Guest Contribution, Artie Van Why
In 1972, I was a freshman at a Christian college. I was fairly new in my faith. And I was gay. My four years there I lived with that secret, and a fear that I was going to hell, pleading with God to change me; afraid to tell anyone.
We are assuring our gay youth that “it gets better.” And it does. I also want you to know you have choices. You didn’t choose to be gay (just as no one “chooses” to be heterosexual), but you can choose how to live with your sexuality.
You can believe homosexuality is a sin and try to change; on your own, by praying or by entering into an “ex-gay” ministry. I tried all three and, speaking from my personal experience and years of meeting other gay Christians who tried doing the same, I don’t think one can become “ex-gay” any more than one can become an “ex-heterosexual.”
You can believe that it is not a sin to be gay, except when acted upon. I know gay Christians who accept their orientation and choose to live a life of celibacy.
You can marry someone of the opposite sex; concealing your same sex attractions, determined you have it under control. I know gay men and women who have done just that. In each and every case, after what might have been years of suppression, they eventually ended up acting upon their impulses; some leading a double life. Inevitably the lies and secrecy caught up with each of them; revealed either by their own confession or an inappropriate situation they put themselves in. Of all these people I know, each of their marriages, except for one, ended in divorce; the unsuspecting spouse’s life shattered, as well as the children’s.
You can decide to be honest with your future spouse, trusting he or she will be willing to partner in your decision to live heterosexually. I know couples who are doing just that. Publicly, they present themselves as a typical heterosexual couple. I don’t know how they conduct themselves in private.
You can choose to reexamine the scriptures that are used against homosexuals and decide if they are speaking out against same sex attraction as we know it today. You can choose to believe God honors a same sex monogamous committed relationship. You can choose to believe you can be both gay and a Christian.
I, personally, lived through years of struggle and anguish after college; trying everything I could to change. The end result was clinical depression and my own thoughts of suicide.
As the years have passed, I’ve come to trust that God does love and accept me as an openly gay man. I do look at those scriptures in a different light. I believe God sanctions any relationship that is loving, committed and monogamous.
I belong to a United Methodist church in one of the most conservative counties in Pennsylvania; the only openly gay man there. I was welcomed warmly by the pastor and the majority of the congregation. My presence there has generated an open dialogue within the church about homosexuality and the Bible. People have told me that their views on homosexuality have changed because of knowing me; some acknowledging I’m the first gay person, they’re aware of, that they’ve known.
Our church now has an outreach ministry to let the gay community know our doors are open to them. That we not only welcome them, we also affirm them, their committed relationships and the families they are creating. Know that there are churches, and Christians, who will accept you as you are.
If we are to be judged it will be by God. Maybe at that time it won’t be a matter of who was right and who was wrong. Maybe God will look at each of us and ask if we lived our lives being true to who we were. Maybe God will assure us that He’s always loved us even during those times we were told He didn’t.
It does get better. And you do have choices. The decisions you come to are between you and God.
Know that, whatever you decide, there is a place for you at the table.
Artie Van Why
By Annie Hunter, Campus Life Editor
American residents come from every corner of the world. Citizens from every religous background reside with the freedom to bring any and all religious beliefs to the table. Surprisingly enough, Americans seem to know almost nothing about religions other than their own, and some didn’t have much knowledge on the religion they professed to believe in.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life created a 32-question survey that tested over 3,400 people on their religious understanding. CNN used a subsequent quiz, taking ten questions that would measure everything from basic knowledge of the Ten Commandments to the Supreme Court’s attitude towards religion in schools. The Enotah Echoes tested Young Harris College students on their religious know-how using the same survey conducted by CNN. No one surveyed by the Enotah Echoes missed less than two questions. However, some missed as many as six out of ten questions.
The majority of the questions missed by students involved a religion other than the Protestant movement of Christianity. The Pew Forum and CNN found similar results. For example, 79.2% of students surveyed did not know that the Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday. The same percentage could also not identify Indonesia as a predominately Muslim country. This could be derived from a multitude of reasons, including a lack of contact with other cultures and Academia’s approach towards religious education.
The YHC demographic involves students who are mainly from small rural parts of Georgia. These areas typically have little diversity, offering less exposure to other cultures. Many students would not have experienced their classmates fasting for Ramadan, which 41.7% of YHC students did not know was Islam’s holy month. Their religious experience comes primarily from going to a Baptist or United Methodist church every Sunday.
“I have a lot of friends from a lot of different cultural backgrounds. I ask questions about what they believe and their customs,” said Kelsey Harris, a freshman early childhood education major from Lawrenceville. “I would also hear about a lot of holidays and events going on because my high school was so diverse. Gwinnet County is so transient; people are coming and going from all parts of the world.”
The school system, while it is not allowed to preach any sort of religion, can teach students about the beliefs and practices of other religions, which 50% of students surveyed didn’t know.
However, most schools seem to skim over other religions’ sacred writings and primarily read the Bible for its literary context.
“Our religion class was focused on Christianity, but our teacher was from India so we were able to learn a little about Buddhism and Hinduism,” said Maggie Neal, a freshman from Elberton.
It’s no secret that YHC is a college that lacks diversity. The majority of students on campus are white, southern Protestants, who according the Pew Forum’s survey knew the least about both the Bible and other religions. Ironically, those who had the highest score were atheists and agnostics. All of this raises an important question: How does America move past its lack of knowledge and learn to embrace its diversity in its entirety? In response, how will YHC open the eyes and minds of its students to religious diversity?
By Holly Meyer, Staff Writer
J.O.I.S.T., a new religious philosophy club at Young Harris College has high hopes for encouraging religious curiosity and open-minded thinking among YHC students and faculty.
The goal of the club is to provide a safe place for students to discuss their personal religious beliefs and ask questions about the religious practices of others without feeling the insecurity of being judged.
The name J.O.I.S.T. stands for Junction for Open Inquiry for Seekers and Thinkers and has quite a powerful meaning for the facilitators of J.O.I.S.T. Advisors for the group include, Rev. Dr.Tim Moore, campus minister, Dr. Nathan Dickman, world religions professor, and Rob Cambell, director for the Bonner leaders.
Each of the advisors expressed a sincere desire to help the diverse student body of YHC find, as Moore describes, “common ground,” something that ties all students of different factions, beliefs and religions together much like a literal floor joist. Moore was encouraged to find that ‘common ground’ with the help of Dr. Dickman, who arrived at YHC this year as a new professor of religion.
“We want to promote some intellectual and personal exploration of faith,” said Moore.
Both Moore and Dickman were able to recognize that YHC has yet to offer a place for the kind of exploration and conversation for inter-religious understanding. Along with students, they want to offer this interaction and discussion to faculty as well.
Eventually, Moore, Campbell and Dickman want the club members themselves to take over and direct the conversation topics as the group becomes more comfortable discussing these themes on their own.
J.O.I.S.T. will have a mix between movies and discussions. Discussions will be lead off of philosophies and practices of religions such as, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and other religions that are fairly un-heard of like, Sikhism, Neo-Pagan and Scientology.
After two meetings, J.O.I.S.T decided to move their meeting location. Previous meetings were held in the Center for Appalachian Studies, but due to the sudden growth in members, they are currently looking for a new place to hold meetings.
“The reason for doing it in the Center for Appalachian Studies was because we don’t want it to feel like a classroom.” said Dickman.
The goal is to make the club as open and comfortable as possible for anybody to be able to talk about what ever topic they want.
J.O.I.S.T. encourages anyone interested in becoming a club member to find them on their Facebook page. The club meets on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m., and they will be posting their new location on the J.O.I.S.T. Facebook page sometime this week.