Much frustration with the computer Tuesday, but I had already decided that maybe the best thing I could blog was Ron Belgau’s letter to Rod Dreher and Rod’s response. It’s long, but very rewarding if you’re interested in the kind of discussion I’ll now summarize:
Ron is a celibate Christian gay man, founder of Spiritual Friendship, all of whose contributors are celibate Christians with same-sex attraction. He was disappointed with Rod so enthusiastically endorsing the Nashville Statement, telling his experience growing up Southern Baptist and gay, and reminding Rod of many things Rod has written that seemed to run contrary to his enthusiasm for a statement Ron found quite defective.
Rod’s reply started was basically, “Remember, I’ve never been Evangelical. In my Christian circles, the problem hasn’t been gay-bashing ‘preaching to the choir,’ but deafening silence on sexuality, which the Church really does have ample resources to deal with. As a new convert who had been sexually promiscuous, I could have used guidance that wasn’t forthcoming. That’s why I so appreciated a forceful and clear statement of a more-or-less orthodox position on what the Statement covered even if it didn’t cover everything.”
Belgau is masterful and kind to Rod. Rod’s response surprised me; I keep forgetting that his spiritual history was direct conversion from horny young bounder to Roman Catholicism, later Orthodoxy, with Evangelicalism not really having been so much as a familiar phenomenon from his geographic environment — and that he was left to his own devices after conversion on matters of chastity. These are two guys who’ve thought a lot about sexuality and hold each other in high regard, as do I hold both.
If this is the sort of thing you go for, then you’ll really go for this.
Here’s my take on what Ron says:
- I don’t doubt a word of it, though I cannot recall ever sitting through any “preaching to the choir” gay-bashing sermon.
- I’ve encountered few people (but not none) who can state a principled position against homosexual activity other than “the Bible forbids it” or “it’s icky.” Neither suffices to meet the present challenge.
- I’m inclined toward the Spiritual Friendship type response to the “gay identity” questions raised by Nashville Statement Article 7, though I see both sides and see a big risk in the wrong take on “I am a gay person.”
Here’s my take on what Rod says:
- I suspect that Parish Priests, with few exceptions, do not feel that they have personal mastery of the resources to deal with sexuality (even if the Church does). They need to develop that mastery.
- Some priests may have some cognitive dissonance going on.
- Parish priests in weekly homilies are rightly constrained by the appointed Gospel and Epistle texts; it would be inappropriate to go off on a discourse about Christian anthropology or the Trinitarian explanation of the ontological impossibility of same-sex marriage, just because, say, Obergefell was just handed down, when the Gospel text is the Parable of the Sower. We can’t let the world’s shenanigans make us forever reactive.
After Rod published, Denny Burk, both a signer and (I think) prime mover of the Nashville Statement, stepped in:
I think where we disagree is whether The Nashville Statement addresses the fact that evangelical churches are already woefully compromised on the issue of marriage. I think it does. He believes that it doesn’t. Our difference is over this paragraph in the preamble:
Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life? Will she maintain her clear, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on ruin?
Ron reads this paragraph to mean that the church may become compromised but is not compromised yet. I understand this paragraph to mean that although many among us have already bowed the knee to Baal, there are many who have not. This paragraph frames the document, in my view, as a statement for a compromised church. The question is who is going to win out? The ones who have bowed the knee or the ones who have not?
(Emphasis added) What Burk supposedly understands the paragraph to mean is sheer fabrication. It means no such thing. It gives not a hint that all is not well in Evangelicaldom, let alone that it is woefully compromised.
One of the most important things to understand about The Nashville Statement is that it was not primarily aimed at the outside world. It is aimed at the evangelical Christian world where so much confusion on these questions seems to remain. As I said in my opinion piece for The Hill over the weekend:
The Nashville Statement is not a culture-war document. It is a church document. It stakes out no public policy positions. It advocates for no particular piece of legislation or political program. Rather, it was drafted by churchmen from a variety of evangelical traditions who aim to catechize God’s people about their place in the true story of the world. And fundamental to that storyline is our “personal and physical design as male and female.”
This doesn’t strike me as false or as wishful thinking, and it’s part of the reason why Nashville’s Mayor had no business dissing it. Whether the tone matched that aim I’ll leave to others to debate.
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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)