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April 04, 2007

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Alissa Baier

Thanks for your comments about the reactions to Soulforce. Just this morning I attended a President's sexuality forum at Seattle Pacific University, where I'm a soon-to-be-graduating senior (and 2005 SIJ alum). Next Wednesday we'll be hosting half of Soulforce (the other half will be across town at Northwest University), and that verb I just used mirrors our approach exactly--hospitality. I'm proud that SPU is standing apart from the defensive tactics taken by others in the name of religion, and instead taking a posture of loving grace, just as Jesus modeled towards us sinners.

Brandon Leonard

I'm glad to hear about schools that are hosting and inviting Soulforce on campus. I think one of the scariest things in Christian thought today is an attitude of disrespect, the act of treating someone else inhumanely, to anyone who disagrees with something considered a black-and-white biblical principle by some.

Russ

For the record, the anti-SoulForce protesters weren't associated with BJU and were specifically denounced in a press release from the school. (You didn't imply otherwise, but someone reading the post might wrongly assume that the protesters yelling hate speech at the members of Soulforce represented BJU). Also, in case anyone might think that the picture at the top of the article is from BJU, it's not, although I'm not sure what the actual location is.

The only "unloving" action by BJU was not to allow Soulforce to have a forum on campus to present their point of view (that many homosexuals have been mistreated by spiritual organizations--no argument there, and that homosexuality is just as valid a form of sexual expression as is heterosexuality). But does Christian hospitality require that any group who wants a forum must be allowed to have it? What if one has already heard the arguments and heard the stories (or ones similar to them)? Why must an institution allow a forum to everyone with a grievance so that they can broadcast their point of view? Goodness--that's what the blogosphere is for!

Potts

Russ has made a couple of important clarifications about the counter-protesters and the pictures in the post.

As this blog's moderator, I can verify that the pictures are stock photos of past Soulforce protests, and not from BJU. I don't have independent information on the counter-protesters.

The broader issue of whether Christian universities should allow everyone with a grievance to air their complaints on campus is an important debate.

However, that is a bit different question from what Mr. Leonard is asking: whether certain groups merit arrest on a Christian campus merely for having a grievance to air.

Mr. Leonard also seems to be asking the very important and fair question of whether BJU's response is a biblically appropriate means of taking criticism.

Jason

You failed to address the reasons Stephen Jones gave for the approach they took. Disagreeing is fine, but it's pointless if you don't answer the logic which led them to their decision.

Brandon Leonard

Keep in mind that when I wrote my post it was literally hours after the story hit the wires. I didn't see a statement released by BJU yet, hence including the perspective of Stephen Jones was impossible for me unless I contacted him for a comment directly.

I think it would be a stretch to say they weren't associated with BJU. One of the protesters was a student's mother. Now, that is not a paid, professional connection (as in she is not given authority by the school to represent them), but she is a representation of what kind of people were a part of this counter-protest. It wasn't just random Christians. Apparently, some were there because they had a personal connection to the school (i.e. a son or daughter who goes there) and thus are seen as a representative of the normal, everyday people inside BJU.

Russ

RE: "...that is a bit different question from what Mr. Leonard is asking: whether certain groups merit arrest on a Christian campus merely for having a grievance to air."

Any discussion of Mr. Leonard's question should also include a discussion of the same question in reverse: Does BJU's denial of Soulforce's request (for permission express its grievance and promote the idea that homosexuality is a biblically acceptable lifestyle) merit Soulforce's coming uninvited and trespassing on the institution's property?

RE: "Mr. Leonard also seems to be asking the very important and fair question of whether BJU's response is a biblically appropriate means of taking criticism."

This statement raises a question about a particular position without offering actual analysis. There are some biblical references that seem to me to be relevant to the topic (although none that address the situation directly as far as I know), but unless the person making a statement (or posing a question that raises doubt about a particular position or action) offers support, there's really nothing to respond to. It's sort of like asking (after some taking someone to task for spanking his child), whether the parent’s response is "biblically appropriate means" of handling a child's disobedience. The question offers no biblical analysis of the issue, but it effectively raises a cloud of doubt against the parent without actually providing any argumentation. Unless Mr. Leonard offers some biblical data in support of the doubt he raises, the question he poses is little more than a rhetorical device devoid of anything that can be discussed. If the discussion is worth having, please offer some data. Otherwise, the question (at least as currently phrased) has no place in a serious conversation.

RE: “I think it would be a stretch to say they weren't associated with BJU....”

No, asserting a general fact about the people inside BJU based on one mother of one student is a stretch. Besides, it ignores some pretty obvious facts:

(1) BJU explicitly and officially distanced itself from the anti-protesters in a number of ways (unless one thinks that BJU really wanted them there and was actually secretly and silently pleased they were there--if one believes this, I'm not sure any evidence or lack thereof could convince him otherwise). However, here are some of the statements from BJU’s chief communications officer (Carol Kierstead):

"Bob Jones University did not choose today's visit by Soulforce and took no delight in the protests and counterprotests at the perimeter of our campus,"
"Those who have responded to Soulforce with name-calling or ridicule do not represent Bob Jones University, nor do we believe they represent a biblical approach to a group such as Soulforce.”

(2) No students, faculty, or staff of BJU joined the anti-protesters.
(3) Nothing is said about what the mother was actually doing among the anti-protesters. The Greenville News explicitly states that not all the anti-Soulforce protesters were using the same methods, but Mr. Leonard’s latest reply says that the fact that a student’s mother was present among the anti-protestors tells us “what kind of people were a part of this counter-protest.” The singular (“this counter-protest”) is not an accurate reflection even of the source he cites. Is the mother among the group with megaphones, the group praying for Soulforce silently, or with those engaging Soulforce in theological conversations one-on-one after the protesters with megaphones left? Unless there is more behind Mr. Leonard’s statement that he has not yet revealed, his statement reveals more about his ability to analyze a report in its entirety than it reveals about the general population of BJU.

Russ

The issues Mr. Leonard raises in Part 2 (public perception, etc.) are somewhat distinct from the issues he raises here in Part 1 (biblical reaction to criticism, nature of the BJU population). I am still interested in his thoughts regarding my last set of questions, but I'd like to comment about the issues he raises in Part 2 as well. Will comments be enabled for Part 2 (as they are for other posts) or should comments to both parts be posted under this existing thread?

Brandon Leonard

A quick update: the comments section is up on my news post, and I will reply to comments on this post soon.

Russ

Thanks for enabling comments for the other post.

Brandon Leonard

"Does BJU's denial of Soulforce's request (for permission (to) express its grievance and promote the idea that homosexuality is a biblically acceptable lifestyle) merit Soulforce's coming uninvited and trespassing on the institution's property?"

The word merit really defines this question. BJU's denial did not merit Soulforce's coming. We know that the East coast unit of Soulforce came because they perceived a religiously oppressive attitude at BJU. This is the group's second year doing it, and they decided to come to BJU long before Bob Jones denied them access to campus grounds.

"Unless Mr. Leonard offers some biblical data in support of the doubt he raises ... "

Are you asking for Biblical data about how to react to criticism or how to discern a Biblical approach to homosexuals?

In either case, my point was to show how it supported a common stereotype among Christians, not debate over a Biblical reaction to criticism.

"The Greenville News explicitly states that not all the anti-Soulforce protesters were using the same methods ... "

Again, the article that posted the different groups present wasn't published until after my post. When I wrote my post the only counter-protesters mentioned where the street-shouting hellfire and brimstone types. What conclusion was I supposed to draw?

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