Same Sex Attraction and Harding U

For those interested in the culture of the Church of Christ universities across the country you may want to follow and weigh in regarding the recent events at Harding University regarding a zine published by group called HU Queer Press entitled The State of Gay at Harding University.

The zine has been blocked on the Harding campus. And yesterday the Harding president addressed the student body about that decision.

To get a start on media reactions see the Huffington Post and the New Yorker, and a Google search will take you to much more news, commentary and reactions.

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21 thoughts on “Same Sex Attraction and Harding U”

  1. Its me again......and I am a Harding graduate. I would love to know the universalist position on gays and Christianity. I think I already know the answer.

  2. Actually, the issues are quite separate. For example, say you believe in penal substitutionary atonement, or TULIP, or whatever soteriological system, universalism included. All those systems are distinct from your doctrine of sin. There are Reformed, Arminian and Universalist people who are both for and against same sex marriage. Or just war. Or just about any moral or ethical issue.

  3. Though it is tempting, I won't play the role of an arm-chair quarterback on how the HU administration is handling the situation except to say this... This issue is not going away and being that the nature of the issue makes it a PR nightmare, we need to learn from this. As Christians, how do we respond to to public criticism? Much of our response will either confirm the criticism or deescalate the severity of the charge being made. I say this because from what I've read, it seems that the issue is much deeper than just what HU's official position on sexual behavior is.

    One more an HU alumni, I know my alma mater is not perfect. From theology to politics and cultural issues, there are "official" positions promoted that I do not always agree with. Having said that, I read one blog that was comparing HU with the Westboro Baptist Church. HU may be a conservative institution but it is far from being like the WBC

    Praying that love and peace will prevail even where disagreement exists!

  4. The homosexual community has rights as all groups do. Including Christians to disagree with their lifestyle. They knew the school opposed their behavior and they still went to Harding. This isn't about gays having rights. Its about an agenda that hates traditional Christian morals. They can go to any number of schools and live their "lifestyle" without problems. Leave Harding and all like schools alone.

  5. I hesitate to make observations about something I know very little about (the Harding culture) but let me say this, if what I've heard about Harding, secondhand, is even partly true. Because I think this observation, even if wrong, does has some general applicability. So take the Harding part here with a grain of salt.

    I was talking to a friend here at ACU who was in attendance at a meeting of administrators from CoC schools. During that meeting the topic of next year's meeting was declared and it was taking up the issue of same sex attraction on our campuses. And from what I understand (and this is the part you have to treat as secondhand) the people from Harding basically said that such an agenda wouldn't help them much because same sex attraction just wasn't an issue on their campus.

    Okay, if we assume that is true (and it might not be), that some people in Harding's administration actually believed this, then I think we have a glimpse about what might be the problem.

    First, really? You don't have gay students on your campus? I can't even wrap my head around that.

    But if some administrators did feel that way, felt there were no gay students on their campus (or very, very few), then it seems obvious why a group of students would want to burst that illusion and say "We're here!" And it also explains why some at Harding might want to block the website and marginalize the students who published the pamphlet. In short, all this might be the predictable outcome of a culture in denial.

    But maybe I'm wrong about all this. Still, I think that something like this is going on in a lot of churches. A collective denial that "We have no gay members at this church." And if it seems, at times, that the gay culture gets "in the face" of the church, well, I think this is why. It's coming from a very wounded place. Living life among people who are unwilling to recognize your existence.

  6. When you consider where Harding is and who its constituents are, the President's response, which was more than just condoning censorship, was as fair as he could make it. Which is more than I could say for the zine itself. (While heartfelt, it could have been more circumspect if they really wanted Harding to consider their arguments.) But anyone from Harding could tell you that this isn't the first time a group of students lashed out because they felt their voice wasn't being heard, simply the first time anyone gained this much attention. Harding admits to regulating behavior. No one said you have to believe in all the things it stands for. But by signing a contract, you agreed to follow the rules. All of them. The rules may change one day (hey, you can have tattoos now), but change among conservatives is gonna be slow. IF Harding is misguided, it certainly is not oppressive. I love my alma mater. And I hate the slander it's getting as a result of this press.

  7. I am a Harding alum (class of '98) and don't remember ever hearing it talked about on campus. There was certainly no self-proclaimed conversion program or anything at the time.

    The denial method of coping was similar to what I had experienced in CoC churches prior to attending Harding. I recall one youth bible class led by an elder I loved and respected very much, and a couple of us asked about homosexuality. It was on my heart because even at age 14 I had gay friends at school, and for all I know my bible classmates were asking because they were gay.

    The elder turned up his nose and said, "I've never seen a man I'd be attracted to. It's gross. God doesn't make people that way."

    End of discussion.

    I have a deep family legacy at Harding and love the place very much. And although I disagree with their stance and their reaction to this, they are certainly trying to do it gently and respectfully.

    That's quite an accomplishment, since they don't believe God will show the same gentleness and respect to the homosexuals on judgment day.

    I like Adrenalin Tim's comment and agree with it. This will soon be a non-issue, both in society and the church. My kids will listen wide-eyed around the Christmas table in 30 years when I explain that when I was their age, young-earth creationism was a common belief and most churches thought homosexuals were going to hell.

    They will surely have their own issues in 2041. But I don't think this will remain one of them.

  8. Likely a fair assessment. I simply reiterate that the nature of some of the articles in the zine had more shock value for Harding administrators than clear arguments for change in policy.

  9. Let me also add that we've had a lot of Harding grads come to ACU for graduate work in psychology and, to a person, they loved their Harding experience.

    In light of this, here's another thing I've heard, secondhand, about Harding. Harding people might want to weigh in on this.

    I hear there are two Hardings. There is the student/faculty experience which is healthy and tolerant. (And this jibes with my experience with the few Harding faculty I've interacted with.)

    And then there is the public/official/administrative face of Harding which tracks more toward a conservative, hard line, Moral Majority-like stance (largely to win the recruiting wars).

    But I have no idea if that is the case. And, btw, this disjoint is by no means unique to Harding. There are times when I feel that our administration has lost touch with what is happening in our classrooms, culturally speaking, at ACU.

  10. Here is a idea that I am sure all "free loving" Americans will agree with. We all have the right to personal and private discrimination. Harding has the right to discriminate as it relates to their religious beliefs. Who's next? Is the "PC" crowd going to sue me for choosing to discriminate in my home? If I don't want gays in my home or institutions it's MY right. If you want them near you form institutions where its accepted and be happy. Remember a free society GOES BOTH WAYS.

  11. As a Christian I tend to disagree a lot with "freedom loving Americans." No doubt you're correct. It's a free country and Harding can do whatever it wants. And the gay kids could just leave. No quibbles on that score.

    It's just that freedom isn't the Christian ideal. Love is. And love might cause you to restrict your freedoms to make room for others. To become "the slave of all."

    I'm not saying Harding should do this. Because holiness is also a value for Christians. I'm merely saying that the "American freedom" frame is inappropriate for Christian discourse.

  12. Actually, I believe Harding has had some talks about same sex attraction, especially in the past couple years. They have had some speakers on Harding's campus to talk about it, including Sally Gary from ACU. Here's a link to her talk.

  13. Thanks for that. Again, I'm shooting in the dark and am thankful for any correction. My hope is that, even if I'm wrong about the specifics here, that my general assessment, about Christians communities tending to forget the gays among us, is worth thinking about.

  14. Love (Matt. 22:36-40) is the most important truth in the Christian faith. I am afraid many Christians try to use love as an excuse to allow sinful behavior to be present and not dealt with. Jesus said in John 8 to the woman caught in adultery that no one is to condemn her, but go and sin no more. Not you are all right and the Pharisees are simply infringing on your right to be an adulterer.

    I sit here and write this response wondering how to continue discussing the topic. I am discussing sin and society with a universalist. It’s difficult for me to try to explain the reality of wrong behavior with someone who sees all as going to heaven. Your position has simply nullified the concept of right and wrong. The heavens will be full of devout Christians and unrepentant Jihadists all sitting at the feet of God. Salvation by grace has been thrown out the window so no one can miss out on God. We choose whom God brings to the table instead of God choosing us for His own. The message of Christ is offered to all. One simply has to accept the free gift and it doesn’t matter what sin you are in. He will love you and change you through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

    I believe many Christians today will accept the universal position as a way of not dealing with the harder aspects of the faith like Acts 4:12 is one example. One must jump through hermeneutical loops to prove Jesus was a universalist. People are cool in today’s society when you can look another in the face and tell them the faith they so desperately want to have requires they change NOTHING. Whatever destructive or immoral behavior they are participating is ok and encouraged as long as it harms no one.

    You may tell me Christian universalism is different. I am sure you will. Any teaching that goes against the clear Word of God is simply heretical. Jesus taught an exclusive faith with an inclusive call to people. All the gays, murderers, rapists, sinners of all stripe can be free and follow Him. Free means change. Not the continuation of the old life, which should have been killed at the moment, you believed.

  15. You're right, I think we've come to the end of our ability to understand each other. Thanks for the conversation. We gave it a shot. Take care.

  16. I find this topic interesting. I get the feeling that I'm the only one who hasn't made up his mind on this issue.

    Let's be clear: Harding is a school - not a church. It's supported by money from people who want certain things taught and tolerated and other things they avoid. One reason people send their kids to school there is because their kids haven't really grown up in their parents' eyes, and they want them in a school where they'll have a bedtime (curfew) non-coed sleeping arrangements and internet restrictions, report cards sent home and 'adult' supervision. So ... isn't it proper for Harding to respond to the wishes of their "customers"? (who are mostly not students, but parents and supporters)

    I don't think this is about what's right or wrong - and certainly not about Christianity - after all it's NOT a church! I understand the confusion, but (as an alum) I'm POSITIVE most of the faculty know the difference, and pretty sure the admin does, too. Burks' first loyalty must be to his supporters - or the school will end.

    I know from personal, first hand experience that gay people have been mistreated at Harding. When I was there, racism was also common. But there was a huge gap between what was done by leaders in the admin, lower-level staff, faculty and students. It was common for students to lump them all together. But anyone who did real investigation discovered that there were isolated individuals who would be insensitive or ugly ... but there was not a systemic attack on anyone. The admin is certainly aware of what a touchy issue this is, and that it could blow up like this, and they've done pretty well to avoid it ... until this anonymous thing with zero substantiation comes along and sparks a lynch-mob mentality. I understand hurt feelings tempt us to anger and frustration and the unkindness that comes from that, but wow.

    Speaking of love ... I don't see it in the "queer press" at all. If they had followed Jesus' teachings, it seems to me they would have sought ways to make real reform by addressing the administration privately and on an incident-by-incident basis first. I know it's hard, but good grief. All they've done now is to harm both the good things about Harding (and their are plenty) right along with the few unkind morons.

    Am I the only guy that sees it this way?

  17. "Its about an agenda that hates traditional Christian morals".

    What if it's about kids who have felt wounded because for years they felt that they were told "you can't love Jesus and be yourself".
    I think it's it a bit of a stretch to assume that these kids went to Harding at the age of 18 to spend years feeling disillusioned just so they could attack "Christian morals" in the year 2011. The stories read to me much more like the reaction of people who feel deeply hurt by the church. I went to a Midwestern Bible College and during that time came to know many homosexuals and I promise it's not a road that anyone would take who "hates Christian morals" or wants to go to any school that will condone homosexual behavior. Every one that I know came in wanting to be transformed by Jesus.
    None of this to say that I think that their eyes are clear of specks (or logs for that matter) but before we get to that point in the discussion, I need to take care of this log in my own eye, I'd suggest that you do the same.

  18. As an alum, I realize that the HU Queer Press is simply a manifestation of a deep sexual dysfunction of the Harding Culture. Learn more here, so we can do something about it:

  19. Richard,

    This is my first time to join the great conversation on this blog.

    I've been reading this blog for some time now and want to thank you for all your insight and knowledge -- theology and psychology -- how beautiful. I also think it's beautiful to see the discussions like this that take place here.

    I saw this post and felt moved to join in the conversation. I grew up in Abilene (attended a very conservative CofC church there with my family), and then decided to go to Harding. I went there by will, but there's definitely people sent there to be "fixed", or "disciplined".

    I want to agree with your thought that students at Harding (and as you said, other schools) probably feel unheard and unseen because this is such a challenging issue to talk about for most.
    It's much easier to pretend it's not there, or as someone else said, much more important to the admin that they hide/refuse to believe it (from/for their supporters).

    It was only when I graduated from Harding and left that I seemed to realize how many people were feeling alone in this issue while there. I remember feeling really ashamed about that, and thinking that Harding and I could have done more to prevent this "dark isolated place" many of the students had to hide in.

    As far as the article/zine goes, there was probably a better way to approach it. But hopefully it gets the issue out. I did not see Harding as being oppressive in any way. I did feel the sort of divide between Harding as a University/Foundation, and the culture of the professors/students. A lot of professors being careful with their words but being very open and loving and challenging. Harding, as many of us, has probably found itself in a rough place between respected opinion, biblical intrepretation and culture.

    Thank you again for the post and thank you everyone else for contributing.

  20. How on earth (or otherwise) do you reach the conclusion that universalism "nullifies the concept of right and wrong"? That's quite a stretch, don't you think?

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