The Nashville Statement, CPR, and You

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In light of the extreme suffering from Hurricane Harvey, claims that the hurricane was somehow God’s punishment for Homosexuality, white supremacists marching, and millions of Christians frantically trying to say “that’s not what we believe!” a conservative group calling themselves a “coalition for biblical sexuality” has released The Nashville Statement. There couldn’t have been a worse time to drop such an incendiary piece of literature.

What is it? 

For starters, it’s nothing new.

Most of us have heard the beliefs of conservative fundamentalist Christians in bits and pieces at various times. This document simply collects them in one place.

It says homosexuality is a sin, sex outside of heterosexual marriage of any kind is a sin, those who do not identify as cisgender are not in alignment with God’s purposes for themselves, the world, or redemption, and it goes on to say that anyone that does not agree with these views as outlined in their document is sinning by holding a different perspective (see article 10).

Article 10 also states that those who sign this document deny that an acceptable response to these differing perspectives is to “agree to disagree,” but rather the only Christian response is to speak against these sinful perspectives, and to refuse to use language that would affirm such sinful perspectives (see article 11).

Then it affirms that Jesus came to save all sinners, and that through the grace of God those who are transgender and homosexual can forsake all these sinful ways and be made into heterosexual, cisgendered, God following Christians.

If you’re a conservative Christian, this doctrine is probably somewhat standard. If you’re a liberal Christian this entire document probably makes you cringe, ready to get on the megaphone and declare that you don’t believe that, and that this isn’t what the Bible really teaches. Most importantly, if you are LGBTQ, none of us really even have a right to try to say what you are feeling. At the very least, you must be feeling just a little extra rejected by Christians at the moment.

But real hope doesn’t come from proving anyone wrong or right, and we’re all invited into the love and freedom that the true gospel of Jesus promises.

Hang with me a minute. We’re going somewhere worthwhile. I promise.

Empathy

We get caught up in defending our ideas. I get it. I did it. I was the guy on my high school campus who led the Christian clubs, and who got into debates with the leader of the Gay Straight Alliance club (If you’re reading this right now K, thank you for being in my life. I’m so much better because of you).

Here’s the thing about ideas: The moment we draw our “line in the sand” and declare that we will “die for what we believe” or anything like that, we leave behind anyone who isn’t “us.” We segregate. We make them the “other” in the wrong and make ourselves the righteous ones that “belong.”

Love breathes empathy, and when we sign statements (or oppose statements) designed to divide we cut off Love’s air supply. We suffocate her.

So that’s where we’re going. Love is in danger of dying. She can’t breath. You and I have a job to do. Together, we can breathe in empathy, and bring love back. Ready for some CPR?

The “Other” is Me

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You aren’t right. You can’t be, because you can’t see the whole picture. Neither can I. Nor can the Coalition for Biblical Sexuality.

Those that follow the Bible have some great scriptures that teach this, such as those in Revelation that tell us we do not have the right to judge others, and to allow others to keep doing what they are doing rather than try to change them (Rev 21:11). We have the words of the Apostle Paul who says that Love is the only thing that truly matters; to cling to that until the day of Redemption (basically until Jesus comes back and it’s all over) because we only see in part, like looking through a dark glass (1 Cor 13).

So no matter what god you serve or what you hold as truth, part of you has to remember that it’s a partial truth, a partial knowledge–seen through the filter of all the feelings and thoughts you have ever felt or had about everything that has ever happened in your life. That’s why we need empathy.

Empathy reminds us that we are all human, that we all do things for the same core reasons, and that the “other” is really just us, seen through a different lens.

For my conservative Christian friends reading this (if you are here, you belong and you are a friend in my eyes) I get that you believe there is a unique knowledge of truth received upon salvation, and that the Holy Spirit leads you to the truths you believe/declare right now. I hear you. I’m with you. That’s why I’m encouraging us to remember that even with that reality, the Bible makes it clear that we still only see in part, we still don’t know the truth except through a dark lens, and we still have been directed by God not to judge the hearts of others.

So, for all of us, I’m going to try to do something that I have no right to do. It will be broken, incomplete, and nearsighted. Much like performing CPR is giving breaths filled mostly with toxic carbon dioxide and only some oxygen, my words will be filled with misunderstanding and only some life giving truth. But I’m going to to do it anyway, because CPR sometimes saves lives, and Love deserves everything I’ve got.

I belong to all the communities involved in this conversation in some way. I have many LGBTQ+ friends, and they mean the world to me. I have many conservative Christian friends who I deeply love as well. Plus plenty of liberals of every kind, Christian or otherwise. I try, through my dark lens, to listen to all of them, and to pursue empathy.

So I am going to try to breathe empathy into each heart that reads this, Christian or atheist, straight or gay, gender binary or not, by speaking from each perspective. Please forgive where I misrepresent you, because no matter how hard I try, I will. You would make the same mistakes too. Remember that you are a part of this conversation, and that the world needs who you are. So try to open your heart to the “other” that I present, and add your voice to our community in the comments, with links to anywhere your voice is heard more clearly than what you or I can share here. You belong, you matter, and God loves you deeply.

From: those who wrote the Nashville Statement, to those we have called sinners

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We aren’t doing this out of hate. Our heart is genuinely to see the world healed of all the brokenness and suffering that exists within it, and this is what we are trying to do here. We aren’t evil, or trying to hurt you. We are your coworkers and your friends, and we are doing our best to articulate what we believe will heal the world and end suffering. We share the same goals, and our heart is that you would be whole, fulfilled, satisfied.

If what we have shared repels you from Jesus, then we have failed, because our heart is actually to share with you the most valuable thing we have ever discovered. We know a truth that changed everything when we found it. We have come into contact with God (we know you don’t believe in God, but please just hear us here). He wasn’t what we expected Him to be. He changed how we see things, and He gave us purpose, meaning, and identity. He gave us a way to pursue wholeness for ourselves and our communities, and we are trying to do that here.

We are the ones that follow those scriptures mentioned earlier. We know we see in part, and we know we can’t be absolutely certain we are right. Our scriptures teach us that. So please, don’t make us your enemy. If you try to engage us on these topics, we probably won’t get much closer to love or deeper friendship, because our beliefs are pretty set. We wouldn’t have signed this statement if they weren’t. Just keep pursuing friendship with us, forgive us when we hurt you, and trust that over time we will change our beliefs if God shows us we were off somewhere.

Jesus tells us in our scriptures that if we want to know Him, we need to spend time with the hurting, (Mat 25) and with all the hate and rejection you have experienced at the hands of the Church, you are exactly the people we need in our lives. Thank you for seeing past our differences to our hearts, and please try to pursue friendship with us. Jesus mostly spent his time with those that the religion of his day called sinners. We know deep down that those we are declaring our differences from are also exactly those that Jesus would have spent time with. Sometimes we just need reminding of it.

From the LGBTQ+ community, to those that believe what the Statement says:

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We didn’t choose this. We know that’s what you believe, but it isn’t true for us. Almost none of us had a day where we said “I think I’ll choose to be gay” or “I think I’ve decided I want to be a woman instead of a man.” We were born this way. Whether that’s a genetic fact or not really isn’t important. What matters is that for us, this is who we are, and who we always have been.

You often feel ridiculed, attacked, and put down by culture. You feel you don’t have a voice and that the world is against you. If you think what you have gone through is painful, imagine being 12 in a locker room full of boys who are physically and verbally harassing you because they know you are different. Looking at them, not even fully understanding yourself why you don’t belong, and being threatened just because you don’t fit in. Imagine getting death threats because you are Christian, or being beaten by your peers for it, walking home at night wondering if you will be physically harmed tomorrow for your faith. Every one of us has gone through something like this, not because of our faith but because of something we can’t change.

You get this, because you have friends who are missionaries. They tell you stories about how they have to hide their identities so they aren’t killed, and how they can only covertly talk about the things most important to them. This is exactly what it’s like growing up LGBTQ+.

We know you met that gay or trans person who got saved and now isn’t gay anymore, that know you believe that could be us too, but think about it. Even that person you know who used to be gay or trans didn’t change until after they met Jesus, right? Yet you tell us who we are is wrong, and we have to change to meet him. That’s what we hear in these statements.

If you want us to ever get to know this Jesus or God that you talk about, don’t do things like the Nashville Statement. Please. It makes you look like you hate us. It makes it feel like all Christians want to do is force us to be someone we are not–someone we have never been and can’t even imagine ever existing.

We want the same things as you. We want to be whole, and happy, and to love well. We want to see this world healed, and to end the brokenness and suffering that we see in it every day. That’s a reason some of us end up Christian, because we are longing for the same things as you are. We aren’t your enemy and even if you don’t see us as your enemy, when you make “us” vs “them” declarations like this, you make us feel like we did in that locker room. You make us feel like we did when the youth group we went to kicked us out, or when that stranger on the street yelled insults at us and threatened us. When we read the Nashville Statement, or we see that you’ve signed it or posted something supporting it, we don’t get closer to Jesus. We don’t suddenly repent. We don’t come to a knowledge of what you call sin.

When we read the Nashville Statement, we don’t see Jesus. We only see people that don’t want us, and a God that doesn’t accept us.

If you want us to listen to you, or you have any interest whatsoever in us coming to know your Jesus, stop making statements and sharing them on Facebook. Instead, love us. Be our friends. Get to know us. Find out who we are from the inside, and try to see from our perspective. Ask questions instead of telling us answers. Find out how and why we are who and what we are. Honor us, and we will honor you. Show us acceptance, make us family, and we will listen to you. If you want to show us Jesus, then let us see Him in your love, not your doctrinal declarations of who is a sinner and who isn’t. That only alienates us from Him and you, and slows the world’s progress towards the transformation we all hope for.

Conversation in Friendship

None of this comes even close to what either of your groups deserve. Again, I’m trying to speak from both groups because in some ways I belong to both groups, and in other ways I belong to neither. I won’t get everything right, but I’m hoping to act as a bridge. You are wonderful people, and your hearts are to love others. Somewhere in the midst of all this, I believe you will find a breath that causes Love’s heart to beat anew.

From here, the only way to move forward is conversation in friendship. When we see each other as family first, and seek to see as the other sees, then we can begin to come alive with hope, and with the life that the gospel promises. Hurling our declarations will only divide us. Jesus came to dinner first, then spoke friend to friend, in relationship. Let’s know each other first, and from that place we will find Life that transforms us and the world.

 

 


19 thoughts on “The Nashville Statement, CPR, and You

  1. This is a very thought-provoking piece. There’s so much that I could say about it, and I could go on this whole vitriolic rant about the Bible and modern-day Christianity, but I think the key bit in this (for me at least) is; be a friend.

    You can’t beat the evil out, you’re never going to convince anyone that Christianity is good if you condemn them to eternal hell from the word go. You’re never going to reach people if you do it with hate rather than love.

    1. “You’re never going to convince anyone that Christianity is good if…”

      I live that the Bible never asks us to convince anyone. We aren’t called to convince the world of sin, we are called to go out into all the world following the example of Jesus. Make disciples, meaning make more who act like Him. Well, how did He act? Like you said, he loved. He healed sick sinners, cast out demons out of oppressed sinners, ate dinner with greedy sinners, and made wine for drunk sinners. He hated the religious people that insisted on condemning, and he fought to bring help and restoration for the poor and the broken.

      As you said, be a friend. Friends honor one another, and see the value and worth in each other as they are.

      I think so many times, the gospel is far more beautiful than we think. Thank you for your voice Susanna.

  2. Interesting perspective. I think I get your intent we should in fact love everyone. As the scripture says, love covers a multitude of sins. That was Christ’s love for us, on display at the cross. I think the debate comes in where people disagree on what is sin. Although sexual sins are pretty clear in the bible in black and white so I never understand why it’s debated.

    I also think the judge not scripture is misinterpreted and taken out of context. After all you judge every day. You judge a restaurant based on previous experiences. You judge a potential mate based on their actions to date. I believe the idea behind this scripture of not judging is that we have no heaven or hell to put a person in, it’s not our place to try to place anyone there or condemn them. Especially since we’ve all sinned and fallen short at some point. However what I can do for a sinner is refer them to the bible and show them what things are considered sins and the scripture that says the wages of sin is death but the Gift of God eternal life. Hopefully what is read there will pull on their heart enough to turn from whatever sin there is. That to me is love…being willing to tell them the truth and disciple them.

    1. I spent about 35 minutes responding to this and my computer deleted it.

      Here’s what I’ll say in summary.

      I talk a lot in Why Following the Bible Will Get you Lost about how to honor the Bible for what it is rather than making it a book of absolutes and assuming that we have absolute answers just because we read it in our English version of the 21st century. You might enjoy that post.

      More importantly, what you described at the end of your comment is very different from what we often do as a church. We release public statements condemning the world rather than engaging in personal friendships with actual people. A friend of mine said it best when she said “there are real people on the other side of that argument.”

      It has never been our job to convict, condemn, or change the world. It’s our job to go into the world and have relationships with actual people. The Holy Spirit does the rest. He convicts of sin, He turns hearts, He reveals Truth. That’s why things like the Nashville Statement divide us and take away from our purpose as Christians, and that’s why Empathy is the absolute best response. A theology guided by Empathy is an incredibly life giving theology.

  3. I don’t understand why other people would destroy other people just because they are different or have different beliefs. We are all thesame. We have thesame flesh and blood. At the end of the day if we just love and respect each other I believe that we can make the world a better place.

    1. When it comes to the fundamentalist perspective its complicated. The desire is for people to come together and make the world a better place, but they believe that the path to realizing that better world comes from the eradication of sin. Most Christians believe this in some way, but fundamentalists tend to have a very specific and strict definition of sin (or what is right and wrong) and they work very hard to try to make sure that people live according to their views of what is right. There are admirable qualities to their perspectives, but it often is done in a way that causes destruction rather than redemption. Which is why Empathy is needed on all sides, vcause ultimately we all seek the same things.

      1. Also, I’ve seen the same things happen on the liberal side that are just as hateful and just as destructive. Thats why I tried to address both sides. This is something we all need to work on.

  4. To me, it’s interesting to see how the history somewhat repeats itself. There was this famous Lisbon earthquake that took place in 1755. This earthquake shattered many of the great churches in Lisbon. Back then the belief that natural catastrophes are an act of God to punish nonbelievers was even more popular than apparently, it is today. Thus, it was really confusing to make sense of why would God destroy a place that had so many churches such as Lisbon.

    Voltaire who is highly misinterpreted on his views on religion described it beautifully in his poems. There’s this one line from the poem about this earthquake: “All will be well one day, that is our hope. All is well today, that is the illusion.” So it would seem that almost 3 centuries later, that “one day” is still far in the future. Still, I’m very happy to stumble upon a religious blog (if I understood it correctly) that deals with everything – from life to religion in a healthy way, completely stripped from ill-mannered actions.

    I’ll definitely continue reading it.

    1. Thanks Antonio! Yeah its true, this has been in vogue for far too long. Jesus never started any hurricanes. As a matter of fact, His response was to calm a storm, not start it. Christians would be much better off if they tried to look, act, and live like Jesus. He seemed to know what he was doing. 😉

      This is a blog that definitely is about Truth, encountering spiritual realities, and knowing God, but I dont exactly call it religious. You’re welcome to if you like, but I find that would limit what we’re about here. This is about living a life of real Hope and real satisfaction. Its about helping the whole world realize the highest kind of human life; one tied to Hope, Love, Joy, Faith (the good kind), Kindness, Self Knowledge, and Freedom. Among other things.

      Welcome to the family. ☺

  5. At great risk, I will respond briefly…In your beginning paragraph, it appears you had already made your goal known. You stated things to appears that kkk types were talking about how it was judgment from God…without once mentioning that some liberals were saying the same thing because it was Texas – a red state. The second thing was by using the word “incendiary” as if this weren’t the long-held position within Judeo/Christianity for three mellinia. The rest of it was quite accurate, and I appreciate it. Although for me, I rarely heard any kind of true biblical rebuttal based on proof texts – and I’m not saying I’m right. It’s just that in light of long held historical views, it appears to be awfully presumptious to rail against Christians who do not go along with the herd. The Bible is full of stories of those who stood alone.

    1. I hear what you’re saying, and I can see where you’re coming from.

      As far as the beginning paragraph goes, I only write from what I know. My writing has to tell the truth. It’s one of my rules. If you have heard liberals proclaiming something like what you’ve described, first I have to say that it surprises me, as most liberals do not believe that God sends natural disasters to destroy people or regions. They almost unilaterally believe that these things are a result of brokenness on the planet, and that God wants to bring healing and restoration to all touched by them, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. It’s part of why liberals often get in trouble with conservatives. They tend to believe that all people deserve equal love and acceptance regardless of who they are or how they live.
      However, the biggest reason I didn’t mention anything like that is because I never read anything like that. I didn’t find even a single article or person on the news saying that God sent it to punish the conservative texans. I’m sure it exists out there, I just haven’t experienced it. I wrote from what I know, what I’ve experienced. I have to honor reality from my eyes while trying to look through other lenses as well, but mine are the only eyes I have.

      The doctrine isn’t exactly incendiary. As you’ve stated, many Christians have held some version of similar beliefs on some of these topics for a few thousand years (It is far from universal and it is definitely not across every topic in this statement, but that would be another post). I’m not talking about the doctrine here, as much as how the doctrine is held and how it is presented.

      Our main doctrine needs to be love, and empathy. When we release statements like The Nashville Statement, we wound others more than we help them. We divide, create a right group and a wrong group, and cut off love whether we mean to or not. I have a wonderful catholic friend who holds and lives out many of the positions mentioned in the Nashville Statement, and her gay friends know that’s what she believes, but in the context of relationship and love she can talk about these things in a way that doesn’t wound or divide.
      The Nashville Statement makes clear in the Preamble that it was written to make a public declaration against the world. Well, Jesus called us to love the world, and the Bible says only the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and to judge not lest we be judged, and that the KINDNESS of God leads to repentance. Declaring people sinners doesn’t lead to repentance. Love does.

      Hopefully you (and others) hear my heart both in the post and in this response. This isn’t a biblical rebuttal of the doctrine in the texts, it’s a biblical rebuttal of the approach and attitudes of those that disagree. Both sides choose hate. Both sides choose to create “sides” in the first place. This isn’t how Jesus did it. Everyone is invited to the table, and as we dine together we grow towards Love. Not as we throw stones and demand righteousness from anyone not doing it our way.

      No one is being railed against here, but everyone is being invited to choose a new doctrine–a higher doctrine. Every person that reads this, regardless of the side, is being invited into the doctrine of Love that Jesus teaches is the most important commandment. Every person is invited to partner with the heart of Jesus in John 17, that we would be one with one another as He and the Father are one. “God so loved the world that he gave his only son,” not “God so wanted to declare the world in sin that he sent his only son to condemn them.” Jesus does call to repent, but not like this. He does it by sitting at a tax collector’s table for dinner, by removing condemnation from an adulterous woman about to be stoned to death, by accepting a man that denied Him even after that betrayal, by forgiving those that crucified Him even as they were doing it. That’s love. That’s what we are called to. That is the doctrine that this post defends.

      Thanks again Danny for adding to the conversation. Many can relate to what you’re saying, and you will always have a seat at the table here.

      1. Karsten,
        I should have qualified what I meant by railing. I saw another poster in another of you comments saying F**k that person. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help…

      2. That wasn’t me, I can assure you of that. We exist in community. Unfortunately our social bubbles tend to isolate us from that fact, but we do. We often hurt each other, and hurt people get angry. Actually, I have written some on that topic. Angry people don’t always do the best job of building relationship, so if someone chose to use course language to insult someone else, I wouldn’t be surprised. Hurt people can do hurtful things. However, I’m not sure which comment you are referring to. If I find it I’ll be sure to respond to that person (assuming I haven’t already). I would encourage you not to jump to conclusions based on the comments of other’s though. Comments can be left by anyone on this site, and they don’t necessarily reflect my views, my approach, or the views and approach of Real Hope Rising. Thanks again for your time.

  6. Thanks for sharing! I appreciate the heart of unity in this post and the aid to bring healing, love, and reconciliation for both groups 🙂

  7. Thanks for writing from a place of compassion.
    I think one of the most valuable things Rebecca (author of the linked article) shares is that worldview cannot be neutral. Although I may not want to be characterized as someone who’s forever drawing lines in the sand, at some point, I have to choose to believe something — as this will inform my life choices. And that’s not to say a belief won’t change.
    Fortunately, I believe there’s grace for when my beliefs have cracks in them because I cannot see fully. Our world is infused with opposing forces and paradoxical realities. It’s no shock that people who claim belief in the most controversial figure in all history (Jesus) will find themselves divided. He turned morality on its head. He displayed extravagant acts of love at certain times, while expressing harsh denunciations at other times. I know I often find myself in a state of bewilderment because I’m forever trying to learn how to hold two things as being true at once: love and virtue. This, of course, relates to a thousand and one different issues.
    What I want to remember: love looks a little different for each person. What I do know: Christ’s grace is far beyond what most of us can imagine. Each day, we should all be praying to see others through God’s eyes, and I believe he will continue to guide us from there.
    Anyway – here’s another perspective since you asked: http://www.thistleandtoad.com/wwwthistleandtoadcom/writings/2017/8/31/a-few-thoughts-on-the-nashville-statement

    1. Thank you Bailey. I really appreciate what you’ve said here.

      The issue, and part of what I am trying to get at in this post, is less about what we believe as it is how we believe it. (I’ve talked a bit about this with my doubt posts)

      When we hold our views as absolute rather than recognizing our limited knowledge, we divide each other. When we hold them as the best we have right now, and our belief system dictates that everyone belongs first and foremost, then we come together and learn from each other instead.

      You’re right. We can’t simply not believe anything. But we can create beliefs that aren’t based around dividing, or making an “us” and a “them.”

      Also thank you for the link! Community can never exist without many voices listening to one another.

  8. I can’t tell you how many times I have been completely embarrassed by other Christians who act like this. God said we love Him bc He first loved us. But for some reason, Christians operate more from law than love, and it’s depriving the world of that love which is so vital to our existence. Thank you for writing this and taking a stand.

    1. I get it. It’s hard to take a stand for love. We are all so different and we all want the world to be better. It’s easier to take a stand for what we believe than it is to take a stand for loving like Jesus. Thank you for adding your voice to the conversation.

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