To read Pt. 1: Destroying God Pt. 1
Being in Washington D.C. was a life altering experience for many reasons, especially because of my interaction with the LGBTQ+ community. What I didn’t realize is that my experience in D.C. was only preparation for me for a journey much more intense and challenging. This journey that I speak of starts with returning to college for my sophomore year. The next disclaimer that I might add is that I attend a small conservative evangelical college. When I returned to campus, there were a few events that took place that brought to light the discriminatory nature of the school against students and faculty who identify as LGBTQ+. These events enraged students (more than they already were) on campus who sought to promote justice and mutuality among the student body. As a result, these students decided to start protesting outside of chapel. I will not comment on the discriminatory nature or policies of my college against minority students, whether that be students of color, those who identify as LGBTQ+ or women. I will happily speak publicly about these issues, but I feel as if I am not in a position to give an accurate portrayal of the oppression that they have felt. I am a white, straight, cisgender male. I cannot begin to understand what it feels like to be a minority. Moreover, I cannot understand what it is like to be a minority oppressed by the institution that they are trying to study at and enjoy their time at. Thus, I highly recommend you to read this blog post: https://walkwithmeandtalkwithme.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/being-an-lgbt-student-at-a-christian-college-is-kind-of-like/ . This blog is written by a classmate of mine who identifies as LGBT+ and it is a reflection of her time at our school. It is an incredibly powerful testimony and I ask that you read that first before you continue onward in these blogs. Prepare to be made sorrowful, angry at structures of power and hopeful for the LGBT+ community at my school.
I am very grateful to those students who are protesting as well as an organization composed of alumni who are seeking to provide support to the LGBTQ+ students on campus. The persistence and endurance of these people has brought greater awareness to myself as well as other students on campus about how the school has caused them searing pain and agonizing trauma.
I cannot make my argument or discuss the lessons I learned without discussing a few more crucial events that took place in the past year. The first of these events was the Ferguson riots in which people of different colors and ethnicities were coming together to protest and riot against police brutality that takes place against people of color in the United States. My hometown is almost completely homogenous. As a result, police brutality is not a problem. There are barely any people of color in my town and there are no cases that I have heard of in which a person of color living in Woodstock has been treated poorly by a police officer. The notion of a police officer putting somebody in more danger and more harm instead of keeping them safe was a foreign idea to me. I began to observe these protests and riots with an inquisitive attitude. I simply asked why are people doing this? A quick tangent that I would like to offer is: there are many people who I know that are from my hometown and school who talk so negatively about this issue and those who are rioting, looting and protesting in an aggressive and sometimes violent way. Those that I talk to will say that peaceful protesting is good, but aggressive rioting is bad. I do believe that the most impactful changes in human history regarding human equality has come through peaceful means. At the same time, I do think that the aggressive rioting serves a purpose. I am one among many individuals who have been awakened by the ferocious demonstration of anger that has been shown by those rioters. I would have never asked questions about this issue if people were not as expressive as they were about their frustration and pain with a system that seeks to subjugate them.
Another event in my life that pushed me to seriously reconsider my belief establishment was my trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland. I won’t talk too much about this trip in this writing just because I have so many reflections on this journey. But, I will point out a few things that happened on that trip that are pertinent to this discussion. Belfast exposed me to lifestyles that I have never observed before. There has been hundreds of years of ethno-religious tension, disagreement and violence between the English Protestants and Irish Catholics. From the 1960s-1990s, there was something called “The Troubles.” The Troubles was a very violent time in Northern Irish history in which there were paramilitary groups that formed on both sides of the conflict that warred against each other in a militarized fashion. Today, the violence has been subdued to a minimal level. But, there is still an incredible amount of hate and polarization among the two sides. Belfast is a city divided by communities in which there are invisible lines everywhere that determine which areas are Protestant and which areas are Catholic. Most people don’t meet the person of the opposite side until they are about twenty years old. My time in Belfast gave me less answers and more questions. I began to form greater questions about society, conflict, oppression and reconciliation. The other really powerful event that took place on that trip was the time I spent with my group. Many of the students on that trip were and are students who regularly advocate for human rights issues on campus. They are some of the most fun and loving people that I have ever met in my life. They decided to share their life and experiences with me. Through their stories, they added fuel to the fire that was brewing within me to be more socially aware.
To read Pt. 3: Destroying God Pt. 3