Tuesday, August 29, 2017
The Nashville Mistake
And here I was, about to go to bed early.
Apparently, an organization called the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has released a document it calls The Nashville Statement, which is accompanied on their website by The Danvers Statement of 1987. The former is a series of affirmations and denials of conservative dogma regarding homosexuality and transgendered individuals, the latter enshrines male headship as God's will for all.
The thing about statements like this, is that they consist purely of abstract principles in every case, demanding adherence based on the authority of a sacred text. And that there is only one right way of being, for all of us to conform to. The Council knows what's best for you, even if your experience of life says different.
It's also based on a foundation of selective storytelling, assuming that there is such a thing as biblical manhood that is modeled for us by (of all people) Adam, and one of womanhood modeled by Eve. Or, in the Nashville Statement, that the existence of the so-called "clobber passages" make homosexuality a first order, forever settled, sin. The Nashville Statement clearly states that to not hold the same views as its signatories is "an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness."
Which proves that the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has learned absolutely nothing in the 30 years separating the two statements.
Why Adam and Eve, who, after all, caused the Fall by disobedience (need I quote to conservative evangelicals their own favorite old saw that "In Adam's Fall, we sinned all"?) Why not David, or Solomon, or Jacob (who was guided by his mother)? Or St. Joseph, resolved to protect Mary against disgrace before he had any reason to believe in her innocence? As to women, why not Jael, or Deborah who judged Israel with as much authority as any male judge? Or Mary of Bethany, who neglected her domestic duties to learn from our Lord, and received his approbation for it: "Mary has chosen the better part," Jesus said, "which will not be taken away from her?" (Luke 10:42.)
The Bible is filled with people, women and men, who act admirably or terribly, are obedient or disobedient, and fulfill or flout gender expectations. Picking one of each, and insisting all humanity must conform to mythological traits which they are attributed to have had (The Danvers Statement seems to view Eve through the prism of Milton, not Genesis) is dreadful argumentation. It's stacking the deck, by picking the exemplar, and requiring all to live up to the principles drawn from the carefully selected exemplar.
It's strapping down all of humanity to the Bed of Procrustes. And doing so in the name of love.
Likewise, the Nashville Statement. Which scriptural passages are chosen to be proof texted? Why, the five that can be read to allow enforcement of cultural norms conservative evangelicals value, but never the 15 passages indicting usury, not to mention the love of money. (I've already explicated all this in the linked article; forgive me for not going into more detail.) And never, oddly enough, never, Galatians 3:28: "here is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."
In sum, it's Christianity on the Cheap--enforcing "virtue," defined in a way that doesn't challenge the majority, on the "Other" while not having to look at the beam in one's own eye. And, by remaining bloodless and abstract, never having to look at the price paid for one's own piety by those others who are so conveniently labeled as being in need of redemption.
Romans 8, my favorite passage in all of St. Paul's writings, ends with the great affirmation that, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." That grace is unearned, a free gift, meant, as I recently quoted Bishop Charles Gore, for all of us. Too much focus on our own sinfulness is morbid. Too much focus on others' leads to cruelty.
As a deacon, my job is to meet people where they are, and to, if I can do nothing else for them, at least stand at the foot of the Cross with them on their own personal Good Friday, if only to point to the Easter light. I don't claim to have always succeeded, but that's a big part of what the gig entails.
So what does the Bible say to gay people? You're a loved child of God.
To transgendered people? You're a loved child of God.
To women? You're a loved child of God.
To men? You're a loved child of God.
Anyone else who feels rejected, damaged, lost? You're a loved child of God.
The rest is all about relationship with God, and responding to that love.