Friends, it might look like human sexuality is the most important, pressing issue for those who follow Jesus. One might assume, from watching the western Michigan Christian community continue to struggle with this, that this issue is primary and central for disciples. The fact that Jesus spoke VERY LITTLE about sex and MUCH MORE about money and our use of it makes the following discussion of current events here very interesting.
The conversation in Holland about homosexuality and civil rights is influenced not just by nonprofit advocacy groups that self-identify as Christian, such as the Family Research Council (FRC) (see my last column in this space, http://dampfang.com/x-57594-Grand-Rapids-Protestant-Examiner~y2010m8d7-POWER-SERIES-I–Call-an-idea-CHRISTIAN-to-gain-SUPPORT). It is also impacted by conversations in local institutions, like Hope College (www.hope.edu). Hope College made national news in 2009 when administrators refused to have the film “Milk” screened on campus, and denied permission to Dustin Lance Black, the director of the film, to visit, attend the screening, and take part in a discussion afterwards. The film, which won two Oscars and a host of other awards, is a biography of the first openly-gay elected official in California, Harvey Milk.
This latest foray into the arena of Christian conversations about sexuality at Hope energized groups intent on making a change in the college’s 1995 policy on homosexuality. The policy states that “Hope College… distinguishes between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior or practice…The witness of Scripture is firm in rejecting the moral acceptability of homosexual behavior while affirming the responsibility of Christians to be fair and accepting of persons with a homosexual orientation…Specifically, the College will not provide recognition or financial or logistical support for organizations or groups whose purposes include the advocacy or moral legitimization of homosexual behavior. The College…supports the scholarly examination and discussion of all the issues surrounding the phenomenon of homosexuality…”.
It seems, from my reading, that the College did not follow its policy to support scholarly examination and discussion of issues. Why? I cannot speculate; but as an educator, it occurs to me that the College lost an opportunity. In response to petitions from students, alumni and faculty to revise this policy, Hope College’s Board instead reaffirmed the policy in May 2010 (http://www.hollandsentinel.com/newsnow/x2084233832/Hope-board-stands-pat-on-gay-policy). Doing so in a closed-door session heightened the appearance of a lack of openness for the conversation. Nevertheless, the conversation continues to arise, and judging from evidence so far, it just might continue to come up, despite attempts to quell debate – or even conversation.
Finally: what is this all about? Are we really this caught up about sex, or is something deeper and more profound going on? As the residents of our area continue to struggle with high foreclosure, unemployment and underemployment, and bankruptcy rates, it just might be that the grounding issue of all of this is where we started, and what Jesus actually paid attention to – MONEY, and how we use it. What role is money playing in the decisions and discussion at Hope College? What role is it playing for the FRC? For the Holland City Council, as it works to decide whether to offer homosexuals civil rights protections? What role is it playing for we who follow Jesus, as we endeavor to be faithful and righteous in very difficult days? The conversation continues in the next column; I look forward to your responses.