InterVarsity is joining the ranks of what might be called the Ralph Reed/Jerry Falwell Jr., Trumpian Angry Aging White Reactionaries Against Change and preaching the most vicious vision of Jesus as The Destroyer Of Decency And Empathy.
As reported in Religion Dispatches by InterVarsity has rolled out a policy that calls for all staff who disagree with its hard line fundamentalist religious right theological position on gay rights to denounce themselves and quit by November 11. This includes gay staff and even those who might support them. This isn’t just about “lifestyle” but even about what one thinks.
InterVarsity joins the ranks of Bob Jones U, Gordon College and for that matter the white supremacist movement, that among other things is homophobic to the core. If staff members disagree, the national campus ministry stated in a letter to staff, “we trust that they will alert their supervisors and conclude their work [within two weeks].”
This purge and the wording of the letter reminds me of calls by the Red Guards of China’s Cultural Revolution for ‘good communists” to self-denounce and “confess.”
Aswrites in “Inside InterVarsity’s Purge: Trauma and Termination at the Premier Evangelical Student Org” :
When InterVarsity staff worker Michael Vasquez told two of his supervisors that a man had raped him in a gym locker room, one wondered aloud if he had asked for it. Did Vasquez, a gay Christian, secretly hope for this encounter? The question came out nonchalantly, recalled Vasquez in an interview, “like this was a discipleship conversation about my promiscuity as opposed to a pastoral conversation about how I was just raped.”
Since Vasquez first began working at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, one of the nation’s largest campus ministries, he had been open about his sexual orientation. He started his staff position at the University of Utah in the fall of 2013; soon after, a male supervisor requested that they meet weekly in the supervisor’s bedroom to practice prayer rituals aimed at changing Vasquez’s sexual orientation. When that didn’t work, the supervisor encouraged Vasquez to date women and, eventually, to watch heterosexual pornography.
Vasquez reported these incidents multiple times in detail to supervisors and, after years passed with no response he went directly to human resources, according to interviews and documents obtained by Religion Dispatches. In an interview, InterVarsity spokesman Greg Jao said the organization “disputes Vasquez’s account of these stories,” but Jao did not specify which details it objected to, nor did he substantiate these objections, citing confidentiality rules.
Vasquez chose to stay with InterVarsity because he believed in the organization’s mission of ministering to college students. He disagreed with InterVarsity’s theological opposition to gay marriage and same-sex relationships, Vasquez says, but “I decided as long as I was on staff I wouldn’t date and I wouldn’t teach an affirming position,” even though he privately believed that God affirms same-sex relationships. “I thought what I was doing on campus was so critical, I was ok with this.”
It’s a balance that many staff workers have struck, but one that’s no longer tenable now that InterVarsity has rolled out a policy that calls for staff who disagree with its theological position to come forward and quit by November 11.
Supporters of InterVarsity’s Gordon College-modeled Trump-type anti-gay-rights decision see the policy as a commitment to “orthodox” (authentically Maoist?) “theology.” They want their staff to renounce even bad thoughts… to as it were “Make Evangelicals Great Again!” through purging thoughts and people with those thoughts.
InterVarsity isn’t alone in its tilt to the hard and unforgiving paranoid right. Gordon College president’s decision to join other fundamentalist hard right religious cranks in calling for a “religious exemption” to federal workplace protections for gay and transgender workers, placed Gordon squarely into the same culture wars. These “wars” aren’t so much wars as outbursts (something like really bad stomach flu) by white aging donors and board members against a future they feel frightened of.
A purge of faculty and resignations followed at Gordon. Hacks took the place of the best teachers, hacks who would toe the party line. Gordon is now more like Bob Jones U than an evangelicals school.
Meanwhile Jerry Falwell Jr. has turned his “college” into an armed camp awaiting invasion by Muslims when armed students will rise up and shoot them according to his instructions. No wonder these evangelical leaders support Trump. Denigration of the “Other” and combat is their watchword… all in service of aging white donors.
My father — Francis Schaeffer– had his books first mostly published by InterVarsity Press. This was back in the day when IVF was a forward-looking compassionate organization trying to shape their witness to actual outreach. Today they are part of Trump’s “America” as taken over by reactionaries.
Besides Gordon’s specific anti-gay agenda in 2014, when World Vision announced it would employ people in same-sex marriages a backlash from old white donors exploded. Old white Republican operatives and donors “protested” by canceling thousand of sponsorships of needy and dying children. (This according to World Vision president Richard Stearns.)
World Vision reinstated the old policy of prohibiting gays and lesbians from employment. This was done so that old white evangelicals would not starve children to death as a way to punish gays and anyone friendly to gays.
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Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book —WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace
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Please read about my journey through then out of the religious right and Republican Party.