People of faith: All our lives, we have seen our faith weaponized against our neighbors. We have seen the gospel and the Sermon on the Mount brushed under the rug repeatedly in favor of an idolatrous defense of long-held cultural prejudices. And this week, we saw the Nashville Statement, a manifesto written and signed by many church leaders that was as unsurprising in its creed as it was cruel in its timing. Just as trans members of our armed services wait anxiously to hear if they will be able to continue to serve, and just as Hurricane Harvey leaves thousands of our neighbors unhomed and at risk, this is the moment that some of our kindred in the church have chosen to publish public statements about which cultural prejudices they hold more sacred than Christ, and whose rights “we deny.” As I type these words, they are offered not in judgment of my fellow Christians but in grief at the brokenness and hurtfulness in many of our religious communities, and in anger at the violence that has been done and is being offered to people I love.
So here is the resistance.
Here are multiple coalitions of church leaders who are no longer content to see their beliefs, traditions, and symbols weaponized. With thanks to Nancy Hightower for the links. These statements are powerful but they are also late. They are a public recognition that our silence is used to support and affirm public acts of hate, legislation that strips away civil rights, and that in our silence, powerful voices will claim to speak for us as they do violence against our fellow human beings.
These statements issued in rebuttal to “Nashville” are a promise, long-delayed, that we will no longer be silent – a promise that now each of us must fulfill. In Charlottesville, interfaith clergy formed a human wall against violent white supremacists. But not all violence is being offered under a swastika, and Charlottesville is not the only place where we must form a human wall between our neighbors and loved ones and those who would attack them.
If these statements below are to be more than affirmations, we need to follow them by flooding Congress with phone calls; we need to follow them up with support for those organizations that are defending LGBTQ+ people. “Faith without works is dead,” and words and prayers without action will not protect the lives and rights of those who are threatened right now, nor will they atone for past silence. We need to show up. We need to love. We need to advocate for others the way the Holy Spirit advocates for each of us.
May these words from many of our fellow churchgoers and leaders inspire us to loving, just, and relentless action:
Excerpt: “In every generation there are those who resist the Spirit’s leading in various ways and cling to the dogmas and traditions that he is calling us to rethink and reform…. We affirm that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and that the great diversity expressed in humanity through our wide spectrum of unique sexualities and gender identities is a perfect reflection of the magnitude of God’s creative work; we deny any teaching that suggests God’s creative intent is limited to a gender binary or that God’s desire for human romantic relationships is only to be expressed in heterosexual relationships between one man and one woman. We affirm that those who are born as intersex are full and equal bearers of the image and likeness of God and are worthy of full dignity and respect. We affirm and support intersex individuals in their journey of self-realization and embracing their unique, God-created sexual orientation and gender identity, whatever it may be… We affirm that God designed marriage to be a covenantal bond between human beings who have committed to love, serve, and live a life faithfully committed to one another over the course of a lifetime; we deny that God intended human romantic relationships to be limited to one man and one woman and declare that any attempts to limit the sacred or civil rights of humans to covenant and commit to love and serve one another is an affront to God’s created design.”
“As floodwaters still rise in Houston, many prominent Christian leaders released the Nashville Statement. This document released a flood of its own, only this time instead of homes flooded with water, it was hearts flooded with grief. Yet again, powerful people of means use the platform of the Church to demean the basic dignity of gay, bisexual, lesbian, trans, intersex, and queer people…. We believe that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are fearfully and wonderfully made, holy before God, beloved and beautiful as they are. We believe all people have full autonomy over their bodies, sexual orientations, and gender identities, and the diversity of identities reflects the creative power of a loving God. We believe that God is love, and that ‘anyone who loves is born of God and knows God’. (I John 4:7) God is honored in any consenting and loving relationship between adults, and therefore, all such relationships deserve honor and recognition. We believe that same-sex relationships and marriages are as holy before God as heterosexual marriages. We stand in solidarity with LGBTQ folks, and commit to standing alongside them in the work of resisting those who persecute them. We don’t believe LGBTQ folks need our approval or affirmation–they are affirmed first and foremost by God.”
Excerpt: “We affirm that God has created humanity out of love and for the purpose of love. We deny that God intends marriage as a gift only to be enjoyed by those who happen to be heterosexual, cis-gendered and fertile.”