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Gays fight for identity at religious colleges


Daniel2

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The following article appeared in the NYT. It doesn't mention BYU, but I was struck by how similiar the dynamics are when compared to the on-campus dynamics and attitudes about homosexuality at the other Christian colleges that are mentioned:

Gays fight for identity at religious colleges

Students worry if holding hands could jeopardize scholarships or risk expulsion

Decades after the gay rights movement swept the country’s secular schools, more gays and lesbians at Christian colleges are starting to come out of the closet, demanding a right to proclaim their identities and form campus clubs, and rejecting suggestions to seek help in suppressing homosexual desires.

Many of the newly assertive students grew up as Christians and developed a sense of their sexual identities only after starting college, and after years of inner torment. They spring from a new generation of evangelical youths that, over all, holds far less harsh views of homosexuality than its elders.

But in their efforts to assert themselves, whether in campus clubs or more publicly on Facebook, gay students are running up against administrators who defend what they describe as God’s law on sexual morality, and who must also answer to conservative trustees and alumni.

Facing vague prohibitions against “homosexual behavior,” many students worry about what steps — holding hands with a partner, say, or posting a photograph on a gay Web site — could jeopardize scholarships or risk expulsion.

“It’s like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object,” said Adam R. Short, a freshman engineering student at Baylor University who is openly gay and has fought, without success, for campus recognition of a club to discuss sexuality and fight homophobia.

A few more liberal religious colleges, like Belmont University in Nashville, which has Baptist origins, have reluctantly allowed the formation of gay student groups, in Belmont’s case after years of heated debate, and soon after the university had forced a lesbian soccer coach to resign.

'Contrary to biblical teaching'

But the more typical response has come from Baylor, which with 15,000 students is the country’s largest Baptist university, and which has refused to approve the sexuality forum.

“Baylor expects students not to participate in advocacy groups promoting an understanding of sexuality that is contrary to biblical teaching,” said Lori Fogleman, a university spokeswoman.

Despite the rebuff, more than 50 students continue to hold weekly gatherings of their Sexual Identity Forum, and will keep seeking the moral validation that would come with formal status, said Samantha A. Jones, a senior and president of the group.

“The student body at large is ready for this,” said Saralyn Salisbury, Ms. Jones’s girlfriend and also a senior at Baylor. “But not the administration and the Regents.”

Samantha Jones, left, and her girlfriend, Saralyn Salisbury, homosexual students at Baylor University who participate in informal Sexual Identity Forum gatherings not approved by school, on campus in Waco, Texas, on April 9. At Abilene Christian University in Texas, several students are openly gay, and many more are pushing for change behind the scenes. Last spring, the university refused to allow formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance.

“We want to engage these complex issues, and to give help and guidance to students who are struggling with same-sex attraction,” said Jean-Noel Thompson, the university’s vice president for student life. “But we are not going to embrace any advocacy for gay identity.”

At Harding University in Arkansas, which like Abilene Christian is affiliated with the Churches of Christ, half a dozen current and former students posted an online magazine in early March featuring personal accounts of the travails of gay students.

The university blocked access to the site on the university’s Internet server, which helped cause the site to go viral in the world of religious universities.

At chapel, Harding’s president, David B. Burks, told students that “we are not trying to control your thinking,” but that “it was important for us to block the Web site because of what it says about Harding, who we are, and what we believe.” Mr. Burks called the site’s very name, huqueerpress.com, offensive.

Most evangelical colleges say they do not discipline students who admit to same-sex attractions — only those who engage in homosexual “behavior” or “activity.” (On evangelical campuses, sexual intercourse outside marriage is forbidden for everyone.)

Abilene Christian sees a big difference, Mr. Thompson said, between a student who is struggling privately with same-sex feelings, and “a student who in e-mails, on Facebook and elsewhere says ‘I am publicly gay, this is a lifestyle that I advocate regardless of where the university stands.’ ”

Student ejected

Amanda Lee Genaro said she was ejected in 2009 from North Central University, a Pentecostal Bible college in Minneapolis as she became more assertive about her gay identity. She had struggled with her feelings for years, Ms. Genaro said, when she was inspired by a 2006 visit to the campus of SoulForce, a national group of gay religious-college alumni that tries to spark campus discussion.

“I thought, wow, maybe God loves me even if I like women,” Ms. Genaro recalled. In 2009, after she quit “reparative therapy,” came out on MySpace and admitted to having a romantic, if unconsummated, relationship with a woman, the university suspended her, saying she could reapply in a year if she had rejected homosexuality. She transferred to a non-Christian school.

Gay students say they are often asked why they are attending Christian colleges at all. But the question, students say, is unfair.

Many were raised in intensely Christian homes with an expectation of attending a religious college and long fought their homosexuality. They arrive at school, as one of the Harding Web authors put it, “hoping that college would turn us straight, and then once we realized that this wasn’t happening, there was nothing you could do about it.”

The students who do come out on campus say that it is a relief, but that life remains hard.

“I’m lonely,” said Taylor Schmitt, in his second year at Abilene Christian after arriving with a full scholarship and a hope that his inner self might somehow change. By the end of his first year, Mr. Schmitt said, he accepted his homosexuality. He switched to English from the Bible studies department, which, he said, “reeked of the past deceptions and falsehoods I’d created around myself.”

Rather than transferring and giving up his scholarship, he is taking extra classes to graduate a year early.

Some of the gay students end up disillusioned with Christianity, even becoming atheists, while others have searched for more liberal churches.

David Coleman was suspended by North Central University in his senior year in 2005, after he distributed fliers advertising a gay-support site and admitted to intimate relations (but not sexual intercourse) with other men. He calls the university’s environment “spiritually violent.”

Mr. Coleman, 28, is now enrolled at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, Minn., which is run by the more accepting United Church of Christ. He still dreams of becoming a pastor.

“I have a calling,” he said.

This article, headlined "Even on Religious Campuses, Students Fight for Gay Identity," first appeared in The New York Times.

Copyright © 2010 The New York Times

When I was enrolled at BYU from 91 to 98, the homosexuals on campus were much less visible, though just as active, as they apparently are, now (I was propositioned many times by gay students in the Smith Field House and the HBLL).

Interesting to seem how common the themes are, across different religions and colleges.

Darin

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Darin,

I saw this too and thought it was an interesting article. Thanks for posting.

I wonder if any of the schools mentioned in the article have an honor code similar to BYU’s?

No doubt this would be a tough position to be in – like living a double life in some ways but not entirely their own fault. I see two possible satisfactory outcomes for these students – either honorably transfer out to a secular school or continue on at the religious school and keep the standards. If they choose the latter, then I’m all for the formation of support groups to help them not feel so isolated. Hopefully that would help them to have a much more positive experience. Everybody should feel loved and wanted regardless of their particular circumstances or challenges in life.

My 2 cents,

Sky

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Gay students say they are often asked why they are attending Christian colleges at all. But the question, students say, is unfair.

Many were raised in intensely Christian homes with an expectation of attending a religious college and long fought their homosexuality. They arrive at school, as one of the Harding Web authors put it, “hoping that college would turn us straight, and then once we realized that this wasn’t happening, there was nothing you could do about it.”

The question is fair and they did not answer it.

They want the school to change their policy regarding sin in order to make their sins easier to live with. I think such an expectation is wrong and reflects a certain selfishness that seems to drive the gay groups. "Accomodate me" is their mantra.

David Coleman was suspended by North Central University in his senior year in 2005, after he distributed fliers advertising a gay-support site and admitted to intimate relations (but not sexual intercourse) with other men. He calls the university’s environment “spiritually violent.”

All those who break the commandments can call those commandments spiritually "violent". Any toleration (versus acceptance) can be called violent.

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The following article appeared in the NYT. It doesn't mention BYU, but I was struck by how similiar the dynamics are when compared to the on-campus dynamics and attitudes about homosexuality at the other Christian colleges that are mentioned: ...

Interesting to seem how common the themes are, across different religions and colleges.

A high quality education is readily available at state schools and at private secular schools. Why should a church continue to bear the substantial expense of running its own schools -- unless it is to provide an atmosphere that reflects its own values?

One can not help but sympathize with the struggles of those students mentioned in the article -- especially with those who didn’t fully realize they were gay until after they were in college, and those who had hoped that they would be able to overcome SSA by immersing themselves in a Christian college sponsored by their church.

However, they did accept the rules when they registered for school. In other words, they were willing that others be suspended or expelled, should those students find it too hard to follow the rules. They only protested when they decided that it was too hard for them to follow the rules.

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What constantly amazes me, and it shouldn't, is why do those who disagree with the tennets of an organization, religious or secular, want to be a part of that organization. What is equally baffling, to me, is that they want to be part of the organization but as soon as they are they want to change it and make it over into something it isn't.

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They only protested when they decided that it was too hard for them to follow the rules.

"too hard to follow the rules".

Seriously? First you profess to sympathizer with their situation, then follow with that unsympathetic zinger.

Did it not occur to you that they are protesting because they genuinely and sincerely believe that the rules are wrong and should be changed?

ERAY: What constantly amazes me, and it shouldn't, is why do those who disagree with the tennets of an organization, religious or secular, want to be a part of that organization.

What are you talking about? I would expect most of the gay religious conservatives were born and raised in conservative christian families. I would not expect conservative religions get too many openly gay converts.

More accurately, these are people who as they have matured into adulthood have to come realize that the organization they love has policies and doctrines which are intolerant, archaic and damaging to them and others like them.

Are you really all that shocked that some of them would rather try to change those policies and doctrines from within than leave?

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But the rules aren't wrong. Hence, the problem to begin with.

Is it any wonder why they aren't happy?

As for finding their idenity. There is only one way we can find ourselves:

25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:25)
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But the rules aren't wrong. Hence, the problem to begin with.

Right/wrong, meh. Rules change all the time. The rules at BYU regarding gay advocacy have changed.

It used to be an honor code violation to publicly question the morality of homosexuality.

Prior: Homosexual behavior or advocacy of homosexual behavior are inappropriate and violate the Honor Code. ...

Advocacy includes seeking to influence others to engage in homosexual behavior or promoting homosexual relations as being morally acceptable.

Now: Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.

So are the rules now wrong? Were they wrong before?

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Yes and yes.

Right/wrong, meh. Rules change all the time. The rules at BYU regarding gay advocacy have changed.

If there is no right and wrong, your point is valid, otherwise you are simply advocating for doing wrong.

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If there is no right and wrong, your point is valid, otherwise you are simply advocating for doing wrong.

There is a fundamental difference between (1)breaking the rules; (2) advocating that someone break the rules, and (3)advocating that the rules should be changed.

The BYU HC used to bar all three. Now it bars only (1).

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Keep in mind that everybody who goes to BYU agrees to adhere to the Honor Code – so they should know beforehand what they are getting themselves into. They can still choose to protest it – but a private religious institution nonetheless has the right to make rules that are reflective of their beliefs and standards. It seems much easier for an avowed gay person to simply choose to attend a different university.

That said, I think tolerance, love, and non-judgmental-ness are in order here. The gay students deserve to be treated with respect and dignity – just like anybody else. I don’t believe they deserve to be shamed. That would not reflect well on the school, either.

Life is messy. We are all faced with difficult circumstances and challenges that we did not choose. It’s how we respond to them that matters the most. College should be a positive, rewarding experience for all. After all, it lays the foundation for the rest of our lives.

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I am confused. If the rules are aligned to what is right and wrong, and the rules change, does that mean what is right and what is wrong changes to match the rule change?

Of the rules being aligned to right and wrong, one rule so aligned is not as directly aligned as another.

For example, using the three rules you mentioned:

"(1)breaking the rules; (2) advocating that someone break the rules, and (3)advocating that the rules should be changed."

Only the first rule constitutes a sin or true violation of the code of conduct, in the most direct sense. Rules 2 and 3, in my opinion, do draw close to it, the second more than the third, but the line is drawn at the first (it being more aligned to right vs wrong).

From an LDS perspective, 'breaking the rules', or engaging in homosexual behavior (or any extra-marital relations, regardless of orientation), is a sin. Encouraging others to act on their feelings is not particularly a sin, in my opinion. At least, not very near to actually committing said offenses, although in some ways that can be debated (encouraging others to sin). The advocation of rules to change is not really a sin at all. But it can certainly lead to it, as can the second rule.

If BYU were looking to trim it's honor code a bit, the third rule could be dropped easily, I think. The second, less so, but obviously they did. The first rule is the most aligned to right and wrong, imo.

I don't know if any of that helped ease the confusion you mentioned. It's been a while since I've posted. :P

Think good, better, best. It is good that someone not advocate changing rules which are aligned to the Gospel, ie right and wrong (if rules are aligned as such...there is little need for them to change, although some will disagree). It is better for people not to encourage the sin of God's other children, especially one so self-destructive as fornication. It is by far, and most importantly, best for God's children to not break the commandments. That is absolutely crucial to everything the Plan is...fighting sin and temptation and resisting with the Savior's help. That which is good and better, are truly good and better things, but it's best to just not sin.

lol. i really don't know if this is making any sense. it...kind of makes sense to me. a little. hehe. stupid 1st shift. :(

EDIT: As for the news story that Darin posted: Thanks Darin. That was an interesting read. To those who would crusade for validation at Christian colleges...it seems like if someone opposes their actions, they want nothing more than to change that. An attitude that will undoubtedly become more prevalent in the world.

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Rules are not right or wrong per se. Rules are a device for committing choas to order. As such they are subject to change as needs change. There may or may not be right or wrong principles behind the rule.

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Only the first rule constitutes a sin or true violation of the code of conduct, in the most direct sense. Rules 2 and 3, in my opinion, do draw close to it, the second more than the third, but the line is drawn at the first (it being more aligned to right vs wrong).

Advocating changing the rules is both an intellectual and spiritual exercise where existing assumption are questioned and challenged.

Hard for me to respect a God who would insist on unquestioning obedience to his rules, especially when his rules (1) were written down thousands of years ago, and translated by men who have proven to be quite fallible, (2) cause considerable emotional and psychological damage to young gay men and women.

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Advocating changing the rules is both an intellectual and spiritual exercise where existing assumption are questioned and challenged.

Hard for me to respect a God who would insist on unquestioning obedience to his rules, especially when his rules (1) were written down thousands of years ago, and translated by men who have proven to be quite fallible, (2) cause considerable emotional and psychological damage to young gay men and women.

May I reiterate, What constantly amazes me, and it shouldn't, is why do those who disagree with the tennets of an organization, religious or secular, want to be a part of that organization. What is equally baffling, to me, is that they want to be part of the organization but as soon as they are they want to change it and make it over into something it isn't.

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May I reiterate, What constantly amazes me, and it shouldn't, is why do those who disagree with the tennets of an organization, religious or secular, want to be a part of that organization. What is equally baffling, to me, is that they want to be part of the organization but as soon as they are they want to change it and make it over into something it isn't.

You certainly may.

What constantly amazes me, and it shouldn't, is why do those who disagree with the tennets of an organization, religious or secular, want to be a part of that organization.

If they disagreed with all tennets, you would have a point. But not all issues are make it or break it issues.

Most Catholics, for example, use birth control despite the clear position of the Church on the issue.

I suspect that there are many Mormons don't really believe that God told Smith to take additional wives.

If you were gay, and you believed the Church's policy on homosexuals was wrong, would you leave the LDS Church?

What is equally baffling, to me, is that they want to be part of the organization but as soon as they are they want to change it and make it over into something it isn't.

Actually that doesn't happen. Gays are not knocking on doors of your missionaries, and if they are, its not because they want to be baptized.

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"too hard to follow the rules".

Seriously? First you profess to sympathizer with their situation, then follow with that unsympathetic zinger.

Did it not occur to you that they are protesting because they genuinely and sincerely believe that the rules are wrong and should be changed?

Did it not occur to you that I can sympathize with someone’s situation and still genuinely and sincerely believe that they are wrong?

For what its worth, I believe that these protestors generally and sincerely believe that the rules are wrong and should be changed. However, they once agreed with the rules and only changed their minds after they decided that it was too hard for them to follow the rules.

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However, they once agreed with the rules and only changed their minds after they decided that it was too hard for them to follow the rules.

You are making a generalized assumption about motives in order to cast those who disagree with you in a poor light.

On this board, that is a common tactic. You are certainly welcome to use such a tactic. But it clashes with your pretense of sympathy and concern for gay Christians.

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No it appears to be an assumption that follows the chronological order of things. Apparently, looking at the rules they felt fine, that such rules should be in force, thus giving little mind to those who passed before. But when they suddenly had a change of some sort, the rules were then and only then deemed "too harsh". So I would say it follows a relatively well known system of human thought. "Its unimportant until it affects me" even while we as individuals change.

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No it appears to be an assumption that follows the chronological order of things. Apparently, looking at the rules they felt fine, that such rules should be in force, thus giving little mind to those who passed before. But when they suddenly had a change of some sort, the rules were then and only then deemed "too harsh". So I would say it follows a relatively well known system of human thought. "Its unimportant until it affects me" even while we as individuals change.

You are mistaken. I will now clearly explain why you are mistaken.

The assumptions Sleeper makes which you do not address are that (1) they broke the rules, and (2) did so because to them, the rules were too hard to follow.

The unfounded assumptions that the rules were to hard to follow is an insult to these students:

Despite the rebuff, more than 50 students continue to hold weekly gatherings of their Sexual Identity Forum, and will keep seeking the moral validation that would come with formal status, said Samantha A. Jones, a senior and president of the group.

The implication, of course is that their objections to the rules are not based in reasons, thought, or principle but driven by their uncontrollable deviant sexual urges.

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My question is why they feel the need to force their lifestyles on schools associated with Conservative denominations. There are plenty of "gay-friendly" churches out there with schools where they would be welcome. Why not just attend there?

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