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My Thoughts on the Nashville Statement

  /   Monday September 04, 2017  

By now, many people have heard about the Nashville Statement written by a group of evangelicals known as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The statement is really a well-written and compassionate statement of constant Christian teaching on sexuality. However, there are plenty in the media, including social media, who just won’t have it.

I have read a number of comments and derogatory tweets stating that the statement is “anti-LGBT bigotry.” Some of the objections weren’t particular logical, like the ones stating that it’s 2017. What does the number of the current year have to do with whether the statement is right or wrong? Others criticized the statement simply because it came out during the time of Hurricane Harvey. Yeah, I’m sure the members of this group knew when there was going to be a hurricane and planned to release the statement then. Seriously, I’m doing my regular job in Nashville, so why can’t they? Even the mayor of Nashville, Megan Barry, posted a critical statement on her Twitter account. However, if you know anything about her, that’s not a surprise. She’s a known supporter of Planned Parenthood, and she’s also known for having officiated at the first same sex wedding in Nashville.

However, the statement is hardly a hate-filled denunciation. It states that marriage is between one man and one woman and that sex belongs only in marriage. It states that men and women are different from each other and that those differences are good. They are part of God’s creation, and both sexes are equal in dignity. It recognized the sinfulness of homosexual acts and of trying to act as though one had a different gender from one’s biological sex. However, also recognized is that those who find themselves with some ambiguity in regard to their sex or attracted to members of the same sex are still people loved by God who can live a fruitful life by obedience to Christ rather than identifying oneself with these inclinations and seeking to act on them. Finally, the statement clearly says in the end that no one is beyond the mercy of Christ. There’s nothing in here that hasn’t been proclaimed by the Church for 2000 years, even though some people in our present age wish to deny this.

As a Catholic, I could affirm everything in the Nashville statement. Still, it’s not perfect. There is one minor point that I would like to see worded another way. There is another statement that I would like to see strengthened and a third on which the Nashville statement is silent but shouldn’t be.

Article 2 of the statement says that God’s plan is “chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.” I think I know what they meant, but I don’t like the wording. Chastity is a life long virtue for people in all states of life, not just for unmarried people. It simply means the subjection of one’s sexual desires to right reason. It does not only mean abstinence, though it does for anyone not married. I’ve noticed some Protestant works saying someone intends to remain “sexually pure until marriage,” but they don’t mean that they plan to commit adultery once married. There’s nothing impure about the marital act between a husband and a wife when engaged in properly. Total abstinence ends once one is married, but the practice of chastity does not. It not only encompasses fidelity, but also respect for the physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of one’s spouse.

While Article 1 of the statement does mention that God intends marriage to be a lifelong union, I would have liked a stronger statement against divorce. Specifically, I’d like it to say that “WE DENY that a valid, consummated marriage may be dissolved by anything other than the death of one of the spouses.” However, I do know that many evangelicals do believe in a kind of biblical divorce. Truthfully, there are reasons why one must separate from one’s spouse and even obtain a civil divorce for protection. However, the person is still married to that spouse in the eyes of God and may not seek another during the spouse’s lifetime.

So, what’s the biggest thing missing from the Nashville Statement? It lacks any mention of the necessity of each sexual act being open to life and the sinfulness of and harm caused by contraception. Evangelicals often don’t understand this, but the acceptance of contraception is at least partly responsible for opening the floodgates of the problems in our society today. Allowing deliberate separation of sex from the transmission of life made it possible for people to attempt to redefine its meaning into whatever strikes someone’s fancy. Children became an optional add on to one’s “relationship” and perhaps were even considered a nuisance. It made it much easier for men and women to use each other as objects for one’s own pleasure whether than to give themselves to each other in love. I pray that one day the evangelicals will come to this understanding. When Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae in 1968, he was prophetic in stating what would happen were there widespread acceptance of contraception. He was right!

Still, calling the Nashville Statement some kind of bigotry is just plain nonsense. There’s nothing new in it. It is simply a proclamation of one part of the Gospel that is badly needed in today’s climate of family breakdown.

Category: Catholic, Morality, Response

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