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Inquiring Minds: Equality Ride shows need for a new sort of debate

All semester, the Eastern community has anticipated the Equality Ride’s visit. With the amount of worry and hope that we had beforehand, it seems amazing how little has changed since.

The debating that went on, the arguing and listening that was only part of the exchange among the Riders and the community, was mostly about the theoretical question: Can we interpret Christianity in such a way that it can coexist with homosexual practice? That’s what the booklet by Mel White, distributed by the Riders, was about. It’s the same question that has been debated in countless dorm rooms and even in these pages.

But there was no mass change of opinions about the topic. Most people seem pretty much set in their beliefs – whether they are in agreement or disagreement with White and the Riders, or even undecided. No balance of public opinion was tipped last Monday, and it appears that no balance will be tipped by continuing to discuss the question ad nauseum.

What this means is that it is time for the debate at Eastern to move beyond theory to the very practical and important question thrust upon us by the Riders: How do we deal with people who believe and practice different forms of Christianity from that endorsed by the institution?

Eastern is an ideologically broad campus — maybe to a fault. There is a vast diversity of sorts of Christianity among faculty, students and administration, from Baptist to Quaker to Catholic. Some people here are patent heretics by other people’s standards. Professors must sign a standard statement of faith, but they interpret it in different ways – and students need not sign it at all.

At the same time, there is a vast diversity in the kinds of Christian practice that the University tolerates. People get divorced. Half the students have been sexually active, according to last year’s survey. There is no broad condemnation of these things by the community, although most members believe these actions are highly inappropriate.

The Equality Riders, and any who say they are Christian and practicing homosexuals, have a different theology from most at Eastern — but so do many others within the community. They also act unrepentantly in ways that most at Eastern believe to be sinful — but so do many others within the community.

The line that must be drawn, between forms of Christianity that are acceptable and unacceptable to the Eastern community, is an extremely difficult one to mark out. Perhaps there are just two options — accepting homosexual Christians and their practices despite our differences or becoming more strict in our dealings with those outside the Eastern norm. Perhaps there is another option, or two, or three. Regardless, this is where the debate at Eastern must focus in the following years – what degrees of difference are acceptably Christian?

Inquiring Minds is the collective opinion of the editorial staff and not necessarily representative of the entire staff. It is written by the managing editor and the editor-in-chief.

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