Christian Professor Compares LGBT Allies to Racists and Calls Trans Identity a ‘Perversion’

Biola University, an evangelical Christian school in southern California, is also home to a secretive LGBT group. It’s brave of those students since the school would expel them if their sexual orientations were ever made public.

Still, the Biola Queer Underground is thriving and they’re now going after a professor who made some horrible remarks at the school.

Dr. Erik Thoennes (right)

Dr. Erik Thoennes — Biola’s “Professor of the Year” in 2003 and 2007 — sat on a panel called “Sexuality Matters” (a panel formed in response to the BQU group) and proceeded to:

1) Compare LGBTQ identities to racist identities.

2) Responded to the question of why there weren’t any Christian pro-gay representatives on the panel by saying, “I wouldn’t want a pro-racist person on this panel if the question were racism.”

3) Called the transgender identity a “dysfunction” and “perversion.”

Seriously, listen to the 1:42 mark of this video:

It’s despicable, even for a professor at a Christian school.

The Biola Queer Underground has started a petition against the professor. They’re not calling for his firing or resignation. They’re simply asking for an apology for ignorant remarks that have nothing to do with the Christian stance on homosexuality.

These comments not only propagate homophobia, transphobia, and a distorted view of racism, but they also directly harm the lives of LGBTQ students at Biola—students who can’t even speak out about their identities for the fear of expulsion. This is not acceptable. We ask Dr. Erik Thoennes to apologize for his deeply harmful homophobic, transphobic, and racist comments; we also ask Biola University to apologize for its lack of Christian LGBTQ affirming voices present in this dialogue and to commit itself to the inclusion of such perspectives in the future.

It’s really not a lot to ask for, which is why I’m amazed Biola has done nothing in response. Sign the petition. Tell people you know to sign the petition. Show Biola that we’re watching to see whether they remain ignorant bigots or have the decency to apologize for crossing a line that’s appalling even to other Christians.

So far, only one other professor has responded to the BQU about the petition at all. And here’s how the petition’s starter put it:

That professor let me know that I probably just misunderstood Dr. Thoennes’ comments, that he never “likened homosexuality to racism,” but was simply “making an analogy.” Last I checked making an analogy implies the terms are, you know, analogous. It was a far cry from an apology let alone a commitment to change.


About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • EvanT

    I’ll never understand American obsession with demanding ceremonious fake apologies. It’s not like this person misspoke or anything. He said exactly what he meant. Public ridicule might be more appropriate in his case. A demand for an apology? Utterly pointless. TJ says it better I think: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJxCPiChtPI

  • Gus Snarp

    Here’s an idea, how about if everyone who’s LGBTQ, or an ally, get the fuck out of Biola and stop giving them your money.

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

      i have to agree. i suppose some of the students there may not have any other choice (parents only agree to send them to this school, etc) but i have never understood why students would attend a program that denied them the right to be who they are.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Same reason blacks, women, and LGBT folks vote Republican, I guess…

    • Matt

      I think there’s plenty of gay Christians who value an education at a place like this (they just ignore the parts of the Bible that explain how their god hates them). I know, I know, it doesn’t make any sense. But it’s a thing, I swear.

    • Fanraeth

      I’m not familiar with Biola University, but it’s entirely possible that this was the only option for an education presented to them by their parents. A lot of hardcore religious right-wing people will only send their kids to places like Patrick Henry, Liberty, and Bob Jones because they know those schools will reinforce their bigotry.

  • Matt

    I see his point. It’s like how this morning when I said “man, I love this chicken biscuit”, imagine if I had said “man, I love lynching black people.”

    Therefore chicken biscuits are bad.

  • Gus Snarp

    So he’s calling racism a sin? And he teaches biblical studies? How did he miss the parts of the Bible that explicitly promote racism and somehow come up with the notion that racism is a sin?

    • Daniel In The Lions’ Den

      Excellent point. The old testament bible, at least, is pretty much “us against them” and definitely not “anti-racist”. It’s not clear to me that the new testament says anything about it. Given, Israel was then a Roman property, I don’t know what the bible would say in that historical context.

      The bible,and biblical law, is clearly pro-slavery, especially in terms of enslaving conquered peoples. I would call that racist. Even Jesus was not anti-slavery.

      I’m interested that this man draws analogies between homophobia and racism. Racism he considers a sin, which it isn’t, in Abrahamic religions. Meanwhile, I’m sure he’s picked and chosen what sins he will condemn. The bible has lots to chose from, not just homosexuality.

      • Gus Snarp

        I wonder if that shirt he’s wearing in the picture is a poly-cotton blend?

        • Ann Onymous

          And it looks like he’s cut the hair around his temples.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      To be fair, there are arguably anti-racist passages, like Galatians 3:26-29. It’s basically a wash, in my opinion.

      • Carmelita Spats

        This is the creepy “gotcha” passage that fundies quote when they want to prove that the bible is not misogynistic and that Christianity actually liberates women “from themselves” so they can be “free” to “graciously submit” to their husband’s “servant leadership” since he is “under Christ”…Cult survivors recognize insufferable cult-speak.

      • ruth

        Yeah, but not anti slavery.

  • Rain

    He needs more starch in his shirt to match his personality. Tighten up that collar a little bit too dude. Don’t they have a dress code over there at “hard-ass university”?

  • C Peterson

    All I can say is, keep up the good work. It’s immoral cranks like this that are driving people away from religion… in this case, perhaps even making a dent in the fundies.

  • GCT

    It’s really not a lot to ask for, which is why I’m amazed Biola has done nothing in response.

    Why is this surprising at a school that would expel students for being gay?

  • ShoeUnited

    So… Why are there pro-christians on the christian council?

    Take your time.

  • SeekerLancer

    While I doubt this cretin is going to apologize, it’s still good to get this video out there for others to see.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Signed the petition.

  • Rachel

    Looking at his statement objectively not taking either side, his analogy makes sense and I don’t find it offensive. He wasn’t comparing racism and homosexuality in the slightest.


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