March 13, 2014

Gays as Faculty Members at Christian Colleges

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel, Society and Culture

Brian McClaren linked to an article some time ago written by a homosexual faculty member at an (undisclosed) “Christian” college.  The homosexual issue is one that has been garnering more attention recently, especially in progressive Christian circles.  Now, I realize that the issue has been around for nearly the entire previous century and has increased rapidly since the turn of the twenty-first century, but it has certainly not died off.  In fact, I see it arise every single day on one blog or another.  Which of course means that it is another opportunity for Christians who recognize the sin of homosexuality to stay strong and be prepared to defend the Biblical understanding of sex.  Challenges are healthy.

The author, who writes anonymously for fear of losing his job, provides us with a small list of “ironies and bright spots for gays in the Christian College World.”  I do want to tread this fragile issue quite carefully.  For while we should never compromise the eternal truth of the Bible, neither should we use it in an unloving way.  For those of us who do not struggle with the sin of homosexuality, we recognize that this sin is not thought of as worse in the eyes of God than our own sins.  If God can have mercy on those of us who struggle with non-homosexual sins, surely he can have mercy on those who do.  We all have different sin struggles and we worship a God who is powerful to overcome anything.

That said, it is also interesting to note that so many Christians who consider themselves gay and who also do not see it as a sin, treat the issue as if they are crusaders on behalf of another civil rights revolution.  For instance, the opening to the post is this: “As a gay professor at a Christian college where it’s not safe to be out….”  This can be taken in to ways.  First, it can be seen as a situation where the Christian college recognizes the sin of homosexuality, realizes that it compromises God’s plan for sex, and therefore has taken up a policy of heterosexuals only.  The other way of understanding this is that the situation is one in which there is a tyranny of legalists at the top of a hierarchy ready to impose their will on the modern day witch: the homosexual.  The tone of many “gay Christians in hiding” is the latter.  They, by all rhetorical appearances, are the victims in a theocratic scheme.

The source of this tone lies in the fact that there is a fundamental disagreement about whether homosexuality is a sin.  Those who do not see it as a sin, and indeed practice this lifestyle, are inclined to victimize themselves by assuming that traditional Christians are out to get them.  The “not safe to be out” gives off an air of a “hunted man” with a fake identity.  An interesting framework indeed.  However these closeted gays do feel though, is not the theme of this post.

I am mostly curious about the so-called “ironies and bright spots.”  The author praises the fact that culture is beginning to accept (as in approve) students who are LGBT, but at the same time laments that culture, at least academic culture, is not yet ready to allow LGBT professors and faculty.  I do not doubt that, in ten years or so, the faculties at Christian colleges will begin to be more “open” about their sexual preferences.  And not only that, it will be seen as a marketing point that University X is diverse to the strongest application of the word.  After all, the LGBT students will to grow up to become professors and their classmates who went through their higher education years with them will be more than ready to forget about the gender roles of old.  A generation that forgets Godly standards cannot be expected to speak out on behalf of them.  Progressivism in higher education is the way of the future.

The author informs of a controversy at Azusa Pacific [my bold]:

The controversy receiving the most attention this fall occurred at Azusa Pacific University in California, a Christian university with an undergraduate enrollment of 5500. In September, a faculty member who had been in the theology department for 15 years came out as transgender, to be known as H. Adam Ackley rather than Heather Clements.

Although Azusa had no written policy barring transgender faculty, the university sought and received Ackley’s resignation. His last day of teaching was October 4, 2013. The irony is that this coming April Azusa Pacific will host a conference titled, “The Transformative Power of Diversity in the Global Community.” Obviously, the transformative power of diversity at Azusa does not include transgender faculty.

Perhaps I am too bold to point out that the cultural emphasis on diversity is misguided.  In a sense, diversity, that is, recognizing that God did not create a world of total uniformity, is something to be praised.  That God created an incredible variety of skin color, personality, and skill-sets (or gifts) is something that we should both recognize and readily embrace.  On the other hand, when a man-imposed definition of “diversity” replaces God’s standard of righteousness we have a considerable problem.  This misguided appreciation for a tainted “diversity” extends into other areas of our society as well.  Diversity means more to the slick and twisted politicos than does property rights and individual justice.  In the same way, this diversity is set on a pedestal and we are supposed to honor the diversity when in fact we should be talking about the gospel.  As strange as it may sound to our modern American ears, the gospel is more important than diversity.  This is easily proven when I think of my mission trip to Uganda: I had a message for the people there and the message most certainly was not that there is a great lack of Asians, Mexicans, and Canadians amongst the villages.

The author continues with a “bright spot.”

Living in the Christian college subset of Christendom, I’m almost obsessive about finding bright spots in an otherwise tarnished landscape. For example The Chimes, the student newspaper at Calvin College (the flagship school of the Christian Reformed Church), devoted a section to the stories of gay students at Calvin.

The student editors wrote:

For those of us who are not LGBT, we hope these stories provide a glimpse into the lives of some of our brothers and sisters at Calvin. For those of us who do identify as LGBT, we want you to see that you are not alone, and the Calvin community cares deeply about you.

The editors are to be commended, but Calvin, like Azusa Pacific, extends that caring only to gay students, not to gay faculty and staff.

It seems that even Calvin College, a so-called “flagship school,” has been affected.  I certainly did not realize the extent to which Christian colleges have been influenced by the LGBT movements of late.  Of course, the anonymous author of the post only hopes that the LGBT influence would grow into the school’s leadership, but it is my contention that it is already too late.  It is already past time to sound the alarm.  This may sound pessimistic, and while my optimism for the future rests on the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory, it is true that I have low hopes for the culture in the short and medium run.

Our author concludes with this:

Employment policies, both explicit and implicit, can be mechanisms for violence, and can “reflect an idolatrous literalism which is completely invulnerable to penetration by the living word of God.” Jesus wants mercy, not sacrifice (Matt. 9:13). I pray that Christian colleges would follow those words.

His bringing up violence is interesting.  Does he mean physical violence?  I don’t want to appear sarcastic, but I do wonder: who is being stoned?  If there is indeed violence taking place, I would be more than interested to both hear about it and vocalize my disagreement with such methods.  But maybe he means that disagreements based on employment policies, in the long run, can theoretically lead to an initiation of violence.  This is certainly true, but it is also meaningless.  For, theoretically speaking, an employment policy that excludes folks who cannot read could be a mechanism for violence too.  I think he means something less than physical violence.  But it remains unclear what this might look like.

More to the point, the section in quotations above is remarkably twisted.  It is unclear, but it seems to infer that the written word of God should be able to be influenced by the “living word of God.”  However, we believe that the written word is the living word and to make a distinction is to undermine Scripture and emphasize subjectivity.  Ironically, the claim that “Jesus wants mercy, not sacrifice,” while true (and completely irrelevant), is being presented literally.  Is this idolatry too?

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com