Tuesday, October 09, 2007

hot topics

One thing I love about Calvin is that it is not an institution that shies away from “hot” topics.  Issues such as homosexuality and racism are discussed openly in various situations by students and faculty both on campus and off.  There is an affirmation that the best way to understand these issues and what the Christian position on them should be is through hearing each others’ stories relating to these issues. 

For example, over the weekend I went to a play put on by Grand Rapids’ off-Broadway acting troupe.  The play was called “Seven Passages: The Stories of Homosexual Christians.”  The entire play was made up of actual quotes from homosexual Christians from the western Michigan area.  There were over 1000 such men and women who were interviewed about their experiences as homosexual persons in the church for the play.  The title, “Seven Passages,” comes from the seven Bible passages that are used when discussion about homosexuality comes up.  I’d say a third of the crowd that night was Calvin students or staff, and there will be a group discussion about the play here on campus later this week.  The purpose is not to force ideas on anyone, but rather to listen to everyone’s reactions to the issue.  Keyword there: listen. 
Calvin has a pretty good track record of listening to the experiences of everyone.  Last year there was some concern when the Equality Riders came to our campus to talk about their sexual orientation and how they’ve been received by the church.  I was so pleased with the open way Calvin students and staff welcomed the Riders and listened to what they had to say.  The question and answer time after their presentation was caring, honest, and driven by a desire to understand.  I think that is the most anyone can ask for.  People here still have differing opinions when it comes to homosexuality in the church, and that’s ok with me, because to be honest, I still have different opinions about homosexuality.  It is not my place to know for sure what God thinks, though.  It IS my place to love everyone as God does and seek to understand where they are coming from.  I might disagree sometimes with lifestyle choices, but that doesn’t mean I cannot engage in discussions with people about those choices and honestly struggle with them to come to an understanding.  That is something my parents taught me and Calvin affirmed.
This week is also Unlearn Week here at Calvin, which is a week dedicated to teaching people about the continuing problem of institutional racism in our society.  Many people, coming from a white, middle-class background much like my own do/did not have much experience with institutional racism prior to coming to Calvin.  I made every attempt to view people as people and thought that was enough.  But it is not.  I have been privileged in more ways than I even know, simply because I am white.  In making friends with people from different ethnic backgrounds than me I have learned a lot about their experiences on the other side of the fence, but knowing the stories of one or two people isn’t enough either.  This week there are a number of events in which different ways racism is manifested in our society are discussed.  One such way is the lead poisoning issue.  Did you know that for every one white child who gets lead poisoning, three Hispanic children do, and six black children do?  I didn’t, but that is a true statistic, and just one of the things I have learned already this week. 
These discussions about hot topics are always optional, but also always encouraged here.  No one has to have their beliefs and assumptions challenged, but many people choose to enter into discussion with others to try to better understand how their fellow Christians understand God’s instructions.  That is the atmosphere in which we can affect change, and that atmosphere is one thing that I appreciate about Calvin.

Posted by Emily MacLeod on 10/09 at 02:48 PM

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