Are Conservative Evangelicals Really Unhappy With the Nashville Statement?

Katelyn Beaty says the Statement bothers some evangelicals because a few Trump supporters signed it.

Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission was a leading signer of the Nashville Statement and a vocal critic of President Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Only about 5 percent of the Nashville Statement’s original 187 signatories were pro-Trump.

By Alex Chediak Published on September 1, 2017

Katelyn Beaty has an article in the Washington Post entitled “Why Even Conservative Evangelicals are Unhappy with the anti-LGBT Nashville Statement.” The anti-LBGT label is a cheap shot. It’s even worse than calling the pro-life community “anti-abortion.” The Nashville Statement is intended to affirm everyone, including those with same-sex attraction. Such people are among the statement’s initial signers.

Beaty’s main point is that the Nashville Statement bothers some evangelicals because a few Donald Trump supporters signed it. Beaty quotes pastor Skye Jethani: “Had white evangelical leaders … withheld support for Mr. Trump after the infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tapes, maybe their opposition to same-sex marriage would be viewed as … principled, rather than as a bigoted position.” In other words, evangelical leaders who supported Trump lost their moral credibility in the process. So any statement they signed should be rejected.         

But the Nashville Statement is a general set of claims. It’s not directed at Trump in any way. Evangelicals who disagreed on Trump can agree on the nature of marriage, sex, and human nature.

Only about 5 percent of the Nashville Statement’s original 187 signatories were pro-Trump. Most of these few people were openly critical of Trump’s track record with women. Wayne Grudem is a good example.

Beaty writes, “Last fall, Wayne Grudem, CBMW’s co-founder, defended Trump after the candidate was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault.” That’s not true. Grudem responded to those tapes by calling for Trump to withdraw from the election. That’s the opposite of defending Trump! Grudem also deleted his previous endorsement of Trump, which had gone viral. Yes, a few weeks later, when Trump didn’t withdraw, Grudem argued that we should vote for Trump’s policies. But even then, Grudem said that he found “both candidates morally objectionable.”

You can’t transfer Donald Trump’s missteps to those who voted for him in spite of those missteps. And you can’t reject the document because 5 percent of its backers pulled the lever for Trump.

What Does Donald Trump Have To Do With It?

The really big problem is that Trump himself could not sign the Nashville Statement. So how can he be the main cause of its opposition among conservative evangelicals? In his first on-camera interview as President, Trump affirmed same-sex marriage as the law of the land. Not all do. For example, Senator Cruz has said that Obergefell was wrongly decided by the Supreme Court and that state and local officials could refuse to obey it. But that’s not Trump’s position. This past June the President even called for international recognition of gay marriage.

You can’t reject the document because 5 percent of its backers pulled the lever for Trump.

On persons who identify as transgender, candidate Trump said that Caitlyn Jenner could use any bathroom at Trump Tower. And he opposed the North Carolina bathroom bill. Yes, he’s signed a memo asking the military to go back to the pre-Obama transgender policy. But that’s more about costs and avoiding disruption. It’s not rooted in the kinds of affirmations and denials laid out in the Nashville Statement.

Trump does seem to be pro-life. And he seems committed to appointing originalist judges. But none of this means that Trump affirms the Nashville view of marriage and gender.

Non-Trump Concerns Do Exist

There are conservative evangelicals who have expressed concern with the Nashville Statement. Matthew Lee Anderson wrote a lengthy critique. Several women have expressed concerns because of the history of the organization that issued the Statement, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). They would have liked to first see an apology for what they view as CBMW’s past promotion of extrabiblical gender stereotypes.  

Katelyn Beaty herself has a good Twitter thread where she unpacks 3 things she wished the Nashville Statement would have included. None of them relate to Trump. Nor did they make their way into her article.

 

Dr. Alex Chediak (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) is a professor and the author of Thriving at College (Tyndale House, 2011), a roadmap for how students can best navigate the challenges of their college years. His latest book is Beating the College Debt Trap. Learn more about him at www.alexchediak.com or follow him on Twitter (@chediak).

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