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It’s Still 1967 at Biola University

Jim Burroway

May 24th, 2012

I think the opening paragraph in this report says it all:

Officials at a private Christian university in Southern California held a “family discussion” on Friday after revelations of a community of homosexual students rocked the 100-year-old campus. [Emphasis added]

I had to check the dateline to make sure it was 2012. Biola University is an evangelical campus of 6,000-plus students south of Los Angeles, and they are shocked — actually, “rocked” — to find that a few of them are gay. A group of Biola University students made themselves known a few weeks ago by creating a web site, asking “to be treated with equality and respected as another facet of Biola’s diversity.” That web site drew a lengthy response (PDF: 172KB/4 pages), reminding everyone that “all members of the University community are expected to following the teachings of scripture” before reiterating Biola’s position regarding “any act of sexual intimacy between two persons of the same sex, as illegitimate moral options for the confessing Christian.”

MSNBC has followed up on the group which “has shaken this 104-year-old Christian college”:

Chris Grace, vice president for student development at Biola, said the school would like to engage in conversation with the underground group but has been stymied by the members’ anonymity. “We really are at a disadvantage here because we don’t know who these people are,” Grace said, adding that the university would “love and welcome a conversation with them and that’s what we are hoping for.”

But members of BQU, who would only comment for this story anonymously, fear that by “coming out” they would be punished and possibly expelled. They said they consider themselves Christians “first and foremost” and love Biola, and are not looking to create “a war” on campus, but they are looking to have an open discussion about what it means to be Christian and gay.

Eventually, Members of the group would like to “come out” and be open about their sexuality. “It’s important to our integrity to not have parts of us be hidden even among the Christian community,” a member said.

In 1967, Time reported on what was believed to be the first gay students group in the nation forming on the campus of Columbia University. Like these Biola University students, they too feared identifying themselves. Biola University is only 26 miles from West Hollywood, but 45 years away from the first stirrings of dignity on its own campus. That’s a lot of catching up to do.

Comments

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Elaygee
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

If they accept Federally guaranteeed student loans, they are legally unable to expel students for being LGBT or the school will lose its eligibility to accept them. Want hate? No money.

james
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

The UNIVERSITY is at a disadvantage?

The members of BQU are absolutely correct in being afraid of reprisals. I imagine trustees and big donors are already lining up to demand these student be hunted down and expelled.

If they are all still virgins, though, have they violated the University’s policy against same-sex intimate behavior?

Timothy Kincaid
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

I can’t help but wonder…

Is the name of that piece of art, “Jesus On Stilts”?

Priya Lynn
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

I noticed the same thing, Timothy – Jesus has veeery loooong legs.

Bose in St Peter MN
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

With their FAQ page affirming that pre-marital sex is outside of God’s plan for LGBT folks as much as straight, and their link to Jason Lee’s (founder of Gay Christian Network) statement of beliefs, BQU sticks very close to the Biola boundaries.

In their personal narratives, it’s clear that straight students at Biola date; for BQU members, though, the university draws the line at same-sex behavior without limiting it to sexual behavior. So, it sure sounds like any personal affirmation of LGBTQ identity will be considered “same-sex behavior”. And, a completely chaste dating relationship would be forbidden. But, Biola is thus far avoiding direct or concrete statements on that.

Hence, the BQU questions how the Biola will respond to students in (nonsexual) same-sex relationships.

Incredibly brave and bold steps by BQU members here. Timing it late in the school year might mean that one or two graduating seniors can come out soon.

The school has stated thoughtful intentions, like “We are committed to engaging difficult conversations with humility and love, prayerfulness and care, and all members of the Biola community are expected to treat one another with respect and Christ-like compassion.” All the nice words in the world, though, aren’t likely to stop students who energetically oppose the BQU from outing fellow students to administrators when/if they get the chance.

Timothy Kincaid
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

As a private school, Biola is entitled to insist that their students follow specific behavioral codes. They can even insist that they hold to certain beliefs. But it may not be wise to do so.

Should Biola demand that all students follow a sexual code, that is an expectation that will not harm them. However, should they insist on conformity to ideology, this will not serve them well. Even evangelical kids no longer see homosexuality as a chosen lifestyle and think that those who insist on such nonsense are operating from a realm of fear and hate.

Timothy Kincaid
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

Jim,

I’m not sure that it is that surprising that evangelical colleges should be rocked. They think of themselves as “in the world, but not of the world” and one such distinction is that they do not follow the moral permissiveness of today’s sexual ethics.

It’s a bit like having a school for gay students and having a club form which advocates for a Federal Marriage Amendment. It seems contrary to the very purpose of attending such a school.

Dustin
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

I’m curious if this groups appearing now is related to the somewhat recent appearance of an LGBT group of alumni of Wheaton College, a rather well-known evangelical school.

http://www.onewheaton.com/

Phil
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

Biola University also does not permit practicing Jewish students to enroll, and has an official University policy about not supporting the theory of evolution.

Erp
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

@Phil I suspect Biola would state it permits practicing Jews as long as what those Jews practice is Christianity (they seem to be very supportive of ‘Messianic Jews’).

As for Biology, the department web site lists chiropractor as a possible career. It does not list scientist.

Christopher™
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

And don’t forget that Oral Roberts University has had an unofficial GLBT alumni group, ORU-Out, in some form or fashion for more than 10 years now. (They’re currently on Facebook.)

This inability to deal with anything “unfamiliar” (like gay Christians) reminds me of an odd experience I had at Biola.

I’m a long-time fan of Steve Scott, a poet and alternative Christian rock musician from the UK, who has worked with the 77′s and Charlie Peacock, and who has also had the misfortune of having two records shelved after production, one for A&M and the other for Island Records. Anyway, most people have no idea who he is, but his music and poetry is thoughtful and spiritual without being pretentious or maudlin.

Back in the late 90s, he did a collaborative, multi-disciplinary art project with Gaylen Stewart called “Crossing the Boundaries,” which combined 12 multi-media “found art” pieces with 12 poems set to musical beds populated with bird sounds. Each art piece had a boombox below it containing a CD with all of Scott’s poems on them; set to random play, every person’s experience with the art piece would always be different.

Clearly, this artistic embrace of randomness was just way too much for Biola, so when I arrived there to view the art installation, all the boomboxes were set to the same classical music station, even though the handout clearly indicated the poetry’s important integration with the project. I guess classical music is more “Godly” and understandable than random poetry with bird sounds (even though the bird motif was repeated throughout all the art pieces).

Of course, I switched off the music on all 12 boomboxes to experience the art project as it was intended. But I couldn’t help laughing about the poor individual forced to be responsible for presenting the installation… who likely had utterly no clue about what it was they were dealing with. Evangelicals don’t interact with art very well–just see Thomas Kincade.

But that experience told me all I needed to know about Biola.

Hue-Man
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

Do they only recruit students from Iran, which its president assures us is gay-free? Otherwise, on a campus of 6,000+ wouldn’t you expect 300 or 400 gays and lesbians, if not more, based on how many closeted gay religious leaders there are? Is this one of those schools where you are expelled if you watch Glee?

Inquiring minds.

Donny D.
May 25th, 2012 | LINK

My city’s library system is part of a free, easy to use interlibrary loan network, Link+, that consists of public libraries and university libraries mostly in California.

When I have obtained anti-gay books via Link+, a significant portion of them come from Biola University’s library.

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