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Friday, March 10, 2006

 

Equality Ride: Starting a dialogue?

Imagine you're a liberal democrat and your conservative republican neighbor calls and says, "Hey, we are coming over to your house next Tuesday in order to dialogue with your kids about the benefits of conservativism." Your neighbors say they will drop in sometime that day and leave a copy of God and George Bush by Paul Kengor; copies of the National Review and some literature from Focus on the Family for your kids to read. While they are there, they plan to strike up conversations with them about the Iraq War, the need to cut entitlement programs and about how abortion is discriminatory to the poor.

How would you respond?


Now read this from the Dallas Voice about Soulforce's plans to visit Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA:

Members of Soulforce, which is based in Lynchburg, were greeted with cookies when they met with Liberty students on campus last spring to discuss the treatment of gays...

Soulforce has been issued a permit to demonstrate on city property, which Zuidema said would be the sidewalk or street bordering the campus. Soulforce’s goal is to meet with students to discuss freedom of expression, not to have a confrontation, Herrin said. Still, the group will not be turned away, she said. “I’m actually very excited that this is our first stop,” Herrin, a 24-year-old (Equality Rider) from Dallas, said in a telephone interview. “We have to go to these places and start this dialogue.”

So when you reply to your conservative republican neighbors, "no, we had you over here once before and we just don't see eye-to-eye on these things," they say "we won't be turned away, we are going to come into your house whether you like it or not. See you next Tuesday!"

How would you respond?

Comments:
Um, Soulforce isn't going to anyone's house, they're going to public places and college campuses.

And there is a difference between a dialogue about the "benefits of conservatism" and discussing discriminatory treatment of young LGBT students--especially, in my opinion, those who want to serve in the military.

(Private schools can discriminate all they want to, sadly.)

Further, maybe if someone in my house wrote pleading letters to the conservative Republican neighbor, there would be a reason.... (check out the Soulforce website for some of those).
 
CK - As you note, Liberty University is a private college. As with my home, I have the right to control when and how non-residents enter it. I do not favor Jerry Falwell's decision on the merits; I think the Abilene Christian was better (putting the riders up in hotel, etc.). But if establishing dialogue is the aim, then I think they are taking a similar approach to the obnoxious neighbor who will not leave. My natural reaction is to stop listening when my neighbor violates my personal space.

My first impression: If I received a letter like that from my neighbor's kids I would share it with my neighbor and wait for permission to do anything else.
 
"Soulforce has been issued a permit to demonstrate on city property, which Zuidema said would be the sidewalk or street bordering the campus."

If it's city property it's not private property.
 
Boo - I meant the college itself. I have no problem with my neighbor putting up his political signs during election year right on the edge of our property. If he wanted to call me unfair in some way, as long as he did it off my domain, I respect his right.
 
I guess I see a difference between a one-on-one dialogue (you and your neighbor) and trying to confront systemic injustice.

Liberty can enforce rules against trespassing (as could GCC, had the riders decided to go there). I have no qualms with that. Part of the focus of the ride is to draw public attention to these schools who have gay students at them, and who are treating them poorly--as well as begin a dialogue.

Still, my sympathies are more on the the military aspect of the ride, with the ban in place there. To me, that kind of discrimination makes no sense. I can see where a religious school can kick students out for conflicts with their codes.
 
My main point was to complain about trespassing and getting all up in the face. This is not conducive to dialogue. Now I think the E Ride is brilliant from a PR perspective and will lead to discussions - but I don't think dialogue is the point.

They were having dialogue before they left. If dialogue was the real focus, they could have continued to do it without trespassing for media coverage (e.g., at LU today).
 
We'd respond in the same way we do to all those religious recruitment agents that appear on our doorstep.

Tell them we are not interested, and why.

We've had very few bother asking us to enlighten them further. You can see the shutters go down and a rather hard look cross their faces immediately. We've also never been pestered by Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Anglicans or Roman Catholics. Never been hit on by them despite all our (approved) forays into their gardens for cuttings.

We've only had to ask one pushy person to depart the property. We did have to ask one denomination to cease and desist -- a "don't call us, we'll call you".

And people who trespass get arrested. But Soulforce are counting on that, right? And so is Falwell, right? I'm sure they're both anticipating a benefit :)

(Where that leaves the terror-stricken gay "kids" at Liberty, who knows. Liberty has its rules for the "benefit" of the paying parents, not for their charges. That won't change.)
 
This comparison to conservative activitsts insisting on invading someone's home to talk to their children is way off the mark.

It's imporrtant to understand that Equality Ride is taking the discussion to institutions of Christian higher education. That's a very different context than someone's home. And while these students on these campuses are someone's children (as we all are), they are actually adults -- not minors who need some parental consent to speak to strangers.

The genius of Equality Ride is that if an institution of higher education shows itself unwilling or unable to engage in the free exchange of ideas, it proves itself to be a weak excuse for education at best, and a bigoted social club at worst. Sure, private schools have the right to exclude people. But is that the best thing for Christian higher education? Does that serve the believers' mission of love and justice in the world? Does that serve the pursuit of truth in higher education?

The silliness of the schools which have chosen not to engage in dialogue on this issue is being proven as Equality Ride travels. Today at Regent, students on the campus were restricted from even walking off their own campus grounds to talk to the Riders. So is Regent a castle defending its territory, or a literal prison for the students who chose to enroll there?

Thankfully, the schools with better leadership have chosen to welcome the Riders and engage in dialogue. It's long overdue.
 
Private property is still private whether it is a home or college. Students are adults but they (and their parents) are the clients of the college. Most schools/institutions/businesses that value their future wish to care for and protect their clients.

Regent offered dialogue. Liberty had dialogue last year. This is not about dialogue; everybody on both sides who are close to this knows that. If SoulForce wanted dialogue it did and could have it.
 
As someone who works for the CCCU of which most of these schools are members, I consider myself "close" to the issue. As someone who attended Wheaton College and witnessed the close-mindedness of the school on many issues including homosexuality, I consider myself close to this issue. And as someone close to this issue, it is about dialogue.

For Equality Ride it is dialogue with a purpose of changing policies which they believe to be unjust and contrary to an accurate interpretation of scripture. For the schools which choose to discuss this issue it is dialogue aimed at understanding and getting opportunity to clarify their interpretation of scripture.

The schools which refuse to even discuss the issue, even if they have done so before, are the only ones who think this is not about a dialogue with a purpose. They are certain this is some vast gay activist conspiracy to take over the world or to corrupt the innocent minds of their students (who apparently have not been equipped to think for themselves).

Having heard from the Equality Riders who spoke to the CCCU, they at least want their stories to be heard by these campuses. The people close to this issue understand that and see no harm in it.
 
For Equality Ride it is dialogue with a purpose of changing policies which they believe to be unjust and contrary to an accurate interpretation of scripture. For the schools which choose to discuss this issue it is dialogue aimed at understanding and getting opportunity to clarify their interpretation of scripture.

I think you said it pretty well; SoulForce wants to change the way the people who make up these schools think. It is only one side who thinks the school need to clarify anything. I suspect the schools were pretty clear on their beliefs before this.

Can you have forced dialogue? Ordinarily, I think of dialogue as mutual somehow. Now when my wife says, "we need to talk now" I do so because we have a special relationship. I don't usually respond well when it is someone else, do you?
 
This post from Triscar seemed relevant to this post...

I want emplore you to read and see the news releases on ER's web site, the Pilot on-line at hamptonroads.com, and WAVY 10 at WAVY.com. I hope you see the reality of what took place amidst all the hoopla. But what you won't read in the news is that 15-20 Regent students went out to dinner with half the ER riders last night. You also won't read that Mark Yarhouse joined them as well. You won't read or see in the news much about the relationships that have formed and the bridges that have been built. Reconciliation is happening.

I am one of the students that has spent most of my time in the last 3 days interacting with the ER riders. I also have a homosexual orientation and a strong Orthodox Christian faith. In your blog you accused Melissa of speculating about many things, you also made quite a few speculations yourself. As far as my experience goes in the School of Psychology and Counseling, Melissa is not remiss in her "speculations". I cannot speak for other departments on campus, but I can for ours.

Dr. Throckmorton, thank you for your commitment to open, intelligent dialogue, and academic freedom.

 
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