This past week a body, styling itself “The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” meeting in Nashville, and including some of the most powerful people in the evangelical far-right of so-called Christianity, had a mental bowel movement. they produced a hate filled screed of intensely homophobic vileness. It is called “The Nashville Statement.”
The statement was condemned by the Mayor of Nashville himself, as well as innumerable other Christian leaders, politicians and non-religious persons.
The statement belittles transgender people, condemns same-sex relationships as immoral and refers to inter-sex conditions as “disordered,” thus sending a message to the more than half of all LGBT citizens who, according to the Pew Research Center, identify as Christians. The message is, you aren’t Christians, you are going to burn in Hell and furthermore, we’re smug about it.
This document was signed onto by leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as Focus On The Family, whose president, James Dobson, is one of Trump’s advisors. Over 150 regressive, fundamentalists signed, including the presidents of various seminaries, and members of the far-right religious press. Troglodytes they are, but they should not be taken lightly. These are the people who provide the justification for the many legislative efforts presently in this country to undermine LGBT rights — efforts that masquerade as religious liberty bills, when they really are bills using religion as an excuse to discriminate and deny LGBT persons goods and services otherwise available to the general public.
The impact of Hate Theology on the lives of gays is not theoretical. It is not just a matter of “OK, the pastry shop won’t do a same-sex wedding cake so we’ll use a shop that will — no problem.” If only it were that simple!
This is the theology that tears apart the families of queer teens, and drives kids to suicide. This is the theology that has resulted in thousands of homeless queer youth in our cities, cast out by “god-fearing” parents. This is the theology that still causes many LGBT people to live in fear of insult and violence. This is the theology whole heartedly embraced and practiced by the most vicious enemies the United States has — ISIS and other Islamist militants.
It is remarkable and a bit bewildering to see all these arch-conservative, flag waving, Christian fundamentalists lined up shoulder to shoulder with ISIS — all preaching the same message. It shouldn’t be bewildering really, because the message of hating everyone who is different from the rest of the tribe is one that is as old as humanity, and fits the program of bigotry in all times and places. It is the same mind-set that gave us Nazis, Know Nothings, slavery and Jim Crow, the Trail of Tears — oh, the list is far too long for this brief essay.
Though the list is long, and the garments that have clothed the message in its various incarnations have widely varied, the essence is always the same — “if you are different from us, you aren’t really a proper human being.”
The Council meeting in Nashville called for enforcing “Biblical sexuality.” One must wonder if they have actually read the Bible because Biblical sexuality can be some pretty raunchy stuff. Take Lot’s daughters for example. In Genesis 19, 1-11, Lot offers them to the men of Sodom to be gang raped. Whatever his reasons for this, it is not what we’ve come to expect in the way of responsible fatherhood. Then in Genesis 19, 30-38 those irrepressible girls get their father, Lot, drunk so they can have sex with him — and mind you, they are not condemned for this. The tale of Lot’s seriously dysfunctional family is but one Biblical example of behavior that would get you quickly locked up in today’s world.
The members of this Nashville council are not calling themselves “Old Testamenters,” however. They are calling themselves “Christian.” Presumably that means they follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. So, when Christ condemns gays, when he scorns transgender people, these councilors are simply following divine instruction. Their only problem is that Jesus Christ never said one word about gays — not one. Neither did he ever mention transgender people. He did say, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” He did not say, “Only straight kids please.”
In putting words and intentions into the mouth of Christ that have no foundation in anything Christ actually said, these people are committing the sin of blasphemy — a serious matter indeed for those who are religious. They base their homophobia largely on a few comments by St. Paul — comments that are subject to various interpretations depending on which scholar or theologian you are reading. Regardless of interpretations, in none of these comments was St. Paul repeating the words of Christ. He was merely giving his own opinion. In the Christian religion, only Christ may be said to have spoken with absolute divine authority, and evidently he did not consider gays to be an issue.
Conservative Christians have been trying to supply this deficiency of hate for a long time, and this Nashville Statement is just the latest effort. It is tiring — even exhausting for other Christians and non-Christians alike to have to keep countering the hate theology with the message that Christ taught love and acceptance — not discrimination and bigotry.
But there is no choice. We cannot permit the haters to own the podium. We must continue, and continue, to dispense hate’s antidote, which is the message of love.
Loving the haters themselves is asking a great deal. It’s asking for sainthood, and I don’t think I can manage that. However, we can and must love those the haters would destroy — all of them — not just the ones who are like us.
The coalition of the hated is a power that can overwhelm.
Toby Grace is Out In Jersey magazine’s Editor Emeritus.