(First, I originally used the word “genitals” in the title of this post, but FB flagged it as spam and wouldn’t let me post it. Sigh.)
Thanks for the notice that the Nashville Statement has been published. For those of you who missed it, the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which 30 years ago produced the the Danvers Statement, is once again up to no good. Danvers is anti-LGB, and Nashville is anti-T (that is, anti-trans).
The Nashville Statement has 14 articles, each with an affirmation and a denial. For example, article VII:
We affirm that self-conception as male or 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 purpose in creation and redemption.
What you see, when you read each one independently and then together, is that the Nashville Statement signatories believe that
- All physical bodies neatly fall into categories labeled male and female and always have, since the creation of Adam and Eve, “the first human beings” (article III). (For more on why a literal Adam and Eve had to exist and had to be distinctly male and female in their anatomy in order for the rest of conservative Christianity to hold water, see my guest post at Righting America, Susan and William Trollinger’s companion blog to their book Righting America at the Creation Museum. )
- Physical bodies that don’t conform to the anatomical standards of male or female (Wait! That contradicts the last point. But never mind.) are going to need to fall into one whether they like it or not. “Physical anomalies or psychological conditions” (which is what National Statement folks think being trans is) don’t undermine the “God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female.” Those with “a physical disorder of sex development” should “embrace their biological sex insofar as it is known” (article IV).
- Bodies determine gender, which means that bodies also determine which roles people can take in different domains of life (Biblical complementarianism, as explained in article III).
Above, Karoly Patko’s 1920 Adam and Eve shows the full length of Adam’s body from behind and Eve’s from the front. She reaches to pick a red fruit from a tree at the center of the image. Conservative Christians who sign onto the Nashville Statement seem to think that the genitals are the most important part of this story.
For those who are feeling disheartened by all of this, I think there is good news.
First, the Christians of the sort who sign onto this voted heavily (81% of white evangelicals who voted) for a serial sexual assaulter, adulterer, pornographer, and abortion advocate. Nashville Statement supporters who have been critical of Trump (and there are some of those one the list, too) have reneged on their commitment to help their own co-religionists to “walk orderly” in favor of pointing out the speck in their neighbor’s eye. The fact that they keep talking, as if anyone outside of their rapidly shrinking circle cares, is embarrassing to them but shouldn’t hurt those of us outside of that circle. As you point out, they supported a man who violates all their sexual standards and yet they think that trans rights are going to be the ruin of America. Jesus has some words for those people. And they aren’t nice.
As you argue just today in The Week, Trump supporters need to understand what their legacy will be.
Second, we all see through the language of compassion and love. In lots of places in the Nashville Statement, the authors say that God loves and can save trans people–if they conform to the “Biblical standard” of sex and gender (which are the same thing in this model). The Nashville Statement never uses the word hell, but it’s there. Sure, God loves everyone, but he will send even those he loves to hell if they don’t express their gender in ways that align with their “biological sex” (a term that the Nashville Statement never defines).
This is the most dangerous, dishonest part of the Nashville Statement. The mournful eyes. The “this-hurts-me-more-than-it-hurts-you” tone. Truly, I respect the honesty of Westboro Baptists, who don’t confuse God’s love with hatred, more. The fact is, these Christians don’t love trans people. They demean them, and want to take away their basic ability to exist in the world. They use a politics of disgust to whip up public sentiment. The Nashville Statement calls on conservative Christians to use incorrect pronouns and deadnames for trans people (“speak truth in love at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as male or female,” from article IX.)
If you are trans, walk on by this language because it does not describe how God loves the diversity of creation. If you love a trans person, call this language for what it is: hurtful, nasty, mean-spirited, lies trying to hide as the theology of “Christian faithfulness and witness” (article X).
Third, the Danvers Statement was a shot fired in the battle against gay rights and same-sex marriage. Conservative Christians have lost that battle in the law and in culture, and they are losing their churches over it. All they have left is some fighting about whether florists should legally have to arrange flowers for same-sex couples’ weddings. While such arguments are important, as the Supreme Court’s decision to hear Masterpiece Cakes this year indicates, it’s the end of the argument. Even if they win that case, all they win is the right to huddle together and discriminate against people. It does matter that queer couples have access to all the same consumer experiences as straight couples. But by the time we’re arguing about frosting and flowers, the battle is almost over.
Fourth, as you say, the Nashville Statement makes this kind of Christianity very unattractive. And that’s good, because it is a Christianity that narrows the wideness of God’s mercy. It’s a religion that affirms the powerful and threatens the weak. It shrinks the awesomeness of God and uses it as a weapon. It is not spiritually dangerous like the religion of Jesus should be–a danger to the status quo–but to those who hold it.
The Nashville Statement is going to make news for a little while. Conservative Christians are going to pat themselves on the back for taking such a “courageous” stand against a culture that is becoming more, not less, expansive about what it means to be human. Today, it hurts trans people and especially trans Christians and especially those queer people in conservative churches. We should care for them tenderly right now. And we should keep fighting for their rights.
But the Nashville Statement would not have been written if anti-queer Christians didn’t already feel threatened. There is some encouragement in that.