Using the backdrop of the passage of California’s proposition 8, which essentially stops the recognition of same-sex marriages, an editorial writer at Baylor took the opportunity to criticize the university administration and many members of its student body for their failure to get in step with what other universities are doing in regard to their policy on sexual misconduct, as well as some of the university’s past actions related to individuals on this same issue.
Calling Proposition 8 a “temporary setback” in an inevitable move toward “inclusiveness,” editorial writer Jade Ortego then took the university community to task for its attitude.
“Always instep with the Christian right, Baylor remains embarrassingly behind in its perception of gay rights. Baylor’s sexual misconduct policy calls human sexuality a “gift from the creator God” to be enjoyed through “heterosexual relationships within marriage.” Misuses of this gift include “sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication and homosexual acts.”
Though done in a backhanded way, Ortego could not have paid Baylor a better compliment. Though it might surprise some people, apparently Baylor’s policy is in step with the school’s mission and purpose as a Christian university with a long Baptist tradition. Baylor is in step with the Christian right because its administration, faculty and a significant number of its students come from a constituency that is largely centered in the Christian right. Ortego seems to think the school needs to move in a different direction. I would disagree with that.
Ortego says, “How can Baylor expect to compete in a new century with regressive ideas of segregation based on identity? It can’t, and unless some things change, it will become increasingly more embarrassing to identify oneself as an alumnus. I don’t want to be thought of as a close-minded bigot. ”
First of all, Baylor’s status as a Christian university with a Baptist tradition and heritage is what makes it somewhat unique among educational institutions. It is that status and heritage that is largely responsible for attracting most of the students which make up the university community. Take that away, and you have a Baylor University that not only loses its unique character, but would also lose much of what makes it competetive in attracting students. The vast majority of the students, professors and staff are part of the Baylor community because the school operates under Christian principles, with at least half of the students attracted by its traditional Baptist heritage. Ortego is right in declaring that Baylor is not like other universities. And the fact is, it doesn’t need to be, and I hope it doesn’t desire to be.
As Christians, our relationships with individuals who do not share the convictions we hold because of our faith in Christ and our belief in the Bible as the written Word of God, including homosexuals, should always be redemptive rather than judgemental, reflecting the fact that we are sinners who required the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to change our lives, and we live the life we do not because we did so much to change it, but because we benefitted from the grace of God through Jesus. We should always avoid kneejerk reactions to the moral choices others make, while at the same time we should never affirm a lifestyle, behavior, or moral values that are not consistent with our faith in Christ. There is always the danger that in living lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, critics will call us bigots or narrow minded. But there is also at least an equal chance that if our behavior is redemptive and not judgemental, gracious yet not affirming sin, the hope of Christ that lives within us will be seen, and we will have an opportunity to help someone find salvation and be free from the slavery of their sin.
Ortego needs to be open minded enough to be fair in investigating the Biblical values on which the university’s policy, and many of its student’s moral values rest. Far from labelling one as a bigot, there are many things that a degree from Baylor say about its recipient, with regard to moral values and spirituality, at least, I hope that it still the case.