Huntington University, like many other Christian campuses, is dealing with the question of allowing and accepting LGBTQIA+ students on campus. How does it feel to be a Christian homosexual on a Christian campus? Caleb Harlow, a junior social work major, knows.
By Jazlyn Rust
“Most gay or queer people on campus aren’t out yet and don’t plan to be just yet,” says junior social work major Caleb Harlow.
Sitting across a round table from two other students, Harlow is being interviewed for a story on what it means to be gay on a Christian campus.
“Hey, what’s your story about?” asks one of the students, jumping in.
“Gays underground,” says Harlow.
Collective laughter fills the table.
“Why did you agree to this?” asks the student.
“I want to build a bridge between gays and Christianity,” says Harlow.
This leads to a question landing on the table: Can you actually be gay and Christian?
Harlow sits at the edge of his seat as he listens intently to the ideas being brought around the table. He slowly sets his fork on the table. Pauses.
“The coming out part was … difficult,” says Harlow. “Raised in a religious home that, from the time I was aware of my sexuality, wanted to change that. I didn’t really accept it [being gay] until I was 18, but I had kind of come out and then went back into the closet and back again several times between 14 and 18.”
Harlow remembers when he first came to see Huntington and needing to have the warning conversation.
“Before I came to HU, I had already set my presence as an out, gay man, and I knew that that wasn’t going to change,” says Harlow. “I had a conversation with my advisor about this and said, ‘Look, I’m gay, and I’m not going to hide that for this university.’”
Harlow has found that the idea of gay culture on a Christian campus is confusing to many students. He’s also found that it starts discussions among those who think being gay is just a fun, controversial topic for a Bible study. Prior to coming to HU, Harlow questioned whether or not it would be the right fit.
He thought to himself: “I would love to come here, and I just need to know — Am I going to be able to do that?’”
Huntington University has had many engagements with LGBTQIA+ on campus. The community life agreement states,
“The Bible states that God created sex to be enjoyed within the marriage relationship between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24, Ephesians 5:31). Other types of sexual relations are clearly condemned (Romans 1:24-27, I Corinthians 6:9-10). As a community, Huntington University affirms the importance of adhering to the Biblical standards of sexual purity.”
Under the diversity clause in the Community life agreement, there is no talk of protecting LGBTQIA+. It states,
“Huntington University has a Biblical expectation to foster an environment that reflects the body of Christ: all members of our community, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, age, and/or disability, are valued and appreciated for their diversity and role in the University.”
Nether says anything about homosexual actions being unacceptable or that the LGBTQIA+ students are protected.
“We are under-represented, but we are here to stay,” says Harlow.
54 of 100 students surveyed in a convenience survey agree with Harlow and say yes, LGBTQIA+ should be able to attend HU.
On the other hand, Ruth Harlow, mother of Caleb, had some issues with her son’s decisions.
“We have some personal issues that we are dealing with due to the fact that Caleb was not brought up this way,” says Ruth.
Jonathan Coley, Assistant professor of sociology at Oklahoma State University, and author of Gay on God’s Campus, states that his research has shown that more campuses are allowing for this conversation to happen.
“I found that 55% of Christian schools have adopted non-discrimination policy is inclusive of sexual orientation and that 45% of Christian schools are home to officially – approved LGBT student groups,” says Coley.
Caleb felt with acceptance comes hardship.
“I describe this time of my life as my wrestling with God time,” says Caleb. “Jacob walked away with a blessing and a broken ankle, one good thing and one bad, and I will walk away with a blessing through all of this.”
According to Caleb, it’s the lack of conversation between parent, child and university that is the issue.
“I just hope that one day we, as a campus, can realize that the LGBTQIA+ people love Jesus just as much as anyone else, and that’s all I am trying to do,” says Caleb.
Coley states that this is a heart issue and that universities should stand for what they believe.
“Most administrators at Christian universities likely adhere to Christianity, where it teaches them to love your neighbor as yourself, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” says Coley. “I would personally advise administrators to err on the side of acceptance.”
Ruth hopes that parents will not limit their love for their children.
“The only advice I could give is that, as parents, we need to make sure we love our children wherever they are in life.”