By Connie van Uffelen and Marjolein van der Veldt
The Nashville Statement states how Christians should act on both their belief and on other issues such as marriage and sex. According to the Statement, good Christians should reject homosexuality and transgenderism.
The Dutch version, the Nashville-verklaring, led to an uproar and was signed by ‘an initial’ 200 people among whom prominent individuals in the Orthodox Protestant Churches, the Staatkundig-Gereformeerde Partij (Reformed Political Party) leader Kees van der Staaij and TU Delft professor, Marc de Vries.
Deviation from the family
Marc de Vries is Professor of Christian Philosophy of Technology and has also been Professor of Science Education since 2008. What ‘really appeals’ to him in the Nashville Statement is ‘the emphasis placed on the value of marriage between a man and a woman as the cornerstone of society’. “The Statement also talks about homosexual relationships. These could deviate from the family to such an extent that they could detract from that value of marriage between a man and a woman.”
According to the Professor, a distinction is made between ‘homosexual orientation and expressing it in a relationship’. “The former is not a choice – that is not up for debate. The question is, do you act upon it? You can express it, but you can also avoid relationships, difficult as this could be.”
Not good for you
He compares it to people who do not want to eat anything or who eat a lot. “You could say that this is also an orientation. You could be born with certain tendencies, but if they are not good for you, you deal with them differently.”
De Vries says that he understands the uproar about the Statement as “it is a sensitive subject in society”, but he also says that it is a pity that “its positive side is being lost”. He can imagine that some transgenders and homosexuals feel hurt. “I would suggest that they read the Statement themselves as it will then be clear that the intention is absolutely not to discriminate against or exclude people.”
Sizing up people
Leon Hombergen of TrueU, the LGTBI community at TU Delft, is shocked at De Vries’ signing. “Surely everyone has the right to their own values and their own ways of living their lives. It would be fine to say that you personally choose a religious lifestyle and that it is your own choice. Things become very difficult when you start sizing up people and judging them.”
Hombergen believes that the message of the Statement should be that “‘I accept this value for myself, but I accept and am open to people who have a different world view.’ Then you do not make an incontrovertible judgement immediately but say that it is your own personal perspective.”
Statement of integrity
Hombergen points to TU Delft’s statement of integrity. Its first point declares that all members of the TU Delft community treat each other with respect regardless of culture, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic background, gender or sexual orientation. One of the Nashville Statement’s assertions is that ‘we confirm that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism’.
According to De Vries, ‘sinful’ means that it is “‘not in agreement with the Bible’. This is a reasonably objective statement. It does not negate my respect for people, nor does it mean that I do not hold them as colleagues and humans in high regard.”
Hombergen says that the statement of integrity is also about interaction between people. “I believe that it is clear that you should not apply your perspectives to others and thus limit their freedom. The Nashville Statement limits the freedom of others by saying ‘I reject your way of life’. That’s really something. It would be a completely different statement if it would say ‘I do not choose your way of life’.”
De Vries does not believe that he limits anybody’s freedom. “The choice always rests with the other.” He remarks that Hombergen takes the Statement “very literally”. “Then you can never sign anything again.” He does admit that he would have formulated it differently. How? “That it is not in agreement with the guidelines of the Bible. That would be more objective I think.” Nevertheless, De Vries will not withdraw his signature in the face of the commotion. “It is now being implied that the signatories hate homosexuals. That’s absolutely not the case.”
Judging in lectures
Hombergen questions whether De Vries sometimes judges certain categories of students in his lectures. De Vries says that his lectures, which are sponsored by the Stichting Christelijke Filosofie (Christian philosophy foundation), that are part of his Christian philosophy chair are about the ethics of technology. “Homosexuality plays no part in this.”
As an aside, De Vries is not the only professor to have signed the Nashville Statement. Four staff members of the Free University of Amsterdam (article in Dutch) also signed. In a tweet, the Free University stated that ‘as a university that values its diversity’, it wished to distance itself from the Nashville Statement. The University of Amsterdam also stated on social media that everyone is welcome and it raised the rainbow flag in response to the Nashville Statement.
A TU Delft spokesperson says that TU Delft will not publicly distance itself from the Statement as the Free University of Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam have done. “We are in principle a different type of university. How we wish to interact with each other is laid out in the diversity policy document. Mr De Vries signed the Nashville Statement and this is his personal opinion.”
Still TrueU will request the Executive Board for its position. “The Nashville Statement rejects people with a different lifestyle,” says Hombergen. “In my eyes this is discrimination not a personal opinion.”
The Public Prosecution Service will assess the Nashville Statement for potential criminal offence. A Public Prosecution Service spokesperson said to the news service NOS (in Dutch) that society is aware of the Statement. This is also the case in Delft where the municipality has hung out the rainbow flag and declared that people in Delft may be who they are and may love who they like.
[UPDATE 10 January 10:24]
The original Dutch version of this article mentioned that TrueU and the youth homosexual society Outsite would request the Executive Board to make its position known. Leon Hombergen informed us that only TrueU would do this. Outsite reported that TrueU wished to publish the letter very quickly and it therefore took the decision to send the letter without the backing of Outsite. “We requested a response from the Executive Board Tuesday evening and informed them that we would appreciate a statement as part of their response,” said Outsite Chairman Casper Boone.