My Response to The Nashville Statement

Earlier this week, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released a document entitled “The Nashville Statement.

Because I am passionate about loving LGBT people well due to some very personal ties, I feel compelled to express with utmost clarity my own convictions regarding sexuality.

Though I am an Evangelical Christian and though I live in Nashville and though I incompletely agree with parts of “The Nashville Statement,” I believe it is an extremely poor and untimely expression of beliefs in numerous ways, and one about which I am sad and angry.

And so, I’ve come up with some statements of my own.



Article 1

I AFFIRM that sexuality is complicated, confusing, and ultimately a gray area in a world that insists on being black and white.

I DENY 
that sexuality is merely the sum of our biological parts and AFFIRM that the characteristics of gender difference are mostly shrouded in mystery and therefore cannot be described in ultimatums.

Article 2
I AFFIRM that God has boundless compassion for individuals questioning their sexuality, and that He will love people through their own particular journeys.

I DENY that LGBT people are going to hell based on how they identify themselves.

Article 3
I AFFIRM that the Church is called to be a place where sexuality can be discussed openly, freely, and without fear of judgment.

I DENY that the Church has any right to condemn God’s children based on their gender identity.

Article 4
I AFFIRM that describing oneself as gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. as a partial expression of one’s experience of life are helpful descriptors that have many nuanced layers of meaning and that each person’s story must be heard in its entirety before jumping to conclusions.

I DENY that describing oneself as any of the LGBT descriptors is a violation of God’s “natural order”.

Article 5
I AFFIRM that a continuous searching of the Scriptures combined with consulting of the Holy Spirit is required to mold our understanding of sexuality.

I DENY that the discussion should ever be “closed” on the topic of sexuality.

Article 6
I AFFIRM that I will personally love and cherish every LGBT person I have the honor of knowing.

I DENY that my own convictions will prevent me from respecting another person’s story.

Article 7
I AFFIRM that evangelical Christians have been historically hateful and phobic of LGBT people.

I DENY that hate and fear are appropriate responses to difference of any kind.

Article 8
I AFFIRM that Christians have the radical and joyful privilege to BE FAMILY to their LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ.

I DENY that same-sex attraction for a Christian equates to a lifetime of loneliness and shame.

Article 9
I AFFIRM that God is fully and uniquely at work in each of our lives and that He will mold our hearts to His will if we are willing to be open to the painful and uncomfortable processes He uses.

I DENY that I have all the answers.


I’m sure I could go on and on . . . but for now I will stop there and leave you with this beautiful song about a Christian man who experiences same-sex attraction and how a church’s all-too-common condemnation of LGBT people deeply affects him . . . and the radical love of Jesus that broke through all of the man’s shame and fear.

Coming Back to the Heart of Worship

heart of worshipOne of my earliest memories is singing through the huge binders of worship songs that my mom (who was the keyboardist at the church where I grew up) owned. I would go in my room by myself, shut the door, and flip through the hundreds of pages, singing classic ’90s favorites: “There is None Like You”, “Lord I Lift Your Name on High”, “The Heart of Worship”, “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” . . . the day I was baptized, one of the worship leaders commented on how I knew the lyrics to more of the songs we sang than anyone else at the church. He was probably right.

Somewhere, there is still a cassette tape of me singing worship songs when I was about four years old. I gave it to my mom, wanting her to give it to my pastor for “Pastor Appreciation Day”. She didn’t end up giving it to him, because it was “too cute” and she wanted to keep it. Every once in a long while, I dig up that cassette tape and listen to my tiny, high-pitched voice sing these praise songs.

When I was four, I didn’t think about the words I was singing. I don’t even remember being cognizant that I was singing these songs to God. But in a way, my childish worship was more honoring to God than the way I sing to Him now. How can that be? Then, I sang out of the pure happiness that music made me feel. I sang because I loved to sing. Now, my mind is clouded with pride and anxiety. I’m trying too hard to be real and vulnerable and sing the words with true desire in my heart, when God just wants me to find the happiness of song again. He wants me to tap back into that childish desire to hum and sing everywhere I go. My former habit of involuntarily humming music at the dinner table was more honoring than the duty-bound drudgery that singing with a congregation every Sunday has become.

To this day at worship gatherings, I’m known as a sort of worship music jukebox: “yeah–Lindsey can play anything!” come the cries of my friends, amazed that I often do not need chord sheets or lyrics for worship songs.

But even though I still remember lyrics and tunes, I’m losing something . . . I’m losing the memory of joy that made me look forward to every worship practice in my living room with my violin-transformed-guitar. I’m losing the desire to lose myself in song for hours and hours. Life and loss has caught up with me, telling me that there is no longer much of a reason to sing except as an expression of groaning desperation for God.

I started to write this blog post with a totally different direction in mind. I was going to talk about the song “Blessed Be Your Name”, particularly the words: “You give and take away, my heart will choose to say: blessed be Your Name”, and what that means and how that is possible.

But a small stirring in my heart caused me to remember a time when analyzing the words to worship songs and doubting everything I am singing and being plagued by pride and my own false images of God I’ve created over the years was not a struggle. That’s not to say I was a constantly happy child. Sometimes I think I must have been born with chronic anxiety. I had lots of silly and fun and wonderful moments as a kid, but I have always had an inexplicable underlying melancholy nature; aware of the immense evil and pain in the world. I don’t ever remember being completely carefree.

But when I sang–whether it was worship songs, Disney melodies, or tunes from Phantom of the Opera– I was free, happy and alive.

i could singI want to feel that way again. I want to sing just because I love the way singing makes me feel. Instead of singing at my circumstances, I want to sing irrespective of my circumstances. I want to be lost in the sense of feeling alive, of bubbling from the inside out with the joy of music.

The delighting in God’s creation of melody and lyric and harmony, is more pleasing to Him than the anxiety and self-absorption and attempts and failures at focusing on what we are singing about, that we all tend to bring to worship.

Matthew 21:16 says,

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’

Kids get it. They get it because they don’t care about “getting into it”. They sing truth without thinking about the consequences of that truth. They sing truth without being concerned about their authenticity, their pride, or their failures. They sing with eyes wide open, taking in the massive glory of God with their minuscule lens of life experience.

God help us all to become children again. Help us to come back to the heart of worship.

 

Take Me Back to Egypt!

Numbers 14:1 Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night.Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

Dear wandering Israelites,

How quickly you’ve become kindred spirits.

Here in the 21st century, I get to see a full view of your story: beginning, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, conclusion. I’ve seen the depths of despair you experienced enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years, clinging onto your faith the only way you knew how: through wailing and weeping. I’ve watched in nervous anticipation as Moses tells you that it is time for deliverance. I understand your cycles of doubt and awe and worship and unbelief as you wander in the wilderness.

Many of you die in your 40-year wilderness of waiting, having seen glimpses of God’s glory, but never fully able to walk into the promised land.

I wonder if your premature deaths parallel the realization of my own longings. My resolve to follow God’s commands is waning and warring with a hope long suppressed. Does God have something good in store for us? My faith is wavering, but who else can I turn to? There is no one greater.

But there is so much danger. God will take care of us . . . in His own way. We may suffer for years and die a terrible death. We may survive and see our deepest desires fulfilled in this life. There are no guarantees. We are only promised God’s presence.

And the question is – can we trust God knows what we need better than we ourselves?

We have only the choice to obey or disobey. The final outcome will remain the same.

Friends, I want to go with you back to Egypt. Yes, we were enslaved, but at least we knew where our next meal was coming from (however meager it was), that we had a place to sleep at night (however uncomfortable it was), and we did not have the burden of freedom weighing on our shoulders, heavier than the largest piles of bricks.

The burden of freedom pulls back the veil to expose the internal war within us all. When we take on the burden of freedom, God will call us to do the impossible. It is only when we step out into seemingly empty air to cross a bottomless canyon that we feel something solid beneath our feet, despite all appearances that we are going to break all the bones in our body if we take one more step.

Hebrews 11:13-16 13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

If you had the context of Hebrews 11, I believe you would still make the same mistakes. I don’t say this to discourage you, only to empathize with you that your rollercoaster of emotions is the pulse of my own life. The pull of self-rule is tempting no matter how many warning signs and caution tape and examples of faith you receive.

Oh, nomadic Israelites, how my heart hurts for you.

Isaiah 54:5-8
5For your Maker is your husband—
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
    as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
    only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
    but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
    I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
    I will have compassion on you,”
    says the Lord your Redeemer.

Can we believe? With all the context, with the overarching story in view, I will try. But friends, I will fail, just like you . . . as history repeats itself, so will the individual story of the prodigal son. We are all prodigals in our own way, with nothing but a choice to turn away or to turn back. Rinse and repeat.

Homesick for Egypt,
Lindsey