Why Not Sign?

Why Not Sign? September 8, 2017

Joel Belz, the founder of World Magazine (conservative evangelical publication), is a signer of the Nashville Statement and he wonders why more evangelicals have not signed the statement.  Indeed, many have noted their problems with the statement, even some coming from conservative quarters.  You can read some of those here, here, and here.

So, I’ll bite.  Mr. Belz, here is why I would not sign the Nashville Statement:

1.  You write: “…But for an issue said by some Christian leaders to be the dominant cultural question of our lifetimes…”

Really?  Even given the historical cultural results of slavery and current racism in this country?  Even given the historical and current sexism in this country?  Even given the historical and current wealth imbalance in this country? Even given the continuing poverty and struggle to make ends meet faced by so many in this country?  Even given the environmental problems we face?  Even given the events leading up to the last election and the results of that election?  Even given the events of Charlottesville, and the rise of anti-immigrant sentiments, white supremacy, neo-Nazis, and the Alt-Right?

Even given all the issues and problems such as child/world hunger, lack of social justice, social inequality, crime, civil wars around the globe, people in exile, the various humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, the abject poverty and suffering in the world, and this is where your time was spent, this is what you chose to be vocal about, to distribute, to publicize, and sign your name to?

It will do no good to respond, “Well, but we care about those other problems too.”  Where are the statements then?  Where is the same coordinated effort, energy, publicity, resources, and planning addressing those problems?  Where are those statements?

Are the issues addressed in the statement the areas Jesus chose to focus on?  Jesus talked much more about the marginalized, the poor, the out-cast, and those suffering under the powerful than he did sexual orientation, sexuality in general, gender, or gender roles.  He chose to talk about religious hypocrisy, and religious leaders using the law to beat people down, much more than he did any of the areas addressed in this statement.

It would sort of be like interviewing the priests who turned away from the man beaten and left to die on the side of the road, remember, the fellow the Samaritan stopped to help.  Imagine asking them, “Why didn’t you help this man?” Imagine if we heard: “We were about to, but then we noticed two people engaging in a sexual activity we don’t approve of.  That was much more concerning to us.  Priorities, you know.”

Oh, okay.

So, first, I would not sign it because the timing is horrible, given our cultural moment and history.  It completely misses the forest for the trees.  It is tone-deaf and turns a blind eye to what the Samaritan sees and is therefore, clueless.

2.  You write: “…Evangelical leaders and theologians founded CBMW in the late 1980s to provide similar guidance—from a frankly Biblical perspective—concerning the respective roles of men and women in the home, the church, and beyond…”

Consider: All of the writers criticizing the statement and who have not signed it, also believe they are viewing these issues from, frankly, a “Biblical perspective.”  It rankles and is condescending for you or the other signatories to claim or suggest you are the only ones addressing these issues Biblically.  Please.  Such a tone pushes me away and is another reason I would not sign.

3.  The signatories, in supporting their reasons, often point out something to the effect of, “We are just affirming what the Church has believed for centuries.” The only problem is that for centuries the Church also believed there was a place for slavery, women were basically property, and that the torture and killing of “heretics” was fine if defending what the Church had believed…for centuries. That the Church has believed something for centuries isn’t always an indication of orthodox theology—sometimes it’s an indication or reflection (ironically enough given such is exactly what the Nashville Statement thinks it’s addressing) of its cultural milieu.  Such an argument then, does not necessarily persuade me and leaves me somewhat skeptical.

4.  According to Article 10, we cannot respectfully agree to disagree with the signers, and they make their affirmations “essential” rather than a differing perspective; these then become the “hill” upon which, they are willing to die. Really? Out of all the mountains out there, you chose this hill?

Even though none of the issues addressed in this statement are mentioned in any of the ancient creeds or confessions, even though Jesus did not focus on or discuss (that we have writings for anyway) the issues addressed in this statement, these are the areas you want to make “essential?”

That does not seem wise or helpful in the least.

Finally, given the way the Church has treated, and continues to treat, the LBG+ community, was this statement really the place to start?  Why not start with an apology?  Why not start with questions instead of affirmations?  Why not ask: “I don’t understand your orientation, or where this is coming from, please help me to see this from your point of view and experience?”  Why not ask: “Even though I disagree with you, even though I can’t see right now how this is okay, help me to understand, and how can I serve you—how can I love you?”

So, there you have it Mr. Belz—for those reasons and others, I would not sign the Nashville Statement.  Maybe the evangelical wing of the Church universal should stop issuing statements and be quiet and listen for a while.  Now, that would be a statement.

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