forgetfulness seems too innocent. "Gentile ingratitude" might be more accurate. Think of Jesus' parable of the unmerciful servant. When the servant is graciously forgiven his own massive, unpayable debt and then turns around to imprison a man who owes him a mere pittance, the unmerciful servant isn’t just being "forgetful." He's demonstrating a monstrous ingratitude.

Rachel Held Evans, "The False Gospel of Gender Binaries": 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not so fragile as to be unpinned by the reality that variations in gender and sexuality exist, nor is it so narrow as to only be good news for people who look and live like Ward and June Cleaver. This glorification of gender binaries has become a dangerous idol in the Christian community, for it conflates cultural norms with Christian morality and elevates an ideal over actual people.  

Michael Boyle, "Umbrellas and Their Meaning": 

Lots of folks don't want to hear that there are limits to their carefully built and tended system.  And they especially don't like to see living avatars of those limits, people who are living free and clear of the system and comfortable in liminal spaces.  It puts the whole thing into jeopardy, because the system is only powerful if everyone believes that it is unimpeachable and unchangeable.  If it is the case that we can live in liminal spaces regarding gender and sexuality and it is OK, then other sorts of liminal spaces are probably OK as well.  
But there are people who simply can't or won't accept living in liminal spaces, no matter the context.  The Nashville Statement is a desperate, and ultimately futile, attempt to find some way to rebuild the collective hypnosis surrounding gender and sexuality.  Maybe, somehow, if they can just get everyone to believe that their One True Way is clear and God-ordained, it will make it true, and then they will not be confronted by any of these terrifying liminal spaces anymore.

And last but far from least, Nadia-Bolz-Weber, "The Denver Statement," which is hard to summarize by way of an excerpt, since it's an article-by-article rebuttal of the stupidity of the Nashville Statement — con brio and humor. Here's its conclusion:

Article 15 (this one is just ours) 
WE AFFIRM that the church has often been indistinguishable from the dominant culture in the ways in which it has sanctified oppression and bigotry towards historically marginalized and demonized people groups, of which the LGBTQ+ community is one.   
WE DENY any ideology, theological or otherwise, that results in the further marginalization, rejection, dehumanization, and overall suffering of LGBTQ+ individuals.

(Where the original text of several articles — John Pavlovitz', Rachel Held Evans', and Nadia Bolz-Weber's — uses bold or bold italic font, I have, begging the pardon of the authors, converted the excerpts to regular font, since the bold/bold italic makes sense only in the context of the whole articles.

I also should note that Carol Howard Merritt's tweet is not precisely about the Nashville Statement, but it strikes me as apropos as we discuss this document, and so I've included it. And I should note as well that Rachel Held Evans' essay was published in 2014, but she shared it on Twitter this week in response to the Nashville Statement.)

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