A Gay Prof at a Christian College Speaks Out

There’s been a lot of talk about gay students at Christian colleges lately. I’ve blogged about it several times, as have others. But we haven’t heard much from gay faculty at these schools. That’s because they are deep, deep in the closet.

Inside Higher Ed has an anonymous essay by one such prof:

Much of this debate at your institutions hinges on biblical hermeneutics. It dismays me how CCCU [The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities] institutions (institutions of higher education!) will cite biblical passages as if the passages are self-interpreting, thus adopting a hermeneutical practice of simplistic literalism. I have been struck by the fact that while CCCU institutions will not hire faculty in monogamous, same-sex relationships, they do hire divorced faculty without asking the grounds for the divorce. Wheaton College in Illinois is tragically consistent in its foundationalist approach to biblical hermeneutics, allowing faculty to be divorced so long as the divorce is based on biblical grounds. Do you seriously think that the great professor ceases to be a great professor because his/her divorce was based on irreconcilable differences rather than adultery?

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

As you know, millennials’ views of religion and homosexuality are rapidly changing. Will your institutions continue to attract students? Some alumni will not want to donate, and some foundations will not want to make grants. A friend suggested that the CCCU, like the Republican Party, may need to change to survive, or that those institutions that want to be more prophetic, courageous, and progressive and who believe that God’s revelation continues to unfold will need to leave the CCCU.

The courageous thing for me to do would be to come out. Gay students, knowing that I was sympathetic, have talked to me about their struggles with family and church. I would have liked to have been open about my own journey in these conversations, but was silent. It pains me to think that my silence contributes to homophobia. But as I stated, my acceptance of my sexual orientation came later, rather than earlier, and thinking about making a move now is daunting.

Read the rest: Essay about being a gay faculty member at a Christian college | Inside Higher Ed.

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  • This breaks my heart on so many levels but one that sticks out to me at the moment is the opportunity that students are missing out on by not learning from an openly gay professor. So much of the ignorant conversation that happens in evangelical subcultures could be transformed by deep conversation with gay people who are welcomed into the conversation rather than put on trial.

  • These pro-homosexual views would carry more weight in the absence of an authoritative communication from God – Scripture – which defines and circumscribes our lives, personhood, value and behavior. Interestingly, this is also a revelation in line with the evidence – the horrific stats regarding the gay lifestyle – elevated levels of death, suicide, depression and substance abuse.

    I don’t know how you can shut your eyes to these facts. What authoritative source do you have that takes precedence over Scripture and the stats?

    • Scripture and stats? The number 1 cause of death for college students is cars accidents. There is no authoritative communication from God authorizing humans to use cars. Therefore, all students and faculty at Christian colleges should be prohibited from driving or being a passenger in a car.

      Did I get that right?

    • Ric Shewell

      wow. I’m going to ignore whatever you think the stats are and why you think they are the way they are.

      I will talk about Scripture, though. It’s been modernity’s failed experiment to flatten out the whole of the Scripture into saying one, simple thing. Many modern interpreters, conservative evangelicals, and fundamentalists fight for the belief that the Bible speaks with one voice, that it contains the same message from Genesis to Revelation, and that it does not contradict itself at any point. Therefore, we can and we must take it as it is, literally, with the plain and clear reading of the text.

      But anyone who reads the entire text can tell you that the Bible isn’t flat but diverse and complex.

      Now, I am evangelical, I do believe that Scriptures contain God’s inspiration and revelation for our living and for our salvation. As a wesleyan, I do believe that Scripture carries greater weight than tradition, reason, and experience. So I agree that there is no higher pedestal from which to judge Scripture… except Scripture itself.

      For me, this is the rule of faith, we judge Scripture in light of Scripture. This is why we don’t do temple sacrifices, why we don’t kill our children that dishonor their parents, why we do eat pork, wear jewelry, braid our hair, marry one partner, and free slaves.

      Though there are passages that we could use to enforce slavery and killing children, we interpret these passages in light of the whole of Scripture, and through the inspiration of the Spirit and work of a community, we are confident that the passages that instruct slaves to stay slaves no longer speak God’s loving truth to our context.

      So, what authoritative source do we have the takes precedence over Scripture — It is Scripture.

      • Jonnie

        Ric, while poetic, you’re not REALLY saying scripture has authority over scripture right? Rather, per your examples of mitigating some scriptural meaning through the use of other scripture, that’s really a hermeneutic as the authority right? The clean naivety of claiming scripture as THE authority is a misstep. What takes precedence over scripture is hermeneutics.

        • Ric Shewell

          Well, I wouldn’t say that Scripture is the only authority for Christian living and faith. I would say that it’s the authoritative voice with the most weight. But if you force me into a corner, I would say that Scripture the final authority.

          That said, you have to use a hermeneutic to even get to the Scripture, we don’t have any objective access to Scripture. However, the method or process of understanding Scripture doesn’t become the authority over Scripture just because we must use it. The hermeneutic doesn’t say anything. It opens the Scripture for us. And we even use Scripture to create our hermeneutic — when we study how Hebrew Scribes and New Testament authors use Scripture.

          I think, for now, I’ll stick with my assertion that Scripture is the weightiest of revelations and authorities. It’s what keeps me evangelical.

          If hermeneutics takes precedence over Scripture, then how do we create hermeneutics? Ultimately, I think it would whittle back to contexualized epistemology, and we wouldn’t really need Scripture for anything.

    • Chad

      Is it not conceivable that the “elevated levels of death, suicide, depression and substance abuse” in the LGBT community is due to the fact that they are practically forced to hide who they are from people who would condemn them (family, friends, and strangers)? Could it not be that we, the Church, in throwing hate and condemnation at LGBT people, have caused these things?

      • Chad, There have been many studies regarding the costs endemic to this lifestyle – and many were performed in countries where gays are far more acceptable than Christians – and the results have proved virtually the same.

        Instead of clinging to a blind hope that these horrific stats can be mitigated once we change society, the more responsible thing to do is to warn. Consequently, to encourage people who struggle with SSA to enter is to encourage death and suicide.

        • By far, the most costly lifestyle in the U.S. is obesity. And obesity is clearly listed among seven deadly sins of the Bible, a list even gays managed to avoid. How many Christian schools ban obese professors?

          • Curtis, We all struggle with sin. The critical issue is this – do we repent of our sins and ask the Lord to help us to resist them.

            • And some Christians believe, and have Scriptural support, that being gay is not any more a sin than being straight.

              You keep mentioning scripture and stats, but the condemnation of gay sex in the Bible is no stronger than the condemnation of straight sex, and the stats for gays is so small to be nearly insignificant, so it seems to me your position on gays is guided by something beyond scripture and stats.

              Which is fine. But let’s me honest about where your position is coming from.

  • RobertA

    If this professor signed a statement agreeing with the college’s positions and policies then it is up to them to resign with grace.

    Nobody is forcing the professor to stay employed there. If you disagree with an institution’s position on this (or any other significant) issue and it is direct opposition with their teaching and belief, as a professor you have the obligation to find other employment.

    Regardless if we agree with the professor’s position and sympathize with his/her plight, they need to honor the institution they serve, uphold submission to our leaders, and gracefully leave that institution.

    • The same agreement usually contains a clause to hold himself to the highest ethical and biblical standards, even if it is contrary to instruction from his superiors. It is called an “ethical dilemma”.

    • smrnda

      True, but an institution demanding this type of obedience to dogma is pretty much deciding that its purpose is promoting and policing certain beliefs and that is not a position that’s compatible with open intellectual inquiry. They should quit calling it a ‘college’ and just call it an ‘indoctrination mill.’

      The other issue is ‘agreements’ like this are rarely mutual and are not entered into by parties who are equal. The schools have power, the applicants do not since you can’t get a job if you don’t sign and people need jobs more desperately than schools need to fill positions.

  • Pax

    I can’t believe I’m reading a complaint about higher ed being overrun by homophobes and Christian fundamentalists. It’s not like there’s a dearth of progressive colleges – even religious ones.

    • That was my first reaction too. Let them die off like the Boy Scouts, the dinosaurs, the social conservative wing of the GOP. It’s not like there aren’t hundreds of alternatives out there.

      But then, being an Eagle Scout myself, I can’t help but have a strong longing for BSA to “get it right”. Fully accepting gays is in complete congruence with the Scout Law, not to mention the teachings of Jesus, after all. A fellow Christian can’t help but hope that other disciples learn the same lesson.

      But, as Jesus says, you do get to a point where it is better to “shake the dust off your feet” and move on. The harvest is plentiful. No need to hang around to bury a dead corpse.

  • My dear friends, I don’t know the answer to the natural law question. I don’t know whether the fact that gays have been around as long as history means anything. I don’t know whether gays are genetically programmed, responders to sexual abuse, or are necessarily responding to any other sort of cues, but what I do know is that God loves them, wants them in his kingdom, desires life for them as he does for every other person.

    My gay friends struggle with the same problems about meaning, about their purpose, about being right with God as do my non-gay friends. I also know that my non-gay friends struggle with depression, porn, and self-doubt of every kind. Yet God loves them and me as well.

    I want to love and be loved as God loves me, as I am, with my faults, damage, and desires. I wish better for all of us, for all our hopes, for all our kin, for all our enemies. That is what I think Christ wants. This is what I want. This is what I wait for.

  • I recommend the recently published book Torn, by Justin Lee. Justin is a gay Cristian who grew up in an Evangelical environment. Torn describes his personal struggles and his practical and theological conclusions. It is a VERY good book on the subject.

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