Living uncomfortably: faith and sexuality at Macalester

Finn Odum, Staff Writer

When you’re a pastor’s kid, the first thing you learn about God is that He loves you for who you are, no matter what. That’s what my parents reminded me when I came out to them in high school. I was raised in the United Methodist Church, one of the largest Protestant denominations in the United States. Methodism, like most denominations, is very messy; the church is splitting this year over LGBTQ inclusion. As a queer Christian, I believe this split is long overdue. The archaic, homophobic beliefs of my denomination have harmed me and many of my loved ones. It’s also made it difficult for me to talk about my identity at Macalester.

At Mac, we don’t really talk about the Christian faith outside of select spaces. Classes in the religious studies department study spirituality with tact. The Center for Religious and Spiritual Life (CRSL) has a number of resources for students of faith. There are also the assorted student organizations, including Macalester Christian Fellowship (MCF) and Mac Catholics. But outside of those spaces, we don’t really talk about Christianity.

When we do talk about Christianity, we discuss the harm it’s caused. The church has been weaponized by the corrupt and privileged to oppress minority groups for centuries. However, because of the vocal and vicious homophobia of some denominations, many of these discussions highlight the faith as only capable of discrimination.

So how do you exist with these two identities that the campus believes are in conflict?

I’m still figuring that one out. I’ve found spaces on either side where I feel welcome, but only partially. In queer organizations, I feel like I’m one of the aliens from “They Live”; I look like I belong, but if you were to put on a pair of magic sunglasses, you’d see that I’m not really part of the group. Even if I don’t subscribe to the harmful and warped views of certain Christians, I’m still a part of the faith. Does that make me complicit in the abuse of my queer friends? Does that make me complicit in my own harassment?

Trying to find a place in the Christian community is equally frustrating. I’m not the only queer person in the group, nor am I the only vocal one. However, whenever we spoke about queer issues, it felt like we were being tokenized by the other members. We were the elusive queer Christians, walking paradoxes in the eyes of our peers. Last February, for example, Macalester students clashed with two conservative protestors, who’d come to Mac’s campus to evangelize their beliefs. Their homophobic rhetoric cited the Bible as evidence against the queer community. When I walked into that week’s MCF meeting, I was informed we’d be talking about the protest. Leadership members informed us they wanted to be there as a support system, and that it was a shame that the protest happened. They asked the group for suggestions as to how MCF could voice their support for the queer community. In the end, they did nothing.

I was angry, hurt, and felt more alone than ever. How could someone sit there and do nothing, while another uses something as important as their faith to hurt others? How could we talk for hours about wanting to change the perception of Christianity on campus and end up doing nothing to help?

It’s not all hopeless. Last weekend, Macalester’s Queer Faith Community (QFC) hosted its second annual Love Feast. Held in conjunction with the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life (CRSL), the Love Feast invites students and staff from all over campus to enjoy a meal together. QFC held the first Love Feast last year as a reaction to the homophobic protest. We ended up filling the CRSL, sharing food and community. The Love Feast and QFC in general are some of the only places where I’ve been able to really confront the conflict between my identities. QFC is a small, anonymous group of people that I’ve come to call part of my chosen family at Macalester. Every person brings a new experience to the organization. It’s open to all faith lives, drawing from Mac’s diverse spectrum of spiritualities. Many of us have been part of faith groups since we were young, while others are just discovering their faith lives and need to balance spirituality with their sexual identity. Either way, everyone living in the uncomfortable intersection is welcome.

But having a small student organization isn’t a long term solution. You can only escape to a one-hour meeting for so long. That’s something I had to learn a long time ago. The campus needs to have a larger discussion about conflicting identities. We need to make an effort to understand both sides. That starts with the Christian groups on campus. Mainstream Christian culture has sucked at being a real ally for a very long time. It’s time we take on a more vocal role in supporting our LGBTQ community.

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