Sunday, October 15, 2006

GLBT group at Fuller?

So I was advertising a video I have to Fuller's Peace & Justice people, a documentary about GLBT Christians, just offering to let people borrow it for a viewing if they want (not saying anything about its relative merit). And someone asked to borrow it - a new student - who also mentioned that it's been an adjustment for her to come to a relatively "homophobic" (her word) environment like Fuller. She asked me if we have a GLBT and Allies support group on campus.

After I picked myself up from laughing, I explained that the student body, let alone the administration, would never go for such an idea because in their minds it would be sanctioning a "sinful lifestyle." Such a group, though a noble idea, would probably feel some hatred, or at least be questioned unceasingly as to its merit and really its right to exist.

I admit I'm somewhat guessing. Mostly I'm going off of my own experiences with students in particular (we won't even mention Fuller's statement of faith which lists homosexuality among a cadre of Biblically-condemned sexual activities, along with bestiality, incest, and sex outside marriage) who really can't begin to hear anything about the topic without launching into defense mode overdrive.

For instance, one of the first responses I got to my email offering the DVD was a rather judgmental rebuke at me for spreading homosexual propoganda and lies about the sinfulness of these people, joining a dangerous group of Christians defending their lifestyle as acceptable in the church.

One time my OT professor pointed out that Levitical laws are not suitable for arguing against homosexuality because we don't keep most of the Levitical laws these days anyway. He was simply trying to help people argue from Scripture more responsibly. But he was accused by a student of teaching a Pro-Gay agenda and wound up having to apologize to the class for any misconceptions.

Finally, in the ethics class, the prof tries to push a little closer toward tolerance, and in class after class I hear that it's the most vigorous debate of the year (right after the role of women), full of invective and huge closed-mindedness.

Now these are just my own experiences, but I'd guess it's safe to say that very few people at Fuller would stand for a club devoted to understanding and even supporting the GLBT people in our midst or in our churches (since those in our midst are not allowed to be open about themselves lest they be expelled). Actually, now that I look at these examples, I doubt anyone would be brave enough to join such a club. The protesters would surely outnumber the participants.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the tide is turning. I certainly personally know over a dozen fellow students, and could guess at some profs, who are adamantly pro-gay. Maybe we could form an underground group that would be invitation only. Though that kind of defeats the purpose of being visible support, at least we could be praying, sharing our stories, and perhaps becoming the seed of a group that will one day challenge the policies of the institution. The women did it 20 years ago. This could be our generation's issue.

But of course there is a very long way to go. I am encouraged that younger students don't seem to get what the big deal is. Maybe things will just naturally shift. I don't have time to create such a group anyway, despite the growing interest. Besides, how underground could it be, since the president of my school apparently checks this blog?

It's a pickle. I just wanted people to see the DVD...because once you know someone who is absolutely gay and absolutely a Christian, everything else starts to unravel (or fall into place). It's the movie we talked about making. I hope it turned out well. And in the meantime, a couple friendly people asked for the DVD too. We'll see how they like it.

11 comments:

Hugo said...

Just FYI, my ex-wife got her Ph.D. from Fuller in '02. She wrote her dissertation on gays and lesbians and coping strategies; she spoke about it at the '02 commencement. She got a lot of opposition, but as a straight married woman was allowed to do a topic like this from a very affirming standpoint.

The Feminarian said...

I know two female Fuller grads who came out after they left the school, and of course there are many Fuller alumni working in inclusive churches. I'm glad your ex got to share. It reminds me of the importance of Allies in an environment where the actual GLBT folk are not allowed to be themselves. We Allies have to stand up and speak because we won't be discredited simply because of our "sinful lifestyle".

Edette said...

Interesting point about standing up as a straight person, because we cannot so easily be written off. Much like men standing up for women in the church. I just had a conversation with a Fuller prof a week ago about this very issue of differences between where a prof stands and where the school stands on homosexuality. I know many students that were shocked at how homophobic it was when we arrived. I never had to endure a class where things got that heated though. Mostly I found profs state clearly the school policy, and it seemed to dim the discussion. I always found that sad. I think Fuller does a disservice to its students to not take this issue on - it simply does not matter what you think of the issue Scripturally - it is an issue we all will deal with ministerially. And to send us out unprepared for that hardly accomplishes the mission statement!

The Feminarian said...

Great point, Edette!

I just learned that back when women's ordination was before our national conference, people wore buttons that said "Ordain Women or Stop Baptizing Them". I found that a particularly powerful statement. And one that applies here (IF people will baptize GLBT people, which many as of yet will not, sadly).

the bro said...

hey so what is the video? and where can I get it?

Anonymous said...

i feel you're straw-maning the other side on this issue with continued references to "close-minded" and homophobic proponents on the other side. For most people at Fuller their position arises, not from some mindless, visceral reaction, but from the way they read scripture. They honestly believe God proscribes homosexuality. I think you'd be better off sticking to hermeneutics and avoiding patronizing, psychological assessments.

The Feminarian said...

But really, all of my experiences HAVE been with people having visceral reactions - it's as if they can't control their response because it's just so "icky." They couldn't even hear the professor explaining how to use the Bible properly - they assumed he must be pro-gay just for questioning one of the (weak) arguments used against gays. They weren't ready for a real hermeneutical debate. I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

Besides, arguing about Scripture on this issue doesn't change anything - I know that from personal experience. I wasn't convinced by an excellent presentation about the Bible verses on homosexuality. I was convinced by meeting gay Christians.

Think about it: the issue of slavery wasn’t solved because people woke up one day and realized they’d been reading the bible wrong. Women didn’t get ordained due to clever exegetical argument. It was the testimony of God’s work in people and churches that caused these and other radical changes - changes that had strong Scriptural arguments on BOTH sides. Hermeneutics is a dead end here.

And may I note that if you remain on that level of discourse, you are hiding. You are keeping the issue in your head and impersonal, instead of admitting that it touches actual lives of real people with real pain and real love and a real commitment to Jesus Christ. I do not argue from psychology, I argue from the testimony of God’s Spirit. I don't mean to patronize. But it's kind of like arguing with someone who'd try to tell me black people are inferior - I just can't get it at all.

That is why it is so important for as many people as possible to see videos like the “Voices of Witness”, or to really know and listen to a gay Christian (and if you are determined to argue exegesis, no gay Christian will get near enough to you for you to realize who she/he is). Until you know someone who is gay yet more godly than than you, who has endured years of rejection by the church (and therefore, God), who has begged 10 years for release, who has gone to the lengths of shock therapy to burn the sin out…you will not understand. You will think it can be neatly solved by referring to a couple proof texts. You won’t deal with the fact that there are only two answers for people who’ve been through that – either God really does love and accept them as they are, or God is a sadistic jackass who refuses to ease their suffering. And people go both ways. The lucky ones believe the first way, and find a place that affirms it. I have met people who've gone through all of that and more. I can personally attest to their relationship with Jesus and to the power of their ministry in the church. Three GLBT people are on my committee to discern my ordination potential. I couldn't be more pleased at the diversity - and at my church's ringing affirmation.

I want to be a person who affirms GLBT people as they are and in their journey of faith. I can't be someone who perpetuates the myth that this can all be wrapped up with a scriptural debate. God’s Spirit is doing a new thing, and She’s not bound by our interpretations of the Bible.

Elmo said...

You said that there are two options for GLBT believers: "either God really does love and accept them as they are, or God is a sadistic jackass who refuses to ease their suffering." But I think there's a third. God loves them the same way he loves the rest of us, which means he desires their holiness just as he desires ours, and he wants them to leave sin behind just as he wants me to.

That doesn't make it easy to deal with though. Just like the issue of slavery is hard to deal with. It's difficult to admit this as a black American, but condemnation of slavery isn't Biblical. It's just not there. Paul even sent a slave back to his master. Abolition was more of a social crusade than religious.

But here we're dealing with an act that is condemned Biblically. Originally it was listed along with incest and beastiality, which we all agree is still wrong, though it receives no NT mention. That's the conventional wisdom. The wisdom that says we get to decide which parts of the Bible apply to us and which don't.

I'm obviously not suggesting that we adopt the law, just as I'm not suggesting that incest and beastiality are okay. But how can we continue to condemn acts that are not condemned by the NT, but say that something condemned in both the OT and NT is now okay, because the writers were homophobic? What if a brother and sister are adults, and consent to the relationship? What about two brothers? Does this "amnesty" extend to those scenarios as well?

This may seem a bit harsh, though I don't mean it to, I just don't know how to write things diplomatically. I know that GLBT Christians go through some hardships, but so do the rest of us. I hate that Christians persecute their own, rather than helping them heal, but accepting sin is no way to promote healing.

The Feminarian said...

But what if they want to leave the sin behind and do everything in their power to do so and they still cannot defeat it? That's what I mean when I say either they are accepted as they are or God is sadistic. The gay people I know really really really tried - they let themselves be jolted with electricity, they did years of therapy, they prayed continuously. We're not talking about just easily sanctioning a sin because it's PC. We're talking about people begging God for release. We're talking about years and years (decades even) of sincerely doing everything to get rid of the sin.

And then we're talking about God-given revelations that the person is OK as they are. And I can't explain it, but I can't deny that it happens, and is happening, over and over.

If God answers your prayer and tells you you're OK, what are you supposed to do? Keep telling God that God is wrong and this really IS a sin?

Remember when Peter went to the Gentiles and found the Holy Spirit there and was so confused because She shouldn't have been there. That is what is happening with gay Christians. That, to me, is the strongest testimony.

They have the Holy Spirit. Absolutely, without a doubt. Their ministries are blessed. Their families are blessed. I know that Jesus said not everyone who calls him Lord will be known to him. But honestly, when you have met as many Spirit-filled gay Christians as I have, you can't help but wonder how the HS could be with people who are supposedly living in sin. It just doesn't happen. Yet it has! And that is why this is a work of God in our midst.

You can hang on to the Bible all you want (and what the Bible actually says is contextual - not that the writers were homophobic, but they weren't talking about loving committed monogamous gay relationships either, they were talking about temple prostitution mostly, and pedophilia, and other bad things), but you can't deny the work of the Holy Spirit. I believe there is a new revelation in our midst. And you will too, if you just have eyes to see and a heart open to listen.

If you must argue the Biblical verses then visit Soulforce.com, where there is an excellent explanation. But for me, the argument from experience and from personal testimony came before I was ready to reevaluate Scripture. That's how these things work - you say, "Wait! That's not what the Bible says!" and then you have to look at how you read the Bible and see if perhaps you were missing something.

I believe the Word of God is not the book sitting on your shelf, but rather what the HS speaks to you as you read that book. Also it is what is preached (on a good day) and what is proclaimed through liturgy and through the lives of Christians. All together that makes up God's Word for us. So I can hold in equal esteem the testimony of my brothers and sisters in Christ. And when their testimony contradicts how I read Scripture, we wrestle together through it. I did the wrestling match and this is where I wound up (along with many others - more every day). It's a hard journey. Pray for discernment and wisdom, as I do every day.

Sophia said...

I admire you for knowingly choosing a seminary where your views are usually in the minority. I knew seminary would be tough for me anyway, so I chose a school where I tend to hold the same views as the majority of the professors and students.

Incidentally we gave Bishop Robinson of New Hampshire a standing ovation when he came to speak to us last week... Guess that wouldn't be likely at Fuller.

theoldbill said...

"once you know someone who is absolutely gay and absolutely a Christian, everything else starts to unravel (or fall into place)." It was nearly a century ago, in the late 70's, when I attended seminary. I'd been vehemently anti-gay - during the last term we formed some kind of 'integrative ministry groups' [seminary liked that kind of talk]. I was pretty certain of my own call, but our class seemed, ahem, bloody insipid really, except for one guy. Everything about him was clearly called. Everytime he spoke call dripped out of his mouth. Oozed from his fingers, his eyes. I was more sure of his call than my own. In our small group he came out, and I knew, in that instant that everything I had believed was wrong. It was Peter's dream and Cornelius all over again. And I knew that if God could call one gay individual into ministry, as he was, [and clearly I knew God was doing just that] then God made no distinction between gay and straight. It was a complete conversion. Years later, when our denomination was discussing ordination of gays, that conversion, through some of the mischief of the Spirit, impacted the whole discussion.