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Saturday, September 2, 2017

They Prayed About It (a post about the #NashvilleStatement)

A bunch of people praying in a prayer circle. Image source.
Last week, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood published the Nashville Statement, which contains all the typical evangelical talking points about how same-sex marriage is a sin and being transgender isn't really a real thing. (And I'd like to give a special shoutout to Article 10, which says that anyone who disagrees with this anti-queer ideology isn't a real Christian.) It was signed by John Piper, James Dobson, Russell Moore, Al Mohler, Marvin Olasky, Francis Chan, Christopher Yuan, and other big names in evangelicalism.

This anti-queer ideology is unloving, destructive, un-Christlike, evil, and literally deadly. I want to affirm that queer identities and relationships are perfectly valid, and that queer people are in charge of their own personal lives and don't need cis straight allo pastors telling them what to do.

And another thing I want to say: They prayed about it. And it makes me sick.

I used to be evangelical. I know how these things go. When a bunch of Christian leaders have a meeting, they start out the meeting with prayer. And all major decisions need to be prayed about, and you shouldn't go ahead and do it unless you feel like God is saying yes.

In that culture, if somebody tells you they plan to do something, and you think it's a bad idea, you can ask, "Have you prayed about it?" If they haven't prayed about it, that means OF COURSE they shouldn't do it. And they should feel ashamed that their decision-making process didn't involve prayer.

(By the way, here are some of the signers of the Nashville Statement teaching that big decisions need to be guided by prayer: John Piper. J. I. Packer. Wayne Grudem. John MacArthur. And I'm sure we could find more. This is an extremely important belief for Christians of the personal-relationship-with-God persuasion.)

So here's how it happened: A group of nice Christian leaders got together and prayed that God would guide them and help them, and that they would act according to his will (yeah they believe God is a he). And then they wrote this vile abomination that is the Nashville Statement. And discussed it and spent a lot of time making it just exactly right, so it was something they could all agree to. Probably they each prayed in their heads during the meeting too. And they signed the statement, feeling confident that it's what God would want them to do.

Because, you see, when you pray for God's guidance, and you're honest about your motives- sincerely desiring to honor God rather than any sort of "selfish" motive- and surrender the whole decision-making process to God, like "God I will do whatever you say, even if I don't like it, even if it's hard, even if it's unpopular"- if you do all that, and then you have a *feeling* like "yeah, this is the right thing to do," that is from God. That's God "leading" you. (Like, you can't be 100% sure; there's a possibility it's not actually from God, but you gotta "trust God" and go along with it.)

They believe God wants them to do this. To preach this hateful ideology which tells queer children that God hates them.

That's disgusting. I don't know about you, but I have a bit of a gag reflex...

But enough speculating about the writers of the Nashville Statement. Let me tell you about my own experiences. Back when I had a personal relationship with God, I spent TONS of time praying about decisions. Dedicating myself to God constantly, always wanting to be totally open to whatever God wanted me to do. And there were times when I had discussions with people about religion, on facebook or over email, and while writing my replies I would stop and pray and really really carefully consider exactly what I wanted to say- and because of all this prayer and the confident feelings that came with it, I very much believed that I was doing what God wanted me to do.

Sometimes they were discussions about sexuality. And I gave all the standard hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner answers. And I was so careful about how I worded it, wanting to be loving and kind, covering everything in prayer. And I wrote what God led me to write.

(When people were upset about what I said, because it was the standard hateful evangelical ideology that says I'm in charge of telling gay people what they are or aren't allowed to do in their own personal lives, I was sure it wasn't my fault. I had prayed about it so much; surely what I said was good, and the people who were angry about it were in the wrong.)

God told me to write those things. God told me I was being good and loving. And then I found out how incredibly evil and destructive those beliefs are.

I ask you this: Can a relationship recover from that?

I made myself totally vulnerable to God, and he used me to hurt queer people (and all other groups of people that don't have the "correct" doctrine). I trusted him; I truly believed that if queer people would only follow those teachings, they would be much happier. But it turns out that was all a lie. So I ended that relationship.

I'm never going to do that again. I'm never going to make myself vulnerable in front of a god. I'm never going to surrender all. I'm never going to lay out all my emotions, desires, and plans for a god to judge. I'm never going to say "not my will but yours be done." I'm never going to worship again. I'm never going to "have faith" and just go along with what a god tells me even if it seems like a bad idea.

I now make decisions based on my own conscience and extensive research into the various options. I don't give God a say. Even the thought of taking a quiet moment to pray and ask for God's direction is triggering for me. Because of what he did. Because of how he took advantage of me.

Everything about the Nashville Statement calls into question the very concept of a "personal relationship with God." Because I've been there, and I've done bad things in the name of God, while extremely confident I was doing a very good thing for a very important mission that might not make "worldly" sense. If prayer and devotion to God can drive someone to do something so hateful, then it is absolutely not okay to give highest priority to prayer and devotion to God while making decisions.

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Related: My Identity was in Christ

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