Liberty University seems like an unusual setting for a gay student to describe his experiences “coming out” about his homosexuality. Atlantic magazine seems like an unusual publication for a captivating and sometimes blunt article titled “Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University.” The article (April 2013 issue) is worth reading in part because of its insights and perspective on the current debates about gay issues, including gay marriage. Writer Brandon Ambrosino observes how many Christians and others brashly judge people who are gay. In contrast, many pro-gay people proclaim their tolerance while they intolerably judge those whose values or religious beliefs are anti-gay. There is prejudice, insensitivity and fear on both sides. There also are surprisingly sensitive and compassionate attitudes in both camps.
I read the Atlantic article shortly after reading D. A. Carson’s book The Intolerance of Tolerance. Carson’s writing style can be difficult to follow. Nevertheless his book is thought provoking for any of us who are caught between the views of our culture (including our professions (including psychology or counseling) and our personal values and beliefs. Someone has said that at least in America, “tolerance has emerged as a virtue that is above all others.” Carson shows how groups of people (like many in the media, academia and caring professions) laud their tolerance but are strongly intolerant of anyone whose beliefs or religious communities disagree with the gay agenda. Try questioning gay marriage in a clinical psychology-training program and see the reaction.
In democracies we respect the rights of individuals to hold and proclaim differing beliefs and values. Christians especially – but not exclusively – feel called to stand up for what we believe to be right, to resist what we view as wrong, even if this goes against what society defines as tolerance. But surely there can be respect and understanding even among those who disagree. The Atlantic writer expected his Christian college professors to be condemning when he announced his homosexuality. Instead most were gracious even though they held to their beliefs. The student who feared condemnation from his instructors discovered that he was the one with the most fear and intolerance. What does that say to us who believe that the fruit of the Spirit begins with love? Please comment.