But is there something left unsaid?
Comments on my last post prompted me to continue discussing the media coverage and possible perception by those reading the reports.
I have no desire to "bash" BJU; the school is already a lightning rod for public and media negativity. But the good and bad of media coverage there offers a few lessons to be learned.
It's important to notice how much thought Soulforce put into this meeting before they arrived. GreenvilleOnline.com staff writer Ron Barnett pointed it out in his article,
Soulforce had asked BJU for permission to come on campus to discuss homosexuality and the Bible with students. BJU denied the request, saying it believes the Bible is clear on the issue and there's no room for dialogue.
Two of the students arrested were carrying works of art they had made that they said expressed the pain they have felt as a result of anti-gay prejudice and "spiritual violence." They said they wanted to present the pieces to the BJU art museum, one part of this private school that is open to the public.
The third student arrested tried to walk onto campus while reading from a list of 57 "theses" outlining the group's position on the Bible and homosexuality and its complaints against BJU. The gesture, at this staunchly Protestant institution, was patterned after Martin Luther's 95 theses that sparked the Protestant Reformation.
The three were handcuffed and led to a paddy wagon waiting inside the university's main entrance, where they were ticketed and released after about 15 minutes.
Members of Soulforce acknowledged later that they had asked police to use handcuffs to symbolize that this was an actual arrest. (Emphasis added mine)
First, the comment by Carol Keirstead that Barnett included summarized three of the four points BJU hoped to achieve in spite of Soulforce's presence. Here's the press release about the event.
"BJU is pleased that we were able to defend the authority of Scripture, demonstrate Christ-like love and compassion, and present a clear gospel message."
What? This is nonsense. How was BJU able to accomplish any of those things by refusing to host this group? This makes no sense to me. BJU separated itself from everything that happened outside.
If defending Scripture was their goal, that's fine. But it does not follow that keeping all the students and faculty from talking to the group could communicate love, compassion, defense of Scripture or a clear gospel message to the members of Soulforce.
All they saw was a closed campus.
The only thing I can conclude then is that BJU was praying for some miraculous event because God wasn't going to be able to work through them, in any practical manner, while they were all separated from the Soulforce team.
BJU did nothing to further the conversation among Christians about homosexuality.
There's also BJU's fourth and final goal for the day in the press release, and it amazed me.
[W]e intended to have a regular day of classes and activities. We recognized that Soulforce had a right to protest at the perimeter of our campus and we hoped Soulforce would respect our desire to provide for our University family a regular day of classes and activities.
Doesn't this seem to contradict the previous comment about what they hoped to achieve? I guess BJU is daily defending Scripture from homosexual activist groups that are protesting outside their gates.
I'd like to pose another question. According to BJU's college newspaper The Collegian, they are hosting a group of 2,000 high schoolers for an entire week. I wonder if this will interrupt a normal schedule of classes and activities.
Would hosting Soulforce for a day be nearly as complicated and disruptive as hosting high schoolers for a week?
It seems to me that there are other reasons behind BJU refusing admittance to Soulforce, which they did not mention.
Accepting Soulforce was an incovenience and could have been perceived as catering to homosexual activists, which would have upset BJU's constituents (Christians who send their kids and donate money there).
In other words, 2000 high schoolers to whom the student body is ministering equals more people willing to donate money to BJU. Whereas, giving a platform and leeway to homosexual activists to talk with college students and faculty about the varying perspectives on this controversy among Christians equaled less willingness to donate money to BJU.
It looks great to other Christians and donors for your students to minister to visiting high schoolers for a week. But something about ministering to Soulforce was unacceptable.
They were viewed as a threat, all the more enforcing an idea of religious oppression.
If you disagree with me fine.
But the point I am stressing is that the abilities to "think news" between these two groups is radically different.
Soulforce won the battle of public perception.
BJU should have studied up on all the articles published from last year's ride and known that counter-protesters might come if the group was locked out.
Their decision to keep them outside forfeited any control they might have been able to have on what the press did or did not see.
Religious oppression quickly became the focus of the article instead of the varied perspectives among Christians on homosexuality, which is a better story for the public to see.
What is the winning ticket for Christian colleges and universities? Make the talk about the diversity among Christians and not another example of religious oppression.
It can only be beneficial for the students, faculty and community.
Take a look at the AP article to see the difference between it and Barnett's coverage, available here.
The AP wire story would have been the one to run in papers across the country.
Decide for yourself how it portrays the event.