GSA week brings conversations on sexuality

Events challenged Whitworth to consider the issues surrounding homosexuality during GSA week April 15-20. The week was kicked off with a showing of the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So,” which junior Nicholas Dennis, a member of Whitworth’s GSA, said examines biblical passages that are often seen as condemning homosexuality.

On Thursday night, GSA put on “Coming Out Stories.”

“It was freakin’ sweet, the turnout was awesome,” Dennis said. “It was really exciting to see that many people interested in it.”

That event invited people to come to the coffee shop to hear the stories of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) members of Whitworth’s community.

“Some people told their own stories, others read stories on behalf of their friends,” Dennis said.

Senior theatre major Michael Seidel, whose senior project was incorporated into GSA week, said he was excited about the event, too.

“I think it’s important for the LGBT members to get their stories out,” Seidel said. “Because I think members of the straight community can’t understand what the LGBT community members have to go through and their struggles without talking with them and dialoguing with them.”

Senior Amanda Blunt, GSA Club president, said she used to be conservative on the issue until she experienced what Seidel described, making friends with people for whom those issues are a part of daily life.

“Regardless of what your dogmatic stance is, we need to be intentional about the way we are treating our fellow students and our fellow human beings,” Blunt said.

On Tuesday, Seidel gave his senior project in conjunction with a faculty and staff panel.

Seidel’s project was an interactive theatre starting with a scene of heterosexism. The actors repeated the scene, allowing audience members to replace characters and attempt to catalyze an intervention to resolve the oppression.

“We saw a lot of possible interventions,” Seidel said. “Some were very effective and some not, some good in the short term but would have been very difficult in the long term, some difficult short term but would have been good in the long term.”

Seidel said the project seemed to successfully touch hearts. He said that was more important than sheer number of people in the audience, which topped 100.

“From the people I’ve talked to, they all almost unanimously said it was an important project,” Seidel said. “So yes, I think it was successful. We won’t know until we see how people treat each other, though.”

He said he was most impressed and excited when he saw people who were usually silent stand up and speak their opinions on topics that are not easy to address. He said his biggest hope was that people who saw the show would be more likely to act to end hatred in the future.

Another event during GSA week was Day of Silence on Friday.

Junior Courtney Bagdon, a member of GSA and participant in Day of Silence, said the day is spent silent by participants in support of those who are silent due to their sexual orientations.

“It gives a way for straight allies to stand with LGBT without getting carried away,” Seidel said.

On Wednesday night Whitworth President Beck Taylor put on a panel called “Courageous Conversations.”

That panel included two Whitworth professors: professor of theology James Edwards and professor of political science Julia Stronks. There were also two Whitworth trustees: Scott Dudley, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, and David Myers, professor of psychology at Hope College.

Each would give a view from his or her own field and the goal would be to expand the conversation, Taylor said at the beginning  of the panel. Rather than trying to change people’s minds so everyone left thinking in the same way, he said he hoped everyone would leave feeling heard.

Each panelist discussed a different viewpoint on the issue of sexual orientation. Edwards discussed the biblical view, saying feelings of homosexual desire are separate from acts of homosexuality and that the Bible clearly condemns the actions.

Dudley discussed the issue from a pastoral viewpoint. He went on to say that the important issue isn’t just whether the person is homosexual, but whether they are growing in Christ.

Myers spoke on the scientific research, showing genetic and biological correlations that indicate homosexuality as an inborn trait for some humans. He said he believed all people deserved to be in committed family relationships — homosexual or heterosexual, but discouraged the school from institutionally pushing a political stance.

Stronks discussed the issue of civil rights. She asserted that all people deserve governmental blessings regardless of our religious stance and that, as a Christian, she said she feels it’s her duty to stand up for the oppressed of society. Reflecting on the week as a whole, Seidel said he was happy with the way it has affected the campus.

“I’m glad that this topic has been talked about and been talked about so much,” Seidel said. “This is no longer an issue that a small part of the student body is talking about. The whole student body is engaging in important dialogue.”

 

Story by Brianna Wheeler Staff Writer

Photography by Linnea Goold

 

Contact Brianna Wheeler at briannawheeler13@my.whitworth.edu.

Christ calls Christians to love all neighbors

Recently, a movie was shown in Whitworth’s multipurpose room called “For the Bible tells me so.” This film, during a week-long set of programs to draw awareness to the issue of homosexuality, was not only offensive, but detracted from the most important component of the controversial subject. Initially, the film sets out as a documentary, in order to explore the religious community’s differing beliefs about the morality of homosexuality. What could have easily been an unbiased effort to explore ideas and invoke critical thinking quickly turned into an assault on a particular belief system with misrepresented stereotypes. The film begins by showing shouting preachers condemning gay activities as “abominations” and showed protesters with derogatory signs shouting hateful calls to violence. This theme of violent and ignorant Christians was pervasive throughout the film. The belief that homosexuality is against Biblical principles is placed in direct contrast with intelligence. Those against homosexuality were shouting preachers in outdated churches, random and uninformed street pedestrians, hicks and even a teenager who claimed that “gay bashing is fun.” In contrast, interpreters of scripture who condone gay lifestyles included several Harvard graduate pastors, a reform Rabbi, several bishops and even a Nobel Prize winner, all of whom were placed in churches, libraries or offices. Those against the idea of Biblical homosexuality were even compared to ideas in times of primal humanity.

One of the more blatant portrayals of “traditionalist Christian ignorance” was a cartoon, in which the ideas of a character subtly named “Christian” were shown as contrary to science, misinformed and childish. Traditionalist churches were shown without any attempt at discretion as anti-gay factories in which homosexuals were placed on a conveyer belt and processed to appear straight. The church factory was accused of using shame and guilt-based tactics to manipulate and directly oppress anyone with a homosexual tendency. The film missed the most important aspect of this issue: the actions Christians should take toward those with whom they disagree. Jesus even said that one of the greatest commandments is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Christians, regardless of their beliefs about homosexuality, are called to love their neighbors. Christ did not say “Love your neighbors unless they’re gay,” he simply said to love them. Christians should love their neighbors, just as God loves them. The movie spent an entire hour and a half demonizing a theological group for the opinion that homosexuality is wrong, when it should have used its time condemning acts of violence against those whom Christians are called to love.

I happen to believe that homosexuality is wrong, and despite what the film portrays, I am not the only intelligent person who believes this way. I also believe that Christians are not called to condemn, but to love. I regard discrimination, prejudice, bullying, violence and any act of hate toward someone simply because of their sexual preference as wrong and contrary to Christ’s message. It is this message that should be emphasized today: In spite of differences, God’s love for his creation is unconditional. There are valid objections to homosexuality that originate from the Bible, but these should not be the focus of church emphasis. Many of the believers I know who are against homosexuality argue that we are called to love, respect and care enough to understand those around us. Perhaps if “For the Bible tells me so” had focused on this aspect of theology, it would have been a more powerful and a less controversial message of hope.

 

Story by Ryan Stevens Columnist

Stevens is a sophomore majoring in English and French. Comments can be sent to rstevens15@my.whitworth.edu.