In recent news, Duke University’s student government voted against giving official recognition to the school’s Young Life chapter due to the organization having a ban on openly LGBT leadership.
This past week, my Facebook feed has been filled with posts by my conservative Christian friends denouncing the university’s position, declaring the school is promoting a socialist, progressive, anti-Christian agenda. There are also numerous posts about this being a violation of constitutional rights and free speech. Here is a link to the article that has been making the social media rounds: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/september/duke-university-young-life-voted-off-campus.html?fbclid=IwAR0NyA_35XMCLRuOpc3S7_J8xrGwhvoNFIZETyH8miF3w9aTr-tVX3GbcN4
So…for starters…let me clarify that I consider myself a conservative Christian. I am a devout follower of Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I believe Jesus is both fully deity and fully man. I believe Jesus is heir to Adam’s covenant with God by which He is rightful ruler over all the earth. I believe Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected. I believe through His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus redeemed mankind from Adam’s covenant with the kingdom of darkness, while simultaneously cutting a new covenant by which we may become joint-heirs with him through renewed relationship with the Father through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God through which God has revealed His nature to us and has instructed us in how we are to live our lives. I believe Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of God… The Logos… The Word… through whom God has revealed His heart toward us and His will for us.
I understand the position by the Young Life organization. I understand they are not intending to exclude anyone, but are attempting to stay true to their understanding of God’s word and protect their organization from infiltration by leaders who do not follow the Bible or do not understand the Bible as they understand it. I support their right to make these decisions for their organization.
I also understand the position by the Duke University student government. They see the position by Young Life organization to ban LGBT leadership as being unnecessarily exclusive, particularly of a group of people who have historically been the objects of intolerant hate speech and even physical violence at the hands of some claiming to be Christians.
What I do not understand is the lack of understanding by my conservative Christian brothers and sisters.
Duke University’s position is not an attack on Christianity… rather it is a stance against intolerance and bigotry. There is nothing about the Duke University position to suggest any ties to any particular economic model. Loving and respecting others is not a progressive socialist agenda… rather it is a following of Christ’s commandment to love one another as He has loved us.
Opponents against the university position point out the inconsistency of the university promoting tolerance and acceptance while simultaneously being intolerant of the Young Life organization for their lack of tolerance of LGBT leadership roles. Yet they fail to recognize their own hypocrisy in denouncing intolerance against their views when the very thing being excluded is their intolerance of other perspectives.
All this bluster about universities being anti-Christian and opposed to free speech… at least in this case… is exactly that… bluster! This is an example of two private organizations having differing views and each choosing to take a stand for what they believe is right. Duke University is a private school, so there is no freedom of speech violation here.
What’s wrong with two private organizations each holding and defending a different perspective? Not a thing. Agreement is not mandatory. However, understanding is beneficial.
Also, this was a student government decision. The students were the ones who made this decision. Plus, nobody has forbidden Young Life from continuing to exist and minister as they see fit. They just don’t have official university recognition as a campus organization. Yes, this does limit their access to campus activities as an officially recognized organization. However, it could hardly be called persecution or silencing.
In many ways, the position taken by Duke University’s student government could be seen as being more faithful to Christian precepts of loving others as Christ loves us than the position of Young Life. Yes, I understand it is a bit more complicated than that. However, as Christians we should at least be willing and able to respect a differing view by someone who is taking a stand based on a desire to honor and respect others.
Remember, this was a student government decision. This decision was made by students… young men and women… probably including young Christian men and women. Based on their moral perspectives, these young men and women decided to take a stand… not a stand against Christianity… rather a stand to support their fellow students… some of whom identify as LGBT. We have every reason to believe these students made their decision based on a loving attitude toward their fellow students and a desire to show their respect for them.
How has the conservative Christian community responded? Based on my social media feed, they have responded primarily by denouncing the decision as anti-Christian and assigning labels (socialist, progressive, anti-Christian, anti-free-speech, religious persecution) to those who made the decision.
Would you like to know how best to convince young adults to leave the church? Sadly, this would be a good start. Watch them make a difficult decision to take a stand based on love and respect, then condemn their decision, call them names, and declare their position as anti-Christian.
Why is it so hard for us to simply admit we don’t have all the answers? Why must we insist on over-simplifying complex issues? What is so hard about admitting that even within the body of Christ we have strongly differing perspectives on how best to demonstrate Christ’s love toward those who identify as LGBT? Can’t we be honest enough to admit none of us has a full understanding of God’s heart? Why must we condemn those who see things a little differently… especially when it is very clear that if they err they err on the side of grace and love toward others… which seems to be generally how Jesus was viewed in the Gospel accounts?
The Bible gives us four accounts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, three eyewitness accounts plus a fourth by Luke the Physician, apparently based on interviews of eyewitnesses. These four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ record numerous sermons, parables, stories and miracles by Jesus. The four gospel accounts are filled to overflowing with red text in our red-letter Bibles. Yet, in all those records, Jesus only gave us one directive that He labeled a commandment. Jesus gave us that solitary commandment as He enacted the New Covenant at the last supper before his crucifixion. The New Covenant… the New Testament… is sealed with a single commandment… a single covenant vow we are sworn to live out.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
I understand the need take a stand based on how one understands scripture. I really do! I wrestle with this myself, on a regular basis.
But when our defense of a particular doctrinal view leads us to condemn and ostracize those who are apparently acting out of a conviction of love toward others… the single commandment by which Christ sealed the New Covenant… the only covenant by which we are redeemed, delivered, sanctified, and promised eternal life… maybe it’s time to reassess our priorities. At the very least, we should openly admit we don’t have all the answers and other perspectives may have some validity.
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9)
Note: any disrespectful comments or name-calling will be deleted.