Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dignity and Worth

Yesterday, a group of Wheaton alumni (they call themselves OneWheaton) distributed a letter on campus. As I understand it, it was a response to part of a recent chapel series, “Sexuality and Wholeness” (itself part of a larger series of lectures, “Sexual and Sanctified”), addressing homosexuality. If you have not already, I suggest you read the letter and some background on the group for context.

President Ryken issued a statement late yesterday afternoon responding positively to OneWheaton’s goal of affirming the worth and dignity of and ending any sort of negative disposition toward people who have suffered or are suffering at Wheaton because of their sexual identity, and at the same time affirming our Community Covenant’s relevant sections. I thought his comments were gracious and Christ honoring as well as fully reflecting the mission of the College.

As I pondered and reflected on OneWheaton’s letter and press release, I noticed a particular theme in the contents of the documents that I believe may be at the core of OneWheaton’s views. It concerns the source of the worth and dignity of all human beings that OneWheaton seeks to affirm. This article, by the way, is not a full response to OneWheaton, it is merely some thoughts I had after exploring their materials.

OneWheaton’s letter states, “As people of integrity we [OneWheaton] must affirm the full humanity and dignity of every human being regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” I agree that it is indeed a show of integrity to make such an affirmation. But why should we make this affirmation? Why would it be a strike against our integrity to do otherwise? After reading through OneWheaton’s materials several times, I found no answer to this question.

I personally believe that God is the source of the full humanity and dignity of every human being. Genesis affirms that God created male and female in His image, and called this grand finale of creation “very good.” To demean any person, any of the unique image-bearers of God, would be to put oneself in opposition to the Lord of creation.

Paul affirms in his letter to the Colossians that Christ is the Lord of creation. Given that each one of us is a part of creation, we are thus all subject to Christ as Lord (whether we acknowledge Him or not). Paul states that “all things were created…for him” (v. 16). “All things” includes the minds and bodies of men and women, which means that every thought, every action, every behavior is subject to Christ.

And every one of us, without exception, has thought, acted, and behaved in ways that are dishonoring to Christ. I am not here concerned with any particular thought, action, or behavior, but rather the general idea that it is a violation of our integrity to act in a way that dishonors Him whose image we bear.

OneWheaton’s letter directly addresses students who feel isolated and oppressed because of their sexual identity: “Your desire for companionship, intimacy and love is not shameful.” I agree with the spirit of this statement. To tell someone that he or she is in error for having same-sex attraction is akin to telling someone that he or she is in error for being disorganized. Certainly, such tendencies may cause harm to oneself or others, but having the tendencies themselves is not itself a sin. We live in a fallen, broken world, and this is reflected in many ways.

The key is to surrender everything – our minds, our bodies, our thoughts, our actions, our behaviors, our tendencies – to Christ, our Lord. Only He can take them and transform them so that they honor and glorify Him. We are utterly powerless to do so. We must acknowledge our brokenness, surrender to Christ, and let Him do with us what He will.

To return to an earlier point: each one of us is guilty of demeaning our fellow men and women, for asserting our alleged superiority, whether noticeably or not. And we have all suffered from it, and thus we all know the terrible effects it has on our own perception of our worth.

But praise God, our dignity and worth does not come from the opinions of those who seek to tear us down! As I explained above, our dignity and worth come from Christ, and it is Him alone in whom we should put our identity. Not in our jobs, our education, our status, our possessions, our friends, our significant others, our sexuality, our heath, our wealth, our intellect – indeed, in nothing of this world. I have forgotten this so many times and found myself depressed because of having poor standing in one of these areas. But I – and you, and every other man and woman – can have high standing before the throne of God because of the blood that was shed on our behalf at the Cross. All we need to obtain this standing, that overrules our standing before any standard of this world, is to surrender all that we are to Christ.

This is Rubio, over and out.


Scott Nelson '86 said...

You seem a smart young man--but you have so much yet to learn as you enter adult life. You may not be so certain as you are now about what Paul does or doesn't "affirm." I admire your surety, but I smile in a friendly way at your arrogance, and wish you good fortune on the journey ahead :)

Andrew said...

Thanks for a thoughtful response to OneWheaton's letter. I disagree with you, however, when you state that being attracted to men or women is akin to being disorganized. It's not. It's akin to being attracted to men and women.

As for what Paul affirms, it most certainly is not marriage -- his attitude is scornful at best. Yet me makes a concession for those who can't control their sexual attraction. If he believes that a concession to the flesh is appropriate in such circumstances, I see not why it matters whether one is attracted to women or men.

Eric said...

@Scott - I don't claim to have any special or superior knowledge on any of this (I've only had 10 hours of BITH classes in my time at Wheaton, for one thing); these were just my thoughts based on what I see in Scripture. Did you have any specific comments on your reading of the Colossians passage?

@Andrew - I didn't say that such an attraction is akin to disorganization, I said that calling the former an error is akin to calling the latter an error - I hope you see the distinction. Also, I'm not sure I understand your second point - I did not mention Paul's arguments about marriage (?)