Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dan speaks up for same-sex marriage




Dan Shill graduated from Harding University in 1990, studying music, nursing, Bible, and journalism while there.  Dan currently lives in Houston with his partner Jeff.

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I am a bit of an unusual case, having been raised in a MUCH more liberal religious background (United Methodist), but having attended C of C schools from kindergarten through college.  I knew from a very early age that I was gay, but as a Harding student, being open was NOT an option.  (I nearly got expelled from HU my freshman year for even TALKING about it with the wrong person).  So I did what many others have done ... I went into deep denial, trying to be what I was told God wanted.  I went to therapy, I dated, and I attended church.  Unfortunately, throughout all those years—both at Harding and afterwards—I knew that I was not who I was trying to be.  I knew, deep down, that I was gay.  I struggled and prayed, trying to get God to change me, but to no avail.  Years of self-hate, depression, and (of course) clandestine meetings with men followed.  I hid it well, though.

In early 1998, I came out.  It was also at this time that I finally left the church entirely.  (I had left the C of C a few years earlier, because I felt that I didn’t fit in there anymore.)  I had gotten involved with charismatic and evangelical churches before I left.

I felt at the time that the Christian faith had let me down, and I became adamantly anti-Christian.  I spent the ensuing years studying other religions, but I do still believe in a creator God today.  I avoided any contact with anyone from HU for a number of years after that, for obvious reasons.  I have been very gratified, though, to discover in recent years that many of those I once knew, including many I would NEVER have expected, are supportive and open in their views, and many even share my stance in support of equality.

I fully support same-sex marriage. I believe it is the right of all people to share their life with the person they love.  Unlike many of my Christian friends, I have always held that marriage is primarily a secular, legal matter, and not a religious one, so I did not have to come to terms with it from a religious standpoint.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stefanie speaks up for same-sex marriage




Stefanie Glenn was a student at Harding from 1996-2000, majoring in theatre.  She lives in Fort Worth and works as a special education teacher.

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As a Christian, the issue of same-sex marriage is a very confusing subject for me. On the one hand, I have been taught my whole 35 years of life that homosexuality is sin. While I do believe that, I don’t believe that we have the right to legally deny anyone from making a choice that they see best for their life. I majored in theatre at Harding. While I was there, no one openly admitted they were gay, but we all knew there were a couple of people who would eventually come out. However, when I went to grad school and started doing theatre professionally, I quickly realized I was in the minority, and I best keep my opinions about living as a homosexual to myself.

Many of my theatre colleagues are supporters of same-sex marriage; a few are even engaged or married. What has shaped and changed my thoughts on the issue is that I now have faces, names, and friendships attached. It is very easy to dismiss people, if you don’t have to see them every day. I see how happy people are when they don’t have to feel ashamed of who they are. I see how someone’s life is made better when they are in a relationship with someone who makes them a better person.

Another conclusion I have come to is that same-sex marriage has to be looked at as a legal or a civil issue. If we are truly to be a nation that honors the separation of church and state, then we have no business having laws that are based in religious doctrine. If two men want to live their lives together and want to be married, who am I to judge them? I don’t have to agree with the choices they are making, but I also don’t have the right to tell them how to lead their lives.

At the end of the day this is a very complex and sensitive issue, one that I don’t know if we will ever have clear answers on.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A few words about same-sex marriage




I was surfing Facebook a few weeks ago—over spring break—and noticed a handful of people who’d changed their profile pictures to an = sign, a show of support for same-sex marriage.  Then I noticed that some of these people—these Facebook people with the = sign—had attended my old alma mater, Harding University.  And not just one or two Harding alums.  I didn’t look extremely hard … and I found … 25.  Now this had my interest.

You see, I’m not completely comfortable with same-sex marriage … and I don’t fully support same-sex marriage … but there is something deep inside of me that feels sympathetic toward it.  I think it’s that part of me that’s sensitive to fairness.  And I have a couple of friends who are gay.  Maybe that affects my perspective as well.  I know, when there’s a “hot-button” issue like this, it’s easy to pick sides without hearing the other person’s perspective … without hearing his or her story.  I wanted to hear the stories. 

So—when the dust in my mind had settled—I decided to ask these Harding alumni for their thoughts.  Why do they believe what they believe?  Why do they unabashedly proclaim their support for same-sex marriage?  And in this case, I was fortunate.  A good number of the 25 were willing to share.  I’ll be posting their thoughts soon (Lord willing)—once or twice a week.  I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Storytellers




My blog, as with most things in my life, has become a little disorganized over time.  Kind of like my sock drawer.

So as I collect my thoughts and look forward, I’ve got 2 or 3 “blog series” in mind.  One of them could loosely be titled “Storytellers,” where I ask some people to tell their, uh, stories.  How clever is that?  But seriously, my favorite part of books and conversations is usually the sharing of stories.  These are the things that connect to my heart—like the tale of Jesus sitting at a well and chatting with a Samaritan woman.  Now that’s a story! 

So when I ask people to share their personal experiences, maybe there will be nothing but the sound of crickets … but possibly there will be something else.  And none of the entries may be fit for Chicken Soup for the Soul, but they could have the sound of realness about them.  And that’d be my preference anyway.

And I guess there’s a bit more to this …

I love the heritage of the church I grew up in … learning about God and His word … truly priceless stuff.  But there were some weaknesses there—as with any church—and one of those weaknesses happened to be that we didn’t hear many other “voices.”  We didn’t hear much from women or from people who differed from us.  So I’d really like to pull in a broad range of stories … to listen to what people have to say … regardless of background, gender, doctrine, whatever.  What’s the story?  Does it make me think or feel something?  Does it help me better understand God and this world He created?  If yes, then bring it on!

And, if there’s a smidgen of grace in the mix, well … all the better.

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Speaking of stories … here’s one of mine.  It’s short and random.  Something about “springing forward” recently brought this to mind:

Mom and I would have conversations about Daylight Savings Time.  It was a topic of conversation.

And I would figure out that that the daylight would be longer at the end of the day, but that it would be darker in the mornings.

“Mom,” I’d ask, “maybe I should take a flashlight to school, just to be safe?”

“What a good idea,” she’d reply.

And so I would.  For the first few days of daylight savings, I’d carry a flashlight to school.  And I wouldn’t cut through the Ganus’ backyard or the Jones’ backyard—my normal route—where the morning shadows could be creepy. I’d walk down the sidewalks and around the Harding tennis courts and over by the Harding music building where my flashlight beam would bounce all over the red bricks.  And I’d trot into school via the front door on the high-school side, winding down the hallways until I got to my classroom on the elementary side of the building.

Safe after my dangerous journey through the darkness.