NO EIGHTEEN YEAR-OLD SHOULD BE TRUSTED WITH A CREDIT CARD. There, I said it. I know, I know: a good chunk of our economy is based on ripping people off and then collecting on their debt, but please. I know plenty of broke eighteen year-olds from impoverished families and not-so-broke eighteen year olds who just want a free VISA t-shirt at freshman orientation, and the credit card story always goes the same: 1) the eighteen year-old pledges something unreasonable (yes, I will pay my whole sum off every month at 19% APR; yes I will only use it for emergencies; yes I will not use it in place of my actual, pitiful bank account), 2) the eighteen year-old gets into debt, and 3) the eighteen year-old figures it out as he or she becomes a 20-something, complete with credit karma scam companies always begging for a settlement.
Using this “no eighteen year-old should” premise as the beginning of a syllogism, I would transfer the logic of it to a reasonable Code of Conduct Statement at an expensive, private Christian Evangelical college, namely one in the most progressive and liberal part of the world, Massachusetts. This Code of Conduct, when signed, should hold true for the next four years of said individual’s life, right? Meaning that this eighteen year old will have the same morals, ethics, and behavioral patterns throughout college (that magical time of life where no one ever changes his mind about anything) until he or she is graduated, and he or she probably signed this Code of Conduct, like me, at seventeen, and not eighteen, as a part of an early-admittance package deal. Sound familiar?
Recently, Gordon College, my alma mater, has been lambasted in the news for defending said Code of Conduct, which extends to all students, staff, and faculty. Specifically, Gordon has been rolled around the media for the college’s President Lindsay’s request that President Obama allows Gordon to discriminate in their hiring policies, namely that they not be forced to hire gays, lesbians, and the like. Obama said no, but not before Salem, MA Mayor Driscoll took on Gordon and Glenn Beck. Then, and during, the interwebs went nutty with voices yearning to be heard, including Gordon Alum writing here and of course the pro-LGBTQ group OneGordon which has done a masterful job of facilitating while participating in a movement. Our very own snark-bait local the Gloucester Clam hit it out of the park as well.
But here’s where I have to get off the train as someone who loves to discuss and argue with strangers online: Gordon has every right to discriminate however they want, even while accepting federal funds, and you all are ignoring this fun fact. You’re all forgetting about the other elephant in the room, which is that Gordon is an Evangelical college. A bunch of fundamentalist, evangelical kids go there, willingly, and abide by the rules. Willingly. I know, I was one of them.
The problem with Gordon isn’t that it doesn’t let LGBTQ-Christians attend or work there, it’s that they believe in sin, redemption, resurrection, and Hell in the first place, as part of their everything policy. They believe in the tenets of a religion. That’s all you need to know. What did you think was going to happen? And just short of inventing a new religion to say why their religion is wrong, I have to remind you that people who believe often believe that they are right in what they believe in, and will go to great heights to prove that it’s true, even when there’s no possible way to prove that it’s true.
As a nonbeliever, I’m more offended that people believe in a million crazy things before I’m offended that they also happen to believe that my gay friends and family members are possessed with a gay demon (thanks Carman!) or need to pray their sickness away, or that they choose to act and live a certain way that offends their God.
My problem isn’t that Believers discriminate (I will use this term to incorporate all religious believers across denomination and differing-creed lines), it’s that they believe at all, and come up with theologies that fit their worldviews quite conveniently. I remember studying Queer Theory from my Gordon Lit Crit professor and being glad she didn’t hold back because, as an English major, I wanted to learn everything I could about literary criticism. Everything, no matter if it offended St. Paul or the preachers on the periphery of every Gordon conversation. Gordon professors and students have very intelligent and comprehensive conversations about everything – everything. That’s why I never felt cheated when I studied there.
Issues regarding women, minorities, science, culture, the poor: every religion has altered their tenets to accommodate modern, progressive themes and populations. At one point “they” (pick any religion) believed xyz about this, and now they don’t. That’s how the story goes for every religion. But they don’t have to accommodate; they don’t have to adapt; they don’t have to change with the times – because they’re religions! It’s that simple. Religions are stubborn, awful things that say whatever they want and then defend it against modern science, culture, and reasoning. End of story. And they don’t pay taxes. Every religion claims it has the correct, infallible, perfect word of God that clearly states what should and shouldn’t be, and that their own people of the perfect Word are indeed the Chosen Ones, and that all other religions are false.
And within the walls of Gordon there are hundreds of worldviews that differ about certain verses and stories, including whether or not the Levitical Law applies today, and whether or not Paul meant what he wrote in most of the New Testament. But they all keep accepting that it’s all true, that their differing views are “part of the conversation” and not simply the wrong enthymemes and syllogisms.
I did this myself. As a young Christian, I applied to Gordon (thinking I would be a pastor), was accepted, and before my freshman year ended, I stopped calling myself a Christian, and have ceased to be one since. I kept attending Gordon, however, and loved my time there. The professors were amazing, the friendships I forged then are still central to my life, and I would never say a bad word about Gordon because it is what it is – a very specific niche of a school for a very specific niche of a person. And the people who graduate Gordon are solid, excellent workers and professionals. People should want to hire Gordon grads, regardless of this current controversy, because not all Gordon grads think alike or believe alike.
Regarding the Code of Conduct, I was one who broke most of the rules when I was there, but maintained my “Christian Character” while doing so, because the “fruits of the Spirit” are characteristics that are universal no matter whether you actually believe in Galatians 5 or not. At least that is what I told myself.
Gordon is also where I developed my sensibility to the LGBTQ community, and even tried, with close friends, to start a sort-of Gay-Straight-Alliance, which was shot down by the Student Council. This was back in 2000, and the triumph of OneGordon shows that things have changed slightly with the times, but not that much, considering that the school, is, well, making news for this very thing it denies to expunge from its Code of Conduct.
Fortunately, for me, I had been born heterosexual, and had nothing to lose by the group not forming. Unfortunately, for some of my gay friends, they ended up leaving the school (on their own accord from what I know) because they couldn’t keep up in one way or another, and to be honest, there are a million great schools out there with no problem whatsoever that you’re gay. Let me just say that again: there are a million colleges out there that will not be bothered that you’re gay. We all know that, right?
It was easier, it seemed, for me to not be a Christian at a Christian school (and believe me, it was its own circus), than for a gay or lesbian to be out or even considering being out while being a Christian at Gordon, or even to identify as homosexual. Gordon was clear in its denial of a GSA group back then, and crystal clear now.
So for those who are wishing to grab the old religious dinosaur by its tail and transform it into a different creature, just know that it’s never going to happen. Just think of any religion other than UU and you’ll see that no one is going to change. I could list a million examples here, but I don’t think I have to. You can Google that for yourself. Most of the world is ruled by old, dusty religion, which holds as its policy that men of old make the rules, and the rules aren’t going to change. Ever. Even in the Bay State, where we’re pretty damn accommodating to every group as part of our progressive policies.
Back to that seventeen or eighteen year-old signing away his life to VISA (or a religion): that kid’s life, opinions, and bank account will change dramatically from now until years from now, including his opinions on how to act. He will probably sign a ton of codes or acceptance-policies, and hopefully none that will bankrupt him or, when he’s changed his mind, exclude him from a group that he really wanted to be part of. But if it’s a group that never wanted him as a member, I hope someone is there to tell him that the very club he’s agreeing to never wants people like him because they just don’t know what exactly to tell him about his identity, except that everything inside him (or her) that is telling him how to be is wrong, and he must change, or leave.
Oh and tell that seventeen year-old that Sallie Mae keeps calling and asking for him.
All original material is copyright Jeremy McKeen/Nerdy Dad Shirt 2014.
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