Over the weekend, someone who is a member of the Calvin College Support and Celebration group shared an interview of Calvin College’s new president, Michael Le Roy.
Don’t let the article’s subtitle mislead you when it promises that we’re going to talk about something besides homosexuality.
At the bottom of page three he starts talking about the “biggest theological challenge” facing Calvin College in general terms of how do we call others to follow Christ? How do we gracefully ask people to carry their cross without watering down our message and yet communicate compassion and sympathy when the message seems hard?
By the top of page four, Dr. Le Roy is directly applying these questions to the college’s gay student population and that’s how the article ends with the president reflecting on Calvin College’s continued desire to avoid “political” issues.
Go ahead and read the article for yourself. I myself am very disappointed in Dr. Le Roy’s seeming commitment to keep on keepin’ on with regards to the LGBT community on campus. But I’m disappointed not simply because Calvin College and its new president are keeping to the same path they’ve been on for years – that’s no real surprise. What’s more surprising is that Dr. Le Roy, unprompted, decided to make the connection between the call to carry one’s cross and Calvin’s LGBT community – as if they needed any reminding of the cross they have to carry!
To a certain point I appreciate the humility that comes through when Dr. Le Roy says, “Anybody who speaks in platitudes or thinks it’s simple to be a faithful and wise Christian in these issues [regarding homosexuality] is overlooking something.” When you consider that the group he’s speaking to is primarily hostile to the LGBT crowd, this kind of aside matters.
Dr. Le Roy and many others at Calvin College don’t want to be “political”, which I interpret as meaning controversial – which you may also interpret, if you wish, as meaning that they don’t want to upset donors.
By my definition of what it means to be “political” in this context, Calvin College is ignoring the Gospels. Jesus was never one to avoid controversy. During his ministry, Jesus associated with tax collectors and Samaritans – two groups of people who were viewed in many ways as the LGBT community is viewed by many in the Church today.
Jesus called on the Samaritan woman and the tax collector both to go and lead good and honest lives – which he calls each of us to. He didn’t tell the Samaritan woman to be Samaritan no more or the tax collector to change professions.
This comparison, of course, is far from perfect so I don’t want to push it too far.
When Jesus went to oppressed groups of people or when he spoke to those who were looked down upon by the who’s who of religious society, he never went to them with a message of, “Here. Take this cross and follow me.” He went to them with a message of liberation and freedom that he had to offer. He went to them with hope.
The most difficult message that Jesus had to give was to the wealthy man, the individual of privilege, who was respected and virtuous. When he asked what else he must do to enter God’s kingdom, Jesus said that he must adhere to the law – which he already did, the man said. What else? Go, Jesus told him, sell all you have and follow me. The message was difficult for him since he was so well off.
That’s quite the burden! And Jesus didn’t go giving this burden to the downtrodden. He gave this message to the well-off and powerful.
A little bit of humility from those who carry on Jesus’ message today would be a good starting point. Simply saying, “I’m sorry you feel bad about our message to you” is hardly an embodiment of humility or grace.