In case you missed it in 1946, when the word homosexuality first entered the Bible, or again in 1980, when the first recorded sermon against gay people was delivered, or nearly every weekly sermon somewhere since, evangelical Christians released the Nashville Statement to reaffirm their disdain for LGBT people.
At this point, it seems redundant, if not just mean-spirited, to keep reiterating, in the thinnest of veiled messages that LGBT people are sinners, unloved by God and destined for hell. We get it. We’ve always gotten it. But I don’t believe we are the ones evangelicals are trying to convince.
The reality is that LGBT issues do not simply belong to “those people” outside the Church. Being gay, or lesbian, or transgender is a human condition. It equally impacts Christians and non-Christians alike, Christian and non-Christian families, and Christian and non-Christian ministers. It even shows up in those right-wing “family value” politicians who think putting “religious freedom” laws on the books will somehow stop it from spreading like a virus. And yes, some believe you can catch it by hanging around gay people.
So whom, exactly, are evangelicals trying to convince?
There has been a growing trend toward acceptance of LGBT people over the last several years. For example, Americans opposed gay marriage by 57% in 2001, but by 2017, 62% supported it. Today, two-thirds of Catholics and white, mainline Protestants support it, as well as, 35% of white evangelicals. White evangelical support has risen by 8% just since 2016.
Not surprisingly, regardless of religious affiliation, nearly 75% of millennials, those born after 1980 according to Pew Research, supported same-sex marriage in 2015, and acceptance among all age groups has grown substantially in the last 10 years. Just as views on race have changed in evangelical churches, which not so long ago were vehemently against desegregation, views on LGBT issues are changing, as well.
Evangelicals like to believe Christians are on the forefront of social change, but the historical reality is that they tend to lag decades, or centuries, behind when it comes to science, racial equality, women’s equality, and of course, LGBT acceptance. Most tend to hold a literal and stagnant interpretation of the Bible. Integrating scientific updates and progressive social norms becomes a difficult task when you believe God has already made up His mind in one, final declaration on any single issue.
Author and activist, Kathy Baldock noted, “The initial signers of the Nashville Statement contain no surprises. Their echo chamber demands that they refrain from intellectually engaging what is known about human sexuality and gender from science, biology, [and] psychology. Likewise, their exclusionary theology demands they ignore anthropology, archeology and other earth sciences.
“Christians, it seems, are forced to choose between two alternatives — either choose faith and literal reading of the Bible in intellectual exile, or be intellectually curious and honest and abandon your faith.”
The silver lining in this latest display of arrogant dismissal of LGBT people and their experiences is that there are a growing number of affirming Christian organizations to which LGBT people, parents, and their families are flocking in droves.
The Gay Christian Network has drawn thousands of conference participants year over year since its inception in 2001, and supports LGBT people through support groups, on-line chats, and information.
The Reformation Project, led by author Matthew Vines, is “a Bible-based, Christian grassroots organization that works to promote inclusion of LGBT people by reforming church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity.” The growing organization draws like-minded pastors and parishioners from many traditionally less-than-accepting denominations.
Brandan Robertson, a gay Christian pastor at Missiongathering Christian Church in San Diego, California is the founder of Nomad Partnerships, “a non-profit working to foster spiritual and social evolution around the world,” according to his website. Robertson’s Christian United Organization created a rebuttal statement to the Nashville Statement and garnered hundreds more signatures than the Nashville Statement at the time of this writing.
The Nashville Statement answers a question no one is asking, which is: What do fundamentalist evangelicals think about LGBT people? It appears they have abandoned reaching the world for Christ and are focused on fortifying their own faltering foundation of self-righteous indignation.