Friday, September 1, 2017

The Millstone of the Nashville Statement

In Nashville in October of 2014, I joined about fifteen LGBTQ people who were invited to a closed-door, off-the-record conversation with the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. I was disappointed, this week, to recognize the names of many from that meeting on the list of anti-LGBTQ evangelical leaders who drafted the “Nashville Statement,” a comprehensive fundamentalist Christian manifesto on sexuality and gender.

That 2014 meeting went late into the night, and the discussion was intense. What I remember most clearly were the pleas and tears of some of these men in attendance (all of them were men) begging us to understand that they didn't hate LGBTQ people––saying how much it hurt them to have people call them “bigots” and “homophobes.”

We ended the evening having all promised more kindness, more listening, more respect, and more dialogue, and I, perhaps naively, hoped both sides were sincerely committed to those goals moving forward.

In the subsequent months and years that followed, and with growing intensity since the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in 2015, they have abandoned all remaining pretense of tolerance for the LGBTQ community. Since then, they have demonized and pathologized transgender people, lobbied for bills that discriminate against LGBTQ people under the name of "religious freedom," and created a martyrdom complex for their own decreasing social relevance.

A year after the meeting in Nashville, I traveled to Louisville, for a biblical counselor's conference on what they billed as "Transgender Confusion." At the conference, one of the Nashville Statement's signees said during his presentation that any parent with a transgender child should sever ties with the child completely––that they should abandon their child for being transgender. When asked about their responsibility to LGBTQ lives––particularly the alarming numbers of LGBTQ youth lost to suicide––the panel denied culpability, smirked at the notion of their theology being toxic or harmful, and suggested that while such deaths are tragic, the reality of eternal separation from God (damnation) was far sadder.

Once again, there were tears because the issues of gender identity and sexuality supposedly represented a crisis at the very foundation of the Gospel and the social order itself (I've always believed that Jesus was the foundation of the Gospel, but I digress).

And so I'm here a couple of years later, seeing and hearing the same things from these men, all crying the same crocodile tears of "loving conviction" for people they have fought so passionately to demonize and blame for their own diminishing power and influence.

In the age and spirit of Trump, their bigotry is once again emboldened by their ties to political power. In fact, several of its prominent signatories make up the President’s faith advisory council. Much like white conservative evangelicals in the Reagan era, these desperate men feel like maybe, just maybe, they haven’t lost the culture war once and for all, and the Nashville Statement serves as proof that the old guard is still holding out.

Their 2014 and 2015 tears, confessions, and prayers have amounted to nothing more but a revived lust for dominance, subjugation, and the placing of an unbearable burden around the necks of LGBTQ Christians. There was no love in their words and tears then, nor is there any love in their words now; and without love, God cannot be present in anything they profess.

At the end of the day, I’m left to wonder what tears they’ll cry at the end of their time. Will they weep with remorse for lifetimes of cruelty when they find LGBTQ people in the Kingdom of Heaven? Or will they weep with disappointment and anger when they find that God is infinitely more loving and inclusive than they ever imagined?

Justin Davis
Queer Christian and LGBTQ Advocate


Dates: 

  • “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage” Conference 10/28-29/2014 (Start date may have been 10/27) Nashville, Tennessee, Gaylord Opry Hotel
  • “Transgender Confusion and Transformational Christianity” Pre-conference 10/5/2015, Louisville, Kentucky, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


Homosexuality Conference: 



Transgender Conference:







No comments: