I am really suspicious and troubled by anyone’s claim of biblical “truth.” As if there is a singular truth in bible. Moreover, as if a singular truth can be grasped and wielded in its fullness by fallible and sinful humanity.
On August 30th, evangelical leaders made an attempt at pronouncing such “truth” when through 14 articles of affirmation they denounced the inherent God-likeness of LGBTQI persons in what has been dubbed “The Nashville Statement.” (Reportedly, this action is not unprecedented; and after being orchestrated by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, this denouncement was ratified during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual conference of their Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.)
As an advocate for justice, I do not wish to criticize these evangelicals’ right to their own biblical interpretation. Since for them to assert and affirm their own particular interpretation of scripture is one thing. Yet, for them to claim their interpretation as “truth” through ratification of 14 Articles of affirmation, seems wholly another, darker, and more sinister thing. A thing that relies heavily on a surface level reading of scripture which refuses to acknowledge and utilize the tools needed for more precise and accurate biblical interpretation.
Throughout history, the claim of biblical truth has had such a negative precedent in our world and our society. The guise and assumption of Biblical truth has been used to justify slavery, segregation, resistance to interracial marriage, genocide, imperialism, and war. Furthermore, as a black man, I am sensitive to the destructiveness of proclaimed biblical truth which has been utilized to assert my nature and essence as cursed, wholly sinful, and worthy of only subservience.
Yet, borrowing from a quote more inline with responsible and reasoned biblical study, “the scope of the Bible’s narrative allows a broad interpretation of what is right and moral. . .” Thus, there is no singular Truth, rather truths that are woven throughout the entirety of scripture that are indicative of a particular time and useful for times to come. Moreover, through time we have seen how “both the church and society at large have moved toward [a standard of] justice and acceptance on issues once thought to be ‘crystal clear'” and against the once perceived will of God.
Protests against segregated buses were such a movement. Protests against war in Vietnam were such movements. Proclamations of black lives matter is such a movement. And dissenters, agitators, and prophets that now question the moral substance of our nation’s traditions that undergird a “divine right” of white male Protestant colonialism; and what Kelly Brown Douglas coins the myth of “Anglo Saxon exceptionalism,” white supremacy, has thankfully made us re-evaluate said traditions and the biblical “truths” they were founded on.
The “Nashville Statement” appears to be nothing more than an attempt to conserve a tradition of regression. Furthermore, it appears to be nothing different than what centuries of trends have taught us about the nature of humanity; which is our inability to grasp and comprehend the fullness of God who is Truth, due to a God-complex that seeks to ascend to the heavens, raise our throne above the stars of God, and claim ourselves as the Divine and progenitors of truth.
Thus, this “evangelical manifesto” is nothing more than a declaration of hubris that refuses to approach God and God’s scripture with humility. It is nothing more than a back sliding toward injustice that chooses to grant power and privilege to some at the expense of others. It is an expression of “anti-Christ” for its attempt to usurp Christ’s role as the author and finisher of gay, lesbian, transgender, queer, bi-sexual, and intersex people in the mosaic of God’s Holy creation. It is violence to the Kingdom of Heaven for its attempt to oust or render second class citizenship to any LGBTQI person from within God’s beloved community. And ultimately, this manifesto is sin for its denial of the very thing that makes LGBTQI people made in the image and likeness of God; which is their personhood.
As a preacher of the gospel it is imperative that I speak out and not remain silent on issues such as these. I must engage people who interpret scripture differently than me, and challenge them to a study and reading of “sacred writ” that accounts for literacy and not oversimplified literalism. I must engage and speak out so I can help someone see the fallacy of a superficial love that dismisses and disregards a person’s embodied experience as an ensouled being. Or, as an enfleshed soul.
As a black, cisgender, heterosexual male, who is birthed into a legacy of dehumanization and marginalization, it is imperative that I speak out against the heresy which is a refusal to acknowledge anyone’s personhood. Lastly, I must speak out to emphasize that none of us can grasp the fullness of God which means we can never grasp the fullness of Truth. We can only glean proximate truths that are contingent on our time, location, and experience.
For true humility means an acceptance of our dependency on God as created beings; particularly in the realm of biblical interpretation, and that our ability to flourish and thrive cannot come independent from our Creator. Our Creator, who is the final judge in the life to come. Our creator, who is the author and finisher of us all.