You asked me a lot of questions regarding my daughter and her school yesterday. I had talked about a blog post that was added to facebook by a Christian University president in Oklahoma. He was so adamantly against an article published by my daughter’s University newspaper that talked about the lgbtq community in a non-condemning light that he wrote a reply on his facebook page. Incidentally, he was a previous vice-president at my daughter’s school. You know him and several members of the current Spring Arbor University administration as personal friends.
After reading his article, you asked the following questions of me: “Can someone please explain to me exactly how these students feel unsafe and/or in fear? Have they been threatened? Attacked physically? When they’re saying they want to be heard, what exactly does that mean? What do they need to say that isn’t already being said? By saying they want to be heard and affirmed, does that mean they want to be able to walk around campus holding hands with their partner? Or sitting in chapel with their partner as a couple? I’m truly trying to understand what exactly they feel they are not being heard about or not getting. I haven’t read about anyone being kicked off campus. As sassy as this may sound, I’m truly not trying to be. I just honestly want to know. When saying “affirming” I want to know what exactly is their goal by that word?”
First of all, let me say that I don’t believe the students are asking for affirmation. I know that affirmation is not my daughter’s goal and I haven’t heard that from any of her friends. They know that SAU is a denominational school and doesn’t have the option of being lgbtq affirming. There is no argument with that.
If you don’t mind, before I continue I need you to do something for me that you may think is silly, but it is not to me. It is deeply personal.
Let’s imagine that your son is gay, instead of my daughter.
You’ve watched him grow up and you’ve seen him act out of his growing love for God. You’ve gone in his room and seen his well-used devotional journal and his Bible laying on his bed. You know they are there because he uses them.
As he gets ready to go to college, he wants to go to a Christian school where he can grow spiritually while also getting a degree. He enrolls at SAU.
Still pretending? I hope so… You won’t understand if you make it about MY daughter or if you only look at this theoretically as an “issue” rather than a person.
Okay. Midway through your son’s junior year he comes home for Christmas break and he asks to have a serious talk with you. You sit down, ready to be a good listening ear in order to help him.
“Mom,” he says. “I love God, but I know I’m gay.”
At that point, what do you say? You know he loves God. Nothing in his life indicates to you that that has changed. But, he’s gay.
You make it through the school break and then send him back. All of the sudden, it matters to you how the school will treat him, what will be said to discourage him from continuing to seek God, and if he will even be physically safe…
As he begins the new semester, incidents start happening on campus. Maybe a chapel speaker (or 2, or 4) compares your celibate son and his lgbtq community to murderers and adulterers. Maybe a community member comes on campus and starts yelling at a group of lgbtq students, including your son, with vile insults while other students gather around to listen. And then, when an administrator comes out the door, your humiliated child hopes that he is going to make this person stop. Instead, he comes to your son and his friends, and tells them to leave. Then he talks to the community member…
In answer to the incident, the administration sends out a letter to the students stating that all students are valued. However, added to the end of the letter is the assurance that the school believes that these students are hell-bound if they live lgbtq lives. Your son is told that the letter was for a “wider audience” so that’s why they included the admonition.
And then, an article written by Dr. Everett Piper is published, stating that “We are the Imago Dei! We are not the imago dog… One is not defined by his desire to engage in aberrant sex any more than one is defined by a desire to persecute Jews or burn crosses. In both cases, because we are human beings and not animals, we are simply supposed to just not do it.”
So, Friend, at this point is your gay son “safe?” He, recognizing that he has a same-sex orientation that he did not choose and cannot change, carries the “imago dog” and he is now considered an animal as opposed to a human being. And no one in leadership from his school calls out the language used about its own students. Rather, the defense posted on Dr. Piper’s page by SAU president, Brent Ellis, is a defense of the school’s theology and the hope that “we enter into dialogue expressing the character of Jesus.” There was no disagreement with the choice of words used against SAU’s lgbtq students.
At this point, your son, like these students, knows that no one has their backs. That is all they are asking for! Just that the school would have their backs by affording them the same dignity given to other students on campus. There have been multiple meetings with Administration over this issue.
I’m not on campus and I haven’t been in any of the meetings with Administration so I don’t know if they are overthinking what the kids want or what the problem seems to be. I know that the advocacy clause in the student handbook is problematic to the students. The clause states: “All students, regardless of age, residency or status, are required to abstain from cohabitation, any involvement in premarital or extramarital sexual activity, or homosexual activity (including same-sex dating behaviors). This includes the promotion, advocacy, and defense of the aforementioned activities.”
The problem for my daughter and her friends is in that last sentence. They have no recourse to defend themselves when anti-gay oppression happens. And they have learned that no one else will protect them either. If they are sitting in class and having a theological discussion, technically they are not free to acknowledge that they are lgbtq and share their perspective (without being afraid of what will happen to them). They cannot advocate for one another if mistreatment occurs. And I don’t even get the use of the word, “promotion.” No one is recruiting other students to be gay, especially since it’s not possible to switch who you are attracted to (When did you choose to become straight?).
I know this has gotten long, Friend. (And I do mean it when I call you that.) I guess all I can say is that there are many ways to not be “safe.” It’s a scary thing to know that no one has your back and you are on your own in your life, your job, your school or sometimes your own home. At least these students have each other.
Maybe there’s safety in numbers…