Beyond theology and tradition: the hiring policy is about human rights

Beyond theology and tradition: the hiring policy is about human rights

Hayley Brooks

Contributing Writer


Every movement of social change in history has been met with some sort of backlash. New ideologies arise to discredit movements and to send us backwards in order to maintain power structures and the status quo. We’ve seen it happen with the increasing sexualization of women since feminism first began, and the “War on Drugs” and skyrocketing incarceration rates reminiscent of slavery and the Jim Crow era. And now, on this campus, we see it in the “yellow shirts” in support of the current, discriminatory hiring policy.

While I recognize the freedom of speech and expression of the individuals with the yellow shirts, I also recognize my own freedom of speech and expression for calling this behavior what it is: oppressive.

For me, the debate about the hiring policy isn’t about theology, the Bible or tradition. It isn’t actually a debate at all. It’s my life, my identity, as well as one small manifestation of the way the world values my life as a queer woman. When it comes down to it, we’re not arguing about policies or interpretations of the Bible and we’re not arguing about politics, ideologies or religious freedom. We’re arguing about people; people like me. People I love bottomlessly and would die for, people I call my siblings, people who nurture me, who give me the strength to be as brave as I am, to be as out as I am. People who deserve basic human rights, dignity and respect, because we are just that: people.

What the yellow shirts, and even the Open Letter shirts, communicate to me is that as a collective body of people, we believe that LGBTQ/queer identities are debatable, that everyone has some sort of claim in seeing what they want to see in LGBTQ people, that our humanity is subjective and that everyone, even those who support us, can and should have an opinion about us.

This isn’t about whether or not you believe homosexuality is a sin, and frankly, that doesn’t even matter. This is about our access to jobs, to housing, to life. It’s about whether or not we’re human. To debate that, in and of itself, is oppressive. When I see the yellow shirts, I will be reminded again and again that to view LGBTQ people as inhuman is safe and justified on religious grounds on this campus and elsewhere. I will not see tradition, or Leviticus 18:22, or the reflection of what the individuals wearing these shirts think is right. I will see my oppression scrawled across their chests. I will see every battle I’ve fought with myself about my sexual identity. I will hear the word dyke ringing in my ear. I will feel that push, that whisper, that slur, that violence I’ve lived through so many times. I am not offended by the statements these shirts are making, I am harmed by them.

I want you to ask yourself, whether you wear the purple shirt, the yellow shirt or neither, do you believe that your opinion of me and my community should matter so much that it affects our very livelihood? If the answer is yes, I want you to evaluate just how much trust and dependency you put in your privilege; I want you to look at me and the people I love in the eyes and tell us our bravery is futile, that our identities are up for debate, that we are controversial. And I want you to know that we have been fighting for centuries, that we are as brave and strong as ever, that we know ourselves, we love ourselves and no amount of oppression or backlash will ever take that away from us.

In fact, I dare you to be as brave as we are everyday.

Written by Record

8 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    March 28, 2014

    I’m a queer alumnus and I’m happy to see students and faculty pushing for more openness and acceptance of all. Yes there will be a backlash. Be strong, there are more alumni with you than you think!

  2. Avatar
    March 14, 2014

    I am not very old, and therefore not very wise, but I am of the opinion that marriage was intended by God to be a loving, monogomous relationship between a man and a woman that is also the proper vessel for human propagation. Yet every time I read an article like this, I am forced to ask myself, “Am I an oppressor?” The understanding of marriage I claim now is very different from the understanding I claimed four years ago. It changed because I was able to participate in discussions that incorporated both ends if the spectrum. The law of God cannot be divorced from the mercy of God, and we are all surely sinners. Somehow, as a Church, we must affirm that we are all live outside the Law, while also asking each other to consider how we can live ever more fully within the Lord’s will. Instead of flinging labels like “oppressor” or “sinner”, the Church must seek understanding between supposedly opposing sides . As a Church school, Goshen is obligated to have this discussion and to ensure that all viewpoints are represented.

  3. Avatar
    March 11, 2014

    There are plenty of employers that would selectively hire based on their organization’s cultural fit and religious values. I cant understand why would anyone want to work at an institution where they disagree with the founding body and supporting constituency? Unless perhaps they would do so, just to undermine the teaching and theology of the school and church? I imagine what you really want is for the way you express your sexuality to be embraced in all religions and cultures. To call yellow shirts “oppressive” is disappointing. It really is a misunderstanding of what real oppression is. Perhaps getting looked at strange way when you demonstrate your PDA, perhaps you dont get hired at religious institutions that disagree with, but really . . . . “violence” . . . “oppression”? A yellow shirt does that? I find your purple “where’s my LGBTQ” shirts almost enough to make me stop donating and yes, you are the beneficiary of my dollars.

    You can easily attend/work at places where no one cares about sexuality like state universities and other liberal church colleges. The never-ending emphasis on sex and sexuality is decreasing Goshen’s enrollment. Many Mennonites wont allow their students to visit Goshen and it is their church college.

    Maybe there are gay people who cannot put food on their tables because Goshen didn’t hire them? I would challenge that one.

  4. Avatar
    March 07, 2014

    Ms. Graber, I made no such claim to knowing the will of God. However, I do believe that we can know truth, as God has revealed in his Word. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” In John 1 we learn that Jesus Christ and The Word are synonymous. The way to God is very narrow and restrictive, passing only through Jesus Christ. Jesus also referred to himself as the “door”, or “gate”. Clearly Christianity does not teach that all paths — or even many paths — lead to God. This would not seem to be a very inclusive religion, except that Jesus also offers forgiveness to all that repent of their sins and put their trust in him. In this sense Christianity is more inclusive than any other religion, and openly welcomes all, including those who are currently homosexual.

    Scripture teaches that we serve an eternal, unchanging God. He is not like a man that he should change his mind. God’s Truth is the same today as it was yesterday, and will be tomorrow. And I believe that we can know it, because it has been recorded in scripture, the Bible. I do not believe that God’s plain definitions or descriptions of sin change over time to conform to the political consensus of any given society at any given time.

    You may try to associate this view with racist or authoritarian movements, none of which do I have any connection, but my view is informed by an attempt to hold to the belief that God’s Word is Truth invariant, and fully self-consistent.

  5. Avatar
    March 07, 2014

    Excellent heartfelt article, Hayley Brooks! God bless your Light in the darkness.

    Would you mind telling us what yellow shirts, Open Door shirts and purple shirts are exactly? We outsiders to your community haven’t a clue.

    Brother Mortenson, the hubris from which you speak (assuming to personally know the will of God for all people) is astounding and tragic. It reminds me of similar hubris in white supremacy, Catholicism, and patriarchy— all of which are old, crumbling systems built by men, no longer relevant for growing numbers of us.

  6. Avatar
    March 06, 2014

    Ms. Brooks, the question as to whether or not homosexual acts are sinful is indeed the crux of the matter. You may have no regard for Leviticus 18:22, but according to scripture, homosexuality is plainly sinful in the eyes of God. Now, that verse is surrounded by depictions of many other types of sin, but so far our society has not amassed support groups or political movements to foster the social acceptance of thieves, murderers, adulterers, or those that would live incestuous lifestyles.

    I do believe that we should treat all people with respect, including homosexuals. But just because I believe in respect does not mean that I agree with you, or would want to hire you to teach my children.

    Goshen College is still a Christian college, founded on Biblical precept, and it is not surprising that it would not want to hire staff members that would teach and promote practices that it believes are contrary to sound Bible doctrine. This is a theological issue, and no critical mass of public opinion will cause God to change his mind on the issue. On the other hand, articles like yours, designed to sway public opinion in a direction toward the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle as a normal alternative lifestyle, may one day succeed in causing the leadership of Goshen College from turning their back on God’s principals, sending Goshen College down a path to secularism like almost every other state university.

    There are many places in our society where openly homosexual people can work and live, surrounded by people who accept them. Atheists are free to participate in just about every part of society — but I wouldn’t want to hire one to be my pastor, or act as my Sunday School teacher, or act in any role of influence regarding an institution that promotes Biblical truth. It is not that difficult to apply the same line of reasoning to persons who are openly homosexual.

    The bravest act that you could pursue regarding this issue would be to turn around, admit that you are wrong, and align yourself with the truth of God’s Word.

  7. Avatar
    March 06, 2014

    Ms. Brooks, I believe you and your friends are extremely brave and deserve to live your lives in the way God made you. No one has the right to force their misguided and nefarious beliefs upon anyone else. If they do not agree, fine. To openly illustrate their willingness to oppress the opportunities and lifestyles of others goes directly against the Christian teachings with which I was raised. Keep up the good work and fight the good fight, for you are helping so many and forging new paths in darkness. You are in my prayers and I believe my God listens!

  8. Avatar
    March 06, 2014

    This article brought tears to my eyes for many reasons. All my life I have known gay people. They are like everyone else I have had as friends and work-mates. Some are kind, some are honest, respectable and talented like we hetetrosexuals. . Others are like many the rest of we hertosexuals, mean, dishonest and irritating. The bottom line is they are people like you, people like me needing grace and love. We all need love, unconditional love and we all need the love and grace that Jesus died for. He came to show us His love and Grace. How can we give less. How can we judge others when we are all so frail with sin. Love is the only way. God bless you for this article. We all need to live in peace, harmony and love. We all need jobs and safe homes. We all, straight or gay, need to ACT AS GOD’S PEOPLE. THE MARK OF A CHRISTIAN IS LOVE!

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