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« Ash Wednesday reflections | Main | Re-telling His-Story with Our Days »

February 21, 2007

When the mission field comes to you

This spring, students, faculty and staff at Christian colleges across the country have a unique opportunity to present a Christian witness to the world. Equality Ride, a traveling troupe of protesters, is making uninvited visits to several dozen colleges and universities. The protests are sponsored and organized by a group called Soulforce, which says on its web site that its goal is "freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance."  Members of Soulforce staged a mini sit-in earlier this week at the headquarters of Focus on the Family, which ended when the two protestors were arrested for trespassing.

In March and April, Equality Ride will show up at the campuses of Union University, Gordon College, Cedarville University, Calvin College, and many more. For a full listing of colleges on the target list, see here and here.

One of the schools on the list is Messiah College, my alma mater, which has been told to expect Equality Ride to show up on April 13. Soulforce's grievance is that the college includes homosexual behavior among a list of sinful practices in its student handbook. The response of school officials provides a shining example of how we can speak the truth in love. According to a letter from college president Kim Phipps:

Messiah College affirms its institutional stance on homosexual behavior. ... The College has decided to respond to Equality Ride's visit as an opportunity to model gracious Christianity and hospitality to those who express different viewpoints, to encourage meaningful campus conversation about a complex social issue, and to equip students to better understand human sexuality from a biblical perspective. ... As we prepare for Equality Ride's visit, I invite you to join me in praying for God's wisdom and guidance.

Let's pray for all the Christian colleges on Equality Ride's tour schedule. Pray that God would protect the minds and lives of the students on these campuses, some of whom may be struggling with these issues or who may have never before been confronted with them. Pray that God would give wisdom to the administration at each school to know how to handle these uninvited guests. And pray that the men and women participating in Equality Ride will be overwhelmed by God's grace and compassion as they visit these schools. Pray that they would see an irresistible passion and love for God and for others shining on the faces and in the lives of the people they meet on these campuses. Pray that God, in His amazing grace, would use this experience to open their hearts to the truth that can give them true freedom.

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Comments

Dean Genth

Please get your facts more accurate before writing an article. Many of the schools are welcoming the Soulforce Riders and will be providing meeting venues, meals and opportunities for positive interactions with the student body.

The true freedom the Soulforce Equality Riders seek is from the hate and judgementalism that is perpetrated by your writings.

Dean Genth

Gina Dalfonzo

I don't believe Kristine ever said that the schools weren't welcoming them, Mr. Genth.

Bram Wispelwey

Indeed, Gina she did write exactly that. Here is an exact quote: "Pray that God would give wisdom to the administration at each school to know how to handle these uninvited guests." We are certainly invited guests at many schools. And as a fellow Christian, I would certainly expect to see "love for God and for others shining on the faces" of students...which is why I have so much hope that they will hear and believe our truth and leave behind any misconceptions they have about the wonderful place of LGBT people in God's plan.

Greg Laurich

I didn't know any of my writings had been published. And how did you get hate and judgement out of them anyway?

Gina Dalfonzo

"Uninvited" and "unwelcome" are two entirely different words with two entirely different meanings. Is it not the case that the Soulforce Riders will be uninvited guests at some of the schools at least?

And everyone has a place in God's plan and is loved by God. That still doesn't mean that we as Christians are free to live outside the "scriptural guidelines" cited by Messiah College (which, in the interests of full disclosure, is also my own alma mater).

Kristine Steakley

Indeed, I hope and pray that every one of the Equality Ride participants experiences love and respect at the schools they visit. We should be able to disagree on issues while still respecting one another.

Cylest Brooks

I want to say, first of all, that it is nearly impossible to write without including some amount of personal bias. Especially on the form of a blog, which is, essentially, composed entirely of one's own opinion. I think that you, Kristine, did a fairly decent job of remaining neutral. But there is one point that you made that really defeats the entire purpose of Equality Ride... it is the assumption that what we need, as riders, is to experience some miraculous message from God while we are visiting these schools and come to some kind of realization that our lives are sinful:

"Pray that God, in His amazing grace, would use this experience to open their hearts to the truth that can give them true freedom."

Speaking for myself and myself only, I think this one phrase is the single most dangerous that we will encounter on this journey. Not only for myself and my personal relationship with God, but for those who speak these words. This statement comes from some kind of belief that you are closer to God than I am... a belief on your part that it is impossible for a person to be gay and have the acceptance of God. More so, it is the belief that your interpretation and understanding of the Bible is infallable.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone, on both sides of the police line we will be standing on, that no one can say who has favor with God and who does not. To make such assumptions is awefully pretentious, ridiculously pious, and extremely dangerous. It defeats our purpose, which is to find a common middle ground. We cannot move from the place where we stand if we believe that we have, in our possession, an infallable truth. We are only human.

Kristine Steakley

Cylest, thank you for your comment. My post was not intended to be hurtful or contentious, though I realize this is a difficult subject and one that has often been handled poorly by people who call themselves Christians.

I believe that every single one of us is sinful and in need of a miraculous message of God's love and forgiveness, myself included. As Robert Robinson penned, in my favorite hymn "Come Thou Fount," "Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!"

I truly hope there will be no police lines at any of the schools on this year's Equality Ride tour, and I hope the discussions that take place are mutually beneficial.

Glenn Shrom

Kristine,

I'm also a Messiah grad (1989). I've got an essay on homosexuality I'd like to send you as an e-mail attachment. Please contact me if you'd like a copy.

- Glenn

Glenn Shrom

If what the riders want is equality, a warm welcome, and respect, I am sure they will get that at Messiah College. If what they want is for homosexual behavior to be labeled as holy in the Church, forget about it.

Jonathan

Christine,

Cylest Brooks did a good job exposing the self-indulgent nature of the college administrations that are unwilling to listen to the stories of the Equality riders. The message of Jesus was to listen to the stories of all people and to judge their hearts, not their "behaviors". Jesus taught us that to seek a personal relationship with God, not the comfort of a set of religious/moral codes.

The Equality riders have a personal message to spread and they should be invited and welcomed. Colleges that refuse to do so, or who invite the police to intervene, are only demonstrating that their faith is weak.

For another interesting article on the Equality ride, see:

http://www.sovo.com/2007/2-23/locallife/feature/6553.cfm

Cylest Brooks

Unfortunately, police lines will be frequent reminders for us of the unwillingness of many administrators to listen. It is an ugly representation of their belief that they can, basically, sweep us under the rug and forget that we exist. After all, "out of sight, out of mind", right?

Our goal is, by crossing the police line anyhow, we are making the statement that we cannot be swept under the rug and ignored. Hopefully this realization will lead to the end of police lines for us (and for everyone).

Chris Bequette

Dear Dean, Bram and Cylest:

First, this is America, the freest, most liberty-laden place on the planet. While I truly believe the physical actions you engage in to express your love for someone of the same sex is a perversion, or trying to change yourself from being a man into a woman or vice versa is a perversion, like I said, it is America and if two consenting adults in the privacy of their own dwelling want to engage in that behavior then have at it. That being said, let me make a very logical argument to completely deconstruct what you think are valid arguments on behalf of your lifestyle. The first question I would ask you is whether you believe it is ok for an adult son to marry his middle-aged mother or father? Or is it ok for two adult men and an adult woman to get married? Or is it ok for an adult man to marry a dog? Or is it ok for someone to kill or euthanize a severely mentally retarded person? I ask these questions simply because you will in all likelihood answer each of them in the negative. By answering negatively to those questions, you have in essence made a judgment about the aforementioned behaviors and "drawn your line in the sand" as to how far you think our culture, our society, our civilization should go in regulating or accepting such behavior and condemning such relationships. Well, I and many other evangelical, born-again, fundamentalist, Catholic Christians have done exactly the same thing in our lives. We have "drawn a line in the sand" based on the best set of time-tested moral ethics -- the Bible -- that we know to be available. So, before you start trying to figuratively beat us over the head with a Bible about how we are all so judgmental and so hateful and mean-spirited, please quickly find a mirror. Again, I'm not about to snoop around the window of your dwelling spying on your bedroom, but I am going to call it as the Bible sees it -- and that's sin. If you don't think what you engage in is not sin, then what is to make one believe there really isn't any sin out there? You need to understand and always understand, that I (and many other Christians) don't hate you as human life. You're precious like all other born and unborn human life. But if you are in a perpetual state of sin and won't reject sin as you would the devil or any other sin, then you have to face consequences. I would further make the point that some argue that alcoholism and drug dependency are genetic and that the same may be true with homosexuals. I personally am still not persuaded conclusively to such theory but for argument's sake, let's say that such theory is fact. Naturally, with the alcoholic or the drug addict, we wouldn't continue to purposely allow them to go on abusing alcohol and/or drugs would we? Likewise, why would we treat someone who is homosexual in the same way? Would we celebrate alcoholism or drug addiction? Of course not, and we shouldn't celebrate homosexuality either. We should try to treat it as one would with the alcoholic and drug addict. And you can't argue from both sides of the fence. Either alcoholism and drug addiction are borne out of a genetic predisposition or it's societal. Similarly, homosexuality is either borne out of a genetic predisposition or it's societal. Either way, they are both harmful and unnatural and not normal and should be treated. One more time, I'm not here to hate, but to love . . . love the sinner and see that they come out of a sinful life (and through our mutual love and friendship in Christ, help each other get away from other sinful ways in our lives!) and live a righteous and just life.

Brian

Bram and Cylest are both heterosexual Christians.

Stephen Gutowski

I am a student at Messiah College and can tell you that Equality ride neither asked to nor was invited to visit our campus. This rude behavior shows us quite clearly that Equality ride wants nothing more than to make their political statement and hopefully make the school look bad. They are not looking for thoughtful discussion and meaningful debate.
They deserve to be ignored. However, our school has decided to extend grace to them and engage with them respectfully. We are being quite welcoming to these uninvited guests...

Edward Lynn

A point for you to consider... If you have read your Bible, even in a cursory fashion, then you know that the bible tells story after story of the evils of persecution. "Judge not, lest ye be judged..." Matthew 7.1. Also from Matthew, (5.5) "but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Ever read that and wonder what "raca" meant? Well, Matthew spoke Aramaic, same as Jesus, and in Aramaic "raca" is the equivalent of "faggot" in english. Why then is it not translated like the rest of the text? Probably to avoid using a word that is considered impolite - by not translating it, you keep the meaning without offending the reader - or so the translators thought, I suspect. Clearly, whatever else the Bible may or may not say about Homosexuality, and that in and of itself is debatable, it definitely says in many ways throughout the many passages and stories that persecution - of anyone, for anything about them, be it their race, their religion, or as we see in Matthew 5.5, their sexual orientation, is wrong. To persecute is a sin. Please, think about that. And please note that this comment comes from a straight man raised Christian.

Stewart Blarney

Cylest Brooks is not a heterosexual. She is a homosexual.

Jason Taylor


Well in the first place, "Whosoever is angry with his brother" would certainly include gay activists.

In the second place, unless you have a better definition for "judging" you can say 'you're judging me for judging", "well, your judging me for judging you for judging", ad infinitum.

In the third place, no one hear has ever used the English word for Raca. For the obvious reason that Gina would as sysops forbid it. Which, by the way, would be "judging".

Jason Taylor

Furthermore Lynn, soon after that it says, "whosoever shall call his brother 'thou fool'". And from the context of Proverbs it seems obvious that a "fool" means something similar to a wastral(in other verses in Proverbs it would be more like what a computer geek would call a troll). However, you presumably are not saying that God approves of such behavior. Likewise, one of the points of the thing about Raca, was that it would be grevious thing to call someone simply because it would a greivious thing to be if true.

Cylest

Stewart: Since the original posting of that comment by my friend Brian, I have acknowledged my sexuality and now identify as a lesbian. That much is true. And I apologize for whatever confusion my own confusion has caused.

Jason: I advocate for acceptance on both sides of the fence, expecting my LGBT friends to act in love just as I expect straight folk as well. I know that there are issues-- because we're human and we all make mistakes. But there is, to some extent, justification for anger when we, as LGBT people, are watching so many of our friends (and, ourselves) get beaten, killed, raped, and discriminated against.

It is very hard to watch and deal with. Anger is a reasonable response. But I will say this: I apologize if anyone has been cruel, rude, or judgmental toward you. That does no good, no matter the situation.

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