Something needs to change here

Over on the Unfundamentalist Christians Facebook page, a student at Wheaton College shared with us the above photo of a sheet of paper he found stapled to a campus bulletin board. What’s typed on the paper is below.

Does the person who wrote this sound like a deviant moral reprobate, a danger to our nation and our children, an offense to God? Or does he just sound like a reasonable, good-natured, decent guy who only wants to be treated with the care and respect with which anyone living in a civilized society should expect as their natural due?

Being Gay at Wheaton: A Summary of my 9 months out of the closet

The following list includes examples of things that I have experienced as a gay male at Wheaton, and that other gay men might experience too. …

  • Guys will stop touching you. I’m not just talking about hugs. This includes handshakes, high-fives, and even squeezing past someone in a crowded area. Guys will also stop smiling at you, since it’s well-knwn that all gay people are innately attracted to all members of their gender.
  • Any guy that is seen hanging out with you on multiple occasions will have their sexuality questioned. For this reason, many of your friends might stop hanging out with you.
  • Your roommate’s friends will stop visiting their apartment, simply because you live there.
  • You will be extremely lonely.
  • You will have to sit through a New Testament class where the professor decides to spend an entire class period discussing his views on homosexuality. You will sit and listen to gay people be called abominations, diseased, and idolaters. This type of hurtful language will not stop, even after you’ve raised your hand and expressed how uncomfortable you are. The professor will later send you an email saying, “I don’t understand why you reacted the way you did. My wife is a flight attendant, we have a number of friendships with gay and lesbians.” (That’s word-for-word.)
  • Rumors will spread about you and your sexual activity (which is non-existent, by the way).
  • For every friend that decides to love you the same way they did before you came out, another friend will decide that being your friend would be supporting homosexuality, and will cut you off.
  • You will come to Wheaton after the worst summer of your life, after being fired from a Christian resale shop because a guy sexually assaulted you and, despite your claims of assault, the management deciding that since you are gay and male, “you must have wanted it.” You will find that there is NO space to talk about this on campus, no space to discuss the very real issues that gay people, Christian or not, face.
  • Whenever you bring up even one of these issues that you face every day, people will refuse to accept that things need to change, and will instead take the easy route of saying, “Why are you here then?”

In my opinion, something needs to change here.

"6 Bible results for "be kind":2 Chronicles 10:7They replied, “If you will be kind to ..."

Seven ways Christians blow it
"#1Jesus did not condemn all wealthy people. A little context helps."

Seven ways Christians blow it
"GOd came to save us from eternal separation from God by dying on a cross?Do ..."

Did Jesus speak more about Hell ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • More toxic juice from the bitter fruit of traditionalist theology. The church makes claims that the want to love gay people better. The only way that will happen is a change in theology – we must learn to believe in a way that doesn’t cause harm.


    Forgive them for they know not what they do?

    • Hayden Bridges

      Choosing to forgive my professors and peers is one of my harder decisions. I’m getting there….I go to Liberty University

      • BT

        Now THAT has got to be difficult. Best of luck to you.

      • JJ Marks

        You are truly a better Christian than I ever could be in this aspect. Liberty has to be one of the most harmful educational environments that exist at the undergraduate level. It truly does get better. Peace.

        • Hayden Bridges

          I actually just had a really healing conversation with a friend….letting go of the bitterness, the hate, everything negative. When we harbor negativity in our hearts, we separate ourselves from God. So despite how much shit my professors may spread, I have to choose to let it go because if I don’t, I’m only harming myself.

    • Matt Algren

      The problem with that is that they know *exactly* what they do.

      • Not always; the vast majority of homophobes are operating on misinformation and ignorance, based on which they come to conclusions that are only logical and, to them, the right thing to do. The key is to correct that misinformation and thus their actions, rather than pressure them into going against their own moral compasses.

  • Bob Black

    There are SO MANY colleges where someone can be affirmed and learn so much both academically and about themselves while being out and gay, I just cannot fathom why someone would stay at a college that makes them unhappy. Coming out as, especially for someone with an Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christian background, means you must UNLEARN as many things as you will learn. That won’t happen at a place like Wheaton where they just keep teaching the same things you have been taught all your life. Sometimes it IS just as simple as asking yourself, “Why keep going there?”

    • Sugarbush43

      It’s not necessarily that easy to just get up and go somewhere else. Loans and scholarships don’t always allow you to up and change schools. And aside from that, why should someone’s experience and education have to take such a turn simply for being honest about themselves?

      • Bob Black

        You (or he) went to Wheaton College fully aware that it was a conservative, evangelical college. Their official and unofficial position on gay people and their place in the life of a faith community or a college were well known to you. Change may come to Wheaton, but it will not happen until long after they have made you miserable, broken you and made you question your very existence. It’s not worth it. Take more student loans, go somewhere cheaper, stay in-state, do whatever it takes to get your education without choosing to remain somewhere that makes you unhappy.

        • Matt

          My family was too poor to send me to college, and so I almost went to College of the Ozarks, one of the most conservative schools in the country. That’s because they offered a comprehensive financial aid program. I was willing to stay heavily closeted under threat of expulsion in order to get an education.

          I now go to a secular nursing school. And I still have to listen to my anatomy and physiology professor say: “I’m not anti-gay, but…” and then talk about Gay Bowel Syndrome (which does not exist). I am still closeted. It’s just not that easy. Conservative Christian influence is everywhere if you live in certain parts of the country.

          • irtechie

            I call bullshit, poor people (like me) go to community college.

          • Matt

            I also went to community college briefly. I paid for it out of my own pocket. Full-time office job during the day, biology and chemistry classes at night.

            And it’s okay, Andy. I am used to judgment. It generally rolls off of me.

          • Andy

            I have no doubt you are, but I still don’t approve of that crap. I hope you don’t mind my sticking up for you.

          • Matt

            I don’t mind at all. In fact, it lifts my spirits and brightens my day. It’s always good to know that you are valuable.

          • Jill

            More valuable than words can say.

          • Terri Knoll

            I’m so glad for your strength to deal with snide people. I’m glad you are able to talk about your situation even if it is with an old gramma and other strangers on the internet. blessings

          • Andy

            You aren’t in his situation. Don’t judge him. Ugh.

          • community college is not a good option for everyone. 1. not every community has a campus close by. 2. not everyone has transportation for the commute. 3. not all community colleges offer degree options or college transfers, or their classes are set up in a way that classes taken at the college don’t transfer easily to four year or post grad schools. 4. tuition is low, but so are financial aid packages, and for kids, the reward is dependent completely on the income of the parents.

          • JenellYB

            All public community college are set up with core courses for freshman and sophomore levels that are coordinated to transfer to all 4 yr public and most private universities in that state. Academic advising at all community colleges have the information a student needs to make sure he or she is selecting courses for which all credits will transfer to various universities, though some have slightly different course choices. But academic advising offers all that info. Ive been through that myself as well as two of my children. In all our cases, we chose transferrable courses for an AA degree at community college, which at least here in Texas guarantees automatic acceptance to any state public university. We then transferred to the U to complete years 3 and 4 for bachelor’s degrees. But those pointing out FAFSA and financial aid up to age 25, unless orphaned, parents dead, or by special release for fostered kids, does require parents cooperate with income requirements.

          • You are right jenellYP, most community college credits are easily transferable to most private or state college. it is the other way around where trouble can occur. I know the courses I had taken at a state school did not transfer to a community college, although the private one I later attended did, and only half of my 50 accumulated courses were accepted to any for profit online schools.

            Which makes transferring to a new school, problematic. How much of a students course work will move to a new school? Is it worth setting oneself back a year, and more student loan debt, or is it best to suck it up and stick it out?

            My hope is that this student, or any student facing similar situations finds all the support available to them, that they are able to finish their educations, and become active and successful members of their community, as well as being at peace and happily aware of the people who are so proud of them.

          • Matt

            Another note: Under extreme and very specific circumstances, a student over 18 but under 24 can apply for what is called a Dependency Override, in which the usual restrictions for being an independent student are waived. Financial aid is then determined by the student’s income, not the parent’s.

            It requires documentation, letters, and references. Each school decides to offer it to a prospective student on an individual basis, and the Department of Education makes the final decision. This is the option I used to gain independent status. But it took months of maneuvering. I say it again: It is not easy to go to college for LGBT students. Triple those difficulties for those whose parents are not 100% supportive.

          • Wait, Gay Bowel Syndrome?

          • Jill

            When he told me about that, I was beyond words.

          • No, what is it supposed to be exactly? I’m trying to figure out if it’s this thing I have vague recollections of hearing about, and if it’s false after all.

          • I can’t speak for AnakinMcFly, but way back in my fundie days, we had this idea that gay men had some serious issues with their colons/lower digestive tracts, rectums, and anuses because of having anal sex. Apparently there was this whole constellation of problems and troubles gay men had as a result of their illicit sexual proclivities (obvs, this didn’t apply to gay women, who we figured never had anal sex, I guess). But I don’t think this conceptualization had a formal name, so I’m just guessing here that it’s something similar. I heard a megapastor say something similar to this about a week ago, which took me by surprise–I’d have thought by now even right-wingers would know better. (Am I allowed to say “anal sex” here, mods? If not, that’s cool, I’ll abide by your house rules while I’m a guest here.)

          • the phrase is not taboo as far as I can see Capt.

          • Yeah, that’s what I heard. Does that mean it’s not true? :/ How so, though? I’d think that anal sex *should* have some physical/health repercussions, especially if not done in a certain way.

          • As a good rule of thumb, if something you’re doing sexually physically hurts and you don’t want it to hurt, you’re probably doing it wrong. Can anal sex be physically harmful? Sure, and so can PIV sex. So can masturbation. So can just about anything if you do it wrong. No, gay men are not somehow intrinsically at greater risk of harm than anybody else who has anal sex, I wouldn’t reckon. Why should anal sex have “repercussions”, is the more pressing question.

          • Matt

            Alright, I had no idea this would spark such discussion!

            The tendency for gay men to have health consequences from anal sex was probably a side effect of two things: Lack of education and lack of access to healthcare. Being gay itself does not increase one’s risk. Shame is always a huge obstacle to treating any sexually-related health problem. There was also a tendency to think that gay men were the only ones that had anal sex, when straight people can and do have it. Creating this false “syndrome” only compounded the problem.

            Considering that it came into medical conversation in the late 1970s, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it contributed to the severity and death toll of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that came shortly thereafter.

            I was just as disappointed as anyone else to hear my professor talk about this. I respect her greatly as a scientist and teacher. Ordinarily, she is up to date with all the research. She simply showed an uglier side of her humanity for a moment, as we all do.

          • It looks like a semantics issue then – I’d definitely disagree that anyone, by sole virtue of their sexual orientation, is more at risk of any particular disease, but I’m not sure the same would be true for people (regardless of orientation) who frequently engage in a particular sex act.

          • “No, gay men are not somehow intrinsically at greater risk of harm than anybody else who has anal sex, I wouldn’t reckon.”


            “Why should anal sex have “repercussions”, is the more pressing question.”

            Not a doctor, but I could see it as possible – frequently widening the anus by external means and sticking things in can’t have zero effect on said anus. :/

          • Seems to work just fine for the folks who like it. I’ve never heard anything like there being some kind of issue with it. I have a couple of girlfriends who can only, uh, “get there” that way as well as of course all sorts of straight and gay guys who really like it. If you take the sort of reasonable precautions you take for PIV sex, there’s no reason it should cause any kind of harm.

            If you consider what sort of things go through that area, you’d quickly realize that no amount of toys or penises or fingers could possibly stretch that area more than most folks manage every single morning after they’ve had their first cup of coffee. Being worried about causing damage to the anus because of sex is like being worried about causing damage to the vagina because of sex–it’s designed for stuff to go into it and through it, and usually stuff a lot bigger than anything you’d use during sex. It’s just really taboo, is all, so there’s this feeling that it can be so harmful and dangerous. It isn’t. We’ve been sticking stuff up our butts since we figured out we could physically do it.

          • Jill

            Matt can give appropriate medical description but it basically sounded to me like a junk diagnosis for an STD exhibiting in the anal area. Straight people are not immune.

        • Often kids don’t have a lot of options. They are still only 18, and are usually dependent on parents for a lot of help. As parents play a large part in where a kid goes to school, it can limit options for a prospective student, especially if the parents has it in their head that secular college is the bastion of liberal minded atheism. It can be go to the college of the parent’s choice or don’t go at all….I hear that Walmart is hiring.

          • Bob Black

            Lots (in fact millions) of people go to college without their parents paying for it. To go to a Christian college and then expect that they will change their policies and theology to accommodate you is not reasonable. If he is out at school, he is very likely out to his parents. Time to have some tough conversations at home as well as with your peers at school. If you are part of a religious community (and Wheaton in this context is a religious community) that is abusing you physically or emotionally the best thing to do is leave. God does not expect you to martyr yourself on the lost cause of inclusion for LGBT people at Wheaton College.

          • Ok, so this kid has a “tough conversation” with his parents, and guess what, He’s out on the streets, no job, no car, no education. He cant turn to his church to help, He’s going to have to reapply for another school, and without his parent’s assistance, will not be able to fill out the financial aid forms, BECAUSE FAFSA requires parent’s income. Without FAFSA he can’t get into any college.

            THIS is the dilemma of gay kids, or kids who are having to exist in the religious environment of their parents whether they want to or not. To voice how they feel, is not often an option, to be open to who they really are holds serious risks. Yes, its wrong, and this is why we need to work, compassionately diligently and wisely, so that one day soon, noone has to hide who they are to get a job, go to school, attend a house of worship, rent an apartment, etc.

          • I wish I had more than one upvote here. That is absolutely what I hear as well from closeted gay or atheist kids. It’s heartbreaking how little option they feel they have.

          • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

            I worked with someone whp came out to his parents, and they cut him off financially in the middle of college. They had committed to paying for his law degree also, and of course that didn’t happen either. He did the rest of his education with loans. I told him he was brave, and he said that it wasn’t that, it was “I just counldnt stand it anymore.”
            The cost can be high for the truth.

        • pennyhammack

          Frequently you don’t have a choice. If Wheaton is the only college in the area where he was and is living, he just recently came “out”, he can’t afford even more student loans or to throw away a year or more of college, his major is not available everywhere or he has family obligations and they live in the area then picking up and moving elsewhere may not be an option.
          I don’t think in today’s world that any college would advertise an openly homosexual attitude. It’s probably more of a nudge, nudge, wink, wink kind of policy that he may have missed. Colleges shouldn’t be about rejecting anyone’s lifestyle choices as long as they are not hurting anyone else. There are outliers in every group but the LGBT crowd isn’t usually about changing your mind but about being left in peace.

      • I put three kids through college, so I have filled out many the FAFSA. financial aid is based on the parent’s income, which often limits affordable choices. Ironically, private schools, even though they charge more for tuition, often offer better financial aid packages. Heck, I went back to school for a year and a half, and had a kid in college, and all I could get was student loan, because I made too much money at 20k annually.

        My kids could not be given independent status to get better financial aid, It is quite difficult to do that, unless you are married or have a child. I know a girl who was denied independent status, even though both parents were deceased, and she was in her early 20’s.

        Ii took some classes at the local community college, but they did not offer a degree option I wanted, so I transferred to a local private college that accepted not only the community college credits I had earned but also some other older credits, no state college would touch, even though i had attended a state college once upon a time.

        Its tough for kids to get into colleges of their choice.

        • Ugh! Feel for you, lady. My sister’s doing that now with her college-bound high school child. She’s already beyond OVER all that paperwork! But you have to do it.

          I was on my own from my high school graduation onward, but I couldn’t qualify as independent either–so I got to do all that paperwork by myself. And I still got denied a mess of grants because of my parents’ income, even though they were absolutely not paying a single dime of my tuition or expenses in college. It was no fun. And now college is much more expensive and even more mandatory for young people–so I really can’t judge anybody for where they land in college. There isn’t always a lot of choice, and if a kid’s parents are footing the bill, sometimes that’s all they’re willing to consider as a school.

  • Charles

    I sympathize with your struggle. I also wonder if seeing the prejudice, cowardice, ignorance, and unloving “morality” of this brand of Christianity might cause you to compare Christian theologies out there, and begin deconstructing and reconstructing a more humane and loving faith for yourself. So many times, if you’re raised in a fundie or evangelical home, as you and I were, you get the message that the ONLY choices are to be a Fundy, or to throw away your faith all together. I think you’ll find much more humane, loving, and reasonable ways to be a Christian in a different school and culture. Best of Luck to you. There is Nothing wrong with your sexual orientation.

  • Andy

    Good lord, that is awful. It’s a disgrace that this still happens in this day and age.

  • That goes with the territory, while legally it is acceptable you can’t force someone to mentally accept it. That’s with anything, the more you try to force someone to do something the more they will react negatively to it.

  • Pubilius – I found this. I hope the student/s involved find allies and supporters even in a difficult place like this.

  • JenellYB

    It is with true empathy and compassion, that I’d suggest the letter writer give more thought to that question, “why are you here?” No one should ever feel they have to accept staying where such attitudes are expressed as if a norm. There are other good colleges, and the attitudes are more respectful.

    • too simplistic. learn more about why people DO feel like they should belong in such colleges.

      • It’s never as easy as “just leave”–ever. A lot’s bound up in big decisions. It’s important not to marginalize someone else’s decision. If he’s there, he has his reasons to be there. We’re not here to cast aspersions upon those reasons but to offer support and love while he feels he must be there.

  • That’s just awful. That poor young man. My heart broke reading that paper. I wish I could help and all I can do is say with you: This is wrong. This is very wrong. This is awful. This is unacceptable. This needs to change. I hope he sees this and knows he is loved and accepted, that he has allies, elsewhere. Sometimes college can be a bit of a bubble and it’s hard to think of the world outside it. So I hope he finds the allies he needs.

    I truly, truly, truly hope something does change. You’re right: it needs to. The human cost of hatred and exclusion is just getting too high. Please, Christians, stop tolerating this sort of treatment of your neighbors and loved ones. Please. Not just because loving your neighbors is what Jesus is supposed to have commanded Christians to do, but because nobody deserves to be on the receiving end of that kind of prejudice and callous cruelty.

  • jeangaijin

    Leaving such a hate-filled, narrow-minded and intolerant place may feel like losing, or surrender; I would say that it shouldn’t be viewed that way, but merely taking control of an aspect of your life and taking action to make it better. You deserve to get a college education in a place where you would not be, at best, merely “tolerated,” but valued and fully accepted for ALL of who you are. Maybe change will come to Wheaton and other bastions of Fundamentalism like it, someday. But if it is making you miserable and lonely and disrespected to be there, it is not in any way dishonorable to say that you deserve better, and to leave.
    Nobody says you have to be the Jackie Robinson of homosexuality; and remember, even Jackie Robinson had Branch Rickey behind him when things got tough. And Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, not a team in the Deep South, surrounded by segregationists. Give yourself a break.

    Yes, they should treat you better; yes, you shouldn’t have to leave; yes, it’s horribly unfair and rotten. Do it anyway.

  • To everyone urging the student to leave and pursue an education elsewhere:

    It’s often not that easy…and in some cases it’s virtually impossible. It’s quite possible that a college student might not have a job, might not have any savings, might not have a car, and might not have a credit card. Not everyone has the financial and emotional resources to make such a drastic change in the direction of their life…especially when such a course might result in the loss of the support of their family.They might, like this student, be only a year or two away from graduating, having spent a significant amount of time and money towards that goal — and reaching that achievement may be the only light on the horizon. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and to simply assume that packing up and leaving is necessarily a viable option for this student is naive and disrespectful.
    No, this student shouldn’t have to suffer the emotional and psychological trauma that he’s being subjected to. But instead of offering educational advice and trying to fix this student’s individual problem — when we don’t even have all the relevant facts — it’s far more worthwhile to speak out in support of him, to support groups like OneWheaton and to support students that we know in our own lives.

  • Catharine Phillips

    Things are already beginning to change. From the students who have chosen to stay and speak… bravely, courageously. I am one proud alumna.

  • Brian Howell

    I am deeply deeply saddened by this student’s experience at the school where I teach. I would want him to know that there IS a place where he can talk about these things. In the first place, I have had a number of students in my office talking about their sexual identity. I, and many other faculty, put on our doors, and often our persons, a button that reads simply, “I am safe.” Also, the school itself has recently started a group in accord with Student Development for conversation. It is not a reparative therapy group and students in the group have a variety of theologies about sexuality, relationships, scripture, and so forth. I don’t know why this particular student hasn’t found these resources on campus; I know we often don’t do enough to help our students find help, but I also know students who identify as gay who have had very different experiences with friends and faculty. While Wheaton does have a theological identity, that I know many feel is incompatible with loving LGBTQ+ people, I know many students who identify with that community who have had a different experience than this young man with friends and faculty. Wheaton is not a monolithic place.

    • Bill Washington

      I’m a student at Wheaton, and I know the student who wrote this open letter. He is one of only a couple people who have come out publicly at Wheaton. The group you referenced was started up is for closeted same-sex attracted kids only, and it’s leadership functions on a “be celibate or change” basis. There isn’t a space for gay people to be in community with straight people at Wheaton. That seems to be the core issue here, not that this student is gay and struggling with his sexual identity, which is what that group was started up for. I don’t see how going to talk to a professor would end the isolation this student feels from his peers.

      • Hank Chen

        Hi Bill and Dr. Howell – Hank Chen here from ’06. Bill, agree with you fully. And at the same time I honor the efforts of Dr. Howell who is attempting to do as much as he can given the constraints of the college without getting fired. That being said, this group endorses the idea that being gay is inherently wrong and I fear that may lead to more internal damage than intended. Dr. Howell – please tread carefully with these fragile souls.

      • Brian Howell

        Bill, I’m not sure who you’ve been talking to at Refuge, or your experience with the group, but I know the student leaders of the group as well as the staff leadership of the group, and, unless there’s been a dramatic change in the past month, there is not a “change” basis for the group (at least not in the Exodus Int’l sense of “change.”) The group has both Side A and Side B people in the group. In fact, throughout last year, there were more Side A students in the group than Side B.

        Talking to a prof won’t change how some peers have acted, but the key issue here is how he’s feeling in the midst of this. A non-Christian school isn’t necessarily heaven for LGBTQ+ students either. America has problems with LGBTQ-ness. A lot of students struggle in college with relationships of various kinds. Students experience depression and even contemplate suicide for a lot of reasons. Peer relationships are difficult for everyone. Talking to someone older and wiser and more experienced in life is always a good thing. I think it’s a mistake to believe that if only we were someplace else, these dynamics wouldn’t exist. You can talk to LGBTQ people at other schools – even non-Christian schools – who have similar stories of coming out.

        • Bill Washington

          Yes, other schools are just as difficult to be out of the closet at. That’s not the point. The point is that Wheaton College professes “intentional community” throughout the campus, yet looks no different than the other schools you mentioned. Other schools might not even say that their students are unified and care deeply about each other. Wheaton does. So that makes this student’s open letter even more terrible. The hypocrisy Wheaton’s campus is showing to him is extremely saddening.

        • dssinmexico

          To me (class of 1970) it all comes down to one very simple issue. If you an evangelical who accepts (the fact) that being gay is NOT choice but how one is born, there is room for growth, learning, change, love, acceptance, etc. If you do not accept that premise (fact) and believe that being gay is just a choice, then there cannot be any communion with those who are gay. Period.

      • ken

        Do you know why he posted the letter?

  • Elizabeth Parkinson

    This is so sad. Many Christians seem to be getting so hooked up on homosexuality that they are missing the point of loving their neighbour, and missing the point that we are each one of us sinners and Jesus came for ALL sinners.

    • I think Christians trying to get out the message that being gay is NOT a sin is an example of Christians loving their neighbors. Christians insisting–however subtly, like you just did–that being gay is a sin is an example of Christians NOT loving their neighbors.

      • I agree with John. I don’t like the idea of looking at everyone as a sinner. It hyperfocuses on the “sin/wrong”, real or imagined, and not on all that is right about a person, much less the person as a whole, beautiful, vibrant being.

      • Laura Scarborough

        What I took from Elizabeth’s comment was not a subtle hint that being gay as a sin, but rather that those who say it as a sin don’t seem to realize that every living soul is a sinner in some way, including (or especially) themselves.

        • No, what she said is the standard way anti-gay Christians now express that being gay is a sin.

          • They do seem so very good at finding new and innovative ways of dehumanizing and marginalizing those they don’t approve of–as if their approval is in any way needed or required for the functioning of total strangers’ lives.

            This is just “love the sin/hate the sinner” dressed up in its heels and silk gown, repackaged to sound a little less offensive–but it’s the same old hate and division we’re used to. What a pretty, pretty cup she has on the outside. (ETA: ha, Freudian slip! Hate the sin/love the sinner, but it kinda works out the same way… folks like that do seem to emphasize “sin” and don’t tend to act very lovingly toward the people they think are doing the “sin”.)

    • Sorry to disagree, Elizabeth, but I cannot logically assume that “we are
      each one of us sinners”, nor should it matter to you or me whether
      others are or are not … that’s an issue between them and their God,
      and none of our business.

      • Everyone is a sinner though, by virtue of being human; that’s kind of standard Christian theology. For all have fallen short, etc, therefore Jesus. The only issue for debate here is what people consider to be sins.

        • I certainly respect your opinion, though I don’t share it. ALL Christian theology definitely does not share the “original sin” doctrine, as I most certainly do not. IMO the concept that God should purposely create anything broken is simply ridiculous, and Jesus came into my life not to fix it, but to perfect it. You’ll find more about this difference of opinion in an excellent article here:

        • If you study denominations and major schools of theology, you’ll quickly discover things are a lot murkier than that. Not all Christians believe in Original Sin or even there having been a literal Fall of Man. There’s really not any doctrinal point I have ever heard of that could be considered completely universal among Christians. It’s the craziest thing, I know!

          • Yep, though this isn’t really about Original Sin but just, well, sin in general. In order for someone not to be a sinner, they would basically by definition never have committed any sin, no matter how minor, and I have yet to find anyone about whom that is true. It’s possible that people do exist who have never lied or been angry at someone or coveted something that wasn’t theirs etc, but if so, it’s very, very, very rare.

            My main beef with people saying that they’re not sinners (implying that other people are) is that they’re basically suggesting that they’re perfect and have never done anything wrong in their life, which comes across as really condescending and holier-than-thou.

          • Considering most “sins” are really just religious constructs, and that most of them involve a lot of judgement and overreach, I reject the idea that I’m a “sinner.” That doesn’t mean I’m perfect, just that I don’t subscribe to the Judeo-Christian concept of “sin” as a manufactured need to address in my life.

            I don’t hurt people or do stuff to interfere with folks’ private lives. It’s crazy to me that most Christian denominations consider just being gay to be a “sin,” for example, but gay people have sex with consenting adults in consenting situations and what they do does not impact anybody else’s lives at all–so what exactly could the “sin” be there? Christianity generally puts a lot more emphasis on moralism and paternalistic thought control than it does on issues like consent and overreach, and therein lies its biggest flaw and its most glaring weakness.

            If you’ve ever seen Ray Comfort at work, you know that his standard operating tactic is to ask someone if he or she has ever lied, or stolen something, or whatever, and then to build a case that this misdeed, however long ago, however justified, however redressed, makes that person a SINNER worthy of eternal torment for that one misdeed. It’s revolting, the level of manipulation and fearmongering going on there, but seeing him do it made me realize just how the concept of “sin” was designed to control people. Nowadays we see Christians flipping out over “fighting sin” and that’s why they justify not giving women control over their bodies or denying gay people their civil rights, but in this case, too, “fighting sin” only happens in a context of controlling other people’s lives and private decisions. You should think about this a little bit, Anakin. “Sin” is probably one of the most toxic concepts that’s ever come out of Christianity.

          • I think it’s a semantics issue, and possibly culturally specific to America. I’ve always been taught that ‘sin’ refers to ‘doing bad things to God or others’, and in that sense, anyone who has done any morally wrong thing such as tell a lie or be angry at one’s neighbour is therefore, by definition, a sinner. I’d agree with Comfort on that part, though not the bit about how it then makes you worthy of eternal torment; that seems to be a misinterpretation of even the traditional conservative view of hell and is anyway a whole other discussion.

            How people have been abusing and twisting the concept of sin is thus not relevant here, and I’d disagree that fighting sin only happens in the context of controlling others. When we fight or struggle against things like hatred, or homophobia, or abuse, that’s also fighting sin, because all those are bad things that hurt others (and I’m sure God as well).

            I thus have trouble conceiving of any individual as not a sinner, because I have yet to know a person who has never done anything wrong, ever. To me, saying that everyone is a sinner is basically the equivalent of saying that nobody is perfect. I understand that the term might have different cultural baggage in the US, but on my part I find it logically inconsistent for someone to claim that they’re not a sinner but also not perfect, because the two exist as a dichotomy in my mind: if you’re not one, then you’re the other.

          • And that is a false dichotomy that you have internalized. That’s part of the real crime Christianity has committed against humanity–it has convinced entire swathes of Christians that their job is to “fix” other people and make them behave in a way that makes Christians feel more comfortable. It doesn’t really matter that you do not perceive the “fighting sin” concept as an effort to control others’ private lives. That is how it is perceived by the vast majority of non-Christians. In the same way, your perception that these “sins”–which are victimless crimes that do not impact you even the tiniest little bit–“hurt” others is your own perception and it is not the perception of those you are trying to strong-arm with those attitudes. You need to grow into a more respectful way of relating to people. You are not being loving when you are trying to force people to do or not do something you personally don’t like or find ickie.

            To turn it around, I think your attitude is extremely abusive and toxic for you. I think it results in harm to you. But I respect that you feel that way and wouldn’t try to enforce in law that you are not allowed to feel that way. Instead, what I will do is support laws that protect people from the overreach that result when religious zealots try to strong-arm people into behaving in certain ways out of religious concern. You need to remember that it doesn’t matter how sexually “pure” you force me to be. If I am not a Christian, I’m still going to Hell according to the vast majority of Christians. Even virgins go to Hell. So you’re really putting the cart before the horse here. You can’t differentiate between stuff that is genuinely harmful and stuff that is just “self-harming” with no impact to you or society, and you’re using that misperception to try to control others’ lives.

            So yes. I am not perfect, but I’m certainly not buying into the “sinner” mindset of Christianity. I reject that entire paradigm because it encourages thought policing and thought crime persecution, because it considers things “sins” that are none of Christians’ business, and because it encourages adherents to force others to comply with its weird internalized rules. It encourages you to put yourself above others and try to “fix” perfectly functional, rational adults. It encourages you to see “correct practice” as more important than, well, loving your damned neighbor.

          • I’m not sure if you actually read my post or if you’re just making assumptions about what I believe, (or if you’re mistaking me for another poster altogether) because practically nothing in your reply reflects my actual thoughts, and in some cases directly contradicts them.

            How are things like homophobia and abuse ‘victimless-crimes’? Seriously? Gay people are being killed and killing themselves because of homophobia. Abuse – especially sexual abuse – has extremely psychologically traumatising effects on the victims. I intend to do my part to fight against those sins, and I have no idea how you consider that attitude to be ‘abusive’ or ‘toxic’. So fighting abuse is abusive now?

            I’m sorry that you take issue with my finding things like rape or domestic violence to be ‘ickie’.

            I really have no idea what you’re talking about or how on earth it relates to anything I’m saying. But just to address this anyway:

            “It encourages you to put yourself above others and try to “fix” perfectly functional, rational adults.”

            Did you completely miss the part about how *everyone* is a sinner? That means including the people doing the condemnation. That means not putting anyone above anyone else.

            I generally like to think I’m a calm person, but I’m still really pissed off about your assertion that homophobia is a victimless crime. I’m gay, with lots of gay friends I care about very much, some of whom I’ve had to stay up long nights with to talk out of suicide *because* of that supposedly victimless homophobia that “[does] not impact [me] even the tiniest little bit”. Excuse my language, but fuck you.

          • YIKES! I can see why you’d want to tell me to fuck off. I’d tell me the same thing if I were actually saying that rape, homophobia, and domestic violence were just “ickie” or “victimless crimes.” I AM NOT SAYING THAT AT ALL! I’ve gone over and over this thread and can’t see anywhere I’ve said that. I don’t know what definition of “sin” you’re using, but it sounds more like you’re talking about actual crimes, dude. Where did all that even come from? Nobody in this thread’s mentioned assault, rape, DV, or bigotry even once, much less advocated it. But I know how stuff can get online. Please accept my apologies if I said something that twigged you in that direction.

            I want to make this perfectly clear: Homophobia, domestic violence, and rape are horrifying acts of demonstrable harm against people. They are not victimless crimes. They are CRIMES committed against VICTIMS by CRIMINALS. They invade another person’s right to exist, another person’s right to use his or her body as desired, to engage in consensual acts with other consenting adults as desired, and they stomp all over that person’s consent and that person’s rights. That’s why our culture defines those things as crimes and not “sins”. Is that seriously what you’re saying a “sin” is? Because I sure don’t do any of that. I don’t know any non-Christians who do any of that either, and I doubt you do that stuff yourself.

            Misunderstandings like that are a big part of why I reject that label. There’s no universal list of “sins” to consult, is there? So what you view as a “sin” might look really different from what I saw it as. Either way, though, I’m not a Christian, so I don’t have to indulge in beating myself up for thought crimes and I don’t need to insert myself or my views into someone else’s private life. I can separate out “stuff that is really a crime and needs to be stopped at all costs”–LIKE BIGOTRY AND ASSAULT–and “stuff that doesn’t impact anybody but the people directly involved, isn’t overriding anybody’s personal consent, and so therefore isn’t my business, like someone else’s sex life or clothing choices or language or choice of marital partner.” Nor do I view what I do with my free time behind closed doors with other consensual adults to be up for anybody else’s approval or adjudication. Same for you. You are a free person. The term “sinner” makes you into a broken human being who needs to be fixed, and I don’t think that you are, or that I am, or that anybody else is. That term also sets the tone of concentrating upon someone’s “sin” rather than on something more positive, and I don’t like that either. It’s a really negative way of looking at someone and focusing on their misdeeds, and I refuse to let someone do that to me–or you.

            This whole discussion started because you said that Original Sin was some kind of universal thing in Christianity. I have let you know that it is not. And now I’m letting you know why it is that a non-Christian like me might reject the term “sinner” for myself while still accepting that of course I mess up. I’m human, and humans do that. The difference is that when I mess up I make amends as best I can, apologize, etc., and then move on. I don’t let messing up define my entire life. And on that note, please let me extend my condolences and very best wishes for speedy equality in all civil rights and protections and respect to you and your friends… I can definitely see why someone would be a little tender on that topic given the circumstances. Thank you very much for letting me know you were angry so I could apologize and hopefully clear the air a little. Let me know if you had any other questions about alternate viewpoints regarding “sin.”

          • Thanks, and sorry for that. I think there’s been a lot of miscommunication in this thread. In my previous-previous reply I listed “hatred, or homophobia, or abuse” as examples of sin I thought people should fight against, such that your denouncing of ‘sin = victimless crimes’ felt like you were referring to those, especially since the first two are interpreted by some people to be merely ‘thought crimes’. I’ve definitely heard that point of view a lot by people asking who it hurts if they merely believe that it’s wrong to be gay or that gay people are gross, as long as they don’t actually personally *do* anything about it.

            I do consider all crimes to be sin – where ‘crime’ is just the secular, legal way of referring to wrongdoing, but where sin also includes non-criminal wrongs like insulting people for the lolz, or religious-based things like mocking God, which isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a crime.

            And yeah, it would also include thought-crimes – not that it means we should get paranoid and feel horrible about doing it, but that we recognise that it is wrong to for instance fantasise at long gleeful length about murdering people, even if you never actually do it. The label ‘sin’ is thus for me a useful term to describe such thoughts and indicate that they are wrong, and that in an ideal (sinless?) world of goodness, people wouldn’t think or desire things like that. It refers to how humanity in general is often really screwed up and selfish and enjoys hurting others, even if – as is usually the case – it’s because they too have been hurt in the past.

            And on the more personal side, I guess it’s always been comforting to me to hear that ‘we are all sinners’; because growing up gay and trans in an anti-LGBT environment, I’d long been made to feel that *I* was the sinner, or at least much more of one than anyone else. Whereas the original sin concept assured me that, no, I wasn’t actually worse than other people, but equal to them, which was an extremely revolutionary, affirming thought to me. It meant other people willingly coming down to meet me as a fellow flawed human, rather than condescendingly preaching at me from far above.

            I no longer consider being LGBT to be a sin, but the experiences have stuck, and I still have this knee-jerk reaction to people saying that they’re not sinners (given that the usual implication was that I was). Which I know you didn’t mean, but it’s hard to rid myself of the associations; not to mention that it ends up implicitly creating a moral hierarchy, because if we are not all sinners, the implication is that *some* of us still are, and the automatic reaction for me, not helped by conservative Christian opinions, is to feel that I’m considered part of that ‘some’.

          • I’m glad you don’t think being LGBT is a sin. It’s not. If it comforts you to think that everybody is a sinner, then have at. That’s part of that “thought crime” stuff that I don’t think is any of my business. I think you’re barking up the wrong tree by thinking that it’s any of your business what other people think if their thoughts don’t translate into deeds that affect you. But I assume you’re an adult, and that means you’re free to think whatever you want for yourself.

            Just… can you please remember that labels aren’t good to apply to people against their wills? Just as it’s wrong for someone to label you in a way that you don’t like and that you have rejected, wouldn’t that imply that it’s wrong for you to label me in a way I don’t like and have rejected? I can approach you as an equal without approaching you in the paradigm of us both being broken human beings. I just can’t see you as broken, any more than I can see myself as broken. You are beautiful, just like you are, flaws and glorious strengths and all. Nothing about you is broken. How you see yourself is up to you, and if you see yourself as a sinner I accept that, but don’t ask me to see you that way.

  • TheMovieSlut

    Saying that he knew the atmosphere when enrolling or that he should just leave is the equivalent of “She wore a revealing dress and went there late at night; what did she expect?”

    • Matt

      Thank you, Lisa. This constant “go somewhere else” talk just strikes me as cruel and craven. It relieves other people’s pain in the short term because the “problem” is solved. But it sends a very clear message to the student that he is the problem. That kind of pain runs deep.

      • Jill

        And it’s a very old, old message that says people don’t have to change or grow. Only that’s untrue and ultimately cowardly. That other people’s stubbornness gets to trump decency doesn’t play anymore.

        • And some people want to affect change from the inside. When I was first getting into the religion scene again after many years away from it, one thing I heard over and over again for women was that we should “just” leave religion if we felt it was so sexist and demeaning. I was even guilty of saying similar things myself. But after listening to Christian women talk about why they felt drawn to stay, I couldn’t keep saying something so disrespectful and overly-simplistic. If it was “just” that easy, it’d already be done. (That applies everywhere except tech support, where “is it plugged in?” is a legitimate opening salvo for any problem.)

          • Jill

            Cap’t, you just hit on the thing I couldn’t put my finger on. (Bad sentence…) At one time I DID leave and I’m forever glad that I did. My sanity thanks me frequently, BUT what I also did was lock the door on religion, particularly the Christian brand, tossed away the key and a very real part of myself right along with it.

            The part of me that clung to that religious mess was the part that survived hell at home. And then I went ahead and thanked that small, immature, frightened part of myself by saying I was ashamed of it, glad to be rid of all of it and unwilling to see the strength of that young person who survived it.

            I can’t fragment myself like that anymore, the price is too high. So while I hang with my Christian roots once again, I live with it much differently now. I need other beliefs as well. I respect too many alternative explanations to only believe one path. And so my presence will make a change because I’ve seen how others have done it. I refuse to allow patriarchy to break my stride.

  • Jason Engel

    I’ve read all of the comments up to this point, and one of the common themes is that many people appear to defend this student’s choice to stay at Wheaton because they posit a possible lack of options. So, I am not weighing in on the core debate itself (beyond saying I support this young man, and if he happens to attend Willow Creek Community Church (lots of WC students attend WCCC) my family would be happy to treat him to dinner sometime), but I wanted to offer some info that I think is pertinent to the lack-of-options discussion because I live near Wheaton:

    Wheaton College is located in Wheaton, IL, which is a near-northwest suburb of Chicago. There are more than a dozen colleges, universities, and community colleges within a half-hour drive or bus ride of Wheaton College. If you extend the range to the greater Chicago area, you are looking at many dozens of colleges and universities, public and private, many of them theological, to choose from. There is no shortage of options, just an unspecified reason for not choosing a different option.

    We do not know, based on this article, what this young man’s circumstances are nor his motivations for attending Wheaton College. Unless we get those details, the lack-of-options discussion isn’t based on anything more than imagined scenarios. Regardless, the offer of dinner with family stands.

    • You make it sound like it’s as simple as transferring to CoD and the problem’s solved — but there a myriad of other challenges that may be standing in this student’s way. You’re right that we don’t have all the details, but I do think it’s reasonable to conclude that he has valid reasons for remaining at Wheaton despite the circumstances he’s facing.

      • Jason Engel

        Hi Dan. I made no implication or suggestion about transferring. I shared local information and pointed out that the options argument is somewhat moot and highly hypothetical. Please do not put words in my mouth.

        • Rattling off the extensive educational opportunities in the greater Chicagoland area certainly seemed to be implying that transferring should at least be a possibility.

          • Jason Engel

            Hi Dan. I’ve read your other comments. You seem strongly invested in the argument not to transfer. So perhaps your focus is leading you to read into my original comment more than what is there. If anything, I am surprised that you did not choose to infer from my words an implication that with so many educational options to choose from within a small area, this young man must have a very profound and determined desire to be at Wheaton College given the details of his struggle so far. Which, to be clear, is also not something I imply nor suggestion. I shared local information and pointed out that the options argument is somewhat moot and highly hypothetical.

          • I simply don’t find the so-called “options argument” to be “moot” or “highly hypothetical,” nor do I assume that he has a “profound and determined desire” to stay at Wheaton. He may absolutely hate it at Wheaton, he may desperately want to leave and he may be in a position in which he is unable to do so. This is, of course, speculation, but I think it’s a quite reasonable possibility. In the end, we all need to avoid making assumptions about what he should or shouldn’t do.

          • True, and this may be the person who ends up being the catalyst for real change at Wheaton, all because of a poster. It could be that people who never considered what it was like to walk in his shoes, or the shoes of another student or staff member who is gay, will finally understand, all because of a poster, and the man who just couldn’t stay silent any longer.

            Whether he stays or goes, is his choice, for reasons known best to him. What we should be doing is supporting him either way.

  • OZ_in_TX

    The issue I see with the ‘go somewhere else’ meme is that it places the onus of change 100% on the student – the people who are ‘acting out’ in the above letter get a free pass to continue behaving the way they do.

    I support this student 100% in staying at Wheaton because I refuse to dump the burden of having to change on them. The list of behaviors is wrong – completely and totally wrong. It reminds me of how the Jews of Jesus’ day treated the Samaritans, whose only crime was to be born Samaritan.

    If the people in the above letter succeed in driving off this student, then who exactly wins here? The Greatest Commandment certainly doesn’t…. and that should be very troubling.



  • DonRappe

    It may be that this student is a conscientious person, similar to others at the school who is interested in helping God save them from their sins.

  • Mark Cee

    Man. As a gay Christian, this kind of thing just breaks my heart.

    I hear the cries of “the kid should stay!” from those who are quite rightly outraged and disgusted by the persecution that he has experienced. Part of me believes he should stay as well–the Evangelical attitude towards us will never change if we simply run away whenever it happens. OTOH, it’s important to remember that this guy may not have gone to Wheaton to be an activist, and that the kind of animus he’s up against (which is NOT supported by even the most literal reading of the Biblical clobber passages) is too pervasive and too obviously approved in Evangelical culture for him to be able to affect any sort of change. If he stays, the shunning will only get worse. It’s quite possible that his personal safety could be in danger.

    When I was a freshman in a secular, well-known private college in Boston in the mid-80s, my roommate came across evidence that I was gay. He told the other guys on the floor, who took great pride in terrorizing me in every way imaginable. My complaints to the administration were met with apathy, as were my repeated requests to transfer to another dorm. When the semester was over, I got out of there as quickly as I could and made arrangements to attend another school. Looking back, I’m very glad I did. My college years were too important to let them be marred by homophobia.

    • Sheila Warner

      I think it is important for any gay college student to know ahead of time what the doctrinal statements are in any “Christian” college or university. If said college or university has an anti-gay agenda, it might be prudent for that student to stay out of that college or university; or else, be prepared for some big backlash if s/he decides to come out while attending. Of course, in an ideal world, Christian colleges and universities would welcome every student, no matter his/her sexual orientation. But these are private institutes of higher learning, and therefore, they are not subject to the same requirements of public institutes. Should things change? Yes. Will they? That’s another question. We don’t have equality in all 50 states yet, so why are we surprised by finding such open hostility in private entities such as these? One has to be terribly strong to go against the grain in these places. Why waste some of the best years of one’s life fighting these kinds of battles? It’s not a matter of a gay student having the right to be in a conservative Christian school–it’s a matter of why would a gay student even want to consider such a school in the first place?

      • Bill Washington

        Did you pick your college based on your sexuality?

        • Sheila Warner

          No, I’m actually straight, but I did go a very conservative Christian Bible college at the strong urging of my parents. I was trying to break away from my Fundie upbringing, was very anxious while at the college, and left after one semester. My mom was really upset with me because I was so happy when I left that toxic environment.

          I have a complicated relationship with my folks because I walked away from conservative, traditional, Fundamentalist beliefs. I got a job, made a TON of gay friends, hung out at the gay bar scene in Atlantic City, and just basically gave my parents angina. I married in 1981 & moved away. I still miss those crazy good times with my gay friends, whether out and about or just hanging around at a friend’s house.

          My husband’s sister was a lesbian–she died of ovarian cancer–but her friends were a bit older and not as much fun. We don’t keep in touch with them.

      • Sheila Warner

        I re-read my earlier comment to you and I get why you asked me whether or not I chose a college based on my sexual identity. When I say “we” don’t yet have equality, I mean it as a collective “we”, because i am in solidarity with my LGBTQ friends. Sorry for the confusion. I just see all of us involved in the issue of gay equality as “we” because every person deserves the same decent treatment and has the right to equal treatment under the law.

  • Josh Jinno

    “Whenever you bring up even one of these issues that you face every day,
    people will refuse to accept that things need to change, and will
    instead take the easy route of saying, “Why are you here then?””

    Why is this the Christian response to anything difficult – forget LGBT issues – When did Jesus say “so why are you here then?”

  • dssinmexico

    I graduated from Wheaton College in 1970. I am gay. Back then, being gay was not even discussed. It simply was not allowed. Or done. Being gay was fearful. I stayed, but I was in the closet. It took me 30 years to get over Wheaton. It does not sound like it has gotten any better.

  • Ralph Locklin

    Our beliefs that are firmly held are just like an arm or a leg; they become part of our being and they skew our thoughts and responses just like a tumor would. Watching this stuff happen is really sad. Unfortunately people that hold these beliefs firmly will not be able to change them unless they come across the right set of circumstances….not likely.

  • Jack McClelland

    May I invite you to worship with me some Sunday morning. I am the president of the church council at St. Micheal’s UCC just west of you in West Chicago. We are a small congregation and an Open and Affirming church. My husband and I are the only gay members of the congregation and have always fely warmly welcome. I am sure you will feel the same.