In a time of great division, a group of Southern Baptist evangelicals decided to add salt to the wounds of our ailing nation by releasing Tuesday’s “Nashville Statement,” a profession of bigoted views on human sexuality.
The statement, written by The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), contains 14 articles, each of which confirms something within the signatories’ worldview and denies something antithetical to that view. The long story short: LGBTQ+ people are not welcome at church.
The group’s so-called “genuine Christian compassion” is anything but. The statement calls for “truth in love,” but is not inclusive of all people. Not only does it promote hatred toward certain out-groups, it invalidates the lifestyles of non-binary people. The statement describes gender choice as a “psychological condition,” stigmatizing alternative lifestyles. By doing this, the CBMW likens the social characteristics of gender with biologically defined sex, two concepts that are far from synonymous.
Further, the statement’s particular terminology attempts to dehumanize those outside a perceived norm. For example, consider the pejorative use of “transgendered.” Is this not akin to calling black people “the blacks”? These articles assume homosexuality is a choice, but could their supporters define when they themselves chose to be straight? The generalizations, as is often the case with evangelical churches, are sweeping.
No longer do these evangelicals wish to “agree to disagree,” even though a person’s gender or sexual orientation is a private matter not subject to judgment. The statement tries to save face by saying homosexual people can also live good lives, but it strongly implies these lives are of a lesser quality than heterosexual lives — when it even feels the need to address the point.
It is understandable for the faithful to feel uncomfortable in a society of swiftly changing values; it is a major part of their own holy texts to perceive heteronormativity and cisgenderism as standard. As a result, Christians are often simply unfamiliar with alternatives. However, the correct course of action is to improve one’s outlook through introspection as opposed to assuming others are at fault. In this regard, evangelicals often fail.
It is also incredibly tone-deaf to come out with this statement in the midst of the devastation in Texas and Louisiana from Hurricane Harvey. It feels like many evangelicals essentially have to be prodded to help people in this time of serious need. Fellow American Unionist contributor Aristophanes and I briefly discussed the Joel Osteen controversy in our most recent Rick and Morty chat, and I’d like to expand on that here.
Osteen is the senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. He and his church did little to aid Harvey’s victims until the press called them out on their hypocrisy. They claimed the church was closed because of the flooding, but it was later found to be accessible. Osteen gave a flimsy, at best, response when he told CBS News, “[The city of Houston] didn’t need us as a shelter at that point. They wanted us to be a distribution center.” Where in the Bible does it say you should wait on your government before reaching out to help others? Now all of the charitable work they do with this cause seems like an insincere correction aimed solely at proving their critics wrong.
Osteen’s net worth is more than $50 million. His church meets in a former NBA basketball arena. Evangelicals already look terrible when one of the most widely known televangelists gets a whole carton of egg in his face. Shouldn’t they be more focused on helping people instead of further degrading their own reputations?
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry — the most notable political figure in the city and, debatably, one of the most powerful women in the southern United States — criticized the statement on Twitter, saying it was poorly named and did not “represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville.”
The statement is strongly aligned with the policies of the current White House administration. President Donald Trump wants to ban all transgender soldiers from serving openly in the military. Trump has also rolled back regulations on political activism for religious groups, a move that, coincidentally, allows him to draw more financial support for his re-election campaign. Unfortunately, many Christian churches, especially those of the evangelical megachurch variety, are already too involved in politics as is, despite their professions to the contrary.
It’s ironic, or perhaps fitting, the statement contains 14 articles, as the number is often associated with the 14-word slogan of American white supremacy. Does each article have 88 words in it, too? “Eight” represents the eighth letter of the alphabet, H. Put two side by side and you get an acronym for “Heil Hitler.”
Most evangelicals clearly don’t care about actually acting Christlike, evidenced by their heavy support of Trump, who came under fire during last year’s presidential election for his lewd comments about women and ethnic minorities. Is that how one goes about loving thy neighbor?
The duopoly on morality is frightening. When it comes to evangelical Christians, Trump scratches their back, and they’ll continue to scratch his.