A plea to straight Christians

By Melissa Kohler, Guest Writer

Today’s guest post comes from a dear friend and straight ally at Wheaton College. Melissa Kohler, a senior rhetoric major, was inspired to write this post after observing the way many straight people in our community tend to interact within conversations about the LGBTQ community on campus, particularly this week as events have unfolded since the “apple-throwing incident”.

Dear Wheaton College Community,

I am not talking to the infamous apple thrower. I am talking to you, the one reading this right now. Yes, you. I am angry because we sit in our straight privilege. Yes, you read that correctly, straight privilege. I have straight privilege and so do you. We don’t experience judgment, animosity, and malcontent because of who we are attracted to; that my friend, is privilege. We aren’t condemned because of who we are attracted to; that is privilege. Yes, the apple-throwing guy did a bad thing. But what angers my soul? What makes my body shake with angry frustrated sobbing on the bathroom floor? The complacency of the everyday evangelical Christian, in particular the Wheaton College Community, toward our LGBTQ sisters and brothers.

We are all too concerned about “right” theology versus “wrong” theology when it comes to the “gay issue.” Theology matters. But do you know who else was more concerned about the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law? The Pharisees.

The Pharisees thought Jesus was a crazy heretic. He prioritized loving people and broke cultural and social norms. He loved the prostitutes and the tax collectors. Now, take a deep breath and think about that for a second. Have you ever been accused of being a heretic, because you were more concerned about loving and listening than figuring out whose hermeneutics of Scripture were superior?

I’m tired of hearing dismissive voices saying, “Well I didn’t throw the apple!” or “Oh, I don’t make gay jokes!” But do you go out of your way to figure out what this whole experience is like for an LGBTQ brother or sister in Christ? Do you look outside of your own worldview and consider that there are LGBTQ Christians in our communities, even if they go unacknowledged at Wheaton College? Their presence is a fact. They exist. You can engage in selective exposure, but you cannot wish them away.

You can choose to only read arguments that you agree with. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that a Liberal Arts education combined with the earnest search for truth should motivate you to look at all sides of a debate. You need to look at the best arguments on both sides, even if that terrifies you and might prove your original stance wrong. If you change your mind, I promise the world won’t end. God won’t change. Your perception of Him might, but He will not change. If you truly listen to the stories of LGBTQ people, your heart will bleed with tears. You may need to beg God for grace and kindness toward Christians who don’t give a second thought about LGBTQ people. But he will remind you that you too were once that way. You too once didn’t care about the “homosexuals”. He will teach you that love bears all. He will also forgive you when you fail to speak with gentleness.

We cannot simply ignore LGBTQ Christians and our own assumptions about them. So, are they all mindless heretics? Do they just succumb to their attractions?

We need to consider that they may actually take Scripture seriously. That they might look into the context, audience, author, translation etc. and don’t just “chuck out the parts of Scripture that make them uncomfortable.”

You think the LGBTQ vs. Christian debate is hard for the Church? Just imagine having that turmoil within your own soul, ripping you to shreds from the inside out. While we’re sitting in judgment (maybe covertly and quietly, but judgment nonetheless), they are working out their faith with fear and trembling. No, legitimately, I mean real fear and physical trembling.

So, I implore you: examine your heart. Examine your mind. Ask questions. Hold off your judgments. Allowing yourself to suspend your judgment is not weak, it’s indicative of a heart full of wisdom, compassion, and discernment. Make a friend who is LGBTQ and connect with other peers who care about these topics. Read a book about someone who is navigating their LGBTQ identity or is deeply committed to walking alongside those who are (i.e. books by Justin Lee, Matthew Vines, Andrew Marin or Kathy Baldock). Read books of all experiences, not just ones you agree with.

Like it or not, this is the issue of our day. Closing our eyes and holding our bibles closely to our chests is not going to change that. Let’s not be afraid use the Liberal Arts education we’re blessed with to fairly, and likely uncomfortably, examine our presuppositions.

The world is looking to us. How will you respond?

With concern,

Melissa Kohler

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Rationalizing Injustice: How We Defend Acts Against Minority People

By Justin Massey

It is pressing that we start listening to the valid pain of minorities in our community and begin empowering the beloved of God rather than defending the actions of those who wrong them.

Yesterday morning the students of Wheaton College gathered together, eager to present candid questions to the college president at the annual Town Hall Chapel. Students approached the standing microphones—some asking light, comical questions and some engaging more controversial or serious matters.

The student body showed great respect, occasionally applauding, as these students spoke. However, there was no applause for one student who spoke against the injustice he has witnessed his LGBT peers experience. A brother in Christ and ally to the LGBT community, he boldly questioned the oppression and exclusion that has harmed a demographic we should be embracing and loving. Instead of being greeted by support, he faced mostly silence before an apple was thrown at him by a peer in the crowd. No matter why this individual decided to throw the apple, it was more than simply disruptive. It was hurtful. For some of us in Wheaton’s LGBT community, it felt as if this student was spitting in our face as this ally voiced the deep pain we experience day-to-day.

Interestingly, the response of others following the incident disturbs me more than the action itself. I saw peers exert more effort into rationalizing the offense rather than demonstrating support to the LGBT community whose experiences were disrespected. From three separate individuals I have heard that the disruptive student simply felt “the question was just too long,” “the tone of the inquiring student appeared rude,” and even “ it was simply a joke gone wrong.” Each of these answers has one thing in common: they take responsibility off of the offending individual in an attempt to absolve this student of displaying any prejudice against a minority group. This incident affected more people than just the student who was hit. While it is wrong to show disrespect to any person, acting against an individual who raises minority concerns holds a different weight. It affirms the hateful messages that tell these already disadvantaged persons that they are not valued and undeserving of respect. Therefore, the intent of the disruptive student does not need justification or clarification because, no matter the reason, the incident perpetuated the isolation and pain LGBT students experience. 

I find dismissive responses to be quite common in our society more generally. When a majority person offends a minority we are quick to offer up excuses. We live in a world that encourages us to rationalize our micro-aggressions rather than own up to them. As a male and a white person, I have seen this play out in my own privileged communities. We’ll do anything to avoid having to consider one of our own to “racist” or “sexist” as if coming to terms with the reality of our offenses and prejudices will bring more pain to our community than we have caused to minorities through our own actions. When we see a black person, a trans* person, a woman or any other minority attacked or offended we often brush this off and consider it to simply be a person in “the wrong place at the wrong time.” If that is the case it seems minority people are in a perpetual state of being in “the wrong place at the wrong time” as they face disproportionate rates of violence and discrimination just because of who they are.

We need to consider thoughtfully, especially as people of faith, why we are so quick to defend our actions when they hurt others. We are called to confess our errors and seek reconciliation with those we wrong. If we are more concerned about excusing the intent behind a disrespectful action than the impact it has on those affected, we are not adequately displaying Christ’s profound love and humility. We must demonstrate to our peers that we are unwilling to stand for homophobic disrespect and seek healing and forgiveness for the ways we have hurt our peers. We must be committed to loving and embracing those who are oppressed rather than rationalizing the actions of those who oppress. Let’s stop being defensive in our failings but rather join together as a confessional community united in our pursuit of justice.