Have you read the Nashville Statement? It’s written by a group of people professing to be Christian and calling themselves “A Coalition for Biblical Sexuality.”
The statement is a quick read, which is good since it is painful. It’s like ripping off a band aid – you want to get it over as quickly as possible.
I can understand why the group decided to issue a statement attacking LGBTQ Christians. After all, nothing big is going on – like a massive hurricane wrecking lives or the evils of racism becoming demonstrably more overt – that should call us to our better selves yet again. Sarcasm aside, as one who also professes to be Christian, it is embarrassing that my co-religionists have seized a time when unity is most needed to sow unnecessary seeds of division.
Worse than the embarrassing timing, however, is the abhorrent content beginning with the suggestion that this statement is the litmus test for Christian faith – a faith that is rooted in the life-giving, hope-inspiring, far-reaching words and witness of Jesus to love each other, ourselves, our neighbors, those unlike us and even our enemies! Let’s be crystal clear: Neither this statement nor anything similar is the litmus test for calling oneself a follower of Jesus Christ.
The statement claims to be about sexuality so I’ll say a few words about it. Sexuality is, I believe, a gift that is best shared in covenantal rather than only recreational ways. I would be first to agree that too often this is not modeled in popular culture. But rather than react to this lack of healthy modeling by demeaning and denying some of God’s children, why not delight in God’s beautiful diversity that richly includes a variety of gender identities and expressions of sexuality – and invite all of God’s children to live in ways that are healthy, whole and even holy?
Now let’s turn to the Bible – and more specifically the use of it to sort through discussions such as ones about sexuality. I think the Bible should be central in our discussions and its teachings taken seriously. And the biblical witness is that on some issues there is much ink and on others there is little. Take, for instance, poverty: Over 2,000 verses, discussed by prophets in the Hebrew Testament and Paul in the New. Words attributed to Jesus address it. Much ink.
Now take sexuality, and in particular sexual orientation. About that the Bible has a tad less to say. There are, give or take none, six biblical passages that touch on same-sex relations. The whole Bible, six passages. Not much ink. And in case you are wondering, the six passages are often taken out of context and misused to clobber God’s children who are not heterosexual.
Now that I have touched on timing and content, I’ll finish with tone. The explicit tone of this statement aborts dialogue and discourages civility. Rather than welcoming others, as did Jesus throughout the gospels (Luke 9 and Matthew 5 as just two examples) and the Jerusalem church in its early days (Acts 15 for starters), the tone of this statement marginalizes. If the old song is correct that they “will know we are Christians by our love,” the tone of this statement conceals the faith of its authors.
Nathan Day Wilson, ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), is director of communication at Christian Theological Seminary and coordinator of the Faith & Values section. Follow him on Twitter: @nathandaywilson
This article originally appeared in the Indianapolis Star on Sunday, 3 September 2017