Monday, February 20, 2006

Freedom Rides...vs Equality Rides...vs "Quest for the Voice" Ride to NYC!!!

Hey Poets! Producers! Friends!

As we make our way to NYC, I'm struck by some crazy convergences in themes in this work and world...
My friend, avid supporter of TRTM poets, and YOU ALL, Mr. Brian Mogren has been working to produce a number of arts-activist-centered-events for the community. This saturday, the 25th, it's a gathering in North Mpls to all go see "A Raisin in the Sun" directed by Dawn Renee Jones of Alchemy Theater.

Other than bringing people together around theater and the arts, Brian is constantly being called to invite together diverse peoples around issues pertaining to Social Justice, Equality for all...To that end, he's been inspired to draw attention, and raise funds for the EqualityRides ( that are taking place this upcoming month, as well as the "Quest for the Voice" Poets...

I'm sharing all of this, because on this Monday morning, early afternoon OFF, I've had some time do some thinking and reflecting about how all of these events are in celebration of common elements, and are things that keep me rooted in this work, movement...

I invite all of you, POETS especially, to consider the stories copied and pasted below, as fodder for your own musings, potential collaborative writing...

How are you, as POETs, FREEDOM WRITERs? (By the way, I"m ripping that question off from a teacher in Cali who dubbed her students that, in the spirit of the 50's and 60's freedom riders.)
How do your poems, your stories, play a part in this tradition of PEACEFUL resistance? Of Civil Rights? Of honoring diversity? Celebrating all humanity?
What do these youth traveling across the country visiting campuses where GLBT Youth are NOT WELCOME have in common with you? Your stories?
How do your actions as poets, activists line up?

Just thinking...
When you get a minute, check out the tales and stories below...
I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Melissa B

The Freedom Ride Tradition

On Monday, May 4, 1961 brave young men and women boarded a Greyhound bus with a ticket south. The ride was designed to test the Supreme Court's 1946 decision in the Irene Morgan case, which declared segregated seating of interstate passengers unconstitutional. From beginning to end the young adults who were made up of both white and black individuals planned on breaking whatever unconstitutional rules of segregation were still being enforced at interstate bus stations. White youth would sit in the back of the bus and use black waiting areas and black youth would sit in front of the bus and use white waiting areas. It was an experiment in courage. Their goals were freedom and reconciliation and their weapons were truth and love.
On their journey to justice, these Freedom Riders met horrible violence. In Alabama the groups went in two directions and both groups faced hostile situations. The first group met an angry mob in Anniston, Alabama, and their bus was fire bombed. The second group met a similarly angry mob in Birmingham, Alabama. For a moment it seemed as though the Freedom Rides had come to an end because the bus company did not want to continue for fear of their drivers safety and the safety of their buses. But the Freedom Riders wanted to push ahead. As Jim Peck, a white young man who had fifty stitches from the beatings he received, insisted, "I think it is particularly important at this time when it has become national news that we continue and show that nonviolence can prevail over violence."
With the help of students from Nashville, famous for their Nashville sit-ins, and pressure from Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the Freedom Ride continued. The next stop was Montgomery where they were met with violence for a third time. After this occurrence Robert Kennedy called in Federal Marshals to ensure their protection. Kennedy had hoped for a cooling off period but the Freedom Riders wanted no such thing. With the protection of the Federal Government they continued onto Jackson, Mississippi. They were given good protection as they entered the Jackson bus terminal and there was no angry mob waiting for them there. However, local police were waiting and the students who broke the local laws mandating segregation were hauled off to jail where they were at the mercy of the local courts, which sentence the riders to 60 days in jail.
But the Freedom Ride did not end there. Hearing of their incarceration, more Freedom Riders arrived in Jackson to continue the Freedom Ride, and they too were arrested. Throughout the summer Freedom Riders continued to arrive in the South by busloads and by summers end more than 300 riders had been arrested. The Freedom Ride, which was originally suppose to be a two-week journey had turned into national news stories with global implications. The Freedom Riders had taken their stand. In the face of violence they pushed ahead, nonviolently. Today, we remember this summer long display of courage as, Freedom Summer.
As the members of the Equality Ride embark on their journey next March, they draw inspiration from these youth who fought for their freedom over forty years ago. Certainly, the two journeys are different in many ways. They have different purposes and goals. They are fighting different forms of oppression and each present their own unique challenges to overcome.
However, they also have a great deal in common. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride is lead by young adults seeking a better tomorrow. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride is entering into the epicenters of the oppression they seek to end. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride is going into segregated environments, public and private. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride will face the chief criticism that the riders are "outside agitators." Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride will also be criticized for infringing on "privately held beliefs" that should be the right of the conservative Christian colleges to set and enforce on their members. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride is fighting for the underlying cause of justice, freedom and equality. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride comes with risks unknown. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride will use the power of love, truth and nonviolence to overcome oppression and injustice. Like the Freedom Ride, the Equality Ride seeks to win reconciliation, making society better for all.
If you are considering applying to be an Equality Rider, please take some time to read about these brave young adults. Also, read the letter from Dr. Rodney N. Powell, who was a black (and closeted gay) student activist in the African American civil rights movement while in medical school in Nashville, Tennessee 1957-1961. Draw inspiration from his words and the history the Freedom Riders made working for equality and justice.

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A letter from a cadet in a Military Service Academy
I am a cadet in a service academy -- I don't think I should say which one, but they are all similar in regard to culture and policies on homosexuality. It is a conservative (72% republican), strongly religious, and homophobic environment. I like being here, and wake up every day pleased that I haven't been kicked out yet.
I have been in the service for just over three years now, and my attitude about the "don't ask, don't tell" policy has changed over time. Initially I was compliant and scared. I have lost relationships and peace of mind through my paranoid behavior. I have also made ethical compromises that I don't like. I believe that this policy is designed to perpetuate ignorance. It nearly guarantees that people who express homophobic sentiments will be avoided and feared by their queer peers, thus reducing the likelihood that they will ever get to know each other. I think that the strongest hatred of gays comes from people who dehumanize them. It is harder to dehumanize gays when you actually know one or two. I want the other cadets to see that they have a real, living, lesbian classmate who shares common experiences. I don't know if I expect (or want) to change my classmates' beliefs, but I do want to give them the exposure they need to make informed decisions about their morality. I think it's disrespectful not to.
In addition to keeping minds narrow, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy leaves young military members totally isolated at an age when they are likely to be struggling with their sexuality. I was enlisted when I came to terms with my own orientation, and I had some pretty rough periods of alienation and depression. I know what it's like to be in an extremely hostile environment without knowing what my rights are or how to find out. It is important to me that younger cadets have resources for information and support, and I want to provide them with as much as I can.
Recently (within the last year) I have been breaking "don't ask, don't tell" a lot. I have prioritized honest relationships with my classmates over my desire to keep my appointment. The response has been heartwarming. The more conservative, religious people who used to make me nervous go out of their way to make me feel accepted and loved in spite of our differences. The conversations are fantastic.
Of course, through out this experience I live with the ever present possibility that someone will feel differently and report my breaches of policy. My academic enthusiasm is often dampened by the distraction of making alternate plans, and the sense of hopelessness that I will ever graduate. I am willing to be discharged over this issue, but I would so much rather graduate and pursue a career in a service that is important to me. I would also like to have a relationship free from the inherent complications of my situation. I appreciate the equality riders and Soulforce. Thanks for your inspiring efforts. I hope that I can also help out, in my own way, from the inside.

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A letter from a current ROTC member
Do you know how it feels to live your life and not be heard? Are you scared to speak up and be who you truly are inside because you will be persecuted? I am. I have never felt as silent as I did today. My voice wasn't heard today, but I realized, my voice never gets heard. Day to day, I am mute. I do not know how to talk or voice how I feel. Today is April 13, 2005, the National Day of Silence. I walked around campus all day, silent; I wore a tag that stated my purpose. The tag said "Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?"
In high school I participated in the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program. I had to sign an official legal document stating that I was not a homosexual, complete with the threat that if the Corps discovered I was, I could be discharged. I did not think too much about it in high school, because I wasn't openly a lesbian at the time. I was going to enlist in the Air Force directly after high school because I wasn't financially able to go to college. Then, I was offered a full scholarship through my church to attend a college in Virginia. I applied, was accepted, and before I knew it, I was registering for classes.
Upon entry, I signed up for the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). I had to sign pages and pages of paperwork, with numerous paragraphs in small type. But, I read all the paperwork carefully, until I stumbled upon a particularly difficult paragraph. I had to sign a paragraph stating that I was not a homosexual, I was not involved in a same-sex relationship, and that if I was, the Corps could discharge me. This discharge was harsher than the policy in the high school program I was in. This discharge would not only eliminate me from the Corps but it would also prohibit me from enlisting in any branch of the military. As I signed that paragraph, using my full legal name, I signed my identity away. I was only a cadet, the military owned me, and the government owned the military. I couldn't speak up, I couldn't show who I was, and it hurt.
I wear a rainbow pendant and a rainbow belt to display my gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer in question pride. I knew from that day when I signed the paragraph, I could no longer show my pride in class. I would take off my necklace and my belt, along with part of my identity for an hour and fifteen minutes a day. I was--and still am--being forced into silence because people do not understand me and others who are like me. If ever asked if I were a lesbian, I would open my mouth and scream at the top of my lungs. I would scream and say "Yes, I am a lesbian, and if you have a problem with this, tough, deal with it, I am who I am!"
There are people in this world who--without even knowing me--don't like me and never will. President George Bush, the government, the military, even my Army ROTC program. They look down on me because I am choosing to unleash my identity, but at least I am being true to myself. If they have a problem, they can kick me out. I will still lead my life. I will still be the proud, strong, individual lesbian that I am.

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A letter from a current student at Bethel University
I am a student at Bethel University. From the outside, I appear much like any other student on campus. I am a Christian, dedicated to my family, my friends, and my academic career. I am active in several clubs and attend chapel on a regular basis. I am also gay. Because of this, I feel that I do not fit in on this campus. I am writing this letter specifically to share my story as one of many gay students enrolled at conservative Christian colleges like Bethel University. I am writing in hopes that my story can provide a glimpse of what life is like as a gay student here. I hope my story can help initiate a much-needed dialogue for change on this campus. But before describing my experiences at Bethel, I need to explain some of my life before college.
Growing up, I was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist household. I committed my life to Christ at a very young age. While I grew in my faith throughout my childhood, I also began to have these feelings that no one spoke about. It wasn't until my freshman year in high school that I finally grasped what was happening. It was then that I realized I was having attractions for other guys. The thought that I might be gay scared me. I didn't understand how this could be. I knew what my church had to say about it. I was very active in my youth group, read my bible, prayed daily, and had a deep respect for--and a good relationship with--both of my parents. I felt close to God at this point, and yet I knew this secret part of my life also existed. While I attempted to repress any thought that I might be gay, there were constantly nagging feelings that I was different. By denying my feelings, I was only lying to myself. I knew what was going on inside my heart, and yet it wasn't until college that I finally dealt with these feelings.
For years, I had been looking forward to attending a Christian college. I wanted to be surrounded by students and faculty who would support me in my walk with God and challenge my faith. After visiting Bethel, I knew that this was the place that God wanted me to attend. I also believe that part of my reason for coming here to Bethel was that I would be able to cure my homosexual feelings. If necessary, I could even get help from the counselors and pastors here on campus. I came here firmly believing that Bethel would help me "straighten out."
During my freshman year, I made many friends and was growing in my faith. I felt ready for anything that God might bring my way. But, I was still repressing an entire side of my life. From the outside, I appeared to be an incredibly homophobic person. I believe that my homophobic actions and cruel statements about homosexuality which I made to try to fit in were really a way of putting myself down. I tried hard, but I did not fit in with the guys on my floor. I can remember many of the comments that were made that year. Those guys used the word "fag" constantly, and everything from homework to the latest TV hit was "so gay." Those conversations and statements made me cringe inside. I felt horrible. Even my roommate made these statements. He once said he would hunt me down if he ever found out that I was gay. He said it with a smile, but I still don't know if he was joking. My freshman dorm experience was terrifying. While I had a few friends from my dorm that year, I knew I could never be completely open with them. I had heard stories of past Bethel students who, after having come out of the closet on campus, were harassed and even hazed, and I did not want this to happen to me. Besides, I still had over three years left at Bethel, and I did not want to jeopardize any of my future, which would surely happen if I decided to deal with what was happening.
My sophomore year, I finally came to terms with my sexuality. I know that I began to act differently. I was frightened of what might happen if any of my friends found out, and so I began to isolate myself from nearly everyone on campus. I was terribly afraid of anyone in leadership positions. I feared that someone might figure out the truth about my sexuality and turn me in or even expel me. While my social life continued to get worse, I began to battle intense depression as well. I spent every free moment burying myself in my schoolwork, but this didn't help. The pressure that I felt on campus became nearly unbearable.
Hardest of all, I felt unloved by God. I found it difficult to separate the love of God from the words of hatred and oppression said by those claiming to follow Him. I came close to committing suicide several times, but God had been looking out for me. He had given me one friend on this campus, one person who I could be totally honest with. I believe that were it not for him, I would not be here today.
Within the last few months, I have slowly been coming to terms with my sexuality. I still battle depression to a lesser degree, and the awful thoughts of committing suicide are gradually going away. It continues to be difficult for me to believe that God still loves me, but my faith is slowly growing and repairing itself. Also, I still deal with oppressive and homophobic attitudes on this campus on a daily basis. Just last week, I was eating dinner with a few friends in the Dining Center when one of the nearby students proclaimed that he would kill his roommate if he ever found out he was gay rather than continue sharing a room with him. All that I felt I could do was sit there and shake my head. Hardest of all is that I have to choose between honesty and hostility. All of my life, I have desired to live truthfully with those around me, but Bethel's atmosphere has made me feel that I must sacrifice my honesty for safety.
One of the biggest struggles that I face today is isolation. I have found it difficult to be close with most people on this campus. I cannot fit in or be open with students and faculty who, were they to know that I am gay, would either refuse to have anything to do with me or even become hostile. To this day I do not feel comfortable walking in the dark alone at Bethel, fearful of what might happen if others perceive me to be gay. I constantly feel the need to look over my shoulder. I want to transfer out, but I would have to redo too many classes, and it would cost too much. For whatever reason, God has kept me here.
In spite of the remaining struggles that I face daily, I have also learned that I am not the only person on this campus who is going through this same situation. The past few months, I have begun to meet other GLBT students on this campus who are also living in silence. I see them dealing with the same depression that I face. I also see that many of these students are giving up on their faith in God due to the intense homophobic attitudes that many Christians on campus are displaying. This past year, I have also met a few students here who are supportive of gay students. I have felt comfortable to tell a few of these students that I am gay, and I have found much support and love from them. A few of these friends I would even consider my family since my family back home has not been very supportive the last few months. After telling my parents that I was gay, they responded by telling me that I am "going to hell," but these two or three friends on campus have always responded with love and acceptance. It is just sad that these few supportive voices often get drowned out by the overpowering anti-gay attitudes on this campus.
After having read through some of my experiences at Bethel University, I hope that this has somehow shown the discrimination and the inner struggle that I continue to go through as a gay student here. I hope that somehow, this university can realize that there are GLBT students and faculty here. While we remain silent for our safety, we are here as students, classmates, coworkers, and even roommates. I also hope that one day soon, this community can begin a much needed dialogue to end the discrimination and oppression that I face daily along with other gay students here. But most importantly, I hope that we can be seen for who we truly are, as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

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A letter from a current student at Lee University
I guess I am one of those students at Lee Univeristy. I can't tell anyone b/c I was brought up in the church. They all say that I am going to hell. So as I struggle through my sophomore year on campus, I see what you mean, how it's not excepted. I can't help how I feel inside, but I have to hide it. My parents and pastor, and other christian friends just wouldn't get it. Thanks for trying to let people know that we are just like them and we have a right to be on the same campus, God loves us all!

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A letter from a current student at Liberty University
As a Liberty student, I know what it is like to have to suppress or hide a part of who I am. You see others having normal dates. If I were to go on a date, I would have the fear of getting caught and the possibility of being kicked out. Is that really part of the mission of Liberty University? Where is the Christian love in all of this? I only know of a couple gay guys on campus. The ones I know of are completely afraid of being found out. Of course, a part of who we are must remain a secret for now.
I hope and pray that some day issues such as homosexuality won't matter at a place like Liberty. I really do love my school and am proud that I can attend such a great university, however, I can't exactly let anyone know that I am gay.
There should not be any fear of hanging out with someone you know is gay. The gay guys I know of are totally afraid of meeting on campus or really most places in Lynchburg. They do not want to be associated with someone else whom they know to be gay.

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A letter from a current student at Liberty University
I am currently a junior at Liberty University. I am also gay. No one knows. I don't know if I will ever be able to tell anyone. I know if my family found out they would disown me and defiantly not help me pay for college. I have heard stories about someone at Liberty finding out another student was gay and the school telling the person's parents. That scares me to death. If anyone at school found out I would loose all my friends. I'm sure someone would tell on me. I go to school here because it is the only school my parents will pay for.
I don't know what God thinks about me being gay. Why would he make me like this in the first place? I did not choose it. Regardless of what God thinks I know what everyone else thinks. They would think I'm evil if they knew. I've never even been with a guy. I really hope that someone could talk some sense into the school and Christians in general. I'm tired of being all alone. Please don't use my name!

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Letter from a current student at Wheaton College
I am so grateful you are coming to Wheaton College! I only wish that me and my partner could march openly with you! We have been together for almost two years and plan to get married following my graduation. I am not out at school, as I would not be able to get my degree as a woman openly committed to another woman.
How did I end up being who I am at Wheaton? Well, I started school here just realizing my attraction to women and just starting to question the traditional beliefs I have always held. It has been a very difficult road for me, but I strongly that God wants me to be at Wheaton College and that it is for a purpose. I also believe that God has brought me and my fiance together and has blessed our relationship time upon time.
Unfortunately, most of the discussion about homosexuality here is very abstract, judgmental, or well-meaning but ignorant of the reality of who we are as GLBT people. However, please know when you come that many, many people here have very big hearts. I believe that most are just scared, either of their own sexuality, and/or of the implications of questioning traditional interpretations of scripture. I don't think that most of them have any idea how unsafe and unwelcome GLBT people feel here.
I will be praying for all of you and for all of Wheaton College during those three days when you come-
Anonymous (for now)

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A Letter From a Former Naval Academy Midshipman
Honor, Courage, Commitment, are the United States Navy's core values. What do you do when your sexual orientation conflicts with these values? For me the process was most tedious being an African-American, ordained Baptist minister who was struggling with accepting my spirituality and sexual orientation while as a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy and experiencing my first love with the great nephew of a famous military general. The military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Harass, Don't Pursue antigay ban robbed me of a very promising career. I was the top of my class and even President of the Class of 1998 for several years. I was made to leave because I acknowledged my homosexuality. The federal government then engaged me in a 3 year legal battle in order to recoup the $86,000 for my education. Through the very same core values of honor, courage, and commitment, I was victorious against the government. Through my own experience with the prejudice that is established by the military's mandate, I am convinced that the ban is a lose-lose for everyone, first for the individual who must always live in conflict in the patriarchal hegemony and then to those that do submit to this code and adopt heterosexist ideals for the sake of career, God, and family. I contend that a policy of liberation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't damn matter!" to assure that the American people are afforded the best and the brightest and surely the courageous, most honest, and committed are what we all want and deserve to be at the helm of our military.

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A Letter From an Alumni of Asbury College
Greetings from Dallas, Texas!
It has been nearly 20 years since this native Kentuckian was a student at Asbury College. Although I spent most of my first year there trying to fit in and going through the motions of trying to be straight (casually dating young women, etc.) I had known since puberty that I was attracted to other males. After meeting some fellow students who were gay or gay friendly, I began to accept my orientation as a gift from God and to love myself as one of God's children. I poured myself into my Elementary Education studies, achieved a high GPA, and made some wonderful friends.
Toward the end of my senior year, I was outed by my roommate's girlfriend. My advisor met with me and, after interrogating me, swore that if he ever could prove that I was a "practicing homosexual" that he "would do everything in (his) power to make sure that (I) never taught again!" Needless to say, I was devastated beyond words. I wanted to teach more than anything in the world, and at that moment I truly felt that everything I had worked so hard to achieve was being ripped from me.
My supervising teacher was informed of the "situation" and tried to talk me out of becoming a teacher. I'll never forget her questions: "Wouldn't you rather be an interior designer or a hairdresser?" (It sounds funny now, but at the time it was demoralizing.) When she couldn't talk me out of becoming a teacher, she lowered my grade to a "C" ( I had a cumulative 3.5 GPA at the time) and would not sign off on the paperwork recommending me to the teaching profession. I fell into a deep depression that spiraled downward until, in a moment of utter helplessness, I took an near deadly overdose of sleeping pills and passed out on the floor of my dorm room. Thank God a dear friend, who realized how upset I was, came to my rescue literally breaking into my room and rushing me to the emergency room where my stomach was pumped and I came to.
I managed somehow to graduate and moved to Florida. After ten years as a classroom teacher (including two years as Teacher of the Year), I was asked to serve as a Curriculum Specialist at the district level. I thoroughly enjoyed the next two years coaching new teachers and working to rewrite the district's curriculum. At that time, I was approached by the educational publishing industry to work as a consultant. This great opportunity involved a move to the Lone Star State and starting a new life in Dallas. That was nearly eight years ago, and today I am blessed to be a highly successful sales representative for the world's largest educational publisher. I am very active in The Episcopal Church where I met my life partner. We have shared seven wonderful years together and look forward to many more to come. Being in a Christ-centered, monogamous, caring, gay relationship may not be something that most "Christians" understand or accept, but I look forward to the day when all of God's children can learn to love and accept each other regardless of religion, race, age, or gender orientation.
Although that nearly fateful night when I hit rock bottom seems several lifetimes ago, I still care a silent reminder of what fear and self-hatred can do to someone in a moment of weakness: a slight heart murmur. Each year during my annual physical my doctor reminds me of this physical condition which in turn reminds me of my experience at Asbury College and a time in my life when I almost believed that God had made a mistake when God created me! Today I know beyond any doubt that I am NOT a mistake, but a Child of God who is loved and who has so much of
God's love to share with others.
Seldon Paul Short III
Class of '87

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A Letter From an Alumni of Bethel University
When I started at Bethel I signed the covenant statement and the line about
homosexuality did not bother me at all. I wasn't homosexual and I didn't know
anyone who was. It wasn't an issue for me at the time and if someone had
confronted me about it I would have said that I agreed with the statement. But
my education at Bethel helped to change this. In Bible and Theology classes at
Bethel I learned to take the Bible more seriously and I allowed its truth to
subvert my previous understanding of many issues, including homosexuality. I
also met and became close friends with many people inside and out of the
Evangelical subculture who shared their stories with me about what it was like
to be in the closet and the variety of responses they garnered, from horror
stories to stories of generosity and love, when they came out of the closet. I
am writing this letter in support of all current Bethel students who might want
to come out of the closet but don't know how. I am also writing because I know
that for many students coming out of the closet at all is not even on the
horizon because they still persecute themselves. There are many current
students and faculty who would like to see Bethel's policy become more Biblical
and once and for all reject the position that homosexuality is a sin. As a
recent alumnus I want to add my name to that list.

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A Letter from an alumni of Biola University
I wrote the following article while a graduate student of philosophy at Texas A&M University. I did not always endorse the views I express in my article. Over time, I came to embrace a more inclusive vision of God's work in the world and in the church. But this did not occur overnight.
While I am now an Episcopalian and do not describe myself as an evangelical, I grew up in fairly conservative Pentecostal churches and attended Biola University (a school that is representative of mainstream evangelicalism). While a student there I first began to wrestle with issues about gender equality in society, the family, and in the church. By the time I met my wife, I had gone some distance towards embracing an egalitarian understanding of male-female relations. And by the time I had graduated with my B.A. I was a self-described "evangelical feminist." A consequence of my change in perspective was that I left a little-known break-away denomination from the Episcopal Church (the Reformed Episcopal Church) and joined the Episcopal Church, U.S.A.
The next step in my education was seminary. I decided to attend Fuller Theological Seminary. Fuller, unlike Biola, is often regarded as representative of the evangelical left. Most of the students are self-described evangelicals from mainline denominations. There was more openness at Fuller to discussing issues about human sexuality (in spite of the official policy proscribing homosexual activity). I became aware of inconsistencies in my thinking about the equality of believers and God's inclusive work in the world and my views about sexual ethics. I found that to demand celibacy of my brothers and sisters who were not heterosexual ran contrary to a view of God's love as encompassing all expressions of self-giving love that reflect the sort of union of mutual respect and sacrifice being realized between God and creation. My first serious steps towards endorsing a more consistent sexual ethic that places the same burdens and affords the same benefits of sexual expression on all Christians occurred in two courses. One was a course taught by Ched Myers (author of Who Will Roll Away the Stone?, among others) on Christianity and social justice, the other was a course on New Testament Ethics with the New Testament scholar, G. Walter Hansen. In both I was forced to think hard about the theological reasons for and against full inclusiveness for GLBT Christians. But the watershed moment for me was when I had to defend the inclusivist view in New Testament Ethics. From that point on, I felt more strongly pulled towards accepting inclusivism and getting a settled view on these matters.
Resolution came for me almost six months after finishing my M.A. in theology, right before commencing my graduate studies in philosophy at Texas A&M (followed by the University of Rochester, where I received my PhD). My wife had already been expressing a commitment to inclusivism in our repeated conversations about these matters. I had already found the scriptural and philosophical arguments for non-inclusivism to be weak. But I found tradition to be strongly in favor of non-inclusivism. My epiphany came while in San Francisco for a meeting of the American Academy of Religion. I attended mass at Grace Episcopal Cathedral -- a church well-known for its commitment to social justice and progressive Christianity. Many of the parishioners at Grace are from the GLBT community of San Francisco. I was aware of this. During the Eucharist I was deeply moved by the experience of sharing the Bread and Wine with the persons whose status in the church and, if you will, full humanity (including the right to express mutual love) I had been questioning. I left with a new-found openness and recognition of the Holy Spirit's moving me to accept inclusivism. My head, in this instance, followed my heart. But, like St. Augustine, I sought understanding after having been moved emotionally to embrace an inclusive vision of the ways mutual love and sacrifice can be expressed sexually between two persons. This article is the fruit of my earliest efforts to articulate reasons for rejecting the view that only heterosexuals are permitted to model in their relationships the sort of erotic love God also exhibits in loving creation. I hope in the future to work on something more substantial aimed at an academic audience.
Hopefully the efforts of myself and others like me will influence those in positions of leadership at schools like Biola to be more open to honest debate and discussion of sexual ethics. If all truth is God's truth, then they should have nothing to fear. They should bring Christian scholars and organizers representing a wide array of perspectives to the table. They did this at Fuller while I was there (and I suspect they still do). Fuller is still an evangelical seminary. And there are still a variety of perspectives represented in the faculty and student body on these matters. Hegemony, whether from the right or the left, is undesirable. Openness to free inquiry and debate is a virtue that ought to be exemplified by all academic institutions. Perhaps one day Biola and similar institutions will exhibit this virtue more consistently than they do at present.
Andrei A. Buckareff
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Philosophy
Franklin & Marshall College

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