“Does my signed pledge make me a traitor to the LGBT cause?” asks a Christian college professor

Dear John Shore,

It’s taken me forever to write this, because it will reveal me to be a whiny, privileged, guilt-ridden wimp. But I’m writing it anyway. I guess because I’m such a wimp I can’t even stand up to my desire to not be revealed as a wimp. Go figure.

I’m serious about being a Christian and have, like many of your readers, grown to fully support LGBT folks in the church. What a laughable sentence that is, because I’m a professor at a Christian College that requires each annual contract renewal to include reaffirmation of a denominational statement declaring same sex relationships morally illegitimate. Yes, like most Christian colleges, we must sign a document of community beliefs and expectations that clearly states this. I feel like a traitor and a liar every time.

I love my job. I believe in Christian higher education, and this college is pretty moderate. People are kind here and I have academic freedom to pursue what I love. The school is progressive on a number of church-y issues, like the leadership and dignity of women. The students are great people, my colleagues include my closest friends, it’s an affordable region of the country with a lot of natural beauty.

It’s okay with me that I’m more liberal than most around here, because I’m not the only one, and I have a ton of social capital and good will built up in the community; I don’t need everyone to agree with me on everything. I think most people know how I feel about queer Christians (or at least wouldn’t be shocked). I seem to be free to speak my opinion in personal conversation, but if I publicly advocated for institutional change (or didn’t sign the statement) my job would be in jeopardy. I’m up for tenure in three months, but tenure wouldn’t protect me on this one. And it’s once again contract renewal time.

Every year (I’ve been here a long time) I sign my name to a document that includes a sentence I consider unjust and wicked. Every year I ask gay friends: “Am I betraying you? Are you hurt by this? I remain employed by an institution that wouldn’t hire you, that would fire you, that requires all of us to sign a document that says you and your spouse’s love is sinful. Tell me what to do! Tell me to quit and I will!”

Every year (I think they’re getting tired of my pathetic begging for absolution) my gay friends are incredibly gracious and supportive and caring: “No, you aren’t betraying us. We love you and know you’re stuck in a difficult place. We need allies in hostile territory. You need to be there for the students when they come out. You’re not expected to be the straight martyr for the gay cause.” Etc.

But recently a person I respect (a reader of your blog) responded: “No, you’re not betraying me. But I’m worried about you, are you betraying yourself?”

This haunting prophetic question is one I will have to answer myself. So I’m not asking for feedback on that one. But I am asking for something.

Sometimes you post reader mail on your blog, and the responses are diverse, enlightening, and (usually) on point. I’ve benefited many times from the conversation around your blog. I’m sure your blogging schedule is stacked up way into the future, and you hear from people with much worse problems than mine. But if you get a slow news day, and threw my dilemma in front of your readers, maybe the responses could help me and others like me who feel stuck. Skewer me, support me, laugh at me, preach at me, identify with me, feel sorry for me, dismiss me … I promise to put it all to good use. I’m not at peace and would like to be, and input from outside my head usually serves me well.

So here’s the heart of it: am I perpetuating injustice in the name of Christ by continuing to work for a Christian institution that requires its employees to do this as a condition of employment?

I really value your voice and the conversations it provokes. Thanks,

Dear Guy Who Wrote Me This,

I mean … your question is so simple a child could answer it. By signing a statement which declares same-sex relationships morally illegitimate of course you’re betraying yourself and your gay friends. Of course you’re perpetuating injustice in the name of Christ by continuing to work for a Christian institution that requires its employees to sign such a reprehensible statement.

But you already know it’s wrong to sign that document. What you don’t know and are seeking clarity on is the relationship between the amount of wrong done by signing it versus the amount of good you get in exchange for doing so. You know it’s wrong to sign the paper; you just don’t know if it’s so wrong that you should quit your job over it.

That’s a terrible calculation to even consider making. It’s predicated upon your honor being a tradeable commodity. You should never trade your honor for material gain. In this life who you are morally is all you have. It’s everything. It’s the irreducible island you live on. You crap on that, and there’s no avoiding the stink of it in your own nostrils.

Don’t do that to yourself. You really are better than that.

Besides, it’s not like signing that document is keeping you safe. In the short run it does, yes. But it’s like escaping a lightening storm by ducking into a cave in the back of which a bear is sleeping. You’re safe as long as that bear doesn’t wake up. But sooner or later it will. And then you’re bear chow.

The inviolate Rule of Life is that everything you do that’s morally wrong comes back to bite you on the butt. And as surely as one day follows the next you will be called upon to publicly toe your school’s party line on the gay issue. There’s no predicting when or how it will happen; there’s only the certainty that it will. The gay issue is too huge for it not to. It’s already creating all kinds of storms on Christian campuses across the country. (See They’re here; they’re queer; they’ve plenty to fear: LGBT students form secret club at conservative Christian university for just one instance.) That wind will blow across your campus. And when it does your employers will not allow you to “be there” for anyone coming out. They’ll expect you to be there for them. And rightfully so. You signed a document guaranteeing that you would be. You gave your word that you would defend your school’s policy on homosexuality.

And the day upon which you are called to do that will be a very dark day for you indeed. In deed.

Avoid that day, friend. Start looking for another job. Sign your school’s anti-gay document one more time if you must, but make that your last time. That will give you a year to find a job where getting paid doesn’t require first swapping spit with Satan. I appreciate that you have a cherry job. Your email to me included a link to the school at which you work. That place is ridiculously beautiful; it looks like where the children raised in all those idyllic cottages painted by Thomas Kinkade matriculate. But that’s how real evil works, isn’t it? It makes you think that by trading your integrity you’re trading up. It looks so innocent. It offers so much. It makes it so easy to justify its requisite ounce of flesh.

But from that ounce a great wound is sure to grow.

I say give yourself a year to get out.

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  • Jennifer C. Martin via Facebook

    I wonder if this is a Christian professor where I went to school, at Lee University. The school is definitely more moderate but they would never be able to admit this one issue publicly. Students never had to sign such a document but I joined an online support group for our LGBTQ students there.

  • Susan

    Yep. Plan to move on…and pray. Is it possible that there are other staffers who feel the same way and are afraid to say anything?

  • “You need to be there for the students when they come out.”

    This. There needs to be an underground in place at these kinds of institutions. If you’re a long-time reader of John’s blog, you know about such undergrounds at Biola University and Bob Jones University. LGBTQ students need safe people on the staff and faculty.

    I can’t tell you that this is the best choice, but I do believe it’s a morally acceptable choice. Oppressed peoples need both Mordachais, standing proudly and openly at the gate regardless of risk, and Esthers, quietly slipping under the radar until it’s the right time to reveal themselves and plead their cause.

  • Valerie

    I agree with John on this one. Find a new job. Don’t say a word to your colleagues as it may cause friction. If you don’t stand up for your integrity then what CAN you stand for? Good luck and may God bless you in your search.

  • Grant

    Dear Guy Who Wrote, I feel your pain, I feel your truth and conviction, I feel your honesty and faith.

    While I agree with most of what John wrote in response, one has to ask, so, after a year, what if a new job is not there, and not going to happen any time soon? Does one get up and quit? Not that easy I say.

    I do think many of “us” have been in that same spot. By this I mean, for those of us who are glbt, we stay in a church that doesn’t care for us because that’s all we’ve known. It feels comfortable. It feels like family altho we’re often the “black sheep”. But we sit there and think we don’t belong here. We’re can’t be honest here. We can’t be truly who God made us to be for fire and brimstone will rain down upon us (or at least we think that’s what will happen when others find out about us).

    It takes a huge amount of reflection, prayer, searching and more to finally emerge from the shackles of a church that doesn’t care for us but lets us sit in the pews. It’s hard to leave. And, it takes more than a year to do that.

    Blessings on your journey,


  • You make a good point Lore, but this professor still runs the risk of being uncovered and losing his or her job anyway. People in underground movements often do not get to choose when they can revel themselves and plead their cause, and it is even less likely that they’ll have the kind of reception that Esther got.

    Still finding employment in this economy sucks. Could they find a new job right away? I would hope so, but is it a guarantee? What if they have to sell a house in a tight market? What if they end up taking a huge cut in pay? What if a new job doesn’t present itself for months?

    It would be easier to be considering a new job offer and have that choice to make, its a bit tougher in this case. John’s advice to give oneself a year is so wise. A lot can happen in a year, heck the college can reverse its stance by then, but if not, this teacher has time to find a new position that offers more freedom of expression.

  • You don’t think until September 2013 is long enough for our friend here to find another teaching job? That … doesn’t seem realistic to me. But if he needs more time, no worries. The point is to be firmly intentional about getting out.

  • Most of these schools require signing such statements. It’s so repressive and, well, wrong.

    Love what you said, John. I always say, after I read your responses, “Dang! Wish I’d thought of that”. 🙂

  • Plus, how would any gay kid know that our friend here is a guy they can trust if he’s always remained effectively silent on the issue? And by virtual of “pleading their cause” he would be making of himself a complete liar and betraying his employers. Not good.

  • Kirsten A.S. Mebust via Facebook

    I work for a Christian college that doesn’t require the pledge. There are some. That said, I think the kind of preoccupation with purity on this issue that we on the left seem to be immersed in takes us out of the position to be able to creatively engage those who are according to their own best understandings of their consciences not yet supportive of GLBTIQ people and their rights. The insistence on moral purity is a failing, not a victory, on both sides of this issue, in my view. I acknowledge it takes a great deal of spiritual strength to work among the enemy, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer did; but that’s a way of being Christian, too.

  • Grant

    Howdy hot man in overalls, oops…I digress.

    Well, given that the economy is whacko, sick, a mess…not sure if a year is enough time or not. As I’m not familiar with Christian Colleges, also not sure how many jobs might be out there suitable to this person’s qualifications.

    I hear you on the being intentional part. I think he’s already made that commitment by writing publicly…..but I’d give the time needed to make the move. Heck, it only took me years to leave my denomination for a more welcoming one. 🙂

  • nate

    Meh, my morals are little more grey…but here’s my opinion for what it’s worth…as a graduate in the early 90’s from such an establishment, where still today professors would be fired for taking a stand…I look at it this way, there were professors who were very helpful to me, who, if they had chosen to “stand up” would not be able to be there…I see it as a bit of “under cover” work…a certain amount of duplicity is needed there. So, I guess what I would say is that if you can keep your eyes open for the students who are struggling and reveal to them your sentiments and help them navigate, who the fuck cares what stupid ethos statement you signed. No one follows them anyway on so many other points of contention, students or administration. However, if you are loosing sleep over being “duplicitous” then maybe you should quit….life’s too short to be too stressed out.

  • theotheranonymous

    An agreement about common goals may be one thing but this sounds rather coercive. This demand “belief” so they may as well be telling in to lie and just dign. I worked for the Salvation army in a store for a few years and that “furthering the goals of Christ” seemed to cover more and more that had less and less to do with Christ and everything with “shut up – you work for us” . Not that they didn’t aid people but it was always a handout not a hand up

  • Linnea

    I also agree with the advice to give yourself a year. Given that it’s already July (not sure when this letter was actually written), it could be tough finding another job on short notice. Keep your eyes open, make sure your CV is up to date, and be ready to jump if a decent offer comes along. Granted, you will probably have to take a pay cut, but it’ll be worth it because you won’t have to (effectively) sign away your values in return for a job. And in the meantime, definitely continue your quiet support for the LGBTQ students who come to you.

  • Lee

    I do question whether this professor is actually able to be there for students who want to come out. Has it ever happened? Has he or she ever been that person, the one who made coming out a better experience in that place? When I came out at a Christian school very much like what is described here, I did it without knowing a single prof I could turn to. And when I left that school to save my own integrity, no one asked where I’d gone. No profs or admin followed up. They simply did not ask where I’d gone.

    Furthermore, what happens to the students who do come out? Are they forced out of the school? Are they subjected to treatment that makes it better to just leave? Do they suffer for coming out in that place while the prof gets to keep the job?

    I have to say, I agree with John—get a new job while you have the security of the job you have, dear writer, and when you leave maybe you could even make a public statement about why you’re leaving.

  • He didn’t write publicly. He very much wanted me to be sure to keep him anonymous–which of course I have.

  • Ok, so I needed a few thought experiements to see how I felt about this one. Let me share.

    I’m being held hostage with a gun to my head being told I have to say that gay relationships are morally illegitimate or I’ll be shot. (Extreme, I know, but there are some principles shared in common with the real-life letter – it’s a thought exercise, not a direct comparison.) I don’t know I’ll be safe if I say it, but I’m reasonably sure I will actually be shot if I don’t. My captor isn’t bluffing. Do I do it?

    My first instinct was: Umm, duh. Of course I do. And the reason isn’t just that I have everything to gain (my very life, in this instance) but that my statement under this kind of duress is absolutely meaningless. I will puppet the words to live, but they are, evidently to anyone who knows the situation, completely devoid of substance. I can admire someone who would refuse, even to death, to say such a thing, but practically speaking, I probably wouldn’t be that person. Similarly, I would fully support anyone else who said that. I wouldn’t like it, but I’d be glad they were alive and the betrayal would be by their captors, not them.

    Now, I picture that when I say this, I know my voice will be recorded and it will be played for a gay teen on the verge of suicide. (Let’s assume this person will recognize my voice and the fact that it is ME saying it, as opposed to anyone else, actually makes a difference in this case.) Now, I hesitate. While there is a risk to me, there is an equally grave risk to someone else. Suddenly, I can’t. Suddenly, my statement DOES have an impact, it IS meaningful to someone. I WOULD be betraying that kid.

    So, clearly, I weighted the actual words lightly but their potential impact fairly heavily. The ultimate outcome of me speaking those words matters (at least to me, apparently). I don’t know how public those signed statements are, or how much they might affect someone’s view, or how likely it would be believed by people who know the letter writer, but there certainly seems a risk that someone will be hurt by the signing of this statement. Someone more vulnerable that the letter writer himself.

    Now I picture that I just compared my employer to a captor with a gun to my head, because my employer actually is threatening to fire me if I refuse to hold certain personal beliefs (the fact that I don’t hold them almost seems irrelevant – my employer is saying I don’t have freedom of conscience). I realize that I’m probably getting off easy if my aductor only requires me to parrot a phrase to save my life – for a career, I feel I can do better. Maybe this isn’t a situation I want to voluntarily put myself in. I find a new job, for me.

  • Grant

    By publicly, I meant by being cool with you posting to your blog as The Guy Who Wrote….not as in “Hi there, my name is … and I want you to share my name with the world”. 🙂

  • Adam

    “…if I publicly advocated for institutional change (or didn’t sign the statement) my job would be in jeopardy.”

    So how about you take that risk? Maybe by the end of it you’ll need to find a job elsewhere. But maybe not — maybe by the end of it you’ll have changed your school for the better!

  • Matt M

    I’m no longer a pastor, with a large part due to my stand for LGTB people. I minister as a counselor and artist now. It’s not enough to be “the quiet ally” after awhile. And I won’t compromise with any of the “progressive rhetoric” that says we ‘can love and accept’ but still see it as a sin.

    John’s words are tough, but right. It’s no sin to be gay, and we have to reach that point if we will ever be of any real help to our LGTB friends. You can’t square that circle and keep your dignity intact.

    For the letter writer: I’m confident you will find another job and finally be at peace.

  • Barbara Rice

    My mother worked at the draft board (selective service) during the Vietnam War, which she was strongly opposed to. But it was a good-paying job at a time and in a town where decent jobs for women were thin on the ground. My father was alcoholic and could not be depended on to keep a steady job. There was two kids at home.

    My mother didn’t see leaving as an option. She needed to provide for her family and that was the way she felt she could do it best. She hated Nixon, hated all the American involvement in an unwinnable war – but still, the reality in her life was that she needed to be the provider.

    I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

  • Child of God

    Dear Teacher,

    Everyone has an opinion but you need to do what is right for you. Signing the statement does make you less than honest but what is your motivation? It is not our job to judge you. Have you spoken with your Father regarding this?

    I am lesbian and have friends who are in similar circumstances as you find yourself. They have asked me if they were being disloyal or untrue to me. I say “No” because I mean it. Still their hearts are troubled. My heart goes out to them as it does to you. Not everything is black or white. Your counsel needs to come from your Father. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied by anyone. . . not the people on this thread, not the college, and especially not yourself. Attitudes are changing and perhaps you are right where you need to be to help usher in a change in school policy. Perhaps it is time to move on. Who knows but God what His plans are? So you need to ask Him.

  • Justin

    This sounds like a professor at the school I went to. I’m sure many people who went to conservative Christian colleges can say that.

    People like this gentleman were incredibly rare to come by at the school I went to and the community and state that I lived in. These few people of support and those conversations during office hours meant the world to me and kept me afloat throughout my time at said school.

    It is a tough call and ultimately only one that he can make. Pray. See if you can work for change. Be a support to your students and friends regardless of you being a professor at the school or not. If you do leave, press for change afterward, share your story, and give them hell (in love, of course).

  • Drew

    Your graciousness is very moving.

  • Amy

    Dear Letter Writer,

    NPR’s Planet Money podcast #363 “Why People Do Bad Things” is actually really pertinent here (http://www.npr.org/2012/05/01/151764534/psychology-of-fraud-why-good-people-do-bad-things). In the middle of the episode, they talk about car emissions testers, and how they often pass a failing vehicle in order to help out a broke mom with two kids and a shitty car and no money for repairs. It’s fraud, and it’s bad for the environment, but it’s helpful for that one woman in that one particular instance. The point they make in the story is that our brains just aren’t equipped to make the kinds of calculations that can appropriately balance the concepts of abstract honesty, stewardship of the natural environment, and helping the person who is right in front of you. We just don’t know what is the *right* decision to make in that instance; there are too many moving parts, too many complicated factors with competing interests to consider. I think your situation is the same. Yes, it is wrong to lie on that stupid form they make you sign. You know what else is wrong? Walking away from a place where you know you can be a light in the darkness. An unbending commitment to total honesty in every respect is admirable, in theory, but unrealistic – and UNHELPFUL – in reality. Life is simply too complicated for that.

    I’ve wrestled with this same issue for a long time. What I’ve come to realize is that there’s almost never a clearly correct answer. There’s usually just a selection somewhere on the continuum from “really fucking terrible” to “could be worse” to “pretty good” and occasionally an “awesome.” What I do in these situations is take stock of the options and their consequences, then make the choice that I feel the least awful about. Or, to state it more optimistically, the choice that I feel the most peace about. For you that might mean staying. But that will probably mean actively working in some way, albeit underground, for the LGBT students and faculty at your school in order to balance the karmic grossness of having to sign that stupid pledge.

    Just my $0.02. Good luck.

  • Matt

    “am I perpetuating injustice in the name of Christ by continuing to work for a Christian institution that requires its employees to do this as a condition of employment?”

    You’re the one who said it. Switch the first two words around and I think you’re correct.

  • Matt M

    I’m sure he’s praying about it and knows to ask God about it. But he’s also asked for advice from other believers, because he feels ambiguous enough about it. As an ex-pastor, I’ve been in a similar position as him as well. Reading the comments here, I don’t see anyone who is bullying him. He wants other people’s ideas, and its okay to give him your yays or nays. Though it’s obvious you mean well, “Pray about it” comes off as dismissive…at least it always has to me.

    That said, I can really see the sincerity and support for this teacher. That speaks to the kind and thoughtful person that you are.

  • Dear College Professor,

    I found myself two years ago being wrongfully terminated from a private high school. I had taught at the school for over 8 years. I was respected and popular teacher. I was welcoming and affirming of my students, and within my classroom I was able to have a space and place where students were able to express who they were in the present and who they wanted to be in the future. However, after 8 years teaching at the school (I will make a long story very short.) I was escorted off of the property like a criminal in the middle of the school day in May of 2010. Leaving out a lot of details, my family and I were not treated in a respectful, loving, or gracious manner in any way shape, or, form by the staff, administration, or families of the school. Moreover, when it was inquired for what specific reason any of this occurred the school and/or administration either created frivolous reasons for the decision to terminate me, or when confronted by me (and later EDD because I had to fight for my unemployment) to give some concrete substantiation for my termination the school was not able to do so. I know one of the main reasons was that I was welcoming and affirming of individuals, and I tried to truly love others in an unconditional manner. Instead of dialoguing about these things the school wanted a devil to shoot at to say that they made a moral stand.

    Throughout the years I have had multiple opportunities to have continued relationships with former students, and I cannot count how many are affirming of LGBTQ individuals or are gay themselves. Time and time again, students say I was probably the only reason they made it through high school. Now, that may be true in some manner, but whether it was my choice or not I was going to leave that school in the near future. The LGBTQ community was being attacked within the walls of that institution on a consistent basis, whether it was in chapels, classes, or in staff meetings. Instead of loving people in an unconditional manner, that was where the school had decided to make a boundary in regards to love and grace. There love would have a condition. I tried to just teach my classes (I taught Literature classes to 11th and 12th graders.), but the answer to how an individual felt in regards to LGBTQ individuals became more important than any other element of pedagogy or teaching methodology.

    I could go on further, and if you want to contact me please do so. However, let me end with a couple lessons I did not necessarily learn from for the first time, but they were things I had affirmed as a result of these circumstances. First of all, there is a cost and then there is a cost. Yes, there is an economic cost to the school choosing to have a teacher employed. But, on the other hand there is a cost to being part of that school. Yes, there are lessons to teach, papers to grade, etc. that may cost a teacher time, relationships, and even health. And, the school is willing to pay a salary to a teacher for those things. But, if you are so morally vexed is it worth the cost? Personally, I have not had a full-time teaching gig since 2010, but I am much more happier than I was during that time. Not only happier but healthier. Secondly, all of us will have at least one moment where we have to say, “All right then, I’ll go to Hell.” When Huck utter those words in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he is willing to do what is right despite what society, culture, and others said at the present time. In essence, that is what I said at that time, and time and time again I say it in my life when I embrace someone, affirm someone, and love someone that others choose not to love. “It was in love that I was created, and in love is how I hope I die.” (Paolo Nutini) “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18)

  • Ellen

    You might like to read Shusaku Endo’s book “Silence,” which centers around a similar moral dilemma – the priest must choose whether he will appear to denounce Christ in order to save the Christian converts from horrible deaths. When we’ve grown up with an absolutist moral compass where everything is black or white, it’s hard figure out how to handle these tradeoffs. I think if you stay, you have to be absolutely clear with yourself on WHY. Are you staying because you are able to do great good, even while sacrificing your honor? Or are you staying because you’re comfortable? There are plenty of denominations and schools that won’t require you to trade off your conscience for your job. Perhaps you’d even be able to have a greater ministry at a secular school.

  • Scott Jensen

    Who cares if you know it’s wrong for you. I’m not judging you. As a GLBT person I would hope that someone in your position will see that having you there is better than not having you there. Move on with the guilt. You are in the right place at the right time. I took an oath when I joined my church that wasn’t perfect for my understanding of God’s love. But, I choose to live and work within the confines of that church. Your decision to stay and be of service to as many people as possible may be the only way your institution will change in time. May you be filled with Grace and reconciliation!

  • Warren Adams-Ockrassa via Facebook


    (Oh. Was that a spoiler? 😉

  • Scott Jensen

    Ask yourself, if you had a GLBT student who came to you and you offered hope. And that one student went on to live a more healthy life. Isn’t that worth it?

    And what if there was no one a student could turn toward? And that student felt no other option but to end his/her life.

    Having you there could be an issue of life or death to someone. We don’t always know powerful a wake we leave in our path.

  • Richard

    What has helped me across my 60 years is a quote on the wall of a Science Lab where I was an 18 yr old student. ‘To thine own self be true and thou cans’t not then be false to any man.’ Following this has preserved my core of integrity, which I suppose will be the most important thing I take with me when I die. If you had remained asleep to this moral dilemma you could safely remain in this refuge of academia, but you have awakened. So save yourself and leave this place which is killing your soul. I have always found a path through the most difficult terrain, even into my land of Mordor.

  • mike moore

    Feeling schizophrenic.

    I completely agree with John.

    And I believe you should continue to work at that school.

    Be a spy. A rogue. A saboteur. A member of the underground. Also, be a person who will, when/if it comes to it, stand up publicly for the LGBT community.

    While coming to grips with being gay, I sought counseling at my school, Westmont. While in a counseling session, I spoke of having sex with a guy. The asst dean of students asked, “what are we going to do about this? I really should expel you for this.” This was two months before graduation.

    So I cried and lied and was “forgiven,” as long as it didn’t happen again. (yeah, right … wait until the weekend, bitch.)

    I re-hash this story for two reasons:

    First, and foremost, I survived that year and came to a somewhat healthy acceptance of my sexuality only because Westmont employed a teacher who risked her job by giving me real counseling. To this day, she is a hero to me. She loved me when not many people did.

    At her retirement party 20 years later, I realized I was just one of many many many kids whose lives had been made immeasurably better by her willingness to bend the rules. Look the other way. Be human.

    I also know that, at Westmont, she spoke up for our community on numerous occasions, not as an outsider, but as a respected faculty member.

    The second reason I re-hash this tale: if anyone reading this attends a Christian institution and seeks counseling, be sure your counseling sessions are protected by patient/client privilege and cannot be used against you. I was stunned to learn, after the fact, my sessions were not confidential, as they were considered part of “academic guidance counseling,” and that the asst dean of students was ready to publicly disclose all we had discussed.

  • Allie

    The problem with John’s compromise is, what happens if you die in a car wreck tomorrow?

    I happen to believe we’re held responsible for the decisions we make, and it’s rare that one is so clear-cut. No, you can’t pledge to a lie. That’s bad. I realize it’s considered old-fashioned to believe that you have a soul and what you do with it matters, but you’re at a religious college, so you don’t even have the excuse of saying you didn’t know better.

    If every person who was compromising his morals to remain at such a college left, would those colleges still exist, or would they vanish into the night as they ought to?

  • I agree with you on most issues, John, but on this one, I disagree.

    The question is really whether the professor should come out of the closet as an ally in his college. Like all questions regarding coming out of the closet, the answer depends on the individual and can be answered only personally. No one else has all the information needed to answer it for him or her. It is the same reason I oppose anyone outting public figures, no matter how odious their hypocritical acts. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    In this case, you are right that signing the contract is putting himself at risk, in being false to his own authentic self, not to mention any legal obligations in the future. Furthermore, you mention that he may not be able to help lgbt students when he wants to. In this case, I think it again depends on the circumstance. If it is helping students without official knowledge, he maybe breaking rules, but he is doing what is right at the price of that damn contract.

    I think the time is coming when the foundation will be shifted from these organizations, like Boy Scouts, that keep their out-dated ant-gay stance. They will lose enrollment sooner or later and have to adapt. It’s a good idea for him to seek other employment in any case. Meanwhile, whether he wants to sign the contract again and again, and hold on to tenure gingerly as you said, hoping the bear does not wake up.

    My suggestion is to sign it one last time, get the tenure, and start looking elsewhere. You’d want to control your exit rather than have control taken from you.

  • Carol VanderNat

    I”ve been married for 11 years to a man I really love. This same man recently told me that he doesn’t believe that God creates gay people, that it’s a choice and a sin that needs to be forgiven. I had the choice then, as a bisexual person, to keep quiet and keep my marriage as it was or to come out and risk everything. I had some very fine people advising me NOT to tell him…why would I take the risk? I have come out, and quite likely my marraige won’t survive the impact of that. Speaking only for myself, my future is now very uncertain, emotionally, economically and comfort wise. However, I can face whatever the future brings as a whole, honest, authentically ME person, eyes wide open, unashamed and unafraid. Will it be easy? Hell, no. Am I sorry I did it? HELL, no….for me, there was no other choice. I’m guessing that the writer already knows what he should/wants to do…now he just has to do it….stay, go, quit, do nothing…no one else can make that decision for him. I will pray for you that you will find in your decision, whatever it is, the same peace that I have found in mine, even in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty.

  • Richard

    Scott I don’t think our questioner is at the place where he is ready to be a resistance fighter from inside the institution. Not yet a wrathful warrior who dismisses signing the bullshit pledge as an assault on his integrity, but sees it more as his ticket into the arena.

    Signing the pledge stresses him, to the point that he is poisoned. Best that he get out and continue growing into a warrior, than to be martyred before his time.

    Sorry if this sounds too grand but this guys not ready. When he grows a pair and is ready to say FU to the inquisition, when fear is gone, then he will be ready.

  • Andrew: Not sure where/how you disagree with me. You’re advice is exactly mine.

  • Oh, I guess I didn’t understand your response. I thought you suggested that he not sign anymore contracts. 🙂 Yes, I can see we don’t disagree. Whew, nice to know the resonance is still there. Thanks for sharing you interesting fan mail.

  • I wouldn’t sign on with any policy I disagreed with, but then I get fired a lot.

  • By the way, I forgot to mention earlier, signing the contract is NOT betraying LGBT, it is betraying the anti-gay tyranny, like playing a double-agent in Nazi Germany, waiting for the opportunity to save lives. It’s dangerous and stressful, but the lives saved outweighs any superficial appearances, except to the soul of the double-agent. Any false-pretenses must weigh heavily from day to day. All the more reason to find your own exit for friendlier territory when you can. Like coming out in a small town in rural America…it’s not a decision to be taken lightly, until you have a safe passage to the land over the rainbow.

  • Jonathan

    A little late to the party but,

    In contrast to most of the responses above, I really don’t think that signing something is such a big deal. Sign it “fingers-crossed” if it makes you feel better.

    What is a big deal is acting on what the document says. If you seriously want to be an advocate and friend of LGBT youth, do it! If you’re out there doing God’s work, who cares about some silly scribble on a piece of paper. If you leave a place where you can make a difference, because nobody else is willing to, then it is WRONG to leave.

    Stay, do good work, and if they ask you to leave it’s on them.

  • mike moore

    You’re a brave soul, I believe the best is yet to come, for you. Have a blast in your new life!

  • Your husband would leave you because you have the *capacity* to be attracted to women, even though, as someone happily married, you have and haven’t since you’ve been with him any intention or maybe even desire to do anything about it?? That sounds like far more than a difference of opinion.

    I, personally, would not want to be married to someone who would want to leave me over some fundamental aspect of who I am, even if that person didn’t agree it was part of who I was.

    Atthe same time, I feel very, very sorry that this is happening to you. It’s just terrible. My deep sympathies.

  • Ellie

    I hear your conflicted frustration professor. I don’t usually weigh in on these kind of website comment areas…usually any given situation (that involves real people at least) is much more nuanced and complex than this small space gives to address. However, as a lesbian who used to work at a Christian University before coming out, I can tell you that there is no right answer to this question. John is right of course in his assessment that signing the document is wrong. But he’s also right in asking whether the wrong is outweighed by any good/right that you do for the LGBTQ population at your school. Having an ally to talk to as a struggling queer student at a Christian school is HUGE! We need you there… But then again, you have to look yourself in the mirror. And at some point, you WILL have to stand up. Tenure or no tenure. The question is “Is that day today?”

    My imperfect analogy: if you were a member of a wonderful country club in the 50’s that didn’t allow black members, would it be okay for you to continue there? Maybe is a great, safe, wonderful place for your kids. And maybe the other people who work there are wonderful, well-meaning people. We would look back on that situation today and say that all of those members and employees were complicit in a huge injustice. It’s just not okay.

    So bottom line, you have to listen to the still, small voice of God in your head…and follow that voice no matter the cost. Isn’t that what we Christians signed up for when we said we would follow Him? For me, that cost was coming out and losing my role in my denomination as a pastor. But was I following Jesus? You bet I was. That’s enough for me.

    oh, and PS…if you do decide to move on. I wouldn’t quit. I would make them fire you. Tell them you won’t sign that one part, but you’ll sign all the other stuff if you want, but make them take ownership of their own policies. You clearly don’t want to quit, you love the school. You just conscientiously & theologically object to this one policy. If your sense of integrity does not allow you to sign it…then make them fire you for that.

    But that’s just my two cents as I give advice about a life that is not my own. Peace be with you my conflicted friend…

  • Lymis

    Dear John,

    This letter has me standing next to my personal rock collection in the spacious glass-walled annex to my metaphorical house.

    I had a 10 year Navy career, prior to even the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” days. So I signed the forms which asked whether I had any homosexual tendencies, and marked “No,” and then lived my life even more firmly in the closet than before. Now, I also didn’t have sex or a meaningful relationship until I had resigned from the Navy, so a real legal case could be made that I didn’t break my word, but when it gets framed as “betraying myself” the answer isn’t anywhere near as clear.

    I love that your answer to the writer is so clear and principled. I love that you encourage the writer to shop for a job where they can have more integrity. I am not prepared to say you are in any way wrong – and I’ve also known most of my life that our allies can take stronger stands sometimes than we can ourselves.

    So, sort of like the ambivalence and nuance I have to grant myself for the decisions of my own life, I can agree that you have given the letter writer the morally right and morally clear answer. But when I look at it in terms of whether the letter writer is “betraying me” I can’t take that stand. I don’t dare throw those rocks, because I made a different decision for myself.

    I’d have to say that this is the sort of thing where logic is important, and principle is critical, but in the final analysis for me, I would have to say that it is a time for a radical surrender to the Holy Spirit. Listen to the call. If your heart and and soul are calling you to leave, but your head is saying it is safer to stay, then leave, or prepare to leave. But if your head is saying that you need to leave to honor your principles, but your heart and soul are telling you that you have a role yet to play there, it may be the right answer to stay. And, as John said, that wind will blow through. You may be a quiet resistance cell in the heart of that intolerance. You may save the life of a student who wouldn’t have another ear – even while they are being expelled, at least they may not kill themselves. You may be a visible martyr in the name of tolerance if you are put in a position where you cannot straddle the line, and God may be in need of that sort of visible intolerance to change hearts and minds. But God may also need you to clearly state why you are choosing to leave, and that may serve as His prophetic voice.

    Being a light in the darkness sometimes means staying where the forces of darkness have the upper hand.

  • Nathan

    Professor X,

    Have you ever read Eric Metaxas’s book “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, martyr, prophet, spy”?

    Eric has some views on homosexuality that you (and others) on this site would find disturbing. But that’s beside the point. His biography of Bonhoeffer is AMAZING. I think you’ll find some amazing parallels to the struggles that you are facing. Bonhoeffer had to decide whether to compromise his morals and stick with the state-German church or to strike out on his own. (he struck out on his own and began the “Confessing Church” in Germany) But then, later in the war, he actually made complete change in strategy. He joined the government security forces and worked covertly against the Nazis.

    In both of these decisions, he realized that there are often ethical choices where both options are “bad”. For instance, he ultimately had to engage in lies, deception, and fraud in order to fulfill his greater purpose (defeating the Nazis).

    Now, obviously the situation you face isn’t nearly so dire. (but it does sound pretty serious) But I think that reflecting on some of Bonhoeffer’s struggles would be a fantastic experience for you as you think through this issue.

    One more point: I’m really disheartened by some of the comments here about Christian colleges. I attended a somewhat “moderate” Christian liberal arts college (King College) that probably has (or did have) a similar theological position to what you discribe. It is a shame that professors aren’t allowed more intellectual and theological freedom in making these sorts of decisions for themselves. But, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. I had a fantastic educational experience there and the things I learned there have absolutely grounded my faith as I’ve faced tough times in life. And moreover, it surrounded me with Christians at just the right point in my life so that I didn’t fall away from my faith as I began encountering the serious atheism that is so prevalent in the branch of sciences that I study. I’m busy saving money up so that I can give my kids the opportunity to have a similar education from a Christian college.

  • This is a great conversation. I am grateful to see the letter and to hear what folks have to say. Much to process…

  • Ultimately we all live our Karma. As evidenced by your letter, the immediate ramifications of this self betrayal are guilt and concern that seem to stay with you year after year.

    It must be like carrying a secret. Living with that secret, day in and day out, just waiting to be found out. That is no way to live.

    At the end of the day are you truly and fully yourself in your work or does that paper prevent you from being your authentic self at work?

    I assume you are a spiritual person. If that is true, then you know that it is important as a spiritual person, to live an integrated and whole life. To live with integrity. Can you say that you have fully integrated all parts of who you are? wherever you are? at work for example? or does this keep you from wholeness?

  • MaryKaye

    I don’t think that either option is necessarily wrong.

    There is a danger if the poster stays and continues to lie that the lying will infect his life and damage his moral being, and that others will take his acquiescence for assent and be harmed by it. There is an opportunity to be an ally within the system.

    There is a danger if the poster leaves that their departure will contribute to making the private school even more hostile to QUILTBAG people. There is an opportunity to take a stand for what’s right and perhaps encourage others to do so as well.

    As a result, one person’s clearly right answer could be another person’s clearly wrong answer. The questions I’d ask the original poster to ask him/herself: Am I a person who *can* work effectively from within to subvert the system, or are the fears that keep me signing the oath also going to keep me quiet? How much support could I give a QUILTBAG student? Would they ever even realize I was an ally? How far am I willing to go in my lying, and what will happen if I am forced to that line? Who else stands to be hurt by my decision? How likely am I to be able to find another job, and what will happen to me and my family if I don’t? (Academic jobs are not thick on the ground right now.) How awful will the consequences of lying and being caught be–to me, to my students, to the school as a whole? If I am fired for being caught in this lie, will I be able to get another job?

    And then, if the decision was to stay I would make a pledge to myself about what I would do to mitigate the harm of my lying. If the decision was to go, I would make a pledge to myself about what I could do to mitigate the harm of my going. The worst thing is to become inured to the fact that you have no perfect choices and therefore not struggle to make them as good as possible.

    As a Pagan I would also do some divination around this. The Tarot is, in my experience, very effective at exposing the cover-up stories we tell ourselves. The two cover-ups I’d personally fear are “I’m staying to help students” as a cover-up for “I’m too comfortable to leave” and “I’m leaving to preserve my honor” as a cover-up for “I’m afraid to try to make things better here, so I’m running away.” A Christian might try prayer for this same purpose, or talking to a trusted spiritual friend.

  • Sandbur

    Hopefully he is not a Professor of Ethics.

  • Yes! I agree. Speak out now.

    You are in the position to be a hero, an moral activist, someone who lives the gospel. Or you could live in a beautiful cage, gilded with the haunting guilt you have already acknowledged.

    Tell you employer that you want to stay, but you will not sign the form to do that.

    Maybe they just need you to help them make the change.

    You know, please take this in the spirit of hope, not criticism, but…

    I live in State College, PA, where the whole PSU/sandusky scandal still shakes us everyday.

    There was a janitor that had the opportunity thrust upon him to risk his job to do the right thing and report the crime he witnessed, or not. He knew he’d probably be fired if he spoke against what he knew was wrong.

    I don’t blame the guy for not speaking up. Corrupt systems reward fear and punishes whistle-blowers.

    People who speak up often get slandered, abused, fired, jailed, humiliated, etc.

    I don’t blame him.

    But he might have been able to save so many more people from a truckload of pain by taking one for the team.

    I understand. Very much. Jesus loves you no matter what.

    Jesus loves you–you have NOTHING to lose, in the eternal ‘long-run.’

    Everything to gain.

  • Dear Almost-Tenured-Professor-Guy,

    I have experienced your tension. I share in your angst.

    Many similarities exist between your current story, and the one I lived through just nine months ago.

    I offer Two thoughts:

    1) One thing that helped comfort and guide me was to identify with Naaman in 2 Kings 5. In that story Naaman, after being healed of leprosy by Elisha, essentially asked Elisha for grace from God because he knew that he must return to his master and continue worshiping a foreign god in a foreign temple. Though he had a crisis of faith moment, where upon he came to KNOW that the One True God was the God of Israel, he also knew that should he return home and maintain this conviction publicly that he would certainly be killed. He had a job to return to, and he didn’t know what to do with his new found conviction. So, he said to Elisha: “But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also–when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.”

    And what is Elisha’s response?

    It is NOT to say, “c’mon Naaman. You need to be a man of integrity. You have now seen the truth, and the truth will set you free. Go home, declare your new found sense of faith and conviction, and let the chips fall where they may. Do not lie about your convictions.”

    No, he says: “Go in Peace.”


    Naaman seems to have been given a blessing to go back to his homeland, continue to help his master to worship foreign gods, and also not be forthcoming with the truth that the God of Israel is the One True God.

    In my situation, I believed that there existed a season of life wherein I was given a blessing from God to keep tucked away some of my convictions. For the sake of unity, I chose to keep certain beliefs (not least of which was my conviction on LGBT issues) locked away, and focus on the things that we as a staff all held in common. It did not feel good all the time, but for what it’s worth, the story in 2 Kings 5 resonated with me.

    That being said…

    2) When I was finally “found out,” if you will, (or, as John so eloquently put it: once the bear woke up!), I did indeed get fired. And I had zero control over those chain of events. I stood firm in my conviction, stood up for what I believed in, did not lie when asked, and it resulted in my termination. It was a scary, painful, dark time in my and my family’s life.

    BUT, I was finally out of the theological closet. And it was incredibly freeing. Though the material world all around me was crumbling fast, my interior self was finally finding harmony. Reconciliation.

    No longer did I have to “pretend,” if you will.

    No longer did I have to fear the sleeping bear.

    Part of me wishes I would have initiated the whole thing myself. Came out to my staff/boss on my own terms. Perhaps even resigned because I could no longer work at a place that was at such odds on this (and other) issues.

    But, perhaps God knew that my comfort in job security and identity, and fear of not being able to feed my children, would forever paralyze me. Would cause me to “identify with Naaman” for waaaaaay longer than I was given “divine blessing” to.

    Maybe the Spirit prodded that bear for me. I don’t know.

    But when it awoke, it was scary as hell.

    I will not be so forward as to offer any advice, for I don’t know you well enough or your story. But if either of my 2 thoughts from my own story helped, then so be it.

    And if you’re curious about more of my story, and/or have any follow up questions, I am open to all.

    Be well.

    Live well.

  • Chad Messer

    There with come a time when all Christians of conscience will have to stand up and PROVE that they are Christians of conscience. It has been so since Peter denied Christ up until now. I think John’s response is pretty good. Do the right thing, but find a place to land so that you can continue to do your good work. Because now that your conscience is telling you that the pledge is wrong, every new time you sign it from here on out will be just like Peter saying “I do not know Him”.

  • Jill

    Nate’s point is very valid, and I tend toward his viewpoint myself. I like a little subterfuge for a greater good…

    However, I’m not living the tension of this professor’s life.

    My boiled-down take on this is: can you look yourself in the mirror without feeling that you are playing yourself false? All opinions outside yourself may help give voice to what you already know is your answer, but it has to be YOUR answer.

    Good luck to you. I pray there’s a way for you to provide alternate options to educate your scholarly community about the staunch, one-sided, and outmoded view on this subject before the next document demands a signature.

  • Take away point: look at this not as a problem, but as an opportunity to obey God’s voice in you, whatever He’s saying.

  • Angie

    This is a *phenomenal* response–thank you so much for this.

  • Hth

    I’m really struggling with all the answers that boil down to “But you can make a difference in the lives of gay students at your college!” I get the kindness behind it; I appreciate it. But the longer I think on this one, the more it seems to me that by trying to shield LGBT students from the institutional abuses of their churches with a very human, well-intentioned “But some of us do love and support you, individually, on our own time” what you’re really doing is acclimating LGBT people to the current reality. You’re teaching them what the whole world teaches them all the time — that institutional discrimination is a simple fact of life, and that survival and flourishing means ignoring mountains of abuse from the powerful and seeking out people who are willing to be allies — individually. On their own time.

    What really empowers us is the realization, if and when it should ever come to us, that we do not have to accept the bigotry and discrimination dished out with the power of institutions behind it, and make ourselves feel a bit better because we had that one friend/teacher/boss who was a really good, loving person. What empowers us is the realization that we deserve more than that.

    To the letter-writer, I know these are tough times, and finding a different job is often easier said than done. But what you’re doing as an “inside agent,” though I love you for the effort, isn’t really being an ally to more than a handful of individual people. To be an ally for *all* LGBT people, put your time and talents into different institutions, ones that welcome us. Make a place for us in the world that doesn’t require us to seek out secret friends and allies to bandage over the epic wounds left by being at the mercy of churches and colleges that use their authority to instill self-loathing, loneliness, and despair. There are churches and colleges, of course, that don’t and won’t use their authority that way. Get out of the triage business and strengthen them instead.

  • Jeff Straka

    Two monks were on a pilgrimage. One day, they came to a deep river. At the edge of the river, a young woman sat weeping, because she was afraid to cross the river without help. She begged the two monks to help her. The younger monk turned his back. The members of their order were forbidden to touch a woman.

    But the older monk picked up the woman without a word and carried her across the river. He put her down on the far side and continued his journey. The younger monk came after him, scolding him and berating him for breaking his vows. He went on this way for a long time.

    Finally, at the end of the day the older monk turned to the younger one. “I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her all day.”

  • I thought I’d jump in here real quick and say that our friend here has given us virtually no reason to think that he is being an “inside agent,” or a “light in the darkness,” or anything of the sort. He’s not fomenting change from the inside. He’s telling us that he’s doing what 99.99% of all people always do: have serious issues with their boss and/or the company, and then shut-up about that so they don’t endanger their job. Nobody ever stands up to their boss, for the exact same reason our friend here has given for why he doesn’t stand up to his. Come the time, he might stand up, or he might not. But according to what he’s told us, if he does he’s screwed. I don’t want him getting screwed. I want him taking his time to find another good job, and then getting out before the inevitable crisis.

  • Mindy

    John, I applaud your advice. Really, you said it all beautifully. Regardless of the complexity of the situation, that guilt he’s feeling is his conscience saying NO. He should listen.

    An action isn’t sacrifice if it doesn’t hurt at least a little – and anyone who isn’t willing to make a sacrifice isn’t really an ally. I say that with love, Professor – because you already know what you have to do, or you wouldn’t have written.

  • Mindy

    I’d like to add one more thing. When you leave, Professor, leave proudly. Have your plan ready, a new job secured, etc. , and then when you leave, make sure they know WHY they are losing you. You making the choice to go and publicly say why will be far more powerful than you getting fired for cause, because even if you are standing by gay students or whatever it would be, you’d still have to admit to signing the pledge, and they’d still have the upper hand. This way, you control the story. And they will have to replace the well-respected and much-loved teacher because that teacher’s spine held him up too tall and straight to bend over the table and sign his name to a travesty.

  • Elizabeth

    Escorted off the property like a criminal and fighting for unemployment. That’s what it comes down to for many of us. Way to keep it real.

  • Try this one on for size. Why don’t you try getting the school to actually do what the bible says and not force people to swear oaths when the bible clearly teaches us not to!

    James 5:12 (NIV)

    12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.

    Any “Christian” institution that doesn’t follow this scripture isn’t really a “Christian” institution at all now is it?

  • Curt Naeve

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”

    The fact that you are asking here [and keep asking your gay friends] seems to indicate that you are looking for absolution for what you know to be wrongdoing. Only can determine how much harm you are doing your own soul and psyche by failing to fave the courage of your convictions.

  • Michael wbl

    i know this isnt christianity, but in islam its considered acceptable to lie about faith in order to continue practicing it. in otherwords you can say you are shia to avoid prosecution if you are really sunni, and vice versa, or christian instead of muslim. i would consider this to be like that. its okay to lie to protect yourself.

  • And I think you are right John. Having principles is a wonderful thing to have, but it don’t beat having the ability food on the table on the table

  • Matt

    As a lesbian, I naturally keep my relationship quiet to avoid being fired from my job, especially because it’s in healthcare. My immediate boss knows (she even knows my partner is transsexual), but the doctors I work with don’t know. I am certain I would be fired, or my life made miserable, if one of them knew.

    Although there are no papers I need to sign confirming my straightness to be a nurse, I know it’s expected of nurses to be “blank slates” for patients. We are not to draw attention to ourselves–and that means being clean, composed, cisgendered and (ideally) heterosexual. Bonus points if you know the word “cisngender”! No worries if you don’t–though YOU are cisgender, I’ll bet! ;).

    You are also privileged indeed, Professor. You have the freedom to move jobs because it simply doesn’t agree with your views. I don’t begrudge you in the least, and I’m proud of you for standing with us and worrying about us.

    Remember, privilege is just something to be seen and acknowledged. It is not bad or wrong, and like oppression, it’s all about what you do with it. It’s knowing you have an enormous amount of power over this one group, and you’d face few (if any) consequences or injury, insulting or even killing them. Yet you don’t. Again and again, you do the right thing.

    Whatever you have to sign, you are a great man in my book :).

  • kevin

    John Spong has a great line somewhere that says that sometimes “we are called to be the weeds in the garden.” But John Shore makes the point — you aren’t being a weed in the garden.

    And some of us are not called to be weeds anyway. I’m not. I won’t go to a church that doesn’t want me there any more.

    So here’s the thing: THEY DON’T WANT YOU. They don’t even like you! They really don’t. If they knew the “real” you, they would condemn you, fire you, and maybe worse. Why do you want to get tenure in a place that DOESN’T WANT YOU?

    Personally I think John Shore’s bit about your personal morality being all you’ve got is a bit high-minded for me. It’s just so much easier for me. If a church/company/friend doesn’t want me in their life, I’ll go somewhere that does. And you know what, there ARE people, there ARE places–wonderful people, wonderful places–that WANT YOU. That want the real you. Please, come find us. We want to know you. Seriously, we do. We’re thirsting to meet more people like you. Please, come find us.

    Does it mean change? Yup. Does it mean packing up and moving and finding a new job and even new friends? Yup. I know, sometimes it’s just the inertia of it all. We’re lazy people. It’s easier to stay. Except for all the days that you haven’t been able to pretend the elephant isn’t there. Then, maybe it isn’t easier to stay.

    Best wishes.

  • Michael S.

    I find myself reflecting upon the story of the martyrs and the lapsed of the early Church. There was a question if those who had denied their faith in Christ and paid the tribute to the emperor were to be allowed back “into the fold.” This question seems similar. Is this professor, by signing this statement, committing an unpardonable sin of sorts? The overwhelming majority of the leadership of the Church preferred martyrdom to lapsedness. The majority of the Church felt this was a sin that barred people from participation in the sacraments of the Church–better to risk death that betray one’s faith. But, this was not the only position that existed. Some felt that they understood this was not a betrayal of faith but a lie to protect themselves from murder. This was something that could be forgiven because the person did not abandon the faith in reality, but deceived someone who desired to do them harm should they discover the truth.

    If I were a Kantian I might say that signing this statement was absolutely wrong. You have a duty to tell the truth because a lie is always wrong. In this case, you might tell them that you refuse to sign something you do not support and that you don’t intend to do so any longer. That is your duty and the right thing to do.

    On the other hand, if I were more of a Rossian, I would say that you have to determine which of the seven _prima_facie_ duties is most stringent upon you. Is your duty of fidelity to your principles more stringent than your duty of non-maleficence. Is your duty to beneficence in which you *might* be a help to others more stringent than your duty to seek justice for them by taking a stand? These are situational questions–any one of which may be the case in your situation. (Incidentally non-maleficence usually trumps fidelity and beneficence is usually trumped by a duty to promote justice esp. since the case is that you *might* help vs. you *will* promote justice. In either case you have a duty to self improvement. The utilitarian positions have been well ex posited here so for brevity’s sake, I leave those alone.

    Thank goodness I believe in grace, because no one answer is absolutely clear to me. I can see it is not clear to others here also. How will you exemplify God’s grace in this situation? At this time, what does love of God and love of others compel you to do? How is Christ’s love made visible through you if you do sign this statement once more? Will the love of God for all people regardless of orientation be available in you as you minister in this place? Are you one of the lapsed or are you a confessor who has lived through the persecutions and is now in a place to help others? I do not know the answers for you, but I suspect you do at some level where you are completely honest with yourself.

    I concur with someone else here that the “give it to God” motif is a cop out. Our convictions and our ability to reason are gifts from God as well as the ability to pray. Pray by all means, but listen instead of talking, (wonderful advice from Mother Theresa), that way you will not be tempted to speak until you feel righteous. (I am not pointing fingers. We all do this.)

    Returning from my excursus. . .(ahem). . .I believe in grace and I am thankful for it because no matter what you do, something negative may come of it. You might even make the wrong decision. . .but grace is always available. You will not be condemned eternally because you made a choice.

    Thus concludeth the sermon. . .may the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you. (I think you know they are.) Blessings.

  • Kristyn

    Sometimes, by leaving you spark a fire that burns on well after you are gone. This LGBT student left, but he started a fire storm that began Inclusive Alumni of Messiah College:http://www.fox43.com/news/wpmt-openly-gay-student-admits-to-harassment-at-messiah-college-20110509,0,6801449.story

  • I don’t even need to read what he wrote – yes, is the answer to his question.

  • Diana A.

    I used to stand up to my boss. It was for myself, not for anyone else, but I did stand up to him. It’s why I eventually lost my job with that company. And I have no regrets about standing up for myself and I would do the same thing again. Of course, if I’d had more confidence/self-esteem, I would have quietly sought out a new job and then quit that old one instead of waiting to get fired. I’d like to believe that I’ve changed in that regard–perhaps incrementally.

  • Diana A.

    Beautiful. Nothing better than perspective from one who’s been there.

  • Diana A.

    Cheap shot.

  • I really can’t give you direction, but I know one thing. When I am doing something that causes me that much pain, so much that I turn to others for their opinion, affirmation or absolution then the truth is, I already have my answer.

    Don’t be afraid. Read these comments, absorb them, pray and let the Lord lead you. He loves you and will never leave you hanging. You have the answer and the solution is more beautiful than you can imagine, because that’s how our God works.

  • Great response!

  • Right. I didn’t laugh either. Of course not. Banish the thought.

  • Tim

    I am also late to this one. But I think I have something to offer.

    I am a young man who at one point wanted to be in full time ministry. Along with all the other personal tidbits I have posted on this blog, I guess it is not shocking. However, when I was 18, 19, 20 and seriously considering it, there was no major home for me amongst the denominations as a gay man. There still really isn’t. You see, I refuse to go somewhere where I’m not wanted, I refuse to lie about something so central to myself, and I also refuse to lie about my theology, which is markedly more evangelical and conservative and downright Protestant than would fit in a UCC or Metropolitan Community or Episcopal church. Even the ELCA church I attend now doesn’t fit my theological scruples.

    Thing is, i’m not wanted elsewhere. There are no liberal-evangelical denominations. I can’t get my tongues-speaking, live-band-playing, practical gospel with a quarterly baptism service with Hallelujah’s ringing out with any sense of regularity. This means one of three things. Either A) I have to lie about being gay, B) I have to lie about being Evangelical/Pentecostal or C) I have to opt out. As time goes by, I’m not sure that C was the right choice at all, and yet God is making it work.

    I guess my moral calculus would be more deep than the one John proposes. Per se you could teach at a more liberal christian or a state school, what would you be signing away? If you agree with everything in that contract except one clause, I’d probably bite my bullet, stay, and maybe work saying “you know, we do need to be more open to faculty who disagree with us here, on this point”.

    I leave with a point that I made in my final thing I did on theology/Christian ethics in my BA program in Philosophy. I wrote a paper for an independent study saying essentially, in 25 pages of detail: “The Christian ethic is to be like Christ. Christ lays out certain attitudes and expectations, Paul and the Prophets lay out certain virtues and instincts that are like Christ. The Law lays out certain actions that are like Christ. The imitation of Christ is superior to (and includes) the attitudes, the attitudes are superior to and include the virtues, the virtues are superior to and include the laws, the laws are weak and powerless to save.” So, weigh your virtues. Get of the Law based “should I or shouldn’t I?” question and as far up that chain as you can. What kind of person are you to be? What attitudes are you to have? How do you love like Christ? Act on that.

  • DR


    Why gain the whole world when you lose your soul in the process?

  • DR

    I laughed!

  • DR

    You’re so lovely.

  • DR

    It would be easy for me to say things like “count the cost” but counting the cost means we lose stuff that’s precious to us. None of us do that well if at all and we constantly live in the tension of knowing that. It would be easy for me to yell at you (I kind of want to) but I ‘m not great at counting the cost at anything so I’d be a hypocrite.

    The heart of the stubborn will never find rest. This is a tough gig where lines get drawn severely in a world where a lot of this stuff is complicated. Do what you have to do but the one thing I’d ask is STOP putting your gay friends in the position of absolving you. If you sign the paper, sign the paper fully aware of and acknowledging your intention: “I have a family that I have to take care of and this job is the easiest way for me to do that so I can stay comfortable, etc.” whatever it is. Own your decision, you’re choosing a kind of passive helplessness by asking your gay friends to make a decision for you and that sucks, it’s a cowardly move. Make a decision, know exactly why you’re making it and if it is out of self-preservation? Say that. You’re trying to maintain the approval of your gay friends while still being employed. You may not get both. Figure out what you’re willing to lose.

  • jack

    I have 10 months left. It’s really scary to think about starting a whole new life after all these years. But I know it’s something I have to do. Thanks in part to John, I realize that now. I’m horrified, and feel that I’m jumping off the edge of the world. My life, as I know it now, will cease to exist. My ‘friends’, will never understand and I’ll be left to fend for myself for a while. But I know that I’ll survive, somehow. RIGHT?! AND SO WILL YOU!! Maybe we can start a support group!? 🙂 Good luck! [This is not the original letter writer — John]

  • David S

    This exactly. Including homosexuality in the pledge is not OK. Signing it is giving active approval to continued, institutionalized abuse of people who are gay.

    The choice to quit one’s job is more complicated (of course). Our relationships with the world around us are usually built on myriad perspectives and passions. No relationship to a person or institution is “single issue”. The letter writer needs to clarify how important the gay issue is to him. But he can’t pretend that the school’s policy is harmless. It harms all students – gay and straight. I agree with John that deliberatly exiting the university is not the same as foregoing one’s ability to earn a living.

  • Elizabeth

    Hi, Professor Guy,

    My dad was a journalism professor. He probably went too far the other way. He didn’t know when to pick his battles. He fought them all. As a result, he didn’t get tenure for twenty years. He was never out of work, though. He had the courage of his convictions, and he moved around every few years. The sunny beaches of Florida, the rolling mountains of Virginia, the political activism of Bulgaria right after the Berlin Wall came down, the honky-tonks of Texas, and semesters in Tuscany and Serbia. He says he made an impact in every one. I know he enjoyed himself.

    We disagree on many things, but he’s always supported me in my own employment travails as a creative in the corporate world. That support means more because he personally fought for what was right. Please consider what your example teaches your students and colleagues. If you have children, consider what you’re teaching them. Just my two cents.

  • mike moore

    totally laughed.

  • mike moore

    thanks John, all my visions of professorial tweed and elbow patches, camouflage, and black face paint … now up in smoke. buzzkill.

  • Jill

    Colby, thank you for sharing this. It helped me more than you know. Even though it wasn’t meant just for me. 🙂

  • Elizabeth

    Thirded. Motion carried.

  • Jill

    Exquisite reply, Lymis. I love reading you.

  • Back when I was a part of institutional religion, I “co-pastored” with a man I consider to be a generally honorable Christian. Yet, he was willing to sign a document containing statements he totally disagreed with in order to “hook-up” with an established denomination. Knowing and working with this man for years, I was somewhat blown away by that. But that’s what religion does. It teaches you to calculate morality. You learn all the “legal” loopholes in your belief system (See my article “Smoking, Sex, and Dung” http://lifewalkblog.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/smoking-sex-and-dung-a-look-at-grace/ ).
    I do like, John, that you didn’t say “Get out NOW, or you’re a scum-bag.” Issues dealing with our livelihood are easy for someone ELSE to decide. But I do agree he should commit to getting out within a certain time frame.
    Good article. Thanks for sharing!

  • Rick

    As a student at a Christian college, we all signed pledges that we wouldn’t attend movies, but a critical mass of us were going to the movies all the time. I even worked as a movie usher while covered by the I-won’t-see-movies pledge.

    Not exactly the same thing as what the prof is facing, but there is a degree of nonsense that goes along with being part of many evangelical communities. And yet, the desire to remain a part of these communities is strong; I left the Christian college for a semester, and though I did just fine at a large public university, I wanted to get back to the first school.

    Sometimes your family is a bunch of crazed right-wingers, but you still want to spend Thanksgiving with them, and so you deal with it because there’s something bigger going on. If it’s true of families, it is also true with the churches we attend and the Bible studies we are part of.

    Hopefully the prof arrives at an answer he is comfortable with. It is more complicated than you can know. While it’s easy to say “just leave”, there are impacts to leaving.

  • Amber

    You are worried about betraying your friends as you betray your God?

  • Lymis

    You have a little smug on your chin.

    Yes, there, right next to that self-righteous pomposity.

    You might want to look into having that taken care of. It’s seriously unattractive, but relatively easily treated.

  • Amber

    I think the only smugness here is the one where someone thinks the word of God is less important than some misplaced human guilt.

  • FishFinger

    How about a third option?

    Try to find out how many of your colleagues also aren’t honest signers of the pledge or at least believe that it is unfair to demand that professors sign it. If you can find enough people like that, maybe you can persuade the management to change their policy about the pledge. Maybe you can even organize a strike – some of the students would support you. Just an idea.

  • Teresa

    I can see that you are in a very distressing place! As a student at a very liberal (on the whole, at least at the professor level) Christian university in Canada, I am incredibly lucky to be part of a community where all are welcome. However, even at my school, we are not yet speaking out against LGBTQ discrimination. We do not have any LGBTQ groups or Gay-straight alliances (probably partly because we’re a VERY small school); we do not have many conferences or talks or plays on the issue. Some professors do engage in gay-supportive research. But I can’t imagine the dilemma you face.

    I somewhat disagree with John’s simplistic statement of “what you’re doing is wrong and you know it so get out”. There are other options that you can take to maintain your integrity. Quitting is one option, and if the dilemma is bothering you profoundly, as the very fact that you are asking this question suggests to me, then perhaps quitting is the correct option. But what about becoming an agent of change? Perhaps look for work as you do this, as there is a good chance you would get fired. As a university, I’m pretty sure they can’t fire you until your contract comes up again next year, so you could do this like start a GSA on campus, put up a rainbow flag on your office, meet with administrators to express your concerns, teach your students about Biblical support for gays and how loving your neighbour includes those of non-exclusively- heterosexual orientations. You might get fired, but you might not – perhaps by the grace of God you are exactly what they need right now. And if you are not, then you will leave behind a wake which may propel change once the community is ready for it.

    Good luck. God be with you.

  • Diana A.


    Not to focus on you, but what about D) start your own church. Granted, you’d probably have to keep your day job (for income purposes) but there are some people who think that’s what Christian ministers should do anyway (pointing to Paul as an example of one who kept his “day job” as a tentmaker while preaching the gospel.)

    It’s just a thought. Probably easier said than done but I thought I’d toss it up anyway.

  • Use your head and do your best. Life is an adventure. You will survive because you have to. 🙂

  • I was going to say the same thing!

  • Gordon

    John, if I had received an e-mail like this I would have been confounded. But then I remembered something that happened to me earlier in my career. I was the Controller of a company that owned major market radio stations. We had this station in San Francisco that had a very edgy and provocative morning show. One day, one of the hosts of the show made some very disparaging comments about gay people. The gay community in San Francisco was outraged and turned their sights not only on the host, but also the corporate office. I attended a meeting with the SF Human Rights Council (yes, they actually have that in SF!) with our CEO, who at the time was probably in his mid-40’s. I was in my early 30’s and had worked very closely with him for about five years, but I had never told him I was gay. After the meeting, he was sort of traumatized. Honestly, I had never seen him shaken like that. When I sat down in his office with him and asked what was on his mind, he said he was shocked that people might actually listen to the radio, hear something derogatory about gay people and then use that as justification for violence.

    I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it…and I had most certainly never been asked to sign anything year after year…but I knew the time had come. I told him that I knew quite personally that what people are told by people they like, respect or even consider heroes can lead to some sort of legitimization of their own fears and hate. And that can lead to violence. I told him I was gay and that if our company did not draw a line in the sand right there, I would have to resign. That was the best job I have EVER had. The CEO was the founder and I was the first person he hired. We and a handful of others had built this company together. It would have broken my heart to leave it. But it was a moment of truth for me and I will never forget it. I was not fired and we started having a conversation among the senior management team about our values and just what kind of entertainment we wanted to put on our stations. We sold that company and to this day almost everyone I know who worked there said it was pretty damn special.

    The admonishment and counsel you gave to this professor was absolutely brilliant. I think the reason he wrote to you is because his conscience is at some sort of tipping point and, hopefully, your words will be just what he needed to hear. I definitely think he should be responsible and have a job in his back pocket when he does this, but it’s time for him to sit down with the leadership of his school and tell them he can’t sign that accursed form ever again. Tell them he wants to stay and it might break his heart to leave, but he feels the institution’s position on this matter is wrong and he cannot support it. He can no longer be a part of it. And let the chips fall where they may.

    Bless you for your wisdom and amazing way of expressing it. And good luck to this dear professor who’s angst is an obvious symptom of a good heart.

  • Michael S.

    “My life, as I know it now, will cease to exist. My ‘friends’, will never understand and I’ll be left to fend for myself for a while. ”

    You may be surprised at how many want to “jump” with you and did not have the courage to go first. I do not think you will lose all your friends and colleagues. Your real friends will stay; those that do not are not worth worrying over.

  • Owengirl79

    “That place is ridiculously beautiful; it looks like where the children raised in all those idyllic cottages painted by Thomas Kinkade matriculate.” This part of your response, John, makes me pretty sure I went to this college. I do not know what, if anything, professors have to sign. Perhaps all of us who give to our colleges and universities need to find out and decide whether or not to continue giving.

  • Jill

    Noticing a theme I deeply relate to, which is why are there so many of us ‘misfit toys’ out here searching out a place to belong?

    Why isn’t there a denomination that reflects the best of these ideals and principles? Why don’t more of us blogging here have a place, a community of worship and activism? Why do many of us seem to feel fragmented instead of connected?

    Perhaps I just don’t know where to look for this or haven’t been looking hard enough. Thoughts?

  • Gordon

    Elephant poop is pretty stinky.

  • Melody

    Shame on you, Amber. First of all, you can’t prove that your English translation of the Bible is the “word of God.” Second, it’s obvious you care more about what some ancient outdated text says than actually loving your neighbor. Jesus would have had some words for you.

  • Umm, what? How did not swearing an oath by some physical object come to mean not signing any contract or attesting to any position? He is being asked to put a view of his in writing. It’s a “yes” in writing. The signature only serves to identify him.

  • John, you need an “Applause Button” on here!! 🙂 🙂 I was wanting so much to stand up and applaud your original answer! (Something I tend to want to do a lot when I read your blog) I did, but my dogs were the only ones to see! :)….I needed to say that and to again say “Thank You!”…just for being there! As always a BIG FAN in Colorado!

  • Melody

    Excellent, Michael. A change like this is very tough, but it’ll be worth it in the long run. And anyone who is a true friend will stand by him, no matter what.

  • I think this reflects the shift in the debate. This wouldn’t have been a as solid a position decades ago, when discrimination was everywhere and underground support was essential. But now, things are different, and the improvement means that this kind of underground support, rather than public, uncompromising support might actually be holding things back. I’m not in the U.S., so it’s hard to judge, but it seems this tipping point has been reached. (Where I am, in Canada, we hit that point some time ago.)

  • Melody

    Um…isn’t all poop pretty stinky? 😛

  • AHHHHHH! Revenge of the QUILTBAG!!!! AHHH!!!!!

    (Ok, ok, yes, overly dramatic. I know. No harm done.)

  • I did like your actual comment, btw. Good series of questions.

  • Agreed. Our own biases exist and sometimes outside opinions are needed. It’s not like reading tea leaves – we should have an understanding of the morality of a particular decision. We need to learn not just what to think ethically but how to think ethically. Not that prayer is irrelevant, but getting a one word answer floating down from on high on a cloud seems not only unrealistic but also missing the point.

  • Dear letter writer,

    Someone just compared your situation to a guy who watches a child being molested and does nothing. If you needed a “rock bottom” moment to push you towards a decision, that might be it.

  • Tim

    Don’t think I haven’t thought of it, but to be practical, I’d have to live in a much bigger city than I am comfortable with, so another trade off. We will see where I land when I finish my PhD in 3-5 years.

  • Hmmm… if by “word of god” you mean the bible, it actually does seem rather concerned with how we treat other people, even when they are our friends. The fact that you see this person’s concern for the outcast, marginalized and persecuted as irrelevant to the bible’s message and God’s word is quite disturbing.

  • “but there is a degree of nonsense that goes along with being part of many evangelical communities…”

    I totally get the going to movies anyway bit, but the degree of complacency that goes with the (sometimes extremely harmful) “nonsense” does really bother me. Accepting it might be the right choice at times, but it should never be easy. Sometimes it feels like we are (collectively) giving in too much to the idea that that nonsense is unimportant and normal.

  • Sad, isn’t it? Doesn’t Christianity attempt to teach us the exact oppose of the loop-hole mentality?

  • Karen

    The college he speaks of sounds eerily like the one my child is attending. The thing that disturbs me is that the children going to these places are getting brainwashed into believing the same right-wing nut ideas. But the thing with us is, we can’t afford to go somewhere else, and my once open-minded and loving child is now arguing with me about what is and isn’t in the Bible.

    This professor would be in a much better position to advocate for change in an institution like this, than a child who is just trying to get an education. But I agree how tough this is.

    I pray that the best and most edifying answer will come to him.

  • The professor should remember the words of Martin Luther. “Here I stand. I can do no other.”

  • Lee Walker

    I think it’s so true that, sooner or later, whatever our core values are will be tested. If we say we believe something, there will always come a day or a situation which will test it. And then we’ll know how true our “statement of faith” is or not. For someone to hold fast to a core belief (that you really, really REALLY do believe) means at some point being willing to lay down your life (or your job, or a relationship, or church membership, or fill-in-the-blank) for it. Perhaps that’s what Jesus meant when He told us to be willing to lose our life for His sake, to lay down our lives for our friends, to take up our cross, etc. He certainly did demonstrate it.

    Your response was right on, John. I hope he will take heed and save his integrity while there’s time.

  • Lymis

    See also: Good Shepherd, Good Samaritan, Healing on the Sabbath, Sheep and Goats, and Eyes, Planks In.

    If you claim to honor the Bible and think that the Bible tells you the rules are more important than your fellow human beings, you haven’t been paying attention, and need to start over. You have it very, very wrong.

  • Don Rappe

    Amber, I can appreciate your reaction too the sarcastic tone, which was a reflection of your own, but the smugness lies in thinking you have listened more for the word of God than others have. The seriousness of this listening is the reason we should not take the Name in vain. When I listen, I hear words like _let justice flow down like a cataract and right doing rise like an artesian spring_. The gentleman writing the letter seems concerned with this question. You may wish to ask the One if you are as well.

  • Tim,

    Well as a gay Christian who “Opted Out” of regular church going back to the 80’s and still holds a strong relationship with Christ, let me just assure you it can be done. I fellowship online constantly. I share my beliefs with people online and in person on a daily basis and my relationship with God is as strong as ever. He is my rock and foundation. I haven’t “forsaken the assembling” in any noticeable way because I do fellowship online and in person, I just don’t do it in a set building with a sign out front. My praise I do publicly, my prayer and worship I do privately. I would love to find that tongue talking spirit filled liberal outlet in a building someplace, but til it exists. God has me covered.

  • Perhaps it’s because we’re spread too thinly and don’t have enough to form a local congregation?

  • Signing an oath is the same as speaking one. If you think nit picking the differences is an out you’re sadly mistaken. And don’t be fooled. He’s being asked to sign an oath.

  • Don Rappe

    The written code kills, but the spirit gives life. I suppose one person’s loophole is another person’s grace. That is why I wish to leave judgement to the Lamb that was slain who stands beside the throne. For me, it is a fearful thing to hear the thunder that comes from the throne. It makes me more careful considering my first impressions.

  • Well, of course in my heart I’m hoping that one day a denomination will start around the tenets I wrote for Unfundamentalist Christians (though, of course, that denomination would have to have a better name than the one the group decided on for that page: we simply couldn’t think of anything better).

  • Blake

    Who says we don’t need straight martyrs? Perhaps your friends are being polite or don’t wish for doors which are closed for them to be closed for you. Perhaps they value you as a friend and don’t want you to move away. But consider, have you ever had to have been there for a student as your friends suggest that it is necessary for you to be? In that case, didn’t the student just transfer away? Who wants to stay where they’re clearly not welcome? What would that kid have to give up to stay? Go back in the closet? Who would encourage a gay kid to do that at that point in their life? “Well be proud of who you are, but only in certain situations. Gee golly, I’m glad I was here to give you that terrible advice.”

    Perhaps your friends are still in the closet and not really qualified to speak about what the gay community needs right now (because we need the closet cases to be out at least as much as we need the straight allies to be out). We need straight allies. Public allies.

    The sad truth about change is that people only become motivated to challenge the status quo when they feel it could threaten them. When a gay person is dismissed or expelled under this policy at least 75% of straight people are going to say, (at best) “Well that’s a tragedy, but it doesn’t affect me because I’m not gay.” But your situation can make it hit home to straight ally X that they actually need to get off their but & do something about this policy or it might affect them in a similar way.

    If you do make a martyr out of yourself do it big. Sign the statement now but start gathering allies, get as many people, students & staff, and all go at once. A big mass exodus. March on campus. Call the press. Say loudly & in newspapers ENOUGH! I’m tired of selling my soul for the promise of job security. I DO NOT believe this.

    Think of how powerful THAT image would be to little closet-case Johnny wasting away in this unhelpful university. Perhaps seeing a well respected professor take a stand for the dignity of his fellow man would give him the courage to leave that school and come out. That is how you can help the kids there. Not by selling your soul just in case one of them needs you, hypothetically. Besides there are gay people in your town, or at least nearby & if not that then allies, and they’re not going to leave that kid out in the cold just because a professor isn’t there to help him.

    If you can’t get a bunch of people than do what John Shore suggests, but still, when you leave, make sure everyone in your pretty little town knows why. Having convictions closes doors, sure, but I’ve been there & I can provide some insight that your friends can’t or won’t: you won’t regret it.

  • Jill

    Your heart’s got some pretty good ideas…

  • Dominic Huether via Facebook

    Thank you so much, John. You went up big points in my book for this post.

  • Jill

    But yeah, the name might need some help… 😉

  • Lisa Dee via Facebook

    One of the most powerful points of the article to me was that so many of this professor’s friends said “no, you’re not betraying us” Yes; he is..but the LGBT community is so used to being marginalized we are willing to take crumbs of compassion and “learn” to live with the hypocrisy of others. Of course it still stings, but we have been taught (desensitized) to put up with it and to even believe ourselves that we aren’t worth more. THANK you John for standing up for the principle that we are.

  • Blake

    Should I read that as an invite to brainstorm? Because I did.

    Christian Church?

    Church of Christ, Submitted?

    Humble Followers of Christ the Savoir?

    Unworthy Disciples of Christ?

    Quiet Church of a Most Awesome God?

    Church of the Living Christ?

    Jesus’ Church in Grace and Humility?

    Christ’s Church of Hope & Love?

    Disciples of Saving Love?

    Disciples of a Living God?

    Church of God the Awesome?

    Church of the Magnificent Christ?

    Redeeming Community of the Most Incomprehensible?

    Gatekeepers of the Rejected Stone?

    Christ’s Covenant Church?

    Church of Christ’s Promised Love?

    Christian Followers of Christ?

    Present-day Disciples?

    Church of Christian Discipleship?

    Blessed Community of Love?

    ” ” of Christ’s Love?


    Shorist Truthseekers of the Living Christ 😉

  • Well, now you see the problem we wrestled with for months on end. Not one of your suggestions (um … except maybe your last one) in any way indicates what we actually believe.

  • Jill

    (laughing) And now you can see why I’m interested in comparative religion! I look at denominational names (I will NOT pick on any one in particular) and think, ‘what in the blazes does that mean? What are their tenets and dogma? Will I feel *at home* in their church?

    Religions in general need some better PR (on oh so many levels).

  • See? Hence the greatness of “Unfundamentalist Christians.” At least, going in, it gives you a fair inkling of where we’re coming from.

  • I took the reference to “loop-holes” above not as getting away with something (which could be viewed as grace), but as “how to justify doing what you (should) know as wrong 101”. Looper-holers (ooh, I like that term) are using the letter of the rules to ignore the intent.

  • Ugh. Those names make me want to run for the hills. Problem is, church names are usually the opposite of what the churches actually are, a bit of overcompensation, so you learn to be suspicious. Like country names. It’s the People’s Democratic Republic of [insert name here] that you don’t want to visit.

  • Maybe it’s that we wouldn’t just need different beliefs, but a whole new way of doing church. The whole way the institution *functions* does not lend itself to those of us “left out”, not just the beliefs thmselves.

  • Deana

    This school does sound suspiciously familar and I have one question: Has your denomination changed its standards and the school hasn’t? If so then it’s time to call the denomination’s education board.

    The reason I ask is that this person describes policies that were in effect at my alma mater and if they still require signatures on the Westminster standards, they are behaving in contravention to the denomination’s recently passed ammendment to its standards.

  • Kathleen

    You absolutely must stop putting your GLBTQ friends in the position of providing their “blessings.” That’s just not fair to them. If you get nothing else out of this, then at least get that.

  • Carol VanderNat

    When someone says, “does this or that offend you?” it’s really difficult to look them in the eye and say “Yes!” (Not that I’ve never done that….)

  • Carol VanderNat

    Thank you both…you have no idea what a salve on a still-open wound your words and thoughts are…..

  • Hannah Grace

    Hmm. I’m an LGBT christian. I’m genuinely not sure about this. Yes, you are doing something wrong by signing the paper. But how much can you accomplish for LGBT equality by pushing for it in your university? Can you openly teach it, but not get fired, because the paper is a formality? Can you reach out to other faculty and try to get them on your side? Or are you actually sitting in silence at your job, not doing these things, AND signing the paper?

    I’d say, either push for LGBT equality in a big way and walk the line between being fired and not, pushing as hard as you can. Or get fired and see what a big stink that makes, and use that stink to advocate. Take it to the newspapers. Take it to the community. Get interviewed on TV. Talk to all the other faculty. See if anyone will join you. Don’t just refuse to sign it and get quietly fired. Take the whole apartheid system down with you.

    My prayers will be with you. Please make the world safe for me. Maybe then I’ll be able to rejoin the Christian community without them making me feel filthy and sick, no matter how often God reassures me. I kind of long for that day.

  • DR

    If you looked using a microscope, Amber doesn’t have a trace of compassion for gay men and women. There is no decency in these people. It’s so gross.

  • Willa Grant via Facebook

    Yes- you are either a liar or a traitor *and* a wimp.

  • Al

    He already has “an answer he is comfortable with” and that’s the problem. He compromises his integrity because it’s easier than risking what might happen if he disagrees with the College’s anti-gay policy. It’s time for him (and all of us) to stand up and be counted.

  • Nate

    The queer community needs people like you to stand up for what you know is right, especially in the face of whatever brand of Christianity that college is espousing. I’m gay and Christian and find myself, all too often, taking the comfortable road and not being vocal about my convictions. Let us stand up together.

  • Jen

    I love this… Romans 14: 22,23 from The Message:

    “Cultivate your own relationship with God… You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe… other days just trying to please them – then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong. ”

    I know that sounds rather simplified, but I’ve found when my faith and walk are in alignment, it is REALLY well with my soul.

    John’s advice is sound. If your heart convicts you, your mind grants you no peace, and your stomach is in knots, maybe that is proof enough that it’s time to pray about Plan B. That is not life abundant, nor how God intended us to live.

    God will provide the answers, the guidance and the courage if it’s time for you to move on. Follow the still small voice and do not let fear of the future deter you. You are in God’s hands!

  • Jen

    PS: While the whole chapter of Romans 14 is hinged on the topic of “beliefs & food” it’s principles can be applicable to all beliefs.


  • Melody

    Willa, please. Show *some* grace. Do we hold him accountable and advise him to make the right move? Of course. But he doesn’t need need snappy insults like this. I guess you didn’t see his comment affirming John’s advice to step up and do what must be done.

  • Someone Called Me ‘Professor X.’ Nice!

    Hi. I’m the person who sent this letter to John and asked him to publish it for comment.

    Reading these comments has been extremely important and helpful to me. Thank you all for taking the time to share your opinions and thoughts. Even more than that: in many instances, gracious words of kindness, even from those who think my soul is on the auction block (chief among them John, who’s passionate about getting people who are stuck in hard places to be unstuck). It means more to me than I know how to say.

    I’ve been especially humbled reading the personal stories of those who’ve faced crises that make my privileged, conflicted conscience look like small beans by comparison. It’s these that have been most moving to me. I would really like to write something else about this, but I’m genuinely at a loss for how to express my gratitude. Thank you.

    My intention is to honor what everyone has said by carefully and seriously taking it in and considering it in good faith. I’ve asked my 3 closest friends who know me best to read this feedback with me and talk it through. We’ve begun a lengthy conversation referring to comments here in ways that I’ll be held accountable to. I’ve also used this discussion to seek the input of a few mentors from my life whose wisdom I value. Finally, I’ll be sharing this post with several colleagues at my institution whom I know are also conflicted over this issue, and I intend to begin a side conversation about moving forward into the coming academic year. All this to say that by participating here, your response has had a wider impact than maybe you expected.

    All of this may sound like just a lot of talk to some readers here, which I know can be cheap. If so, I can’t say I disagree. All I can tell you is that I’ve made commitments to real people in my life, who have a stake in both friendship and justice, to follow my thinking and talking with action.

    I think there are a lot of people in circumstances similar to mine. Thank you so much.

  • Elizabeth

    *thumbs up*

  • Auri

    I agree with the poster who said to independently poll the rest of the faculty and look for support there. But having been in the position of necessary evil, I would suggest building your army silently and overthrowing from within. Sometimes you don’t lay your cards down until you have the enemy completely surrounded. And it’s a hateful position… Some would say deceitful even. But when you deal with the willfully ignorant its sometimes best to never let then see you coming.

  • n.

    Yeah same here.

  • n.

    You do realize that our commenter avatars on this blog are (if we haven’t somehow replaced them with photos and things) images of totebag-shaped quilts.

  • n.

    I’m dying to know if you’re at my alma mater but can’t think of a good secret way to identify it.

    really wish there had been more support for… QUILTBAGS… when my generation was there… And mind-opening help for people raised homophobic like i was. Although i was in the foreign languages department which was one of the least dogmatic ones… in many cases profs weren’t even christian. And it still took decades for seeds they planted to turn the light on in my mind. Please excuse the mixed metaphor.

    Wishing you the best in your process…

  • Diana A.

    There is this!

  • Julie Duhigg via Facebook

    Amazing, reflective responses. I am honored to be witness to the concerns and issues you pose here, John.

  • Allie

    Did they teach scientific truth, or did they teach lies about natural history?

    I can’t agree that an education that denies evolution is a good education.

  • Kerry

    If you do decide to leave, you could first try and get them to change their policy. If they won’t then it’s clear to them why you are leaving. I also think it would be great if you left copies of John’s “Unfair” book with all the faculty and heads of the school as parting gifts.

    I can’t remember where I heard this (a movie perhaps) but I’ve heard it said that people already know their decision but spend a lot of time convincing themselves it is right. (something like that)

    May you find peace in your heart as you wrestle with this.

  • Hannah Grace

    This is a great comment.

    I’m inspired by your commitment, Prof. X, if you’d be willing to risk your job for LGBT people. That’s truly Christlike. It’s easy to quote the Bible, to say, “Seek first the Kingdom and all this shall be added to you.” But to actually follow through requires real guts. I’m really moved by the solidarity.

  • Diana A.

    I like this idea!

  • me too! for obvious reasons!

  • Allie

    It’s harder, but I think both worthwhile and necessary, to build families that treat us as we want to be treated, instead of continuing to attend Thanksgiving with abusive families and making excuses.

    Also, if people of faith sequester themselves, how can they let their light shine before others? In part you found the public college less satisfying because the people like you had all opted out of public college.

  • I am loathe to harshly judge on this though clearly it makes the man an apologist for morally dubious thinking. It is reminiscent of the social shift on slavery. Early on there were folks who began to feel badly about how slaves were treated in America but they did not immediately jump to the notion that these folks should be freed. Though this is morally repugnant to most of us today, the fact is that human morals evolve over time and the slave owners had real internal conflict. Their social position and their family’s financial security was tightly wrapped in the economic institution of slavery. Be careful not to judge too harshly and be damn glad none of us today is forced to view things from such a vantage. point. It is prudent to keep in mind that all our high minded beliefs were arrived at because each and every one of us stands on the shoulders of giants.

  • Gordon

    Very well said, Mr. Forest.

  • Jill

    Prof X, it seems that your heart is hinged in the right place, and I for one appreciate this interactive dialog with you. Yours is not my life’s challenge, and yet I gained a lot from this discussion as well. Thank you for being open to it.

  • Gordon

    Or any ministries or political organizations with the name “family” in them. That’s almost always code for hating on gays.

  • Gordon

    This is awesome, Professor. I think you’re embarking on path of enlightenment and growth. I know this isn’t going to be a cakewalk, but I want you to know that I truly honor your desire to be honest with yourself and your colleagues about what you believe. And since you’re a college professor, it’s no surprise that you are approaching this in a thoughtful way and reaching out for counsel and discussion. You’re the kind of straight person we so very much need to speak up for change. I hope you’ll keep John Shore posted as your experience unfolds.

  • Elizabeth

    I call bullshit. I don’t judge Professor X’s conflict, but that rationale is garbage.

  • Carl

    Sometimes doing the right thing is difficult but it’s always right!

  • Mindi

    This response brought tears to my eyes. Your plea at the end is deeply moving!

  • Mindi

    Willa, this incredibly harsh and judgmental. How is it helpful at all to just point fingers?

  • Mindi

    Professor X – there is so much here that I don’t know about. So many nuances that for me, allow this question to be filled with grey (thankfully not 50 shades…). Are you the sole breadwinner in your family? Is it even an option for you to leave this job and find employment elsewhere? Teaching jobs are not always easy to find, and while I’ve not looked in the Christian college market, I know that in the “secular” arena, they are few and far between.

    Further more, ARE you making a difference to students who need you? Change from within is usually the best strategy, so maybe you are right where you need to be.

    I was actually surprised by the different tone of responses that John had to you vs. the response to the Irish pastor in a recent post. I don’t actually see a huge difference between your two situations, and I think maybe the advice to that pastor could apply to you as well.

    I wish you luck, and appreciate from afar the deep thoughtfulness that you are showing around this question.

    Many blessings!

  • Lymis

    I’d say that even polling the rest of the faculty, formally or informally, would likely be enough for him to be fired as a violation of the agreement he’d signed. Asking people if they disagree with a policy is going to be seen as questioning the policy.

    Any administration who has that sort of rule in the first place isn’t going to be interested in nuance. And anything other than strict adherence to it will be seen as direct violation.

    And guarantee, someone would rat him out and feel perfectly righteous in doing so.

  • Tookiebird

    My heart breaks for the Christian Professor and the decision he must make. As the mother of two gay children, moral abiguity was indeed, a cross (challenge) I know all too well. Deeply faithful, personally religious, and fully participatory in church services as a representative/educator, it was not until I was (finally) forced to sign the compliance document that I had the courage to stand up…and walk away. I had convinced myself over a period of years that by being a “closet” homosexual mother I had been protecting my children–never denying them– as well as securing my ability within the church to set a good example for them and others. The issue, God bless them, was never my son or daughter making a request for me to stop straddling the fence and speak out. My children continued to love and respect me for sticking to my beliefs as much as I loved/supported their right to be individuals and take responsibility for their own actions. Literally, I had never, for whatever reason, actually been asked to sign that statement. I am certain I would have most assuredly done so, for the reasons stated above. When I respectfully declined, almost immediately I lost my beloved church fellowship, and essentially, my “place” that defined who I was religiously for most of my life. For many months I was, literally a fish out of water, as my religion was a huge part of my daily life. I was also judged harshly for the years I “deceived” my church, and was shunned by many I considered close friends. What I ultimately gained from this life altering experience was clearly a self-acceptance, self- respect and a spiritual conviction that my God didnt make “mistakes”. This is NOT false self-talk to convince myself that my decision was spiritually or “politically”correct. I am no longer ambiguous. Neither my children’s, nor my experience is/was unique, I’ve learned. God has opened up a whole new world of fellowship with devout Christians that worship responsibly, inclusively. My children’s faith has also grown, and they are now open to returning to a congregation with clear Christ-like principles. Truly, by prayerfully and whole-hearted making the decison to come “out of the closet” myself, I gained so much more than my perceived loss. My prayers are with you all as you continue to struggle with your own decision.

  • Mindy

    But, Mike – he’s not *really* lying to protect himself – not in the way you describe. He wouldn’t be persecuted. He wouldn’t be harmed. He would likely be let go. But they would likely do it by offering him good references, etc., in order to keep his firing from becoming “a story.” He’s not risking physical harm. What he is doing by signing/lying, however, is causing harm to others. Letting the university believe he will support them kicking out/disciplining/shunning a student who is LGBTQ. Contributing to an environment that tells those students they are less than, not worthy, damaged – a message that, as we have all learned, can lead to serious emotional damage and even suicide.

    Keeping a cushy job in a comfortable setting is not the same as avoiding torture or protecting your family from death.

  • Matt M

    Good for you, Professor.

    God bless your courage. I wish you well.

  • Mindy

    I know. If Lymis weren’t gay, I’d track him down and stalk him til he promised to read his own writing to me every day. Even when I was carted off to prison. He’d have to visit and read to me. Of course he’d have to swap visiting days with John Shore.

    I think I need more coffee.

  • Mindy

    Carol, you are an inspiration. I’m sorry for your pain, but am in awe of your strength of character. Hold on!

  • Mindy

    I firmly believe he has a soul. And if he dies in a car wreck tomorrow, his soul will have the comfort of knowing he started his “coming out as an ally” journey by writing to John and allowing it to be discussed.

    If everyone compromising their morals left such a college, maybe they wouldn’t still exist – and education could be education without being diluted by fear-based religion. I’m not besmirching all religion – but any religion that hides truths behind their religious texts and then calls it education is propagating fear of truth, and those institutions should be gone. GONE.

  • Diana

    May God bless you with wisdom on your journey.

  • Darlene Doskas

    Personally, I wouldn’t sign… I’d fight it… I’d stand up, and speak my truth on the subject…

    … but then, that would be why I’ve been fired from all the “cherry” jobs I’ve had

  • Mindy

    Colby, your humble, honest response was beautiful – I admire your strength greatly. And I see great parallels in your story and John’s advice – take that year to “identify with Naaman,” and then, finally, move forward into the light.

  • Oz in OK

    I realize that I’m rather late to the discussion, and all that, but I really wanted to hold off until I had my own emotions/thoughts/discernment in some kind of order before posting – plus this is my first post on this blog, which *always* leaves me feeling somewhat intimidated…

    First, in reading Professor X’s missive (‘Professor X’ – that’s awesome! I never get any cool names… ;)) one thing struck me rather immediately – I think he has a real appreciation for what it’s like to be a LGBT student at this college. I mean, the parallels are almost eerie to me. He has a ‘secret’ that could get him fired, a secret that he can freely discuss away from college grounds, but not *on* college grounds. It’s a secret that is at odds with the college’s ‘statement of ethics’ – and it’s something that strikes very deeply in his heart and spirit. Now, it’s not completely parallel as far as comparisons go – but I firmly believe that, in the background, God (or Spirit, or whoever you want to call Him) is quietly whispering ‘If you’re in this much conflict, imagine the mental and spiritual anguish a gay or lesbian student is feeling right now.’ Professor X is, to me anyway, truly ‘walking a mile’ in our shoes – and the good fruit of such an experience would take me longer to write than I have energy for… but it is A Good Thing.

    But, on the other side of the coin, is this statement that Professor X has signed – apparently every year. To a student struggling to reconcile their religious beliefs vs. their orientation, it might not matter what else the statement includes – the #1 thing on that document is the part that damns them for the very struggle they’re having. It damns them for having an orientation – something they can suppress but cannot ‘turn off’ – that is outside the ‘accepted norms’. And Professor X has signed it, giving his tacit approval to that statement, regardless of how he actually feels about the issue – which is made pretty clear to us here, but *not* so clear to that student wondering if it’s at all safe to Come Out to Professor X. To me, there’s a sort of mental calculus that goes on in our brains when we’re debating whether to Come Out to someone – will this person accept me? Will this person support me? Or, will this person turn on me? Will this person value their own ‘moral code’ over providing support and care for me? Will this person humiliate me publicly? I’m not a student at this college, but I can’t help but think that Professor X signing that document equals a big red CHECK in the ‘don’t Come Out to Professor X’ column.

    If a student knows Professor X’s stand away from college grounds, I can’t help but see the issue as becoming even more muddled. ‘He doesn’t agree with the statement concerning *me*, but he signed it anyway – does that mean he’s required to turn me over to college officials when we’re both on campus? If he’s willing to compromise his beliefs to keep a job, what will he do when push comes to shove?’ To a student already struggling with the mental gymnastics required to juggle their orientation, their religion, *and* trying to figure out who is ‘safe’ to turn to… well, I can’t help but see a student turn away from Professor X, regardless of his stand away from college, because there are simply too many unknowns in Coming Out to him. Unknowns that wouldn’t exist were it not for this statement that Professor X has signed.

    I don’t have to walk his path, so I’m very careful in offering any advice here, but any good he can do for LGBT students is going to be outweighed by that simple act of signing that document. The implications to those students is, in my opinion, huge and extremely negative. In the minds of those students, there will always be that nagging voice saying ‘You can’t trust Professor X! He signed that statement condemning you! HE SIGNED IT!’ Maybe I’m just projecting here, but in my own struggle with Coming Out and who to trust, anyone who made disparaging remarks about my orientation was not considered an ally – even worse were those who would say ‘Oh I support Gays and Lesbians’ quietly and then turn around and openly make some cutting remark against those selfsame LGBT folk – to me, that was a monstrous betrayal. I don’t know how a student at this college could take Professor X’s public statements (by signing the document) – regardless of his views in the ‘quiet’ of off-campus life – in any other light.

    Should Professor X leave? I think so. The longer this goes on, the worse it’s going to get for him. This spiritual rift isn’t going away – if anything, it will only get stronger as the time approaches for that ‘wind’ that John speaks about to roar across the college campus. Yes, it is going to be a sacrifice – possibly a huge sacrifice – but I believe the Biblical dictum that says ‘for every door that is shut, He will open a new one’ applies here. Leaving, with his reasons why in full view for all to see, will be an enormous statement to any student at that college struggling with their orientation – ‘Wow, he was willing to leave because he supports me! He’s there for me!’ If anything, I expect he will be overwhelmed with the positive response and support.

    If Professor X leaves (and I hope he will), then I’d like to add one thing – I believe there will be some atonement involved in the midst of the applause and support. People *will* ask ‘Why did you sign this thing? Why?’ It’s inevitable that this conversation will come up, and personally I think it’s important to have that conversation.

    Anyway, these are my thoughts on the matter. Blessings to Professor X! My thoughts go with you.

  • Kate

    Agreed, Kimberly. I feel that I’ve grown intellectually, and in emotional intelligence, simply from sitting here reading all of this. Of course I’ve felt that way ever since I discovered John’s page…. but this has been an especially good discussion.

  • Rick J

    As an alum of that institution, I would hate to think of it without your presence there, dear former prof of mine. That probably doesn’t help any, does it!?

    God give you wisdom!

  • Mindy

    Mindi – I see the difference in those two responses as necessary, because the Irish pastor can work from within as a leader. One professor in a college is not.

    As an aside, I felt a rush of nostalgia when I saw your name – one of my tiny acts of “defiance” when I was 13 was to change the way I spelled my name from Mindy to Mindi. I was so proud. But since I also dotted both Is with hearts, I eventually changed it back when I got to college. Still, though – it made me smile.

  • Mindy

    I wish you strength and peace on your journey. Godspeed.

  • Joe

    What’s the difference in signing that doc and being sympathetic toLBGT students vs. owning slaves but being sympathetic to their plight?

  • Elizabeth

    Professor X isn’t an owner and students aren’t slaves.

  • Joan Reeves Jackson via Facebook

    “Once you know something, you can’t not know it.” Bur for a lot of people, a huge daily dose of denial works wonders.

  • Blake

    Well I had fun anyway. I was kinda hoping others would dive in…

    I think you’re just going to have to make up your own word. It’s hard to express all the different things that are important vis-a-vis the 16 items. Perhaps you could come up with a name for the list & start there like: Sedeguide? Sededirige? Sedeviasque?

  • Tim

    all that I can ask is that you let us know how that goes. My blessings to you, Professor.

  • for starters …

  • As Professor X indicates that he is a follower of Christ, then the words of Christ’s instructions to those who name Christ’s name, should be paramount in his mind:

    “Simply let your yes, mean yes and your no, mean no. Anything else comes from a place of inappropriate intent.” Matthew 5:37

    Words have power. Our signatures hold the same power in that by our signature our words are forever recorded on an official document attesting that this is our belief.

    “For what does it profit a person to gain the whole world, yet lose their own soul?” Matthew 16:26

    Rev. Robert Coats,


    Metropolitan Community Church of Boston

  • Yeah! No, I was GLAD you tried; I was only meaning to say your own efforts so effectively demonstrated why we had the trouble we did. As you can see, we finally DID make up our own word: I’m pretty sure “unfundamentalist” isn’t a real word. (And, yeah, maybe “16 Point Christians” is good. I’d be curious about that.)

  • How do you know what school it is?

  • This Carol is this Carol.

  • The Most Revd Father François

    When I was a lot younger, just one week before my ordination to diaconate, I was obliged by the Roman Catholic Church of France to swear that I was not a modernist. All the postulants asked the Priests in front of us “what is a modernist?” The answer was pretty evasive. Now I am a Bishop in another Church, a catholic independent one. This mental manipulation from Rome helped me to leave when I became ready to do so. Now St Peter’s ship is sinking with all the RCC on board. Keep cool. You have learned how to swim, and they don’t know it.

  • Nathan

    Allie, do you equate evolution with atheism? I’m confused.

    Atheism is widely prevalent in most natural sciences. God is irrelevant. There is no role for God in science and God has not (and does not) act in the history of man or in the history of the world.

    I was thankful to be at a school where my faith was encouraged (not ridiculed) and where no one thought that evolution and naturalism are synonymous. (in most academic circles it seems that evolution is “proof” of atheism – “God” isn’t needed) Of course there is loads of evidence for evolution and evolution was freely taught at this Christian school. But it was great to build my understanding of evolution in a way that allowed both my faith and my understanding science to flourish. I doubt this would have happened at a state university, but you never know.

  • n.

    i was ashamed to admit that i didn’t understand that when you said it in a fb message, but i think i do now. is it a good thing or a bad thing to have gotten so far away from denominational politics that it’s now a foreign language to me?

    anyway, this is a great idea!

  • I stood up to a boss once… I quit before they could decide to fire me. To be fair it was a necessary step. Would have been nice to go find another job though!

  • I finally stepped forward and spoke. Like the silent professor who signs his name to a promise he despises, I sat and lived with folks who were either quiet in the face of hideous discrimination towards LGBTQ children of God or were aggressively verbal about their condemnation. I said nothing for years.

    Then I stepped forward and spoke. I took the risk to reveal to others, the church and the world that I am gay. I took the risk of losing much more than my salary. I don’t share this to imply I’m some kind of saint or something. I simply share these words to say….there is life to be lived after speaking the truth. There is life on the other side of pretense and denial

    The life on the other side of silence, on the other side of holding it in, on the other side of having non-truths shoved down your throat…..well the other side is freedom.

    Without judgement….I encourage you, silent professor, to do what you have already written….what you have already asked one like me to say to you. Go to another field and live with freedom. It is really, really, really worth it.

    I am now the first out gay minister in the region of South Jersey. It was all worth the risk to speak and live the truth.


  • fascinating discussion. i don’t know i have anything to contribute to it, but i’ve come to the position that the institutional church (even though i’m an active member of an institutional church–perhaps i’ll have to resolve this some day) isn’t exactly what Jesus had in mind; the institutional church is a worldly thing… “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” said Jesus. so as “dishonest” as signing the pledge and not believing it might be, is it any different from my paying taxes to support a war that i don’t think is right? i don’t know the answer.

  • “Simply let your yes, mean yes and your no, mean no. Anything else comes from a place of inappropriate intent.” Matthew 5:37

    Hard words to live by, but SO healthy for the spirit!

  • “The Most Reverend Father Francois.” Man. I am so changing my name right now. And going to seminary. And becoming French. It would so be worth it just to have that on my business cards and letterhead.

    Thanks for writing, Father.

  • DR

    I call bullshit on your bullshit. Try at least acknowledging how change has occurred through history, it’s quite easy for all of us in hindsight to say “just pull the trigger” but that’s totally counter intuitive to how institutional evil has either diminished or eradicated. It’s awfully easy for all of us to be self-righteous and suggest that this is black and white and it is not.

  • DR

    Man. That made me cry.

  • DR

    I adore and agree with every word of this comment.

  • thank you, julie.

  • Well, I mean, perhaps there’s value in asking Elizabeth what she means by “that rationale is garbage.” Is she, in fact, dismissing the idea that while huge societal sea changes are happening some people are going to experience mixed feelings about those changes? Or … maybe she’s just reacting negatively to the drawing of an analogy between a slave owner and our professor friend?

    Hmm. What were you calling bullshit, Ms. Eliza?

  • Wow. That was awesome. Thank you, Gordon.

  • Um … I didn’t actually say “What you’re doing is wrong and you know it so get out.” That would be simplistic. Which is … you know: why I didn’t say it.

  • Allie

    No, I don’t equate the two, but most of the Christian schools with which I’m familiar do. Glad to hear there are some that don’t.

    Public universities have people of all kinds at them. There’s no law that only atheists can attend. As a result, if you attend a public university in a place where 60% of the population are active Christians, you are fairly likely to have professors who are Christians. The head of the science department at the time I was in school was a Roman Catholic.

  • Kari

    Wow. You and your message are very inspirational and heart touching, Hannah. Thank you so much. We’ve got your back! God bless!

  • Elizabeth

    Hunh. Institutional pedagogy is funny, whether collegiate, societal, or political. By the time “they” are in power, if they’re at all smart, they know a backlash is coming. Catholicism, capitalism, racism, sexism, name-the-ism: you can see the rebellion a mile away. In every case, change didn’t happen through sympathy but through blood and sweat and yelling. Humans evolve over time, clearly. Our morals don’t. We can always feel, in our hearts, right from wrong.

    We’re not standing on the shoulders of giants. We’re standing on the shoulders of martyrs, serfs, and slaves. The underdog always wins, until the next underdog. Comparing a popularity contest to slavery is, in short, bullshit.

    Your questions raise the bar, DR. They make me think. Thank you.

  • Elizabeth

    If you haven’t noticed, I live in the grey. No black and white with me.

  • But … John Forest wasn’t comparing the shift in the understanding of the morality of slavery to a popularity contest. He compared it to the same kind of shift we’re all currently living through relative to homosexuality. His treatment of that analogy seemed pretty solid and reasonable to me.

  • DR

    I get that, Elizabeth – morality is black and white but the brokenness of us makes us cling to what is comfortable. It is reptilian and nightmarish when we have to depend upon human nature to change things when it ultimately seeks comfort and security. Does a redeemed/touched and transformed by the sacred human nature prove over and over again that it will forsake comfort for the sake of what is moral? Absolutely. And some people radically deploy it, say “fuck it” and do what’s right. They lose everything. That happens. And if you’re living your life like that? More power to you. But counting the cost happens incrementally, gathering the courage to do that happens in small steps.

  • DR

    Me too.

  • Gee! I think I said that on page 2 of the comments but my quote was from James 5:12. Glad to see an actual Reverend agreeing with me after someone else went all nit picky and straw man argument on my comment.

  • jack

    y’all ever in need of a staff person, give me a holler!

  • he is.

  • Whoa. WHOA! This is an extremely strong testimony.

  • jack

    What do you mean? Did I say something wrong? I’m already paranoid about this whole situation…explain what you mean. UGH!?!?

  • No, my comment was in response to Blake’s testimony. (You can tell by looking at the feint vertical line to the left of a comment to whom that comment refers, if you see what I mean.)

  • Oz in OK

    Please keep in touch and let us know how things are going! Blessings and prayers to you!

  • Christine McQueen

    I’ve never had to sign documents or statements regarding my religious beliefs or “moral stance” for any of the various jobs I’ve had over the years. But, at my last job, I was “punished” by having my hours cut because I wasn’t “pushing” one of the products my employer expected me to sell. (Most of my clients were repeats, meaning they had used my services for several years – so how and why the company expected me to talk them into paying for a ‘re-check’ of previous years’ work, I don’t know.) Luckily, I was less than a year away from SS (survivors’ benefits) so I was able to simply walk away from the job. But I know it’s not that simple for most people when it comes to working – they NEED the job.

    Sorry, the above really has no answers for the letter writer. I’d say that the professor needs to consider what really means more to him – the job or his personal integrity.

  • Carol VanderNat

    ..or two!

  • jack


  • Carol VanderNat

    Chapter Two of “You Want Me To Do WHAT??!!” …

  • I think the time of change might come a lot faster if all those who disagreed with such contracts stopped signing them and were public about why.

  • Love the PS!! 😀

  • “…secret friends and allies to bandage over the epic woulds left by being at the mercy of churches and colleges that use their authority to instill self-loathing, loneliness, and despair.”

    yes, yes, YES!

    Thank you, Hth. That, I believe, is the reality.

  • Dear Professor – I’m very glad you wrote to John. (Dear John – I pretty much LOVE your response.)

    My suggestion: watch the original Horton Hears a Who. Think about who is in danger on that dustspeck. (Yes, it’s me, a bisexual woman in a committed relationship with another woman. But is it also not you?) Think about what’s needed to save the beings on that dustspeck. (Not silence!!) Think about what happens to those vicious monkeys when they finally hear the YOP! which had broken through because one more voice was added. (They stood down, surrendered, viciousness folded.)

  • “And Professor X has signed it, giving his tacit approval…” to “the part that damns them”

    This is the crux of the problem. To me, this is betrayal.

    I have friends who chose to stay in the church that ousted my partner and I. It wounds me deeply. I understand how hard it would be to leave that (in many ways) vibrant community, and I didn’t ask any of them to leave. It’s not my place to do so. But it feels like a betrayal to me that they chose to stay.

  • N

    I think this is correct.

    And consider this– After he quits his job at this institution, he will still have connections within. He can go to the church if he isn’t banned form the campus. He can make it known that he is the go to person for all gay students, and other people can point them to him. Heck, he can help them in all the ways he can’t currently help them. THAT would be a light in the darkness, not that thing he’s currently doing.

  • Jill

    Absolutely Gordon, and it is exactly when we are approaching our personal tipping points in our lives that we need support, and even some prodding, to make the hard but correct choices.

  • Jill

    “You have learned how to swim, and they don’t know it.”

    What an awesome comment! And how true it is of all oppressive powers– they simply don’t get it. It is their undoing.

  • Jill

    Funny how life works like that… just when we *think* we’ve got it ‘all sorted out’… ! We humans are funny critters.

    Seriously Carol V., your stand at the UMC conference in Michigan was stellar. It has once again reminded me of the possible.

  • I re-watched part of “Milk” (movie about Harvey Milk, first openly gay public official) at the gym this morning, thinking about this Professor’s dilemma and question. I openly wept on the treadmill.

    What was needed then was for gay people to come out of the closet. What is needed now is for straight allies to do the same!

    ‘Tis not my place to ask you to sacrifice, Professor, but I would ask you to watch the movie “Milk.” After you watch Horton, of course. 🙂

    One last request: read this post by Gareth Higgins written shortly after Tyler Clementi died in 2010.


    In it, Gareth assumes part of the responsibility for Tyler’s death on his own shoulders by acknowledging all the moments he (Gareth) was silent when he could have spoken out in clear support of all those who do not identify as a heterosexual. A quote: “[This]… is a story about the role that bad religion – most of it Christian – has played in creating a culture of shame around sex and sexual identity in America, and the distortions of human happiness that pass for healthy religious practice.”

    Please keep us posted, Professor. I do not walk in your shoes… I only ask that you be aware of how your actions — and those of your college and your religion — affects me. (I live in North Carolina, where Amendment One was recently passed.)

  • Are you meaning me, there? Because your original comment implied that signing a document was akin to swearing an oath and was therefore, in itself, forbidden, which I contested. I simply said that signing a document was equivalent to saying “yes”, just in writing.

    On the idea of “yes meaning yes and no meaning no”, in writing or otherwise, I think that, like any “rule” there is such a thing as applying it to rigidly. I mean, if a person puts a gun to your head and says “is your family hiding in the closet” you aren’t going to let your “yes man yes”, so to speak. I believe there is a legitimate defense in lying to escape violence, injustice or oppression (whether you consider Professor X to be in this position is another matter, but one that can be considered). Jesus isn’t addressing that in the instance quoted. It’s not the letter of the law, but the spirit.

  • Wonderful.

  • I think people also know what it’s like for losing their jobs i. violations of their fundamental human rights – and are therefore loathe to have anyone else face that needlessly.

  • He hardly seems comfortable with it.

  • A. We don’t know how his university would handle it. They may quietly let him go. They might try to utterly destroy his reputation. We don’t have that information.

    B. When people are fired for being gay, that is persecution. So why isn’t Professor X getting fired for his religious views and LBGTQ support persecution?

  • But surely you don’t view signing any document to be the equivalent to swearing an oath by some physical object/space (heaven, earth, etc.)? How do you function in society, without having a lease or mortgage or using a credit card or accepting a job offer or agreeing to, well, *anything*? Do you refuse to sign petitions? Our society is based on signatures. Are you really saying is is wrong to sign *anything*?

  • ahhhh! I’m a quiltbag after all. NOOOOOOO!!!!


  • Diana A.

    But that’s even more reason for people to stand up and be counted. If the powers that be can do it to one person, they can do it to anybody. Therefore, by standing up, ultimately we serve everyone, including ourselves.

    Yes, I know–it’s easier said than done.

  • sayla1228

    It’s more complicated that to be honest. What about people who are in countries or related to ethnicities that are associated with anti-gay? Based on your views, most non-western individuals are automatically traitors to LBGT people just for being non-Western or wouldn’t disown their nationality/race/culture . To many people, just being religious or spiritual in general means John Shore, me and everyone here are traitors to LBGT community, regardless.

  • that was really good

  • ???

  • Michelle M

    I think I see what sayla is trying to say . . . but sayla, this doesn’t boil down to being western or non-western, religious or not religious. It boils down to being human and the way we should be treating each other.

    For example, let’s say you were born into a non-western culture that is known for being adamantly anti-gay, and your family members are anti-gay. Maybe they justify it by saying “that’s just the way our culture has always been.” And then let’s say you are the only person in your family who is not anti-gay. Just because you disagree on this one point, that does not mean you have to disown your whole culture! There may be some adamantly homophobic people who make you feel like you are betraying the entire culture with your acceptance of gays, but that is just small-mindedness. And you don’t want to be a small-minded human, even if a lot of people in your culture are. Now it’s true that you may need to keep your views to yourself for your own safety, if that’s the kind of culture you are in, but hopefully courageous people in your culture will start standing up for human rights.

    Think about it–there are plenty of gays in the closet in non-western cultures. It’s time someone did the right thing and started standing up for them. But that needs to happen from within.

  • Being part of an institution and directly affirming that institution’s anti-gay bias is much different than affirming a culture/community/religion that *happens to have* a large number of individuals or group *within it* that have an anti-gay bias. The former is participation, however tacitly, in the bias, but the latter is not, particulRly is you are one looking to change that culture/community/religion from within. And that’s because cultures/communities/religions are informal institutions and they are not homogenous. No one makes you sign, affirm, agree to or do anything to be part of an ethnicity/race/culture/religion, and, while all of that university’s profs sign a pledge, members of cultures/communities/religion have a wide range of diverse beliefs, with no central authority to regulate and enforce a consensus. There is simply no parallel.

  • Just a reason why Prof X’s friends are unlikely to say: “Yes, this is betrayal.” Because they don’t wish those consequences on anyone, from experience. I agree, it just means more people at risk of continuing persecution. His gay friends are going easy on him because they don’t want to be a burden.

  • Jill

    I have to chime in with agreement to John Forest’s point: as for my background (and many others as I read their comments here), I had to come to my own understanding of the pain and marginalization of the entire LGBTQ community through life experiences, meeting people, testing force-fed indoctrination against real life and finding the two don’t connect.

    NO ONE during my youth could have shoved down my throat the open beliefs I hold now about gay equality because I had already been choking on the vitriolic hatred and paranoia of my cult-ish church’s dogma that ANYONE’s beliefs on the outside were wrong. Anyone who admitted to being gay was automatically on the outside, and outsiders were not to be trusted. During my teens, while I never was actively bigoted, I was complicit in my church’s prejudice because I was taught it to be ‘right and moral’.

    Point being: yes, TRUE moral development and personal integrity do take time (and work) to shape in a human being. As much as I can be loathe toward patience on this issue, it took time for me. I have to assume it does takes time (and work) for others.

  • Blake

    I’m smelling what you’re stepping in. I can see how you thought I was offended (I’m not exactly clear; I’m working on it) But rest assured. I was not. I did understand your first bit; I’m just a problem-solver of the pit-bull-type. Once I’ve grasped a problem I don’t let go. I also know that you made up a word (still not offended; just clarifying). But you expressed dissatisfaction with it & in my brainstorming I tried not to make up a word. You’re absolutely correct it is going to be hard to get this right. But language is funny. As I’m sure you know once you give a name to something it has a way of growing and convalescing in a way that when it remained nameless or unsatisfactory named was impossible.

    Lacanain… I think…

    Anyway. I think it’s of vast importance that we get to a satisfying name for you Unfundemnetalist Christians. I’ve slept on it & Sedecviasque (said-ick-veeya-skew) is growing on me. Sede being my poorly remembered the Latin prefix for 16 (sedec being the actual). Viasque being “guidelines” according to google. By the same service it translates into English as 16 Guidelines For.

    16 Points: Sedecviasque

    Personal identifier: Sedecviasquist

    Denomination: Sedecviasquism.

    Of course I’ve never taken a Latin course in my life so I’m probably garbling the pronunciations but it just sounds nice to me in my southern accent. What do you think?

  • Blake

    Heard. I was brainstorming along the lines of denominational names and those usually have “church” in there somewhere. As I went along I tried experimenting with other words for a community of believers. Any suggestions would be great!

  • “But it was great to build my understanding of evolution in a way that allowed both my faith and my understanding science to flourish. I doubt this would have happened at a state university, but you never know.”

    Maybe this is just my complete lack of understanding of either American universities and/or Christian universties, but wouldn’t all universities teach science in science, using scientific methology with no prejudice to religious belief one way or another, and then also have philosophy/religious studies/anthrolopogy/sociology/humanities courses that do delve into questions of belief, religion and spirituality in all its dimensions? They are just different subjects. Or did your Christian university explicitly teach on how to resolve evolution and the bible in science courses (because no, you wouldn’t get that at a secular school)?

  • Oh. THAT Carol.

    Oh, Carol. You are beautiful. Hang in there. If you want to talk more or give us an update, please do. I’m pretty astonished at what’s happening to you, but maybe those of us here who have homophobic loved ones can provide some possible expalantions and support. And if it’s just too difficult to share, just know that there are people thinking of you and wishing you the very best possible outcome.

  • Diana A.

    Yeah, I see your point. It’s one thing to take such a burden on oneself–another thing to pressure a friend to do so.

  • Michael S.

    Will someone unpack QUILTBAGS for me? I have tried to figure out that acronym for days now….

  • Melody









    I know some on here don’t prefer it, but I like it when I’m referring to people of all orientations, not just LGBT. Some prefer queer as a catch-all term, but others still find that term offensive due to its origin as a slur. But what can I say? That’s the problem with political correctness. There’s always going to be someone you can’t please, because everyone has hangups about something.

  • n.

    Every culture has lots of wrong things in it and lots of good things. We have to sort those out in our own culture, no matter what our own culture is.

  • Oz in OK

    Thanks! It was a bit more ‘wall of text’ish than I planned but… 🙂

  • Milton Milley

    I am not “Christian”, nor am I gay. But I think that all beliefs are held at a price. Christ, Buddha, and even Professor X pay the price one way or another.

    There was a time when Christians were feared, shunned, hunted and murdered (martyred). People were forced to sign testaments that they were not Christians or face imprisonment, banishment or death. And then the tables turned… And “Christians” took up the tactics of their persecutors.

    Agreeing to persecute others is the price people pay for conformity. Read Margaret Heffernan’s “Wilful Blindness” to understand why. But your Spirit did not come to this place to be a prisoner in Paradise. There is a more ascendant purpose. When the time is right, your Spirit will tell you what to do. Trust in it, Professor.

  • n.

    I think i read that the S can be Straight and then it includes everyone.

  • charles

    I love your comments John-

    I would say to the man- “what would Jesus do?” he could have said he “wasnt God” but he chose not to- look where that led to.

  • Carol VanderNat

    wow…..just.wow…”and then the tables turned….and “Christians” took up the tactics of their persecutors”…..so true…..

  • Carol VanderNat

    Thank you so much….this has gotten way more complicated than I ever thought it would…I fear I have opened and finally confronted a “Pandora’s Box” of – let’s just say “stuff” – that has been chronic for most of those 11 years….I just handed over tons of ammunition for continuation of some hurtful behaviors…..you all have been instrumental in ways you’ll never know, in reassuring me that – no, I’m not crazy, and yes-I am normal, and most definately – that I have a community of people who “have my back”…..for which I am eternally grateful….

  • Diana A.

    Peace Carol. May the peace and strength of the Holy Spirit travel with you as you make this journey. And may God’s love move your husband’s heart so that he comes around, if that is God’s will.

    Have you ever read anything by Martha Beck? I think you might enjoy her “Finding Your Own North Star” and “Leaving the Saints.” The first book is in the self-help genre, but is very good and quite funny. The second book is a memoir–quite good, funny, sad, moving. I can see how either or both of those books might be pertinent to your journey.

  • Carol VanderNat

    I will certainly check them out…..thank you!

  • Parrot

    Professor, my grandfather is a retired Baptist minister. He once got kicked out of the Baptist convention and fired over a speech he gave saying that he thought blacks should be welcome in the church. Not very popular back then, but it was pioneers like him that made the push for blacks. Guess what, he found another job in another church and he is very well respected. He made a stand that was very unpopular and got him fired. But in the end, he helped opened a door that was nailed shut. Now the situation is not about blacks, but gays. Still the Christian folks that spew out hate and shame on them feel about the same. They fear that these people will somehow corrupt their churches and their country. No one person can open a door that has so many nails with so much hate and so much fear behind it. But you can make a difference. There are many ways. Your friends, because they love you will never ask that you take out that claw hammer because they don’t want you to suffer the consequence. However, it is also so easy for us that don’t know your situation and finances to just tell them no and be fired. You are in that proverbial spot between a rock and a hard place. But I will say this, I am very proud of my grandpa, but back in the day, I am sure he felt a lot like you. He must have known what might happen, but he did it anyway. He must have had many sleepless nights. But in the end, he did it. And he did it in a really big way. I like that part the best. He could have just told his church, or the board or at a church meeting, but that is not how he did it. He said his piece where he had a lot of listeners. I think by doing that, he took out more than just one nail out of that door. It caused a lot of talk, a lot of rifts, a lot of thinking, and a lot of talk, and my oh my, look at us now!! Maybe you could just sit quietly at that desk and refuse to sign, and they tell you good bye, and go out in a whisper. Or….or just maybe you could be talking to a larger group, a group that you may be able to reach, a group that will listen, and explain how this is wrong. Yeah, in all likely hood they will not react lovingly as we want, but you can take out a lot more nails that way. So think about it, pray about it. You are in a very important position and undoubtedly, you have a lot of respect, influence, and admiration. But with that comes great responsibility. I think you were put there for a reason. I think you can really make a difference. And, I think I was supposed to write you this letter. Boy, did I ever get the easy part, huh?

    I wish you the best!!

  • Ben Janken

    I could probably write a couple of thousand words on this. I found what Blake had to say similar to my own comments. But before I write, I agree with Mr. Shores’s prescription. However…

    As I was reading the author asking “Am I betraying you”, I was thinking “No, but you’re betraying yourself if you’ve been speaking the truth about your beliefs about gay people.” And then you said it yourself.

    Let’s consider this: your school is of the uber-Luther, Jews are devils type. They ask you to sign a statement saying that you believe that the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ, and are “of the devil” (courtesy of another, Gospellier John) for their deliberate rejection of the totality of Christian belief, not just the itty bitty little ditty of conservative, anti-gay belief. What would you do then? Why is this different? Theological beliefs about gay people NOW mimic antiSemitic beliefs THEN. And no matter how much they want to put moral lipstick on this theological pig, it’s still cherry picking questionable translations in the bible to justify a deeply held, unquestioned social prejudice.

    So, what to do? Do you sign it, lying to your employer, incidentally bearing false witness against your gay neighbor, and immorally support a “morality” which you know to be morally bankrupt? Should you do something that costs YOU something, as opposed to paying for your fake morality with the easy coin of other people’s lives? Do you reject it, doing something that speaks truth to power, loving your gay neighbor as you would like to be loved, when it inconveniences YOU?

    What I see is what you can’t see. Welcome to OUR world. Honey, you’re in the closet!!! How does it feel?

    Am I being too rough? Maybe. But then, I’m not speaking from the security of the closet. I’m an out and proud gay man who has been fighting this battle for 40 years. We gay people have had to endure the consequences of homohatred our whole lives. Yet we still stand and fight., waiting for more heterosexuals to catch up.

    Don’t worry about your gay friends hating you for your lack of courage. We make excuses for the bad behaviour of heterosexuals all of the time.

  • Bebbie

    Hannah Grace,

    Thank you for your gracious post. Your plea for us to make the world safe for you is one I take seriously. In work, leisure, social engagements and all settings, may I have the grace to work fearlessly for safety for you and all who feel isolated from their faith communities. The Episcopal Church and the United Churches of Christ (UCC) are both very open, nurturing communities. I am sure there are others. May you find a faith home that will allow you to know beyond any doubt, that are valuable, and you DO belong. I have real hope that I will live to see that day…and I will be 65 on 09/11. Hang on!

  • Robert


    Wow… As a gay person, I chose to come out at every single job I have had… and when I chose to work with Homeless Teens and then later as a Social Worker with impoverished families, I came out during the interviews… which put my financial well being on the line. (But then I work non-profit so that itself put my financial well being on the line… and I was an atheist… go figure. Now, I am a theist.)

    It was not courage that led me to come out. It was… something else, the need to live my life as honestly as possible… the need to make my inside and my outside match… so that my words were given meaning by my actions. Integrity maybe…

    But then no one is perfect… I recently sort of forced an ex-bf of mine to come out to his passively-aggressive homophobic church. It was the wrong thing to do… (I was acting like a wounded seven year old… because part of me is a wounded seven year old). But I did it.

    It is not about walking the walk perfectly. It is about doing what you can do. It might be that you are beginning to realize that you no longer “fit” at your University and maybe it is time for you to move on.

    But the gay rights movement does not need another Martyr to the cause… there have been too many… too many Gay Men died in the AIDS epidemic before the people in the USA decided that we might be human, too many gay kids are bullied into believing the only way out is death and too many of us deal daily with the legal and social indignities of being hated. So don’t do anything hasty…

    I lovingly want to let you know, that it is ok. You will do the right thing… cause I think you are already are…



  • Jackie

    Thank you John, well put.

  • Karen Miller

    I usually enjoy John’s blog and reader comments. This blog and accompanying comments are rather disappointing. In my opinion, signing that statement means nothing. We sign documents every day. We don’t read half of them. We just sign. Have you ever purchased a house? Did you read every single word on those loan papers? Do you use facebook? Do you use phone apps? You’re consenting to things every day and you often aren’t even sure of what you’re signing.

    Mr. Professor, you obviously care about the impact you have on your students. I think you can have a larger impact on the student body as a whole if you stay in your position. Sure, you can refuse to sign that letter and it might be in the news for a day or two. But life at the college will go on as usual and you’ll be nothing but a vague memory.

    I had crappy instructors, mediocre instuctors, and incredibly awesome instructors. The awesome instuctors could teach without their students knowing their personal philosophies. Those instructors accepted their students just as they were. Fat, thin, black, white, brown, male, female, smart, struggling, rich, poor, young, old, disabled, gay, staight, questioning, or any other label you can think of. We didn’t need to know whether the instuctor had signed a paper documenting his beliefs. We didn’t need to know what he signed because we already knew what he believed. His behaviour told us everything we needed to know. The behaviour showed us his acceptance of our differences.

    Signing that piece of paper is just words on paper. That paper does not define you. Not signing it to prove a point doesn’t mean much. It’s how you go about your day, how you treat others. How you love and respect differences. How you communicate that love. Those are things that matter. Those are things that will affect me as you student, your co-worker, or your neighbour.

    Good luck with your journey.

  • Harry Kelley

    Only one question: would a suicide of a gay person on your campus change your feelings about signing the document?

  • Hmmm. If I choose to not read the fine print of various financial instruments (but I recently bought a house and I actually did read every single word!) or terms/agreements of products I use (I totally don’t read those lol!), that’s not really the same thing as this contract in question. The kinds of documents you offer for comparison don’t contain judgments of others in them.

    Karen, would I be guessing right to think you’re probably heterosexual? If so, please know that those contracts (tangible and not) cause real wounds to those (LGBTQ) who are made illegitimate in them. If you do identify as L or G or B or T or Q, I’m curious to know how you can shrug such a signature off as meaningless.

    I agree that our actions and interactions matter most. But I see that signature on that contract as a pretty powerful action. (Actually, a refusal to sign would be even more powerful!)

  • Karen Miller

    No Mindy, I’m bisexual. I’ve spent 10 years in longterm relationships with women. I’ve spent 30 years having sexual relations with women and men. I am currently with a man. I have always been out with regard to my sexual orientation. I have been called “sir” far more often than “ma’am”.

    I am more than simply a sexual creature. I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, and an aunt. I’m a recovering alcoholic. I am a person diagnosed with a mental illness. I am a survivor of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. I have chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. I have been arrested and jailed. I have been in mental institutions. I’ve been homeless, a prostitute, and a thief. I tell you this because of what else I am. I am an RN. I became an RN after I got sober. I have worked in places where I have had to lie on applications. It used to torment me. But you know what? I’m a great nurse. I have recovered from a lot of things. My experiences have helped me help others. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to help these people had I been honest on applications or during interviews.

    For me, there is a bigger picture. I can take a stand and be truthful on an application. I can argue discrimination. But who am I helping and who am I hurting? Once hired and coworkers get to know me, I share my story. I have been able to educate so many people. People who would have previously considered me undesirable and unemployable. Yes, it would be great if we were hired solely on our merit. Change wiil come from both ouside an institution and from within. The quiet voice from within can be as powerful as the voice without.

  • “undecided” makes it sound like a choice. “allies” would often not make sense in context. and people don’t seem to agree about what all those letters stand for. I just can’t stand the acronym.

    Can’t we just say LBGTQIA, then, or any other order that doesn’t spell a ridiculous word?

  • Thanks for sharing all that, Karen. I hope my question didn’t offend. I was puzzled and sincerely curious, and as I am trying to find my own place of balance on the continuum that contains both tolerance and tacit support of injustice.

    I still see this contract as different than those you describe, including job applications. But I’m glad you have found a purpose and a way to turn tough experiences towards helping others.

  • Elizabeth

    Hey, Professor X. With classes well underway, I can’t help but reflect on how free *you* will feel once you can use your real name. I hope you’ve enacted your plan. An academic year flies by.

  • ted baldwin

    Make them fire you if it comes to that. No one gets a gold star for giving up a professorship. Take the time to get to know the lay of the gay landscape.

    Now. You did not elaborate on what morally illegitimate means. Just what do they want gay male people to do? Marry their daughters? They may not realize there are lesbians…

    Using medical marijuana is illegitimate, but some folks do real well and would suffer without…

    it would be illegitimate for a heterosexual person to engage in homosexual relationships. That we can agree on.

    Marriage is o’kd in ten states now? fifteen? heading up.

    Undoubtedly there are gay students there.

    quit worrying aobut whether the denomination will freak out. They have to save face. As time goes on, they will have less and less moral authority.

  • (Sorry; I don’t know why all the comments that were on this post when it originally appeared on JohnShore.com disappeared when I transferred my blog to over here on Patheos. Looking into that!)

  • Lesli

    It seems to me that the issue here isn’t the issue. Without in any way intending to minimise the injustice meted out to members of the LGBT community, I don’t think this question has anything to do with that, not once you scratch the surface. It has everything to do with personal integrity, that sense of “at-one-ness” we get when our inner world matches up with our outward
    face. For me, there’s a sense in which it doesn’t even matter so much whether we’re right or wrong about a particular belief, it has far more to do with how we act on our honestly held opinions. Will we hold to what we believe to be true even when it comes at significant cost?

    In a previous life I was married to a pastor in an evangelical denomination. It happened to be anti-tongues and my then husband and I had grown up with that theology since our teen years. Four years into our ministry, with the church growing and so many things going really well, my husband came to believe that God had given him the gift of tongues. We felt compelled to tell the church leadership of this, knowing that our resignation would likely be required – and it was. We were given a month to be out. We lost our home, our church family, our friends, our livelihoods and had to move cities because of that choice. Ironically (it seemed ironic to me anyway, maybe not to anyone else) the church told us we could stay and continue to pastor if my husband agreed to pretend none of it happened, to ignore what he believed God had done in his life and to not practice speaking in tongues. That seemed so back to front to me. The church would only accept us if my husband agreed to walk away from what he believed – rightly or wrongly – what God was doing. Seems to me that if we had made that choice THAT’S when we should have been disqualified from ministry.

    Yes, it’s hard when you know your lifestyle will be radically changed, and probably not for the better, by choosing with integrity. But the fact that year after year this choice causes you angst probably means you already know the answer to your own question.

  • DonRappe

    There is something to be said for choosing the ground on which you will fight your battle.