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ISSUE 117 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 4/9/2004

Dolfo-Smith addresses sexuality

By Christian Huebner
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 9, 2004

Monday evening, more than one hundred St. Olaf students and staff members gathered in Boe Chapel to hear speaker Toni Dolfo-Smith, Director of Living Waters Canada, address them in a talk entitled "Personal Need and Divine Love."

"All of us are broken in our capacity to love," Dolfo-Smith said. "Some people are more broken than others, [but we all] need to learn the ways that [we] are broken and how that affects [our] relations with other people and with God."

The talk, sponsored by the Christian Activities Network (CAN), was the first of three public appearances Dolfo-Smith made on campus this week to address issues of sexuality and wholeness.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, he spoke more specifically on sexuality, but Dolfo-Smith saw his talk on Monday as the integral foundation of his three appearances.

Because it refuses to admit where it is broken, "secular society has confused sexuality with sex," said Dolfo-Smith. "Sexuality is about expressing who you are as a man or a woman, not about being sexual."

Dolfo-Smith used his own history to explain how he believes "brokenness" can develop and become hidden.

Growing up in a multi-racial home in South Africa at the height of the apartheid era, Dolfo-Smith struggled with body weight, finding parental approval and the hatred he felt toward his own homosexual tendencies; though he has been happily wed (to a woman) for 14 years, Dolfo-Smith was, prior to his marriage, involved a long-term relationship with another man.

His quest for praise and perfection was representative of his deep need for love and acceptance.

Admitting this need was the most difficult step, Dolfo-Smith said, but it was ultimately the most important. It is what eventually brought him into a vibrant relationship with God.

A relationship with God was at the heart of Monday's message. Ironically, Dolfo-Smith believes that religious people, due to what he sees as their propensity for maintaining facades of self-sufficiency, often times have the greatest difficulty with this.

"We spend our lives pretending we have no needs, and thus do not come to God," he said. Dolfo-Smith suggested that this is not surprising, in light of messages from popular culture. The obsession with health, youth and strength also presuppose an aversion to admitting weakness. Dolfo-Smith, however, challenged this mentality, asking, "What is more important? Health or the appearance of health?"

Dolfo-Smith sees the purpose of his work as sharing his personal experience in how God meets people. While brokenness, neediness and their implications in life do not always come across as an immediately appealing message, Dolfo-Smith said he particularly enjoys speaking with college students for their willingness to listen to multiple perspectives.

Still, he cautioned, while this open-mindedness "has its good points, [it] often times replaces good debates with political correctness." Above all, he stressed the importance of honesty, with oneself, with others and with God.

Dolfo-Smith's organization, Living Waters Canada, was founded in 1991 as a church-based resource dedicated to aiding those struggling with issues of sexuality.

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