Writer Laura Pappano devoted a full page of The New York Times to praise Christian college students for opening up their universities to liberal mores: “Living Out the Message – Christian college students are using their love for Jesus to engage with and change the world, including pushing for gay rights.” It’s part of the paper’s special Higher Education section.
Those who take theology seriously will be puzzled by the headline and dubious about the story’s confident claims that gay marriage can be reconciled with Biblical text. Others will recognize the peculiar respect The Times suddenly gives to Christians -- those who embrace gay relationships, anyway:
It’s no secret that Christian colleges do things differently than their secular peers. There are behavior codes, required Bible study, Christian-infused curriculums (think: environmental protection as “creation care”) and weekday chapel.
But where these campuses once existed in a bubble, new economic, social and cultural realities are letting outside air rush in -- and with it, controversy.
But they are also grappling with a giant generational rift over what it means to be Christian -- from students’ more accepting views of L.G.B.T.Q. individuals and the conviction that faith demands social justice activism, to their comfort with using social media to organize a counter movement.
Unlike their elders, many students want to use their love for Jesus not to uphold traditional values, but to engage with and change the world, pushing Christian campuses to a careful openness.
But while Christian colleges are outwardly projecting a more open, contemporary tone, on campus they are grappling with perhaps the most divisive issue they have faced in years -- treatment of L.G.B.T.Q. individuals. Being gay barely warrants a shrug at secular colleges, but it is setting off bottle rockets at Christian ones....
“Grooming” is a strange way to characterize the way people have established life relationships for thousands of years:
The values guidance that students come for -- to help them prepare for life and relationships as well as careers -- can be alienating to L.G.B.T.Q. students. It is partly the ban on L.G.B.T.Q. faculty, but it is also the constant grooming of students for heterosexual marriage that leaves gay students like Gwyneth Findlay, who just graduated from Calvin, with “no framework for the future I am going to have.”
Divisions on Christian campuses spring from divergent views over homosexuality and what it means to be Christian. Where an older generation focused on sharing the gospel, as one Calvin student put it, now “there is more than spreading the message. There is living out the message.”
“Living out the message” evidently means massaging Bible passages to make them less objectionable:
Students see no conflict between their faith and their L.G.B.T.Q. identity. “I am a gay Christian. That is how I identify,” said Erin Green, who majored in Biblical Studies and just graduated from Azusa Pacific University in California.
This is feeding an L.G.B.T.Q. Christian movement -- from the Reformation Project, to recast church teaching, to the Brave Commons, activists on Midwestern campuses -- pursuing visibility and inclusion....And they are using Scripture to make their case, challenging Bible translations, including “clobber passages” casting homosexuality as a sin, with “Side A theology” that says the Bible affirms same-sex relationships.