Campus Christians, where’s the love?

Beth Rankin

I came to college a very naive little girl.

During my first few months as an undergrad, it was not uncommon to hear me timidly verbalize phrases such as, “Oh, so you do marijuana?” or “Hey, guys, I think my RA is a Jewish!”

I came to Kent from Marblehead, Ohio (population 762*), in 2003 and, like any self-respecting, sheltered, nerdy kid, immediately joined the marching band and Honors College. I felt content with my new lifestyle of late afternoon classes and weekends playing the fight song for the dozen people in the stands at afternoon football games.

But some Thursday nights, after my roommate and I engaged in our weekly ritual of drinking Zima and crouching in the bush behind Tri-Towers to smoke weed, my mind would wander as we ate Funyuns and watched “Full House” on the futon.

Is this really the life I should be living? Will God punish me for drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonade and having vanilla sex with my high school boyfriend atop a pile of clothes on his dorm room floor?

So one night I decided to check out a Late Night Christian Fellowship meeting. From what I had heard, Late Night prided itself on being the most progressive Christian group on campus, and I believed them.

Every Thursday night at 8:47 p.m., the group of about three dozen friendly, well-traveled intellects would gather in the Multicultural Diversity Center in the Student Center and talk about God. So many different types of people were in attendance, from suburban white kids to Chinese international students to people struggling with disabilities I had never even heard of. They had fun dinner parties and even occupied a house on Willow Street where members of the group lived in faith together.

They welcomed me into their group, and for about seven months, Late Night leadership taught me about everything from responsible consumerism to social justice activism to being a better steward of my time. I learned a lot from these people, and I credited them with helping restore my dwindling faith.

But over time, I came to realize that Late Night was not nearly as progressive as it claimed to be.

The gender segregation got me first. Late Night seemed to think that every other group activity must revolve around one’s gender. At the time – and even a little bit these days – I did not relate well with those of my own gender. I had almost no female friends, and I felt far more comfortable opening up to a man than a woman because I had a hard time trusting females. But to Late Night, cross-gender mentoring was not appropriate.

And then there was the gay issue. About a year before my entry into the community, Late Night leadership removed a member from leadership because she met a woman whom she had fallen head-over-heels in love with. I didn’t know about it because leadership adopted a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. As in, we weren’t expected to ask about their decision, and they weren’t supposed to tell us anything if we did.

Which is why it hurt all the more when during my junior year of college – long after I had stopped attending functions due to time constraints and a fear of having to talk about my faith to a room full of women – when they kicked one of my closest friends out of Kairos House because he had been engaging in a gay lifestyle.

In fairness to them, he had signed a lifestyle contract to live in the house, but he was removed from the house mere weeks before he was slated to graduate and move away. He was the strongest person I knew when it came to faith, and their closed-mindedness and lack of love, compassion and forgiveness made me sick with anger.

In the end, Late Night pushed me farther away from faith than anyone or anything else in my life. I had trusted these people to be loving, caring and kind, but in the end, the leadership acted as bigoted and ignorant about sexuality as any religious zealot. And they weren’t even honest enough to discuss their decisions with us.

Their lack of transparency disappointed me and found me asking the age-old question: What Would Jesus Do? He certainly wouldn’t have done this.

These days, I’m far more pragmatic about the world around me, and I have a much harder time trusting people.

And as for Late Night, well, it’s cool that you preach love and forgiveness, but I’d rather involve myself with a group that shows love and forgiveness through its actions.

Beth Rankin is a senior photojournalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

* U.S. Census data, 2000