Legalization of marriages between two people of the same sex is the law of the land.The establishment of this milestone in American history has the support of a majority of Americans. Acceptance and affirmation of gay people in same sex romantic relationships is especially strong among younger Americans.Resistance to acceptance remains very strong among Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians. Their resistance is almost always based on particular interpretations of six passages in the Bible. Christians of this particular persuasion are very difficult to convince that a new look needs to be taken at the homosexual phenomenon and a new look needs to be taken at the six “hammer” passages in their infallible Bibles.
Despite recent civil rights advances, religion remains challenging territory for LGBT Americans. In fact, a 2013 Pew Research poll indicated that 48% of LGBT adults are religiously unaffiliated, compared to 20% of the general population. Being religiously unaffiliated, however, doesn’t mean not being spiritual. In my practice as a spiritual guide, many LGBT adults have told me how they want to reconnect with spirituality, but they’re uncertain about how they can do so.I understand that feeling, because I’ve been there. I spent 26 years as part of a demanding, fundamentalist, anti-LGBT religious community. When I finally had the courage to come out as gay at the age of 39, I resigned my membership in that church and began to rebuild my life. I had strong feelings about how my religious tradition had impacted me. I wasn’t sure anymore what I thought about God. Was I an atheist? An agnostic? Something else? I tried to explore other religious traditions, but I couldn’t connect with them. It took me about four years before I could begin to pay serious attention to my spirituality again.
Wheaton, Illinois (CNN)– Combing through prayer requests in a Wheaton College chapel in 2010, then-junior Benjamin Matthews decided to do something “absurdly unsafe.”
He posted a letter on a public forum bulletin board near students’ post office boxes. In the letter, he came out as gay and encouraged fellow gay Christian students – some of whom had anonymously expressed suicidal plans in a pile of the prayer requests – to contact him if they needed help.
In a student body of 2,400 undergraduates in the suburbs of Chicago, at what is sometimes called the Harvard of evangelical schools, Matthews said that 15 male students came out to him. Other students seemed somewhat ambivalent about his coming out, he said.
No one told him he was wrong or needed to change, Matthews said some students were obviously uncomfortable with someone who would come out as gay and remain a Christian.
“I don’t think most Wheaton students knew what to do because they’ve been given ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ rhetoric, but they don’t know how that plays out in real life,” said Matthews, who graduated in 2011. “They would mostly just listen, nod and say, ‘Yeah man, that’s hard.’”
As is the case at many evangelical colleges, Wheaton students sign an agreement to not have sex outside of marriage, including “the use of pornography … premarital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior and all other sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage.”
On campus, the college created an official group in February for students to explore questions of gender identity and sexual orientation. The group is intended as a “safe place for students who have questions about their sexual orientation or gender identity,” where students may self-identify as LGBTQ.
But cultural and political changes have created tensions for the academic and student life environment. As more mainline denominations ordain openly gay clergy and more states pass same-sex laws, some gay evangelicals – and their allies – are openly deviating from Wheaton’s official and long-held positions. Well-known Christian author Rob Bell, a graduate of Wheaton, came out in favor of gay marriage in mid-March.
OneWheaton, a group unaffiliated with the college, wants to offer an alternative view on homosexuality from that of the evangelical school. The group, which is not explicitly religious, wants GLBT students to feel affirmed in their sexuality, acting as a support network for students struggling with their sexual identity, whether they choose to be openly gay or whether they choose to remain celibate. But leaders of the group say that gay Christians do not need to be celibate to retain their religious identify.
“For those of you feeling alienated, it gets better,” says OneWheaton’s founding statement, signed by about 700 GLBT and straight, alumni, echoing Dan Savage’s national “It Gets Better” campaign for gay youth. “Your desire for companionship, intimacy and love is not shameful. It is to be affirmed and celebrated just as you are to be affirmed and celebrated.”
A widespread question
Wheaton is hardly the only evangelical college that’s seeing a growing spectrum of responses toward homosexuality among students, alumni and staff.
Last year, a group at Biola University in southern California came out with posters and a website called Biola Queer Underground. The group describes itself as “like-minded LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) students and allies who have formed a private underground community in which we share our life struggles, as well as our love and support for one another.” Biola then issued a “statement on human sexuality” saying, “God’s design for marriage and sexuality is the foundational reason for viewing acts of sexual intimacy between a man and a woman outside of marriage, and any act of sexual intimacy between two person of the same sex, as illegitimate moral options for the confessing Christian.”
Groups from at least two Christian schools, Eastern University in Pennsylvania and George Fox University in Oregon, have formed OneEastern and OneGeorgeFox, which launched public websites in 2012.
-continue reading at – CNN Belief Blog
Recently I wrote concerning Rob Bell, the enormously popular preacher and author. I encouraged Bell to reach out to his sisters and brothers in mainline Christianity, many of whom are buying his books and other products and who have shared some of his theological sensibilities for a very long time.
This Sunday Rob Bell spoke at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral and openly endorsed marriage equality. Grace Cathedral is the Episcopal Cathedral of the Diocese of California. Bell was speaking to the Cathedral’s Grace Forum in an appearance presented in partnership with his publisher, HarperCollins.
In response to a question regarding same-sex marriage, Bell said, “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
Bell went on to say that while it used to be fair to equate evangelicals with social conservatism, that assumption no longer holds true. More pointedly, he said, “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told “we’re gonna change the thing” and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And i think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful. You sort of die or you adapt. And if you adapt, it means you have to come face to face with some of the ways we’ve talked about God, which don’t actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people. And we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. And we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.”
When the Very Rev. Jane Shaw attempted to get Bell to take a firm position as to whether Christians “know” the truth in some ultimate sense, Bell veered in a different direction. “I would say that the powerful, revolutionary thing about Jesus’ message is that he says, ‘What do you do with the people that aren’t like you? What do you do with the Other? What do you do with the person that’s hardest to love?’ . . . That’s the measure of a good religion, is – you can love the people who are just like you; that’s kind of easy. So what Jesus does is takes the question and talks about fruit. He’s interested in what you actually produce. And that’s a different discussion. How do we love the people in the world that are least like us?”
To my knowledge, Bell’s interview marks the first time that he has openly supported marriage equality and perhaps the first time he has definitively separated himself from politically conservative evangelicalism.
– Greg Carey, at Huffingfton Post