Is Liberty University a Gay-Affirming School?

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To ask whether or not Liberty University is a gay-affirming school seems like an odd question given the reputation of its founder, Jerry Falwell. Many conservative Evangelicals today would not go as far as Falwell did in certain areas, for example, calling one of the Teletubbies gay. Given Liberty U’s “Reprimands and Consequences” in the code of conduct, one may even wonder how well Jesus would fair as a student.

Nonetheless, I ask the question of gay-affirmation and Liberty based on Brandon Ambrosino’s story in The Atlantic. Ambrosino shares his coming out story in Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University A former student’s account of coming out at Liberty University subtitled, “A former student’s account of coming out at Liberty University.” Ambrosino asks a rhetorically, similar question to mine.

Am I trying to convince the world that Liberty is really a gay-affirming school, and that any LGBT student who goes there will have as easy a time as I did?

His question admits he had an easy time – to some extent – admitting his homosexuality at Liberty. I say “to some extent” because if you read his story you will find struggle. The struggle seemed to be with how he would be received one he admitted, or if anyone found out about, his sexuality. Such is the nature of hidden sins.

The response from Liberty faculty as portrayed by Ambrosino is somewhat encouraging, yet sad.

It is encouraging to read that Ambrosino did not experience, as he put it, “ten Religion professors, all in white robes, tying me to a wooden chair in the backyard and carving 666 onto my queer little forehead.” There was no homophobia, if you will, that is so often feared in place like Liberty. They simple cared for, listened to, and loved Ambrosino.

But did they love him enough?

Yet, on another account what Ambrosino experienced is sad. It is sad that Liberty did seem to affirm his homosexuality. In his story, he notes Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery from John 8. Ambrosino really appreciated what Jesus had to say to the woman’s accusers.

It’s at this point Jesus utters one of his more famous sayings. “Neither do I condemn you,” he tells her. “Go, and sin no more.”

The story centers around Jesus’ declaration that he does not condemn this woman. This is something that really resonates with me. Many of the same passages of Scripture that condemn adultery as abominable also condemn homosexuality.

What Liberty and Ambrosino seem to overlook in this story are the very words of Jesus that Ambrosino quoted – go and sin no more. Following Jesus’ words here would require repentance. For some reason, the faculty that loved Ambrosino did not love him enough to call him to repent and to go and sin no more.

While the question cannot be answered universally, in Ambrosino’s situation, it seems that Liberty University was a gay-affirming school. What do you think?

For what it’s worth…

Mark

P.S. If you don’t think Liberty affirmed Ambrosino’s homosexuality by not calling for repentance, read the whole story. For those who don’t want to read the whole story I offer this quote of which one may conclude that Ambrosino was affirmed for who he is in his sexuality.

When people find out I underwent therapy at Jerry Falwell’s Christian college, they assume I went through something like gay reparative therapy. But that isn’t what happened. I saw two counselors at Liberty—Dr. Reeves also had me meet with Ryan, one of his grad students, once a week—and neither of them ever expressed an interest in “curing” me. Did they have an agenda? Yes. Their goal, which they were very honest about, was to help me to like myself, and to find peace with the real Brandon. I remember one time telling Dr. Reeves I felt like I was being a different Brandon to each person in my life. Dr. Reeves raised his eyebrows and asked, “Isn’t that exhausting?” Dr. Reeves and Ryan knew I was tired of hiding and lying, and living in fear and subjection to others’ opinions; and so they told me that I should try liking myself because, after all, I was a likable guy and they enjoyed spending time with me.

I ended up sitting under Dr. Reeves and Ryan for three more years. Most gay people couldn’t be paid to attend Christian counseling. But me? Well, those sessions were the highlight of my week. Not only did I get to spill all of my juicy sex gossip (which I always did, usually just to try to gross them out… which never worked!) but I got to talk openly with two men who loved me for no other reason than being Brandon.

I’m still friends with both of my counselors. Just yesterday, Ryan told me that when my partner and I come to visit, we’re always welcome to stay at his house.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rhology April 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Given the way the school refused to call out the obvious gross sin in Ergun Caner, it would surprise me approximately zero to hear that they don’t call out sin in other areas as well.

2 jdupree05 April 4, 2013 at 4:50 pm

In my opinion, the school did what was right but I agree that they didn’t do enough. You can affirm one’s struggles without holding that person accountable. We are called to love everyone. When one struggles, we are called to be there for them and point them in the path that leads to Christ.

3 Truth Unites... and Divdes April 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Liberty is a little better than Wheaton and Calvin college. I wonder how Biola is faring in this issue. Any Protestant college or seminary out there who has expelled an unrepentant homosexual student?

4 David MacEachern April 4, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I’d simply like to remind us that this story of “affirmation” isn’t finished yet. I’m encouraged by his acceptance as a soul worth befriending…and will pray that God’s Spirit and Word will bring conviction and conversion to Brandon.

5 Darrin April 5, 2013 at 1:32 am

Terribly sad to see the examples of “counsel” given in your postscript. Absolutely no difference from secular psychology at an allegedly Christian school. “Help me like myself and find peace with the real Brandon”? Is that consistent with the gospel?
You and your “partner” are welcome to sleep at my house? Truly apalling. Liberty should be ashamed.

6 Seth Dunn April 6, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Liberty had Mitt Romney speak at commencement. A Mormon? Is this any worse?

7 Mark April 7, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Seth, I’m not sure if it’s any worse, but they’ve also had Glenn Beck speak and Beck spoke theologically only to have his speech praised by the chancellor.

8 Chuck O'Neal September 3, 2014 at 6:25 pm

If Ambrosino is honest, then YES, Liberty University affirmed him in his homosexual sin; they hated him with action & lies.

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