Letter to the Editor: Hate comes home: LGBTQ & Calvin

I write this letter as a lifelong Christian who has attended multiple churches, volunteered in youth groups, and read the Bible for many years. I am deeply troubled by the direction some Calvin students have taken.

Recently, a stand on Commons Lawn sparked a long overdue conversation about LGBTQ students at Calvin. The ensuing day, students posted on Instagram, administration sent emails, and professors made statements, taking sides on the issue. 

Many offered empathy and support for the LGBTQ community at Calvin, whereas others choose to assert that those who are LGBTQ are sinning. Further, some other students have taken this moment to focus on free speech rather than the harm caused by the poster. All sides would likely claim they are biblically correct.

However, if you were paying attention, this was a problem before that table on Commons Lawn. I have heard other students say, “all gays are going to hell” to my face before, when I presented on why I think we should be better educated on issues that affect the LGBTQ community. I may only be an ally to this cause, but I feel strongly about protecting the lives and mental health of everyone with diverse sexual orientation and gender identities.

I have no doubt that harmful perspectives like this flourished in certain dorm rooms, student organizations, and social media for years. The people at that table that day were just willing to put it all in the public. Whereas the administration of Calvin University has been lukewarmly accepting LGBTQ students, many students here have discreetly held prejudice and judgement towards those same students.

The Christian religion has long been associated with discriminatory action: petitioning against needing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, spending a number of years legislating against marriage between two, gay, consenting adults, and spending years of early American history proclaiming that slavery of hundreds of thousands of Black people was a “biblical” idea. For so many years, Christian have been successful in oppressing others through legislation and social stigma, wielding the Bible as their sword. Today, many of them try to do the same thing and are upset when rebuked.

Make no mistake, love is not what drives a desire to discriminate, fear and hate do. The talking point of “to be gay is to sin” was used for years to treat people unfairly and with immense harm. Those who say the same thing today likely want the same thing Christians have wanted for hundreds of years: the moral high ground to hurt others how they feel is fit.

Any person of any sexual orientation, gender identity, and background should be welcome at Calvin. While I hold that freedom of speech must be allowed on campus (by principle, not by law), hateful rhetoric must be met with strong condemnation everytime it rears its ugly head. Now that white supremacy, homophobia, and transphobia discreetly slide into public discourse under the guise of “public debate” and “free speech”, and we must be vigilant in rebuking and disputing those notions.