In modern society, it is perfectly acceptable to ignore rules listed in the Bible (i.e. the King James version), such as those telling to not eat shrimp or pork, get a divorce, or see women and black people as subservient. Why, then, do many religions still hold the outdated and primitive belief that homosexuals are an “abomination” to God? These were just some of the issues brought up at the Diversity Dialogue: Queer and Christian on Thursday, Oct. 20.
Althea Miller, a graduate assistant in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, organized the event, but experienced some difficulties. “Due to the oppression leveled on the LGBTQ community, I faced difficulties approaching gay and lesbian businesses as a result of understandable mistrust of the Christian community,” she admitted.
However, she did feel this dialogue was imperative to our college community. “There are more than 224 million Christians in the United States of America. One in 10 people have had same-sex attraction or engaged in same-sex behaviors. With this many people belonging to both groups, there is bound to be some overlap. There is a history of religion being used to victimize, intimidate, and ridicule people in the LGBT community. This topic is important to discuss on a college campus due to the unsettling number of youth taking their own lives because all they have heard is that they are evil,” she said.
The panel included Nadine Clarke, assistant director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Dean Patrick Powers of Knowles Memorial Chapel, and Michelle Stecker, visiting assistant professor of history. They discussed the impact religion has on our society and the negative views religion, particularly Christianity, has toward the LGBT community. The panel explained how difficult it can be for LGBT youths who have grown up in a religious culture that teaches them that they are “damned.” “The churches have blood on their hands,” said Stecker. “There is a huge number of LGBT youth who are victims of suicide and homelessness.”
To support their arguments, the panel handed out supplements that featured selected excerpts from the Bible that condemn homosexuality. It portrays homosexuals as devilish fiends trying to corrupt innocent citizens in ludicrous language. As it demonizes homosexuality, however, it includes passages that condone horrible abuse to women, such as Judges 19.22: “ ‘Here are my virgin daughters and [my guest’s] concubine (mistress); let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them’ … When he had entered his house, he took a knife, and grasping his concubine he cut her into twelve pieces…”
The panel also pointed out that some religions not only still spread heterosexism, but sexism as well. In religions such as Catholicism, women play a subservient role in the church and are not allowed to be ordained. Holt student D’Vonte Chapman spoke out from the crowd and said that if a church is repressive in any way, that church is not serving its purpose. There are religions, however, that are LGBT friendly, so one does not have to renounce all forms of faith if one supports the LGBT community. Miller herself is a proud member of Oasis Fellowship Ministries in Orlando.
Following the panel, some members of the audience shared experiences of prejudice in an open discussion, and one attendee asked, “What can we do?” Dean Powers answered, “We need to get angry. We can’t just let it continue.” Panel members also acknowledged the importance of allies helping the LGBT community, who can really attract attention to the cause. “As a community, we talk a lot about caring and being an ally, but sometimes being an ally means talking about difficult subject matter,” said Miller.
The discussion that arose from the dialogue was enjoyable and sparked positive feedback and growth for the Rollins community. “I think that this Diversity Dialogue was a huge success,” commented Miller.
“The students, faculty, staff, and outside attendees engaged in open and honest discussions. There was meaningful, enriching and inspiring exchange. The panelists were informative and encouraged attendees to study the Bible for themselves, get angry about injustice, and become more self-aware about their own biases.
Overall, this event was amazing. Even though I organized the event, I left feeling as if I, too, had learned something,” Miller said. Miller wants to start a Diversity Dialogue on a similar topic in the future, and I hope it happens. I would like to have seen even more people attend because it is such a relevant issue pertaining to both the Rollins and global communities. For now, you can join Spectrum, Rollins’ alliance organization meant to help promote tolerance for the LGBT community.
You can also visit soulforce. org and religioustolerance.org for more information.