In her 2008 book, The Great Emergence, Phyllis Tickle makes the case that every 500 years there is a major revolution in The Church.
As 2017 represents the 500th anniversary of The Protestant Reformation, Tickle’s thesis anticipated this moment in suggesting that perhaps something is again brewing. There has been a growing divide in this country, a “culture war” that is echoed in the church most notably in its bifurcated treatment of homosexual persons. As I read the “Nashville Statement,” a statement released this week by Evangelical pastors, condemning homosexual and transgender persons, I was struck by what seemed an intent to draw a line, once and for all, between “us” and “them.”
As a pastor of a congregation that is welcoming and affirming of homosexuals, I am weary of Evangelicals belittling my faith. As a pastor who still believes in the power and importance of Church, I am saddened and frustrated by the hoards leaving the American church – because of the American church.
So … maybe there really is an “us” and a “them.” Maybe there really are two different churches, two different religions. Maybe this is the 500-year moment.
Maybe it’s time. Here are my thoughts on the matter.
– Russ Dean
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (yes, an actual organization) recently released the “Nashville Statement,” the latest, sad grenade lobbed across the battle lines of our growing culture war. The clearer the lines of this battle become, the more defined, the easier it is to see how outnumbered are the aggressors (make that: the “regressors”), and how futile is their attempt to stem the tide of truth and progress.
As George Bernard Shaw put it, “All great truths begin as blasphemies.”
Writing for the “National Review,” David French, one of the original and “proud” 153 signatories of the statement, said the 14 articles are important and helpful (for our shamefully deluded, secularly-blinded culture), because the statement defines “basic Christianity.”
Yes, we could use a primer on that topic.
Because according to Mr. French, “basic Christianity” includes the absolute rejection of LGBTQIA persons – who choose to live out these essential identities and live into the full affirmation that is celebrated for all others. Equally definitive of “basic Christianity,” and marking a clearer line in the sand for these Evangelicals, is that “[approving] of homosexual immorality or transgenderism… constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.”
Oh, there’s just so much to say here! But, adopting the form of the Nashville Statement, let me make one simple declaration with equal resolve:
I AFFIRM that I am not a “basic Christian,” by such a definition.
I DENY that 153 self-appointed Evangelicals, rejecting such a broad and diverse swath of God’s beautiful world (and ignorant of their own, callous disregard for so many), have the right to define my “faithfulness and witness.”
But if it comes to it, they can have the name, "Christian".
Perhaps it is time for those of us who seek to be faithful to the Way of Jesus – and to truly love all persons – to give up “Christianity.” It’s just a label.
The bright hope for such dark and frustrating days is that such lines, drawn so clearly, clearly define them – and this may be the first, necessary step, in defining us.