The Echo is the weekly student newspaper for Southern Nazarene University. Senior Kyra Rogers is the editor-in-chief, and has graciously consented to let us post her editorial in the most recent edition of the paper (11-18-11). If you would like to read the Echo in its you can do so here: The Echo The Echo published three articles pertaining to SNU’s policies on homosexuality. Ms. Rogers’ piece, which is below, as well as an interview with SNU Vice President of Spiritual Development Brad Strawn, and an opinion piece from a brave openly gay student. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let us read this disclaimer from the SNU Echo website.
“Viewpoints expressed in the paper are not to be considered official standard-bearers of the university or its sponsoring denomination. Editorials on the op/ed pages that are generated by the The Echo staff–and therefore have no byline–express the opinions of the editorial staff but not necessarily of the administration, faculty or staff of Southern Nazarene University. Personal columns with by lines as well as opinions reprinted from subscription wire services or other publications by permission express the opinions of the writer and not necessarily of the editorial staff of The Echo or the administration, faculty or staff of Southern Nazarene University.”
And finally, a very special ‘thank you’ to Ms. Rogers for being our first guest columnist. Thank you for your support. The Church of the Nazarene needs more people like you to speak the truth in love. Thank you.
Reevaluation is needed for SNU and Church policies on homosexuality
Bethany, Oklahoma – The lifestyle covenant is a constant source of debate in our community, which ultimately stems from a larger debate over morals, ethics, and acceptable behavior within the Church and various Christian communities. From my experience in Christian circles, tension over behavioral expectations often represents generational differences and family values. One issue in the lifestyle covenant, and within churches and Christian communities alike, which has caused deep divisions, is homosexuality.
The SNU lifestyle covenant states that students will “abstain from pornography, premarital or extramarital sex, immortal heterosexual activity and homosexual behavior.” The lifestyle covenant does not say that homosexual students cannot attend this university, but that no student can engage in homosexual behavior. This implies (as, I would argue, does the larger Church standpoint on homosexuality) that gay students are more than welcome at our university, in our friend groups, on our chapel pews, in our classrooms, on our courts, and in our clubs so long as they do not engage in any homosexual behavior whatsoever. This leaves homosexual students here, and in the larger Christian community, two choices: to act on their sexual orientation and hide those actions from SNU, or to remain, for all intents and purposes, asexual. Neither one of these options present psychologically healthy lifestyles, but ones of frustration, and possibly guilt.
Sexuality and sexual expression are large components of our humanness, and to ignore all sexual tendencies and urges in order to remain asexual in thought and practice, is to discard a large portion of what makes us full-functioning humans. To force oneself into asexuality seems like no life at all. If the heterosexual crowd were to ask itself what life would be like without their boyfriends, girlfriends, fiancés, or spouses the answer would be something along the lines of “less than spectacular.” The idea of encouraging gay students at SNU to live without those relational intimacies makes me very sad. When I imagine a life in which I would have to deny, hide, or feel ashamed about the loving relationship I share with my fiancé, I can’t help but feel dis mal, to say the least. Needless to say, forcing homosexual students to abstain from intimate relationships not only seems unnatural, but also cruel and morbid.
But this leaves Christians and SNU in a tight spot, if they are to continually hold that homosexual behavior is sin against God. However, many Christians are beginning to change their beliefs that homosexuality is indeed a sin. I’ve talked to a variety of professors and students on this campus who have a wide range of opinions when it comes to whether or not homosexuality is actually a sin or not. One professor has told me that she has no problem with homosexual relationships, so long as they abide by the same commitments to marriage, monogamy, and respect as other Christian relationships do. Another student has told me that he personally thinks homosexuality is a sin, but he firmly believes that gay couples should be afforded every right that heterosexual couples are. This student, and certainly many SNU students, is able to separate his personal convictions concerning homosexuality, and every person’s prerogative to civil and political rights, regardless of sexual orientation.
This sentiment is one I have found rarely outside of the millennial or younger X generations. It seems that as a Christian body, and as a school, we are largely unable to afford gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, regardless of whether or not we agree with homosexuality as a lifestyle. But isn’t that what we claim Jesus did for us? Christians believe Jesus gave them the right to a relationship with God, redemption, grace, forgiveness, and the chance to get into heaven. Jesus did this even though he probably didn’t agree with the lifestyles we were living. Should our response to gay students be the same? Should we provide them with the same rights to intimate relationships and social acceptance that heterosexual students have?
I’m not saying I hold the answer as to which direction is best for SNU and the Church, but I think the only sustainable way to proceed is with tolerance. If Christians and SNU students, faculty, and administration make an effort to talk to gay students about their experiences, feelings, and lifestyle, tolerance and understanding are almost inevitably going to be the outcome. Christian circles are too quick to call homosexuality a sin, without ever having talked to someone who identifies as gay. Whatever direction SNU and the Church choose to pursue, I deeply hope the attitude of intolerance and hate will quickly become unacceptable and insupportable. Until those goals can be achieved, I encourage all gay students to know that there are those at SNU who love and accept you. I also encourage students, faculty, and administration to actively educate themselves further on homosexuality, and to begin to ask fundamental questions concerning acceptance, tolerance, grace, and understanding.
It has come to my attention at the administration at SNU will no longer let the ECHO report on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues.