I once heard that tortured Irish metaphysicist Peter Rollins tell this little Islamic tale:
A dervish was sitting alone one day, and a stranger came up behind him and slapped the back of his head.
The dervish whirled around, ready to defend himself, and the stranger said, “You can hit me, but first ponder this question with me: did the *smack* that we both just heard come from my hand or the back of your head?
The dervish glared at him and said, “You have the luxury of asking that question, but I do not, because I’m the one sitting here dealing with it.”
So my question to my evangelical friends who crafted and support this so-called Nashville Statement: you have a theory, loosely based on small bits of a huge tome of scripture, and not based at all in historical-critical study, that has to do with people who didn’t have a seat at the discussion table.
You released this in the middle of a huge national disaster, a few weeks after a huge white supremacist march which prompted multiple resignations from an administration that refused to outright denounce it at the highest level (but surprisingly none of those resignations came from within your advisory ranks). You basically just reissued the same statement you’ve been trumpeting for years, chasing youth into conversion camps and suicide attempts, imperiling marriages as gay people marry straight people because there is no other option for them, continuing to be the genesis of strife in many families as parents are forced to choose between their faith and their out children.
And I want to know: “How’s this going for you?”
Because your little theory that you affirmed in this statement doesn’t take into account the people actually sitting there, dealing with it. And every theory has to, at some point, wrestle with that refining question, “And how’s living with this perspective going for me?”
Here’s an idea: why don’t you invite a person who identifies as LGBTQ to sit with you at a bar? You bring your Nashville Statement, and they’ll bring their life story, about the fear of coming out to their family, about the shame they had to endure after that first person found out and told everyone, about how they tried to love somebody that convention told them they should and just couldn’t, about the time they contemplated (and attempted?) suicide, about falling in love but not being able to hold hands in public, about wanting children but being told by so many people that kids need a “mom and a dad.”
And then, at the end of the hour, after a few drinks (of whatever you want, don’t worry, I won’t tell), ask yourself, “How’s this statement going for me?”
Because after that, guess what: some of their experience will then be yours, if you have any semblance of a heart.
Oh, and here’s a theory: I bet many evangelicals would absolutely be open to accepting their LGBTQ kids, parents, and friends. In fact, in their heart of hearts, my theory is that they already do.
Poet Christian Wiman writes in his heart-wrenching memoir, My Bright Abyss, “How astonishing it is, the fierceness with which we cling to beliefs that have made us miserable, or beliefs that prove to be so obviously inadequate when extreme suffering–or great joy–comes.”
Lord, this is most certainly true.
You know what I think those people in my theory are worried about?
What other parents, kids, and friends will say. Will they say something like this Nashville Statement?
And to them…well, I want to just encourage them to come out of the closet.