By Jeremiah G. Dys
Dear Wheaton Students,
Reading, as an outsider, of your demonstration of a guest speaker at your college, I found myself disappointed in your intellectual honesty and concerned of your spiritual fruit. That you have protested is no big deal. College kids have been demonstrating against things for decades, maybe centuries. Aside from the visible rudeness of ostensibly Christian students demonstrating against a sister in the faith and guest on their campus, it’s your right. Still, whatever gains you hoped for, I think have been lost by your own hand.
The great irony of your demonstration is that, in your efforts to be counter-cultural, you were merely cultural. Indeed, the very purpose of a demonstration is to counter the prevailing cultural thought, yet the reigning cultural narrative emphatically endorses your position. In that regard, it was the speaker, and those who invited her, who are swimming against the tide of the current cultural dialog.
I know that is the case because of what has been reported about you by your colleagues. Those who organized the demonstration named it, “More than a Single Story.” In doing so, what the organizers have clearly hoped to reject is the “single story” of the radically transformed life of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. Here, a woman brings her tale of Gospel transformation, of one that was dead and is now alive thanks to the kind, unwavering, Truth-based, and loving Gospel witness by a Christian family, to your campus and you take up the mantle of the reigning cries by the watching world of tolerance, equality, and demands of unquestioned affirmation.
Let me say it again: Dr. Butterfield came to say that, though culture says we must embrace a sexual orientation that runs counter to the teachings of Christ, because of the kind, hospitable witness of Christians, hers is a life transformed by the Gospel. In your zest to demonstrate, did you miss that message?
Among your demonstration’s demands were that Wheaton become a more hospitable campus towards homosexuals, ridding the campus of supposed (and undefined), “homophobia.” Did you not notice that Dr. Butterfield’s life story is one that held to the same position until Christians extended patient, loving hospitality towards her? Or was that homophobic of those who loved Dr. Butterfield enough to urge her to hope in the Gospel, not her sexual orientation?
Let me put it bluntly: you protested the wrong person with a message that only masquerades as Christian. Taking at face value that you wanted Christians to be more kind, loving, and hospitable towards people struggling with homosexuality, Dr. Butterfield’s life story demonstrates that very ideal. Why demonstrate against that?
But, I suspect that your demonstration was broader than that. It does not appear to me that you simply want the students and faculty of Wheaton to be kinder, more patient, and more loving towards those struggling with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction, you want them to unreservedly affirm homosexuality as not merely equal to heterosexuality, but as something intrinsic to our creation.
My friends, not only does that violate the covenant you entered as a member of your collegiate community, that is not the teaching of two millennia of Christian teaching. Those who have told you otherwise have sold you a warm and fuzzy lie.
Your demands of affirmation of sexual license is the teaching that the world would have you believe and wish you to embrace. Indeed, it is the secularist that is fond of lobbing the same rhetorical grenades your protest tossed on campus; “We are all loved by God” and “I’m gay and a beloved child of God” and talk of “isolation” and campus-wide “homophobia” is not Gospel language. It is the language of a world that is at war with God, seeks only to deny Christ’s redemptive work on Calvary, embraces that which he has clearly forbidden, and ponders, “Did God really say . . .?
What is worse, you clearly have those older and wiser than you on campus from whom you wish not to learn, but believe you ought to teach. There’s a whole discussion there that needs to be had about the generational arrogance of the youth, but you will learn that soon enough. Still, Christianity – to which you claim to hold – exhorts youths like you to listen to your elders. In the meantime, heed the words of Abraham Lincoln: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Your campus chaplain invited Dr. Butterfield for a specific reason, which he must have shared with you in advance: “It was her profound and winsome description of an entire life – sexuality and all – transformed by the gospel that was the most compelling reason for her being invited to speak in chapel.”
And if that were not clear enough, he said again, “My hope is that in telling our personal stories, we will be pointing one another to the ‘story of stories’ found in Jesus’ love for us.”
Your chaplain’s focus, clearly, is where it ought to be: on the transformative, redemptive message of the Gospel. Listen to him. He is calling you to something greater than sexuality. He’s calling you to the thing that matters, the thing to which everything else – including the arc of history – bends: the Gospel.
But more than missing the point of her story for your own, you seem intent on hoping not that mere kindness will be extended toward those struggling with same-sex attraction. Rather, you wish that those that experience it will be encouraged to embrace those feelings and, in turn, that your campus will be mandated to affirm such a decision of grave moral consequence.
Friends, that is not the counter-cultural message of the Gospel; that is the reigning religion of culture itself.
As your chaplain graciously noted of your demonstration: “These are things that matter. It is especially important for us in an evangelical Christian college to challenge one another to think Christianly, to think Biblically, to think compassionately, and to be willing to think counter-culturally.”
It is clear to me that you have the compassionate part mostly down. Where you have failed is in thinking Christianly about this issue. That begins by listening – not demonstrating against – those older, wiser, and more Gospel-focused than you.
If – as I suspect you are – concerned for the soul and well-being of your fellow students, then let me urge you to ask more questions of your chaplain. More than that, be willing to be taught by him. Replace that notion of many youths that we have something to teach our elders with the truly counter-cultural notion that our elders have much to teach us. Study what the Scriptures say on this topic and determine just how counter-cultural those ideas are today. Examine your perceived notions of fairness and equality, how much of that has been inculcated to you by the surrounding world rather than the Gospel?
And, if you want an honest dialog on your campus about same-sex attraction, be sure that such a dialog is not the one-sided lecture those outside of Christ have given you since you were a babe. May those conversations be marked with the meat of the Gospel that leads to repentance, not the milquetoast the world offers that leads only to self-indulgence.
Jeremiah G. Dys, Esq., is Senior Counsel to Liberty Institute, a nationwide religious liberty law firm. As a First Amendment attorney, Dys works with Liberty Institute across the country to restore and defend religious liberty. Dys is regularly featured in local, state, and national print, radio, and television outlets. He lives in a log home on the edge of the country close to Charleston, West Virginia, with his wife and four sons.
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