In anticipation of a campus visit by evangelical theologian and Pastor Doug Wilson, members of the IU community are uniting to raise their voices against the controversial speaker.
A group of about 30 students gathered late last Wednesday in Woodburn
Hall to discuss a plan of action to address Wilson, whose views have garnered both praise and outrage within the Christian community.
Students raised concerns about Wilson’s statements, which the students called homophobic,
sexist and in support of slavery. Wilson’s lectures Friday, “Sexual By Design,” are sponsored by ClearNote Campus Fellowship, a “reformed and evangelical Christian student organization,” according to its website.
The lecture will focus on the work of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey and how his “quest to normalize perversion did not end in sexual liberation” but rather “created sexual confusion and sexual brokenness,” according to ClearNote’s website.
“One of the things that we’ve noticed is that sexuality is a hot-button issue on campus. It’s a point of contention,” said Jake Mentzel, the campus director and pastor of CNCF at IU. “We do think that Kinsey is wrong. We do think that it’s very, very important that students understand why. We are convinced that souls are at stake, and that’s why we take it seriously, and we want others to take it seriously, too.”
Mentzel said Wilson is simply bringing a biblical view of the issue of sexuality and homosexuality, which Mentzel said he hopes sparks discussion.
“This is a public university,” Mentzel said. “We’re going to have a public exchange of ideas. We want and think that it’s important for what the Bible says about sexuality to be well represented and debated and discussed in a public way.”
Sophomore Laura Douglas attended the student meeting last Wednesday after hearing about Wilson’s ideas about the relationship between men and women in marriage. Wilson calls for the “loyal submission of a wife to her husband,” according to a blog post on his website , a value he deems a Christian standard.
Douglas works with women’s affairs for the IU Student Association and said she
wanted to show general support for the counter efforts by helping to facilitate the meeting.
“I just think it’s really important that there is a huge community of support for
these groups in Bloomington,” she said. “I think these are groups that often get too separated. I think it is important to stand together against him.”
And while the focus of Wilson’s lectures will be Kinsey, Douglas said his other views are equally of concern.
“I think ClearNote is concerned about sexuality issues, but all of this other views are
relevant, too,” Douglas said.
The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is among the groups concerned about Wilson’s lectures.
GLBT Student Support Services Office Coordinator Doug Bauder said some students
have consulted him, seeking guidance concerning Wilson’s visit. He said while the office isn’t officially participating in any response, it will provide resources to those who need them.
“What often bothers me about these things, an individual speaks as though they
have the truth, and that’s the end of the story,” Bauder said. “My whole point is that biblical wisdom is not based on one person, not by one great preacher.”
Sophomore Kara Veal was one of those students who stopped by the GLBT office, conflicted about the pastor’s visit. She said she takes issue with his stance about the immorality of
“I don’t like the idea of people feeling that they’re wrong,” Veal said. “I do respect people’s beliefs, but I don’t support hateful beliefs. I’m OK with Christians and fighting for what you believe in, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else. It’s a form of bullying.”
She said she worries that students who hear Wilson’s message might take his words personally.
“The danger that I see is queer youth on campus feeling unwelcome,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to feel oppressed or bullied.”
Similarly, Rev. Linda Johnson, Episcopal priest and president of the IU Campus Religious Leaders Association, worries about the reception of Wilson’s message, she said.
“My most fundamental concern is the pain and suffering that his words and actions might have in the lives of our students, and that concerns me the most, not his political views or interpretations,” she said.
She noted that sexual norms change from generation to generation and that Christians have a history of picking and choosing which values on sexuality to uphold. Johnson added that Christians today have different viewpoints about sexual mores, and that these differences are exacerbated by a lack of a central interpretation authority.
As such, she said she wants students to know that she believes Wilson is providing his own
“I would say that Doug Wilson is not giving the Christian viewpoint,” Johnson said. “He’s giving his interpretation on a Christian viewpoint, and that’s a significant difference.”
Johnson said she views Wilson’s visit to campus as “a gift” to the GLBT community, as a means to promote discussion between individuals.
“I believe it’s important that he speaks here,” she said. “This is a university, and we want to have a wide variety of views on everything and some of those are competing views.”
Mentzel said he hopes for an open discussion and perhaps reconciliation.
“We would hope to see some students repent and be reconciled to God, and we expect other students to at least have a better understanding of what scripture says and be appreciative of our willingness to tell it straight, out of love,” he said.
In response to Wilson’s lectures, Veal is among the individuals planning a demonstration at the clock between Ballantine and Woodburn halls Friday to coincide with the lectures.
She wants the demonstration to remain just that, not a protest, and she wants discussion to stay civil, she said.
Wilson will have security provided at the lectures, and the website instructs
attendees to remain “on topic.”
“It’s a demonstration of solidarity against what the speaker is speaking about,” Veal said. “It would be a message to individuals that we are here for them.”