The rules state everyone must remain celibate — but straight students can kiss and date, while gay students can’t. A student banned from selling cupcakes to raise money for LGBTQ homeless youth. And an openly gay “ministry associate” who felt pressured into quitting by alumni and donors.
Welcome to the Christian campus circa 2016, when many such schools nationwide are trying to be more welcoming to LGBTQ students while still staying true to antigay Christian doctrine. A story by The Atlantic‘s David Wheeler examines the contradictions this creates, such as policies telling all students to remain celibate but allowing straight ones to date and engage in physical interaction while forbidding gay ones those pleasures.
Says one bisexual student at Messiah College in Pennsylvania: “The joke among my friends is that you can be gay at Messiah, just so long as you don’t act gay, or say gay things, or do anything to show you’re gay.”
Schools that have lifted all restrictions against same-sex dating or marriage, such as Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College, have had to withdraw from national associations of evangelical colleges.
Such schools are trying to adapt to a new generation of evangelicals. A Pew survey last year found that roughly half of millennial-age evangelicals think that society should totally accept LGBTQ people. Meanwhile, a Human Rights Campaign report recently highlighted Christian college seeking exemption from federal LGBT nondiscrimination rules while still receiving federal money.
It seems such schools have a long way to go in clarifying their positions toward LGBTQ students.
“Romance and self-identity get lumped in with sex, and just tossed in the same pile,” Justin Lee, head of the Gay Christian Network, told The Atlantic. “And it leaves a lot of students wondering: Even if I don’t have sex, am I going to get expelled or disciplined in some way if I come out, or if I have a relationship — even if it’s a non-sexual relationship?”