I’ve tried to keep this blog professionally relevant, focusing on global health and development. But I want to share something a little different, and this is the best way I know how–hope you’ll forgive the tangent.
I went to college at Harding University, a conservative, private Christian University in my hometown of Searcy, Arkansas. Harding is strict — you can get kicked out for dancing,* having sex, being gay, or drinking alcohol. The 5,000+ undergraduates are required to live on campus at first, with guys’ dorms and girls’ dorms and a nightly curfew where your RA’s check to see if you’re in your room. Daily chapel is required and everyone must take a Bible class each semester. It’s like Footloose but with more Jesus and a lot less Kevin Bacon.
Except that earlier today, a bunch of gay and lesbian students at Harding spoke out:
We are here to share with you our struggle. We are here to be a voice for the voiceless who are quietly dying inside the walls of our campus. We want you to know us. We are your friends, co-workers, students, family members, fellow worshipers, professors, athletes, and scholars.[…] We are queer. We are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. While the rest of you fall in love with the opposite sex, we share our lives and beds with those of our own gender.
All is not well for us at Harding. Our voices are muted, our stories go unheard, and we are forced into hiding. We are threatened with re-orientation therapy, social isolation, and expulsion. We are told stories and lies that we are disgusting sinners who are damned to hell, that we are broken individuals and child abusers….We have felt the pain of the deep, dark closet, and we are here to announce that we will not stand for it any longer.
That’s the opening statement from HU Queer Press, a group of anonymous LGBTQ students, who are publishing a webzine about being gay at Harding. You can find the first issue, “State of the Gay at Harding University” at their website:
It’s powerful stuff, ranging from the sweet to the visceral. The stories mix courage with self-hatred, love of friends and allies at Harding with hatred for its oppressive atmosphere and teachings. You really should read the whole thing, but here are a few of my favorite parts:
First is this sweet piece from “Dovey” writing about “How I Realized I Like Girls (And Why I’m Surprised I Didn’t Realize Sooner.)”:
When I was13, I, like most every girl my age, had a best friend (we’ll call her Elle.) We spent almost all of our free time together, wrote several-page-long notes to each other that we passed when we met in the school halls, wrote stories about what our lives would be like when we grew up. We loved all the same movies, all the same books, and some of the same music….
I began to realize, though, that every time Elle had a boyfriend (and she had a LOT of them) I got immensely jealous. Even if he was someone who had always been a good mutual friend, I would begin to resent him. It wasn’t just that Elle was spending less time with me, or that I felt left out. I wanted to hold her hand like they did. I wanted her to look at me the way she looked at them. I wanted to kiss her goodbye when we all left at the end of the school day.
Then “C” writes about coming out:
Most of the people I first told just kind of smiled and said “I figured.” And of course they still loved me. Soon I had this great group of people encouraging me. I got enough confidence to finally tell my parents. They too already had some idea that this might be coming, but there was no smile on their face when they said so. “We were afraid of this.” “I’m very disappointed.”
“Z” chronicles his history:
[Age 13] Jeff kissed me… One day Jeff took me in the woods and said that he liked me, like he liked Kathleen. He leaned in and kissed me. I felt more alive in that moment than I had ever felt before. The next day in school, Jeff told the entire locker room that I tried to kiss him and that I was a Fag. I knew what it meant now. I sat alone in the lunchroom for the rest of middle school. I never had one friend from school. I turned to church….
[Age 17] Brad pulled me in the back of the room. He kissed me. I kissed him back. He unbuttoned my shirt and I pulled his off. He took off my belt and got down on his knees. He took me in his mouth and I came. I punched him in the face. I called him a Faggot and kicked him in his ribs. What had I done? God please save me. Take this away from me and I’ll be a slave to you. I’ll never do this again. I want you to take me under your wings and rescue me? Rescue me from whom? ME.
“K” criticizes the “Toxic Teachings” at Harding by highlighting the following course notes for a currently offered class. These were written by a Harding professor:
Certain signs of pre-homosexuality: 1) repeatedly stated desire to be other sex or act like other sex, 2) strong preference for cross dressing or pretending to dress like other gender, 3) strong and persistent desire for opposite roles.
Single Mothers: Cub Scouts and male Sunday school class is not enough to help a boy reach a clear gender identity: the boy must have one salient (good and strong) man who takes a special interest in him – one male chooses him. Men: find those fatherless boys and invite them to go fishing. Play catch with him – especially the quiet boy in the background… the one in the background – he is the one we have to go after.
Seriously? Who’s recruiting who?
“K” also shares notes from a journal entry after a therapy session at Harding:
I need to make this decision. Will I go through with this or not. If so I need to truly count the cost and realize that this will cost me. If yes, that I for sure want to pursue my life as a Godly person with Him above all else:
I would have to see myself as heterosexual.
Every time I am attracted or want to look at another guy I would have to say “No. I am a heterosexual and I do not have these desires. They are not natural.” I would completely have to capture my thoughts, deny them, and never intend to pursue or continue these thoughts.
There’s a lot, lot more. Some amazing introspection, some self-loathing. A little coming out, a lot of the closet, some falling in love. They write a how-to for reading the Bible as gay-neutral, if not gay-friendly. They write about getting called fags.
And they write about the problems they have with “Integrity Ministries,” the fairly new support group for students who “struggle with same-sex attraction.” In some ways, Harding, or at least the people who are associated with it, have come a long way. The creation of Integrity Ministries a couple years ago suggest that the administration at Harding has realized it has a “gay problem” that isn’t going away with denial and condemnation alone, the previous approach. I know that some of my friends saw the inception of Integrity Ministries as a step forward. But taking a tiny step forward from a wallowing pit of homophobia still leaves Harding far short of where it should be.
I really admire the authors for doing this, in part because even writing anonymously, they still face big risks. If someone rats them out they could all get kicked out, and they could lose many friends. And just because they’re gay doesn’t mean they can easily leave Harding. Some students can only afford college with their parents’ support, and some parents will only send their kids to Christian colleges. I guess others stay at Harding because they love the institution despite its flaws and want to go to a Christian school because of their deep faith, and they hope to change it from the inside out. If it were easy and they had no other ties, they’d transfer elsewhere and start a new life with people who love them regardless of their sexuality. But it isn’t that easy.
I sympathize with them because I have mixed feelings about Harding as well. My dad teaches there and I grew up around the school. I went to Harding of my own free will because I wanted to be a missionary. I deconverted during my third year there. The process was a gradual one. The more I studied theology and the Bible and war and history and science (some through courses at Harding but also much on my own) the more my views shifted towards progressive theologies. I maintained an unhappy equilibrium as a liberal Christian with a belief in a vaguely Einsteinian God for somewhat less than a year. In hindsight the shift from fundamentalist belief to liberal belief was driven by an intellectual desire to believe something that was compatible with science and history and critical thought, but the choice to go from liberal theology to discarding my faith in faith altogether was more about choosing my allegiances. In the South, and especially at Harding, the association between that particular Christian tradition and reactionary filth was just too strong for me. At some point I couldn’t stomach being associated with all that was anti-science, anti-feminist, and yes, anti-gay. If it wasn’t clear before you read the HU Queer Press, one reason people get turned off by Christians like many at Harding is that their beliefs and actions cause a world of pain to those they label as sinful.
I have a lot of good memories, and I still love many people associated with Harding — family, professors and mentors, and classmates. I doubt Harding will change much, or fast. They still don’t let women speak in chapel or lead prayers, and you get kicked out for having straight sex too. My hope is more for the students who go to Harding and then move on, that they will emerge more compassionate and less homophobic than they might otherwise have been. Maybe we’ll get a step closer to that if everyone at Harding reads this webzine (probably on their laptops at Midnight Oil since I’m sure they’ll block www.huqueerpress.com on campus!).
One last thing: Early on, like many other straight male dorm student at Harding I called everyone a fag — man, don’t be such a fag! I used to be part of that putrid homophobic culture, and for that — to anyone who reads this who I knew at Harding — I’m sorry. It was as if by joking about it we could make “the gays” all just disappear.” But they can’t. They’re there and they’re not going away no matter how hard you pray, and now they’re finding a way to speak out. Awesome. Read it and share it with your friends.
One note: I was not involved in the production or hosting of HU Queer Press, and I don’t know who they are. I just received an anonymous email a few days ago asking me to help with getting the word out since I have a blog. In fact I think it’s more powerful not knowing because they could be anyone I knew at Harding.
*Update 1: a commenter points out that they’ve never heard of anyone getting kicked out for dancing, and I think that’s right. My apologies for the imprecision — I should have said that dancing is against the rules.
Update 2: I’m tracking who all has written about the zine. If you notice a blog I haven’t listed please mention it in the comments. So far: Hemant Mehta, Political Cartel, Ian Thomas, NWA Equality, Don Gaines, Talk About Equality, Arkansas Times’ Arkansas Blog, Coleman Yoakum, Change.org petition, Nelson Shake,
38 Comments Add Yours ↓
The upper is the most recent comment
And by document, I mean the State of the Gay at Harding University. Not your blog post. Sorry. Your blog post is not silly.
They’re pretty clear about what they want. Did you read the opening letter that starts “Dear Harding?”
“We are not asking anything from you. We are here to tell you that we exist and will not be silenced.”
What do they want? Seriously? How about this: They want to be themselves and be accepted for who they are, without all the judgement, condemnation, and name-calling. They don’t want to be discriminated against anymore. Would have thought that was rather obvious …
Thanks for the feedback Ike. A couple responses:
1) I don’t think it’s silly at all. Maybe it doesn’t seem like all that big a deal to you, but it’s obviously a huge life-changing deal to the people who wrote it.
2) You don’t think religious institutions like Harding are high on the list “for our society’s view or treatment of practicing gay and lesbian people”? Really? Last time I checked — in places like DC and Baltimore, the cities I’ve lived in since graduating — it seems that pretty much everyone, or at least a strong, strong majority, are perfectly OK with gay people, and that it’s the conservative religious types who perpetuate the hatred. If the cultural resistance isn’t coming from religion, where do you think it’s coming from? It seems to me that places like Harding (and no, it/they are not alone in their views of course) are one of the core sources of the problem.
3) They talk about what they want in the document, and the fact that they don’t all agree. I think their main point is that they want people to know they exist, and that they aren’t OK with things as they are, that “all is not well” at Harding.
1) I can see how saying “silly” is patronizing and insensitive, so I will definitely retract that descriptor. After writing it and even seeing your response, I felt bad for being so flippant about other people’s struggles and in no way helps my case.
2) I can see your point about Harding perpetuating the idea of homosexuality being a disease or mental deficiency. So, seeing the zine aimed at Harding as a means to take it down to create some sort of domino effect on conservative Christian institutions, than I can totally see its merit. But I question its motivations in its approach. It seems to just come out on the offense against Harding. In my experience with Harding controversies, this is usually not the best strategy. Ultimately, all this document will do is create some buzz and discussion around Harding (which is probably the best result, to at least get people to talk about it), some people may get kicked out and that will be the end of it. I don’t honestly see Harding changing any of their policies. And I would bet money that the writers of this document know that, too. So, what is the motivation? To honestly plea to Harding to change policies so they can keep going to school there? Or is to join in on the pointing out of obvious flaws (from an outsider’s perspective) of Harding without any amount of respect for the institution? Being a global-type expert, you must know that when two people come together, there must be a mutual level of respect. I don’t see any of that in this document. Just the usual, unoriginal observations of Harding vs. the current culture (when Harding is attacked in sections, not the personal stories). Also, DC and Baltimore may be accepting, but the majority of the country is still unsure.
3) I see now, as pointed out by Sarah TX, the intention of the document. All that is fine and good, but I don’t know if Harding has ever denied their existence or that they would ever try to “silence” them. But, yeah, they’ll probably get kicked out. That’s why I feel this document is only meant to stir controversy, which is easy to do at Harding. The personal stories are relevant and revealing, which I feel are honest and needed to be shared. I won’t begin to say I know how it must feel to be unaccepted so openly, so my heart goes out to them. But at the same time, as I said before, everyone knows what they’re getting into when attending Harding. Everyone is an adult at this point, so if you disagree with what’s going on, don’t go. I know that sounds insensitive, but it’s just the truth.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I enjoyed reading your post. I am not optimistic that it will, but I hope it will inspire more conversation at Harding and elsewhere.
Hatred is one thing; standing by ones convictions is completely different.
You may write this off as a rehearsed, conditioned, trained response, but the underlying issue here is sin. There are attempts to distract the conversation, but sin (on both sides) is the issue. You may no longer believe this because of the relative morality with which you now live, but we as Christians know that there is a standard of right and wrong. While it’s not our job to be judgmental in such matters, we must recognize and acknowledge sin for what it is: wrong and unGodly.
When acknowledging sin, hatred, however, should _never_ be part of the equation — and that’s where we run into problems. If the motivation behind the HU Queer Press publication was to simply call out the hatred and ask for help* with the things they struggling with, I would be all for it. But [to me], there is an underlying tone that seems to communicate that there is absolutely nothing wrong with homosexuality, and that’s where it comes into conflict with truth*.
That said, the typical Christian reaction to homosexuality is equally wrong.
I have sin I struggle with. I have sin I justify. And I have sin I’m absolutely ashamed of. But for me to take a look at my life and convince myself that indulging in certain desires I have is not sinful (because I don’t want it to be) is absolutely absurd.
* I realize that phrasing things these ways will anger a lot of people; I apologize for any offense, but I stand by those words nonetheless.
Phil — sometimes it can be pretty hard to distinguish “I believe the Bible says the way you were born is wrong and unGodly” from some form of hatred, even if it’s not conscious. There are plenty of Christians who believe in right and wrong and in the Bible and come to very different conclusions about whether homosexuality is sinful. As much as want to claim to have the truth and the word of God on your side, there are a lot of others claiming the same thing who happen to disagree with you. At some point it seems like a more reasonable conclusion that there is something about gay people that conservative Christians just don’t like. You don’t see the same kind of animosity and name-calling about divorced people, or straight people “living in sin”. Why not? And at least the straight people have the option of living a sexually fulfilled life, something not afforded to gay people here.
I just wanted to let you know I thought this was an excellent response. I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you for your thoughts.
The Bible speaks more about gluttony then it does homosexuality. I wonder why they are not expelling the chubby kid going back through the cafeteria line for seconds? That is certainly within his control and results in “active sining”. Following their logic, shouldn’t any chubby student be forced to go through the weight watchers ministry “You Can Be Slim” program in order to stay in school? JE
Romans 1:26-27 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Harding’s principles are based on what the Bible says. I don’t want to get into what’s right or wrong, but if you agree to go to Harding, you agree to uphold yourself to its guidelines (MOST of which are biblical guidelines.) Just like if you get caught drinking, you’re probably going to get kicked out. Those are the rules of a PRIVATE university. I would have loved to have a beer in the student center, but I waited and chose not to drink there. I graduated 2 years ago. Now I can drink, modestly, whenever I want.
If I posted a website about how I loved drinking, or someone else posted a zine about how awesome pre-marital sex was (not condoning either), they would probably block that site too. Again, PRIVATE university. You play by their rules for 4 years. The End.
Also, good points Phil.
Because of what, Class of 2009?
Jesus also said to sell all your possessions and give them to the poor. Since you’re commenting on my blog, I’m guessing you haven’t done so (unless you’re at a public library, in which case I commend you). There’s a lot of interpretation that happens in between quoting the Bible and choosing to do with it, and Christians come to very different conclusions on what the particular scripture you quoted means when read in the full context. Harding principles are NOT based on what the Bible says — they’re based on what it is says along with an entire host of judgment calls on how to interpret things, what to enforce as a rule, etc. Bibles don’t hurt people, certain Christians wielding Bibles hurt people.
Besides, the target to me seems to be more at letting students and others know how they’ve been hurt by those rules, which is a thing altogether.
Great post Brett. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I am impressed by the courage of the HU students that wrote this. After reading the comments here, it is obvious that you have diverse readership. I look forward to reading The State of The Gay in its entirety.
I have a blog that is linking to it as well. I hope it continues publication and that any students who put it together evade punishment. Anything heartfelt that stirs the pot at ole HU is good in my book.
First of all, I take issue with Ike’s statement that “everyone is accepted and treated equally” in the North. I grew up in Houston, Texas, and my high school was relatively gay-friendly (or at least, not hostile to homosexuals). Texas A&M, where I got my degrees, is unfortunately notorious for bigotry and homophobia (though this is changing), but Austin (the state capital) is extremely progressive and gay-friendly. Also, Miami is well south of the Mason-Dixon line, and the gay community there has been thriving for years – but in rural Florida, the conservative atmosphere rivals some parts of Texas. Besides, there are still race riots in the North – just look up what happened in Cincinnati in 2002. It’s not like if you cross some line between the South and the North, people hold hands and sing Kumbayah. It varies by region, city, and individual.
Also, Harding needs to do its research – most men who cross-dress are not actually homosexual.
Just to clarify, Jessica, what you’re saying was my original point. I believe the majority of this country is still unsure about accepting an open, homosexual lifestyle, but I know many parts are becoming more open to it. I may have miscommunicated the point, but I agree that North and South alike, there are good and bad parts. Again, probably just a miscommunication on my part.
Jessica and Ike — you’re right that divisions between acceptance and homophobia aren’t that clear cut. There are divisions between North and South, rural and urban, and in any particular place you can find lots of exceptions to the rule. Would you agree it’s accurate that the biggest driver of the continued non-acceptance of gay people in the US seems to be conservative churches, like those associated with Harding? That’s the point I was (or should have been) trying to make. Thanks for commenting!
Class of 2009, Phil since the bible compels you, only a biblical argument will ever convince you that being gay or lesbian is “ok”. I suggest the following reading to put a dampener on your simplistic interpretation of scripture. Things are not as simple as “thus sayeth the Lord”, more thought is necessary to lead a christian life.
You may get some traffic from Joe.My.God.
Great post, thank you.
Though I didn’t attend Harding, I did attend another university with the same religious affiliation. My first year at that university transformed me. As a deeply depressed and closeted young man, I found more offers of gay sex at that university than at any other time in my life–including offers from the student body president, athletes, and men who now are in the ministry. The hypocrisy of that first year drove me away from the Church of Christ as my experience was so in conflict with what I was being taught.
Unfortunately, I think these kids are fighting a losing battle. Harding’s policy is wrong, and the religious teachings are wrong, but they are thoroughly ingrained in that institution. Nevertheless, I think it’s a very important battle. It will change the kids, and it may just change a few individuals’ minds about the difference between what Christ taught and what the Church says he taught. And, maybe one day, the university will make some changes, too. It has to begin somewhere.
i really wish more Christians understood their own history. the xtians who have the biggest problem with it are usually the fundie kind, as one can observe on this board. really, honey, don’t lecture me about morality or “sin;” my morals are more in line with “Christ’s” than yours and i’m an atheist so shouting make up words at me doesn’t phase me one bit. but really, try if you can to put the shoe on the other foot, like it used to be long ago when they fed your kind to the lions. it’s why you have so many martyrs, after all. i know fundies in this country are in a panic about the (highly unlikely at this point) Sharia Law being imposed on US soil, well let’s just go there. how would you feel is someone else got to choose their rules based on their mythology and made you live it? could you stop being a Christian? for us, there isn’t even a choice. you can’t pray your way out of the gay, you can only hide and pretend. Jesus was pretty clear, as were the rest of the characters in your book: lying is a “sin.” pretending to be what you’re not is living a lie, so you’re basically causing others to sin, which is a greater sin than the sin you’ve caused.
to the Harding kids, i say bravo but you’re wasting your time. get out at soon as you can, and realize many, many queers live satisfying, out, proud, healthy lives in which we practice many acts of compassion and charity completely without any mythological or theological belief. most previously fundamentalist queers i know say they’ve never been happier, or healthier, since leaving the faith entirely.
Thanks Brett! As an alumus of Harding University myself I understand these students feelings. Kudos to them! I am gay and legally married (MA) to my wonderful husband now.
Congrats Todd! For some reason I don’t get the impression that your marriage to your wonderful husband was what the author of Romans 1:26-27 (quoted above) had in mind.. And if it was, maybe they were just wrong?
My hope is that this situation will in the long-run make current Harding students more likely to emerge sympathetic to LGBTQ issues when they leave Harding, even if the institution itself is unlikely to change.
The New Yorker carried the story. Nice timing that the release coincided with the Westboro Supreme Court decision.
Thank you for this article. I grew up in the church of christ… Ive been to harding… Got into lipscomb (another conservative coc school)… And like you my views changed over time. Im a gay male who had to deal with everything these students are having to currently deal with. Its sad and depressing to feel alone and hated.. I wanted nothing more than to find my soulmate in the church and all gays tend to find in the coc is hate and isolation. These students are brave…. You all deserve more than what harding has to offer
The zine is powerful because it communicates to the Harding community how queer students feel and experience the world. A straight student at Harding might think that they empathize with his gay colleague, but it’s likely that he hasn’t really been challenged to actually imagine himself in that colleague’s shoes.
It all comes down to love.
I love my parents; I love my siblings; I love my friends; I love my dog. I think that anyone at Harding can understand that. But they might not have the perspective to understand how I love my boyfriend. It’s a sort of love that grants my life such meaning. When he comes home from work, my heart leaps and I cannot hold back a smile. When I listen to him talk, I know I’m sitting with someone who is so admirable, so nice, and so full of goodwill. If something horrible were to happen to him, I would be devastated. I want to protect him from harm, and I want us to be with each other as we grow and embrace life. Each day is a blessing.
This is how Konstantin Levin felt towards Kitty Shcherbatskaya. I’m sure my friend Nickolai feels the same way towards his girlfriend Kasia. I know this is how my father feels towards my mother. It’s the sort of love, or the capacity for it, that compels some queer Harding students to speak out. It’s hard to take minor parts of the Bible seriously when they conflict with the most profound feelings you have. It’s hard to accept Romans 1:26-27 when it so fully violates your conscience.
My relationship with Jacques is not a “shameful act.” It’s the most important thing in my life. Until people are willing to make an true empathetic leap and understand this, then they’re effectively dismissing the most important feeling God gave us.
I visited Harding in the early ’60s just to take a look. I had recently survived a couple years at one of the even more radically repressive colleges of the Church of Christ. I was not out with anyone, not even myself. But it’s crystal clear now that getting involved with the Church of Christ was one of the most damaging things that ever happened to me — and that adversely affected most of my life thereafter in one way or another.
These kids may be stuck there for the time being. But they don’t have to hand over their individuality and ability to reason to the bigots who control their college lives. Those that are intellectually challenging the draconian, so-called biblical teachings are taking possibly the first and most important step toward their own eventual freedom.
But to finally see through all the mind-numbing smoke religious propagandists use to keep us divided from ourselves, one another, and to maintain their own ill-gotten authority and profits, that same scrutiny must be applied to everything these heroic kids think they know about the “holy” writings, as well as all the rest of the deluge the culture at large throws at us about the way we should see ourselves, others, history, politics, and nearly everything around us.
So HU Queer Press kids, keep doing what you’re doing, but the sooner you can finally rid your own minds of every vestige of these bigots’ way of thinking, the better chance you have of actually eventually seeing through not only their brainwashing, but that of the culture at large — and believe me, it’s an extremely thick blanket of delusion.
It’s either the blue pill or the red pill — and the stakes are enormous — but I assure you, the only hell you’ll ever encounter is the one that exists in this real world, not the one they throw at you constantly to keep you in a state of fearful submission.
I’ve posted a follow-up including some dissent from a gay Harding student about the role HUQP is playing. Read it here: http://www.bdkeller.com/2011/03/something-powerful-ctd/
It’s about time we as Christians start talking about these issues! I went to HU many years ago. I always questioned rights for those who chose to live a different lifestyle than I did. It was always a taboo subject on the HU campus.
I am a Christian; God has called me to love and to serve; not to judge! I live in VT, one of the first states that allowed gay marriage. Many of my friends are gay; most of which are opposed to God because of the judgments they receive from people who call themselves ‘Christians’.
Whether you are a conservative or a liberal Christian, we all need to look at the facts. We need to love our neighbors just as Christ loved the Church. How can we love our neighbors if we are judging them?
I am quite happy that this article has finally come out. Good for all of you who are standing up for your friends who might be struggling with being gay or being gay in a conservative environment. I hope we all can talk about these issues with civility, not just at Harding, but throughout the Christian community wherever we are living.
Another site mentioned the zine: http://www.365gay.com/news/christian-college-blocks-lgbt-student-site/
As far as I know, Harding never took a firm stance on rape. When I attended there, I knew several women who were raped by other students. My belief is that it was all hushed up by the administration. Why are they picking on gays instead? They have/had worse problems going on. I won’t speak out publicly against the university, using my real name, because even 20 years later I am afraid of Harding. They drove the point home, time and again, that they could “get people back” if they spoke out against them after graduation. I am still afraid.
I’m sorry, Stillafraid. I was a victim of acquaintance sexual assault while I was a student at Harding and my experiences with the HU counseling center therapist was as detrimental, unprofessional, and just plain terrible counseling as the gay students’ experiences as described in their zine. I had the agency to tell my counselor she was a sham and find legitimate help in Little Rock. I made the drive weekly for almost two years and am in a wonderful place now. Thanks again for your support during that, Brett.
I hope you can conquer your fear. No one has power over you unless you give it.
Thanks, Brett. As an alumnus, I think this is fair.
Perhaps forgotten are the many–albeit outnumbered–members of the Harding community who are not bigots and yet continue to believe that homosexuality is sinful. Many such people are deeply devoted to doing what is right before God, a noble pursuit, while still engaging the gays and lesbians in the Harding community (and greater Searcy) in mutual, supportive friendships in which the goal is to love and understand, not to judge.
I personally believe that many of the Bible’s foundational principles override its more specific condemnations of superficial behaviors, and as a result I don’t find homosexuality to be contradictory to 21st Century Christianity. But I continue to admire those at Harding who do object to the behavior on moral grounds yet are committed to prioritizing their love of people over their love of doctrine.
I think these gay students want acceptance, that is all. They have every reason to be afraid at this conservative Christian school in the backwoods of Arkansas. There were many violent acts committed on the campus when I was a student there. Some I knew about, and in one instance I was a victim. The administration did nothing about it. They just told me it was my fault. I don’t think much has changed. Its conceivable that some of these students have either been attacked, or threatened by others. I don’t get the impression that gay students are asking the school to lift a ban on sexual activity. I also don’t believe the university itself is trying to educate people. They are trying to indoctrinate people into a religious cult. The required daily chapel attendance were brainwashing sessions. It may be a good university for people who want just an average job when they graduate, but this school overall does not produce great thinkers or entrepreneurs. They emphasize obedience to rules, not learning to think for oneself.
I’m sure this point has already been beaten to bloody pulp, but Harding does not expel students simply for being gay, and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous. The students who published the zine have a right to voice their opinion and are risking many things by doing so, but being kicked out simply because they are gay is not one of them.
Really powerful. Thanks for sharing.
- Ian T. Thomas » Blog Archive » HU Queer Press 02 03 11
- Something powerful, ctd – Brett Keller 03 03 11
- Harding University and The State of the Gay « Tikkun olam 05 03 11
- State of Formation - Harding University and The State of the Gay 11 03 11