An Absence of Humility

153 Evangelical leaders convened recently in Nashville under the auspices of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood and issued a statement on sexuality. Signers include some of the most prominent and influential leaders in the Evangelical family: James Dobson, Richard Land, James Robinson, Tony Perkins. The statement targets gay, lesbian and transgender persons but also Christians, Christian churches and organizations that do not exclude gay, lesbian and transgender people from membership and leadership, and everyone who comes to different conclusions about sexuality and sexual morality.

The first section of the statement reads:

“We affirm that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.”

The hubris of that statement is breathtaking. Not only does it reaffirm the traditional evangelical position that any sexual relationship outside of heterosexual marriage is sinful, it also sweeps anyone who disagrees with that conclusion into the same category of sinfulness. According to the statement, I, and many other Christians, clergy and laity, have “departed from Christian faithfulness and witness.”

Absent is any sense of humility or acknowledgement that the topic is fraught with centuries of human pain and suffering as a result of the statement’s conclusions. Absent as well is any acknowledgment that human sexuality remains a mystery, a delightful mystery, but a mystery, none-the-less.

Instead of inviting dialogue and continued inquiry into our humanness, who we are, and what we are created for, the statement retreats to the simplistic traditional mechanical definition of sexuality : Part A fits in Part B: End of argument. Deviation is wrong, sinful.

The issue for pastors is experiential and personal. People come to us out of intensely painful struggles with sexual identity, incredibly painful family rejection, painful rupture of caring, essential relationships. My evangelical brothers and sisters simply pile on, adding divine condemnation to the searing pain of rejection.

Absent as well – and this is the tragedy of the statement – is any trace of the spirit of the Jesus of the New Testament who seemed to go out of his way to touch the untouchable, welcome the outcast, break bread with those his own religion and the prevailing traditions of his culture, called unclean.

And absent is the simple reality that Jesus never mentioned the subject. The only time he approached the issue of sexual values, norms and behavior, he came down on the side of the ones condemned and ostracized by both religion and culture.

I am certain that I am not alone in wanting to distance myself from the Nashville Statement and the narrow judgementalism it represents. Many of us come to profoundly different conclusions about gender identity and sexual morality, not in spite of our Christian Faith, but as a result of it.

There is an alternative, in the thoughtful, human and humane approach of Mainline Protestants and progressive Catholics, based not on prevailing cultural currents or political correctness, but precisely on the Christ revealed in the pages of the New Testament.

Comments

  1. I embrace the teachings of Christ, and try to follow his example. I am not always as faithful to him as I would like to think of myself as being. Imperfection thy name is Susan.
    But these days I am loath to identify myself as a “Christian” because of the cruelty and arrogance of those who so publicly wear that label on their sleeves.
    What a tragic state of affairs.
    John 11:35 indeed.

  2. Barbara Fountain says:

    Amen John.

  3. Jerold Shetler says:

    Right on John! Glad to stand with you.

  4. William Bedford says:

    Thank you, John. I taught biology. Your compassion fits right in to help with what is not understood about sexual identity. Glad you are writing. Carol Bedford

    Carol’s iPhone

    >

  5. Diane Buchanan says:

    Thank you Dad! They will not win this battle. Love is love!

  6. Susan Schaefer says:

    Perfect title! And you can add “progressive evangelicals” to your last paragraph (though there are few progressives who identify as evangelical anymore since the word has been taken hostage).

  7. Peter Hibbard says:

    Absent is also any recognition that Jesus said we should love one another as He loved us. I can find no conditions in that statement.

  8. THANK YOU!! You speak for many of us.

  9. THANK YOU! You speak for many of us! It is so hard to know that some people who claim to be Christian, are truly not!! Their thinking is so shallow and full of bigotry.

  10. Jeremy Smith says:

    Hear hear.

  11. Reblogged this on Views from the Edge.

  12. I am baffled at how un-Christian so many Christians have become. This kind of attitude doesn’t make becoming Christian an attractive possibility for anyone not born to it.

    • timjweaver says:

      I share your concern completely. A friend of mine, who’s an evangelical, finally confided that the reason that he’s ignoring the core of Jesus’ teachings and supporting Trump is that he wants Supreme Court justices who share his opposition to gay marriage and to abortion. I hope that people will realize that besides the Evangelical right, there is also a Christian center and a Christian Left.

  13. Brenda LeMay says:

    Thank you for writing such a thoughtful piece.

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