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God, Sex, and Discrimination



Chris Donohoe joined the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship when he was a freshman at Cornell University. By his junior year in 2009, he had become the fellowship's vice president and was looking forward to joining the ranks of the leadership team the next fall. There was only one problem. Chris Donohoe was gay. That's right, gay! Although his sexual orientation had been known by other people in the organization, it was Chris' decision to openly accept his homosexuality that was the final straw. 

"I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to be an openly gay man in a Christian organization," Donohoe stated.

The pastors felt otherwise. In their decision to ask Donohoe to step down from his position as vice president, the fellowship's pastors explained that it wasn't the fact that Donohe was gay that was the problem, but it was because "he no longer believed it to be wrong." In the end Donohoe left the organization.

In December, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear a similar case involving discrimination of openly gay members of the Christian Legal Society at the University of California Hastings College of Law. The CLS claims that they have the right to not accept members who "hold beliefs and engage in conduct contrary to the CLS statement of faith," including homosexuality.

As I See It..

Humanity has an innate tendency to discriminate. Whether it be on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, appearance, socioeconomic status, or which professional football team you support, the fact is that people discriminate all the time. This happens because people are most comfortable when they can identify with and be a part of a smaller "in-group" and not just some anonymous individual bobbing in the ocean of humanity.

This means that there is a tendency for us to look for ways to figure out who is like us (who is in the in-group) and who is not like us (who is in the other-group.) It is part of how we form our sense of identity and a sense of community. Being a member of an in-group—a community—helps us feel as though we are connected and shields us from the distressing sense of isolation and meaninglessness. This important human tendency is natural and only becomes a problem when certain in-groups feel justified to deprive other in-groups of their basic rights.

These two cases of discrimination are worrisome for this very reason. The sense of righteousness displayed by these Christian organizations in their discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation smacks of the very hubris that their savior Jesus warned against. Unfortunately, these  are but two current examples of a very troubling trend among Christian organizations, particularly Neo-Conservative organizations, who carefully take biblical scripture out of context and use it to justify denying entire segments of the population access to opportunities.

It is important to remember that the central teaching of all major world religions is compassion. While it is totally fine to find our own in-group—our own tribe—we should be very careful not to despise others just because they are in a different group, whether they be immigrants, gay, straight, bisexual, non-English speakers, male, female, or whatever. Just as long as they are not Packers fans! ;-)


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