I have learned that God does not approve of me.
A group of more than 150 evangelical leaders from across the country released a lengthy statement Tuesday declaring, among other things, this: “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.”
That’s a fancy way of saying that if you think lesbian, gay and transgender people are just fine, you’re a sinner.
So I’m a sinner. And if you read the full statement — referred to as the Nashville Statement, as that’s where the evangelical group was meeting — you’ll find that I get off easy compared to the LGBT community at large. They are sweepingly condemned.
“WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship.”
“WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.”
“WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.”
That some evangelical Christians — and certainly some of other faiths — hold these views is not news. But the Nashville Statement is significant both because of the large number of influential evangelicals involved and because many of those religious leaders have either worked closely with President Donald Trump or serve on his evangelical advisory board.
Some of the names include: Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; James Dobson of Focus on the Family; and Richard Land, head of the Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina.
The statement came from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which met during the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s annual conference. A press release from the council quoted president Denny Burke saying:”The spirit of our age does not delight in God’s good design of male and female. Consequently, confusion reigns over some of the most basic questions of our humanity.”
I agree with that last part, but not in the way Burke would like me to agree. It seems some of the most basic questions of our humanity would involve how we treat each other, and penning a fourteen-article statement declaring LGBT people and their allies sinners doesn’t strike me as a particularly kind gesture.
I’m not a theologian. I’m not even a particularly good Catholic, if we’re being honest, but I do believe Jesus preached an important concept: Love.
Love is something most people can get behind. I’d argue it’s something that makes us human and, when embraced, makes us the best versions of ourselves.
The love Jesus encouraged is often distorted in ways that, in my mind, run afoul of what the man was talking about. The Nashville Statement is one of those distortions, a declaration that some love is acceptable and some love isn’t, that some people are acceptable in the eyes of God and some aren’t.
I don’t buy that. I’ll never buy that, and if that means I get kicked out of the club, so be it.
I’m not going to tell anyone what they should believe or what God wants or what makes someone a good Christian. But I will gladly tell you what I believe, and I’ll do it in the form of the Chicago Statement, since that’s where I happen to be.
I’m not going to break things into articles or use any formal “AFFIRM” or “DENY” language. I’m just going to keep it simple:
“I believe God gave humans the ability to learn and grow and expand their understanding of each other and the world. The Nashville Statement says that being gay or lesbian or transgender is an offense to God. I believe it’s an offense to God to not acknowledge that all humans are different, to ignore the fact that telling LBGT people that they’re sinners, that their identity is wrong, that they’re somehow imperfect, is wildly and dangerously damaging, not to mention a sin in and of itself.
“I believe we do a disservice to God if we ignore that LGBT youth are three times more likely to consider suicide than straight teens and that the suicide rate in the transgender community has been found to be as much as 10 times the national average. I think it’s unconscionable for anyone to not see the psychological harm that bigotry disguised as religious doctrine does to LGBT youth and adults.
“I don’t think anyone who has ever met a gay teenager kicked out of his house because of who he loves, left homeless and alone, told he no longer belongs, could look at the words in the Nashville Statement and say: ‘This is what God wants. This is what Jesus would want us to do.’
“It isn’t. It’s not love. It’s quite the opposite. And I don’t care if, in the eyes of some, that disqualifies me from belonging to a religious group or from staking a claim to eventual salvation.
“Because if making other humans feel less than human is a requirement for entry into heaven, I think I’ll keep my soul with me, buried in the dirt.”
That’s the Chicago Statement. Feel free to sign on, if you like. Maybe send it to someone whose humanity was denigrated by the Nashville Statement.
Or just call me a sinner like the statement says I am.
Either way, I’ll be in good company.