Sometimes being a Christian isn’t the easy thing to do, especially when it means talking about things that make us uncomfortable or embracing those whose lifestyles run counter to our own.
Baylor has faced this challenge for many years in regard to its lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender population and has recently been the subject of discussions on the topic.
In just one year, Baylor has moved from the 11th spot on the “LGBT Unfriendly” list in the Princeton Review to receiving no rank on the list at all. This is progress, but the university is still not where it should be.
There are former Baylor students who can recall their experience here with only a negative reaction because of the environment relative to LGBT students. The Sexual Identity Forum has been denied an official charter despite the fact that it has pledged not to become an advocacy organization. And many simply do not see Baylor as a university that loves and accepts those who are not heterosexual.
So we are faced with a difficult situation, but that situation has the potential to teach us all something about what it means to be Christian.
If we want to call Baylor a Christian university, we have to change the way some of us continue to treat the LGBT population. We have to hold out open arms to our neighbors, as Jesus would. We have to stop judging others and admit that even if we see homosexuality as a sin, we are all sinners as well.
We’re called to be Christians, and that means loving unconditionally, treating our neighbors as we would like to be treated no matter what our differences are. This does not mean we have to advocate for views that we don’t believe in. In keeping with Biblical tradition, Baylor has a policy against homosexual conduct and groups that advocate such behavior, and we support this.
However, when groups such as the Sexual Identity Forum come forth to ask for a charter, they should not be denied. The group says it does not advocate homosexual behaviors, but instead attempts to foster conversation on campus.
That is a brave goal at a university where some LGBT people still do not feel welcome or accepted. And further, it could help all of us. Conversation can be the best tool for unifying groups of people, for eliminating social stigmas and for creating a more honest atmosphere.
If the university does not feel that a chartered student organization is the best way to bring about “healthy and responsible dialogue,” as Lori Fogleman, director of media relations, told the Lariat last semester, we would like to see the university establish its own “professionally facilitated program” that would allow LGBT and straight students to talk about these issues together.
College is supposed to be a place where two sides of an issue can be laid out, discussed and debated in safety. It is supposed to be a haven for thinkers, for debaters, for people who are trying to figure life out before facing “the real world” head-on. And that doesn’t just apply to philosophies or scientific theories or business models. It applies to social issues, practical issues, the things we all face in our day-to-day lives – things that aren’t necessarily debated behind classroom doors, but that should be openly debated by groups of students or in forums on campus. And as a Christian university, Baylor is called on to be such a haven. We are required by our title to guide students as best we can, to listen with love, and to know where the boundaries of judgment lie.
We do not have to approve of the LGBT lifestyle or support advocacy groups. But we must choose to either do our best to love all of our neighbors or else recognize that we are not, in fact, the Christian university that we claim to be – and we all know that is not an option.
So we can start with communication – listening to one another and trying to understand one another – and follow that with the unconditional love we are called to give. It may not come to us easily or quickly, but being a Christian will always be work.