Nashville Fruits

 Photo: Lyndsey Medford 

Photo: Lyndsey Medford 

Some would say that to vocally disagree with anyone about anything is inherently wrong and that we who call ourselves “Christian” are, in all instances, to humbly “turn the other cheek.”

I find this to be true a majority of the time, then there are times where I feel like disagreeing with someone vocally (and respectfully) is a very good thing.

Like it or not, this is how we have discussions as a culture. They happen in a myriad of digital environments— in text messages, on social media feeds, and in discussion threads under blog entries, etc.

This way of discussing things in The Zeitgeist is now an everyday part human learning.

The abstractions of being a person of faith in the United States today in a (largely) digital arena can be tricky to navigate.

The Free Exercise Clause, a section of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, says this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
— The U.S. Constitution

This goes both ways.

It means that those that I agree with are free to exercise their beliefs in congruence with the rest of written law. It also means that those that I disagree with are free to exercise their beliefs in congruence with the rest of written law.

So it’s okay (and constitutionally protected) for someone to say, “My faith leads me to the conclusion that women should not be leaders in the church and that marriage is a sacrament and a commitment between one man and one woman.”

It’s also okay (and constitutionally protected) for someone to say, “My faith leads me to the conclusion that women can (and should be) leaders in the church and that marriage is a sacrament and a commitment between two people who love each other.”

The very freedoms that give a person the right to say that they believe something that I disagree with also give me the right to say what I believe, even though some may disagree with it.

On Tuesday morning, the disagreements from just about everywhere on the religious spectrum came to a head when a coalition of evangelical leaders laid out their beliefs on human sexuality, including opposition to same-sex marriage and gender fluidity, in a new doctrinal decree called “The Nashville Statement.”

I’ve read it. It’s not a set of beliefs that I subscribe to.

  • I am not a complementarian.
  • I do not subscribe to Biblical inerrancy or infallibility.
  • I do not believe gender to be wholly binary.

“Believe.”

This is what I believe. It is what I think is best for the world, and what I believe God is leading me to live out and practice in my life, but there’s a fine line between practicing one’s beliefs and marginalizing a selected group of people.

When the Reformer John Calvin wrote his “Institutes” laying out a systematic framework of Protestant Theology, he left no stone unturned. Each year, swaths of seminary students read Calvin’s Institutes for the first time. Many of them graduate, get out into the world and refer back to it throughout the remainder of their ministerial careers for guidance on difficult theological contradictions.

What many are unaware of is that the author stood by and approvingly watched a man (Michael Servetus) that he disagreed with theologically and philosophically being put to death.

Servetus was a Spanish theologian, physician, cartographer, Renaissance humanist, and polymath versed in the sciences and the scholarly study of the Bible in its original languages. After being condemned by Catholic authorities in France, he fled to Geneva where he was burnt at the stake for heresy by order of the city’s governing council and at the personal instigation of John Calvin.

Is it possible for one’s sincerely held beliefs to be so finalized in their own mind that they create a justification for cruelty in the world? In other words, If our beliefs allow space in our conscience to persecute another, are they grounded in good exegesis?

Am I calling Calvin a murderer? Of course not, but I am asking how it is that one’s theology can allow for the public burning of someone with whom they disagree.

Pertaining to the Nashville Statement, how does following its guidelines for Christian living translate into everyday interaction with women and members of the LGBTQ community in the workplace, on the street, or in the church?

Does it result in greater harmony and cooperation in the world, or greater division?

These are my questions for those who subscribe to the Nashville Statement so fervently, questions that only an individual can answer in the privacy of their own heart.

What fruits does my belief system bear? Do the things that I believe make the world a better place, a more open place, a more kind place, or do they make me more judgmental and suspicious of others?

Selah.

 
 Ryan Phipps is the Senior Minister at Church In Bethesda.  Raised in the church, becoming a pastor was the one thing Ryan vowed he would never do. After spending many years away from faith, he found that for all of its flaws, the church can still occupy a unique place of good in the world if it is willing to evolve with reason and empathy.  Ryan has a special place in his heart for those who have been damaged or disillusioned by the church, and longs to lead those within it toward a more just and generous expression of itself.  Ryan is an  INTJ  on the MBTI and a  5w4  on the Enneagram.   

Ryan Phipps is the Senior Minister at Church In Bethesda.

Raised in the church, becoming a pastor was the one thing Ryan vowed he would never do. After spending many years away from faith, he found that for all of its flaws, the church can still occupy a unique place of good in the world if it is willing to evolve with reason and empathy.

Ryan has a special place in his heart for those who have been damaged or disillusioned by the church, and longs to lead those within it toward a more just and generous expression of itself.

Ryan is an INTJ on the MBTI and a 5w4 on the Enneagram.