Soldier On! w/Leroy Garrett Occasional Essays
Essay 115 (3-30-06)
SOULFORCE VISITS ACU
It is understandable if the officials at Abilene Christian University would be apprehensive about a visit from Soulforce, a task force of about 30 men and women, traveling by bus, whose mission is to "seek justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered people through nonviolence, and changing the hearts and minds of anti-homosexual people."
In what they call an Equality Ride, they will over a seven-week period call on a score of religious and military institutions that have discriminated, in one way or another, against gays and lesbians, as they see it. Among the universities – all professing to be Christian – are Liberty, Regent, Lee, Brigham Young, Oral Roberts, Oklahoma Baptist, Union, Wheaton, and ACU. The military institutions include Texas A&M, Air Force Academy, and West Point.
Soulforce complains that these institutions have policies that force hundreds of students to "closet" themselves lest it be found out that they are homosexual, and thus suffer reprisals and even expulsion. As they put it, they "seek freedom from religious and political oppression" for these marginalized students.
ACU was their seventh stop, and it was the first time they were allowed onto a campus and were received graciously and courteously. Lee University – located in Cleveland, Tn. -- provided them police escort from the county line to the back side of their campus, alongside a muddy football field, far removed from the central campus. There they were to stay. Some Lee students came to see the spectacle. Soulforce formed a small mound of dirt, and a former Lee student, who had been expelled for being engaged to another female student, stood on the improvised stage and preached "the Sermon on the Mound"!
While this was going on their bus was painted with anti-gay symbols, one being "Fag Mobile."
Soulforce got a mixed signal from their proposed visit to Oral Roberts University: "We love you, but don’t come onto our campus." Nine of the group were arrested when they ventured onto the campus to talk to students.
They are apparently a talented group. When allowed – or even when not allowed – on or near campuses they hold prayer vigils and have sing-songs. When permitted – as they were at ACU – they show a video depicting the persecution of gays and lesbians, especially by religious people.
Royce Money, president of ACU, in anticipation of Soulforce’s visit, explained in a mailout that the university had two options. One was confrontation, which ran the risk of demonstrations and arrests. The other was dialogue based on love and reason. They chose dialogue. Money said he wanted people to see from this that "Christians are kind, thoughtful, respectful people who can discuss any issue in the context of our spiritual values." The university would make its position clear, that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that sex is to be only in marriage, Money said. The university provided several venues in which there was just that – dialogue – with both students and faculty.
By responding in this way ACU demonstrated that we can disagree without being disagreeable, and that we can be gracious to people without approving of their lifestyle. And Soulforce at last saw Christians who responded to them not only with Christian grace, but with both maturity and security. When we are mature and secure in our relationship to Christ, we will not fear people whose sins are different from our own.
You will notice the way I put that – we are all sinners before God, only in different ways. Paul’s lethal list of sins in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 has some interesting inclusions. He lists adultery and fornication, but also name-calling or reviling. He includes homosexuality and sodomy, but also covetousness and greed.
And I suspect the apostle would see these sins as fairly equal in the eyes of God. He would not likely make a big deal of any one of them to the neglect of the others. It is altogether possible that pride, arrogance, selfishness, and greed are as offensive to a holy God as sexual sins, whether heterosexual or homosexual.
I can’t help but wonder how a busload of fat and greedy business men from corporate America – and of course well-heeled – would be treated at Lee or Oral Roberts. And if their bus would be graced with "Greedy Fat Cats" And if they would be arrested for talking to students.
I suspect ACU would also welcome them to campus, sinners though they be. Would there be protests? – ACU welcomes greedy and covetous people to campus!
But with that said, it should nevertheless get our attention that of the ten sins listed by the apostle in 1 Corinthians 6 four are sexual in nature, two of which have to do with homosexual behavior – fornication or sexual impurity; adultery or breaking of marriage vows; homosexuality or effeminacy; sodomy or intercourse between two males.
It is remarkably informing that Paul the apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, would include both homosexuality and sodomy in his list of ten sins. If they are sins for which one is responsible and must give an account, then they can’t be natural or innate. If one is "born that way," then it could not be a sin, and the apostle would not have listed it. This conforms to findings of modern science. There is no more of a "gay gene" than there is a "greed gene." Sin is always by choice or it is not sin.
That is not all. The apostle saw these ten sins as redemptive – people can turn from them and be changed. He goes on in verse 11 to give remarkably good news: "Such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." Some in the Corinthian church had been homosexuals and sodomites, but they had turned from such sins by the power of the gospel.
Pray tell me, how could it be any plainer than the apostle makes it?
If Soulforce is interested in serious dialogue – and assuming they are Christians as they claim – then we invite them to come to terms with the biblical mandate for redemption from homosexual behavior.
If their Equality Ride means they want equality in terms of justice and freedom, and to be treated with common decency, then of course we are with them all the way. But if by "equality" they mean that homosexual behavior and gay marriage are to be accepted as equal to what the church has always stood for – God-ordained marriage between a man and a woman – then we take our stand against their mission.
The church cannot – and in my opinion will not – yield ground on this biblical principle. Like our Lord, the church will lovingly work for justice and fairness for all human kind – and we will abhor and repudiate all forms of tyranny and oppression. But also like our Lord, our prayer and our mission will always be, "Not our will, but yours be done."
Ouida and I are back in the thick of things at home, and with the energy of octogenarians. Last Sunday I went with Brady Bryce, minister at our home congregation, to the Skillman Church of Christ in Dallas for an ACU Distinguished Alumni Award presentation. ACU, president Royce Money presented the award to cherished friend, Charme Robarts, minister of involvement at Skillman. Among the accolades was one from a brother at Skillman who praised Charme for being such a caring minister. Brady and I afterwards shared the evidence of how things are changing in Churches of Christ -- a man praising a woman for being a good minister!
I will address the Pecan Grove Church of Christ in Greenville (1306 Jack Finney Blvd) this Lord's day at 10 a.m. on Ps. 137. This congregation is our church away from home to Ouida and me.
All these essays are available under "Solder On" at www.leroygarrett.org