The Nashville Statement and an Islamic Tale Walked into A Bar…

926be0ae335555eb4dfe0e3eb9f2c358--sufi-quotes-jalaluddin-rumiI 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.

On Why A Christian Community Should Agree to Bury the Body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev

The funeral home can’t place his body anywhere.Coffin

It’s tragic what he did and how it happened.  And he still holds power even after he’s dead.  The power to keep people from offering rest.

See, Tamerlan was sick.  It’s not an excuse by any means.

He was a terrorist.  His brother is a terrorist.

But he’s also human.  And he’s also dead.  And he was sick.

Only sick people do what he did.  And although some would label him an “asshole” as well as sick (which I would agree with), it doesn’t discount the fact that he was sick.

But to let him still hold power like this, to deny a body rest: it’s adding tragedy to tragedy.

We, the Christian community, should bury him.

Thomas Long’s wonderful book Accompany Them With Singing: The Christian Funeral provides some good insight on why Christian burial practices are so important as a witness of the faith.  He writes,

Early Christianity inherited (a Jewish understanding of the body) and intensified it with strong convictions about the incarnation and the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  Doing so stirred Christians not to idealize bodies (as the Greeks did in their perfect sculptures) or to romanticize them (as Sports Illustrated does in its swimsuit issue), but to care for bodies, real bodies, both living and dead, in ways that perplexed and confused their pagan neighbors….What was even odder to Roman eyes was that the Christians “volunteered to take care of bodies, both living and dead bodies…not just of their own families but also of the poor surrounding them…this immediate almost instinctive urge of Christians to care for the sick, the hungry, the old, and the poor aroused comment from their neighbors.” (Long, 29)

To care for the sick, the hungry, the old, and the poor.

In the stories about Jesus, as Jesus was caring for these people, it doesn’t always mention how they got to be the way they were.  Perhaps they were people who had done terrible things in their lives, things that forced them out of circles of care, forced them into solitude.  Perhaps they were people who were just plain sick, and no one could be around them because they were dangerous.

The Christian’s responsibility isn’t to who the body was, it is to the body as it is now.

And why?

Because Jesus had a body, and bodies are important and good, and need to be buried somehow…even if we wouldn’t necessarily categorize the person as being good.

In antiquity Christians would volunteer to bury the bodies of those around them.  Their own savior was once a body without a tomb for a home…a tomb was donated.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s crimes were horrible and tragic and beyond the pale.

This is not up for debate.

But his body must be buried, and as a witness to self-giving hospitality, as a witness to our hope in redemption, as a witness to embodiment and incarnation, the Christian church should bury him.

And with him, bury some of the power he somehow is still wielding.

And the fact that we’re reluctant to do so because we’re afraid, or because we hold the flag in front of the cross, or because we think it will be unpopular makes me reluctant to call myself Christian.