Clarity from Christians at MIT
A call for transparency
Growing up an enthusiastic member of the Southern Baptist Church, I was taught to “hold tension” between my beliefs as a Christian and the chaotic ideals of the secular world. Tension would allow me to befriend, infiltrate, convert those outside the Church without losing my faith in the process. An important part of this was to hesitate to say outright the more objectionable practices of my church.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the governing body of the Southern Baptist Church, bans women from leadership roles. They believe in biblical gender roles, bar members from gay marriage, see transgender peoples’ transitions as corruptions of the bodies God gave us, and prefer that women submit to their husbands. But when you entered my church you’d see millennial pastors in brightly colored button ups and smiles in place of answers. Only once you depended on the community would you hear about the rigid gender roles and hateful ideologies that entangled you.
As a queer person, as someone who would be barred from leadership, as someone who would not be able to live a fulfilling life under these rules, my self respect puts me at odds with my former church. And yet, I don’t believe that calls to institutionally shut down groups holding these ideas would have a positive effect: I hope only that the ability of Christian groups on campus to harm queer community members in private meets a swift end.
I contacted all non-race-specific Christian groups that presented at REX Midway this year, posing as a freshman in search of guidance about my relationship with queerness and God. Responses from the Lutheran Episcopal Ministry, Alpha Omega, Cross Products, Christians on Campus, and Every Nation Campus fanned from affirming to manipulative, even though all professed how welcome my fake freshman self would be.
The Lutheran Episcopal Ministry was the fastest and simplest response: affirming gospel in a welcoming community. Next came the Cross Products, with striking clarity. Acknowledging a far-from-perfect past and an imperfect but improving present, their representative shared without prodding that queer acceptance within the group may be a mixed bag, but provided me encouragement and resources to find an explicitly affirming church (gaychurch.org).
On the other hand Alpha Omega was clearly not affirming from their first email, although they danced around solid statements and used manipulative framing. In response to my asking if Alpha Omega was affirming, their representative answered “we do try to take the scriptures at face value and hold to them”. Where the Cross Products noted the possibility of a genuine, affirming, Christian faith, Alpha Omega framed proud queerness and adherence to scripture as fundamentally incompatible. As an overview of their church’s approach to queerness, they also linked Strength in Weakness (strengthinweakness.org), a site with informational videos on whether it is a sin to feel gay (answer: no, just don’t act on it), whether you should attend gay weddings (answer: yes, but make sure the grooms know you’re happy to talk with them about God’s plan for a heterosexual lifestyle), and how to escape your bisexual porn addiction (answer: make friends with men and women at your church). This sounds transparent and easily avoidable by the self-respecting queer Christian, but the manipulation in Strength in Weakness comes from the messenger: Guy Hammond, a Christian, a minister, and a former gay man. Relatable to the young Christian realizing their sexuality, he presents the ideal of an abstinent or falsely heterosexual gay life.
Alpha Omega, for its manipulative tactics, did immediately share their lack of support. Every Nation Campus (ENC), the group aimed squarely at conversion on campus, lacked the honesty even to manipulate in one message. Beyond welcoming me to their community, they would not offer specifics unless I met them in person. The ENC branch at MIT is run through Aletheia church in Cambridge, though, so their sermons are publicly available online (https://www.aletheia.org/resources/sermons/). The pastor, Adam Mabry, preaches exactly one type of marriage and family. One man, one subservient woman, no room for compromise within the confines of his gospel. Mabry preaches the concept with no hesitation, but ENC campus outreach won’t share his confidence. Their cryptic messaging hides a damaging reality for any queer or queer-allied member.
Given this information, I hope that the MIT community can see these groups with clarity. It is more than possible to be a practicing Christian and an ally to the queer community on campus. The members of the deceptive and unaffirming groups have chosen easy, harmful deception over unpopular, proud declarations. To students: know where your organizations stand. To groups: make your policies clear and public. Diversity of thought keeps our community vibrant; transparency keeps our community safe.
Argen Smith is majoring in Courses 8 and 12 and is a member of NAIA exec.