I began to feel like I was participating in the oppression of the very people I longed to support. My experience with the administration confirmed a quiet concern that had grown for years: that traditional views of marriage were often rooted in something other than sincere Christian convictions. If they couldn’t support someone committed to celibacy—someone who abided by their Community Covenant alongside every straight employee—I could only conclude that their anxiety wasn’t about my sex life. Their anxiety was about my existence.
Her words open up various conversations relevant to campus communities, specifically those within Christian universities. She references the incident with Dr. Larycia Hawkins, another (former) Wheaton employee, who stood in solidarity with Muslims in another recently publicized incident:
While Dr. Hawkins and I were scrutinized for different reasons, our stories have this in common: we urged Christians to stand with and for groups that sit at the center of political debates. And we did that as women, one black and one gay. I can only speculate about why Wheaton’s administration has been inconsistent in their treatment of different employees, but one thing is clear: fear makes public perception supremely important.
What I heard was this: LGBT people are not wanted at Wheaton—not if word gets out to the donors (via TIME).
This suppression of minorities, in both situations, seem to hinge on one thing: not a lack of care from college officials, necessarily, but fear of outside perception.
Situations like this are--and have been--happening, and my alma mater experienced a similar incident just two years back; a professor in our Theology department came out as transgender, and was then asked to leave. His words, below, are very telling for the choice many Christian schools will soon make (or already have).
“I did not get a sense directly from the individuals with whom I was speaking that they had a theological problem with transgender identity - I did get the message that it has to do with their concern that other people, such as donors, parents and churches connected to the university will have problems not understanding transgender identity.”
Why does funding from those not involved in campus life so pervasively effect the deeply intimate issues these communities face?
And moving forward: Will schools sacrifice their funding, or the safety of their communities? And can they survive if they choose to protect the latter? These conversations are necessary, but the fact that people are still being sacrificed within them is not. It is disheartening to see that the diversity within our schools is being shorthanded for the purpose of maintaining deep-pocketed donor ideals of what a "Christian" education - or community - should look like.
I think there's space for theological disagreement AND community safety; but there is also fear in stepping outside of traditional norms (as with everything).
But someone needs to stand up; within administration, within leadership, someone must stand up. Because schools will continue to make decisions that either build up or tear down their campus communities--but these choices imply much higher stakes than funding streams; these choices toy with the lives of my own brothers and sisters and family members within those faith communities rooted within academic institutions. My community. My life. Your community. Your life. (Ubuntu.)
Their lives are not someone else's to play with.
Because this isn't asking me to get a background check before I buy a gun; this isn't regulating me not to drink before I'm 21; this is telling me that I am "less" because I am me. And for anyone who hears that, or feels that, the impact is detrimental--sometimes fatal.
Oddly--and paradoxically--enough, hope is always present. Where is it here? After her article was posted, Julie Rogers showed us.
What was the purpose of sharing her experience at Wheaton? It wasn't to villainize a particular side, but to amplify a silent fight.
"To better love one another."
Pretty sound goal, I'd say.