On Tuesday, The Nashville Statement was released. Signed by a coalition of 150+ evangelical leaders, it’s a manifesto consisting of 14 articles designed to assert their beliefs on human sexuality. It emerged from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s yearly Nashville conference assembled by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. It was signed by many well-known Christian leaders who hold power and influence, including president of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins. (Fun fact: Tony Perkins reportedly pressed Trump for weeks to make the statement that transgender people would be banned from serving in the military.)
The statement affirms that they believe anything other than monogamous, heterosexual marriage is a sin, that there are two distinct sexes, and that it is condemnable to be attracted to the same sex or to identify as any gender other than the one you were assigned at birth. The issues of “homosexual immortality” and “transgenderism,” as they put it, are heavily touched on in articles 1 and 8 and 7 and 10, respectively:
We affirm that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.
We deny that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship.
We affirm that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life.
We deny that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel.
We affirm that self-conception as male of female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture.
We deny that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.
We affirm that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immortality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.
We deny that the approval of homosexual immortality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.
But don’t let the title of The Nashville Statement fool you. There are many people, myself included, that want to stress that this type of marginalization has no place in our community. Many of us want to be vocal about our disapproval — we want to let others know that we don’t stand for bigotry and that it won’t be tolerated here.
On the evening it was released, the hashtag #NashvilleStatement was trending worldwide, and although responses were varied, there was a considerable number of people expressing their disagreement with the article.
If you’re from Nashville and feel embarrassed, ashamed or worried that outsiders will take the display of ill-informed, bigoted dogmatism expressed in The Nashville Statement as representative of our city, you aren’t alone in your anxieties. And more importantly, if you’re LGBT living in Nashville and feel unsettled after being smacked in the face with the unfortunate reminder that such ignorance is still very prominent in our area (and in the whole world, for that matter), you aren’t alone, either. I feel both of these things and I empathize.
Regrettably, the mindlessness and intolerance evident in The Nashville Statement isn’t rare. It isn’t specific to just Nashville, or just the South, or even just the United States — it’s prevalent everywhere. But in the southern US where religious fundamentalism is rampant, it feels suffocating and hard to escape.
So many preach love and tolerance but practice precisely the opposite. This type of casual discrimination is seen as acceptable as long as it’s perpetuated in the name of religion. This type of othering has been proven to cause significant psychological harm to those who are on the receiving end of it. Religion is meant to bring hope, comfort, and peace — the last thing an already vulnerable community needs is to feel afraid to be themselves within something as beautiful as their own spirituality.
If you feel disheartened by any of this, or if you feel rejected by members of your own faith, remind yourself that anyone who must use religion as a guise for their hatred is cowardly. Existing as an LGBT person shows more bravery and courage than anyone who sits in a position of privilege and contributes to the oppression of those below them. Remember that The Nashville Statement is merely another example of unenlightened narrow-mindedness — and there’s no place for that in Nashville. Nashville is beautifully diverse and such expressions of gross intolerance will never represent how many, if not most of us feel.