Abandoning Inclusion: Rejecting Voices that Damage

By Justin Massey

I once advocated for absolute inclusion.

Now I admit I no longer support this ideal.

As a gay Christian, I experienced too many sleepless nights—overwhelmed with the exclusion and hurt I felt from well-intentioned people dedicated to Christ. In these moments of crisis, with tears in my eyes, I swore that I would make a space for all people. While I will always push for grace and love for all people, I now realize that sometimes my very faith calls me to reject particular voices that cause only damage and pain. The words of a few have wreaked havoc on God’s beloved for far too long.

Yesterday a dear friend and brilliant woman of God, Julie Rodgers, was disparaged by an article which intended to give ‘all sides of the story.’ Rodgers, a celibate gay woman, is a beloved mentor to many and a new addition to the Wheaton College staff this year. This article was allegedly written to provide a balanced conversation. However, all it did was 1) criticize my college for hiring a qualified staff member who is entirely committed to its theology and 2) promote ‘reparative therapy’ which so many have rejected, even in the conservative church, as highly dangerous and problematic.

This voice is one seat I will unapologetically remove from my table.

I like to think I am level-headed and promote broad inclusion that might make some uncomfortable. For instance, I embrace my LGBT brothers and sisters who believe God blesses same-sex relationships. At the same time I will always allow for those who are called to celibacy or even believe they must personally work to change their orientation.

However, I will not stand by as someone speaks in order to do little more than shamelessly attack my sister in Christ. LGBT individuals are hugely important to the Church. For a believer to condemn a person for simply having a non-heterosexual orientation (not talking about behavior here) is for them to blatantly reject an entire group of people. This leads not only to serious personal damage for the one marginalized, but also to the loss of something incredible value in our Church: diversity.

Senior student, Jordan-Ashley Barney, who was quoted in the aforementioned article under false pretenses, explained to me the value of including LGBT persons in our faith communities. She believes that “other orientations bring diversity and experience, [and] this experience makes us whole people. We experience God’s grace and love in different ways. If we had people of one experience…this would be lost.”

The hiring of Julie Rodgers has indeed been shown to be an incredible gain for community at Wheaton College. Sara Kohler, a senior at Wheaton who identifies as a lesbian, explained some of the difficulties of life at an evangelical college, “Half of my LGBTQ friends have dropped out due to psychological stress or worse. I have had friends try and commit suicide because of the messages the church sends LGBTQ people. The subsequent hopelessness is overwhelming.” In a space that often feels despairing Kohler went on to affirm “the hiring of Julie Rodgers [as] the first time [she has] seen Wheaton College listen to the needs of LGBTQ students…She is unanimously loved [and] to disparage her is completely inappropriate.”

If you are wondering whether or not we ought to demand LGBT persons to change, you are asking the wrong question. Rather than criticizing the story of those working according to traditional theology, lets applaud our brothers and sisters making huge strides for the Kingdom and ask how we can create a safer space in which we can share the hope of the Gospel.

While I used to support a balanced conversation in every context regardless of the consequences, I am realizing that the most Christian answer may not always to fully embrace every view point. In fact the most Christ-like response may be to rebuke those perspectives that fail to embody the profound love of our Savior.

All people are children of God including LGBT persons. It is against the very nature of Christ and His love to demonstrate the sort of insensitivity and aggression my community faces on a daily basis. Therefore, I will reject the voices of those who contribute to this injustice.

We are not called to make sure people feel comfortable.

We are called to love in the radical way that Christ has loved us.

An open letter to non-affirming Christians

By Nathan Barber

Dear non-affirming Christians,

You’ve told me a million times. You disagree with my ‘lifestyle’ (whatever that means) but you still love me. You completely affirm my humanity and believe that I, as a gay man, am just as much made in the image of God as you are. I get it. I wish you would affirm my relationships too, but I get it. I really do. It’s just that I’m not quite sure anymore that I believe that you love me as much as you say you do. In fact, I’m doubting whether you have ever actually meant it at all. Because if you really do love me, then where the heck have you been?

Circulating around Facebook and Twitter last week was an abhorrent video of a man who calls himself a “pastor” claiming that we should execute every gay person in an attempt to achieve an “AIDS-Free Christmas”. His disgusting “sermon” was received with applause and even laughter from his congregation. I’m not going to link to the video because I don’t want to give that man any more attention than he already has, but if you really feel like viewing this grotesque hate-filled sermon, a simple google search should take you right to the video. LGBT people were obviously outraged, and hurt by this man’s words, and they wasted no time dancing around how they really felt. But you, the non-affirming Christians in my life who claim to love me and affirm my full humanity? I didn’t hear a single one of you speak up in defense of me or of anyone in the LGBT community.

So what’s the deal? Where are on earth were you last week? A pastor of an actual church just said out loud that I and everyone like me should die, in order to rid the world of a disease that many of us don’t even have. And you say nothing? Really? I’m going to be honest here. That hurts.

I’ve spoken with a few of you about this recently. One of you gave me a grand speech and told me you don’t believe that this guy is a real Christian because of the hate that he preaches, and therefore he isn’t worth getting angry over. Another one of you said that this man’s craziness is “peripheral” and isn’t worth more than a roll of the eyes while scrolling through your news feed.

I might have been able to appreciate those sentiments if this was an isolated incident. But sadly, it’s not. As Eliel Cruz rightly points out in his Religion News Service article, this “pastor’s” comments are “…a product of decades of homophobic rhetoric that has been promoted from our pulpits.”

Yes, I agree that claims like the one made by this pastor are crazy and outlandish, and they don’t bear even the slightest hint of credibility. But day after day, and week after week, and year after year, people like him are allowed to continue broadcasting their hate, with almost no consequences and barely a peep is heard from other Christian’s in defense of the people these monsters are cursing.

Those of us in the LGBT Christian community, as well as some faithful allies, are fighting hard to create a counter-narrative and we are slowly succeeding. However, our efforts can only go so far as long as so many of you who claim to love us say nothing.

Non-affirming Christians, it’s time for a reality check. The time for privileged apathy is long past. If you really love us the way you say you do, then the very least you can do is speak up in some way to defend the humanity of your LGBT brothers and sisters. A simple Facebook status, would suffice. And we all know how much you love “Farewell Tweets”. Maybe you could actually put one to good use. Anything you can do to counter the narrative that LGBT people are hated by God is better than nothing. If that’s too much for you, then do us all a favor: cut the crap and admit that you in your complacency are no better than this vile man in his hate. Because love is more than a fuzzy feeling. Love is either a verb, or it is meaningless.

I challenge you, non-affirming Christians, to break out of your comfort zones, and boldly fight for justice for the oppressed, even the oppressed people with whom you disagree.

I want to believe that you love me, but I’m going to need a lot more convincing.

Sincerely,
Nathan

At Wheaton College, We Stand for Ferguson & Justice

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By Justin Massey

I wept silent, powerful tears as I left from chapel this morning at Wheaton College.

I was overwhelmed seeing my community demonstrate the radical love of Christ, which refuses to stand for injustice.

I walked down the steps of Edman Chapel to witness hundreds of students, faculty and staff standing with signs and chanting. The message was simple. They were there to proclaim to our community and to the world that “black lives matter.” Since the grand-jury decided against the indictment of the police officer who shot Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, communities have been protesting across the country recognizing the broad systemic issues facing racial minorities in the United States. Occasionally someone will claim we live in a post-racial society, but increasingly people are speaking out with certainty that ours is a broken system that does not value all lives equally.

Michael Rau, senior, co-organized the event at Wheaton. He explained that “Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson by the hands of Officer Wilson is located within this larger context of repeated structural oppression…Thus, irrespective of the particularities of the Ferguson case, we must, at a minimum, decry the structural evils of our country that continue to disproportionately target and claim the lives of people of color.

My community came together today to stand in solidarity with the city of Ferguson and to mourn the valuable lives of racial minorities lost every day in our depraved, unfair world. A mass of participants marched across campus, and proceeded to lay down in public spaces on campus for 4.5 minutes to represent the 4.5 hours that Mike Brown lay in the street.

I find myself frustrated by the Christian response to systemic issues. We often have good intentions. We desire to respond to injustice in the world, but are afraid to directly speak to systems of power. We fear that explicit action would reflect poorly on our faith or end up “politicizing” the truth of the gospel. We mean well, but we are not mobilized to act boldly in the way we should. We must remember that the Lord requires us “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God” (Micah 6:8 ESV).

We must do justice.

This is exactly what took place today at Wheaton College.

Jennifer Fu, senior, co-organizer alongside Rau explained the event was an attempt “[to live] up to Wheaton College’s motto ‘For Christ and His Kingdom.’ As an institution that grew out of an abolitionist movement and an institution that has tremendous power and influence in the Evangelical realm, we…believe it is our responsibility to fight for justice, equality, and freedom with our voice and our action.”

Rau further explained the progress the event represents, “Today, with Dr. Ryken present at our final stop of our peaceful protest…we have rekindled that fire and vision [of racial justice] that has remained dormant for so long.”

Wheaton College is by no means perfect, but I’m uniquely moved by what I saw on campus this morning. I am excited to see the Spirit of God continue to work in this place. May we move forward encouraged, but continue to speak out because as we chanted this morning, “no justice; no peace.”