It was no ordinary start to the week as Monday evening’s event dominated conversations over lunch, reverberated among routine cross-campus treks and commandeered pre-class small talk.
Drawing in more than 70 students, faculty, alumni and community members, Gsg, the unofficial gay support group on campus, organized a showing of the film “For the Bible Tells Me So.”
After Rein Vanderhill, professor of art, sent out an e-mail promoting the event that closed with “Sponsored by the Northwestern College Gay Support Group Gsg,” President Greg Christy sent out an e-mail that said, “The e-mail inaccurately implies an official Northwestern College sponsorship.”
Christy included Northwestern’s stance on the issue. “Consistent with the position of the Reformed Church in America, the college lifts up the Christian ideal of marriage between a man and a woman and contends that all sexual intimacy shall be within the bounds of such marriage.” Also, Christy stated that “the college welcomes dialogue about controversial social issues.”
The movie focuses on specific passages in the Bible that are often used against homosexuality and interprets them in new light. It offers a variety of opinions and views on homosexuality from citizens, such as homosexuals, pastors, families and Christians.
Following the movie, attendees gathered in small groups to discuss their opinions and reactions to the topic and film specifically.
“I really wanted people to become aware of the fact that homosexuals are marginalized and are treated as second-class citizens,” said Greta Floding, one of the group’s organizers. “A lot of the people who are treating them this way are Christians.”
Some students and faculty felt the event was constructive, including Vanderhill. “The small group discussions that followed were all kind and civil, even though there were different opinions expressed. I just wish we had more opportunities for heartfelt discussion over serious or controversial topics.” Vanderhill said.
While civility was generally maintained, some observed otherwise.
“We wanted to talk about the hate crimes that are present surrounding homosexuals and bringing love to everyone,” sophomore Jeremy Bork said. “There were people there who had a different agenda. Those opposed wanted to persuade others that homosexuality is a sin, when that’s not what we wanted to talk about.”
After hearing “grown men yelling at college girls,” Bork said, “Our group’s discussion turned into us just praying because the discussion was not Christ-like.”
Others felt the film was close-minded and selective with the Scriptures it used, limiting the discussion and impact that could follow.
“[The film] kept quoting Leviticus, where it states that homosexuality is an abomination. But there’s a lot of other scriptural evidence against homosexuality,” said junior Josh Gross. “That frustrated me. It’s obviously not Christian to murder or use other violence [against homosexuals], but there is biblical support to show that homosexuality is wrong.”
Gross appreciated the following statement from Christy’s campus-wide e-mail: “It’s good to learn about views different from your own.” However, he contended that he wouldn’t want Northwestern to endorse the messages portrayed in the film.
Another issue some had with the film was the overall message, which was the reinterpretation of many passages of Scripture.
“We can recognize that there is a debate whether homosexuality is sinful. An important thing that was missing from the movie was the priority of the love of Jesus,” said sophomore Abe Klafter.
For some, the film opened their views of the topic.
“The film helped me to see that the topic of homosexuality and the Bible can be much more complicated than I understood,” said senior Chelsea Stanton. “As someone with a very conservative church background, I am well acquainted with those biblical passages that seem to condemn homosexual behavior. The contrasting opinion in the film helped me to recall that each reading of Scripture involves interpretation.”
Stanton observed from a smaller group afar that the larger, heated discussion “between the student organizers of the event, some community members and lots of onlookers eventually involved shouting and crying and closed in prayer initiated by Greta.”
Emotions and insights were certainly stirred, especially for Stanton. “The hate revealed toward gay people in the documentary and hateful incidents that have happened on our campus toward homosexuals and those supporting them makes me feel the need to question the conservative stance on this issue.” Stanton said, “If understanding God’s truth causes you to vehemently hate, maybe you need to take another look at your position.”
Have opinions on this issue? Feel strongly about the group and/or its presence on NW’s campus? Send in your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or discuss online at beacon.nwciowa.edu.