A Gay Faculty Member Writes About Working at a Christian College

There have been a number of posts on this site about gay Christians who attend religious schools and have to keep their sexual orientation under wraps.

But we rarely hear from faculty members at those schools who have to keep their homosexuality hidden.

At Inside Higher Ed, an anonymous poster who teaches at a school affiliated with the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) wonders why these institutions are so homophobic — they say they love the sinner and hate the sin, yet coming out is not an option for him:

I have been struck by the fact that while CCCU institutions will not hire faculty in monogamous, same-sex relationships, they do hire divorced faculty without asking the grounds for the divorce. Wheaton College in Illinois is tragically consistent in its foundationalist approach to biblical hermeneutics, allowing faculty to be divorced so long as the divorce is based on biblical grounds. Do you seriously think that the great professor ceases to be a great professor because his/her divorce was based on irreconcilable differences rather than adultery?

One year I received a teaching award. If I were to come out now, would I suddenly cease being a good teacher? Would I no longer be able to ask disciplinary-related questions that spring from my religious faith?

I would like to be able to live my life in the open and, like many of you, share life with a loving partner; however, to borrow a phrase from Melissa Harris-Perry’s book, Sister Citizen, it is “hard to stand up in a crooked room.”

If these schools really had a heart, they would allow faculty members (and students) to be open about their orientation without any negative repercussions coming from the administration. The private schools have every right to espouse bigotry, but the closets they stuff their LGBT students and staffers in go against their own theoretical cultures of love and respect.

By forcing students and staffers to lie about who they are, they’re making them commit an actual “sin” in order to hide a fake one.

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.

  • Gus Snarp

    Today this just makes me wonder when people will come to realize that the fact that they have to drag their churches kicking and screaming into the 21st century, and only the best examples of liberal churches even manage that, the rest just recede farther into the past, and that churches have had to be dragged into modernity in every generation, that maybe that indicates that their churches have no special knowledge and insight. If the religion hates you, maybe it’s time to leave it behind.

  • CelticWhisper

    Yep. People can survive without religion, but religions cannot survive without people to follow them. That, methinks, is part of why religions try so hard to be all-encompassing in the lives of their followers – it’s a lot harder to leave a religion when your entire worldview and social circle are founded upon it.

    The more people realize it’s time to cut and run, the faster the curtain gets pulled back and the harder it will be for churches to remain calm about trying to control their followers. They’ll have no choice but to change, to become less controlling and more accepting, if they want to survive.

    Let’s see how they like a little selective pressure.

  • cipher

    I assume the writer works at a conservative Christian college, as one would also assume he wouldn’t have this problem at a liberal Christian institution.

    I have a problem with gay people who wish to remain conservative Christians. They’re willing to reinterpret the Biblical passages about homosexuality, but when it comes to everything else, they’re unwilling to do so. In other words, they get to be gay and go to heaven, while we, as nonbelievers, are still going to hell – and they have absolutely NO problem with that, nor do they see it as a contradiction. Denial much?

    I have far less of a problem with gay Orthodox Jews, as they tend to gather along the leftmost borders of Modern Orthodoxy, and in that neighborhood they tend to be much more tolerant of differences in practice and belief than are their more right wing coreligionists (and they aren’t obsessed with who is and isn’t going to heaven in the first place).

  • Geoff Boulton

    ‘so long as the divorce is based on biblical grounds’

    In the case of adultery, does that mean that the offending party has to have been stoned to death before an application from the surviving party will be considered?

  • Artor

    You realize every single Xtian in the history of the faith has done this- picking & choosing which Biblical passages to follow and rationalizing away the rest, right? It’s just not logically possible to follow so many conflicting injunctions, or legally to stone blasphemers, etc.
    What bewilders me is not that gay Xtians are inconsistent, since that goes hand-in-hand with being Xtian anyway. It’s that they choose to be part of an institution that actively hates them and calls them abominations. The cognitive dissonance must be terrible, so why do they stick to it? I’ll never understand.

  • sideshow billybob

    “I have a problem with gay people who wish to remain conservative
    Christians. They’re willing to reinterpret the Biblical passages about
    homosexuality, but when it comes to everything else, they’re unwilling
    to do so. In other words, they get to be gay and go to heaven, while we,
    as nonbelievers, are still going to hell – and they have absolutely NO
    problem with that, nor do they see it as a contradiction. Denial much?”

    Cognitive dissonance is a helluva thing.

  • cipher

    I know. I can understand staying for purposes of community (again, that’s one of the main reasons – probably the main reason – gay Orthodox Jews remain), but when the community has no idea of who you are and would despise you if they knew – I don’t get it.

    Why doesn’t he get a job teaching at a liberal Christian institution? If he tried and couldn’t get one in this economy, that’s one thing – but if it’s because they aren’t practicing REAL Christianity™, I have no sympathy.

  • C Peterson

    There are Christian colleges with good educational programs. And that means they have good, educated faculty members. And that means that a significant number of those teachers are atheists. You can bet they don’t let that be known. Similarly, a gay teacher at a Christian college need not be a conservative Christian, nor even a Christian at all. Nor must a pastor or other religious leader be religious, or even a theist.

    People find themselves in situations in their lives, ruts if you will, that can be difficult to change. Sometimes, what you do in life is at odds with who you are.

  • cipher

    Conservative Christian colleges require faculty members to sign statements of faith. Do you believe there are many people in these institutions who lied to get their jobs and live in fear of being found out?

  • Gus Snarp

    I certainly do. Or at least people who looked at the statement of faith the way most people think of terms and conditions on software and internet services: something you just say yes to without reading, because you don’t really have a choice.

  • C Peterson

    Undoubtedly there are some that lied. But far more common, I think, is that people change. Like those in the Clergy Project, who started out with their faith and their job in sync, but then their faith changed.

    Millions of people have jobs that conflict in some way with their personal views, it isn’t just a matter of jobs with a religious component.

  • C Peterson

    One word: HumancentiPad.

  • SeekerLancer

    I agree that if it’s strictly on religious grounds then this situation is entirely his problem.

    However I don’t know his situation. I don’t want to judge why he doesn’t just “go elsewhere” because it’s not always the simplest thing to just uproot your social and financial life.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    Am I the only one that was slow to pick up on the part where a widow(er) wouldn’t need a divorce in any case?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i admit to having little sympathy to folks like this. you took the job, you signed the ‘moral values’ pledge sheet, you knew what kind of school it was when you applied for a job there… it’s called “making choices” and you made yours. perhaps this was the only school where you could get hired. perhaps you have a reason to want to live in that community. well, this is the price you pay for that. if you don’t like where you find yourself now, either start the process of making changes in your life or accept the fact that no one but yourself got you to where you are today.

  • Sunny Day

    All sins are fake.

  • 3lemenope

    I do have a problem with this notion that you make your bed, so to speak, solely by the content of choices and not their context. It is not exactly rare for a person to hunt for a job for a long fucking time just to put food on the table, etc., and especially toward the ragged ends of those sorts of searches, the need to have income can override any caveats or discomforts a person might have with the offer that does come. More apropos to the example under discussion, it can be that the warts of the job (and the company or institution to which it is attached) may not become apparent until after one is committed to it.

    And it certainly isn’t the case that “no one but yourself got you to where you are today” at, really, any level of applicability. People have a certain (highly variable) capacity to make lemonade from lemons, but no amount of sugar or water will produce lemonade from shit. Accidents, illness, other people who have power over you being shitty and/or petty, and other conditions can derail any life, no matter how self-actualizing the person who possesses it is. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a plea for accepting fatalism, but merely a reaction against the notion that a person is solely responsible for their condition. That comes dangerously close to blaming people for whatever misfortune or bad circumstances they find themselves in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

    And if you lied during your hiring interviews that could be grounds for being fired.

    I hate to sound like I’m standing up for bigotry, but it seems to me that once you sign one of these “statements of faith” you are under an obligation to stay true to it, for as long as you keep the job, that is. If your views change, so that you no longer accept that “statement of faith” then the only ethical thing to do is quit your job. Isn’t this the same type situation as the people who try to get exceptions to dress codes when their “views change”? For example, let’s assume I got a job at Hooters (ha ha, huge assumption!), my job requires I wear the standard uniform, short-shorts and a tight t-shirt. Then my “views change” and I become a Muslim. Does Hooters now have to allow me to start wearing wrist-to-ankle dresses and a head scarf? When I took the job I was clearly informed that the job requires me to wear the approved uniform, if I refuse to wear the uniform, I can no longer fulfill the job As I was hired to do it. Similarly, if your job description requires you to be a believer, how can you continue to preform that job once you become a non-believer?

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

    I definitely agree with you on this. I would be interested to know what, if any, ‘moral values’ pledge or whatever he signed when he took the job, and whether or not he lied when he signed it or simply always intended to break it. If he signed something that said he would not “engage in homosexual activity” knowing full well that he planned to marry another man, then he was not being truthful to his employers when he took the job and, as much as I hate to side with the university, they have every reason to fire him now. If he wasn’t willing to abide by the pledge he signed, then he shouldn’t have accepted the job.

    I don’t agree with him on the “tragedy” of Wheaton college only allowing divorce in case of adultery. If this is what your faith believes, then why shouldn’t they require their faculty to follow their beliefs? These colleges are not looking for the best professors, they are looking for professors that believe in their ridiculous sky fairy and will help them spread their faith to their young, impressionable students. Religious nut-cases are much better qualified to do that than thoughtful, intelligent gay guys!

  • C Peterson

    People need to eat. It isn’t always easy to simply pack up and change jobs if your views change. Nor are the ethics of the situation all that clear. Personally, I’d have no ethical problem lying about a “statement of faith” in order to get a job. I’d consider such a requirement to be itself unethical, and would place my own interests before those of my employer, given that neither my faith, nor lack of it, would have any bearing on my ability to do the job. There is absolutely nothing in this case to suggest that the employee’s sexual orientation is impairing his job performance. For that matter, nothing suggests a lack of faith, merely a different world view, which is materially irrelevant to the job. It is unethical for an employer to attempt to force any world view on its employees.

  • C Peterson

    I’d argue that the employer has no ethical right to dictate the private sexual behavior of its employees, and its legal ability to do so reflects an immoral aberration in our current law. Most employers can’t make such a restriction; it is only the unconstitutional special treatment we offer to religious institutions that makes this discrimination possible. Personally, I’d have no moral compunction at all lying about such a matter on an employment contract.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tom.stough Tom Stough

    If this professor, as it’s not clarified if she’s also a christian, besides LGBT, is thinking about a partner, that flies in the face of how the LGBT, should be thinking about relationships. There’s nothing wrong in God’s eyes, for the way we’re created. But our lifestyles are accountable to HIm. I’m sure that there are LGBT, who consider themselves christians. The glorifying lifestyle for them, is sexual celibacy. The scriptures speak to those, and many other lifestyles, that were redeemed by Christ, and not to live in them any longer.