The Nashville Conversation

The Nashville Conversation

A work of fiction

Caroline tried not to wince as Katie ordered her pumpkin-caramel-spice-latte (with extra whipped cream). Why even bother ordering coffee if you’re going to obscure the flavor? Caroline closed her eyes and took a long sip of her black, single-origin, locally-roasted, fair-trade pour over and rehearsed her mother’s favorite cliche: there’s no accounting for taste. But she couldn’t hide her little smirk from her friend.

“I know—I’m so ‘basic,'” Katie said, “but who can resist the flavor of fall in a cup?”

Caroline shook her head and smiled at her friend as she settled into their favorite nook on the Bongo Java patio. Nashville in the fall had perfect patio weather. 

Katie picked up the pleasantries. “So, Caroline, how have you been? How’s the office?”

“It’s fine. It’s not the same without you, but it’s okay. How’s Aiden?”

“Oh, you know, small, bald, adorable—and still waking up every two hours. I can’t remember the last time I had a good night’s sleep!”

“Well now I feel bad for asking you to hang out. You should be taking a nap while Jake watches the baby!”

“No, no! I need to feel like I’m in touch with the rest of the world, right now. These days, all I have to go on is social media.”

“Yeah, and that’s not the greatest window to the world. Have you heard about the latest thing? This ‘Nashville’ statement situation?”

Katie rolled her eyes. “Yes. It’s been all over my twitter feed this week. I mean, we’re in the middle of all these natural disasters and this is what evangelical leaders want to discuss?”

“It does seem poorly timed,” Caroline agreed, “and I doubt the rest of the city wants its name attached to the statement.”

“No, I wouldn’t think so. I mostly hate the way my friends online argue about it.”

Caroline shrugged. “But isn’t that just our world today? Everyone is so divided. I hate that the church is, too, but I’m not surprised.”

“It’s a scary world to bring a kid into, that’s for sure. I just wish we could all love one another.”

“Yes—without having to tiptoe around the truth.”

Katie nodded vigorously: “Exactly! The truth—in love!”

Caroline’s nodding mirrored her friend’s. “Love is so key! Love for God, love for others, and frank conversations about Scripture!”

“Absolutely! We have to talk plainly about interpreting Scripture.”

Katie’s eyes lit up as her latte arrived. “But enough about that…are you still seeing that guy from church?”

Caroline gazed into her coffee’s inky depths and sighed. “That didn’t work out. We just weren’t clicking spiritually. It’s hard finding someone to take the lead.”

Katie sputtered a bit, smudging her nose with whipped cream in the process. “I wouldn’t have thought you cared about who takes the lead. You’re so smart and independent!”

“That’s what makes it so tough. I need to submit to my future husband, right?”

Katie grinned. “If that’s what you’re into, I guess.”

Caroline’s cheeks turned pink. “Stop it! There’s nothing wrong with high standards.”

“Of course not! But marriage involves mutual submission. You have to keep that in mind.”

Caroline tried not to be offended at Katie’s mild, happily-married condescension. She smiled and glanced away. “I’m just trying to honor Scripture.”

“So am I,” said Katie.

“Of course!” Caroline returned. “I didn’t mean—”

“I know you didn’t! And I didn’t mean to be a smug married lady.”

Caroline waved her off. “Don’t worry about it! This whole Nashville statement thing just has me on edge about that stuff. I don’t get why they even needed an official statement. I mean, I think the Bible is pretty clear.”

“Well that’s the thing, isn’t it? When you consider cultural context, things are much less clear.”

“Exactly! People are letting cultural context color the way they read Scripture!”

“Huh.” Katie paused. “It seems to me that people aren’t paying enough attention to cultural context. Things were so different in Paul’s day from what they are now.”

“That’s why I’m so glad that God’s Word is the same forever,” Caroline responded. “Culture changes, but the truth doesn’t. The fact that someone felt the need to write the Nashville statement shows us that people are twisting Scripture to suit today’s moral standards.”

Or they twist Scripture to suit a bygone ‘Leave-it-to-Beaver’ era. They say something is ‘Biblical,’ when what they really mean is ‘safe’ and ‘nostalgic.’

Caroline’s eyebrows scrunched together. “I’m not sure I follow. Sin is still sin. All the Nashville statement writers were doing is calling out what the Bible calls out: sexual sin.”

“Well, that’s one interpretation,” Katie countered. “Lots of Christians see it differently. Isn’t it more important to love one another than to emphasize traditions and legalism?”

“Wait—you think I’m being legalistic? I’m just trying to honor scripture and pursue holiness.”

“So am I!” Katie protested. “I take a very high view of scripture and holiness. The Bible says ‘love fulfills the law,’ and I think we have to take a loving approach when we interpret difficult scripture passages.”

“The Bible says homosexuality is a sin! What’s so difficult about that?”

“When you consider cultural context and hermeneutics it’s just not that simple. And where interpretation is uncertain, I think we fall back on love!” Katie realized her voice had grown a bit louder than usual.

“So you think I’m being unloving? I love people!” A man two tables down looked up from his book in annoyance. Caroline lowered her voice. “I have gay friends who I love, and the most loving thing I can do is point them to the truth.”

“But what if it’s not truth, Caroline? What if you’re wrong?”

“How can centuries of Christians be wrong? And what do you mean what if I’m wrong? Don’t you mean ‘we?’ I don’t understand where this is coming from!”

Katie bit her lip, then spoke down toward her latte mug. “I just assumed…I mean…you’re single and intelligent and you’re into social justice. I thought you and I were on the same page as progressive Christians.”

“And you sing in your praise band every Sunday and read your Bible at lunch!” Caroline said. “I thought we were on the same page as committed Christians!”

“So now you think I’m not a committed Christian?”

“No, Katie, but as your friend, I have to tell you, in love, I think you are wrong.”

“How is that a ‘loving’ thing to say?”

“How can you accuse me of not loving you? I’m your friend!”

Katie became mesmerized by the caramel remains at the bottom of her cup. Are you?” she mumbled. “You think I’m sinning!  How can we still be friends if you think I’m some terrible sinner? Her eyes welled up. “I really need friends right now!”

Caroline felt a knot settle in the back of her throat.

Katie dabbed a napkin into the corner of her eye.

After taking an awkward sip of her now cold coffee, Caroline broke the silence. “So…now what?”

“So…we’re friends, I guess. We do what friends do. We talk. And we listen. Can’t we just…listen to each other?”

“OK.” Caroline let out the breath she’d been holding. “But first, let me buy you another Pumpkin Latte.”