Then, later that night, I went to XY, basically a "Let's Talk About Sex" for guys (which has been a long time coming, by the way). The speakers were Shawn "Papa Shawn" Whitney, student counselor and former Hill RLC, and Dr. Rick Steele, professor of Theology and the man who told me I ticked him off by sleeping too much in his class. During the question and answer time, there was a question (submitted anonymously) along the lines of, "I am a gay Christian, and I want out. How do I rid myself of this, and am I destined to a life of celibacy?" Both speakers were initially just silent - which I appreciated, as a kneejerk reaction of "go to an ex-gay clinic" isn't terribly helpful, in my opinion. And then Dr. Steele took the card, read it over again, asked for clarification, let out a long, pained, struggling sigh, and said, highly, powerfully emotional yet very firm, this (as best I can remember):
What we can't do is make the Bible say that homosexuality is OK. I've seen it, it's crap exegesis. But what I can say, is that when I see a homosexual couple that is wholly loving, committed, and in every way, except perhaps the physical aspect, the very picture of a holy and godly relationship, and then there is a heterosexual couple that is screwing up their relationship, and screwing anyone they can, the idea that the homosexual couple is somehow less of a couple than the heterosexual couple is absurd, and hurtful, and wrong. Which plugs go in which holes is not nearly as important as the relationship, the devotion, the commitment.As far as I could tell, I was the only one that Amened his answer, but in that moment, Dr. Steele gained so incredibly much respect in my eyes. It was obvious that this was not something he took lightly, not something he had a quick answer for, something that he had thought, studied, prayed, and struggled over intensely. It wasn't a pat, surface "love the sinner, hate the sin", "accepting of the person but not affirming the lifestyle" easy answer that either only makes those who have already otherized the LGBTQ community happy, or doesn't fully answer the question, depending on who is saying it. This answer was the raw, real, powerful, and genuine result of a man who knows what he's talking about really wrestling with the issue. He then went off on a tangent discussing celibacy, and that it is not necessarily the cursed life that it is assumed to be, but only if you are called to it - which he has no way of knowing one way or the other, after which a former homosexual (is that a PC enough term for ex-gay?) went ballistic, making sure that we all knew that HOMOSEXUALITY WAS DIRECTLY FROM SATAN, AND IT IS AN ABOMINATION, AND A PERVERSION, UTTER PERVERSION AND FILTH AND PERVERSION and then went on to shout about how in High School, he had lustful desires for men, and just had sex all over the place, men, women, anyone he could, just sex all over the place, lust lust lust...and it hurt my heart. As he kept preaching, it became clear that his perversion was not (primarily?) homosexuality - it was lust. Pure, unbridled lust. Which is destructive, and a perversion, and hurtful. But the fact that he bludgeoned everyone over the head with his personal struggles with lust, after Dr. Steele had so carefully, lovingly, truthfully and insightfully poured out his soul on the quite separate issue of homosexuality, made my heart sink. It didn't even make me angry - it just made me deeply sad. One careful step forward, and then we go tumbling back down the hill.
This reactionary, angry, shouting, otherizing approach to homosexuality is deeply harmful, and I have severe doubts that it will ever solve anything. Yes, I'm sure that guy has a very personal, convicting, deep story that I'm trampling all over, and I'm not thinking of his feelings. But the post that inspired me today, over on pastor Eugene Cho's blog, has a couple tragic, convicting, deep stories to consider for anyone who dares use the heartstring defense against the LGBTQ community, or dares to raise up anger against the evildoers. And I refuse to play that game - I am emphatic that emotional appeals aren't effective in actually solving anything, and there is just as much emotional charge on one side as the other. The facts are that the appalling suicide rates, homeless rates, and dropout rates of LGBTQ youth is a rousing sign that we as a nation are sorely in need of a fresh set of eyes on the matter. We are urgently in need of reconciliation - a word that SPU is strangely fond of, considering their response to Haven. It's all well and good until it comes against the massive hatred and fear of the LGBTQ community among Christians, and then it all falls apart. And really, I can't blame the administration too much - they rely on this community for donations to keep this school going, to send students their way, and it probably would be suicidal to be more openly approving of the LGBTQ community. That sucks, and it's wrong, but it's the reality. Because change doesn't happen from the top down. It never has, and it never will. It starts with hearts, and gradually works its way up. And that is where I am hopeful. Because people like Dr. Neuhouser, Dr. Steele, everyone who participated in the Day of Silence, and the many students on campus that support Haven, are thinking, praying, wrestling, and most importantly, changing hearts. We will get there, I truly believe. It will take a while, it may even take a whole new generation of open hearts. But I am hopeful.