Would I have liked to have seen something about divorce, pornography, and similar sins indulged in by straights? Yes. Do I think it’s a big deal that those things were left out? No. The perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good enough.
I was e-mailing this morning with a conservative Christian friend who is orthodox on sexual issues, including same-sex marriage, but who can’t fully get behind the Nashville Statement. His reasons are familiar: it didn’t say what it ought to have said about divorce and other heterosexual sins and failings, and it was dismissive of the Spiritual Friendship approach, which, according to my friend, was unhelpfully and unnecessarily divisive.
I more or less sympathize with those criticisms, though as I’ve said, I don’t think it’s quite fair to blast the Nashville Statement for what it didn’t say, as if the signers had to address a number of things before they could affirm what was until a generation or so ago uncontroversial teachings in all Christian churches. Would I have liked to have seen something about divorce, pornography, and similar sins indulged in by straights? Yes. Do I think it’s a big deal that those things were left out? No. The perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good enough.
I also sympathize with my friend’s view on Spiritual Friendship, though I am genuinely not sure what I think about the SF approach. I had no problem at all with it until a conversation this past summer with Rosaria Butterfield, who strongly opposes it, made me rethink the issue. I can’t get to a settled point on the matter, at least not yet. I also understand the view of the Nashville Statement, I think, which holds that SF is a Trojan horse, however unintentional. As a practical matter, I wish that the Nashville Statement had not articulated a stance on this issue, because I don’t want to alienate same-sex-attracted Christians who live chastely and affirm the Christian teaching on homosexuality, but who go about it from a somewhat different set of premises.
But then, the fact that the Nashville Statement forces me to confront and reason my way through this issue is a sign of its necessity in these confusing times. It is compelling Christians to assess where they stand. This makes a lot of people in the messy middle uncomfortable. A different Christian friend said this morning that a lot of our fellow conservative Christians are shocked by the backlash to the Nashville Statement, even within the churches, because they had not realized how much the church has compromised on sexual ethics. It is good, I think, to have that clarity.
One thing my earlier friend wrote sticks out in my mind as something well worth pondering. He said that the Nashville Statement seems to give up trying to convince people who might yet be convinced of its premises.
I guess I can see that, but it seems to me that the Nashville Statement wasn’t trying to do that. It did not attempt to make an argument. If anything, it was a manifesto on which to build arguments. The more serious question, I think, is this one: how many people are truly convince-able at this point?
I don’t know the answer, and I doubt anyone does. I think it’s pretty clear that very few Christians are going to be convinced to switch from being pro-LGBT (= affirming homosexuality and/or transgenderism) to the orthodox Christian position. We’re really talking about holding on to Christians who are tempted to move away from orthodoxy towards the liberal stance, but who don’t really know what to think right now. How many of those people are there?