Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Diversity at OBU: Soulforce Denied Access to Campus

Before I say anything, let me acknowledge the elephant in the room. This is an issue over which our readership is greatly divided. I know that, and I know that probably most of you can guess where I stand. I'm not ashamed of that.

But that's not the point.

It doesn't matter what you think about the LGBT issue, some things will still be true. Those are the things I want to talk about today.

First, in a world where women can hardly get a fair shake, the LGBT community doesn't stand a chance. We may argue over the moral value of such a truth, but it's still the truth. At least I was allowed to be a woman at OBU.

Second, there are LGBT students at OBU. There are not very many of them and they are quiet, but they are there. And so whenever we talk about these things we need to remember what we are doing to some of our own. Because the problem is that too often this issue is framed in terms of politics instead of real peoples' lives.

There is also something else very important to be said. I have heard from all accounts that this visit from soulforce to OBU a couple of weeks ago went very well. And that is to be commended. So do not read this looking for terrible things that happened. They didn't. And I am very glad.

But the truth is this: Soulforce asked permission to come on campus and was denied. They still came and remained on public grounds within and close to campus.

I have been told that students responded to this presence very well. Administration actually also responded to this presence very well-- even if they were there only to explain what areas were public ground.

But why was Soulforce denied access?

It must also be said that OBU and Soulforce have history. Although their previous visits were before my time at OBU, we have all heard the stories. I think it is fair to say OBU was wronged after a past visit.

So perhaps that's why they were not allowed. And that might be fair, although I think I would argue that an institution looking to "live worthy of the high calling of God in Christ"should be the first to extend the hand of forgiveness.

But in a letter to the student body explaining why Soulforce was denied access to campus, Pres. Whitlock said, "Our decision to not permit Equality Ride on our campus is based on our policy of not coordinating campus meetings or events with organizations seeking to challenge our biblically based policies and practices."

So for an institution also claiming to equip students to "engage a diverse world" it seems like an interesting policy which would deny access to anyone who disagrees with how we interpret the bible.

I'm not asking for OBU to change any policies with regards to this issue. But I am asking that we all entertain the conversation. Because as long as we put up barriers between ourselves and anyone who interprets the bible differently from us, the only way we can "engage a diverse world" is in terms of viewing people who are not like us as the other.

Why is this matter important?

Other universities have broken with their convention over this very issue. And if I have to choose between being faithful to OBU's mission statement or partnering with the BGCO-- I'm going to choose against the BGCO every time.

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