Baylor Rapes

12715486_10102509892701793_3760983641146401144_n

When I attended Baylor University at the end of the 1990s the traditional means of communicating pride or announcements for the school was to purchase boxes of simple white chalk and run all over campus to spread the news via sidewalk. There was fierce competition for the most visible spots. The artwork was often crude, but if one was clever then surely the attention would be garnered and people would show-up for the music festival, sporting event, or student body election.

I share this quaint story to follow this picture, because there are many traditions at Baylor, although not chalking, that need to change. In my opinion, the most important of these is a modern, conservative, Christian environment of protectionism that would rather duck and cover and “pray away” issues, than face-up and address them in charismatic, transparent, or proactive ways.

Recently, my beloved alma mater has come under fire for its lack of adequate, or even any real attention paid to multiple reports from victims of rape on campus – all women – whose voices have been tamped down while the university administration works with a third party law firm to apparently determine a course forward. The administrative side of my head has compassion and sympathy for the fact that the University faces such a complex problem. I, too, would want to gather more information and make informed decisions. But, I do not have patience for the style, tone, or timeframe with which the University has selected to express their position. In long emails and brisk “no comments” to the media and Baylor family, President Ken Starr has essentially said, “Dude, we know that there’s a problem, but we’re getting to it.” [Paraphrasing]

Just yesterday the AP reported that the State of Texas is going to allow Baylor to continue its campaign of secrecy surrounding the apparent investigation that it is either now or intending to pursue. Unfortunately, for the image of Baylor this is not an isolated method of handling “problems”. The most classic case being the active cover-up of a student murder by his fellow star basketball player (look it up). That sad choice by the University resulted in so much pain and suffering, and the termination of a several administrators, including the President. Despite such an obvious lesson, Baylor continues to believe that its own righteousness far outweighs public and transparent justice, and has repeated this policy of denying and ignoring human dignity when it comes to numerous issues, especially for students and the Waco, Texas community in which it is situated.

The real questions at stake for me as a burgeoning Christian minister, and a member of the Baylor Christian family, of course, is “is this Christian”? How are women served by such pretentious and minimized efforts to not only identify what has happened, but to commit to and then live into changing a traditional culture? Where is the justice? These are question for another time and place. But, unlike the chalked sidewalks of the Baylor campus, they cannot, nor will they be, washed away.

Advertisements

Inclusion: hope

One of the greatest joys and honors in my life right now is to serve as President of Queer For Christ- DC (QFC). QFC is a local, social network of LGBTQIA* Christians who like to socialize with one another around the fact that we are all Christian, and we are all queer. If you don’t understand, I apologize. It is a weird fact in 2016; however, but in most environments, even in “the big city” – to quote this Oklahoma boy, there is still a real disparity both externally and within the church around inclusion of our various identities.

It’s not that we don’t have safe spaces at many churches, because we do. Many churches proudly wave rainbow flags or advertise their “Welcoming & Affirming” status, but this doesn’t necessarily filter to the experience of living an “out life” within the church community.

As a result, QFC and several peer organizations have garnered a strong participant and fan base. We couldn’t be more pleased. The aspect of the group that I admire the most is the fact that we often represent and live-into the very unity that is lacking in inter-denominational life between different churches. We have members from nearly every brand of Christianity, and not once have we broken down over the divides that often plague the work and efforts of our various church bodies. We agree to love and embrace each other and find space to serve together purely based upon the fact that we are present with one another. It is a dream realized!

Now that being said, we also have a many issues. And, in a spirit of unity, vulnerability, transparency, and to inspire a conversation, I would like to share them. The biggest elephant in our room is that, despite many thoughtful and intentional efforts, we have failed to attract many women, and only a modest racial and ethnic mix of people into our group. Yes, like many LGBT and church groups, we have fallen prey to a white, cisgender male normative. Why? We are still diagnosing.

We have attempted partnerships with outside groups, forums to discuss sometimes uncomfortable issues, Bible studies that talk directly to this issue, changes in schedules, and placing our events in different environments so as to be inclusive to different interests. We have surveyed those active members who are women, or from various racial or ethnic backgrounds, within our community about what attracted them to the group. We have invited diverse individuals into leadership. The results have been underwhelming.

What has been a growing trend, however, is the criticism. I periodically receive the occasional rant from a friend attempting to shame me for representing a group so “obviously biased against” non-white, non-cisgender people. My stance generally is not let the criticism get to me, and to offer that anyone willing to change our trend within the group is welcome. On the other side, more recently, I have started to hear internally from members who, as discouraged as me by the lack of change, see value in soldiering on and making use of the asset that we have versus crafting the asset that we want. This is also hard for me to digest as I think about the type of network that I want to lead and grow.

I realize that it’s bad form (even as a new blogger) to leave a piece open ended, but I am honestly at a loss. What do I do? Embrace what seems to “work” or push for “change”? How do I appreciate what I love about this organization, yet hold it accountable and help it dream of something more? All ideas are welcome.