This week a conservative evangelical Christian group released the “Nashville Statement,” a transparently homophobic and transphobic screed designed to give theological cover to those who wish to discriminate and hate in the name of God. Its 14 Articles are a sustained assault on the dignity of LGBTQIA+ people, each one an ethical monstrosity elevating some people’s interpretation of scripture over other people’s right to live as they wish.
The articles include the following:
WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship.
WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.
WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.
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 it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.
And it continues.
In response, various more liberal Christian groups and individuals have released counter statements. I enjoyed the one by fellow Patheos blogger Nadia Bolz-Weber (the Denver Statement) which, while offering a more affirming view of LGBTQIA+ persons, also questions whether God has arms.
I am, of course, heartened that some Christians have the heart to see through the Nashville Statement’s hateful nonsense. Honestly, though, these Christian counter-statements miss the most important point: we must never ground human dignity in any text or teaching, any scripture or sacrament. We must not look to the Bible, or the teachings of Jesus, or any other external source in order to “justify” the worth and dignity of human beings. Doing so will always jeopardize the most marginalized people, because we human beings cannot help but interpret texts and teachings in ways inflected by the prejudices of our current culture. Once we locate the source of people’s dignity outside people – LGBTQIA+ people are worthy of respect because it says so here in my book – it is only a matter of time before someone finds a way to reinterpret that source in such a way that it does not grant some people dignity.
This is a fundamental and inescapable problem with moral systems which look to privileged texts to tell us what is right or wrong: they are only as secure as a given interpretation of the text. And when you’re dealing with the Bible – a text with an inescapable homophobic history and, at best, defensible homophobic interpretations – it’s crystal clear that there is no secure basis for the dignity of LGBTQIA+ people to be found there.
We need to take a Humanistic turn, as a culture. We need to state, quite simply, that respect for the dignity of persons is a bedrock ethical principle, grounded in the very nature of people themselves, requiring no external justification. In response to abominations like the Nashville Statement we must not say “We have a better interpretation of scripture than yours,” or “We understand God better than you do” (responses which make human dignity a matter of interpretation), but “No God or scripture can undermine the inherent dignity of a human person.”
The Nashville Statement is not only wicked, but it is irrelevant: that is the most important point.
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