Liberty, Dr. Borland, and Brandon

This is but the end of a long article at The Atlantic, but I hope you read it all and you will say that things are changing:

My afternoon with Dr. Borland [theology prof at Liberty University] was very enjoyable. He took me [a withdrawing gay student] on a tour of his house, showed me his enormous collection of antique books, and took me outside to chop some firewood. We had tea together, and discussed some theological concepts from class, like predestination and the difference between eternity and timelessness. When his wife came in, he introduced me to her, and then apologized to me for what he was about to do, which was grab her and kiss her on the mouth for about seven seconds.

When I told Dr. Borland that I had to leave, he got up from his rocking chair and came over to me. We were both standing face to face, and I was now scared shitless. His brow furrowed a little bit, and I assumed he was going to tell me he was disappointed with my decision to drop out and come out.

“Well,” he said, and then he thought some more. He took one step closer to me, and cleared his throat before continuing. “I got your email, Brandon.”

He paused again, as he searched my face for who knows what.

He spoke again, this time quieter than before. “I just wanted to let you know that you’re my friend and I love you.” And with that, he nodded his head and then gave me a bear hug, before walking me to the driveway and telling me to make it home safely.

I climbed into my car almost in slow-motion. I was shocked. I was expecting Dr. Borland to act differently towards me. I was expecting him to be… well, a homophobe. But as I put on my seatbelt, I realized that all that time, I was the one who was afraid. Not him. I’d been warned my whole life about homophobia, but no one ever said anything about homophobiaphobia.

I put my car in reverse and backed out of his driveway, still watching as he smiled and waved. I thought about the story of the whore, about her walking away from Jesus. How did the two of them part ways? Did he smile at her? Did she smile back? Or did she possibly distrust his smile and run? If I were her, I would have just stood there speechlessly, staring in astonishment at the empty hands of the bearded Rabbi who’d just gone against an entire religious community and tradition for my sake.

As I pulled out of Dr. Borland’s driveway, I glanced back at him one more time. He was still there waving to me, this time with both hands. And as I made a left onto a winding country road, I looked down at the gravel path under his feet, and saw the only stones that had come my way.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • EricW

    Great article. Be sure to read the whole thing.

  • http://www.byron-harvey.com Byron Harvey

    Proud to say that Dr. Borland was my prof nearly 30 years ago at LBTS. This entire article is a tremendous read.

  • http://theepiscopalian.blogspot.com/ William Birch

    The article is lengthy, but it was worth it, and the ending brought some water to my eyes. Often I found that we shared nearly the same contextual experiences (especially our shared naked roommates experiences, which caught me completely off guard — who would imagine such at a conservative Southern Baptist institution?). Some of it was rough to read for me. I’m glad he wrote it.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    Thanks for posting this, Scot. It’s encouraging to me to see the re-uniting of the loving, caring, social justice side of my family with the Body of Christ who love like Jesus loves. We’ve been too long parted.

  • http://rwtyer.blogspot.com Rory Tyer

    I graduated from LU in 2009, had a class or two with Brandon (and still consider him a friend), and had courses and relationships with both Drs. Borland and Prior. It is refreshing to see people finally getting a chance to see the multifaceted nature of the Liberty community – it is much more variegated than its stereotypes would allow.


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