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ISSUE 119 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/24/2006

Movement wrongly weclomes few

By Jason Zencka
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 24, 2006

Let me put my cards on the table.

In regards to matters of sexuality, I am what is sometimes called an ally.

I affirm and celebrate the diversity of expression available to people in matters of emotional and sexual intimacy, and I believe that the right to practice a lifestyle that reflects this diversity should be assiduously protected at the legislative and cultural levels of our society.

I am also opposed to St. Olaf College registering as a Reconciled in Christ college.

I should note at this point that I am pleased and proud that the St. Olaf congregation has voted to become a Reconciled in Christ congregation.

I find it encouraging that my fellow congregants can join in a state of grace and worship with their non-heterosexual brothers and sisters. I am glad that our congregation is willing to break bread together as Christians.

But what holds for the church does not necessarily hold for the larger St. Olaf community. The Reconciled in Christ initiative is not one that seeks to affirm or validate homosexual practice.

As the author of the STO=RIC blogspot notes, “This petition is not about accepting, tolerating, or approving; it is not even about agreeing exactly on GLBT issues. It is about welcoming.”

All things considered, such a welcome is an admirable thing for our congregation to promote. But for the entirety of the St. Olaf community to mimic this movement is contextually improper.

Let’s consider two issues – the ethical propriety of a quasi-secular collegiate community making statements of theological and moral significance, and the sensibility of a diverse body of persons uniting under such a contextually specific banner.

First, the matter of propriety. The larger St. Olaf College community operates under largely secular assumptions. In order to allow for a diversity of academic, social and managerial interests, this is necessary. No assumptions are made about the religious affiliation or devotion of fellow students, professors, counselors or cafeteria workers.

Is it proper, then, that persons in any of the above capacities make a general statement of welcome to the GLBT community? Or does such a welcome, without a complimentary affirmation of GLBT lifestyle seem presumptuous and question-begging?

Shouldn’t a non-heterosexual be assumed as a first-class citizen of any community, no questions asked? Consider how we would feel about a petition that welcomed, say, Asian people, while making a pointed attempt to avoid making any statements about racial equality or inferiority. Wouldn’t the absence of such statements, as well as the hopefully redundant “welcome,” connote a lingering strain of prejudice?

Secondly, the matter of sensibility. Can a religiously diverse body of people reasonably make a parochial statement? Does it make any sense at all for a Jew, a Hindu or an atheist to attach herself or himself to a campaign so bound in word and ideology to a belief in Jesus Christ?

Moreover, does it make sense for a person, Christian or non-Christian, who truly believes that homosexuality is a pernicious social harm (as opposed to a spiritual one) to sign this petition? My inclination is that it does not make sense, any more than it would for someone to sign a petition welcoming unrepentant alcoholics or pedophiles into the community.

By the same token, it doesn’t make sense for a GLBT proponent to sign a petition that merely welcomes the presence of non-heterosexuals without affirming the ethical validity of their lifestyle.

In actuality, the affirmation of welcome can only be reasonably supported by a very limited number of St. Olaf community members – namely, the St. Olaf Church congregation. Only in a religious context does the statement remain ethically defensible, and only in that context does it remain logically sound.

As we move through GLBT Pride Week with a spirit of tolerance and celebration, it is important that we remember that we are a part of a religiously, as well as sexually, diverse community, and when trying to defend the concerns of its members, any move is not the same as the right move.

Staff Writer Jason Zencka is a senior from John, Ind. He majors in classics and in philosophy.

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