The other day I got a letter from Cornerstone University, informing me that a pro-gay religious group called Soulforce was planning a campus visit and explaining how the school planned to respond.
Cards on the table… I graduated from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary (which is part of Cornerstone) five years ago. I happen to share their belief that human sexuality is a gift from God, meant to be expressed between a man and woman in a monogamous, covenant relationship.
I also believe the second greatest command in all of scripture is to “love your neighbor” (which Jesus said is like the greatest command, to love God)—and that our “neighbor,” as defined by Jesus, is the very person we are most likely to fear, hate, resent, etc. After all, that’s how Jesus’ audience viewed the Samaritan, the hero of Jesus’ most famous parable.
So what should an evangelical university do when the gay community pays a visit?
In the letter, Cornerstone described Soulforce as a group “whose purpose is to undermine and destroy the biblical values we affirm.” Cornerstone noted that decision to say no to Soulforce’s visit was based on a distinction between “how we may respond to a person… versus how we may respond to an organization.”
When two Soulforce members showed up anyway (after giving the university advance notice), they were arrested for trespassing. According to Cornerstone’s president, Soulforce is “not really interested in dialogue; they want media visuals. They want to be seen being arrested. They like being portrayed as victims.”
The incident raises three questions for me:
1) Do we have the right to attribute motive to those we disagree with? It’s one thing to say that someone’s beliefs and behaviors contradict our understanding of the Bible. But when we accuse someone of deliberately undermining biblical values, have we crossed a line? Have we begun to judge hearts and minds? Isn’t that God’s prerogative alone? Are we violating Jesus’ command to “judge not, lest [we] be judged”?
2) Is it possible to separate our response to an organization from our response to a person? Can we give the cold shoulder to a group like Soulforce and still love—I mean really love, not just tolerate—those who belong to Soulforce?
3) Is it fair to say that Soulforce is more interested in theatrics than dialogue? Perhaps they are, but then how do we explain the apparently healthy dialogue that has taken place at schools like Seattle Pacific (not far from where I live) and Calvin College (just down the street from Cornerstone)? These schools that found a way to welcome Soulforce without necessarily compromising their evangelical convictions.
2 thoughts on “Soulforce comes to Cornerstone”
ha – yesterday on my day off for studying, I went back to my alma, Calvin College. And indeed, it was the day SoulForce was there. Very interesting, because there was no fuss and it almost seemed like they weren’t really there.
And yet, police officers monitored and roamed the campus just to be there in case. But I know Calvin students – most of them know how to love and to extend themselves to a person, regardless of their differences. I haven’t heard an overall report of how the day went for Calvin, but it was neat to be there to experience it.
Ben, As a GRTS (the GRBS) alum myself I have to agree with you here. I’m afraid they may have missed the boat. I can’t see a Jesus community turning people like that away. What are we afraid of? That will be misunderstood? Of course we will!