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Endeavoring to define myself outside of a "job title." I'm a nomad of sorts who fell in love with technology, activism, and helping others. I run a web & media consulting firm, have a blog specifically for activists & non-profits, and travel often. I love talking about theology, politics, and social change. I love doing something about it even more. I also like to be a well-rounded and fully present person. That's why I write here. Connect with me on twitter

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Wisconsin Lutheran: Drained

Yesterday, I was among the seven riders taken to a hotel on the outskirts of town to give a presentation to a gathering of university administrators and hand-picked student leaders. The administration greeted us with cold faces and stern voices. The students were much better. Talking to us, engaging us, listening to us. At the end of our presentation, the head pastor stood up, Bible in hand, and spewed condescension and hate at us for a solid 15 minutes. We rose in witness. I saw students tear up, I saw them turn away, I saw them bow their heads in prayer. They stayed after the administrators left the room and began speaking with us. It is clear these students want to have this discussion. It is unfortunate that they are not allowed to. Students were advised not to speak to us as we stood vigil for 8 hours on the sidewalk outside of their school. It was hard to feel Christ's love as we were passed with silent, unchanging faces.

Today we returned. We walked on to campus and were approached by the head of the security. He asked us to leave. We informed him that we were here to converse with the students who wanted to have this conversation. He told us he was calling the police. We had about 20 minutes to talk with students before the police arrive. A student who attended the presentation yesterday came out to see us and talked with Aaron and me for a bit. "I wish it didn't have to come to this. I wish we could have a conversation about this." Aaron and I agreed. She was later joined by one of her professors. We were able to talk about faith. To go deeper into the Scriptures. To discuss theology. To share our views. We challenged each other. Eventually Alexey informed us that the police had arrived and we had been given an official warning of trespass. The professor shook his head and said, "They shouldn't have done that." We exchanged tear-filled hugs and parted ways.

Six riders and two community members, one of whom is a pastor, stayed behind to continue the dialogue with the students. They got to spend 40 more minutes in the Word, talking about Christ and God and faith with these students who were so eager to hear it. Justin, Emil, and Kourt were eventually interacting with a group of close to 30 students by the time the police had to arrest them. Students cried at the oppressive action their school was taking. We were exchanging in civil Christian discourse with fellow believers. Why is that wrong?

The remaining riders returned to the sidewalk and held vigil on either side of the driveway as the arrests took place. I cried every time a police vehicle filled with my amazing, spirit-filled friends, drove past. Where is Christ in this?

One student joined us in the line, another texted Matt Kulisch "God bless you all."

This is why we go.

5 comments:

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Original: 3/13/2007 12:11 AM
Comments: 3
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Tuesday, March 13, 2007
An update...
So the last few days have been so crazy! We're on stop #2 now, on the West bus, and we have thus far experienced little love or respect. Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana, and Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, have followed a similar pattern. What is the pattern? Simple. The students really want this dialogue, and the administration continues to shut us down.

Notre Dame was interesting. We had no idea, prior to arrival, what was going to happen. The administration remained ambiguous about our arrival, not telling us (even when asked) whether or not they were going to arrest us. The first day of our stop there, we met out front and had plans for the whole day. Those plans included:

1) Attending Mass on the campus (which we had been given permission to do).
2) Presenting speeches in the student center (which we did not have permission to do).
3) Engage in dialogue with the students, offering materials about God, the Bible, and LGBT issues, as well as info about Soulforce (also not allowed).

We made it through the first 2, but as soon as we began having conversations with students, the administration shut us down. 6 students were handed "lifetime trespassing notes" (which is, basically, a "You're never allowed at Notre Dame ever, ever again" statement. (I'm not sure why this is punishment, myself, but whatever...) When the 6 students were ticketed, we decided to leave.

The next day I had strep throat and so I did not leave the hotel room. I know the basics of how the day went down though... something like this:

We created 3 wreaths that we were going to present to the administration as a peace offering. In doing so, we stepped onto campus and Notre Dame officials placed us under arrest. Yes. For attempting to offer them a wreath, they arrested us. 6 people were arrested and immediately released back to our custody. We spent the rest of the day in the community.

We had a fun day of leisure at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, which I loved every second of. And then we drove here... to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for Wisconsin Lutheran College day.

Today we lined up at the entrance to their school and held vigil for 8 hours. In response, they told their students not to look at us or speak to us. They shut us down completely and tried to ignore that we were there. The did (oh joy) offer to meet with select riders at an off-campus location (like 10 miles away) to see a presentation and have a discussion time. I was lucky enough to be a part of this amazing event. The students at Wisconsin Lutheran College want this dialogue. They want to talk... they are very interested, very loving people. The administration, on the other hand, seems to feel that we are somehow going to infect the campus with gayness if they let us on. The campus pastor, in closing for this special event, made the following statement:

(To the Equality Riders) "I'm really sorry, but what I'm about to say is really going to hurt you..." (Insert several minutes of "this is why you suck and don't care about God or the Bible" and "you're all sinners and you need to change or else God doesn't love you" business) "...and I'm saying this out of love."

What is it about our nature that believes that, if you preface hateful words with "i'm saying this in love" it somehow negates or counters the fact that what they are saying is hateful? In what situation does one, trying to speak in love, make statements that he/she knows is going to cause the listener to be hurt and feel unloved? How is that love? I'm just not sure what this man's thought process was... I had planned to ask him, but never had a chance. I am still in a state of disbelief about everything that he said... from beginning to end. I just don't get it.

Tomorrow will be civil disobedience again. I'll update again later.

I have so much to say. Hopefully there will be no more long stretches between posts... I have been really ill. Now I have been to the clinic and I am on some prescription drugs. Life is good. Now life should be back to normal.

And, just so you know, I'm full of emotion. Full of emotion. I don't know that I've ever been so full of emotion before.
Posted 3/13/2007 12:11 AM - email it

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The apartment is downtown, right off Jefferson. It's on Warren St. just behind the Presbyterian church. It's the middle floor of a huge house, so it's pretty big. The paint scheme is basically hideous, but that's what we get for being poor and needing a cheap apartment. It's nice though.

Nothing else going on, really. Just wedding, wedding, wedding. I'm glad you're having fun being a dangerous radical. Keep it up.

Posted 3/13/2007 9:53 AM by TheSimpleMatterOfBeing

That's crazy that y'all were out here last year and I totally didn't know about it. I don't even remember it being on the news or anything.

*Hugs* I'm so, so incredibly proud of you right now. I'm so glad that we're tight buds again. I love ya, chica.
Posted 3/13/2007 4:38 PM by moreXthanXuseless

i have a question regarding the plan for civil disobedience. civil disobedience is breaking the law with the knowledge that you are doing so. if the equality ride is a christian group...as it claims on the soul force website and literature...what is its position on knowingly and willingly breaking the law? what about jesus saying, "render unto caesar what is caesar's" and paul's discussion in romans on obedience to government, whether or not we think its laws are "fair" or "right," because government was placed over us by God. according to most major christian church's interpretation of the bible, rebellion toward government is not a decision for the citizen to make, unless those laws specifically demand the citizen defy the bible and God's laws. even christ said that although the roman's were oppressive towards the jews that the jews were still to obey them, even if they didn't "like it" or the romans were "unfair" or even brutal becuase government is the authority and we are to obey this authority.

i am specifically talking about knowingly disregarding private property laws by trespassing. aside from what any private institution believes, the governemnt has made law that says that a private instituion has the right to make this decision (to allow or disallow persons onto their premisses). i am not debating whether or not a private institution is right or wrong in asking government to enforce this, but if government has set up this law, and government is authority, and christ has told all men to obey government what is your rationale for disobeying?

i am just curious and not trying to attack. and i admit, i am assuming that the individuals who are participating in civil disobedience proclaim to be bible believing christians (i am not trying to debate the "rightness or wrongness" or homosexuality).

Anonymous said...

i have a question regarding the plan for civil disobedience. civil disobedience is breaking the law with the knowledge that you are doing so. if the equality ride is a christian group...as it claims on the soul force website and literature...what is its position on knowingly and willingly breaking the law? what about jesus saying, "render unto caesar what is caesar's" and paul's discussion in romans on obedience to government, whether or not we think its laws are "fair" or "right," because government was placed over us by God. according to most major christian church's interpretation of the bible, rebellion toward government is not a decision for the citizen to make, unless those laws specifically demand the citizen defy the bible and God's laws. even christ said that although the roman's were oppressive towards the jews that the jews were still to obey them, even if they didn't "like it" or the romans were "unfair" or even brutal becuase government is the authority and we are to obey this authority.

i am specifically talking about knowingly disregarding private property laws by trespassing. aside from what any private institution believes, the governemnt has made law that says that a private instituion has the right to make this decision (to allow or disallow persons onto their premisses). i am not debating whether or not a private institution is right or wrong in asking government to enforce this, but if government has set up this law, and government is authority, and christ has told all men to obey government what is your rationale for disobeying?

i am just curious and not trying to attack. and i admit, i am assuming that the individuals who are participating in civil disobedience proclaim to be bible believing christians (i am not trying to debate the "rightness or wrongness" or homosexuality).

Anonymous said...

I spent a small bit of time talking with a Soulforce Rider for a bit (thoroughly enjoyed the conversation BTW), and she mentioned that at Wheaton College she was disappointed that there wasn't an alternative to the message she was taught there about sexual orientation, that there wasn't a more loving way to deal with the problem. Soulforce certainly provides another alternative approach to the Bible, but personally I think neither the approach that most conservative Christian churches take toward the issue and the tack you folks are taking are the best.

Here is what I think:
First of all, I think it is unfortunate that you have felt ostracized because of your sexual orientation, and that people haven't talked to you about the issue lovingly. I do not fear you, I see you as my friend and as someone full of value.

However, God in his Word says plenty of things that are frustrating to those born with tendencies toward kleptomania (Thou shalt not steal), serial killers (Thou shalt not murder), and rapists (Thou shalt not commit adultery), or homosexuality in Romans 1. Personally, I struggle A LOT with one of the commandments above, and yes, I wish I could just do whatever I wanted, and say "God loves me; so I can go act on my innate tendency to murder. This is how God made me, and God loves me, hence doing what God has given me the inclination to do is holy."

Does the Bible condemn me? YES! It does. The Bible does condemn. No one can avoid that. But it doesn't stop there...

I may not be able to resist that inclination to sin, and that bothers me a lot. But there is someone who is greater than my sin, and that is Christ, who was made sin for me even when I didn't want him to (Romans 5), that I might no longer continue in the sin that I was born with, and therefore there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8).

Fact of the matter is, we all are born with addictive problems that we cannot control. But Christ lived a perfect life on earth and died an innocent death for us. And he calls us out of the darkness of the sin we are born in, the sin that drives us to hide, and fear, and run from others and to stay closeted; he calls us to living by the Spirit, to living with the Word of God dwelling inside us. He does call us to "come out," but to come in to something greater...

And this is the *third* alternative: to say that I was (and still am) born homosexual (or a kleptomaniac, or a rapist, etc), but I was born again and my new identity is Christ.

To affirm that homosexuality is wrong and also affirm that Christ loves me despite the fact that I was born with the tendency to homosexual sin and have/will commit that sin again, and to recieve help from God to fight my sin.

That I have two natures, a sinful one and a Spirit one.

And that, I think, is something new that you may not have heard before. That is how I have moved on in my life, by affirming that I am baptized and born again (Romans 6) and thereby leaving my life of sin. I may return to it again, but there is grace and forgiveness to be found in Christ's cross and the fact that the Cross is stronger than my sin which still fights and clings to me.

And this, I think, is not the kind of message you will hear at Wheaton, or at BYU, or at any typical conservative college. I certainly didn't from my friend Chris who went to one. And that is why I am a Christian who didn't go to Wheaton, and instead went to Wisconsin Lutheran College with Lutherans.

Thank you for visiting our campus, I had a great conversation and I pray that I might see all of you in heaven someday.

-Jon

Brian said...

The acts of civil disobedience come only as a last result. The aim of Soulforce is to create and continue dialogue with the students and administrators. It is only after this request for dialogue is rejected by the school that civil disobedience occurs.

We have found that at every school students want to have these conversations. They are ready, willing, and prepared. We have also found that these are conversations that need to happen. These schools have policies that discriminate against and silence GLBT students. Unfortunately, such treatment all too often results in physical, emotional, and spiritual violence.

Jesus himself went into the Temple uninvited when he saw a problem that was not being addressed. And in more modern times, America would not exist if citizens of the British Empire did not rebel against their government.

Many colleges are open to our visit and engage us in fruitful Christian dialogue. Even at schools such as Wisconsin Lutheran, it is ultimately the school's decision to have the riders arrested. We are coming only for dialogue, looking for a Christlike response. I am surprised when these Christian administrators have such a violent response.

I cannot in good conscience stand on the sidewalk, outside the gates of these institutions while students suffer in silence on the inside. The homophobia that these policies breed is the same homophobia that results in a higher suicide rate amongst GLBT youth--4 per day. It is policies such as these that drive GLBT individuals away from the church and away from God.

These conversations need to happen.

Matt Hill Comer said...

Hey Brian... Sounds like you all are doing some great things on the West Bus as well.

Good answer to the person asking the civil disobedience thing. Whoever it is has been going around and asking that on other sites; She did it on mine.

There was a god answer given to her questions from one of my blog readers and I added: I want to also add that the “obey your government” theology sounds a bit too eerily similar to the “divine right” governments of European monarchies: “Obey me and the government, because we have been ordained by God!” This theology is not one that is seen as sound anymore. It is not one which is practiced, especially not here in America. In fact, Americans were the ones who fought against this type of theology during the Revolutionary War; God doesn’t give “authority” to the “government,” or so said the Founding Fathers, but to The People, who then in turn create their own government.

But anyways... I MISS YOU GUYS!!! Take care and be safe!

 
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