Secretive LGBTQ Group Forms at (Christian) Biola University

***Update***: The group’s founders have responded to a couple of my questions below.

Biola University, an evangelical Christian school in southern California, is one of those schools that will expel you if they find out you’re gay. (Because, you know, they love everyone.) In fact, they just put out a Statement on Human Sexuality (PDF).

Biola University affirms that sexual intimacy is designed by God to be expressed solely within a marriage between one man and one woman. This view of sexuality and marriage is rooted in the Genesis account of creation, reflected in the teachings of Jesus Christ himself, and is maintained consistently throughout Scripture. It is a view based on the biblical teaching of monogamy — that God designed sexual union for the purpose of uniting one man and one woman into a permanent, lifelong, one flesh union in the context of marriage.

Considering all that, it’s pretty damn amazing that a group called The Biola Queer Underground has formed in spite of all the risks.

They’ve already responded to the school’s Statement:

The recently published policy, eighteen months in the making, did not bring change except to make it clearer that Biola views “any acts of sexual intimacy between two persons of the same sex as an illegitimate moral option for the confessing Christian.” It did not even attempt to address those with transgender or other non-conforming gender identities. Nor did it speak to the consequences for those who do not view their own or other’s homosexuality as “a struggle to maintain sexual purity.”

Biola claims to want a dialogue. However, unless LGBTQ students who don’t view homosexuality or transgender identity as sinful are allowed to speak openly without threat, this conversation will continue to be one–sided. Without inviting Christians speakers who have a different view of homosexuality, fruitful dialogue will not happen. In the past, your monologues on homosexuality have not been good or fair to us. We understand your interpretation of scripture; please hear ours.

In creating this group, they’re following in the footsteps of other similar groups that have also formed (or are trying to form) at Christian schools.

The obvious question is: Why do they remain at Biola? Why not transfer to a more accepting school? They’ve answered those questions here.

Christian blogger John Shore did a phone interview with one of the group’s founders and offers a bit more insight into how and why the group formed.

For anyone who attends Biola and may be questioning or hiding their sexuality, here’s what the group suggests:

If you would like to be apart of what we are doing, or want a safe place to be yourself, we would love to talk to you. Because of the nature of our community however, we cannot simply post a time and a place for you to meet with us. If you are truly interested in joining or talking to us please email us at: biola.underground@gmail.com

Here’s hoping they stay hidden from the university — but known to (and able to find community with) their fellow LGBTQ classmates.

I asked the founders what the response has been like from the other students. They said:

This has caused quite a stir at Biola, more than I think most of us had expected. By the second day we had one thousand Facebook likes and a dozen tweets on our website. The Chimes, our school newspaper, was very quick to get a story on us, and it is now the most popular in their history. Many students are angered over the group, but we have been pleasantly surprised at how many students are completely supportive of us. And not just in a “love the sinner hate the sin” type of way, a lot of students don’t think homosexuality is morally wrong and are excited to help us as a group. This has been shocking but wonderful.

And how many members are currently in the group?

We would like to maintain a level of mystery as to how many people are in our group. We feel comfortable saying we are comprised of a few dozen individuals. (although we’re fairly certain more LGBTQ people go to Biola than exist in our group). We definitely aren’t just one or two kids, we have structure like any other group. We represent several majors, range from freshman to seniors and are happily made up of L,G,B,T, and Q’s. One thing that might surprise people is that we have a fair amount of transgender people in our group. Sadly, that is a group of people completely ignored and whose struggles and lives are dismissed at Biola.


About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • anonymous

    I am pleasantly shocked, as I am a Biola Grad. Wow.  I applaud those brave individuals and hope they can bring change, even though I am now an anti-theist atheist.  Little does Biola know that I graduated an atheist.  I remember when a guy who was gay was discovered when he was a student.  They forced him to go to counseling for the remainder of his time at Biola, or he would be expelled.  When he walked across the graduation podium, no one clapped. Except me. So sad. I hope this can change their attitudes.

  • george.w

    They’re consistent with the apparent Christian doctrine that confessions of faith or purity made under duress are meaningful.

  • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

    I sympathize with them to a point, but to me this is sort of like trying to make Catholics inclusive of women and the LGBT community… what’s the point, when you can just ditch Catholicism? There are lots of secular schools to go to. If you’re gay, why go to a shitty evangelical college like Biola anyway?

    Okay, okay… I know it’s not that simple. Sometimes, young people are pressured to attend. Or maybe they were homeschooled, and their options are limited. But I don’t think Biola is about to revise their theology just to accommodate a small group of outliers. The best statement to make is just to not attend their lousy college.

    • HA2

       They answer some of those questions in their FAQ.

      • Sindigo

        Their answers to those questions seem pretty unsatisfactory to me though.

        I don’t think that: “being in a conservative Christian environment is what is comfortable for us” is a good way to defend their position because, clearly, it isn’t.

        “It’s difficult to go against parents and those in authority over you who have your best interest in mind and also when they control your bank account.” I wonder what your parents will say when they find out you are a member of an underground homosexual society which is trying to undermine the authority of the school they wanted you to attend.

        And: “we value greatly the integration and biblical focus in Biola’s curriculum.” No, they don’t. How can you value the biblical focus of anything if you’re LGBTQ?

        I understand the arguments for fighting for change from within these institutions and I wish them all the luck in the world but I can’t help but think they’re fighting a losing battle here and would be better off simply not attending this institution and providing them with even more funds to promulgate their particular kind of bigotry.

        I dearly  hope I’m wrong though.

  • Kaoru Negisa

    What I don’t get is their statement that while they disagree with anti – gay interpretation of scripture, they still think sex outside of marriage is a sin. Both have about as much support in their terrible myth book. I wish them the best and think this is very brave, but it’s still a whole lot of logical backflipping.

    • Stev84

      That’s clearly a sign of their conservative upbringing and brainwashing. They really know nothing else. But they’re still young enough that it’s possible that some of them will grow out of that in the future.

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt E

    I followed the link to check out the Chimes story and got caught up reading the comments section. Never was there a better example of how religious faith impairs the ability to think. These were comments from Biola students and grads, supposedly  college educated people, whose minds have been forced into a tiny box of preconceived notions that they are unable to break out of.

    • Aaron Y

      …what about all the Biola students arguing in that comments section against those preconceived notions? They are equally religious. Your broad condemnation reveals your own preconceived notions.

      • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt E

        I believe you misunderstand what I am referring to as a tiny box of preconceived notions. I am not referring just to those who agree with Biola’s policy but with all of those who agree with a very strict and literal interpretation of Leviticus and the Pauline passages on homosexuality. I know many Christians who view these passages as products of the time and culture they were written in and not relevant to the world today.

        None of the Biola commentators seem to take this view. All of the commentators I read who were defending  Biola Queer Underground did so with variations of the “love the sinner, hate the sin” or “It is not a sin to be gay, just a sin to act on it” arguments. A couple started off promising, such as B. K. 04, but eventually came around to accepting one of these two arguments in subsequent comments. (Stephanie at comment 62 may be the one exception, but she never states whether she thinks homosexuality is a sin or not.)

        Granted, I freely admit I haven’t read all of the comments. When I was reading there were nearly 200 comments and I stopped somewhere around 70 or so. However, unless there is a large cluster of support for the LGBTQ community further on in the comments, my one third sample shows that the overwhelming majority of Biola students and grads who chose to comment agree that homosexuality is a sin, half of them just happen to think you should be kind to LGBTQ people as long as they never act on their natures. This is the tiny box I refer to and the comments show that the number of Biola grads who can break out of this tiny box is extremely small, if indeed there are any.

        • Robert

           It’s easy to declare your ideological opponents stupid, unreflective, or lemmings.  Then you can dismiss their commitment without actually understanding why they are committed.  It absolves you of providing good reasons and engaging in a rational way why their beliefs are not valid.  I shouldn’t need to explain that a great many educated and reflective men and women hold the evangelical position about homosexuality.   That you seem to not know this demonstrates just how insulated you are.  I expect that generally from those on your side of the ideological aisle.  Generally, you wouldn’t be caught talking to someone who believed that God is real, the bible is from Him, etc.  You are mired in your own unreflective worldview that has been handed to
          you by the culturally normative forces you’ve been subjected to.  As a result you assume conditions of morality that are not universally accepted…it is not a granted fact that homosexuality is not a sin.  Therefore, it is incumbent upon anyone wishing to dialogue with those who do believe it is a sin, to engage this particular point.  Everything said above and beyond, such as, “this causes LGBT people unjust pain,” is nonsense and depends on a position that homosexuality is NOT a sin.  This is why this dialogue never goes anywhere.  People presume their moral claims need no substantiation.  They then presume to argue from that presumption as if we should all agree.  That’s just not how good dialogue works.  And if your response is, “I don’t want dialogue, you crazy fundy”….well, I can only reiterate that you anti-types are more insulated than us. 

          • Robert

             …because us fundy types interact with liberal ideology, as it is the cultural majority, on a daily basis.  While many liberals (progressives, atheists, whatever label you prefer), tend to not have to interact in any substantive way with us. 

      • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt E

        While I stand behind my initial post and the other reply I made to your reply, rereading my initial post I realize I made an inaccurate choice of words I should apologize for. The comment that religious faith impairs the ability to think should have read “… religious faith impairs the ability to think independently.” That is the issue I have with the Biola students and alums; they just accept what their churches have told them, unlike many other Christians who have and have come to their own conclusions. The Biola crowd doesn’t question whether or how homosexuality is a sin, or if they do, they never explain why or how it is independently of the dogma they were taught.

        None the less, my choice of words was poor and I apologize.     

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    This poses an awkward and complicated relationship between groups like the Biola Queer Underground and atheists who support the rights of the LGBTQ community everywhere. On one hand, we are aligned because we share our opposition to the bigoted oppression they face. On the other hand, they are dedicated and devout Christians. They make that clear in their list of explanations for why they remain at Biola. So some of the reasons that we have this common cause are diametrically opposing reasons about religion, and some are shared reasons about being human.

    I could easily understand if the BQU would be tentative, cautious, hesitant, iffy, circumspect, or downright suspicious of any offer of support, moral or material, from atheists.  I could also understand atheists having similar conflicted feelings in return.

    But I hope that somehow we can be of help to them anyway.

    I hope that some day we can transcend all these factious things. I hope some day these predicaments are incomprehensible to people, that they close the dusty history book where they read about such things, shaking their heads in puzzlement.

  • JChang0114

    This makes no sense. They want Christian? Go to Loyola Marymount. At least their you could probably get an actual education instead of learning from the finest Christian Minds that pondered how they fit all the animals on the Ark. And at Loyola they even have a campus LGBT group. 

    • Stev84

      There is one story there of a woman who knew was gay and felt condemned by her church (instead of only finding out once she was there). So to flee that condemnation she went to a Biola and was condemned there too. Duh? Did she really expect anything else?

      Like you, I can understand wanting to go to a Christian school or her parents pressuring her to do so. But she could at least have tried one that isn’t widely known as one of then more conservative universities.

  • Aaron Y

    If you say the solution is that these students ‘ditch’ Christianity or orthodox Christian education, you have entirely missed the point of their position, and are in fact (indirectly) supporting the oppressive position of the school. These students are devout Christians that desire Christian education — and in the course of that education, they have decided their sexual identities are not inconsistent with their faith. It is no secret that most Christian education is watered down to the point of being a farce; serious students of Christianity have no convenient choice but to attend socially conservative schools. Most readers here do consider Christianity a farce, I’m sure. But you must admit that if someone wishes to study anything, that person will do well to study at in institution that actually respects the subject matter, along with the centuries of serious thought involved in it. The BQU does not wish to lose that respectful education; they only wish to have their own serious intellectual position considered along with other serious intellectual positions.

    And a general note to atheists: at some point you will have to stop condescending to religious people. If you have made it a principle to dismiss their viewpoint without charitably considering it, you have become as close-minded as you condemn them for being.

    • Stev84

      The idea that you attend a Christian university mostly to learn more about religion instead of whatever your actual degree is is patently absurd and shows everything that’s wrong with American-style Christianity. They aren’t studying to be priests or theologians.

      If they wanted a Christian influenced “education” (instead of a dominated one as you suggest), they could have chosen a
      university that isn’t known to the be one of the most conservative and
      dogmatic places. It’s not like there was a lack of other options.

    • Ibis3

      If you have made it a principle to dismiss their viewpoint without
      charitably considering it, you have become as close-minded as you
      condemn them for being.

      The Christian viewpoint has been charitably considered. In fact most atheists in the English-speaking world started out as indoctrinated Christians. The viewpoint has been found wanting. Yes, liberal Christianity is better than the bigoted kind, but it’s not good enough. These kids deserve even better.

      Imagine a school in Afghanistan. The administration thinks educating girls is against the divine will. Some girls dress up as boys and go anyway. It is their sincere belief that Allah doesn’t mind girls having an education. They form a support group for all the girls who are secretly attending the school. Sure that’s better than no support group. It would be better if the administration would allow girls to openly attend the school. And better still if it were a liberal Islamic school that even allowed girls to openly attend and not have to be covered up in a burqa. However, the root problem is that all of these positions are based on what Allah “wants”. But Allah is a mythological character, an excuse to allow the administrators to have their own way and call it God’s way. The girls and women are indoctrinated into accepting their own oppression, even in the most liberal of religious schools.

      First, why should any school–one that’s teaching secular subjects–have anything to do with religion? It’s about learning literature or math or history. These things don’t change depending upon what deity you wish to abase yourself before. Second, we find it unfortunate and sad that those who are most oppressed think that changing doctrines or religions is an adequate solution to the problem of religious oppression. A good slave master is still a slave master. 

      • Aaron Y

        1. There is no single Christian viewpoint, and viewpoints are never static. Charitable listening cannot involve assuming that a person who continues to disagree with you believes exactly the thing you dismissed them for yesterday.

        2. Surely you know that religious people do not consider any subject secular. Who would fragment their reality like that? And subjects of education do not change, no, but it is absurd to think that they cannot be presented from different perspectives. There are a variety of disagreeing atheistic perspectives on these subjects — would you prevent students from choosing to regard one perspective over another?
        3. In matters of science, is it not freeing to submit to the authority of people who know more than us? If we each had to rely on our own understanding, we would be sorely lacking in those goods that modern science brings. Christians believe in a God who has infinite authority and goodness. They believe that the greatest freedom one can achieve is submitting to this authority — the only authority worthy of total subjection. And they believe that rejecting this authority is merely enslavement to something unworthy.As a Christian who often regards the secular community with more intellectual respect than much of the Christian community, I must say I’m disappointed by the striking similarity between your inability to see through their perspective and their inability to see through yours.

        • Kaoru Negisa

          To your point #3, the difference is that when those of us who rely on scientific authorities do so , we know we’re relying on something real: a person who has demonstrated their knowledge and ability to make predictive conclusions based on observable evidence. Moreover, we have evidence that the scientists in question are actually there and have said what we think they did, and if we’re confused by what they say, we can ask for clarification and receive it in a manner that is the same for all possible observers. That is a far cry from submitting to what amounts to a feeling that is experienced differently by everyone and produces results that are unreliable at best. They are not the same thing in the slightest.

        • Graeme Taylor

          “There is no single Christian viewpoint, …”
          “Christians believe in a God who has infinite authority and goodness.”
          Which is it?  You assert that there is no single viewpoint, then later assert that “Christians”–collectively–believe in a specific thing?  Your overarching train of thought seems to be lacking coherence.

  • Joseph Smith

    I do wish the very best for these students, but I can’t help to think if they did have a choice which some did, it blows my mind why they would go to this school.  Its a like a black person attending a KKK meeting by choice.  For the students forced to go by parents, I am sorry that you have to go through this, but when you get out into the real world you will realize there is loving people out here and some of us don’t need an imaginary babysitter to love you for who you are.

  • Joel

    I am a Biola Graduate and I would like to speak to one thing: The beginning of your article. “Biola University, an evangelical Christian school in southern California, is one of those schools that will expel you if they find out you’re gay. (Because, you know, they love everyone.)” 

    This couldn’t be further from the truth. I know of many individuals that the University has “found out” about their sexual preferences, and they HAVE NOT been kicked out! People assume because you are a Christian organization that there is no love or grace. I want to say you are WRONG, and that is poor journalism to say such. Many “outed” students have continued to receive a quality education in a loving environment and have graduated too! Biola doesn’t have a hard and fast rule about this. Although they do believe homosexual activity to be sin. They DO NOT simply kick you out for struggling or even accepting to live a homosexual lifestyle. 

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      But if you act on your gayness? Then what?

      Acting on one’s sexuality was implied when I wrote that. Sorry if it was ambiguous.


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