Amid a hurricane pummeling the nation’s 4th largest city, North Korean nuclear testing, and a presidency shredding at the seams, right wing Evangelical Christians have an important, shocking message:
They find queer and trans people and the ways we have sex distasteful and incompatible with Christian teachings.
On Tuesday, the Council On Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released The Nashville Statement, a set of 14 articles that profess a staunchly anti-gay and anti-trans viewpoint. It condemns polyamory and pre-marital sex and says that people who have “a physical disorder of sex development” i.e. intersex people “should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known” in order to live a “fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ.” It also says that it is sinful for anyone to affirm “homosexual immorality or transgenderism.”
It’s made up of a preamble and 14 articles like a queer-antagonistic constitution. Basically, it’s a pretty standard screed against LGBT people dressed up in the trappings of Jesus and claiming to speak from the one and only true theological viewpoint on the topic. It doesn’t say anything new or interesting, and it’s being signed and promoted by all the usual suspects, like Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and a couple hundred other pastors and Christian leaders who have made their anti-LGBT views clear for many years.
The statement has its own very snazzy website and makes it easy for anyone to join the statement as a signatory. It’s got a full press strategy that has been effective in getting the word out to people on all sides —#NashvilleStatement trended nationally on Twitter Tuesday night. It has a ton of muscle behind it on the Evangelical right, and with that breadth of buy-in it can safely be called an official declaration of right-wing Christianity’s viewpoint on LGBT people and our relationships.
The content of the statement is so obvious as to be trite, and there are no surprises in the list of signatories and proponents. It is unlikely to convince any Christian who was not already anti-LGBT to become so, but that doesn’t mean it’s not significant. If nothing else, it’s important because powerful people said it is and others are listening. In a way, it’s a line drawn in the sand, as Evangelical leaders essentially ask “are you with us or against us?” Calling on others to publicly side with them will provide fuel that powers anti-LGBT forces in culture and politics.
It is easy to point out the many hypocrisies of these (mostly) men. How many of them voted for a known sexual abuser with multiple divorces, after all? Where is their coordinated public response to the cries of the poor, incarcerated, and abused? How can they all be so racist and still claim moral authority on anything? But at the end of the day, they are incredibly powerful, influential hypocrites, and some are close to Trump’s inner circle. They’ve been shaping GOP legislation for decades and today they help drive policies like transphobic bathroom bills and employment discrimination loopholes, and a unified platform will only make them stronger and louder. They are also, it should be noted, Mike Pence’s People.
It is imperative to speak out against The Nashville Statement while it’s still gaining its footing so that those who denounce it are at least as loud. Some are already doing so, including Nashville’s mayor who objected to the association of the city’s name with the document, which was written there. Right wing Evangelicals believe that they are becoming an abused minority, which is nonsense if you look at the laws that govern the United States and broader cultural norms. Still, they’re right about one thing: LGBT people are a threat to their way of life, and we’re slowly but surely shifting both secular and Christian culture toward inclusion, grace and compassion. Now is the time for Christians, be they queer, allies, or lapsed, to work harder. We have to drown out this vile manifesto with joyful noise. Queer Episcopal priest Broderick Greer put it beautifully on Twitter:
If it's not good news for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, and asexual people, it's not the gospel of Jesus Christ.
— Broderick Greer (@BroderickGreer) August 30, 2017
It’s difficult to predict what may come after the Nashville Statement. It may be a stand-alone declaration, but it seems more likely to be the beginning of an even more concentrated efforts to chip away at progress that has been made toward creating a society where LGBT people can flourish. That means the ongoing work of queer and trans Christians and our allies has never been more crucial.