The Sin of Silence

At Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, smack in the middle of campus stands a large stone statue of the university mascot, the Bison. Centrally located and nearly impossible to miss, the Bison doubles as an advertising billboard, a free-for-all canvas for promoting campus events, birthdays, random instances of artistic expression, and the occasional political statement. A few days before graduating from Lipscomb University, I joined my friend Anissa in painting the Bison one last time.

 

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Throughout our senior year, I witnessed Anissa and a group of LGBTQ students at Lipscomb University battle the administration to make life better for themselves and for future LGBTQ students. Frequently, I listened to stories of LGBTQ students made to feel less than human, less than equal at Lipscomb University. At Lipscomb University, LGBTQ students are frequently met with fear, skepticism, and judgment for making their identities as LGBTQ individuals publicly known on campus.

Since I’ve known Anissa, she has been fighting to establish official channels of support for LGBTQ students. At Lipscomb’s most recent annual Student Scholar’s Symposium, Anissa won a prize for her proposal to create LGBTQ “safe spaces” on campus. Her program included a way for LGBTQ supportive and affirming faculty and staff to mark their office doors with a logo letting LGBTQ students know they may speak to the faculty/staff member openly without fear of judgment. Along with her proposal, Anissa designed a detailed curriculum to help faculty/staff start engaging in less judgmental and more supportive conversations with LGBTQ students. Prior to the Symposium, this curriculum was published on the school’s library website. The next day, it was taken down without warning or explanation.

Certain administrators argued against Anissa’s suggestion that such logos be displayed on campus. The reasoning behind their disapproval included the notion that certain faculty/staff members still uncomfortable supporting LGBTQ students inevitably would be “left out,” or that not placing a logo on one’s door could make one appear uncaring. To LGBTQ students at Lipscomb University, this reasoning effectively says that how certain faculty members may be perceived matters more than the mental health of some of their most vulnerable students.

It is worth noting that, despite this reticence, many logos did go up around campus. To my knowledge, no backlash was received. This is a major victory, but it is not sufficient to solve Lipscomb University’s struggle to embrace its LGBTQ population.

LGBTQ students at Lipscomb University are often told they are loved, BUT they are wrong to identify as gay. They are loved, BUT their “lifestyles” are a sin. They are loved, BUT their “choices” unacceptable, un-Christian.

I’ve listened to Anissa describe the psychological effects of such treatment. A judgment preceded by a declaration of love, while seemingly benign to the one espousing it, is no less damaging than an outright insult to an individual seeking acceptance and affirmation of their identity. In some ways, it simply feels less honest.

In Anissa’s own words:

Do not tell me you “love the sinner but hate the sin.” I am well aware of your hatred. I prepare for it, assume it, expect it. I cringe at the thought of entering most churches. Have you been called the “spawn of Satan” when you shared an aspect of yourself with someone? Do your friends tell you that “being gay is wrong, but I think you’re a great person anyway”? Have you ever stopped to consider what this does to a person’s sense of self? I can tell you, from my experience, that it wears at your soul, picks it apart slowly but surely. It makes you doubt your worth as a child of God and makes you wonder if the world really would be better off without “people like you.” It makes you assume that the daily micro-aggressions you experience are justified, and lulls you into hopelessness as they get larger and more pointed.

When students at a university encounter feelings of hopelessness and self-doubt, it seems intuitive that they should be able to go to their campus counseling centers and speak uninhibitedly to a mental health professional, especially if the administration is uncomfortable with the creation of “safe spaces.” However, at Lipscomb University, if an LGBTQ student goes to the campus counseling center, there is no guarantee, not even an expectation, that the counselors employed there will suspend their religious judgments of what is morally “right” in order to offer an objective, understanding, listening ear. While certain members of the university’s counseling center are attempting to change this culture, I’ve been told of past and recent instances in which the exact opposite has occurred, and of particular members of the counseling staff for whom the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” gets in the way of their commitment to provide unbiased, professional therapeutic practice.

There are, of course, administrators, faculty, staff, and students who are sympathetic and willing to listen. There are those who are supportive and fight alongside LGBTQ students. My words are not intended to diminish their contribution and their love. They are intended as a plea for continued support, and for the collective community at Lipscomb University to follow their example. In the midst of the psychological and emotional turmoil experienced by Lipscomb’s LGBTQ community, there are those willing to invest their time and their hearts, and in some cases even risk their jobs, to speak out against injustice toward LGBTQ students. They keep their office doors open, shuffle their schedules as needed, and defy the norms of this institution. Despite policies that hurt and exclude LGBTQ students and limit those that wish to affirm them, there are administrators, faculty, staff, and students at Lipscomb University without whom progress would not be possible.

Nevertheless, not once have I heard an LGBTQ friend say they felt completely affirmed in their identity at Lipscomb University. Overwhelmingly, the administration, the faculty, and the student body perpetuate the notion that it is not okay to be gay at Lipscomb University. Sadly, this notion is not only sustained by the lack of understanding and acceptance experienced by LGBTQ students in their interactions with Lipscomb community members. It is immortalized by the surrounding silence.

Most of my Lipscomb friends who read this probably have no idea that this is the everyday reality of their LGBTQ peers. Some may have no idea they even have LGBTQ peers. But, of course, students cannot be expected to care about or talk about something of which they are not aware. And Lipscomb University seems to take pains to make sure that its LGBTQ students are not heard.

For over three years, Anissa and other LGBTQ students on campus have been threatened and yelled at for trying to create an official affirming support group for LGBTQ students. Yet, there is currently an operating “unwanted same sex attraction” group on campus that was eagerly welcomed by administrators, the Student Life office, and the Campus Ministry department and was up and running shortly after its proposal.

While Anissa and other LGBTQ students have had numerous private meetings with faculty and administrators about how they would like to be treated on campus, the larger student body has not been invited to participate in the conversation. I recall only one recent event in relation to LGBTQ rights on campus, called “Sex and Lies: Same Sex Attraction.” Ignoring the questionable tone of the title, when Anissa spoke to the organizers to ask about the event’s intention and to make sure LGBTQ-affirming voices would also be present on the panel, the response was less than encouraging:

“Both sides (LGBTQ and conservative) need to be willing to give up their assumptions, like that all conservatives are homophobic bigots, or that gay people are privileged to equal rights and freedoms as others.”

I couldn’t believe it when I heard this. Equal rights and freedoms are not something to which any group of people is “privileged.” Rights and privileges are not the same and should not be equivocated. If something is to be understood as a right, it should be enjoyed irrespective of sex, race, religion, or other personal identifier. Evidently, at Lipscomb University, the right to speak is not a right at all, but a special privilege granted only to students that conform to the institution’s comfortable status quo.

After Anissa and I had donned the Bison in rainbow colors and pained #lovewins on the base, I watched students, faculty members, and strangers pass by. Some smiled. Many noticed us and nodded encouragingly. Others did double takes, or gawked. Some scoffed, or rolled their eyes. After a few minutes, Anissa and I left the scene and carried on with our daily tasks.

 

Two hours later, I passed by that part of campus and noticed this:

 

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Within only two hours of our painting the Bison, our message was gone, replaced by something comfortable, un-thought-provoking, generic, meaningless. Maybe the Student Activities Board had been planning to paint the Bison and Anissa and I had simply picked an inopportune time of day to disseminate our message. That is what I wanted to believe, until someone showed me this picture from a Yik-Yak post:

 

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Apparently, our message had been covered deliberately, and not by a member of the “Student” Activities Board.

Anissa went back later that day:

 

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Soon after the second rainbow coat:

 

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I went back with Anissa the next time, and we were determined to make it known that we completely understood the intentions of whoever was erasing our message:

 

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“What are you so afraid of?” A question for an institution that has effectively muzzled, silenced a specific group of its students.

 

When I was ready to start college four years ago, one of the things I was most excited about was the chance to stand up for social causes. I heard stories, saw pictures and videos, of students at universities across America holding demonstrations and protests, voicing their opinions, and provoking thoughtful, progressive conversations.

In this moment, I saw my institution unable and unwilling to see past its own beliefs. I saw an institution warning students to not question, not to investigate. I saw an institution hanging on with white knuckles to a (in my opinion, misguided) value, without giving students the avenues by which to challenge established thought. I saw an institution frightened that someone may expose its flaws. I saw an institution unconscious of the meaning of growth.

At Lipscomb University, it seems political and socially-charged statements are only okay some of the time, if the perspective being espoused is one that aligns, or at least doesn’t directly challenge, the institution’s established perspective. Never mind the nonviolence of LGBTQ students’ message. Never mind the simplicity, and utter obviousness, of the desire to be seen as an equal and valued member of a campus community, to at least have an equal voice on a platform that should not be reserved only for preferred classes of students.

For example, several weeks before Anissa and I painted the Bison, this happened:

 

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This political statement stayed on the Bison for two days, until someone else who had something else to say painted over it, but not for the intention of silencing the original painters. No one deliberately tampered with this message. I believe no one should have the right to deliberately tamper with that political message, just as no one should have the right to deliberately tamper with the message Anissa and I painted. Why was there a difference in the campus response?

If students are to be given a platform to voice their opinions, ALL STUDENTS should be given the same platform, regardless of their message, as long as it is not a threatening or violent message.

 

Again, almost immediately after we muzzled the Bison, someone was back to cover it up:

 

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Anissa returned later to repaint the rainbow…

 

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This was the last time she tried. Because within minutes of this last attempt, her paint began to smear and slide off the Bison. The most recent painters had covered the Bison in Pam or Crisco or some other substance that made it impossible for anyone to paint over it.

I would be willing to bet that most of the campus community, students and faculty alike, had no idea there was a political paint war being waged on the Bison that day. Aside from Anissa’s and my personal circles of friends, and aside from those faculty, staff, and administrators that have continually supported LGBTQ students, I heard very little outrage, very little acknowledgment of what had happened and its implications.

To my knowledge, this incident hasn’t been publicly discussed at Lipscomb. But I want Lipscomb University, its leaders, and its donors–for whom I imagine this message was subverted in order to preserve their comfort and keep their money flowing–to know that there are students, faculty, administrators, and others who are outraged. I want them to know that their comfort and their money is not more important than the dignity and self worth of Lipscomb University’s students. And I want anyone who is not okay with complete equality and freedom of expression to know that their money does a disservice to a UNIVERSITY. A university is a type of institution that, since its conceptualization centuries ago, has been understood to imply radical exchanges of ideas, that has forever been understood to imply progress.

I meant to write this post weeks ago. I contemplated writing this as the events unfolded, to express my disappointment, my disgust, with the people who silence the voices of my friends, and with the administrators, the faculty, the students, and the institution as a whole for enabling this silence. The week of graduation, I made excuses for myself as I actively chose to put off writing this piece. But mostly I was just scared. I was scared that by writing this piece I may anger someone in power, and that I may forfeit the privilege of walking across the graduation stage to collect my diploma. I was scared of denying my family the opportunity to see the culmination of my hard work for the past four years.

Nevertheless, I was a coward. Because as I made excuses and feared for the loss of these relatively trivial moments, I had friends who had already lost so much in the fight for their voices to be heard. Time. Patience. Heart. They had been stripped of it all. THEY were tired. THEY were burned out. THEIR voices were silenced, for the preservation of an image, for a continuing comfort in the Christian community that comes at the expense of students’ dignity and self worth, and at the expense of inclusivity that honestly reflects the life and works of Jesus of Nazareth.

Even after I had graduated and returned home for the summer, I still found reasons not to tell this story. For my continued silence, I can only apologize to my friends and vow to be silent no more–especially now as the United States mourns the targeting and tragic killing and wounding of over 100 innocent individuals at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

In light of this horrific occurrence, I wanted not only to relay my experience of witnessing my LGBTQ friends’ voices being diminished and marginalized at Lipscomb University, but also to issue a warning–that the incident in Orlando and the happenings at Christian colleges and universities struggling to embrace their LGBTQ students and affirm them as such are related in a fundamental way. Not far off from silencing LGBTQ voices, is the active and violent destruction of LGBTQ bodies.

To clarify, this post is not intended to distract conversation away from the victims and people affected by the Orlando shooting. Rather, it is to highlight that this tragedy should be a wakeup call to all communities and institutions involved in conversations about LGBTQ rights, as well as those not yet having those conversations. Justice for the victims in Orlando, in my opinion, means pinpointing the roots of hate and intolerance in our communities and addressing them honestly and productively, so that reconciliation, understanding, and inclusivity take their place.

Second, this is not intended to devolve into a conversation about gun rights, terrorism, religious extremism, ISIS, or any other external factors influencing the occurrence of the Orlando shooting. While these are important conversations to have, I do not wish to address them at this moment in this platform. Within mere hours of the shooting, mass media outlets, social media outlets, private citizens, political leaders, pundits and commentators, even our own President of the United States in his address to the nation Sunday afternoon, had all taken the conversation away from its most internal and essential caveat.

Whatever the Orlando shooter’s religious or political association, however he may have obtained the weapons used to commit this atrocity, whatever other speculations being currently investigated in relation to this tragedy, there is one piece of the puzzle more certain and more significant than anything else right now. The Orlando shooter targeted LGBTQ individuals. The identities of these individuals and the fact of the deliberate annihilation of their bodies, voices, and lives are being lost in the surrounding debates.

Instead of talking about how in 2016 individuals are being killed because of their sexual orientations and private preferences, we are distracted by our fears of homegrown terrorism, of having our guns taken away, or of our neighbors procuring them. Again, this is not to say these are not valid concerns or justified fears. This is merely to say that conversations about extending dignity, equality, and respect to all human beings as a fundamental value of our country and our collective humanity should NEVER be side-lined.

It doesn’t make sense to talk about gun control if we don’t also talk about the reasons any member of our society may be motivated to use a gun against another member of our society.

It doesn’t make sense to philosophize or pass judgment about the merits or inherent dangers of a particular religious belief without first realizing that human beings are the sustainers of their religious practices and traditions. If human beings learn to hate and exclude, then that hatred and exclusion can be transplanted into their religious beliefs regardless of whether such hatred and exclusion were inherent to that religion in the first place. I find it hard to imagine a human being nurtured by a truly accepting, tolerant, and peaceable society creating or adopting a violent and hateful religious belief. The question then becomes, “Do our society and institutions nurture their people in such a way?”

As I see it, the victims in Orlando were not targeted simply because the perpetrator possessed a weapon. The victims in Orlando were not targeted solely because the perpetrator practiced a form of radical and perverted Islam. The victims in Orlando were targeted because something about the shooter’s interaction with society allowed him to adopt a specific hatred of a specific group strong enough to inspire his intent to eliminate its members.

There may be countless things that contribute to such hatred. I don’t pretend to be able to account for them all. But I do see one potential connection in one particular community that has been my home for the past four years. At Lipscomb University, I have seen a community close the door repeatedly to the voices and concerns of LGBTQ students. LGBTQ students are not equal at Lipscomb University. They cannot even paint the Bison without their message, and their identities, erased.

Powers at Lipscomb University would rather ignore the struggles of LGBTQ students and preserve the comfortable “Christian” image that pleases its donors, its investors, its patriarchs.

I am not interested in what is morally “right” by the Christian religion. Philosophers and theologians can continue that debate. I am interested in how Lipscomb University’s refusal to affirm its LGBTQ students ultimately affects them. I am interested in the potential ramifications of that refusal, regardless of the reasons behind it.

Comfort in silence allows anti-LGBTQ sentiment to survive in America, just as it allows anti-LGBTQ sentiment to survive at Lipscomb University. Comfort in silence will continue to isolate and threaten the safety of LGBTQ persons in America, as well as LGBTQ students at Lipscomb University. Comfort in silence reigns at Lipscomb University. It must end. We can neither understand, love, accept, nor affirm that which we refuse to acknowledge, that which we deliberately ignore, that which we continually silence.

Lipscomb University, its faculty, staff, administrators, students, investors, board members, donors, and anyone else otherwise affiliated with the school MUST STOP silencing the voices of its LGBTQ students. Not giving LGBTQ students the opportunity to speak, to express their voices on a public platform, to find acceptance in their identities, or even to confide in an affirming professor or mental health professional opens the door for violence. A group for “unwanted same sex attraction” normalizes shame and pretends that it is possible to “fix” someone’s identity. Perpetuating an atmosphere that forces LGBTQ students to walk the campus in isolation opens the door for violence.

Lipscomb University, you are telling your other students that they are above their LGBTQ peers, that their voices matter more, and that the opinions we are not comfortable with are not valuable enough to be shared. This opens the door for violence.

Stop saying, “We love you, but…” Stop making someone else’s identity about YOUR comfort and about YOUR preferences. Lipscomb University, stop opening the door for violence. Stop silencing LGBTQ students. Stop silencing my friends.

 

Thank you, Anissa Plattner and the LGBTQ community at Lipscomb University, for lending me your voices and inspiring this post.

If you are a student or faculty/staff member of Lipscomb University, a friend or family member of an LGBTQ loved one, or a citizen concerned about the systematic silencing of minority groups, please share this post.

#lovewins

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39 thoughts on “The Sin of Silence

  1. What if we add in food identifiers? What if we affirm all the morbidly obese students on campus as the gorge on cheese burgers? How about we applaud the anorexics as they purge? Who am I to judge them if they are happy? After all they are adults. They should know these life style choices will subtract years from them and gravely impact their quality of life.
    BTW: Why the rainbow? Also why not attend the, friendly to all sexual identity’s, Belmont? Or the myriad other choices?

    1. Dear D,
      Those are very interesting points you make. In some ways, it does seem that if we are going to arbitrarily deny the expression of a group based on one identifier, then we may deny the expression of anyone based on whatever identifier we choose. An astute observation. However, many would argue that the distinction isn’t arbitrary for LGBTQ individuals because identifying as such violates a particular religious principle. That is where the obese/anorexic analogy might break down. But you could always turn around and say to them, well if all sins are equal and gluttony is a sin, same as homosexuality, then technically administrators, staff, students, etc. should feel obligated and empowered to approach every obese person on campus or every person with their plate piled too high in the cafeteria to denounce their behavior. Every obese person with body image issues that goes to the counseling center should also be given the same “love the sinner, hate the sin”rhetoric and be told their lifestyle is a sin. As you have pointed out, this would seem ridiculous and excessive. So yes, you are right to question it. Why do we have such a particular response to such a particular “sin”?
      But I digress, because, like I said in my post, my intention is not to debate Christian morals. But you are right, Lipscomb’s actions in light of those “morals” does not seem to be equal with respect to all sin. And thus, it unequally targets one population of “sinning” students, and this in turn can have disastrous effects that have nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with human dignity and self worth.

      To answer your question about the rainbow, here is what google has to say:
      “The rainbow flag was popularized as a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride and diversity by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978. This version is also sometimes called ‘the freedom flag’.”

      And finally, about attending a different school: A friend just made a very good point in response to a very similar question. Some students are forced by their parents to attend Lipscomb. Others may not realize the hostility of the Lipscomb climate toward LGBTQ students and for whatever logistical reasons may not be able to transfer or leave once they are there. Still others do not arrive at complete knowledge of their own sexual identities until after they are already in college. And I’m sure there are many other reasons. But, truthfully I don’t think that question is very productive. Because if there are no minority students on a college campus, and therefore no reason to challenge norms, then students still eventually graduate and enter the real world where minority groups and controversial issues exist. Having a completely homogenous college environment will not prepare students well for this real world; it will not help them see various view points; it will limit them from deciding independently what they believe, what they think is “right”, and how to handle people who think differently from them.
      The reality is there will always (i hope) be diversity of some (hopefully many) kinds on each campus, and it isn’t necessarily helpful for all individuals to surround themselves with people all who think and believe like they do.

      I hope some of that is helpful. Thanks for your contribution to this discussion! 🙂

  2. Lipscomb University is a Christian college. Therefore they believe what the Bible says (say it isn’t so!). The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin (gasp!).

    If you feel uncomfortable with what has been known for thousands of years by apparently everyone but you and your friend, then feel free to attend another college.

    Otherwise, you have absolutely zero right to question or try and change what is an openly and blatantly Christian University to conform to your will.

    You’re lucky the current administration is merciful because you should have been suspended for so openly trying to force a change in religious beliefs that, well, simply CAN’T change if they are to remain true to the Bible.

    1. Dear Dungeon Master,
      Clearly, you did not read carefully.

      First, I am no longer a student a Lipscomb University. I graduated, and the post makes that apparent. If you would like to see my thought about the importance of diversity on ALL college campuses, Christian included, you can read my response to D’s comment before yours.

      Second, I never said that I was trying to change anyone’s beliefs. Here is yet more proof you did not read carefully. I said that I was trying to change the ACTIONS of certain people at my University. Lipscomb University does NOT treat all sin the same, even though the assumption is that all sin is equally judged in the eyes of God. I have no opinion about the BELIEFS about my institution. That is not my place to debate or try to change. And again, had you read carefully, you would understand that I am not trying to argue about religious morality in any way here. You and the people at Lipscomb have every right to believe what you want. Those beliefs do not necessitate silencing the voices of LGBTQ individuals or denying them basic mental health equalities that other students are entitled to, irrespective of their flavor of sin. They do not necessitate rhetoric that makes them feel isolated and diminishes their self worth.

      And, to the contrary, Dungeon Master, it is my RIGHT to QUESTION what I believe is unjust. That is my right as a citizen of America and as a human being. Attending a Christian college does not suspend that right. To suggest such a thing is insulting and logically ridiculous.

      Meanwhile, I have the utmost respect for the people at Lipscomb University. I am proud of my education and my accomplishments. This post changes none of that.

      If you wish to discuss any points that are actually pertinent to this post, please let me know.

      1. Love all the people who’ve clearly never considered that progressive Christianity exists & that there’s no nuance to Christian spirituality – as if everything laid out in a historical text (especially the English, modified, manipulated translation of an ancient text) is a black & white/SIN & NOT SIN guideline. Maybe they missed the parts about love being the priority and finding freedom in Christ. For any who may be working through reconciling their faith and sexuality, I’d recommend FaithfullyLGBT (https://www.facebook.com/FaithfullyLGBT/) or Believe Out Loud (https://www.facebook.com/believeoutloud/) as affirming resources.

    2. I know that Nicole was not trying to turn this into an argument about theology, but such an obtuse and uneducated reply cannot go unanswered. You say:
      “Lipscomb University is a Christian college. Therefore they believe what the Bible says (say it isn’t so!). The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin (gasp!).”
      Beginning any argument with “the Bible says…” is ridiculous because the Bible should never be read out of context. Using your exact same logic, I could say:

      Lipscomb University is a Christian college. Therefore they believe what the Bible says (say it isn’t so!). Leviticus 25:44 says “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.” Therefore, the Bible says that slaves can be bought from our surrounding nations (gasp!).

      I am not advocating for slavery. I am not even advocating for gay marriage. I am saying that you obviously mean “they interpret the Bible to mean…”, since using your original argument removes any space for a contextual reading. Furthermore, you cite no sources. You literally just throw out the phrase “the Bible says.” To quote Dr. Preston Sprinkle “The debate is not about what the Bible says. The debate is about what it means.” Stopping at simply what it says leads directly to the argument above.

      Secondly, you say:

      “If you feel uncomfortable with what has been known for thousands of years by apparently everyone but you and your friend, then feel free to attend another college.”

      This statement is so unequivocally ignorant that I am not even sure where to begin. I will start by saying that the argument for or against gay marriage has not been “know for thousands of years by…everyone.” First, this is hyperbole of the most disgusting variety. I have enough faith in your cognitive abilities to believe that you know this to be false. Therefore, I must conclude that you meant this statement as a literary device. Traditionally, this is a literary device used to incite emotion. In this respect, you have obviously succeeded. In convincing me that everyone interprets the clobber passages in the same way, you have failed. Actually this very article shows that there are faculty at Lipscomb University that disagree with you. Lipscomb University…a Christian college.

      In assuming that you were using “everyone” as a hyperbolic literary device, it follows that you meant “most people.” If we go back 241 years (a fraction of the “thousands of years” that you mentioned), then this statement could be made: “most people” believe slavery is not a sin. (I chose the year 1775 because that was the founding of the first abolitionist society within the United States. In fact, the statement “for thousands of years most people have believed that slavery is not a sin,” could have probably been applied many years after this, but I chose to be generous with the timeline.) Before the Reformation started in the early sixteenth century, someone could have said: “for over a thousand years most Christians have believed that the task of interpreting scripture rests solely in the hands of the Pope.” I could go on and on.

      Finally, in regards to your assertion that she should “feel free to attend another college.” I would like to claim that disagreeing with a policy does not mean that one has to abandon somewhere entirely. In fact, I am sure that everyone at Lipscomb University could find something within the University bylaws to disagree with.

      Within the Lipscomb community there are theological debates about Arminianism vs Calvinism, Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism, and many others. Each side believes that the other is incorrectly interpreting scripture. The important thing is that every argument is immersed in the Word of God, and does not argue against anything in the Apostle’s Creed. (The Apostle’s Creed is widely accepted as the basic tenants of Christian belief. If you read it, I think that you will see that it covers all of our faith’s fundamental aspects.) My reason for so thoroughly decimating your argument is that your brand of Biblical scholarship is unbelievably dangerous. It is not founded on the Bible. It is not founded on reason or logic. It is rooted in sensationalism. No one expects a full doctoral thesis in the comments section, but blatant falsehoods and ignorance demands a response.

      I am sure that if you see this, you will read my entire argument as pro-gay marriage. On the contrary, there are many Biblically based arguments for the interpretation that you espoused. Unfortunately, you don’t know any of them. I would caution you from entering into a debate when you know nothing about the subject matter. Maybe this would have been a good time to ask a question or do some research instead of inserting snarky parenthetical comments and turning on your caps lock.

      If you have further questions, feel free to contact me. I thought about inventing a fun screen name like “Dungeon Master,” but then I decided that cowering behind a computer screen wasn’t for me.

  3. Hi Nicole!

    First, I just wanted to thank you for speaking so bravely about something political that you are passionate about. I completely agree with you in that we, as college students, should never feel like we can’t express our beliefs in a peaceful way on a university campus, because this is supposed to be a safe place for us to exercise any kind of (safe) expression and learn and grow from that before entering the “real world.”
    Next, I just want to give one point of my opinion. Aside from anything that I may or may not disagree with politically in your article (because I believe that your point is so much bigger than that), Lipscomb has always been a pretty conservative place. Upon entering (as I’m sure you had to do as well as I did), we are all asked to sign a code of conduct that explicitly lays out every policy that the university has. They ask that unless we feel comfortable with their rules and requests of us, that we go elsewhere to further our higher education because Lipscomb holds their students to a higher standard than most universities.
    That being said, not only do they ask that students not be sexually immoral (whether that is heterosexuality or homosexuality), but also to abstain from consuming alcohol while a student on this campus, along with several other things. We knowingly and willingly sign that code of conduct BEFORE coming to school here, so why should it be any surprise that when trying to challenge it, you are met with opposition?
    As you mentioned several times in your article, faculty and administration have met with your friend/others about the feelings of opression that weigh down the LGBTQ population on Lipscomb’s campus, but clearly nothing is being done for them. Thus, opinions are being heard, even if nothing has changed. I watched several of my peers attempt to do the same thing (relating to a different policy at Lipscomb) and they were also met with strong opposition, feeling as if nothing was helping their cause.

    The main point is that Lipscomb has its own policies and standards, and we pay $40,000-ish a year and sign a contract saying we are going to adhere to those things. I don’t mean any offense to you, your friend, or the LGBTQ community because I am a HUGE proponent of freedom of speech and expression, but I think it is absurd to assume that you should be able to change and speak out against the way Lipscomb does things because that is what we signed up for in the first place.

    1. Dear B,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I absolutely see where you are coming from and I understand your point.

      I do, however, think it is important to distinguish between identifying as LGBTQ and actually engaging in homosexual or “sexually immoral” acts. The students whose issues I highlight in this post are being oppressed, reprimanded, or treated differently NOT because they are assumed to or even proven to have committed homosexual acts. They are being marginalized simply for identifying as LGBTQ. Identifying as such must be a scary and confusing thing within a conservative Christian community. (And while I know that others may have different opinions on this) I operate under the assumption that one’s identity in this respect is not a choice. That is the assumption upon which I approach LGBTQ rights issues, and I personally believe it is the best way to proceed with LGBTQ rights issues in our collective society.

      That being said, I do not think Lipscomb’s policy is intended to stop students from having “sexually immoral” desires. Heterosexually, I think we all know that is impossible. Thus, I think it is fair to assume that it is not the desires or inclinations of LGBTQ students that violate that policy any more than would the daily sexual thoughts and desires of a heterosexual, unmarried student. Yet, heterosexual students are not marginalized even though it is known that these desires exist. And I don’t think it is fair for someone to have to deny their LGBTQ identity simply because people at Lipscomb are uncomfortable knowing where their sexual inclinations lie. I think we need to get to the point where heterosexual conservative Christians in a community can look at the LGBTQ counterparts without judgment for their sexual inclinations, and treat them just like traditionally identifying students are treated on a daily basis, for even traditionally identifying students have sexually immoral inclinations daily.

      With respect to this issue, Lipscomb University has chosen a particular sort of action to deal with a particular sort of “sin,” a stance that is inconsistent with the way it treats other “sins.” Therefore, I am not speaking out against the theology behind the policy or code of conduct. I am speaking out against the inconsistent actions of the campus community in light of it.

      But thank you for your feedback. I hope that helps to clarify a bit :).

      1. Hi Nicole. Would be interested to hear your thoughts on this: IF Lipscomb University as an institution and members of the Christian community believe, based on the holy word of God, that homosexuality is a sin that is detested by God and referenced multiple times in Pauls writing: is it truly unloving for members of this institution or Christians to refuse to celebrate a community of people who are sadly living a life of action that according to the bible God hates? I 100% agree with you that responding to members of the LBQT community with hate or making them feel unwanted or unworthy of Christs love and salvation is a sin in itself because you’re right that picks one sin and puts it on a pedestal…. However if a group of students at Lipscomb that are self proclaimed liars decided to paint a flag to symbolize this group on the bison I would expect that Lipscomb would want to cover this up as well… My point is that for some Christians and even Christian Institutions, the refusal to celebrate a lifestyle that is truly believed to be contrary to Gods plan can really truly come from a place of love and concern for souls. I respect you and your opinion. These matters are things that concern me and that I pray about and study often. As a Christian it is a difficult thing in this day and age to wrap my head around. The New Testament, specifically Pauls writings are very clear about Gods feelings toward homosexuality- even in the original languages and contexts. As a word believing Christian who does not experience the temptation of homosexuality personally it is hard to understand how anyone could argue with that. However figuring out how to show love to those that are homosexual without receiving the type of reaction that you have included in your post seems nearly impossible. That is because anyone who believes it is wrong because that’s what the bible says are clumped into a group of people labeled as closed minded and bigoted. This is why many choose silence…. This is why I often choose silence. Because I don’t want to make anyone feel unwelcomed or unloved but I do believe Gods word in the New Testament is true and remains true today. And believing that means believing choosing to participate in homosexual relationships is the same in Gods eyes as choosing to be a liar or an adulterer. That doesn’t make me hate gay people, it makes me sad…. Sad because I believe in Gods wrath and sad because I don’t know how to help my friends that have chosen that life. Yes this can apply to many many sins and lifestyles… However today you are upset because Lipscomb is not celebrating the gay community and I’m not sure that doing so would be very Christian of them. Showing love and support for the victims of the Orlando massacre? Absolutely what Lipscomb as an institution should be doing….. But celebrating flags that represent sin in their views, I’m not sure. Again, thank you for your opinion. I am always eager to hear another opinion on these matters because they are complex and troubling.

      2. Dear MGB,
        Thank you for your thoughts. In response, I would like to clarify that I have no expectation that Lipscomb should ever “celebrate” the gay community. There is a difference between including and accepting a community as equal and celebrating that which the community stands for. Lipscomb may not feel it can do the latter based on its religious beliefs. That’s all fine. It can however, do the former, and it is my opinion that it should. I never advocated for the latter.

        Moreover, you, like many other readers and like Lipscomb, fail to make the distinction between 1) homosexual identification, and 2) participation in homosexual acts. I am advocating for a change in rhetoric and response based on the former. You can read my response to Nathan’s earlier comment for more about this. I think it covers a lot of ground on this point.

        And finally, and this relates closely to the point above, I am inclined to say that your analogy is incomplete. “Liar” and “adulterer” are not labels that define someone’s identity. They are labels that follow from actions. Contrarily, “LGBTQ” or “homosexual”, are labels that DO define one’s identity irrespective of whether one has performed any action in accordance with the inclinations inherent in one’s identity. The painting on the bison is a plea for equality and inclusion based on such an identity.

        I hope this helps :).
        – N

      3. Hey MGB!
        I know that you directed your question at Nicole, but I thought I could help clarify a bit as well. First of all, thank you so much for being so compassionate in your response and for asking questions rather than engaging in impassioned rhetoric. I believe that Nicole did an excellent job of making the distinction between identifying as LGBTQ and acting on it, so I won’t address that. She also did a great job of explaining how she isn’t asking for a celebration of what the University sees as a sin, she is asking for a nondiscriminatory environment. However, there are two things that I still want to point out.

        I totally sympathize with your statement: “Because I don’t want to make anyone feel unwelcomed or unloved but I do believe Gods word in the New Testament is true and remains true today.” However, in this particular realm, I think that Christians worry way too much about straddling the line between grace and judgement. No one is going to forget that you don’t agree with acting on homosexual tendencies. Often the church gets so concerned with reminding everyone that they see homosexuality as a sin, that they completely forget that our first job is to love God and then to love people. This is not me trying to say that loving people overrules sexual immorality and we should just do whatever we want. What I am saying is that we completely forget compassion in our verve to condemn sin. Rather than listening to what LGBTQ Christians have to say or having our hearts break for the hardships that they have had to endure, we start every conversation reminding them of our Biblical stance. That is not what Jesus did. When he met adulterers, prostitutes and tax collectors he met them with compassion. He would, on occasion, end conversations with an edict to “sin no more,” but even this was reserved for select encounters. Furthermore, this entire paragraph is more relevant to those who choose to act on their sexual preferences. In reference to those who choose to remain celibate there does not need to be any reminder of Biblical teaching…they are so aware of this fact that they are sacrificing love, family, and a spouse in order to remain true to the Word.

        Second, respect that this is not necessarily an unbiblical view. This part of my response has nothing to do with the article (the post does not address the morality of acting on homosexuality), but since you mentioned it in your reply I felt compelled to add this in. I am not at all trying to change your beliefs, but I hope that you know that there are convincing arguments for homosexuality being Biblical. Rather than arguing to accept that view, I argue that we should respect it. There are so many arguments within the Christian faith about what certain parts of the Bible mean. Even when the argument seems clear cut there are disputes. An easy example is the controversy over a woman’s place in church. 1 Corinthians 14:34 says, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” Some interpret this to mean that women should never speak to a church congregation. Others think that it means that women can’t be preachers, but they can take a Beth Moore-like position of teaching. Then there are those who believe that these instructions were meant only for the women at the church in Corinth. I won’t mention which view I take, because it is irrelevant. I respect each of these views, even though I disagree with some of them. There are people who have poured over the scriptures spending hours upon hours praying for guidance in interpretation, and they have concluded that God blesses monogamous homosexual relationships; then there are people who have done the exact same thing and come to a different conclusion. Rather than crucifying these people as heretics twisting the Word of God, let’s have some humility. Remember that for hundreds of years before the Reformation, Christians debated about who should be allowed to read the Bible. (To be clear, every major Christian denomination now accepts individual Biblical study as essential.) For thousands of years, the Judeo-Christian tradition saw nothing in the Bible against slavery. There have also been violent debates about forgiveness, salvation, and even which books belong in the Bible. Personally, I feel uncomfortable condemning entire generations of Christians as heretical, and I also believe that issues of slavery, forgiveness of sins, and salvation are more integral to the faith than homosexuality. For that reason, I respect this view on homosexuality, even if I do not agree with it. As long as a view does not go against the Apostle’s Creed and is heartily based on scripture, I have to respect it. (I know that some only argue for homosexuality because “times change” etc. I cannot respect this view because it is not based on scripture in anyway.)

        Now that my point has been shared, I wanted to relate a more personal experience. (Disclaimer: For privacy reasons I have changed names.) I know of a set of best friends named Lizi and Hannah. Lizi is bisexual and Hannah is straight. Both of them are Christians. Lizi struggled with her sexuality and Christianity for a very long time, but after a lot of research and prayer she came to the conclusion that God blesses homosexual relationships with the same stipulations given to straight relationships (don’t be unequally yoked, no sex before marriage, etc.). Hannah does not agree. Even so, nothing changed in their relationship. Lizi knows that Hannah views some of her choices as sinful, but there are other aspects of theology that they disagree on as well. People on both sides of the argument are going to continue calling each other bigoted or depraved, ignorant or condemned to hell, but this article is about the challenge to rise above that and actually represent Christ on earth.

        I know that was long, but I hope it helped! Feel free to ask for clarification on any point that I did a poor job at explaining.

  4. Great post, Nicole. You may have delayed writing it due to fear, but you certainly are brave now. My wife went to Lipscomb and I went to Harding, so I know the world of which you speak and I know the fear that may have kept you silent. Well done. You beat the fear, and in so doing, gave our LGBTQ brothers and sisters hope to fight back against all.of.the.overwhelming.negativity. This David Whyte poem has spoken to me lately about letting go when you have a revelation, or something important to say (as you most certainly do). http://www.davidwhyte.com/english_rev.html Keep up the good work. #lovewins

  5. I think Jesus’ ultimate teaching was LOVE. We should LOVE people. We should LOVE people who we may not agree with. Jesus hung out with people that he did not agree with and showed them LOVE and compassion. I am a Lipscomb grad and I hate to see that there are still people who do things based around hate for the LGBT community. Instead of “covering up” the fact that 49 people lost their life because they happened to be gay, we should be praying for the families and the people who were hurt by this horrific incident. Is a life less because they have a different sexual orientation than most of the students at Lipscomb have?

    As a Christian (who moved from the South to California), I have seen every type of sin you can imagine out here. Isn’t drinking a sin? But lots of Lipscomb kids do it. Isn’t lying a sin? Yet, we do it ALL THE TIME.

    Instead of picking the sawdust out of our brother’s eye, maybe we should take the plank out of our own eye first. I believe that GOD is the only one who gets to judge in the end, so instead of hating, why not try loving one another instead? The only time we really ever see Jesus angry is at the Pharisees. They were Christians. They weren’t gay. But they were hypocrites. They lied and pointing fingers at other sinners. Sound familiar?

    Anyway, I appreciate posts like this. I hope that the LGBT community at Lipscomb (and outside of Lipscomb) realizes that there are some of us who do love them.

  6. Nicole, this is so well written. I’m glad that you were brave enough to put it out there. Prepare for the backlash. Anybody who says or does something outside the University’s comfort zone so publicly ends up facing angry opposition.
    But what you wrote is good and true, and I hope and pray that Lipscomb’s leadership reads it and actually takes it to heart.

  7. Nicole,

    Thank you so much for writing this and bring it to light. My name is Timothy Bodey and I am the president of MTLambda for the 2016/17 year. MTLambda is MTSU’s (a neighboring school) all inclusive LGBT+ organization, and we’re going on our 28th year as an active organization.

    Is there any way that we can get in contact in a less public way? I looked on the site for an email address of yours, but was unable to find one. I would like to discuss what ways you think MTLambda can help to support Lipscomb students. Even if it is just inviting them to our events/meetings.

    Thank you for the time and consideration,
    Timothy Bodey

  8. Hi, Nicole!

    I attended David Lipscomb (then) College from 1970-74 and graduated with a B.A. in Fine Art. Being deeply involved with all things artistic — art, music and theatre — I naturally knew all the more forward-thinking and liberal-minded students. My mother was secretary to the Dean of Students and I was expected to adhere “religiously” to the school’s rules. I really had no option for college but Lipscomb as Mom received a 75% discount on my tuition as an employee. But I didn’t want to go anywhere else either.

    In those days, only the most expensive restaurants served liquor or wine. Shakey’s Pizza in Green Hills was frowned upon because they served beer. We were discouraged for patronizing any establishment that served alcohol, whether we drank or not, because “it just doesn’t look good.” Appearance is everything. Did students drink? Have sex? Definitely. And if discovered, would be trotted into the Dean of Students’ office to be disciplined. My mom witnessed each and every act of punishment and dismissal. I kept quiet about who I was and even dated a beautiful, talented girl most of my years there and we got married in December of my senior year. It was my way of becoming the person I was told I should be and denying the person I knew I really was at the core of my being. I genuinely loved my girlfriend and tried with every ounce of my being to deny who I was and was horrified that I would be exposed as a homosexual. After 20 years of marriage and two wonderful children, we divorced.

    Looking back more than 40 years later, I am still friends with many of my former DLC classmates, more than a dozen of whom are also gay. I suspected they were back then but not sure until our paths crossed years later and we talked about our feelings. The best part of being open is the honesty. No more hiding or lies. It upsets me that so many that I know to be gay have chosen to stay closeted and continue the charade … both faculty and former classmates. I am welcomed at churches of Christ but would never be asked to participate in the worship … and I was a song leader for 40 years. But these closeted ones are embraced and participate and serve as church leaders. That’s their choice but it pains me when they also spout rhetoric that condemns LGBTQ Christians, knowing that they could identify as such if they chose to be honest. I am certain in my heart that the God who made me is not happy with liars but expects us to be honest and love each other.

    At 64, I don’t expect much to change in the rest of my life. I pray that eyes are opened and hearts are touched to be more accepting and understanding. The “church” that they cling to so desperately and run to for shelter from the sinful world is not the only body of believers that God recognizes. The CofC didn’t exist before the 19th Century. But, like most of the conservative world, they would never hear any argument that their’s is not the only way to Heaven.

    I applaud your bravery and outspokenness. May God bless you for that. I also loved my DLC days and carry many happy moments in my heart as well as deep friendships from those who love unconditionally.

    Danny

  9. Nicole, I’d like to offer a response to gently press against some of your conclusions, if I may. But first, thank you for taking the time to share your story. Allow me to share one in return.

    My sister’s name is Clare. She’s a nurse, and attended Oklahoma Baptist University. As you may know – perhaps the bison-mascotted community is close-knit, I’m not sure – OBU’s mascot is also the bison. But, unlike Lipscomb, painting the bison statue is forbidden at OBU. Nevertheless, students do it. Many of them get away with it, and it’s a harmless prank that gets corrected shortly by the maintenance staff.

    One night, it was Clare’s turn to try to paint the bison. She got it painted (crimson and blue, to support her older brother playing in the KU band during basketball season), snuck off, and didn’t seem to be noticed! But then, she made the classic mistake of telling a friend about it. Word got out, she was disciplined with hours of community service, and elected to join the university grounds crew to fulfill those hours. To this day, Clare credits her ensuing lifelong love of horticulture from painting that bison! Ha!

    So, as I read your article, it brought me back to those days. Great memories! As you’ve also shared such a personal memory from college, I’d like to share a short linked article that’s genuinely helped me, and seems to answer some of your questions/challenges.

    Nicole, you should’ve seen it – I had a big ol’ essay typed below this, trying to distill this article into smaller pieces. Nope. Bad idea, too many words. This article has enough brevity and clarity to speak for itself on an important question: Why does homosexuality today seem to be viewed and treated as different by the Christian community?

    Would you be willing to give me your thoughts in response to this elucidated case, Nicole? Thanks for your time and your writing. Here’s the link:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/why-homosexuality-is-not-like-other-sins

    1. Dear Nathan,
      Thank you so much for your comment and for the link you shared–a very interesting perspective, which I have not deeply considered before. This is a long response, but I hope that you and other readers find it helpful:

      The author of your shared article states that “At this moment in history, contrary to the other sins listed here, homosexuality is celebrated by our larger society with pioneering excitement. It’s seen as a good thing, as the new hallmark of progress.”

      I believe the author, while making a seemingly valid observation, misses a crucial point. While he uses the word “homosexuality,” he fails to distinguish between the identification of oneself as homosexual (i.e. having homosexual inclinations/preferences), and the deliberate engaging in homosexual acts. I think to lump those two things together in his definition of “homosexuality” is a mistake. Here is why: It is not homosexual acts and behaviors that are “celebrated” with “pioneering excitement” today. I think the larger majority of American society is rather disinterested in whether an individual participates in a homosexual act or not. I would be willing to venture that even those individuals that identify as LGBTQ+ are rather disinterested in whether a fellow member of their LGBTQ+ community acts upon their sexual desires. Homosexual acts do not seem to be encouraged over heterosexual sexual acts by our society members that affirm LGBTQ+ individuals. In fact, I believe the relative goodness or badness of a homosexual act over a traditional sexual act is rather ignored. What is being “celebrated”–what inspires the triumphant, jubilant, and victorious atmosphere of Pride celebrations and what seems to please a large part our national community–is that LGBTQ+ individuals can now openly and legally acknowledge themselves publicly and identify themselves as LGBTQ+ and enjoy the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. That is the victory and the celebration I perceive.

      Furthermore, while I do not claim to be a theologian, any sort of seasoned biblical scholar, or religious enthusiast, I am fairly certain that the Bible does not make a claim as to whether an LGBTQ+ identity or homosexual inclination is something that a person actively chooses or something that a person is born with (correct me if I am wrong). Make no mistake, I am once again not referring to homosexual behaviors or acts. The Bible, in the opinion of many, makes the Christian stance on homosexual acts abundantly clear. I will not argue this. I am simply talking about physical and emotional attraction, independent of action. Obviously, in biblical times, people were not having conversations about the physical, hormonal, or genetic origins of non-traditional sexual inclinations. However, these conversations are happening today, and that is why I believe the distinction in Christian communities between LGBTQ+ identification and homosexual acts is important.

      That being said, I have mentioned the following point in other responses to people’s comments, but I will reiterate here: Lipscomb University seems to take issue with a student’s identification as LGBTQ+, whether or not there is reason to believe the student in question has actively engaged in a homosexual act. I personally believe this is a mistake, because I believe one’s sexual identity is not a choice. I also believe this is a mistake, because upon discovery of a student’s non-traditional sexual inclinations irrespective of whether actions have followed that inclination, the rhetoric that follows clearly has very damaging psychological and emotional consequences for the student. The rhetoric that follows creates an atmosphere that isolates students and diminishes their self worth. I understand completely that this is never the intention, but it is, in many many cases, the inevitable result. The rhetoric needs to change. The isolation must be remedied.

      Turning back briefly to the article you have shared with me. The author also doesn’t mention how “sexual immorality” in the form of premarital sex is another “sin” that is widely accepted by society. [Of course, it is not “celebrated” in the same way he mentions. Again, this is because LGBTQ+ identifying individuals systematically throughout American history have been ostracized from society in a way that cannot be paralleled to any marginalization that heterosexual individuals comfortable with premarital sex may have ever faced. LGBTQ+ individuals’ newfound legal rights and equality is the reason society celebrates.] But I digress. The point is that, if both homosexual desires and premarital sexual desires can be said to be widely accepted and displayed in our society, Lipscomb University and other Christian institutions should not respond differently to them.

      Students who openly admit premarital sexual desire, and even those who don’t admit to it but obviously harbor it (simple biology), are not told they are sinners. They are not told they live a sinful lifestyle. They are not shamed. They are not isolated. Because they have not been implicated in any actual ACT the university views as sexually immoral. Moreover, I have never actually witnessed a student implicated in and punished for a heterosexual premarital sex act. Thus, I cannot say whether such a student would similarly be isolated from the campus community or made to feel shameful. What I do know is that our society has eliminated the shame of premarital sex, and this includes Christian society. And thus, I do not expect that isolation and shamefulness must necessarily follow.

      Contrarily, LGBTQ+ students that openly identify as such, regardless of whether or not they are implicated in an act, ARE told they are sinners, life a sinful lifestyle, isolated, and shamed by the rhetoric. The response seems inconsistent with that to the former flavor of “sexual immorality” I just mentioned, which includes no sort of shame for simply wanting to have sex.

      As my final point in response to you, the Christian community forgets that LGBTQ+ individuals inhabit a precarious position in society. While their rights and equality are for the most part may be “celebrated”, their identities have not yet been truly liberated from shame. Sunday’s shooting in Orlando and much of the resulting national conversation proves that. Perhaps this is why the rhetoric that is currently espoused has such a negative effect on those who receive it. Perhaps this is why Christian communities should focus on eliminating the shame associated with identity before jumping to conclusions about the presence of behavior that constitutes “sin”.

      Kindest regards,
      Nicole

  10. My intention is not to appear insensitive, however, what type of reaction would you expect from a private, Christian college? The students that attend typically come from deeply conservative families, with wealth and a tight-knit group of friends more worried about the image others view them through than their actual beliefs. Those kids are so happy to be from under the watchful eye of their parents that they go “buck-wild”. There is a constant battle within the church as to whether or not one sin is viewed harsher than the rest, like Shelby mentioned above. It’s unfortunate that this perspective is wide-spread among churches and Christians caught up in the clicks and social networks.
    However, there is one point to consider- Christians are merely people that have accepted Jesus into their lives. I am a Christian and I will proudly say I am far from perfect. We (Christians) have our own personal battles ranging from lying or gossiping to cheating on taxes, greed, and sins that are even against the law. Not all Christians are gun-toting old school southerns. I have seen many others within the faith share #lovewins and other like-minded literature in the wake of the shooting. We as Christians must remember Jesus’ love is for all!

    1. Thank you J. I do not think you are being insensitive at all. And I appreciate your honesty :). The point I hoped to get across is that, despite the fact that this reaction may in fact be “expected,” as you note, this reaction more often than not has unintended and dangerous consequences. This is why this conversation is so important. Because a particular response is expected does not mean it has to be the one carried out. I thank you for your contribution to the discourse 🙂

  11. Thank you for your post. I just have something I want to share of my personal experience at Lipscomb , being a lbgt student.

    I grew up like most Lipscomb students in a religious home,
    I grew up loving Jesus and worshiping God on His throne,
    He was my rock my shelter and my refuge growing up ,
    That was until love for the wrong sex seemed to mess that all up,
    I lived years in fear for what I felt inside my heart,
    live the rest of my life a lie or be true & watch your life fall apart,
    I decided i shouldn’t be afraid I should be me,
    I’m still the same person I was its just now you can see,
    If only I knew the fear I had didn’t come close to the road ahead,
    If I could even tell you all the things that have been said,
    It was assumed I knew nothing about God,
    that I choose to do this and that I was flawed,
    The scripture I once embraced became a weapon against me,
    At school I even had employees threaten me,
    If I didn’t change my “ways” I would be expelled,
    how could a follower of Christ feel so compelled,
    To take a brother and sister in Christ and shun them away,
    Just because I choose to LOVE a different way,
    Yet we are told by Jesus himself that the greatest is love,
    Some tend to hold their own agenda and insecurities above,
    I almost let them win and let fear take over ,
    Let them tell me I couldnt be gay and the Lords follower,
    But God stayed with me and got me through that time,
    Older I look back and just want to take time to shine,
    On the fact that if you struggled like I did you can make it,
    Don’t let anyone convince you Gods love for you is forsaken,
    It almost drove me away from the number 1 love of my life -Jesus
    So please realize when you approach people like us ,
    Your words often drive us away from religion ,
    It’s time for everyone to get over themselves and make a decision,
    Whether your black white straight or gay,
    You can still be a Christian and don’t let anyone take that away.
    Whether it be threats to kicked out of your religious school,
    Or your fellow peers saying that your a fool,
    Choose to love anyway and not to be bitter,
    Dont allow you love for God to wither ,
    So if your reading this just know you don’t have to agree,
    Just keep in mind that when you approach others and me,
    Please save your opinions, I have a Bible just like you,
    I grew up in the same churches and sat in the same pews
    But whether you change or not just always know,
    That il continue to love you and take the higher road,
    I pray that Lipsocmb becomes a safe place for all Christians ,
    After all that should be the schools true mission,
    Not if you fit what’s comfortable and brings in more donor funds,
    But rather, creating more Christians that can get along with anyone.

    – sincerely

    1. It’s interesting that nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say one word about homosexuality. Either for or against. Being attracted to the same sex is not a sin. It’s something that was born in me. I love God and Christ and worship in my heart and in song. I loved chapel singing at Lipscomb and still love to sing with a group of people a cappella. The blending of voices in praise and prayer is something that will always touch my soul and inspire me. But so many would not understand that God hears my prayers and accepts my praise just as quickly as he does theirs. So I am happy with myself and know that God is too. God bless you.

  12. This is beautifully written, and while I fully support the LGBT community and am not religious in any way, I also support freedom of religion in the US. People have the right to their own beliefs. The people at Lipsocomb chose to go to a Christian school likely because they felt like those beliefs played a large role in their lives. Being gay goes against those beliefs, it’s as simple as that. You shouldn’t expect to attend a small private Christian school in the south and expect be 100% accepted for being gay. Almost every public school has plenty of LGBT support groups and is fully accepting. No one is forcing gay students to go to Lipscomb. You can’t choose a Christian school and expect them to change their beliefs around you. As a private school, they have the right to believe whatever they want and to teach whatever they want- and as free citizens, students have the right to think this school is a piece of shit and go somewhere else.

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      I wholeheartedly agree that people have a right the their beliefs. I do not wish to challenge them. I have been responding to very similar arguments exhaustively, but perhaps you didn’t get around the reading the comments after you read the post. It is quite a lot to take in, I understand. The point is not to challenge or change beliefs. It is to challenge and change a rhetoric and a response I do not think the Christian belief requires, and which I think has harmful consequences. Rhetoric and response can be changed without distorting Christian value and the Christian message.
      If you wish to know my opinion about students who choose to go to Christian schools even though they may not agree with something that school believes and why diversity on college campuses is crucial, please see the other comments. I have said my piece on this multiple times.
      But thank you for you thoughts. Your sentiments are shared by many other readers and I think it is so valuable to talk about them.
      – N

  13. Nicole,

    I am a Christian student who attends Lipscomb University, and I applaud and support you. You are incredible.

    With love,
    Sarah

  14. “I am not interested in what is morally right in the Christian religion.”

    That’s fine. But wouldn’t you say that this IS the job of a Christian university?

    Regardless how one feels either way I would say that it is at least within the right of the university to make that call?

    1. Dear common sense,
      When I said “I am not interested..”, I meant that the moral beliefs of the institution don’t affect the argument I am making, which is that the university’s actions are harmful to its LGBTQ students.
      What you are saying is absolutely correct: A Christian university has a right and, in its own view, an obligation to adhere to a certain morality and expect that of its students. It also has an obligation to treat its students equally and provide an environment that does not damage them psychologically and emotionally. If the two are at odds, then I’m not saying the belief must change. But there should be a way to alter rhetoric and response to avoid the unintended negative effects.
      As I’ve said, it is not my intention to change beliefs. I want the rhetoric that results from those beliefs to be altered so that LGBTQ students are not shamed, silenced, or in any way diminished in their identities or inclusion into the campus community. If you read some of my responses to the other comments, I think it will shed more light about how exactly I think Lipscomb makes the mistake of equivocating identity with behavior, and why that is damaging and unnecessary.
      Thank you so much for your thoughts 🙂
      – N

  15. Thank you for this article! I found it to be compassionate, empathetic, and brave. I am a Lipscomb graduate from the early 2000’s (undergrad and graduate school). I am a non-church of Christ northerner, so I never quite fit in there, but I found it fascinating to try to figure out why people responded to things the way they did. Usually the reason was ignorance. Often the only reason someone hated something or someone was because that’s what they were taught by their parents or their church. Once challenged, I saw a lot of people begin thinking for themselves and opening their minds and hearts. I think that change is slow to come, but taking a stand and forcing people to see something from a different perspective facilitates change. Even if it is only one person at a time. I have seen big changes in the culture at Lipscomb over the past 15 years, and it’s encouraging to know that it can happen! The more we embrace people over self-righteousness, the better we will become. I think we need to look at our actions and decide if what we are doing is leading people to Christ, or away from Christ. If someone hears, “I love you, but I hate your sin”, does that lead them to Christ? No way. It’s judgmental and thoughtless. To say something like that requires no thought. It doesn’t force me to put myself in someone else’s position. It is lazy. I think that leading someone away from Christ is a much bigger sin than any other. We have never been called to judge. We can take that pressure off ourselves and leave it to a much wiser, bigger God. We are called to be witnesses to Christ’s love. I can tell my story of how God has worked in my life, and I can tell everyone how I am free because I have Jesus. But I cannot tell someone else’s story. I can only do my best to love people, hurt when they hurt, mourn when they mourn, rejoice when they rejoice, and fight injustice when I see it.

  16. As someone who graduated from another Christian college and is currently a professor elsewhere, I really appreciate this post. It’s so important. I was especially struck by–“You are telling your other students that they are above their LGBTQ peers, that their voices matter more, and that the opinions we are not comfortable with are not valuable enough to be shared. This opens the door for violence.” This is SO IMPORTANT for any university.

    Thank you, thank you for your words.

  17. Thank you, Nicole! I attended Lipscomb five years ago, and as a member of the LGBTQ community, I lived in fear of ramifications of my orientation would have on me on my enrollment status. I was a full scholarship recipient and chose to attend this school because it was the only school I could attend (due to specific rules in my home state I would have had to pay). The scholarship rules stated a certain conduct of those awarded (rightly so) though one of those things expressly spoke against same-sex relationships. And for a scholarship receiver, if you were found breaking these rules, you would be expelled and required to pay back whatever money the school had given you. So I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t date anyone. I wanted to speak out when I was a student there. Speak into the student’s lives to see beyond the perfect manicured world of that campus. But I was afraid. Thank you for so eloquently writing these words sharing your story and the stories of your peers. For the past five years, I have travelled the globe trying to get as much space between me and the Delta Nu’s of Green Hills as possible but perhaps I should have been stronger. You are stronger, and for that, I thank you. I hope this spurs the change that must happen.

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