Sunday, March 26, 2006

Soulforce Eve…

It’s the eve of the Soulforce Equality Rider’s visit to ACU. Well, actually they will be arriving in Abilene today, but the actual visiting does not begin until tomorrow.

Recently I’ve been so wrapped up in school, work, and other events that I had basically forgotten about the upcoming visit, and lost my enthusiasm and interest in going out to Abilene and watching it all unfold on the 27th, but after I got my Optimist update email on Friday, and I saw that practically the whole issue of the school paper that day was about Soulforce, my interests were risen again.

As I read each article in the paper covering the upcoming visit I was excited, proud, floored, and sad, all at once. I was excited to see the agenda my alma mater had established for the visitors. I was proud of ACU allowing them to come and open speak their voice, as long as it was in a non-threatening manner, which was promised to the university. I could feel the excitement arising in me as I thought about what an important event this would be. A Christian University setting an example of being able to openly discuss topics that are controversial, as well as issues that go against their own beliefs. It honestly makes me smile just thinking about how proud I am of ACU being willing to open their campus to this group to come and peacefully discuss such topics. I firmly believe if someone has a strong belief one way, they should not be afraid to stand behind it and defend their stance to those with an opposite view. And I also believe this can be accomplished and peaceful manners, and no one has to be willing to give up their stance, just be willing to openly discuss.

I was floored however when I read the Optimist articles and found out how the tour for the Riders had been going thus far. ACU will be their 7th stop on the tour, and in the six previous stops, no school has allowed the Riders any schedule for open discussing with administration, faculty/staff, and/or students. Only two of the schools allowed the Riders on campus, but in both situations, no formal speaking situations were allowed for them, so they had to just talk to people as they could grab them, so to say, around campus. Of the other four school stops thus far, unfortunately, the Riders were arrested and removed from the property. Between these four schools, almost 40 arrests were made of Equality Riders. It’s sad. It’s a sad, sad thing.

I suppose I do not know the whole story, but from my understanding, I do not believe the Riders were causing any commotion while on the campuses. With their pledge to visit these institutions in a peaceful manner to only openly discuss topics, I am under the belief that their arrests while at these schools were totally on the basis of being removed simply because they were not wanted because of their differing beliefs. Please understand that I am not saying, had they been on the campuses causing an uproar in a manner of violence that I would disagree with having them arrested. That is NOT what I’m saying at all. I do not endorse violence to get a point across, but if the had come in a peaceful manner and were arrested simply because they had different beliefs and those belonging to the “private property” were not willing to maturely talk and defend their beliefs, I find that really sad.

By the time I had read through the four main articles in the Optimist concerning the upcoming visit (article 1, 2, 3, and 4), my interest was once again peaked to travel to Abilene and be amongst the viewers as this visit took place.

Upon my original understanding of the visit, my preparation for designing a shirt to wear to the visit was already complete.
The front of the shirt was going to read:
“I’m a proud ACU alumnus who…
…applauds my alma mater for their openness to listen!”

The back of the shirt was going to read:
“I’m a proud ACU alumnus who…
…applauds the ‘Riders’ for the courage to stand up for what they believe!”

Then the bottom of both sides of the shirt was going to have a small disclaimer that read:
“This shirt in no way endorses or protests homosexuality.”

I had no intentions of coming and causing any problems or causing a seen, I just wanted to come and express the support of at least some of the alumni who believe ACU has done the correct thing, in my opinion of course, in this situation.

It saddens me to read in the Optimist articles about how students say they have heard some of their parents are now reconsidering giving their moneys to the university now because of how the school has chosen to handle this situation. I think that is so sad, and unfortunately, I do not think that is a very mature example of alumni to show to the current students and the students of the future.

I love the Dr. John Stevens’ (past ACU president) quote that Dr. Money (current ACU president) keeps referencing in the midst of all this Soulforce talk:
"There are no subjects on this earth, or in outer space, or in the metaphysical realm, which we cannot study on the campus of a Christian institution of higher learning. Everybody can know our basic commitment, but I hope that people will also realize that there are no closed minds and no off-limit subjects on this campus so long as in our teaching and practice we operate within the framework of our historic commitment."

Wow. That is so well put! I think it is so important that we as people, Christians or not, do not shy away from discussing topics. It is one thing to not be willing to change your stance on a topic, and that is perfectly fine, but it is another thing to say you refuse to talk about it. I think those who refuse to even discuss a topic are being simply close-minded.

I fully understand that a group of some 30 “Riders” coming to ACU is NOT going to change any of our 100-year traditions and doctrine that our great university is founded on—so alumni out there, chill out! What I do see happening though, is ACU being able to say we are not close-minded in a sense that we refuse to discuss topics.

Yes, Riders, ACU can be viewed as discriminating against homosexuals in the sense that individuals who is not legally married are not prohibited to attend our university and partake in sexual acts because the Christian views view that as sin. And unfortunately, or fortunately, same-sex individuals are not allowed to get married in Texas, meaning that homosexuals who should attend ACU will never have the option to partake in sexual acts and have it be permitted. But America also discriminates against those who choose to kill someone because we will throw them in jail for murdering because America views that as a sin. It’s the laws of our land, just as ACU has their own “laws” of their “land.”

I won’t be visiting ACU tomorrow. I have company in town right now, so I do not see it fit that I leave, but I still had plans to come, in my “signage” shirt and as alumni against the specific notes in the Optimist noting that signs will not be permitted during the Rider’s visit, as well as the “activities” being open only to the ACU community. I had plans to bring an ACU shirt to change into should my “signage” shirt be rejected by the community officials, as well as plans to carry my ACU identification card on me at all times…HA! Gotta love still having that thing around! I doubt I would have had any problems slipping into those forums and discussion times. But having said all that, I will be following what happens via the internet and word of mouth. I’ve no doubt I can keep up with the story on both the Optimist website and the Abilene news websites…HA!

But what is more important to me is understanding what is going through the heads of the community before this visit happens. It saddens me to hear people I am close to, who are ACU students, say things like, “well they [the Riders] better not get in my face!” While it is so sad, it makes me laugh at the same time. I’m so sure. I wish I knew what some of these students really think these visitors are going to do.

Unfortunately, I think so many homo-phobics view homosexuals as people who are going to be constantly trying to “hit on you.” This view is very unfortunate. I laugh when I say this, but honestly, I can assure anyone reading this, that the Riders are not coming to “make any moves” on anyone, nor are they coming to fight anyone.

It also saddened me to read in the articles that students had talked about plans of making shirts that had sayings on them which would be geared toward letting the Riders know they were not welcomed there. That is sad. Simply sad.

As I discussed this upcoming visit last night with my mother, she and I both agreed that people need to simply chill out and let the visitors come, let them voice their opinion, and let them go on their way. It does not have to cause any problems, and it surely does not deserve to be discriminated against and hated against.

Sometimes I am naïve. And many times I like to just assume that people think like I do (probably a BIG mistake…HA!), but really up until my most recent readings in the Optimist and my discussion with my mom last night, I had no real concerns about any big “problems” arising from this visit to my alma mater. I really expecting people to act in mature manners and for this whole day to “be a big deal,” but really have nothing to “drastic” happen, but now something in the back of my head wonders.

It is unfortunate that it can only take one or two immature individuals to ruin a situation for hundreds of mature people. I just really hope that tomorrow is taken in a mature manner at ACU. I hope anyone who might be currently planning something out of hate for the activities to occur tomorrow, I hope they rethink them and realize that the visit planned by the Riders for tomorrow is not that has been planned out of hate toward our university.


Ellison said...

Sunday night and Monday will definitely be interesting.

Nicole Ashley said...

I am anxiously waiting to hear how everything went. I hope no idiots acted irresponsibly a made a fool of themselves or the ACU. I am so out of the loop here in the South Pacific, I hope you'll post as soon as you hear how it all went.