The Nashville Statement by Evangelical Christian leaders, drawing a line in the sand around Biblical orthodoxy on matters of sexuality, really has stirred up the Religious Left. In the Washington Post, Katelyn Beaty writes a genuinely terrible piece claiming that “even conservative Evangelicals” are unhappy with the statement, without offering much evidence. And this:
But behind all the details was one overarching one: Trump.
Of the 187 initial signatories of the Nashville Statement, at least 10 have publicly endorsed Trump. Four — Richard Land, James Robison, Ronnie Floyd and Jack Graham — are members of his unofficial evangelical advisory council. Last fall, Wayne Grudem, CBMW’s co-founder, defended Trump after the candidate was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault. To be sure, other signatories have criticized Trump, even drawing threat of censure from their own denominations. But for other signatories to support Trump while issuing a hard stance against same-sex relationships seems to many morally inconsistent.
So, five percent of the signatories publicly endorsed Donald Trump, yet that compromises the entire document — a document also signed by Russell Moore, by far the most anti-Trump Christian leader in public life? That is grasping.
Beaty also quotes a few others — leaders that conservative Evangelical friends of mine say aren’t known as conservative Evangelicals — saying that the Nashville Statement might offend LGBTs, and end the “dialogue” between Evangelicalism and LGBTs. Well, yes, it certainly will offend LGBTs who expect the church to affirm their sexual orientation and chosen gender role, but religions are in the business of proclaiming truth, even if those truths are hard to live by. The idea that churches and pastors should make doctrinal decisions based on what’s likely to be popular with the masses is corrupt. Secondly, always beware of religious liberals who publicly long for “dialogue”. What they usually mean is “we’ll keep talking until you on the orthodox side give up, after which the dialogue will end.”
Actually the Nashville Statement is a boon to dialogue, insofar as it makes clear the terms of Biblically orthodox Evangelicals. It won’t do much good for those in the mushy middle who are trying to do figure out how to embrace the Zeitgeist while muting their consciences, but then again, that’s one of the Nashville Statement’s aims: clarity.
Meanwhile, the Post gathers the anti-Nashville Statement tweets of the coy, pro-LGBT Jesuit Father James Martin:
Re #Nashville Statement: I affirm: That God loves all LGBT people. I deny: That Jesus wants us to insult, judge or further marginalize them.
I affirm: That all of us are in need of conversion. I deny: That LGBT people should be in any way singled out as the chief or only sinners.
I affirm: That when Jesus encountered people on the margins he led with welcome not condemnation. I deny: That Jesus wants any more judging.
I affirm: That LGBT people are, by virtue of baptism, full members of the church. I deny: That God wants them to feel that they don’t belong
I affirm: That LGBT people have been made to feel like dirt by many churches. I deny: That Jesus wants us to add to their immense suffering.
I affirm: That LGBT people are some of the holiest people I know. I deny: That Jesus wants us to judge others, when he clearly forbade it.
I affirm that the Father loves LGBT people, the Son calls them and the Holy Spirit guides them. I deny nothing about God’s love for them.
This is classic Father Martin: designed to confuse and anesthetize, not clarify and enlighten. In point of fact, the Nashville Statement is very close to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Does Father Martin deny the magisterial teaching of his own church on sexual matters? He will never say it explicitly. Matthew Schmitz understands the smooth-talking Jesuit’s routine:
Fr. Martin correctly sees how complacent the Church is before the polymorphous manifestation of heterosexual desire, and he detects a double standard. How, if sex is so safe and tame between married couples, can it imperil the souls of gays? Of course, many fine distinctions, many true and important ones, can be drawn between the two cases, but those distinctions lack persuasive force. As long as the Church is so broadly approving of heterosexual desire, it will not be able to speak credibly against homosexual acts.
So I agree with Fr. Martin that an intolerable tension now exists in the Church’s attitude toward sex, but I disagree about how that tension should be resolved. More than Allah or Christ, sex is the great god worshipped across the globe. What one of our greatest Catholic commentators calls the “horny industrial complex” rules the world: selling products, justifying the destruction of families, impelling the transformation of law. Fr. Martin wants the Church to make a more perfect peace with this god. I want it to offer more consistent resistance.
Regrettably, but unavoidably, resisting untruth will require Catholics to be rude. This is why, much as I sympathize with certain points he makes, I reject Fr. Martin’s call for civility. Either the Catholic Church is right in what it teaches about human sexuality, or it is wrong. A great many people are convinced that the latter is the case—and thus that anyexpression of the Church’s teaching on homosexual acts will be insensitive and disrespectful. There is no phrasing so artful, no speaker so refined, that Catholic teaching can be pronounced without offense.
This seems to be Fr. Martin’s view. As far as I can tell, he has never found words in which to defend Catholic teaching on homosexuality. This fact is striking. If Fr. Martin, with his winning smile and pleasing voice, his rigorous Jesuit formation and gilded Wharton degree, his friendships with celebrities and appointment at the Vatican, cannot find a polite way to express Christian teaching, then no one can. No Catholic priest is more at home in fashionable society. No modern spiritual master is better equipped to make the faith clubbable. Judging by Fr. Martin’s silence, it simply cannot be done. On homosexuality, and not just on homosexuality, Christian teaching inevitably offends.
We should not celebrate this fact. Good manners are less important than truth, but they are a fitting complement to it. In a rightly ordered society, what is true will also be respectable, and delicacy will ornament righteousness rather than cloaking lies and oppression. Fr. Martin’s instinct that what is rude cannot be true would be well placed in Eden. Unfortunately, instead of residing in paradise, we groan in bondage of corruption. So long as that is the case, we will have to be cruel to be kind.
Schmitz’s point in his last graf is something that all who support the Nashville Statement had better get used to. Standing for truth in these matters is going to be painful, and make you quite unpopular. But a stand must be taken. The pro-LGBT Evangelical David Gushee was right to say that there is no way to hide from this issue. Sooner or later, it will find every single Christian pastor and leader.
(By the way, I have to share with you the blurb Father Martin gave to the new memoir by Sally Quinn, who comes out in it as a practitioner of the occult arts: “Sally Quinn’s memoir is, like her, utterly unique: a glorious, rollicking, captivating ride through the worlds of journalism, politics, and culture that takes us across the globe but finally leads us to the most important destination of all: the heart.”)