Book Study Empowers Students to Reach Outby Catherine Elvy, Staff Writer
Student believers desiring to reflect Christ on college campuses often encounter barriers when it comes to sharing their faith with classmates who struggle with homosexual desires.
That issue can be especially magnified at Yale University, which has been dubbed for decades as the "Gay Ivy."
Given the issues evangelicals may face when interacting with peers who grapple with same-sex attractions, a Christian Union intern hosted a book study on the subject throughout the spring semester.
Marcus Boesl, Yale '14, led a study around Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. About 15 male and female undergraduates involved in Christian Union's leadership development ministry at Yale met once a month on Wednesday nights to discuss the issues Wesley Hill describes in his 2010 book.
"One of the challenges I have faced as a student at Yale was to figure out how to speak to the issue of homosexuality with compassion, but also with truth," said Boesl. "People have a very strong perception of how Christians view homosexuality, usually in a very negative way."
For Boesl, the issue surfaced as the baritone interacted with students involved with Yale's vibrant a cappella community. "We would talk and they would say, 'This whole idea of Christianity is really beautiful, but I don't see how my sexuality can co-exist with that,'" Boesl said.
"That's a pretty common experience for students here as they are having conversations with their friends."
As for Hill, the self-identified celibate Christian offered a glimpse into the challenges of wrestling with same-sex attractions while wanting to serve God. Hill also explains that believers who choose celibacy over homosexual activity encounter loneliness, and they crave meaningful relationships.
During Boesl's study, the Yale undergraduates talked about ways they can support individuals who battle homosexual desires, but want to honor Christ with sexual purity. Much of the discussions centered on the sinful tendencies all believers wrestle with throughout their lifetimes, including some that are more intense during youth.
"Everyone is broken. This is just a particular area," said Boesl, who led the discussions at the Pennington Center, Christian Union's ministry center at Yale. "We're learning how to share our brokenness as we talk to our friends on campus."
On a campus that broadcasts a cultural message of freedom and tolerance in sexuality, the students explored the benefits of following God's design and the dangers of stepping outside His plan.
At the same time, they discussed the compassion and value that all people crave, as well as the fear of judgment and analysis that keeps some young adults, especially those dealing with homosexual attractions, from seeking spiritual support.
"One of the big stereotypes is the Christian view is old-fashioned, bigoted, arbitrary, and doesn't reflect how life is," said Boesl.
As well, the students have focused on ways to realize identity through Christ. "We are not primarily defined by our sexuality," said Boesl. "As Christians, we are primarily defined as being in Christ."
Christian Union Ministry Fellow Jon Yeager echoed those comments. "So much of the culture is saying, 'This is who you are. You cannot let Christianity take that away from you,'" Yeager said.
"Believers are defined by Christ."
More importantly, God offers grace to transform all areas of human brokenness, a hope that resonates with Hill.
In Washed and Waiting, the Wheaton College alumnus describes his identity as "one who is forgiven and spiritually cleansed and my struggle as one who perseveres with a frustrating thorn in the flesh, looking forward to what God has promised to do."
Hill encourages individuals who experience homosexual attractions to seek refuge in a spiritual community.
"In so doing, they may find, as I have, by grace, that being known is spiritually healthier than remaining behind closed doors, that the light is better than the darkness," Hill wrote.
"The Christian community needs to be at the forefront of embracing those with struggles" and provide a "safe place to struggle through the confusion of desires of all sorts," said Yeager.
"Most homosexuals are scared to be in an evangelical church," which should function as the embodiment of true Christian relationships.
After all, God intended for His followers to enjoy intimacy with Christ, while finding support and deep friendships within a community of believers.
"It's a beautiful, creative intent to be knit together in God's harmony and unity," Yeager said. "It goes beyond sexuality. God's plan for humanity and those in Christ is for people to share such intimacy and self-giving love."