Hat tip (once again) to Experimental Theology for this NY Times story about gay and lesbian students who are fighting to be open about their sexual identity in a seemingly unlikely venue: conservative Christian colleges.
Decades after the gay rights movement swept the country’s secular schools, more gays and lesbians at Christian colleges are starting to come out of the closet, demanding a right to proclaim their identities and form campus clubs, and rejecting suggestions to seek help in suppressing homosexual desires.
Many of the newly assertive students grew up as Christians and developed a sense of their sexual identities only after starting college, and after years of inner torment. They spring from a new generation of evangelical youths that, over all, holds far less harsh views of homosexuality than its elders.
But in their efforts to assert themselves, whether in campus clubs or more publicly on Facebook, gay students are running up against administrators who defend what they describe as God’s law on sexual morality, and who must also answer to conservative trustees and alumni.
Facing vague prohibitions against “homosexual behavior,” many students worry about what steps — holding hands with a partner, say, or posting a photograph on a gay Web site — could jeopardize scholarships or risk expulsion.
The article suggests their fears are well-founded. Though most Christian colleges officially say that they don’t discipline students for same-sex attractions, only for homosexual “behavior”, in practice, students have been punished simply for saying that they’ve decided to accept their gay identity instead of “struggling” with it.
So why are they going to these schools at all? Well, think about it. How many of us are so sure of our personal identity (on any dimension, not just sexuality) that we can just toss aside our entire support network and the cultural framework in which we were raised? And where would we get the strength to do this when we’ve turned our backs on our Higher Power?
This isn’t a healthy choice for anyone to make, at any age. It actually lends some merit to conservative arguments that gay identity rests on a liberal-modernist illusion of the autonomous self that denies the human and divine sources of its creation (God, community, tradition). But whose fault is that alienation? Gays aren’t forcing people to stop being Christian. We Christians are doing a good enough job of that.
The article addresses this question very well:
Gay students say they are often asked why they are attending Christian colleges at all. But the question, students say, is unfair. Many were raised in intensely Christian homes with an expectation of attending a religious college and long fought their homosexuality. They arrive at school, as one of the Harding Web authors put it, “hoping that college would turn us straight, and then once we realized that this wasn’t happening, there was nothing you could do about it.”