After reading the exposé about the treatment of LGBT Swatties in Swarthmore Christian Fellowship, I was appalled but not shocked. I went to a few of their events in my first year but stopped going due to a combination of schedule conflicts and because I thought that they took the Bible too literally. I remained on their email list, so I knew that SCF had intentionally chosen to stay affiliated with Intervarsity after the organization had fired someone for being in an LGBT relationship. I assumed that SCF itself was not that conservative, but it turns out, I was wrong.
I am a Christian, and I am viscerally opposed to SCF’s stance. I might not be the world’s best Christian—I certainly don’t attend church often enough, and I certainly am a sinner (as all of us are)—but I know in my heart that SCF and Intervarsity’s actions towards LGBT students are not what Jesus would do. As I reflected on the piece, I wondered to myself: What if Jesus went to Swarthmore?
Jesus accepted those who were marginalized by society. He hung out with tax collectors, lepers, and a Samaritan woman. In the case of the Samaritan woman, Jesus spoke to her and shared His Word with her, even though Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans. Jesus also rebuked leaders who were too caught up in petty rules and expressed that what comes from the heart is more important, “Jesus replied, ‘And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father and mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition,’” (Matthew 15: 3-7). Jesus spent time with folks from marginalized backgrounds, not those who were caught up in the laws and rules. I see a parallel: Jesus would spend his time with Swatties of marginalized backgrounds, but wouldn’t be an SCF leader. The same Jesus that said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” (John 13:34). Therefore, he would not be a part of a group that makes LGBT students feel unwelcome.
There is a troublesome contradiction in SCF’s policy. There are many ways to interpret the passages in Leviticus that appear to condemn homosexuality, with key words having five to six different possible translations that change the meaning of the passages. The New King James Version, The New International Version, and the King James Version all translate the passages differently. SCF and Intervarsity are choosing to interpret the text in the most conservative way that excludes LGBT people. Reading the Bible in this way and not allowing room for interpretation or context is a political act and a statement on their beliefs.
The Bible also says that women should not speak in church, “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?” (1 Cor. 14:33-36). SCF allows women to be leaders, so why draw the line at homosexuality?
The Bible also tells us that Jesus came to Earth and was crucified to fulfil the requirements of the Law for his believers, “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified,” (Galatians 2:16). The denomination I practice, United Methodist, preaches grace by faith alone, meaning that it is the belief in God and Jesus, and not good works that gets a person to heaven. Christianity does not require strict adherence to the laws outlined in Leviticus, Christ came here to fulfil them for us. I’m not a theologist, but the Bible is clear that Jesus’s purpose, the reason he was born and the reason he died, was for our sins and so that the only law that was required was this: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these,” (Mark 12:30-31).
There is no love more powerful than the love that Jesus has for us. Jesus loves all of us, no matter who we are or what our sexual orientation is. SCF’s exclusion of queer students in leadership position seems to go against what the Bible says about judging others, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2).
I highly doubt that if Jesus went to Swarthmore He would support SCF’s exclusionary practices. I also have a feeling he would live in Mary Lyons, as he survived forty days and forty nights in the desert, so I don’t think he would mind the walk.