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Viewpoint: It Really Is Complicated


Last week, Washington Adventist University hosted a week-long spiritual revival entitled It’s (not) Complicated. According to the poster taped all over restroom stalls and bulletin boards across campus, the main objective of the revival was to discuss the Christian perspective on dating, relationships, spiritual living, sex, and homosexuality. Due to obligations I have in the university’s choir, I was only able to attend Wednesday and Thursday evening. When I attended on Wednesday, the pastor talked about the myth of finding “the one,” and how we needed to prioritize improving ourselves as human beings over searching for the perfect person. Generally I agreed with what he had to say about maintaining positive and healthy relationships. It was a solid sermon, and I left feeling encouraged.

Thursday evening I heard that the pastor would be talking about homosexuality, the word being spread around like it was a disease. Part of me didn’t want to go because I saw no point in purposely raising my blood pressure, but my curiosity got the better of me. I have personally heard only one or two sermons that vaguely revolved around the concept of homosexuality. During high school I sat through several lectures in Bible classes that made me particularly uncomfortable. Thankfully, I grew up being a part of fairly liberal church families and inclusive youth groups, so I haven’t had to experience as much conflict as many other queer people of faith face. I thought that I should at least see what pastors were saying about people like me these days, hoping I would be pleasantly surprised. Sadly, I wasn’t.

Students pray during the “It’s Not Complicated” Revival at WAU.  Photo: Vanessa Baioni

Every point the pastor made was a sentiment you have probably heard before. He mentioned how in Genesis God laid out His plan exactly the way He wanted it to be. He promoted celibacy and forced loneliness, speaking out against the “gay lifestyle.” He claimed that God could deliver you from homosexuality. He said that those who live a homosexual lifestyle would not inherit the kingdom of God. The only thing that seemed different was that he attempted to delve more into psychology books than scripture. He must not have researched hard enough on sexuality itself, because he specifically said, “There are four kinds of sexuality: heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgender.” I don’t know if I should begin with the fact that there are more than four sexual orientations, or if I should mention that “transgender” is not a sexual orientation.

The pastor did talk about the importance of Christian college campuses being safe places for homosexuals, just as it should be a safe place for all sinners. He asked the crowd how they could show homosexuals the love of God when they gossiped about them and ostracized them. Of course, he used this to encourage students to embrace homosexuals in order to hopefully persuade them to stop living their lifestyle.  He then proceeded to compare homosexuals to pornography addicts and bank robbers. The longer he spoke, the more ignorant his comments became. It seemed as if every time he said something positive and forward thinking, he managed to take ten steps backwards.

What really broke my heart was the question and answer session after the sermon. Students anonymously would text their questions and the pastor would answer them to the best of his ability. “Will I go to heaven,” “Should gay pastors step down,” “How do I come out to my parents,” “My friend was abused as a child by a man and she only feels comfortable with women. What do I do?” These questions were proof that I am not doing an adequate job. I am the president of an unofficial gay-straight alliance club on my school’s campus called Q&A (Queers and Allies). We’re a confidential support system for students of gender and/or sexual minorities. We’re a safe space for those who feel unwelcome by the Seventh-day Adventist church, or who feel as if they can’t express themselves freely due to the current social climate of our school’s campus. This is all well and good, except that almost no one is aware of our club. We are afraid to tell our campus that we exist.

I don’t need to prove to anyone the validity of my views on what the Bible says about homosexuality. I have made peace with the fact that I am a lesbian Seventh-day Adventist woman. I do not serve a God who would turn me away from eternal life for loving one of his children. However, not everyone is at peace with who they are. I didn’t write this to pick apart a pastor’s theology. I wrote this because that pastor asked the congregation if this was a safe campus, and truthfully, the answer is no. I wrote this because there are people on this campus who feel unsafe and alone; who feel like they have no one they can talk to without being told that they need to pray their gay away. I wrote this because I want faculty and staff to read it and consider how they can reach out to their students. I wrote this because I need help with maintaining a club that has only met twice because they’re afraid to assemble on campus. I wrote this because queer people of faith exist at Washington Adventist University, and they don’t have adequate support.

It’s (not) Complicated is an inaccurate title for subjects that are intricate by design and may require delicate handling. People need to know that everyone exists on a broad spectrum of gender identity, sexual orientation, and romantic orientation. People should be taught that this is normal, and that God loves us fiercely regardless of who or how we love. I am working hard to help Q&A grow so that we can further spread the message of God’s unconditional love, but I need help wherever I can find it. To those who I have reached out to so far, thank you so much for your love and kindness towards the members of Q&A and supporting our cause. To those students on campus who may be struggling with their identity, there is hope, and there is a safe space for you. To those who interact with my fellow students on a daily basis, please show them support and kindness. That is not complicated.

Sydney Portela is a sophomore psychology student at Washington Adventist Univeristy and the president of Queers & Allies of Washington Adventist University, an unofficial club on the WAU campus. This article originally appeared on her blog, Where There Is Love, and is reprinted here by permission.
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