At evangelical colleges, a shifting attitude toward gay students


Combing through prayer requests in a Wheaton College chapel in 2010, then-junior Benjamin Matthews decided to do something “absurdly unsafe.”

He posted a letter on a public forum bulletin board near students' post office boxes. In the letter, he came out as gay and encouraged fellow gay Christian students – some of whom had anonymously expressed suicidal plans in a pile of the prayer requests – to contact him if they needed help.

In a student body of 2,400 undergraduates in the suburbs of Chicago, at what is sometimes called the Harvard of evangelical schools, Matthews said that 15 male students came out to him. Other students seemed somewhat ambivalent about his coming out, he said.

No one told him he was wrong or needed to change, Matthews said some students were obviously uncomfortable with someone who would come out as gay and remain a Christian.

“I don’t think most Wheaton students knew what to do because they've been given ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ rhetoric, but they don't know how that plays out in real life,” said Matthews, who graduated in 2011. “They would mostly just listen, nod and say, ‘Yeah man, that’s hard.’”

As is the case at many evangelical colleges, Wheaton students sign an agreement to not have sex outside of marriage, including "the use of pornography … premarital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior and all other sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage."

Written By: Sarah Pulliam Bailey
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  1. If any attendees of Wheaton are reading this: perhaps it’s time to stop ‘questioning’ your sexuality (I’m sure you already know it) and start questioning your religion. Life might just become a lot simpler. I feel really sorry for religious gay people. It’s not you that is wrong; it’s the horrific ideas that you’ve been indoctrinated with. With homosexuality, there is neither sinner nor sin. Many (perhaps most) atheists don’t hate you or your orientation.

    Without religion, you need feel no guilt or shame whatsoever.


  2. Control, control,

    As is the case at many evangelical colleges, Wheaton students sign an agreement to not have sex outside of marriage, including “the use of pornography … premarital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior and all other sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage.”

    No shagging, no wanking, no porno, oh, and marriage is for the procreation of offspring, no pleasure allowed. As many as kids as possible please, and no abortions either !

    I think Irate Atheist had the best word to describe these Christian dictators:


  3. What we see here happening is the usual pattern that happens when a religious position finally gets dragged, kicking and screaming, unwillingly, to a place where the secular world had already gotten to much earlier.

    The religious will retroactively take credit for the change.
    The first step is to find one possible alternate way to interpret the religious writings to change their meaning into one that matches the new way the world is thinking.
    The second step is to pretend the new interpretation was actually the intended way all along and everyone interpreting it the old way was clearly in error.
    The third step is to pretend the new interpretation not only was the intended way, but also was the majority opinion amongst the religious all along in the past, and the people using the embarrassing older interpretation must have been a vocal minority.
    The fourth step is to then belittle everyone who calls “bullshit” on what’s going on there in steps 2 and 3 and pretend they’re being “unsophisticated” – basically, to pull a Karen Armstrong on them.

    It’s good that religious colleges are changing their attitudes about this. But it’s a shame that it will probably follow the same inevitable pattern outlined above, again, and again, and again. Expect in a few decades to start hearing religious people claiming atheists were the homophobes and it was the religious who were speaking out against them, and anyone who says otherwise isn’t “sophisticated” enough or “nuanced” enough.

  4. As long as the main dipsticks in charge of the major delusions continue to spout vileness and bigotry, and they rarely spout anything else on this subject, then I will take a rain check for now on celebrating any seeming gains in acceptance or even tolerance especially in evangelical surroundings.

    It is not the students as much as the ‘authorities’ that like spite and threat in equal measure, and as far as can be ascertained that has not changed one iota.

    The students might well be egalitarian in private on this matter but if a pass mark depends on holding or openly expressing a bigoted attitude, then we have not advanced that much.

    How many generations will it take?, well that is indeed the question, another two at least by the shape of things but in another two generations it is highly probable that atheism will be the highest statistical position in any national Poll held anyway.

    It seems it will all come crashing down at once…bigotry….racism….jeebus drooling…euthanasia…abortion…womens rights…etc etc.

    We are seeing the beginning signs of that implosion of xtian dominance, but we are far from there yet to be complacent.
    Of course the major opposition to xtianity is also having problems, there is a backlash fermenting quietly to Islamic intrusion but it is still a major hurdle to peace in the world.

    Two generations will see off the bulk of the xtian delusion in terms of a political tool, what replaces the vacuum that diminishment in influence leaves is the question, and that is far from clear!

    Possibly smaller cults but due to lack of cohesion or will, there will still be enclaves of ignorance masquerading as moral.
    It is doubtful that scattered cults would have the ear of any government seeing as there would be many and more and all spouting poppycock in fatuous nonsense, who to listen to?, depends who can deliver the largest block vote traditionally, but if that bulwark splits and schisms into a myriad globules of balserdash, then tis another ball game.

    Maybe the ‘new spritualism’ will manifest as wandering bands of jeebus hippies strolling in the desert, maybe even a Mad Max version where violence is the currency of righteousness the bigger the gun the more righteous you are!

    Possibly an upsurge in Pagan or Wiccan interests, that does have some merit by the scuttlebutt in Paganism these days.
    Membership doubling year on year, and local covens with ‘effing waiting lists…!

    What can you say?

    One thing is fairly obvious, the traditional Sunday outing to the local mythological emporium will not be the the way of the ‘new spirituality’

    And folk being folk, no matter how advanced a society in technology or standard of living, vestiges of the gobbly gook trait still tenaciously cling on to the dangly bits…it seems it is the curse of humanity.

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