Southern Baptists

Harmful Theology Will Not Define Us

by Verdell A. Wright

Times are rough. Every five seconds, the news tells us something terrible that Trump and his administration has done. White Supremacists have a renewed, public boldness. Social media feeds are landmines of triggering comments about race, gender, sexuality, and many other issues that make up one’s humanity.

On top of all of that, this thing called The Nashville Statement happened. 

Basically, a bunch of conservative Christians came together to make a statement about gender and sexuality, redrawing their hateful line in the sand concerning LGBTQ people. While the statement didn’t say anything new—many of these folks have been saying the same things for decades—it was a hunkering down of harmful theology and a display of the ideas that still need to be challenged to create a better world.

More than a month after the original statement was published, the Board of Trustees of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary voted to adopt this statement as a confessional document.

These displays need to be taken seriously. Statements like these serve to rally the evangelical Christian base and demonstrate an ability to organize behind a cohesive message. Given the world these folks would like to shape, that’s not a good thing.

However, what about the feelings and emotions that events like this evoke? 

The Nashville Statement stirred up trauma for many people. How do we find the energy to create a different world when we’re still wounded from the one we’re living in?

I don’t believe that I’ve found the answer that works for everyone. I do have faith that I’ve found the answer that works for me. I’ve been engaging Buddhist readings and meditating lately. One of the core themes is to let go and accept things as they are so that you can bring your whole self to the situation. Often, it’s our own attachment and expectations that cause us pain, especially when we refuse to relinquish them. By letting them go, you can see and respond in ways that are more in line with health and wholeness.

During my time advocating for LGBTQ inclusion in churches, I’ve had many disappointments. Hearing pastors that I respected explain my life and others’ as sinful and a distraction hurt. It also hurt to witness allies renege on their promises and do more damage in the long run. I’ve shed a lot of tears wishing that people would be different, that my church experience was different, that I didn’t experience those painful experiences.

Now, I recognize the situation for what it was and is. 

These folks have held to these theological ideas for a long time. I don’t expect anything different from them. They’ve proven that they have no desire to change. I no longer have hope that they will change, and I don’t rest my sense of self on if these folks say positive things about me or my choices.

That doesn’t mean that I’ll be complacent. It’s vital that the theology that gave rise to the Nashville Statement be vigorously challenged. At the same time—we can build another world. I’ve learned to take that anger to construct a world where the John Pipers and Tony Evans and Albert Mohlers of the world can no longer perpetuate harm. The big lesson for me was learning that I can continue in that work without expectations that go against the reality that I experienced.

That’s where my hope is now. I don’t expect people who’ve made their careers in advancing harmful theology to suddenly get the message. If they do, awesome. I’m more concerned with working with people who want to create that better world.

I’ll pay attention to these harmful actions only as much as I need to and not a second more. 

I think that will ultimately be a greater statement on—and indictment of—everything those folks did out of Nashville.

Photo by Mídia NINJA