By Matthew Pertz, Video Editor
As a proud bearer of Southern Baptist blood, the Nashville Statement is not surprising. Fourteen signers are named as associates of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, located a mile from my childhood home in peachy Wake Forest, NC. Many more Raleigh and Wake Forest pastors also signed on, including the pastor of my home church in Youngsville. My entire upbringing was baptized in the thoughts that document expressed.
This is the rhetoric I was raised in. This rhetoric is wrong.
Speaking in missionary terms, the LGBT community is an unreached people group. Pastors still treat gay individuals like a full trash bag: sure, they’ll interact with you, but only while you’re at arm’s length, and only until they can drop you off at the curb and trot back inside.
The Statement continues the Christian tradition of pounding homosexuals with the wrath of God for some reason or another. The essay, crafted and endorsed by a who’s-who of primarily Baptist thinkers like Russell Moore and the entire Akin family.
Many have pointed out that the Statement merely defines the church’s position of the past two millennia without presenting new dogma. That would be true, but we must also acknowledge the many times the church has flip-flopped its own doctrine. Even the friendliest observer would describe the church’s position on slavery as muddied for the first 1900 years of Christianity. The Southern Baptist Convention, the dominant denomination represented in Nashville’s signers, acknowledged its own role in perpetuating racism in 1995 by publishing a statement that read in part, “Many of our Southern Baptist forbears defended the right to own slaves, and either participated in, supported or acquiesced in the particularly inhumane nature of American slavery.”
Meanwhile, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, penned an 1,100 word op-ed justifying his stance, writing, “It affirmed what would have been universally acknowledged as the historic Christian faith without question or controversy until just the last several years.” His argument echoes antebellum.
For better or worse, the church is the most intellectually pompous society known to man. No entity has been known to study so fervently and yet still dedicate itself to self-contradicting ideas (see again: Christian slaveholders). The line between scholar and wacko is perilously thin, especially to non-believers. Now is not the time to dance on the tightrope for the sake of slapping gay people on the wrist.
In the third chapter of his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This language is incendiary even in post-Sexual Revolution America. One can only imagine how revolutionary this frame of thought was for Paul’s first century brethren.
Article 10 of the statement is particularly frustrating. Stating “it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism” and such a belief “constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness” raises more walls between the church and others. The LGBT community is practically alienated from Christianity, not due to geographic separation or cultural membranes but due to the stubbornness of a church that refuses to stretch past its own safe space.
Mohler claims, “The main goal of the ‘Nashville Statement’ is to point all persons, regardless of the form of our struggles over sexuality or self-identity, to salvation and wholeness in Christ,” a goal which was spectacularly missed. LGBTQ individuals and Christian parishioners alike panned Mohler and Co.’s effort. A group called The Liturgists, led by Michael Gungor and Mike McHargue, released a rebuttal stating in part, “We believe that God is love, and that ‘anyone who loves is born of God and knows God’. (I John 4:7) God is honored in any consenting and loving relationship between adults, and therefore, all such relationships deserve honor and recognition.”
Perhaps a religion so starkly divided shouldn’t seek to divide itself even further by shunning an entire sector of society. We should see the past transgressions of the church as if we are looking in a mirror: be they gay, black, female or foreign, our forefathers have always found people to lock out. Maybe if the body of Christ spent as much time on collective introspection as LGBT criticism, we would reach a fuller understanding of the truth.