Wheaton College, Billy Graham's amla mater and the site of the 2002 Exodus Freedom Conference, welcomed Soulforce's 'Equality Ride' this week. From the Chicago Sun-Times:
"We're hopeful that God will manifest himself today, and that the truth will be revealed in meaningful discussion," College Provost Stan Jones told the equality riders. "We hope our students reflect well what our school is all about."
[Equality Ride's Jacob] Reitan told a reporter that he appreciated Wheaton College's hospitality, but he didn't want to sugarcoat Soulforce's visit.
"Wheaton is categorically different from most schools," he said. "Wheaton College not only expels students who practice homosexuality but who also affirm homosexuality. We do not believe that students should have to face this kind of discrimination."
"Sexual intimacy belongs with the confines of marriage," Jones said. "We don't single out homosexuals. But we do stand on historical and biblical Christian beliefs that have remained the same over the centuries."
It's great that the Riders are getting a chance to see for themselves that those who disagree with their beliefs don't actually hate them. Schools are also witnessing how developing a response that's uncompromising but also compassionate can really deconstruct the agenda at work here. While the reports on ER's website credit the hospitality demonstrated by Lee University as acceptance of their message, I suspect it probably had a little more to do with the fact that, just two days before, Scott Davis, David Fountain and I shared our stories and taught seminars for thousands of students and faculty. I'm not surprised that the result was a greater outpouring of love. When will they realize that hate doesn't come from us?
It doesn't always go so smoothly, though. At North Central University, the school prohibited Riders from entering school buildings.
Richard Lindsay [of Equality Ride] got the confrontation going. At the school’s cafeteria, he was denied permission to enter. Lindsay turned to a small crowd that had gathered, reading from Matthew 10:14-15, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” Lindsay then announced, “Soulforce Equality Riders will go the Gospel one better.” And he sat, blocking the door. When asked what he meant by the statement, Lindsay said “Doing the Gospel one better simply meant sometimes love dictates that you must go beyond the limitations of the literal text, a message we have been trying to bring to all of these schools.”
Several other Riders followed suit and, as a result, were forcibly (not always gently) removed by security guards and students who wanted to get by. I don't think NCU handled the Riders as best they could, but I certainly don't agree with Reitan when he later said, "This is the meaning of redemptive suffering."
As Christians, we are not encouraged to "go beyond the limitations" of Scripture. Sometimes that means going without things we want, and other times giving up things we've learned to depend greatly upon. But that's what making Jesus Lord is really about; He let us know by using language like "take up your cross" and "let him deny himself and follow me." This is redemptive suffering, to give up who and what we think we are for the sake of knowing God. And if we stick with it, we come to realize that the idea we initially had about ourselves was misinformed.
"The full acting out of the self's surrender to God therefore demands pain: this action, to be perfect, must be done from the pure will to obey, in the absence, or in the teeth, of inclination." - C.S. Lewis