Friday, September 16, 2011

My meeting with a group of amazing students

Sorry, I'm tardy posting here the last few days. I can't use jet-lag any longer as an excuse, but I've had a steep re-entry catching up after a month away.

On Thursday evening I was the guest of the Queer Student Union (QSU) at the University of Virginia (yes, I know the name startles some of you. It is the successor to the Gay Student Union, and in current LGBTQ circles it is thought that "Queer" encompasses a wider understanding of sexuality and takes back a pejorative term from the haters. In any case, I was a guest and pleased for the opportunity to meet students and answer questions).

The reason that I was invited was that a small group of students have applied for recognition for an organization that purports to help gay students change their sexual orientation by reading them the Bible. Such "therapy" is not recognized by psychiatric experts, could be harmful or confusing at best, and frankly, is theologically suspect and makes the Bible into weaponry. The proposed organization prompted the QSU leaders to invite religious leaders to talk with them about this.

I was delighted to accept. More than 50 students were there.

We had a wonderful, free-ranging conversation Thursday evening, and we didn't get finished until well past 10 pm. We talked at length about conflicting biblical interpretations, ancient holiness laws, and modern understandings of marriage. We talked a lot about hate groups that claim to be "Christian," and how to talk with family members who have a hard time reconciling their faith beliefs with sexual orientations that are different than their own. We talked about stereotypes of LGBT people -- and stereotypes of Christians. And we talked about what all students talk about -- daily pressures, expectations, maintaining friendships, exploring new ideas and being away from home.

One thing I tried to emphasize with all of these students. Each one of them is a gift to a very hurting world. I asked them to engage with people who are not like them, so that by being themselves they might change hearts and minds one person at time. I much enjoyed our time together and I hope we can do it again soon.

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