City UPDATE: Soul Force at SPU
posted by April 11 at 13:25 PMon
[Originally posted at 11 a.m.]
I’m at Seattle Pacific University this morning, listening in as the gay rights group Soul Force lectures the students of this Christian university on the many ways in which accepting gay people is not incompatible with their faith. Above is one of the Soul Force “Equality riders.” Her group has been traveling the country doing these types of lectures at Christian universities, and sometimes getting arrested.
SPU has taken a different approach, welcoming the Soul Force people onto their campus as a way of showing that this university is “grace-filled.” Does that mean that SPU thinks being gay is compatible with Christianity? No, it does not.
The forum I’m sitting in will involve a presentation by Soul Force, a counter-presentation by an SPU professor, and then a question and answer period. I’m pretty skeptical about all of this. I admire the effort the Soul Force people put into these events, but personally, I don’t understand why a gay person would waste his or her time trying to argue against Biblical literalism.
Biblical literalism is not rational, therefore it doesn’t respond to rational argument. End of story.
In addition, the rubric of the “Equality Ride” is of course intended to echo the anti-segregation Freedom Rides of the 1960s, but there’s a big problem in this comparison: Gay people who willingly attend anti-gay Christian universities today are not in the same situation as blacks in the South in the 1960s. The difference is very obvious: If gays and lesbians don’t like the inequality they experience at Christian universities, all they have to do is leave them.
Here’s a picture of an SPU student who asked one of the questions at this event:
UPDATE: After the discussion, I talked with a young woman who had been sitting next to me taking notes during the presentations. Her name is Tiffany Gathers. She’s a 21-year-old sociology student (with a minor in educational ministry) and she wasn’t at all persuaded by Soul Force.
“I didn’t exactly feel like the arguments held a lot of ground,” Gathers said. She believes the Bible is the literal word of God. Being gay, she told me, “is something that Satan places on you.” But, she added, it’s also a choice that a person can refuse.
She told me she’s “not a gay-bashing person,” and that she might support gay marriage if it was state-sanctioned and religious groups weren’t forced to marry gays in religious ceremonies. I asked her if she could point me toward a gay person at SPU. “No one really knows who the gay people are here,” she replied.
It wasn’t hard for me to spot the gay men at SPU. I walked up to one and asked if I could speak with him. Then I asked if he was gay. He replied: “Yes, but not here.” He wouldn’t let me take his picture, but he did allow me to take a picture of his shoes.
The young man is 19 years old. “I don’t really like this university at all,” he told me. “But I attend because I love Seattle, and I love the people I’ve met here.”
He’s from California, from a conservative Christian family that sent him to therapy when he came out. His mother, he told me, wouldn’t pay for his college education unless he was attending a Christian university. He’s not comfortable on the SPU campus, he told me, and can’t wait to get out.
“Next year is my last year, thank God,” he said.
I also ran into a gay man who dropped out of SPU because he felt uncomfortable on campus, but came back for the forum. His name is Jimmy McKay:
McKay is 21, and now attends Seattle University, a religious university where he says he feels comfortable being out. He left SPU, he said, because “I didn’t see why I should pay so much money to an institution that didn’t support a big part of me.”
Does he think the event today was worthwhile?
“It might not change anyone’s mind,” he told me. “But it will help them to put a face to people who are gay instead of holding on to their stereotypes.”