Students flock to speech on relationship between Christianity and homosexuality
Jordan’s lecture, held in the Ann W. Olin Women’s Building Formal Lounge, drew a large audience, with staff adding chairs at the last minute and students crammed against each other on long couches, windowsill ledges and the floor.
His presentation centered on the topics of his recently published book, “Recruiting Young Love: How Christians Talk about Homosexuality.”
Students attending the lecture found the topic particularly salient.
“I had previously written a paper or two in high school about Christianity and homosexuality, and one thing I found is there is very little discourse about Christianity that accepts gay people,” sophomore Wolf Smith said.
Jordan guided the audience through a sampling of sources illuminating the evolution of Christianity’s stance on homosexuality.
He said that many churches fear adolescent desire and do not see sexual desire as divine in any way.
According to Jordan, Christianity’s rejection of homosexuality has produced different results throughout history.
In 1964, a magazine shared the story of a gay 16-year-old named Zach. The boy, who consulted multiple pastors, ultimately concluded fearfully that “the church says…God thinks I’m a monster.” At this time, there were no Christian programs for boys like Zach.
Today, Jordan says, boys like Zach may be sent to programs run by groups like Love In Action, a self-described “Christian discipleship ministry” that aims to make homosexual people heterosexual.
He discussed how an analysis of relevant sources reveals how the religion’s view of homosexuality has evolved over time—how, over the past 50 years, clergymen like Troy Perry and John McNeill have carved a role for homosexuals within Christianity.
Both McNeill and Perry struggled to navigate the church as gay men, and both, Jordan said, came to evaluate and redefine traditional Christian notions of homosexuality.
Students thought that Jordan was effective in showing how homosexuality is not inherently incompatible with the Church.
“Jordan helped to clarify how being gay and acting on the impulses is not out of line with the Bible,” Smith said.
Jordan’s speech was part of a lecture series sponsored by Washington University’s John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics. The center hosts a speaker almost weekly.
The John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, a relatively new addition to campus, was founded in 2010 with a $30 million gift from the Danforth Foundation. It’s intended to encourage intellectual discussions among diverse points of view.