Patrick Henry College Herald Tackles Homosexuality

The Patrick Henry College Herald, a student-run publication, recently published this article on out friends and family members of current students [PDF], which also features the story of a current student who describes her former relationship with a woman.

It’s worth a read, not because I agree with what is said, but because it’s one of the first times that PHC students have openly wrestled with this issue as a student body. While the article was upsetting for me to read for reasons that I will explain in just a bit, it is also a relief to have the LGBTQ community acknowledged, and in a way that does not simply make the queer community into a faceless, vaguely threatening entity. And while I disagree strongly with the tone of the article, I commend writer Elizabeth Stinnette for taking on this project and pushing the PHC student body out of the comfortable silence that they have maintained on this issue.

Nevertheless, I wanted to highlight two of the major misconceptions in this article.

1. Being straight is part of the Christian gospel message

PHC students tend to discuss homosexuality in relation to marriage amendments and as signs of a decaying culture. However, gays and lesbians cannot be painted with a single rainbow-colored brush. A sizeable minority of students has [sic] experienced the complexity of the situation—their relatives and friends are publicly or privately homosexual. Additionally, a few students have struggled with same-sex attraction themselves. While all of these students acknowledge that homosexuality is a sin, they realize that they need to extend grace to their relatives and show them the light of the Gospel.

I just have two questions: how does one paint with a rainbow-colored brush? And where can I find one?

On a more serious note, it would be a good idea for PHC students to move beyond only acknowledging the LGBTQ community when talking about marriage amendments or the supposedly decaying culture. The first is dehumanizing, the second is demonizing.

But I still take issue with the more “loving” approach that is outlined. When a relative is gay or lesbian (the article doesn’t really acknowledge the bisexual or trans* communities), the suggested solution is extending grace and showing them the light of the gospel.

As a Christian who also happens to be a member of the queer community, I am all for grace and the light of the gospel. I want to extend it to others, and I want others to extend it to me. But when did sexual orientation become an integral part of the gospel?

I guess I must have missed that verse in Romans 10 where it says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, and promise to be straight forever and ever, you will be saved.” I must have been sleeping in Sunday School when we studied John 3:16, where it says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, and turns away from their homosexual desires, should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Now I know that some Christians don’t see sexual orientation as an integral part of the gospel. To them, homosexuality is a sin just like a bunch of other sins, and they believe that the gospel promises that God’s love has the cleansing power to get rid of all sins.

But other Christians take that idea and run with it, and preach the damaging message that you can’t be gay and a Christian, or that if you are gay, you have to be celibate if you want to go to heaven.

There is no room in this paradigm for the out, proud gay Christian who is in or looking for a gay relationship. In this mentality, you can be out if you’re celibate, or you can be out as a “former gay.”

2. Being gay or lesbian is synonymous with having emotional and/or psychological issues

And now we get to the part of the article that really broke my heart. A student with the pseudonym “Marie” tells the story of her longterm lesbian relationship with a girl named “Donna.”

Marie and Donna both grew close after dealing with incredible tragedy and hardship in their personal lives, including Donna’s abusive mother, the deaths of several of Marie’s close family members, and the death of Donna’s cousin “Trent”, who was “the only person who loved Donna.”

Marie’s parents forced her to attend PHC; neither they nor anyone at school knew about her lesbian relationship at the time. Meanwhile, Marie dreamed of getting a job at a law office so she could take Donna out of her abusive situation.

“Things were bad between me and Donna,” Marie said. “I felt like I had abandoned her.”

Marie didn’t realize how separated they had become until a high school quarterback took Donna out on a date, got her
drunk, and raped her. Donna called Marie while she was working on her second Spinney paper.

“There was nothing I could do about it,” Marie said. Both girls sobbed over the phone.

Donna became pregnant, but she lost the baby a couple of weeks later. She and Marie had always talked about having children together and had even picked out names.

“I felt that I had lost my own child,” Marie said. They named the baby Jasper. He would have had blonde hair, blue eyes, and Donna’s smile.

After a student at PHC witnessed to Marie, she “gave up the dross and took the gold,” and now considers herself straight. Donna is still trapped in her abusive home situation.

“I think about this woman who I loved, who I was engaged to for five years …. I have to look at her and know she will go to hell because no one loved her enough to show Christ’s love for her. And it breaks my heart beyond all bearing,” Marie said.

I can’t even begin to fathom the pain and personal tragedy that Marie has had to deal with. And it’s not up to me to decide whether Marie is straight, lesbian, bisexual, or some other orientation. But if Marie reads this post, I want her to know this:

Marie,

You and Donna had to deal with an overwhelming burden of pain that would have put strain on any relationship, especially one between two young girls who had to weather a long-distance relationship. Death, abuse, rape, a baby that you both loved and then lost — your strength and courage in loving each other through all of that is astounding. Such painful events would cause emotional and psychological trauma for anyone. If you had been a man, you might have still had to break up with Donna anyway. No one can be superhuman forever.

But you should know that loving another woman is not the problem. Loving another woman does not make you broken. You’ve decided that you want to be with a man someday and that you want to live as a straight woman. I don’t know you, and I don’t know the details of your situation. Maybe you will find lasting happiness with a man.

But you should know that if you are still attracted to women, that is OK. You can lead a full, happy, meaningful, moral life as a lesbian or bisexual woman. And if you remain a woman of faith, you can maintain a relationship with God that will only enrich your friendships and relationships with people of any gender and orientation.

If you fall in love with another woman, a woman with whom you could see yourself building a long and happy life, a woman with whom you could see yourself raising children, don’t run away from that because you’re afraid of losing God’s love. Not only does Romans 8 remind us that nothing can separate us from the love of God, but a love that beautiful (even if it’s with someone of your own gender) brings us closer to God.

Whoever you are, Marie, my heart goes out to you.

7 thoughts on “Patrick Henry College Herald Tackles Homosexuality

  1. Hello, Kate.

    Don’t feel sorry for me. (Nietzsche would scream. :p ) I don’t want your pity anymore than you want mine. We both want each other’s respect, and I gladly give you mine.

    I’m a little disappointed with your blog, to be honest. I did give it an honest look. In fact, I read the whole thing. You should probably look at sources other than queer (to use your word) websites. For example, I researched for an entire day and never saw the original interview where the owner of Chick-Fil-A supposedly went on his anti-queer rant. Do better research. As a former lesbian, it kind of offends me when LGBTQers don’t do the proper research. It makes all of us who are looking for respect look like morons who don’t know how to let go of our security blankets any more than fundamentalists (who I would argue are not true Christians in the first place) can let go of their legalism. Also, don’t argue only far out extremist fundamentalists on your blog. I mean, no one in their right mind thinks that rape is okay, even within marriage. Yes, I am saying that some fundamentalists are out of their minds. A lot of other current PHCers say the same thing. They have a tendency to lambast such idiotic thinking on Facebook quite thoroughly when the mood strikes. Also, my orientation is my choice, and don’t you dare take the freedom to chose who I will spend the rest of my life with and their gender away from me by trying to make some biological argument that has no scientific evidence. I am not locked into my romantic choices by my genes any more than, as you say, you are locked into your social station by your skin color. You do not speak for all PHC queers.

    As PHCers, we can both appreciate the difficulties of talking to students in and out of class. Facebook is another huge source of pain. Sometimes, I am reminded of Christ’s words on the cross: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I admonish you to forgive. Your posts are by far the angriest on this blog. I understand having a terrible relationship with parents. When I came out to my mom and asked her to forgive me, she asked me whether anyone else knew what I had done. She was basically saying that I was not forgiven, and the best that could be hoped for was to sweep it all under the rug. Even though we have repaired our relationship somewhat, I still cry at night sometimes thinking of the sound of her voice when she said that to me, her only daughter, her only child. Forgive them, because in the end, they truly do want what’s best for you. Your eternal soul is more important than your temporal happiness to them. You can argue all day long if you want to that they are wrong about losing your soul. But forgive them anyway. You will be much happier, and your walk with the Savior will be much improved. As He taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

    Forgive PHC too. Let me be upfront about this: I am not perfect, and I have not fully forgiven the college either, so I’m speaking to both of us when I say that. You wrote about the time Soulforce came for a visit, so you must be an older alumna. Come back and visit. You’re welcome to look me up if you do. I promise that it is very different. Student Life still acts like the Gestapo. Haha. But they do have good intentions. (Do I sound like I’ve drunk the KoolAid? Ew.) The professors are wonderful. I actually recently came out to the professor I thought most likely to freak out and not know how to deal. He told me he loved me and not to give into the lie that Christians hate queers. The students are better. It helps that they aren’t all radical homeschoolers anymore. Most of these students have seen their fair share of life and dealt with it accordingly. That is not to say that they are dealing with queerness well yet. Be patient. They are learning. Don’t expect them to support your decisions either. You can’t force them to come to your side any more than they can force you to be straight. I hope you will use on them that wonderful skill we learn to use so well here: the art of persuasion. Should that fail you, the art of compromise is always readily available. At least we all agree on the core doctrines. (Or I think I can safely assume so since you claim to be a Christian. Let God judge the hearts.)

    I do commend you for linking to the original Herald article. I would like to know why you singularly focused on me. What exactly made me stand out? Do we have something in common? You do well to praise Elizabeth. I feared interviewing with her, but she handled many tough issues with extreme grace and charity even though we are practically strangers to each other. One of the reasons that she wanted to write the article was to give the vague mass a face, as you discuss. That was also the reason why I interviewed with her and why you can look forward to my senior testimony where I plan to come out publically to discuss some of these issues. Perhaps if I am brave, you will be brave with me.

    By the way, you are correct that this is one of the first times PHC students have openly wrestled with the issue of queerness as a student body. PHC students are moving beyond only acknowledging the queer community when talking about marriage amendments and the supposedly decaying culture. As a matter of fact, I found out about your site because it was circulating in conversations on campus today. You will be happy to know that the response was respectful and inquisitive. I would point out that the reason the article does not talk about bisexual or trans* people was because no one had a relative in either of those situations. The article was on a story-by-story basis, not meant to cover every facet of the queer community. I think you realize such a feat would take up a whole book rather than a Herald article.

    Your concern for me and my choices is heartwarming. I have not been young since I was a small child. Long distance relationships are no harder than hidden relationships. If anything, communicating got much easier, even if we couldn’t see each other. But, as you have said, relationships are not about our sex but the romance. I know that loving another woman does not make me broken. In fact, I now feel freer to express my love not only to Donna but to many women in close friendships.

    Being queer is not synonymous with having emotional and/or psychological issues. The article does not make that out to be the case. I don’t say that either. Although, there are some statistics that may indicate that is a trend. This is merely my story. If it contains some emotional and psychological issues, that’s because those are parts of my story. For someone who likes to talk about abuse within families and recognizing the victims so much, I would expect you to understand that.

    I find it incredible that you jumped right over the most important part of the article, that being the one who showed me love. You say you’d like to point out that being straight is not part of the gospel message. Well said. I fail to see how the article says that, but I will expand on my story to clarify. My friend told me that night, “I love you, and Christ loves you, and I forgive you, and Christ forgives you too.”

    This love and forgiveness was not contingent upon my giving up my relationship with Donna. I had just finished explaining to my friend that Donna and I had gotten back together. We were together at that very moment in my heart. At that moment, I couldn’t have been any more forgiven if I had never had a lesbian desire again. A few days later, a friend of mine from high school told me she had decided to become pansexual (like you). The question I asked myself that night wasn’t whether or not I could be saved if I gave up my lesbianism. I knew the answer to that already. Christ is the great Savior of sinners.

    The question I asked myself was whether it was worth it to continue my lesbianism. I thought about the Maker and Lord of the universe and everything leaving His rightful place on the throne, coming down to this stinking, filthy, dusty, dry land, taking on the form of a slave, painful flesh and blood, and lying not in a palace made of precious gems and gold but of a dirty animal feeding trough. And then I thought about that Man Who Was and Is God, burdened by His purpose, grieved for the fallenness of the world He had made perfect, walking this earth, proclaiming His name, and His kingdom, and His love for the whole world, for me, and for you, for even the Pharisee and the hypocritical PHC student. And then I thought about Him broken, bleeding, His face so marred that his own mother wouldn’t have recognized Him. I thought about Him praying for the people He loved when He knew He was about to die. He said, “I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which you have given Me because you loved Me before the world’s foundation.”

    “Such amazing love! How can it be?” my heart cried out. If greater love have no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, then what does it mean for God incarnate, not merely man, to lay down His life? And for what? Not because we deserved it. Only because He loved us with an unfathomable, eternal love. And on the cross, He prayed, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” He did not mean only those who wielded the hammers on that Friday. He meant you and me every time we sin.

    So, the question I asked myself the day of my transformation was why in light of all that Christ did for me I would not let go of this one small thing, my lesbianism, my fear, my pride, my sense of self-righteousness. You know, maybe you’re right. Maybe the Gospel does allow for queerness. Maybe God smiles upon homosexual marriages. Okay. But if there is any question, wouldn’t you rather be on the side that is least likely to hurt the God who loved you so much that He gave His everything for you?

    Since then, I have decided that the Bible is pretty clear on God’s stance on all forms of homosexuality, just to be clear. But that’s a discussion for another post.

    I recognize that I have been harsh at times. Perhaps it will be even harsher through a computer screen. I merely desired to express myself. I understand that your blog is supposed to be about promulgating communication and vibrant debate on this topic. I have respectfully considered your ideas in full and given my rebuttal. I anticipate any rejoinder with pleasure.

    Warmly,
    Marie

    • Marie,

      Thank you for your comment. I would like to address it more fully in the near future, but for now, I’d like to leave a short(er) comment addressing a few misunderstandings.

      “Don’t feel sorry for me. (Nietzsche would scream. :p ) I don’t want your pity anymore than you want mine.”

      I don’t pity you. I empathize with you. There’s a difference.

      “Also, my orientation is my choice, and don’t you dare take the freedom to chose who I will spend the rest of my life with and their gender away from me by trying to make some biological argument that has no scientific evidence.”

      Please note that in the above post, I said: “And it’s not up to me to decide whether Marie is straight, lesbian, bisexual, or some other orientation.”

      I’m a big believer in not identifying other people’s orientations for them. The primary point of my note to you was to say that if, in the future, you were interested in a romantic relationship with a woman, that it could still be a beautiful and healthy thing. But of course it’s your life, your identity, and your choices, and I can’t determine any of that for you. No question about that.

      “You do not speak for all PHC queers.”

      You’re absolutely correct. But we do present a perspective that is otherwise largely absent from the discussions about LGBTQ issues in the Patrick Henry College community. We do not represent the views of all LGBTQ students or alumni, but that does not make our perspectives less legitimate.

      “Sometimes, I am reminded of Christ’s words on the cross: ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ I admonish you to forgive. Your posts are by far the angriest on this blog.”

      You speak of anger as though it is a bad thing, and as though anger and forgiveness are mutually exclusive. For me, my anger over these issues is because I give a damn. You sound as though you give a damn, too. Giving a damn is good. Never stop giving a damn. :)

      I have more to say, but I’ll continue this conversation at a later date.

      Thank you again for commenting! I really appreciate hearing from you. :)

  2. Kate, kudos to you on this post, the interplay between institutional loyalty and love and personal conscience, never mind the turmoil within the larger scope of religious conscience, is excruciating. And I mean more simply that I think your words were gracious and timely.
    Marie, the themes in your comment here trouble me. No one decides to ‘be’ a lesbian, or pansexual. There are behaviors that one can choose to participate in or shun, but behaviors are not equivalent to orientation. You may never choose to engage in anything other than straight behavior and thought for the rest of your life, and that certainly is your right. But sexual orientation should and cannot be understood in the same way that ‘sinful’ behaviors are. That point can be disputed and discussed until the words themselves no longer have meaning. My point is not to convince you of anything, but to simply emphasize my belief that ‘continuing lesbianism’ is akin to ‘continuing left-handedness.’ It is a belief that has weight with me because of my own experience, the experiences of thousands of other queer individuals, and every single individual who has made the mistake of equating sexual orientation with sexual behavior.
    I struggle under the knowledge of the weight of the gospel you have found and the blindness and pain in your words. Mental distress and emotional turbulence are taught to be inherent in ‘sexual deviancies’ like homosexuality. To do anything less than deny that, such as publishing a story like yours and using it inappropriately as a ‘God is bigger than your sin’ narrative is subtly affirming those destructive myths.
    You may wonder who I am, and why I have spent the time reading these posts and writing this reply. I care about you. That you heal and find truth and have a wonderful journey in life. The queer in Christianity suffer, and I want you to know you are not alone. I have walked your walk and felt at least some of your pain. It is survivable.
    Peace and love to you Kate, and you Marie.

  3. Kate,

    This is a beautiful post. The gospel you espouse is the gospel of Jesus. LGBT+ Christians all over the United States are finally finding that John 3:16 includes everyone. Keep on telling the truth.

    Marie,

    Your story and the tone of your “rebuttal” here betray a lot of pain and anger. You can choose to express your sexuality in a heteronormative relationship or to repress it in a celibate lifestyle. I think many gay Christians would support that exercise of your autonomy and celebrate your decision to live out your calling as a Christian in a way that seems most authentic to you. What you won’t find, though, is a gay Christian who has experienced God’s grace declaring that either one of those choices is “God’s will” for you. And if you change you mind someday, which I believe is really all Kate was saying to you, we’ll be here for you, too.

    There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. And when you love another person, no matter how imperfect that love may prove to be, you have lived out the great new commandment Jesus gave us.

    God bless,

    Jeffrey Hoffman
    Executive Director
    BJUnity
    the affirming alternative for LGBT+ alumni and students of Bob Jones University

    • This is a paradigmatic case of epistemic closure–the precise kind of epistemic closure that is typical in scientism, in Christian fundamentalism, and in any dogmatic orthodoxy. How do you know Marie’s sexuality wasn’t a question of choice? On what authority do you challenge the reality of her experience?

      As an “affirming” guy, you are surely aware that there exists no consensus, either in the biological/behavioral sciences or in the pseudo-discipline known as “gender studies” or “queer theory,” about whether sexuality is a matter of choice or genetics, nurture or nature–or some combination of both, or neither. Or perhaps it varies by the individual case. How dare you seek to de-legitimate Marie’s testimony on the basis of your dogmatic prejudices! Maybe she is laboring under a “false consciousness” of sorts, but you are absolutely not equipped or empowered to make that judgment.

      In the interests of disclosure, I’m a PHC alum (’09). But I have no opinion on the causal variables that induce a particular sexual orientation, and “queer” issues in general are something I don’t particularly care about or think about regularly. I’m politically conservative, but I share my day with a non-negligible number of homosexual friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. So I have no axe to grind here except the one that I use to hack bigotry to pieces. In case it wasn’t clear, you’re the bigot here (and so is Kate Kane, it seems), not Marie.

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