I came across a great article today on The Atlantic written by a former student who happens to be gay. He grew up in a Christian conservative home, had a Christian conservative girlfriend during high school, made his way to Liberty University, then realized he could no longer hide his homosexuality.
One would think that this article would be chock full of insults towards the university, its students, and professors. That is what people would expect from those small-minded, homophobic people who "call themselves Christians" right? It isn't. It is a story of the love and compassion he received from the students and staff at Liberty. He goes as far to mention the late Jerry Falwell and says that he knows that even he wouldn't have shown him "hate".
This was the reaction from the first professor he told:
She got up from her chair, and rushed over to me. I braced myself for the lecture I was going to receive, for the insults she would hurl, for the ridicule I would endure. I knew how Christians were, and how they clung to their beliefs about homosexuals and Sodom and Gomorrah, and how disgusted they were by gay people. The tears fell more freely now because I really liked this teacher, and now I ruined our relationship.
"I love you," she said. I stopped crying for a second and looked up at her. Here was this conservative, pro-life, pro-marriage woman who taught lectures like "The Biblical Basis for Studying Literature," and here she was kneeling down on the floor next me, rubbing my back, and going against every stereotype I'd held about Bible-believing, right-leaning, gun-slinging Christians.
When I heard her sniffle, I looked up at her. "It's going to be ok," she said. "You're ok." She nodded her head, squeezed my shoulder, and repeated, "I love you."
This is what people don't understand, there is a huge difference between the action and the person. As any good Christian will tell you, you hate the sin, but love the sinner. Christianity is supposed to be about redemption and hope. They will also tell you that they themselves fall short of God's grace every single day and it is a constant struggle to try to walk with Christ everyday. You will stumble, you will fall, and yes, you will fail. The point being is that you continue to work towards it. You get up everyday and admit you are sinner and try to be better.
Look, I am not enough of a Pollyanna to say that their aren't people who "hate" homosexuals. Of course there are. But let's be honest here, not all of them are "Christians". People who have little to no faith in their life feel that way as well. The "punishment" for homosexuality in the Muslim world is death. So the problems that face gay people go way beyond Christians. But if people really look they may be very surprised at what they find at places such as Liberty University:
When people find out I underwent therapy at Jerry Falwell's Christian college, they assume I went through something like gay reparative therapy. But that isn't what happened. I saw two counselors at Liberty—Dr. Reeves also had me meet with Ryan, one of his grad students, once a week—and neither of them ever expressed an interest in "curing" me. Did they have an agenda? Yes. Their goal, which they were very honest about, was to help me to like myself, and to find peace with the real Brandon. I remember one time telling Dr. Reeves I felt like I was being a different Brandon to each person in my life. Dr. Reeves raised his eyebrows and asked, "Isn't that exhausting?" Dr. Reeves and Ryan knew I was tired of hiding and lying, and living in fear and subjection to others' opinions; and so they told me that I should try liking myself because, after all, I was a likable guy and they enjoyed spending time with me.
I ended up sitting under Dr. Reeves and Ryan for three more years. Most gay people couldn't be paid to attend Christian counseling. But me? Well, those sessions were the highlight of my week. Not only did I get to spill all of my juicy sex gossip (which I always did, usually just to try to gross them out... which never worked!) but I got to talk openly with two men who loved me for no other reason than being Brandon.
I'm still friends with both of my counselors. Just yesterday, Ryan told me that when my partner and I come to visit, we're always welcome to stay at his house.
Living in Virginia and being involved with many Christian conservative movements I have met many who went to Liberty University. I have heard the good and the bad about the place. What I have never heard was one single student say was that they didn't feel loved by the faculty and staff.
I am so happy he had the bravery to tell his story and do so on a very left leaning site.