Nashville Comes to The Netherlands
My mama, who could fry some of the best damn chicken you ever put in your mouth, never taught me to cook. She taught me a lot of things, but she just couldn’t tolerate a constantly questioning kiddo scrambling around her kitchen as she tended to her cast iron skillets and perfectly sweetened pitchers of iced tea.
She did teach me how to assemble pretty outfits, carefully mixing and matching shirts and skirts so that no one would know I was wearing the same things over and over again. She taught me how to apply makeup, with lashes long and dark so that my eyes didn’t look naked and my lips were lined and colored beyond their nearly invisible pink. She taught me how to curl my hair, choosing just the right strands to pull straight away and then slowly wind the curling iron as close to my scalp as I could stand. She tried her best to teach me “the right way” to be a girl, a woman. When I went to University she wanted me to only study secretarial work. When I chose world religions as my academic path, she said college ruined me. And later, way later, when I came out as a lesbian, all of her own self-rejection and fear based faith attempted to persuade me that I was unworthy of God’s love – an abomination better dead that gay.
This morning, standing in my Dutch bathroom, my eyes brimmed as I watched my hands carefully choose just the right strands of hair and gently line my lips with the perfect blend of rose, the old wounds and longing for my mother in ways that she would never love me, came flooding back.
As a queer Christian who happily left the U.S. with her wife for reasons such as the politically motivated anti-LGBT religious landscape (among other reasons), it is with a wounded but encouraged heart that I am watching as a handful of Dutch protestant clergy regurgitate the toxic language of the Nashville Statement here in Holland.
In a nutshell, the Statement, both here and in the States is a theologically negligent and dangerous statement ushered by a handful of religious leaders. The statement makes erroneous claims that reject the sacred worth and civil rights of LGBT children of God. I honestly, in my honeymoon phase with Holland, had thought we’d left behind this ignorance and hatefulness for good.
This flare up of homophobia masquerading as Christianity in this largely secular nation has been deeply disappointing. But the good news is how much more encouraging it is to see municipalities across the country, businesses in every town and individuals near and far call out the statement for what it is – backwards bigotry plain and simple. I am particularly and deeply grateful for language such as “radicalized” being applied to “Christian” groups. It is rarely if ever applied to Christianity in the States and is typically reserved for fear mongering against our Muslim brothers and sisters.
I love my life in Leiden and since moving here have felt more at home than I ever did in my nearly 50 years in America. Here I have felt consistently happier, safer and more secure than the false promises of the American Dream. So too have my wife and I been radically freer to be fully and openly ourselves, without fear or apology. We have made a true and lasting home here.
As it turns out, I have the honor of pastoring a small, English-speaking congregation that is diverse and beautiful and growing in our understanding of who we are as a community. Sojourners’ Fellowship is a small community of people from many spiritual paths who come together to pause and explore life’s great questions through diverse contemplative practices and thoughtful dialogue.
Here is a statement of our guiding framework as inspired by the 8 Points of Progressive Christianity.
As a community we:
1. Believe in the Sacred Oneness and Unity of all life;
2. Affirm that the teachings of many religious and secular traditions, including but not limited to the teachings of Jesus, provide ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;
3. Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to:
Believers, agnostic and questioning skeptics,
Those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
Those of all races, nationalities and religious backgrounds,
Those of all classes and abilities;
4. Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe;
5. Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes;
6. Hope for peace and justice among all people;
7. Hope to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth;
8. Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.
ALL who come in peace are welcome, including but not limited to: believers, agnostics and questioning skeptics; those of all sexual orientations and gender identities; those of all races, nationalities, classes and abilities.
In this light, and inspired by the Denver Statement by Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, I’ve crafted my own article-by-article response to the Nashville Statement to share with my Dutch neighbors. If you have the time and inclination, read on and please, please, please share your thoughts in the comments below after you’ve had time to ruminate a bit.
It’s not a short read, so maybe go make yourself a glass of sweet tea, grab a buttery biscuit and settling in for the long haul.
A Sojourners’ Statement
Jesus-loving people, Christians and people from many of the worlds traditions who are inspired by the words and actions of Jesus of Nazareth, understand that we live in a beautiful, challenging, paradigm-shifting era. Humanity is in the midst of an arduous and exciting journey to more fully understand what it means to be human. People around the world are doing the hard and faithful work of shedding misconceptions and limitations imposed by religiosity that is meant to control rather than love. More and more people, regardless of tradition, find delight in the wild diversity of God’s good creation.
Unfortunately, there are still many people who deny the divine spark in every corner of creation and use their religion to draw lines of demarcation around race, nationality, ability, gender identity or sexuality. It is now commonplace among theologically uninformed Christians to use the Bible as a weapon, especially when it comes to their unfortunate idolatry of one collection of texts written by humans thousands of yeas ago. In their limited understanding, they are wronging convinced that they alone, clearly and for all time, hold the single truth of God’s design and desire.
This spirit of misinterpreting and enforcing scripture has always brought with it great challenges for Christians. From historical sanctions of slavery, subjugation of women, segregation, nationalism and xenophobia, the church has frequently lost site of the radical message of love and grace made known in the Incarnation of Christ who was eventually executed by the state at the urgings of the religious elite.
If the church is to genuinely live into the message and example of Jesus’ life, it must make a bold and prophetic proclamation of the love of God from which nothing, nothing, nothing on earth can separate humans.
We affirm that humanity is created out of and for the purpose of love.
We deny that the gift of love and marriage is limited only to people who identify as heterosexual, cis-gendered, and seeking to conceive.
We affirm that humans are created as sexual beings in kaleidoscope variety.
We deny that the only sexual expression that is sacred is between legally, church-married, cis-gendered, heterosexual couples.
We affirm that all humans are created Imago Dei – in the image of God – and that God is all genders and no gender.
We deny that human bodies, hearts and minds are limited by any one religion’s faltering attempt to understand the holy mystery of the Divine.
We affirm the diversity of gender and sexual expression is a reflection of the divinely creative diversity of all of creation.
We deny that such diversity is in any way a result of one religion’s interpretation of a falling away from God.
We affirm that humans continuing to evolve in their understanding of what it means to be embodied is good and holy.
We deny that gender is unalterably linked with biology.
We affirm that all humans, regardless of their biological birth and development are image-bearers of the divine.
We deny that variations of embodiment limits anyone from thriving in faith, love and society.
We affirm that compassion, love and liberation are at the heart of God’s holy purposes in creation as revealed in Christian scripture AND the shared texts of the world’s religious traditions.
We deny that any one tradition has figured out once and for all what it means for humans to live into loving relationships.
We affirm that people who experience same-sex attraction may live an abundant life that honors God and is evidence of faith in Jesus.
We deny that same-sex attraction in any way alienates a person from the love of God or the hope of the Gospel.
We affirm that sin is a trifold separation from self, others and God that distorts the beauty of creation.
We deny that sin is avoided by adhering to any specific doctrine or litany of purity laws.
We affirm that the church lives in sin when LGBT people are told to deny how God created them, are cast out of families, excommunicated by congregations and denied basic civil and human rights.
We deny that it is sinful to be loving allies to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children of God.
We affirm that it is our human duty to stand on the side of justice in the name of love in all times and for all people.
We deny the false dichotomy of being either gay or Christian.
We affirm that the unconditional love of the Divine has the power to transform self-loathing (as taught by many in the church and society) into true and lasting self-acceptance and wholeness.
We deny that same-sex attraction is a sin or illness for which to be forgiven or healed.
We affirm that Grace invites uninformed, prejudiced or bigoted people to evolve and recognize that human understanding as limited and we will only ever see through the glass darkly.
We deny assertions of any one person, church, denomination or religion that they hold pure and absolute knowledge of the Divine.
We affirm that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice and that we are called to partner with the Divine in that bending.
We deny any anthropomorphization of God.
If you would like to add your name to this statement, please indicate so and enter your information in the comments below. And if you are in the neighborhood and so inclined, please join us next Thursday, January 17th at Galerie Café Leidse Lente in Leiden from 5:30-7 p.m. for Pub Theology where we can talk about all these things and more.