I thought I should address one of the responses that my story of the continuing saga of my censored alumni update has garnered. There’s this idea out there that if you went to a conservative Christian college that you should just expect them to behave badly and that’s that. A corollary to that idea is the one that says that says that you picked the Christian college, you shouldn’t complain about the results.
I’ve got several problems with that attitude.
First, as I’ve discussed before, LGBTQ campus climate issues are not just a Christian college problem. It’s a college problem. This idea that it’s just something you should expect when you go to a Christian college lets secular institutions off the hook.
As a current student at a state school, I would be lying if I said that things are copacetic here. I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve spent my Saturday gameday listening to the people sitting behind me scream “faggot” at the football team. Sure, the school wouldn’t tolerate it if it was reported, but who’s going to report a bunch of students whose identities you don’t know? That’s not even going into all of the discussions I’ve had with other students about how the overall student body atmosphere at the law school feels unwelcoming. Having a supportive administration and faculty with policies in place doesn’t mean that there aren’t significant problems to work on. Going to a state school, that’s not something I expected, but it’s what I got.
The campus climate problems may be different at Christian colleges than secular ones, but don’t kid yourself, the environment can be pretty bad at state schools too. I don’t want my criticism of how Covenant handled my alumni update situation and the erasing of LGBT alumni to suggest that it’s a problem limited to Christian schools.
Second, “You went to a Christian college, what did you expect?” lets Christian colleges off the hook. Yes, this kind of thing and much worse happens at Christian colleges, but that doesn’t mean we should just throw up our hands and walk away. The policies are still wrong and harmful, and students are being hurt.
Speaking up isn’t just about me, it isn’t even mostly about me. It’s about the fact that the policies at Christian colleges are actively harming current students. Students who can’t speak up for themselves because of the environment at their schools. We need to stop accepting the status quo just because Christian schools have discriminatory policies now. As long as we do, nothing will ever change.
Finally, a lot of kids don’t have a choice about attending a Christian college, and even if they do, you can’t always predict what your future holds.
There are an awful lot of kids at Christian colleges because that’s the only education that their parents will pay for. This idea that kids can just decide to go to another school doesn’t reflect reality for a lot of kids. I had classmates who were at Covenant because their parents threatened to cut them off entirely and leave them basically homeless and with no job skills unless they went there.
Even if you were the one to chose a Christian college, you’re still a 17, 18 year old kid who doesn’t necessarily know what’s in store down the road.
I chose to go to Covenant. I liked the free-spirited, weird atmosphere of the place. And yes, when I say that it was free-spirited and weird, in my era it was basically the Christian equivalent of a place like New College. I can’t even explain the weirdness to people who haven’t gone to an equally weird school. In my day it was the kind of place where one of the guys’ halls would crossdress just because they could, and made really pretentious hall t-shirts about the hall being a place “where free spirit governs gender insecurity.” I could say more, but you get the picture (a picture that doesn’t mesh with being the kind of school that would censor an alumni update, I might add).
When I picked Covenant, I did so because I wanted to go to a small private school–the idea of being another cog in a massive research university didn’t appeal to me. I had no way of knowing that 15 years down the road the good conservative homeschooler who believed in courtship would be politically liberal and openly gay. That wasn’t even on my radar back then.
There are a lot of Christian college alumni who are in the same boat. Maybe not as dramatic as my story, but there are a lot of people who go off to Christian colleges, either by choice or because their parents made them, and as the years pass they aren’t the same people they were back then. Just saying, “don’t go to a Christian college if you don’t like the policies,” doesn’t reflect the complicated reality of peoples’ experiences.
And, in any case, even with the issues I have with Covenant, if I had to do it over again, I’d still go there. That may not be true of every Christian college alumnus, but it is for me. My time there wasn’t perfect, but I’ve got a lot of good memories and I am the person I am today because of Covenant. If that wasn’t true, I wouldn’t care so much about my alumni update being censored.