Championing Every Kind of Diversity—but Christian

Championing Every Kind of Diversity—but Christian

In light of recent regulatory actions, several Christian universities have applied for a government-established exemption from Title IX.  Most of the issues deal with gender identity, mission-fit hiring, and expectations regarding sexual behavior. Universities that apply for the exemption are being targeted by media and accused of doing everything allowable under the exemption.

According to the press, these universities are denying admission to pregnant mothers, expelling out-of-the closet students, and being homophobic to the Nth degree. I know a lot of Christian university presidents. This is neither the practice nor the desire of the ones I know.

So why are schools applying for the exemption?

If a person whose birth gender is male declares to be female and requests to live in the women’s residence hall, is this their legal right? And does it trump the discomfort of the women who live there? If a female declares herself/himself male and wishes to play on the men’s basketball team, is this a right?

If a university established by people of faith, funded by people of faith, governed by people of faith, and led by people of faith has core biblical convictions rooted in 2000 years of orthodox Christianity, do they have the right to an understanding of human sexuality that rises from their faith? Do they have the right to hire persons who respect their viewpoint and live as champions of its narrative? Must the university that has behavioral expectations of sexual purity for heterosexuals look the other way when the two persons involved are homosexual?

Can a student behave as they please sexually on a Christian campus and never be disciplined? Are we really practicing our faith if we do not live according to it? How faithful are we to the founders of these universities if we turn our back on the ethic that moved them to establish a Christian university?

Universities are applying for an exemption to Title IX to protect their right to deal with persons in accordance with their religious beliefs. These are private Christian universities. No one is required to attend. Students can attend a thousand colleges that will allow them to drink, live in co-ed dorms, sleep around, label their gender as they please, and be afforded the sexual privileges of their choice.

But there are those rare universities who seek to live faithfully according to their historic Christian values. Leading one of these universities is challenging. And the people who lead them are some of the most dedicated, loving, and gracious leaders that I know. They are being screamed at, demanded of, called every name in the book, and caricatured for their humble decision to stand against a tide of culture that goes against the grain of their deepest beliefs.

The charge is often made that these universities should comply because their students receive federal funds. One attacker suggested that Christian universities should be stripped of federal aid for their students and “discriminate on their own dime.” I would suggest that a significant portion of these “federal funds” are the paid taxes of Christian people who hold the same beliefs that these Christian universities hold. It is not actually the government’s money. Christians pay taxes, too. And these universities are applying for an exemption established by the government because it recognizes the infringement on religious liberty.

Also, it seems to me that when a student receives aid from federal funds paid by all tax payers, including Christians, that to deny this person the right to choose a college that is consistent with personal Christian faith is discriminatory.  That is, if the student chooses a school offensive to Christian practice he/she will be eligible for the aid; but if he/she chooses a school congruent with the practice of faith, he/she is denied that same help.

Arguably, this is not only a denial of “free exercise” rights but approaches a violation of the non-establishment clause as the government is using federal aid to favor a school whose religious beliefs are acceptable to the government.  This is not only a denial of the school’s right to “free exercise” but also a violation of equal protection rights of the student as he/she is treated differently because of religious choice.  It is interesting that, as I read Title IX, schools that have traditionally allowed only students of one sex are not required to become co-ed.  That is, they can continue to practice sexual discrimination on the “Fed’s dime” but those with deeply held religious beliefs cannot receive the benefit of the free exercise guarantee of the Constitution.

Enshrined in our Constitution is the concept of a government that does not establish a religion but provides for freedom of religion. We are a model for the world of religious pluralism. The Old Testament idea of Israel’s king being the son of God, a messianic figure, is neither assumed nor written into our Constitution.

Rather, our founders imagined a world in which religious liberties would thrive. In this world called America, faith-based institutions have been pivotal in establishing our great universities as well as other notable enterprises such as Alcoholics Anonymous, The YMCA, and the Red Cross. Are we really ready to evict this passion from forming future generations?

The recent Cardus study indicates that:

Protestant Christian school graduates are uniquely compliant, generous, outwardly-focused individuals who stabilize their communities by their uncommon commitment to their families, their churches, and larger society. Graduates of Christian schools donate money significantly more than graduates of other schools, despite having lower household income. Similarly, graduates of Protestant Christian schools are more generous with their time, participating far more than their peers both in service trips for relief and development and in mission trips for evangelization.”

As the changing tide of culture and the ranks of the religious “nones” (those who self-identify as atheists or agnostics or say that their religion is nothing in particular) grow, it is vital that faith-based institutions be afforded the freedom to instill orthodox faith in the coming generations. This is what we mean by freedom of religion. A government which prefers a theology of human sexuality and finances it via student aid, is far from where the grand idea of America began.

When a university applies for the government-created exemption, the immediate accusation is discrimination. I grew up in southern Mississippi during the Civil Rights era. I know what racial discrimination looked like then. It was ugly and I hate it to this day.

And it was the people of God who led the way toward racial reconciliation, even as they did in the days of abolishing slavery. Dr. King’s movement started and was supported by churches. Christians even lost their lives fighting for the cause. To liken Christians to violent racists is a far reach. I see little evidence that Christian universities are seeking to harm students in the way that people of color were being destroyed in Mississippi.

We believe in a healing story of grace that addresses the gender confusion and distortion of the world we live in. If the government dictates our understanding of human sexuality, and it is in conflict with our faith, how else do we seek permission to live out our liberty afforded in the First Amendment? The government itself has recognized this conflict by creating the opportunity for the exemption.

I might also suggest that discrimination has not always been a bad word. Once upon a time we respected people who were discriminating in their judgments and actions. It meant that they took everything under consideration, discerned the best course of action, and acted consistently.

It should also be pointed out that our view of appropriate sexual conduct is not only applicable to the LGBTQ community but to any sexual conduct that is outside what we understand to be the biblical practice of sexuality.  That is, we are not addressing the sexual conduct of just the LGBTQ community, but all conduct that is inconsistent with our strongly held views of biblical marriage and appropriate sexual conduct. This standard, then, is not discrimination against any one group, but is a standard that we believe the Bible calls all persons to practice.

In a world that is apparently starving for diversity of every kind, why not permit the diversity called Christian? May we have a voice at the table of opinion regarding the well-being of persons? I know; there is far too much mean-spirited ugliness that has marched under the banner of Jesus. Please forgive us. These “believers” comprise about 5% of the faith-claimers I know. The other 95% care about their fellow human as an expression of their faith. I will not judge the LGBTQ movement by their worst examples. I would request the same regarding Christians.

Our rootedness in Christian orthodox faith has filled the world with hospitals, schools, homes for unwanted children, shelter for the poor, refuge for the exile, medicine and food for the third world, and charity unlike any other faith. We simply ask for the right to form communities and practice our faith in keeping with our understanding of God as revealed in the person of Jesus and the Scriptures. We invite any and all to join us but coerce no one.

Is ours a world that now champions every diversity but Christian?

Comments

  1. Carol Schneidmiller says:

    Excellent, Dr. Boone. As our President of Trevecca Nazarene University, I appreciate your stand and your statement.

  2. Trina Juneman says:

    Tremendous! Thank you!

  3. Incredibly well said, Dr. Boone. You need to be A U. S. Supreme Court Justice. RE: the media, I think it was Mark Twain who said that if you do not read the newspaper you will be uninformed. And that if you do read the newspaper, you will be misinformed. Insightful thoughts.

  4. Pam McGraner says:

    Dr. Boone – thank you for this article. I couldn’t agree more. I’m a firm believer in separation of church and state because our government does not and should not have the right to force one religion on the nation, as a whole. There should not be a sanctioned religion for our government. Freedom of religion is paramount to me. The separation of church and state, in my humble opinion, protects my right to serve Jesus Christ.

    My daughter attended a Christian school from Pre-K through high school. My husband and I made that choice – to sacrifice financially, to send her there. I believe that public schools, who must be open to all faiths or lack there of, must not be discriminatory. I understand and respect that. If I had been unable to send my daughter to a Christian school, I certainly would not have wanted her public school to advocate or force what their religious or non-religious views on her. They must remain neutral. But we wanted her faith & spiritual growth to be part of her academic education, so although it was a financial struggle much of the time we chose to send her to a school where we knew that Jesus Christ was the center, we have never regretted our decision.

    I agree with you 100%. No one is REQUIRED to attend a Christian and/or private university. If you choose to go to a school, you must agree to their guidelines. If you don’t agree, then choose another school – plain & simple. You don’t have the right to accept the rules upon admittance, then decide to rebel or fight said rules as you attend. That is unreasonable and unfair.

    We, as Christians, are indeed taxpayers that pay into the federal monies that are afforded college students and as such, we should expect that fair allotments of that money go to Christian students in need. To do otherwise, is in fact, discriminating against the Christian.

    Thank you for your words on the actions/rhetoric that we often see and hear from some in the Christian community today. Much of it makes me cringe and it saddens me to the core of my being, for I know that those voices seem to be the loudest and they are damaging the cause of winning souls to Jesus. So I’m thankful for people who denounce that type of judgmental and mean-spirited rhetoric in favor of compassion, grace and love.

    I talk with my daughter at least one a week. With each phone conversation and with each visit, I can see true spiritual growth. I see wisdom, common-sense, faith and commitment to Christ continuing to develop, strengthen & mature. I thank God for His hand on her and for guiding her to Trevecca, where I see her being influenced by truly Godly men and women. It is my prayer that our government will NOT do anything that will prevent other young men and women from experiencing what my daughter has.

  5. Jesse C Middendorf says:

    Very well stated! Thank you, Dr. Boone.

  6. Mark Goodwin says:

    Thank you!!!!

  7. Really good article, Dr. Boone. This country is made up of people of all different perspectives and beliefs but lately it seems the only such perspective that is NOT being respected or protected is that of Christians. Attending a Christian college is a choice – if you do not want to abide by the accepted beliefs of the college you choose, then do not go there but don’t force them to conform to your beliefs – and as to the argument about Federal funding, secular colleges and universities that are using tax payer money to fund grants and scholarships are these days sanctioning and banning traditional Christian ideas and beliefs with vigor! They are not – just as they claim Christians colleges are doing – allowing free expression and free thought – its only acceptable if its the beliefs THEY like.

  8. Thank you for this. Clear, reasonable, wise, thoughtful. I am continually grateful for your careful thinking and your convictions.

  9. Loren Gresham says:

    Dan: thank you for articulating the perspective of many frustrated Believers who are being called unspeakable names because of their faith. ‘Diversity’ has indeed been taken over as a concept by persons who would define it in their narrow terms, not in the broadest sense that the term actually means. This very topic is being discussed today at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in Washington, DC, and in discussions of the association’s presidents in visits to Capitol Hill in conversation with their senators and representatives. Your dissection of the arguments being made against people of Christian Faith is poignant and pertinent to these discussions. Hopefully it is being read and understood by some of our policy makers in positions of power.

  10. Dr.Boone,

    A true transgender individual does not change their gender “as they see fit” as you state.

    Many have only arrived at the decision to transition after years of prayer, contemplation, many sessions of counseling and years of struggle.

    The highest rates of suicide are seen among the transgender population.

    From one minister of the Gospel to another please use your words wisely and give dignity to these individuals whether or not you agree with their decisions to transition, or not.

    It’s not a matter of what you’ve said here but how you’ve said it.

    Please edit this to give human decency and respect to a segment of the population in desperate need of it as we seek to reach all with the love of Christ.

    Grace and Peace,
    Andy McGee
    Director of Love Wins.:LGBT

    • Dr. Boone,

      In a recent blog post, Rachel Held Evans addressed MLK day and racial injustice. She delineated some patterns of argumentation that she says are unnervingly similar today as it was in MLK’s time:

      The Bible is declared “clear” on a matter to oppose any challenge to the status quo.

      Those disrupting social norms are said to be threatening the peace and Christian unity.

      Sympathy may be expressed for the plight of the oppressed, but their methods of protest are criticized as “disruptive” or “uncivil.”

      Civil rights are opposed on the grounds of religious freedom.

      Those calling attention to systemic injustice are accused of inciting tensions rather than simply calling them out.

      Deaths are justified because the dead brought it on themselves by committing some infraction. (I’m thinking here of the similarity between justifications for lynchings in the past and justifications for police brutality in the present.)

      (http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/mlk-liberty-trump-historical-amnesia)

      1. We state that we have clear interpretation from the bible with regard to transgender folk.
      2. Your article alluded to the disruption of the status quo that transgender folk would cause in a Christian institution.
      3. We hardly manage to be sympathetic to transgender folk. We don’t really want them in our colleges or our churches. So, it’s just their methods (the phrase Gay and Lesbian agenda comes to mind), but the people themselves that we don’t approve of.
      4. Civil rights (for LGBTQ folk) are opposed in the name of religious freedom all the time.
      5. Attention to systematic injustice is not called creating tension–we can literally get kicked out of the CotN for it if we’re not careful.
      6. Death–Rev. McGee points out that transgender folk are the most vulnerable of an already vulnerable group. That fact is that Christian transgender folk commit suicide at an alarming rate. Posts like this further their alienation and remove them from the Christian community that they need.

      If you were to go back through this post and replace transgender references with references to the African-American community, would the post still be acceptable? What about substituting female terms? Or Hispanic references? There has to be a better way to address this topic and, as a man of great character and intellect, I trust you can find that better way.

  11. Dan,
    It needed to be said and to finally hear it so concise , succinctly and without compromise is refreshing.

  12. It’s a good article and right along the lines of what were were discussing in Brussels (at the EU Parliament) today with leaders in Christian education from across Europe. The Christian community here is struggling to deal with cultural and political discrimination but also realizing that God has put them here for such a time as this to stand in the gap and provide hope and restoration in a quite fractured and desolate environment. On one side we have the desolation of destructive and dehumanizing values and on the other the ideology of hatred for anyone that is unlike me. And then there is the love and hope in the Good News of forgiveness and reconciliation in Jesus Christ!

  13. Jerry Thompson says:

    Christians, as citizens of the U.S do pay State and Federal taxes. Churches and other not for profit organizations do not. If churches lose their tax exempt status then we have a valid argument. As I am sure you are aware, there is a grass roots movement to remove the tax exempt status on Churches and church organizations that promote partisan politics. Even the disciples had to pay taxes, paid for out of the mouth of fishes.

    • You applied individuals (Christians, Jesus’ disciples) paying taxes to institutions paying taxes. Category mistake much?
      You also seem to be equating faithfulness to Christian doctrine and Scriptural teaching with promoting partisan politics. Another sloppy and false argument, but par for the course for those who would legislate and marginalize the Christian church out of legal existence.

  14. Thank you Dr. Boone for your words. They are the voice of “one crying in the wilderness” who prepared the way of the Lord. That way was the way of Holy Love and that Love was manifested in Jesus the Christ as being “full of grace and truth.”
    As a pastor and teacher of theology for over 40 years, I recognize that all theologians ( and people in general) have a controlling motif from which all other beliefs are formed. As a Nazarene, I have been taught that that controlling motif is the Holy Love manifest in Jesus. Yet, the teaching on that Love has been surprisingly void of a definition based upon the paradox of love as both grace and truth. This leaves us as Nazarenes to “sound an unclear trumpet” and allows us to be misrepresented and to misunderstand ourselves the necessity of paradoxical balance in our thinking and practice. All grace and no truth leads to licentiousness. All truth and no grace leads to legalism. I pray every day for the Lord’s Presence to help me live in the balance. Thank you for doing that in your article.
    Unfortunately, as is implied in your article and in may of the responses to your article, this is not merely a religious matter. It is also a political matter. I have just returned from a trip to Williamsburg, VA. I was not only impressed with the desire for religious freedom (admittedly diverse) that was so deeply a part of our history, but also how different our form and exercise of government has become from the intentions of the Founding Fathers (again admittedly diverse in the particulars, but essentially the same. Again, thank you for your thoughtful approach. I believe you have captured the heart of Christianity, the heart of Christ–Holy Love.

  15. David Good says:

    Outstanding, well stated and very well balanced article. Should also be presented to Congress and any applicable court of law.

  16. Sherman Waters says:

    Nicely done. The COTN is blessed to have you as one of our great leaders, theologian, and Biblical scholars.

  17. Oustanding, Dan. Thank you for this message.

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