This summer, a website popped up entitled Queer at Patrick Henry College which is purportedly by Patrick Henry College students and alumni who talk about their struggles as a homosexual in the christian, homeschooling, and PHC communities. When I originally saw the website a month ago, I thought it was part of an SEO attack similar to the SEO attack on Rick Santorum because of the large number of posts celebrating LGBT history. After the website created a facebook page the school administration responded by trying to force the website to shut down, and blocking the website on the school’s network.
My initial thought is that this is an ironic response from a school which prides itself in teaching a Classical Liberal Arts education, one where students read books by people with whom they disagree in order to better understand and engage them. Responding to criticisms of being narrow-minded by censoring a website seems to contradict PHC’s typical approach to teaching students to think for themselves.
The administration’s response also raises an issue that my generation is going to have to figure out as a result of the increasing size of the homosexual community. How do we as the church interact with the homosexual community?
One camp says homosexuality is a sin and must be condemned. This approach can quickly condemn the sinner for their sin. Supporters of this view point to verses like I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10 for support pointing out the seriousness with which God takes this sin.
We should not condone or excuse homosexuality. However, as Christians we should show God’s love and grace to everyone, including homosexuals. The idea of loving the sinner but not the sin should apply to everyone. While Paul does say that homosexuals (along with people who commit a number of other sins) won’t inherit the kingdom of heaven, two verses later he goes on to show the beauty of the gospel.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
This is the beauty of the gospel. The gospel saves those of whom it could once be said “they will not inherit the kingdom.” The cross is the great leveler, and all who have faith in Christ can come to faith.
Following the I Timothy 1 passage where Paul condemns homosexuality, comes one of the most beautiful descriptions of the power of the gospel to redeem the chief of sinners.
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful,appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 1:12-14)
If the gospel is powerful enough to save anyone, do our interactions with the homosexual community reflect that? Wouldn’t that require us to show God’s love and grace to them as we interact with them?
Would a homosexual feel welcome in one of our churches? Probably not. Can we blame them? Tragically not. But how can we reach those who, as a result of our actions, expected to be condemned instead of loved when they came to our church? I am not suggesting we should accept sin, but we should be willing to show God’s love to sinners.
Ironically, we understand the necessity of this much more readily when it comes to the other important social issue for evangelicals: abortion. Murder is regularly condemned in the same breath as homosexuality, and sacrificing infants is vehemently condemned in the Bible. Yet the pro-life movement has learned the importance of showing love to those who have abortions, and even those who perform abortions. We understand that we must love those who have abortions, and seek to show them that God’s love can forgive them even for aborting their child. We understand that we must love those who perform abortions, so they too will understand the love of God and be open to listening to us. We understand this…in the abortion context. For some reason we don’t understand the importance of doing the same thing to those struggling with homosexuality.
In closing I would encourage you to read the stories of two prominent Christians who chose to love homosexuals without condoning their lifestyle. The first tells how the head of the SBC in Oklahoma overwhelmed Soulforce with love when they decided to picket his church. The second tells the story of a gay person giving Rich Mullins a lift. I would encourage you to read these articles and ask yourself what would a gay person think if they interact with you? Would they see God’s love through you, or would the be condemned by you?
This article is not written as a condemnation of my Alma Mater, or those involved in the situation there. I learned a lot through my time at Patrick Henry College, and I deeply appreciate Dr. Farris and the school leadership for the investment they continue to pour into students at the school, as well as their activism on many important issues. The recent situation simply presented an opportunity to address an issue that Christian conservatives should continue thinking about.