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At evangelical colleges, a shifting attitude toward gay students
A group of Wheaton College alumni formed OneWheaton to offer an alternative view on sexuality from the evangelical school.
March 30th, 2013
09:15 AM ET

At evangelical colleges, a shifting attitude toward gay students

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey, For CNN

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.

About 200 LGBT and straight alumni from California’s evangelical Westmont College co-signed a letter to the student newspaper suggesting they experienced "doubt, loneliness and fear due to the college's stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues."

Many Christian schools have different regional, historical and denominational ties that keep issues related to sexuality complex and keep these institutions from responding monolithically.

Wheaton’s well-known alumni include evangelist Billy Graham, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and former George W. Bush speechwriter Mike Gerson. To come out at the college, OneWheaton’s organizers say, is to risk losing a network of fellow-minded alumni.

“Part of OneWheaton is showing that while people are risking their networks, they'll have people they can turn to,” said OneWheaton spokeswoman Kristin Winn, who came out six months after graduating in 2007.

The married-sex-only agreement that Wheaton students and faculty sign is part of the college’s Community Covenant, which says that students agree the Bible condemns “sexual immorality, such as the use of pornography, premarital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior and all other sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage between a man and woman.” Few students self-identify as gay, and if they do, it has different implications based on their expressed beliefs and behavior. Students can self-identify as gay, but college officials consider each student on a case-by-case basis if it comes into question.

Members of OneWheaton attend an athletic event on campus.

“What matters is the moral understanding of the person and how that matches with our institutional identity and the moral behavior that flows from the understanding. There’s no formula to how this gets applied," said Wheaton's Provost Stan Jones, a psychologist who has written several books on sexuality.

Students who openly deviate from or openly advocate for deviation from the covenant may be dismissed from the school, Jones said.

Alumni say some gay students have been asked to leave or been counseled to leave Wheaton. No member of Wheaton would be asked or counseled to leave this institution on the basis of sexual orientation alone, Jones said, and he is not aware of any cases where people were dismissed only because of sexual orientation.

Jones said it would be difficult to say whether a student who signed OneWheaton’s statement would be in open disagreement with the covenant, though he is not aware of any student who has left or been dismissed over involvement with the group. “We’re not in a rush to show people the door,” Jones said. “We want Wheaton College to be a community where people can wrestle with these issues.”

The balance, college officials say, is between preserving the theological integrity of the school while leaving room for questions.

“Articulating orthodox Christian theological beliefs and moral convictions itself is and ought to be an expression of grace,” said Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton, explaining the college's stance on sexual behavior in response to OneWheaton's emergence. “Those theological principles and moral guidelines are an expression of God’s character and the best way to live.”

Homosexuality is not a focus at Wheaton more than any other college, said Ryken, but culture places a priority on sex. The college does not keep track of the number of students who leave over homosexuality, he said. “There are a variety of challenges that different Christian colleges and universities face from people advocating homosexuality,” Ryken said in an interview in his campus office. “OneWheaton has been clear in saying they’re not interested in changing the college, but it remains to be seen what kind of influence they desire and may seek to have.”

A growing trend

Evangelical colleges likely face generational differences in attitudes toward sexuality as younger evangelicals develop friendships with people who are gay, says David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, a Christian market research firm.

“There has been a shift from rightness to fairness,” Kinnaman said. “There’s a real sense in which their institutional loyalty and their loyalty to theoretical morals and ethical choices are trumped by their peer relationships.”

About 40% of evangelicals between the ages of 18 and 29 are likely to say homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared to 24% of evangelicals who are older than 30, according to the 2007 religious landscape survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. But there is still less acceptance of homosexuality by evangelicals than by other young people. The same Pew poll found that 63% of Americans age 18 to 29 say homosexuality should be accepted by society, as do about half of Americans ages 30 to 64.

As a younger demographic is less opposed to gay marriage, they are also are more likely than before to identify as pro-life. Forty-one percent consider themselves "pro-choice," a record low since Gallup began asking the question.

“During the last five to seven years, there has been a definite uptick in interest [in homosexuality],” says Michael Hamilton, a history professor at Seattle Pacific. “As evangelicals and the main currency of American culture converge, an increasing number of gay students are going to say, ‘Wait a minute. I don't see a problem.’”

Last year, students at Seattle Pacific University received student support and a faculty letter backing a group’s desire to discuss being gay. Its administration approved the request but declined to give it official status. In 2010, Abilene Christian University declined to grant official status to a gay-straight alliance.

Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College in Massachusetts, said that homosexuality is just one of a basket of issues that evangelical schools are dealing with now for the first time.

“Any moral issue dealing with the body gets a visceral response,” said Lindsay, who said future important issues will include bioethics, disability and other questions dealing with life. “Because sex is tied in with the body, naturally it’s one of those issues folks will have highly charged responses.”

Facing alternative views

The Wheaton alumni group, OneWheaton, was initially a private Facebook network that went public partly in reaction to an April 2011 chapel service at Wheaton featuring Wesley Hill, a gay Wheaton alumnus who says he chooses to be celibate, a path that some gay students and alumni take. Hill wrote the 2010 book “Washed and Waiting,” about being gay, Christian, and celibate, and told students how he came to his position that sex is between man and a woman in marriage.

“I found myself convinced of the position the church has held with almost totally unanimity throughout the ages, that although many people find themselves, through no fault of their own, to have sexual desires for members of their own sex, this is not something to be affirmed and celebrated, but is a sign that we’re broken, in need of redemption and recreation,” Hill told students.

“Gay people are not uniquely broken,” he said. “That’s a position we share with every other human who has ever lived or will live. But we are, nonetheless, broken. And following Jesus means turning our back on a life of sexual sin, just as it does for every other Christian.”

According to a survey conducted by the Wheaton student newspaper in 2008, about 5% of students (mostly male) reported having "had a homosexual experience." About 56% of students agree or strongly agree that homosexuals are not welcome at Wheaton, the survey reported.

OneWheaton is working to change that in some in-your-face ways. During one homecoming weekend, the group held a concert featuring Jennifer Knapp, a former contemporary Christian Music musician who came out as a lesbian in 2010. “Although I disagree with painting sexual orientation and gender identity as a biblical sin, Wheaton has a right to that interpretation,” Knapp said. “But I don’t know how you can be welcoming but not affirming.”

Knapp questions whether colleges such as Wheaton present alternative theological positions.

“Whether it’s alcohol or premarital sex, is Wheaton an academic institution willing to present both sides, or is it wanting to churn out soldiers that believe exactly the same things they do?” said Knapp, who used to identify as evangelical but now disassociates herself from the movement.

The college does not typically host speakers who espouse theology that affirms same-sex behavior, but it does not forbid such discussion from taking place. Administrators say they know that students might end up differing with the college theologically.

“This is not a place of indoctrination,” said Jones. “This is an educational community. We need to have a high level of patience and tolerance for students working through those issues.”

In many ways, Jones said, students need to be thoughtfully engaging the issues.

“Many students have only heard about homosexuality in the context of ‘Those bad people who we must oppose,’” he said. “There are many in our student body who want to engage these issues sympathetically, but there are others who are prone to thoughtless speech that can lean in the direction of incivility.”

At the same time, he said, Christian colleges are facing outside professional and political pressure on gay issues. Wheaton administrators spent several months preparing for a 2006 visit from Soulforce, a group aiming to change religious leaders' minds on gay issues that was co-founded by Mel White, who was a ghost writer for some evangelical leaders, including Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell.

Soulforce members had been arrested at other Christian campuses that ban same-sex behavior, but the group had a cordial gathering at Wheaton and visited again last year.

In 2009, the American Philosophical Association adopted a procedure to “flag” ads from employers that ban same-sex sexual conduct.

“I find that extraordinarily ironic for a discipline that prides itself on spirited debate about fundamental issues,” Jones said. “You are inviting the erosion of your distinctions if you don’t draw some boundaries.”

Administrators also are carefully watching court cases related to federal funding and hiring practices, where the government could pull funding if an institution is deemed discriminatory.

Faculty are expected to sign the same covenant as students, and those who advocate for something contrary to the stated beliefs would be called into question, Jones said.

“If a person disagreed with a clear assertion of the covenant, that has implications regardless of their status, even for those who have tenure,” Jones said. In faculty applications, he would consider where a professor stands on sexual intimacy as between a man and a woman in marriage, though questions about whether gay marriage should be legal at a state level would not necessarily come up. “We don’t ask about their civic views of gay marriage,” he said. “I would not be looking for their policies on a governmental policy voting.”

On the “Day of Silence” in April 2012, about 90 students wearing white T-shirts printed with "break the silence" attended a campus-hosted discussion about homosexuality, such as whether Wheaton can be considered a "safe place" for gay students. “You are telling LGBTQ students that no matter where they end up on their journey of identity, you care for them, respect them, and will remain their friend,” OneWheaton leaders wrote on a sign-up form for students who wanted to wear T-shirts. One alumnus came out to the rest of the group.

Matthews, the student who came out at Wheaton in 2010 – he now teaches middle school science in Connecticut - wrestles with whether the group OneWheaton will be an effective network since its views are far from the college’s stance on sexuality. He said he followed Wheaton’s agreement to refrain from premarital sex during school, but his personal views on the morality of homosexuality have shifted.

Matthews was attracted to men when he began college but hoped he would begin liking women.

He considered sexual orientation conversion therapy, which some evangelical Christians embrace but which the American Psychological Association has said is ineffective and could be damaging. After the Episcopal Church ordained its second openly gay bishop in 2010, Matthews began reading more and eventually embraced a theology that suggests gay Christians do not need to be celibate. At one point, he considered becoming an Episcopal priest.

Matthews said Wheaton was a safe place to come out because he could work through both being gay and being a Christian. If he had gone to another college, he said he might have stayed closeted because people might suggest abandoning his faith, something he wasn't willing to relinquish.

“Quite ironically, had I not gone to Wheaton, I might not have come out,” Matthews said. “They weren’t going to say what I presumed people at other colleges would tell me, which is, ‘If you have conflict between your faith and sexuality, drop the faith.’ No one at Wheaton was going to tell me that.”

Editor's Note: Sarah Pulliam Bailey is managing editor for Odyssey Networks.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (1,024 Responses)
  1. DVDon3

    "College officials and students struggle to find a balance between preserving the theological integrity of their schools while leaving room for questions."

    Or you could just man up and admit that your religion is utter fiction and stop using it to judge/condemn other people and also stop trying to force your bogus belief set on them. That might work, too.

    March 30, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Rich

      Those words someday will come back to haunt you

      March 30, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Rich,

      the usual empty proxy threat.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • Yon

      Integrity? Sad, just sad. Integrity has to do with honesty and truth.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Number two on my list of the most irritatingly stupid arguments made by religionists here:

      2. Proselytizing, particularly of the hit and run kind:
      eg: “Believe or burn”
      eg: ”You’ll find out when you die!”
      A special case of this is copy/paste of trite, meaningless aphorisms
      eg: “Prayer changes things” – Ummm, we all know it doesn’t.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  2. Jeffrey Long

    Don't give in Wheaton! You are being tested right now!!! –God

    March 30, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • rick

      "i am such an insecure person i have to purport to speak for god" – jeffrey

      March 30, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  3. Beth

    Twelve years ago, I gave up smoking. There isn't a single day that goes bye that I don't have the desire to smoke again. That doesn't mean it's good for me, and it never will be.

    March 30, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  4. Nicholas Cage

    The main question is what would Jesus do???? He showed tolerance towards Mary, but he also said "go and sin nor more....

    March 30, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Peregrine

      And yet you will sin again today, tomorrow and the following days. It is your lifestyle choices that will send you to hell.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  5. Oluwaseun Akinyele

    Jesus gave a clear thought about what marriage should look like.The one warning He gave was for a man to give his a written notice of divorce if his wife commits fornication.And the only thing the bible speaks against is when some wears tardy clothes as a sign of gayism and the bible refutes that tremendiously.

    March 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Christ outlawed divorce, read your bible again.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "And the only thing the bible speaks against is when some wears tardy clothes as a sign of gayism and the bible refutes that tremendiously."

      Really?

      What a strange little alternative reality you live in. It must be really scary in there.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @JPT

      in this case, I will agree with you wholeheartedly.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • clarity

      Keep your mythology to yourself, Tarvball.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Geesh

      Divorce is not God's best, nor is the brutality of gossiping words, yet we all do it, so it is with this cultural more as well

      March 30, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Yon

      Rather, he said Moses allowed that because of the hardness of their hearts, but in the beginning God made them Male and Female and the two shall become one. He also said that he he taught and did the law of Moses would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

      Does not surprise me that those who tell others they are covered in the blood of an innocent man would be as nutty as gay people. I see both as mentally ill.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Christ claimed Moses gave in to pressure from the Jews on divorce. Chist's statement on marriage was offensive to Peter, being a married man.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Geesh

      So what is the correlation then? Is it only a matter of time until Christ followers cave on this too?

      March 30, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  6. Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

    In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of Lutheran CMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

    One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

    One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

    Some believe the Pope is the Anti-Christ. Some believe Obama is the Anti-Christ.

    Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain positions. It's ridiculous.

    Conflicted and unfounded right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create divisions and more extremism as time goes by.

    March 30, 2013 at 4:04 pm |

    • Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?

      Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3 (from Notes on the State of Virginia):

      Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

      James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights (from A Memorial and Remonstrance delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785):

      During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

      John Adams, POTUS #2 (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816):

      I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

      Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

      If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

      Thomas Paine (from The Age of Reason):

      All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Russ

      @ 40,000:
      you overstate your case.

      1) despite the disagreement in non-essentials, over 2 billion Christians on the planet ALL believe that the central tenets stated in Apostle's Creed (as a short-hand representation for what the Bible teaches about God).

      2) your above citation of early American fathers is noteworthy in this: none of them seem to have had a qualm with slavery. About that same time, William Wilberforce (precisely because of his Christian faith) was fighting to end slavery in the British Empire. And don't forget Martin Luther King, Jr. – whose Christian faith led him to fight uncompromisingly against for civil rights. Are you arguing that Wilberforce & MLK added nothing historically?

      March 30, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • clarity

      Russ – you overstate your case:

      1) of what are essentials vs. non-essentials to many people – this is perhaps why we see this particular issue coming to a head;

      2) they were men of their time; non unusual for that time on the issue of slavery; but they did have their hands busy trying to keep Christians from killing each other in their home states; the influence of Deism, imho, helped them step back from the bickering to come up with the separation.

      The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

      Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

      –John Adams

      March 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • clarity

      I would not argue against the efforts of MLK, Wilberforce, but too often we see extremist Christians standing in the way of progress.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • Russ

      @ clarity:

      1) the Apostles' Creed has been around since roughly AD 180, so that goes directly contrary to the thesis that Christianity is somehow losing its central beliefs or that what is essential has shifted.

      2) you're making my point for me – how does one transcend being a "man of his time"? how do we know we aren't falling prey to the exact same thing by following the polls here? the irony is that Wilberforce & MLK both transformed their cultural norms because of their uncompromising belief that God called out those mistaken societal norms. it was the very thing that is being mocked here that was essential for 'healing' society.

      unless one has an objective basis for morality (which by definition stands outside the system and is not subject to it), being a "man of your time" leaves you as a product of the system rather than a reformer of it.

      March 30, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • clarity

      @Russ,

      1) If Christians interpreted and applied the "Apostles' Creed" the same way on with various issues, I would at least know where I stood on each issue – whether to agree or not; but the examples I showed in my original post show that Christians do not agree on many issues because they interpret the Bible differently – sometimes extremely differently.

      2) I'm all for those that want to effect positive change; but you have to consider that there may have never been a MLK if people like Madison, albeit a slave owner of his time, hadn't seen the necessity to separate church and state and hadn't found a way in implementing the Constitution in a way that would prevent sects like extreme Baptists and Anglicans from going to war with each other in a power play to control the new government. So no, what my point proves is that, as Christians, early Americans were also conflicted on their interpretation of the Bible. And it has only gotten worse as the examples in my original post illustrate.

      March 30, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • Russ

      @ clarity:
      1) can you give me an example? are you saying some people debate whether or not God the Father is Creator, etc.? or are you talking about secondary inferences that flow from that?

      certainly, agreement in the doctrinal positions per se is no small thing. are you conceding that? if not, give me an example.

      2) you can't have it both ways.
      Either MLK & Wilberforce WERE positive advancements AGAINST the early American fathers' own positions (pro-slavery, anti-civil rights) OR they were not positive moves. You can't fabricate a false position whereby somehow the forefathers agreed with something they ostensibly & demonstrably didn't on a daily basis.

      I've given you two examples AFTER your quotes wherein Christians – against popular notion at the time – affected societal change due to their biblical, faith-based convictions. And that's not even to begin to enumerate all the ways you've overlooked that Christians have worked together to improve the nation – such as hospitals, schools, etc. look up the history of how these inst.itutions began in America. I'm not saying they had to have Christian values or that America was somehow solely a Christian nation; instead, I'm saying these insti.tutions were largely begun by Christians whose faith-based convictions led them to start such services.

      Again, your broad-brushed approach to the last 200 years defeats the kernel of truth within your argument (that Christians have fought amongst themselves in ways they would readily admit are not faithful to their convictions).

      March 30, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • clarity

      Russ: [ "1) can you give me an example? are you saying some people debate whether or not God the Father is Creator, etc.? or are you talking about secondary inferences that flow from that? certainly, agreement in the doctrinal positions per se is no small thing. are you conceding that? if not, give me an example." ]

      I could care less about the Apostle's creed; I sure there are many other non-Christian Americans who could care less about the Apostle's Creed. When different Christians are going to judge groups of people in drastically different ways, yet both (or all) do so from their differing interpretation of their supposedly common "Scripture", then they are going to continue to be called out as a conflicted belief system. If you want to call that secondary inference, or something else – I could care less. I will point out, however, that such conflict continues to exist and is quite often a thorn in the side of progress. Reread my original post for examples.

      Russ [ "2) you can't have it both ways. Either MLK & Wilberforce WERE positive advancements AGAINST the early American fathers' own positions (pro-slavery, anti-civil rights) OR they were not positive moves. You can't fabricate a false position whereby somehow the forefathers agreed with something they ostensibly & demonstrably didn't on a daily basis.
      [..] And that's not even to begin to enumerate all the ways you've overlooked that Christians have worked together to improve the nation – such as hospitals, schools, etc. look up the history of how these inst.itutions began in America. [..] Again, your broad-brushed approach to the last 200 years defeats the kernel of truth within your argument (that Christians have fought amongst themselves in ways they would readily admit are not faithful to their convictions)." ]

      Russ – you sound like Chad when you try to change the argument of the original post. "in ways they would readily admit are not faithful to their convictions" – I could care less if they Christians want to readily admit to anyone, including themselves, if they are faithful to their convictions. In the U.S., what I care about is when they want to crap all over different people in differing ways because they differ and don't agree with one another; and because this conflicted nature of the Christian belief system is thus often used as a weapon of bigotry. Now – you brought up slavery. Slavery is but one of many issues that Christians have disagreed over since the founding of the government. Some Christians were for it, some against. Same with many other issues. And there were some more Deist founders who were against slavery. But this problem with the conflicted interpretations of the Bible by Christians goes far deeper than any one issue; I have to assume this is what you are avoiding since you keep circling around that issue.

      Have some Christians done some great things in American society? Sure. And so have others. The point is – their belief system is conflicted – maybe not the "creed" you go by, but the output resulting from the various interpretations of the Bible and whatever else different Christians use to guide themselves. Quite simply, they disagree with each other and judge people, often in drastically different ways. Again, reread my original post for examples. Has this conflicted nature of Christianity improved? I don't think so – as evident by the ~40,000 denominations of disagreement – the further splintering of the religion. Many of us are sick of being the object, or in the line of fire of all that conflict and uncertainty.

      You can yak up your "creed" all you want, but when I hear bigotry AND acceptance both being spewed by Christians from the same denomination (regarding gays, for instance), expect it to be noted loud and strong.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • Russ

      @ clarity:

      1) I don't think you are hearing the thrust of my argument. Let's try coming at this a little differently.

      You appear to be a pragmatist ('all that matters to me is people do this & such...'). You say you don't care about their core convictions – but that in and of itself IS a core convictions.

      Next, you object to "varying" interpretations of Scripture on pragmatic concerns – something you evidently define apart from CORE theological convictions... but the PRIMARY teaching of Scripture is theological. You say there is a wide variety. I point out that on THE central teaching, there is unity. You say that doesn't matter – again: that is because of YOUR central convictions (as a pragmatist... and an atheist?). Again, over 2 billion people affirm the central teachings of the Bible as presented in the Apostles' Creed. The authority is NOT in the creed itself, but as an affirmation of the central things the Bible states. That IS pragmatic, tangible and demonstrable.

      Are there nuances beyond that? yes. there's 2 billion of us. are there secondary inferences on which we strongly disagree. yes. again, 2 billion people. 40,000 is not that big of a number compared to 2 billion. think about it statistically. again, that only strengthens my point: the core teaching of the Bible is virtually unanimously affirmed by over 2 billion – a practical fact directly contrary to your argument.

      I continue to point out that practical fact. You object that it's not pragmatic enough for YOUR beliefs. That – ironically – is a theological & philosophical objection, and not a pragmatic one.

      2) you object to the espousal of Christianity based on concerns you believe are more primary to existence.

      a) that is a doctrinal position of YOUR metaphysical presuppositions (i.e., faith convictions).

      not surprisingly, you are labeling Christians as bigots because YOU disagree with our beliefs. you are assessing us based on YOUR beliefs – exactly what you are complaining about us doing with you. that is self-refuting. furthermore, assess yourself by your OWN beliefs. on what basis do you define good & evil? if you are labeling someone a bigot, to what are you appealing as a sense of just or right belief? note: again, ironically, if your belief is based on individualistic convictions (whatever you believe is right), how many self-contradicting denominations does that doctrine create? billions. again, substantially more than the 40,000 you are complaining about.

      b) the very creed (core beliefs) about which you complain was the driving force for those changes which you now celebrate in MLK and Wilberforce. you can't have it both ways.

      again, you are bringing your own creed to bear here. you only celebrate what you believe is right. and yet you complain/claim that others are bigots when they do the same thing. you fail your own criticism.

      furthermore, the oft-misquoted "don't judge" (Mt.7) fails to read the rest of the passage. the goal is to remove the speck from your brother's eye AFTER removing the log from your own. BOTH of those (very pragmatic) actions involve critical self-assessments (i.e., judging). the point of that passage is not "never judge" but "judge with the same measure you want to be judged." but DO judge! to not judge would leave everyone blind in that analogy (still with junk in their eyes).

      so, the real question is what's underneath: on what basis does one judge?

      April 2, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  7. n2it

    It's an abomination. It's what they're taught. Time to unlearn. Time to disobey. But hey, it's okay right? It's mainstream, it's lib. It's okay right?

    March 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  8. carlos

    Sin

    March 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  9. prfaustblog

    When CNN and other media sources get behind a movement, and when people grow up in a "Christian" home learning two Worldviews (moral relativism and love means affirmation from TV and schools vs. biblical Christianity from the Church) you get the confused Rob Bell and the generation he has influenced through his books and videos.

    March 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Tim Brown

      You want moral relativism? Follow the history of the Christian Church.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said
      fifty people a day walking in sayin' that it's OK to be gay and
      walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  10. Tim Brown

    Evangelicals are always the last to accept reality. Could evolution be next? I doubt it – critical thinking is not a value.

    March 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • tony

      Thinking is actively discouraged. E.g. don't eat the apples of the tree of knowledge. Now there's another religious college oxymoron.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      The majority of Christians believe in the false notional hypothesis of evolution as a means to species now, as it is central to their racism.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  11. liz

    I am an atheist and I consider myself pretty healthy and I love all living things. Also it seems to me forcing people to live a lie to gain religious acceptance is very unchristian like.

    March 30, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • tony

      Monogamy is not always expected in many other parts of the world or their religions

      March 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Tim Brown

      Monogamy? Like Solomon's thousand wives and concubines?

      March 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  12. cynthia

    Monogamy and fidelity should be equivalently expected from gay people as much as it is expected from str8 people.

    March 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  13. tony

    Did Jesus give 4 year "degrees". How much did he charge?

    March 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  14. Fundies Gone Wild! They are Panicking!

    Time to expose ALL the people that have had a hand in trying to "swing" people.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0-04VDrCbM&w=640&h=390]

    March 30, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • MennoKnight

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lvU-DislkI&w=640&h=390]

      I like this one better, much better choice in music.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Magnificent New Channel - MUST SEE!

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW3PBK6GOv0&w=640&h=390]

      March 30, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  15. Hadadad,didntlikehim,gotanewone

    wesley hill is celibate because his face looks like something that my dog threw up.

    It's hardly a choice *he* made, but rather one everyone around him made for him.

    Nothing to do with God, but keep telling yourself that, Wes.

    March 30, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • MennoKnight

      As a peace loving, pacifistic Mennonite, I would love to meet you on a hockey rink after what you just said.

      March 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  16. Justin

    Is there even ONE day when there isn't a rainbow flag on CNN's front page??

    March 30, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I would love to have seen you in the civil rights era complaining about all those articles about black people.

      March 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  17. MennoKnight

    Some are born gay.
    I was born a selfish, egotistical narcissistic. That is my nature.
    And according to the Bible both are sin.

    My Job as a Christian is to not live by my sin nature.

    From the smartest most holy humble person on the planet.

    Oh shoot I did it again!

    March 30, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • Anna

      Yes, because loving another adult in a consensual relationship is as destructive as being egotistical, selfish and narcissistic, right?

      March 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  18. Steve

    Doesn't matter what the media writes, it doe not make things absolutely true. In this age, the media tries to swing people to their agenda by printing whatever they please, and folks really have no recourse. We, the average person, cannot reach as many with our print as they can, so they cause the ideals to fall their way.

    March 30, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Of course you can. FOX news was founded to cater to the ignorant viewer and you can start up your own news station any time you want.

      March 30, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!

      March 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Michael

      Double down, bury your head in the sand, and embrace excuses... anything to avoid acknowledging that uncomfortable thing we call reality! I bet you didn't even read the article, you just went running and crying to your prejudices instead of even considering the evidence... or.. you know, the actual PEOPLE they are writing about in this article.

      March 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      ... Oooh the scary boogey man media and their mind control devices.

      March 30, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • rick

      the bible is iron age media

      March 30, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
  19. Hunt

    Fact: A Christian College in Montgomery, Alabama has invited Fox's Bill Oreilly as their upcoming guest speaker this fall and Oreilly supports Gay Marriage. Oreilly said "The other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible."

    March 30, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  20. tess adams

    Wheaton College and many of these others have become or have been liberal christian schools so it's no surprise this is happening.

    I didn't see any mention of Christian schools who haven't let their theological standards become watered down such as Moody Bible College or Dallas Theological Seminary.

    March 30, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Russ

      @ tess: did you actually read the article? Wheaton is not compromising their standards. They are simply allowing college students to discuss it openly.

      March 30, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Bob Jones University dropped its prohibition on interracial dating in 2000, so who knows what whacky, radical, liberal things these good Christian schools will do next.

      March 30, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.