What Liberty University Taught Me

Two years ago, in the onset of my faith journey, I thought I could put my head down and just get it over with.

I was wrong.

It's not that I exclusively needed my experiences at Liberty to inform the person I am today, but they unwittingly became an invaluable part of who I've become. The friends, the memories, and the cost of coming out taught me - and I'm still learning - much about life and the pursuit of collective justice. I've lived and participated in a culture that blames the victim, vilifies the marginalized, and refuses to acknowledge its own sin.

Still I'm finding, through the trauma, the loss, and the anger, the early signs of a coming spring.

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To the Queer Kids

For queer kids, it's harder than most appreciate to find a safe space.For those of us studying in Evangelical colleges, even primary and secondary private Christian schools, we're met with open hostility.

I'm one of you.

This is an experience few can understand and many belittle, perhaps unwittingly. The inability of your peers to empathize with your situation only adds to your pain. The emotional burden placed upon you time and time again by these same people is immense; most humans don't have to provide epistemic justification for their own existence. It hurts no matter the source. It suffocates, coming in every direction.

Your family, your friends, your professors, your administrators, your pastors, the leaders whose paths you cross - it's overwhelming. Somehow, your desire to love and be loved is a threat to the fabric of culture. And it doesn't make sense. It's not fair. But if there's anything you should know, it's that you're not alone. We're not alone. You're not the first, and you won't be the last.

So this is for you.

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What Evangelical Colleges Can Do for Their LGBTQ+ Students

The Dean of Students asked me a simple question: Given our significant theological differences, how can Liberty hold to its "views" whilst being more hospitable to its LGBTQ+ students?

It's a fair question more administrators need to be asking.

Evangelical colleges can move towards a broader inclusivity without "compromising" their standards of right and wrong, but it will be uncomfortable and seem counterintuitive.

Ask yourself: would you rather win the argument or liberate the oppressed?

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Queer the Church

Queer the Church.

We'll make it as colorful, dynamic, and joyful as we are. We'll make space for hurting people to hurt, for doubting people to doubt, for the disbelieving to disbelieve. We'll feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and give comfort to the mourning because that's exactly what God's Beloved do.

We'll re-appropriate the songs penned by those who condemn us into songs of joy, singing our theology as a witness to our hardship.

We'll read Scripture critically, engaging it with open hearts and open minds, refusing to be shamed by the hermeneutics we were taught to believe.

And we'll stand up to cisheteropatriarchy in every way, shape, and form. No more white-washed, privileged theology with nothing to say on the ills of racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, patriarchy, and so on.

Queer the Church.

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On Taking a Break from the Bible

When existential questions of sexuality and faith uprooted the fragile certainty of my biblicist framework, the Bible quickly lost its appeal. The colorful depth and texture of Scripture assumed an evolving character, one whose apparent hostility to my identity I was reticent to acknowledge. And in the darkest throes of my faith deconstruction, the last thing I felt I needed was another passage of Scripture to trigger a personal crisis in the midst of what was an extended personal crisis.

If I'm honest, I haven't had a consistent practice of reading Scripture in something like a year and a half.

And that's okay.

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President Falwell is Everybody's Problem

No matter what you think of Liberty University as an institution, whether you're in the thick of the controversy or casually observing, it's inevitably crossed your newsfeed or the chyron of your favorite cable news network. Ever the bastion of conservatism - social, political, and theological - Liberty espouses with flagrant pride the ideals of a people in power. As an institution intrinsically tied to the Southern Baptist Convention, its values are that of right-wing Christians, and love it or hate it, it's here to stay.

Thanks in large part to the statements and actions of its partisan president, Liberty swings like a pendulum in and out of the news cycle with exhausting persistence. Ask any student on campus, and chances are they'll respond with exasperation to the give-and-take of controversies swirling around Liberty Mountain.

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Redeeming Rage

Rage.

Sometimes directed, sometimes contained, something akin to a simmering pot of water on the brink of a boiling release. It's both uncomfortable and rewarding, destructive and productive. We've all felt it. We've all attempted to cope with wave upon wave of roiling anger only to have the tide broken against the steadfast rocks of rational thought, allowing ourselves the humbling respite that follows.

Maybe we don't reach that place as quickly as we'd like, finding ourselves keeping the rage tucked within as best we can even as cracks in the dam allow just enough pressure to find its way out such that we are not overcome by it.

And then, for some of us, the dam breaks.

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To My Non-Affirming Friends

What you say to us, no matter your intention or method, can have profound and long-lasting implications in our lives. Your words are powerful, and as Scripture often reminds us, can bring life or death. The same is true of ideas and ways of thinking, with our beliefs having practical ramifications for our neighbors.

This is true of everyone, but especially true for those already experiencing the deadly effects of systemic, religious marginalization. The implicit meanings of these recycled platitudes – formally understood as micro-agressions – can have devastating consequences even if you think they’re the best way of “loving” your LGBTQ neighbor.

While I recognize and respect the ways in which non-affirming Christians endeavor to build bridges without attempting to harm LGBTQ Christians, the following are some of the prominent Christian-ese abstractions that make for poisonous darts lobbed recklessly at the already-wounded.

I do wish to tread carefully at this juncture, and I want you to anticipate my take on these phrases and statements will be followed by a series of kind suggestions – more thoughtful ways of addressing us, even in the midst of dissension, that will help all of us better love one another and our Creator.

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Gay and Progressive at Liberty University

For many of us, who we are today – for better or for worse – exists largely because of the community we found at Liberty.

I write this not as a means of demeaning the value of your experiences and love for the institution – I respect you and consider all of these things tremendously sacred. I’m sure we can agree Liberty University has its share of flaws. Instead, I’m going to give you some honest perspective from my short three years of experiences at the largest evangelical Christian university in the world.

So here’s another piece of my journey, transparently and graciously laid out with the hope you can make space.

This is what it’s like to be in a minority attending a school built by a moral majority.

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