Gay Students at a Christian University Tell Their Stories

Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas is a Christian school (associated with the Churches of Christ). It’s the type of school where students have to attend chapel and abide by a curfew. Sex outside marriage is forbidden. So is pornography.

But, as it turns out, there are gay students even at Harding.

And today, a group of them — some current students, some alumni — are releasing an online magazine where they speak out about their sexuality (albeit anonymously).

I got my hands on this a couple nights ago — it was embargoed until tonight — and I couldn’t put it down. This is honest and powerful. The writers face expulsion if they’re discovered, but that’s a risk they’re willing to take.

This is the opening letter to readers:

Hello to all students, faculty, administration, staff, alumni, and the beloved donors of Harding University. We are the HU Queer Press, and we are presenting our first-ever publication. This is is a self-published work intended to bring attention to the lives and issues of demoralized minorities. Writing is seen as an act of social liberation. We heretics, dissidents and marginalized citizens are far enough outside of the mainstream to be prohibited inclusion in more traditional media, so we opted to circumvent those mediums and create our own. Since the invention of the printing press, leaflets and pamphlets were used in political and social revolutions, like Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” We are here to share with you our struggle. We are here to be a voice for the voiceless who are quietly dying insides [sic] the walls of our campus. We want you to know us. We are your friends, co-workers, students, family members, fellow worshipers, professors, athletes, and scholars. We are that guy who you see running on the track or that quiet book worm, that girl doing her hair or that softball butch. We have gone with you to social club functions, and you sit next to us in class. We are your roommates and the best friend to whom you tell your every secret. We are queer. We are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. While the rest of you fall in love with the opposite sex, we share our lives and beds with those of our own gender. All is not well for us at Harding. Our voices are muted, our stories go unheard, and we are forced into hiding. We are threatened with re-orientation therapy, social isolation, and expulsion. We are told stories and lies that we are disgusting sinners who are damned to hell, that we are broken individuals and child abusers. We are told we will live miserable lives and are responsible for the collapse of civilization. We have lost our friends and families, been kicked out of our churches and schools, and are killed, or when left with no option, kill ourselves. We have felt the pain of the deep, dark closet, and we are here to announce that we will not stand for it any longer. This is simply not acceptable. We are good people who are finished being treated as second–class citizens at Harding. We have done nothing wrong and we did not choose this suppression. We are children of God and valuable assets to this campus and the world beyond. We are not asking anything from you. We are here to tell you that we exist and will not be silenced.

Yes, they’re Christians. But they’re also gay, and they don’t want to hide that anymore. The stories in this zine are heartbreaking. Just take a look at a few snapshots from various pieces:

Ok. Stop reading excerpts here. Read the whole thing there.

Obviously, Harding isn’t going to change its anti-gay policies overnight. Students aren’t going to welcome GLBT people with open arms tomorrow.

But the goal of this zine is to make students and staff aware that there are GLBT people in their presence. So stop using nasty slurs against them. Think twice about the nonsense Christianity so often preaches about homosexuality. Realize that homosexuality isn’t a “choice.”

Who knows what impact this will have on the Harding community. But it’s going to be hard as hell to ignore it. Kudos to everyone who put this zine together and lots of respect to everyone who contributed to it. It can’t be easy to write pieces like this (even anonymously).

If Christianity is going to change its backwards ways regarding homosexuality, that change has to come from within. This is an inspiring way to raise consciousness in the Harding community.

(via Brett Keller, a graduate of the school, whose piece is a must-read)

  • Silent Service

    Wow, that so well describes how I have felt for so much of my life. I’m really lucky now to have a wife that accepts my bisexuality and a boss that doesn’t have any problems with who I am. Far too often both while on active duty and now that I’m retired and working as a government contractor I’ve had to bite my tongue and put up with, even play along with the jokes and bullshit spewed forth by the more bigoted military members.

    Since retiring I have been much more vocal, but still have to be quiet around work. It’s too easy for the powers that be to dismiss a contractor. It’s infuriating at times to have to listen too much of the bile and hate and say nothing, but I’m trapped. I have a great life and a great job. The price is silent service and a little hypocrisy that burns my soul (such as mythical things can burn).

    I hate it, yet feel trapped. If it wasn’t for my wife knowing and accepting I’d go insane from the anger and still smoldering feelings of shame foisted off on me from my early teens. I doubt that those feelings will ever fully go away. Keep up the good fight HU Queer Press. I wish there’s been something like you around when I was struggling with who I am.

  • webhed38

    You have to ask yourself, why would someone who is gay continue to go to this school, any religious school, or call themselves christian for that matter. I’m always dumbfounded by the GLBTs that want to be or are ministers, and feel they need to change the organization. That IS the organization!!! Wake Up!! LEAVE allready!!! You’ll be better off for it.
    I guess it just goes to show how ingrained the myth of religion being “good” really is and how much of a free pass religion is given for the stupid statements made on it’s behalf.

  • http://iwanttobeagaydad.wordpress.com Alan E.

    I have so much more that I should be reading right now, but I am moving this to the top of my list. It’s difficult reading this and not be able to reach out to the writer directly. In addition to the “It Gets Better” project, these stories need to be heard, too.

  • Neil Robinson

    Thank you so much for this, Hemant. I can’t read any more because I’m so very moved by it. As a gay ex-Christian who left it too late to be who I am (because of that Christianity) I’m weeping at these stories. I wish all these brave, gay students all the very best in finding love and happiness.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    i confess i don’t have a lot of pity or patience with queer believers anymore. i used to be more sympathetic, but the last decade or so it’s become abundantly clear that the coalition of religious and conservative groups most responsible for denying my rights aren’t interested in progress, equality, or change. i grok that sometimes a kid raised in a religious environment might not fully understand what other college options they have, but at a certain point, personal responsibility kicks in. learn about your world. understand that religion and education don’t have to go together, and often cannot. stop being silent in church, or just don’t go, if they subscribe to philosophies of discrimination and hate. it can be hard, but it’s been done by millions of queer people who finally realized that self respect is more important than pleasing others who will never accept us.

    that said: kudos to this group for speaking out. it’s often a first step on the journey to freedom, self respect, and real love. i hope they all realize that if jeebus is that important to them, there are lots and lots of churches who are open and accepting. and that as alumni, their money is better spent on schools or groups that have accepting policies.

  • Lena915

    I’m 100% in favor of the message that this magazine is trying to convey. However, I think I will be forever baffled by the desire of glbt people (of which, I am one) to be a part of a religion that is explicity against them. There’s really no way to twist the words around, there are some pretty clear bible verses that condemn homosexuality. Maybe to the people who wrote this zine, god is an all-loving all-accepting entity who does not care about human sexuality, but to the other students who attend this university, and in the bible itself, that is not the case. The god of the bible is spiteful, arrogant, sometimes downright sadistic. Why anyone would want to be a part of a group that worships this particular idea of a god is beyond me…

  • CanadianNihilist

    webhed38 and Lena915 beat me to the punch.
    Why would you want to stay in an institution and religion that despises you for who you are?

    On a personal note I view the church and the KKK in the same light. Both hate people biased solely on something that is beyond their control.

  • http://jfloydfulks.tumblr.com Jessie

    I don’t think think these people are necessarily trying to “stay in the church” or whatever you want to call it. I think that they are sharing their experiences from a (horribly) unique “university” and attempting to raise awareness, plain and simple. From what I know of Harding, while the majority of students choose to attend, there are many that are sent/forced by their families, so for those of that population who also happen to be gay, it’s doubly horrific

    I didn’t read this and think that they are trying to promote church acceptance so much as they are trying to promote being less of an asshole to others. The fact that it’s 2011 and people still use “gay” as a synonym for “stupid” makes me want to punch people, and I’m straight!

    Kudis, Queer Press. Keep up the good work. God knows it’s about time that something worth reading came from HU!

  • Margy

    Kudos to the Harding students! I am so glad to see them stand up for themselves, shine lights in dark corners, and claim their right to be who they are.

    To the critics: First of all, these people are students and still learning things you may have learned long ago. Give them a break. I know full well the grip that organized religion can have on a person, as well as the grip that theism can have. Long after I broke from the Catholic church, I was still a believer. Mostly it was because it’s awfully scary to think that, in Carl Sagan’s words, “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In all our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

    I don’t blame anyone from holding onto religious belief if they find it comforting. It’s pretty frightening to think that we are all alone, spinning through space and surrounded by unanswered questions. Religion offers some answers, and although they are often wrong answers, for some folks, they are better than nothing. My mother is convinced that only her faith got her through many years of a terrible, abusive marriage. Who am I to argue? Something kept her sane.

    And yes, I’ve often thought that a kind and loving god would have never let her get into such a situation to begin with. (But I’ve never told her that. She is elderly and my father is long dead. What would be the point?)

    I do marvel at the capacity of the human mind to cherry-pick religious dogma, embracing what it likes and rejecting what it doesn’t. I used to do that, too, but I don’t anymore.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    this isn’t going to change anyone’s mind at that school unless these students make themselves known. The best way to get people to change their minds about this is if they personally know people who are gay and know them to be good kind loving people. Anonymous writers aren’t going to mean anything to them. Some of them may even concoct a conspiracy theory about this coming from an outside source pretending to be students just to push an agenda.

  • dashuri

    There are many reasons for choosing to attend a school like Harding. Parents will only pay for this school, many have no idea how conservative it is before going, some hope that the “Christian” atmosphere will help them (have yet to come to grips with who they are); similarly, some are more conservative when they come and by the time they understand just how awful it can be they are so far along that they would lose a lot of time and money if they were to transfer.

    I fall under those last two categories. I was far more conservative when I came here. My mom went to Harding and my family still lives around here, so this was where I wanted to go. I didn’t really become ok with myself until senior year. There’s no way I’m transferring right before graduation. Plus, there is a small community of *amazing* people here (like Jessie) who are working to affect change in the community.

    I graduate in May, but I’m not going anywhere. At least for now. There is so much good to be done here on all levels of social justice that to run away to some liberal haven seems pointless to me. I want to help where help is needed, and it is badly needed here.

    Thank you SO much for blogging about this! It’s pretty exciting :)

  • Caleb

    Life at Harding can be terribly lonely if you don’t fit the mold. Gays, skeptics, Democrats, etc. are socially marginalized and hung out to dry. Unless you know the right people or are able to get out (both of which can be difficult) the environment is beyond oppressive. Please be understanding of the predicament faced by those of us that don’t know that other options exist until it’s too late.

  • Thegoodman

    While these letters and this story certainly pull at my heart strings; I think they are asking too much. They are in denial about “their” bible and are asking their fellow believers to join them in their denial.

    Seeking love and acceptance with a group of people who follow the guidance of a book that define you as an abomination is at best naive and at worst sadistic. “Listen fellas, I know you are disgusted by me and wish I were dead, but can’t we all just be friends?” The answer is no, you cannot be.

    Christians cannot also be happy homosexuals. They can be non-christian happy homosexuals, or they can be guilt ridden self loathing christian homosexuals; there are no other options.

    A mass exodus from their oppressive institution (academic and religious) is their only path to freedom and acceptance.

  • Kamaka

    @ Hemant

    Realize that homosexuality isn’t a “choice.”

    I find this to be irrelevant in the discussion of anti-gay bigotry. These arrogant creeps who make the preposterous claim that they know what god thinks need to shut the hell up. “Choice” or not, another person’s sexual orientation is none of their business in the first place.

    They use their creepy bible as a cover for bigotry and misogyny. Far from holding some moral high-ground, they are dispicable bullies.

  • http://personman.com Danny

    I spoke with one of the organizers and they told me that several in the group are no longer religious.

  • http://www.youtube.com/aajoeyjo Joe Zamecki

    Why do so many Christians think they can re-formulate Christianity, totally separate from some of the most important commandments of God? Without the Bible, God is like a table that has one fewer leg to stand on. And that was about the only tangible leg it had to begin with.

    A gay Christian is just another kind of Christian who has yet to embrace ALL of the Bible, and probably never will. It’s so important, it’s not important. Judge the book by its cover…?

  • http://www.bdkeller.com Brett

    Hemant — thanks for the link and for sharing this.

    Larry — I think a number of the students involved (based on their stories alone — I don’t know who’s who) have also come out to a number of their friends. At a place like Harding you can’t really come out to everyone, at least right away (maybe after you graduate) but it seems like they’re making an effort to win people over. That said, I think doing this on top of that is also helpful.
    I actually saw a Harding student who I didn’t know at all come out publicly on Facebook after graduating. He response was actually mostly positive, though will some notable exceptions.
    I think it’s helpful to look at this as more an attempt to influence opinions and downgrade the overall level of homophobia among individuals at Harding, rather than trying to change the official rules. If you see it in that light I think it makes a lot of sense.

  • littlejohn

    Wow. I went to the original Disciples of Christ college, Bethany College in West Virginia. Alexander Campbell himself is buried there.
    What a difference. Bethany served beer and wine in the student cafeteria. The sex was non-stop (this was the early 70′s).
    Most Christian churches are quite liberal.

  • Carie Whittaker

    It has been blocked by harding, in a particularly big slap in the face with this message:
    This site has been specifically blocked by the Harding University IT Policy Committee do to objectionable content. If you feel this site should be made available, please contact a member of the committee and request a review.

    I am ashamed of what this institution is standing for right now.

  • Carlie

    Wow, that’s terrible (Carrie). Time for a print version to come out and be plastered all over campus.

  • http://www.bdkeller.com Brett

    To be clear, Harding blocks lots of webpages that they disagree with, and Hemant actually wrote about it after his visit to Harding while I was there: http://friendlyatheist.com/2007/10/29/highlights-from-harding-university/

  • annette

    I have a good friend who is gay who got his Master’s at Harding. I’ll have to send this to him. I can’t wait to hear his response.

  • Erp

    Christians cannot also be happy homosexuals. They can be non-christian happy homosexuals, or they can be guilt ridden self loathing christian homosexuals; there are no other options.

    I do know happy gay/lesbian Christians. They just belong to denominations (or parts of denominations) that interpret Christianity to be accepting of them (and note that all denominations interpret Christianity and interpretations change over time, even the fundamentalists pick and choose). Unfortunately Harding is not unique, but, even there the winds of change are blowing and this will bring more debate (perhaps underground).

    BTW some press with comments from the Arkansas Times. Also they now apparently have a facebook page

  • Kamaka

    @ Margy

    I don’t blame anyone from holding onto religious belief if they find it comforting. It’s pretty frightening to think that we are all alone, spinning through space and surrounded by unanswered questions. Religion offers some answers, and although they are often wrong answers, for some folks, they are better than nothing.

    Really? False answers are better than nothing at all?

    Cold, hard reality is rather frightening, I would agree. How is made-up stuff better than facing the facts?

    Religion doesn’t offer anything remotely resembling answers, just a load of bullshit that is supposed to provide comfort.

    How is living life deluded better than accepting the truth?

  • martha

    All Christians rationalize the bible. Otherwise it makes no sense at all. So I understand gay Christians like I understand women Christians or humanist Christians.

    People mold the religion to fit their world view.

  • loverofGodalone

    You can try to change the bible and Christianity to fit your wants, but that’s not how it works. The life of a Christian is not suppose to be easy and full of happiness. It’s not about YOU. I understand that homosexuality is a everyday struggle for a lot of people, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a sin. Just like lying, cheating, stealing, sexual immorality, etc. By choosing to live a lifestyle as a homosexual that is living a life of sin. Everyone struggles with sin and it’s hard to choose to overcome weakness, but it’s possible if you are seeking God. There are plenty of testimonies of ex-homosexuals who overcame this struggle so I know it’s possible to overcome. You can’t love God, and love sin. Just because I do not support homosexuality, does not mean I do not love homosexuals. Just as I do not support murder, lying, sexual immorality, etc it does not mean I do not continue to love people who struggle and engage in these sins daily. As I also have different struggle of my own, and would only hope that I would be loved and forgiven as well as long as I repent and am aware of my sin. As Christians I believe that is how we should respond to this and continue to pray for others. The truth is that not everyone is going to heaven. Be aware that in Matthew 7:13 it says “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

  • Christophe Thill

    If I was gay and a Christian, I’m not sure I’d enroll at the University of Kill All Gays for Jesus. And if I was just gay, I definitely wouldn’t. Come on guys and girls, that’s what secular universities are for. Once and for all, secular means not religious, not anti-religious !

  • Bridget

    I wish more HU students and alumni were commenting here. I graduated from HU, and I think people here are missing the point. They are not trying to get the administration to change the rules; they are not even trying to start a gay-straight alliance group at Harding. This is about awareness. We Christians can be douchebags sometimes, and it’s powerful to hear these accounts of how our general callousness and flippancy toward the GLBT community has hurt these individuals. I realize this is “Friendly Atheist,” so it’s natural for it to be populated by atheists, but I think we should stoop criticizing these kids for attending a Christian university and applaud them for their courage in speaking out. It was hard enough for me to be a (straight) democrat at Harding, and I empathize with the people at HUQueerPress. If nothing else, I hope it gets people to think.

  • http://forthesakeofscience.wordpress.com Michael Hawkins

    I find I can’t bring myself to even read your posts when, despite it being pointed out to you in the past, you keep saying “couple something” instead of “couple of something”.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kev Quondam, Kevque Futurum

    @Michael Hawkins:

    Dialects – how do they work?!

    Seriously, would you get up in arms since I say “needs washed” or sometimes us “what” in placement of “that”? The content of the post is incredibly profound and very sad and you pick on Hemant’s dialect.

  • Kait

    I have been dating a girl who is a fundamentalist christian for almost two years now. The guilt that she feels is usually unbearable and we’ve head our share of ups and downs. Although I also agree with most of you that religion is complete bullshit and that gay christians should just turn away from the church all together…it’s not always that easy. If my girlfriend could turn away from the church, she would. But the hold that her family, and their brainwashing, has on her is too strong right now. Maybe one day she’ll turn away from religion in the end, however, it’s stories like these and Christians like these that help the world become a more tolerant place. We should support anything that causes less suffering in the world, and this publication is definitely going to do that. Gay christians have it hard enough growing up. We should be impressed by their courage to stand up and speak out against the hypocrisy of the church. It’s not easy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/todd.grzech Todd Grzech

    It’s so sad to read such stories that I just couldn’t go to the link you provided to read more of them. I can’t imagine the hurt that these young kids feel. It’s so unlikely that anyone will change the minds of their oppressors, and their only hope of happiness is going to be reached by leaving their religion behind, shed their oppressors and walk away.

    It’s like a black man wearing a hood and attending KK Klan meetings because he believes in most of their doctrin. He’s got to get out! I wish we (atheists) could reach out to these kids.

  • Kamaka

    loverofGodalone,

    Thank you for giving us a perfect example of Christian arrogance. I’m surprised you could come down from your lofty perch long enough to proselytise to us lowly atheists.

    So you think you know what god thinks? Do you kill your neighbor for mowing the lawn on Sunday? Do you think children should be stoned to death for talking back to their parents? That it’s OK to sell your daughter into slavery?

    No? Then you’re just cherry-picking the bible to provide cover for your bigotry. And your cheap hell-threat tells me you’re a two-bit bully.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kev Quondam, Kevque Futurum

    @loverofGodalone:

    Tell me, when did you choose to become a heterosexual?

    Unlike those other “sins” you listed – being homosexual is not a choice. And even so, who does it hurt? What is the harm in being homosexual? Lying, cheating, stealing, and murder all harm someone. Homosexuality is love. I don’t see any harm in love. (and don’t give me that tripe about AIDS or depression – since the former is not related solely to homosexuality and the latter is most likely because people treat gays like sludge)

  • Maschyth

    I was expelled from Harding University. I was 21 years old and away from home for the first time. Campus Security came to my room in the middle of the night, put me in a squad car without any of my clothes or belongings, drove me to an isolated spot along the highway and said, “don’t come back or we’ll have you arrested.” Temperatures dipped into the 30′s that night, and I nearly froze to death. Night blind and without a jacket, I had absolutely no idea where I was. So I curled up into a ball until the sun rose.

    That was over 20 years ago. I wasn’t kicked out for being homosexual, rather I was kicked out for being heterosexual. Some day, I’d like to go back and blow up the whole fucking town! But I won’t, because I’m better than those Nazi ass clowns.

    PS. Here’s the real hypocritical part. My official transcript from Harding states that the kindly security officers bought me a ticket home and placed me on a Greyhound Bus back to St. Louis, on a “warm, sunny afternoon,” with all my belongings in tow. Lying Bastards!

  • http://seeduponthewind.blogspot.com Noelley B

    To bad about their graphic design. My eyesight isn’t the best, and this was pretty painful to read (as in, the muscles around and behind my eyes hurt now.) What little I got through was pretty damn good, though.

  • Chuck Mielke

    For 27 years I lived with a man 25 years my senior. For all of those years we pretended that he was my foster father, and I made up a cover story about my own family. My partner simply felt that our private life was nobody else’s concern. This was a rationalization for the fear and rage he grew up with, and dreaded from others. He truly felt that if others knew the truth about us they would not love him.

    When he died, I came out to all of our friends. Their response was always “So, this is news? Do you think we didn’t know?”

    It is so very sad that my partner’s fear prevented him ever knowing the real love of his many friends and admirers. From that example, I always encourage people to COME OUT. Only by doing so can you learn who are your real friends. You’ll find yourself empowered by knowing who you truly need to fear.

    I have _not_ been especially lucky to come out to a kind and accepting group of friends. The truth is that people are, in general, much more kind, generous, and supportive than you have been lead to believe. COME OUT. Share your love.

  • mitch

    I’d love to know where you can show that being gay is not a “choice”. I am working hard to figure this whole thing out and if there is more information out there that helps me do that I’m open to knowing it. Thanks.

  • mitch

    @Kev Quondam, Kevque Futurum I agree that there are arguments on both sides but everything I see is opinion. How do you know that being homosexual is not a choice. I would say that I chose to be heterosexual around 14 or 15. I was struggling to figure out who I was, my parents were divorcing, and what love was all about. In that time I made a conscious decision to be straight.
    I just don’t see any evidence that says you don’t have a choice. (Except I don’t know you, so I don’t see any evidence in the gay people I talk to some are still gay and some are not)

    Help would be appreciate.

  • http://girlofthegaps.blogspot.com/ Nicole Schrand

    So Harding’s blocking their site? (big surprise)
    Let’s get some mirrors up :D I’ve downloaded the zine from their Flickr and put the whole thing up on my blog. If there’re enough copies, they won’t be able to block them all.

    Even though the majority of us disagree with the religious leanings of some of those involved, that does not mean that we shouldn’t stand up for their rights. Helping to change this one thing could lead to more changes in the future, and personally, if I had to choose between a more exclusive and hurtful religious rule and an accepting religious rule, well. There’s something to be said for the lesser of two evils.

    Christian gays have as much of a right to be heard and helped as atheist gays, or gays of any denomination or lack thereof.

  • http://www.heartstrong.org marc adams

    this is why heartstrong has existed for 15 years. it is hard for people to walk away from any abusive relationship. especially when your biological family and social structure exists around it. also parents are to blame fo enrolling kids in religious schools (just like parents are largely responsible for enrolling their kids in public schools). the torture and persecution that happens to glbt students @ religious schools is mostly only apparent tho those like us who have found the strength to walk away. But when you are in it, it is VERY difficult to walk away…just as with any abusive relationship. HeartStrong has tackled this issue for 15 years and the reason why we get hardly any support is because people in this world have forgotten the value of human kindness. We deal with students just like this EVERY day. This is not unusual at all.

  • Im Confused

    Im confused about what 1st Corinthians 6 verses 9 to 10 say. Oh wait I have it right here. Somehow I dont think God cares about being politically correct.

    9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

  • Margy

    @ Kamaka

    Really? False answers are better than nothing at all?

    Cold, hard reality is rather frightening, I would agree. How is made-up stuff better than facing the facts?

    Religion doesn’t offer anything remotely resembling answers, just a load of bullshit that is supposed to provide comfort.

    How is living life deluded better than accepting the truth?

    No belief system is one-size-fits-all, especially not atheism. The vast majority of the world’s people believe in some kind of god, and that is not going to change any time soon. Even many, if not most, highly intelligent, well-educated, well-traveled people believe in a god or gods. Obviously, god-belief offers something that most people want or need.

    I grew up Catholic and drank the Kool-Aid through 12 years of Catholic school. To say that the church discourages critical thinking is a vast understatement. Although I rejected Catholicism before I was out of my teens, I remained a theist for many years and did not arrive at my present (non)belief until relatively late in life. It was very comforting to have a personal, private “friend” to whom I could confide my fears and hopes, and who I felt was looking out for me. When I finally realized that my “friend” was a delusion, I grieved. It was not fun, not pleasant, not comforting to be “right.” I do not expect to ever return to theism, but I don’t feel compelled to tell anyone else what to believe. I don’t think “living life deluded” is “better” than the truth, but not everyone can—or wants to—accept the truth. We all do our best to muddle through life as best we can; there is no universal instruction manual.

    I once visited Mexico City and took a bus tour to some of the nearby sights. Along the road, I saw “tent cities” with small, sometimes-naked children playing in the dirt. I grew up poor, but I never saw such extreme poverty in the US as I did by that highway in Mexico. One of the tour stops was a huge Catholic cathedral; it must have cost a fortune to build. Inside, I saw desperately poor people fall to the floor upon entering and walk down the long marble aisle on their knees. It was cold, and some of these people were in rags—but their belief that something better awaited them somehow kept them going. I count myself lucky that I have the luxury to question different belief systems, to think critically, to reject a god as false. I don’t believe that the poor people I saw at that cathedral in Mexico had such a choice. If they lost their faith, they would have nothing. Absolutely nothing.

  • Dan

    Many people come to Harding and then later find out they are Gay or that they have become liberal. I came to Harding because I thought it would be more accepting than a public school. About a year into being here i found myself thinking more and more liberal. By the time i realized that the university really was hostile toward the way i think, it was really too late to transfer. I have felt pretty isolated due to my thoughts and a few other issues. This unaccepting culture isn’t just about gays but i think translates itself to other areas of life at HU. I remember that time being pretty horrible. I think for Gays it most be about 1000 times worse. My Freshmen year at Harding, my best friend was kicked out for being Gay, i miss him greatly and wish i did not go to a school that does messed up stuff like that. And in general was a more accepting atmosphere. I think this website can help being a more peaceful accepting atmosphere at Harding.

  • Meg

    What an amazing story! HEARTSTRONG is a great organization for outreach to LGBT students at religious schools. I hope some people reading this make a donation!!

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    I count myself lucky that I have the luxury to question different belief systems, to think critically, to reject a god as false. I don’t believe that the poor people I saw at that cathedral in Mexico had such a choice. If they lost their faith, they would have nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    With all due respect, this sounds awfully patronizing to me. Poor people aren’t some kind of different species. Whether they live in a tent city or not, those people have the same capabilities that anyone else has. Not all of them are religious, although I concede that poverty produces an atmosphere which encourages religiosity.

    I’m not saying that it would be easy for them to lose their faith, but I think it would be better if they weren’t indoctrinated in the first place. Religion provides false comfort, but more importantly, it also encourages complacency. Why strive to better your life if you truly believe that this is only a fallen, shadow world that doesn’t really matter? If people are convinced that this is only a precursor to a wonderful afterlife, what’s the point in trying to lift themselves up?

    How much sooner might slavery and segregation have been ended if those oppressed people hadn’t clung to their religion and found solace in the hope of a better afterlife? They might have risen up sooner and fought for their rights. In any case, if those poor people in Mexico lost their faith, they wouldn’t be left with absolutely nothing. They would still have what all of us have – each other.

  • Margy

    @ Anna

    You re absolutely 100% right, and I sincerely thank you for giving me your insight and helping me to expand my thinking on this issue. When I reread my response, I also saw that it was patronizing, which is never my intent.

    When I saw those people in Mexico, I was reminded of my own experiences growing up in a deprived environment. I think my assumption that they were helpless may be because, as a child, I was helpless to improve my circumstances. I see now that I’m not giving the adults in question nearly enough credit, and I will try not to do that again.

    I agree that it would be better if no one was indoctrinated in the first place. When I read postings by those who had secular backgrounds, I feel envious because I have struggled so long and hard to overcome the brainwashing I received while growing up. It would have been great not to have gone through that.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, and I look forward to reading more posts from you. You are a wise woman.

  • Kamaka

    @ Anna

    In any case, if those poor people in Mexico lost their faith, they wouldn’t be left with absolutely nothing. They would still have what all of us have – each other.

    An eloquent comment. I could not have phrased it so well.

    @ Margy

    I agree that it would be better if no one was indoctrinated in the first place. When I read postings by those who had secular backgrounds, I feel envious because I have struggled so long and hard to overcome the brainwashing I received while growing up. It would have been great not to have gone through that.

    Catholic brainwashing is pernicious. It is so abusive, particularly towards children. They treat kids as filthy little sinners in need of correcting. I’m not sure which is worse, the corporal punishment or the ongoing verbal abuse. The catholic neighborhood I grew up in, all the parents beat their children…not spanked, beat. But I think the verbal/mental abuse was worse. An innocent kid-question could arouse the unholy wrath. And of course there was no way for a kid to know ahead of time what might precipitate “righteous indignation” because the rules of sin are anti-intuitive and misaligned with normal human behavior.

    The catholics/christers do this on purpose. They make a set of rules impossible to follow (thought-sins) so to keep the followers in thrall (confession) and tossing guilt money in the tray.

    May I suggest a healthy dose of anger? The RCC makes a living off of malicious, judgemental gossip and child abuse. You have every reason to be pissed off at the people who subjected you to this.

    After a bit of righteous indignation, though, I would hope you truly enjoy the wonder that is life in this vast universe.

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    mitch wrote:

    I would say that I chose to be heterosexual around 14 or 15

    .

    If you made a choice, that implies that you could have chosen differently; that there was something to ‘weigh’ there. A person who would make such a statement simply isn’t heterosexual…..they’re bi at the very least.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that ;)

    Could you tell us why you ‘chose’ to be heterosexual?

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kev Quondam, Kevque Futurum

    @mitch:

    Homosexuality (and by extension bi/pansexuality) is not entirely a mental decision. There are genetics and there are nature/nurture arguments for it, but regardless, some people have a propensity for merely liking a person of the same sex as them (or both/all sexes.) If one could choose homosexuality, it would be easy to switch out to a different lifestyle.

    Tell me this, then, why would anyone choose a life where the average person in this country thinks – and speaks – that you’re an evil person going to Hell? Why would anyone live a lifestyle where you’re spit on and beaten and in some cases raped because people want to ‘fix’ you?

  • Thegoodman

    “I’d love to know where you can show that being gay is not a “choice”.”
    @Mitch

    While I can appreciate a skeptic asking for evidence on a site such as this; proof is not required.

    At what age did you make a conscious decision to begin liking girls? I am a heterosexual male, and at no point in my life did I think to myself “Hey, liking girls instead of boys would be fun, I’ll try that.” It was a natural feeling that was within my subconscious. Now imagine if my natural subconscious feeling had me attracted to boys. Nothing would be different. I still would not have made the decision.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kev Quondam, Kevque Futurum

    @Thegoodman:

    I don’t see it as much different from the fact that I like women who have curvy bodies. As the great philosopher, M. A. Lot once said – “I am fond of ample posteriors, and I cannot prevaricate. You other gentlemen cannot disavow this truth, that when a woman passes our direction, with the classic hourglass figure and you spy her curvaceousness, you find yourselves in the common male predicament.”

    (In addition – I like semi-muscular men with nice eyes. Isaiah Mustafa, Vin Diesel, my boyfriend.)

  • ACN

    I see what you did there Kevin :)

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kev Quondam, Kevque Futurum

    @ACN:

    I don’t know what you’re talking about ~_^

  • ACN

    Great phlosopher m.a.lot :)

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kev Quondam, Kevque Futurum

    Oh yes, Sir M. A. Lot (I forgot his title in my previous post) – although really he’s only widely known for that philosophical argument. Some would say it is perhaps the foremost of arguments as to whether men should prefer women of a slender build or a more curvy one. Sir Lot presents a valid argument for the curvaceous side of the argument, I’m sure.

  • ACN

    One can hardly argue with such thoughtful analysis of the salient ends in view.

  • http://www.heartstrong.org marc adms

    the idea that homosexuality is a choice stems from the concept of sin… believing that humankind has the ability to resist sin means that anyone can resist the sin of homosexuality (or any other human determined sin) or choose to get involved with it. however, you have to buy into the made up concept of sin first for this to work. even if being gay were a choice (and it isn’t) it wouldn’t matter because there is nothing wrong with it. the sooner we separate the made up idea that being gay has something to do with religion, the better and safer the world will be.

  • mitch

    Okay @marc adms, I see what you are saying. What about this…

    If what you are saying is the case then where does it stop? Who gets to decide what is a choice and what is not? I was watching the news essentially make fun of Charlie Sheen the other day for his “Goddesses” and lifestyle. Why is it that people can decide his choices are not appropriate (even leading to his sons being removed) but yet no one can say that being gay is wrong. I don’t really see a difference.

    Thanks for the responses, I’m really trying to figure this out so please take my comments as such.

  • Peter Murphy

    First, there is nothing bold at all about being a blogger with opinions who chooses to hide your identity…might even call it cowardly. Second, Harding is a Christian college and therefore has a world view based on the Bible. It seems very intolerant for people to not respect them for having views…in particular people who claim to be so tolerant of all views. Last, it is good to see an institution that actually believes in something and stands up for it. Cheers to Harding for having rules and enforcing them.

  • Sam

    Some of us who enjoy reading dusty old history books have probably run across the apologists defending slavery, segregation, prohibition, making women second class citizens who could not vote and a whole host of other issues who stated in no uncertain terms that God and the Bible agreed with them. Opinions change. Who of any of us have heard anyone brag “My great, great grandfather wrote an amazing tract defending the institution of slavery”? Even if he did, who would brag about it?

    I was alive and well when the Bible was used to defend segregation, but I haven’t heard anyone mention that in many years. Yes, there is still discrimination, but few try to back it up with God and Bible.

    So it shall be with those who are certain the Bible (especially in its English translations) condemns homosexuality. I probably won’t live long enough to see it, but I think the time will come when few will espouse that opinion. Yes, in my opinion it is an opinion.

    It’s not just ultra conservative parents who force their kids to go to a specific university or college. Parents have lots of reasons to do this (“Three generations of our family have attended Hicksville College and that’s where you’re going! End of discussion!”) So you do what dad says or you’re on your own. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe it will be worse than you could have imagined.

    I think GLBT people are often very spiritual. But how does such a person stay involved in a religious organization that by its very nature opposes who they are? Beats me. One can follow Jesus, but in my experience that doesn’t look anything like what I’ve seen in organized “Christianity”.

    I feel for these students who either didn’t know what they were getting into, or felt forced to go to that place. I seriously doubt that the ultra religionists grasp that they are in effect turning lots of these students away from their church, religion, Bible and God.

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    mitch wrote:

    If what you are saying is the case then where does it stop? Who gets to decide what is a choice and what is not?…*snip*….Thanks for the responses, I’m really trying to figure this out so please take my comments as such.

    Well, let’s try approaching the question this way…..

    you say you ‘decided’ to be heterosexual around the age of 14 or 15. Had you experienced any physical/sexual attraction to males at that point? When you thought about boys, did you think ‘Hmm, yeah maybe’?

    Because if you didn’t, then there really wasn’t any ‘decision’ to be made, was there?

    and if you did, then, as i said, you’d be more accurately described as bisexual.

  • mitch

    @AxeGrrl Sorry for the delay. The reason I choose to be heterosexual is because I believe there is such a thing as a better choice. I also don’t think that I’m bi because I don’t believe people are defined by their sexuality.

    This is why I’m searching and why this is tough for me to figure out.

  • mitch

    @Kev Quondam, Kevque Futurum So would you say that just because someone chooses not to be an alcoholic anymore but it is hard they should quit trying.

    I don’t mean for this to sound harsh (though it probably does). It is just a comparison I see.

    Also, I’m not sure what you’re asking here. “Why would anyone live a lifestyle where you’re spit on and beaten and in some cases raped because people want to ‘fix’ you?” Sorry.

  • ACN

    I see. So you think that being an alcoholic is comparable to wanting to be able to freely and openly express your sexuality to consenting members of the same gender?

    Thinking somthing is “icky” is not sufficient to sort it into the category with these things like “potentially life-shattering addictions” such as alcoholism. From a sexual perspective, we have to acknowledge that not everyone is turned on by the same things. People should be free to explore their sexuality as long as the principles of informed consent are being upheld, and they aren’t breaking other reasonable statutes (if your only turn on is masturbating in an out of control car on a freeway, I’m very sorry, but there are numerous reasons why society cannot accommodate you)

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    mitch wrote:

    @AxeGrrl Sorry for the delay. The reason I choose to be heterosexual is because I believe there is such a thing as a better choice. I also don’t think that I’m bi because I don’t believe people are defined by their sexuality.

    mitch, you didn’t respond at all to the essential question I posed to you….can we try again?

    By the time you were 14 or 15, had you had any romantic/sexual feelings for someone of the same gender?

    yes or no?

  • mitch

    @AxeGrrl You’re right I didn’t answer because it is a tough one to type out an explanation, but none the less here goes.

    I would say I had thoughts about guys that made me wonder if I was attracted to them. So “romantic/sexual feelings” probably not, but I definitely feel I had to make a conscious decision to pursue the opposite sex.

    So does that make me bi in your mind? And if so how do you know that? Is it simply your belief vs my belief?

    Thanks for keeping the conversation going. Like I said I really am trying to figure this out.

  • AxeGrrl

    mitch wrote:

    I would say I had thoughts about guys that made me wonder if I was attracted to them. So “romantic/sexual feelings” probably not, but I definitely feel I had to make a conscious decision to pursue the opposite sex.

    So does that make me bi in your mind? And if so how do you know that?

    The one comment that jumped out to me was this: “I definitely feel I had to make a conscious decision to pursue the opposite sex.”

    The average heterosexual guy wouldn’t feel the ‘need’ to say such a thing. Why? because they don’t feel any “hmm, maybe” feelings about other guys. They’re attracted to females exclusively, and that’s just the-way-it-is.

    And I would categorize anyone who expresses possible attraction to both genders as bisexual ~ and describing someone as such isn’t “defining them by their sexuality” any more than describing someone as blond is “defining them by their hair colour”.

    The word ‘bisexual’ is nothing more than a simple adjective describing one aspect of a human being….and it doesn’t mean that one is necessarily equally attracted to the 2 sexes. It simply means someone who has the potential to be attracted to people of either gender.

    I hope this helps mitch :)

  • Manda

    I am ashamed to admit I graduated from Harding, but I was in a very different place then. I am now a pastor (in the UCC), and I work for justice for all people, with a special passion for justice for LGBTQ people. We all come to our own conclusions about religion, but Christianity does not and has not historically required that the entire Bible be viewed as “the word of God.” It is a complex collection of writings, by people who struggled to understand God in their time and place. I often find God in the Bible. I also find God in speaking against parts of the Bible. Subjective? Perhaps. To me, the point of life and of God is to love, and anything that does not lead to love is not of God. Many of these Harding students have found love, and Harding tells them it is not of God. Harding is wrong. I am proud of them for speaking out and will watch with interest to see what happens.

  • mitch

    @AxeGrrl that does help a lot actually. Thank you for the conversation.

  • Julie

    Now wait, I need to say something here, I read one of your blogs about Christians giving out cookies at pride rallies and you basically railed against what an inane, stupid idea it was. Apparently these students want to be accepted, and you want them to be accepted too right? But the very people that you’ve demoralized in that other article are the ones that will accept these college students the way they are. But it’s not good enough because the Christians won’t stand with them and support gay marriage and their lifestyle. Unfortunately you can’t have it both ways. The truth of the matter is that Christians do find homosexuality morally wrong, but they love everyone the same anyway. I cannot and will not judge my gay friends because I love them but I cannot agree with the lifestyle. Why is that so hard to understand? Why must we go one step further and go against our whole belief system?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    @Julie — It’s hard to be a gay Christian, so I’m glad to see them coming out at Christian schools. But these schools aren’t embracing them. They’re continuing their same bigoted ways.

    Regarding the Christians who go to pride rallies and give out cookies and apologize for the way the church treats them, it’s definitely a step up, but I feel like they’re not telling the whole truth — which is that while they may love/respect gay people, they still consider homosexuality immoral (as you do). And, even worse, they’ll vote against gay marriage and giving gay people equal rights. How is that any better?


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