LIFE Speaks at Yale Divinity School
By Ron Highley
Published April 1996
What an extraordinary experience it was to speak and testify at Yale Divinity School in February this year! We were the second part of an event titled “Homosexuality and Christian Faith – an Invitation to Dialogue”. The other speaker was Rev. John Rankin, founder and president of Theological Education Institute in Hartford, CT. He is an excellent apologist and a dear brother in the Lord who gave some solid rational arguments that helped our witnessing later.
Recommended by a married “graduate” of LIFE, we were invited by two students who are in the evangelical Christian group at the school. They were sincerely suffering for their classmates who belong to the Gay, Lesbian, Straight, and Bisexual Coalition on campus and who believe they can be Christians and maintain their homosexual identity and activity. The two students, Corey and Leslie, interviewed us in Manhattan ahead of time to assure themselves that we would be compassionate and kind in our approach to the matter.
Corey and Leslie are examples of patience, kindness, and love when dealing with someone in error or deception, and we love them for it. They are genuinely grieved over the liberal state of Yale Divinity School, a situation that has existed for about a century now. The evangelical group spent a lot of time in prayer before our team arrived, LIFE people had prayed too, and it was wonderful to see how the Lord honored those prayers!
You see, they told us that some students were so frightened of our coming that they were crying, and some were even suicidal. Why? It seems they felt we were going to bring condemnation, wave the Bible, and tell them they were going to Hell for being homosexual and that God didn’t love them! Clearly, they were not secure in their “gay” identity, and were still quite sensitive to what the Lord might have to say! Moreover, there was an evident fear of giving up the false comforts of the homosexual life (as a “gay” columnist wrote recently, sex covers up feelings!). From our work in the ministry, we know that they are confused and hurting and we didn’t want to compound their pain with an insensitive presentation. But, we had to tell the truth about sin and bondage and the freedom the Lord offers, so we asked the Lord to help us!
Four of us gave testimony – Greg, Monique, Brian, and Joanne – and they were all very eloquent. Afterward most of the questions were directed at Joanne and they were asked in a respectful way, usually. The liberal bent was quite obvious: "Why are we bound to the culture and politics of the Bible?” – “Don’t you see that we are in modernity now?”. One man told of being in an ex-gay ministry and it didn’t “work”. He said it took him ten years to undo the effects of it, and he is now happy with himself as a gay man. Ron answered with sympathy and apologized for the church’s ignorance and indifference. We spoke to him afterward and he has been talking with Leslie since the forum. We hope to see him soon!
How devastating it is to find you have been wrong for a long time! How much gentleness and love we need when dealing with people that are really hurting and frightened! What an opportunity to bring someone out of darkness into light! We thank God for the privilege of being on that campus. We have been praying for the faculty members that attended who, with benign manner, were leading the students down a deadly path of humanism. We would really appreciate your prayers for the whole situation, and we thank you!
Here are some excerpts from what Leslie and Corey wrote to us later:
“…thank you for all you have done for us and this campus. The Lord has used all of you in tremendous ways. People were shocked at how you all could speak with such a combination of conviction and love… Joanne especially exhibited a tremendous sense of respect for those she disagreed with… Satan’s stronghold on this campus took a big hit… many doors have opened with students… so many hearts in the Gay/Lesbian/Straight/Bisexual Coalition have softened towards us… thank you for shining God’s love and truth on this campus”.
As you can imagine, this gave us a great sense of gratitude to God. We had wanted to represent Him well and touch lives, and we did! Praise God! We have had some hostile campus situations in the past where it was a real challenge to stay in the Spirit! The Yale students were very civilized and orderly, and we thank them for it.
Many of the students on today’s campuses are victims of today’s culture. So much alienation, fear, anger, violence, emotional stress, and pleasure seeking draws them into relationships for some sense of belonging and identity. I believe that what often seems to be real dedication to a social issue really just serves to give their lives focus in a confusing world. The Church needs to bear in mind how tender these hearts and minds are.
This reminds me of another campus experience of a few years back. It was at an Ivy League school with a reputation for liberality. When LIFE was invited to speak, I suggested that the poster read, “Homosexuality – what is it? Is it permanent?” to inspire interest. About 100 students attended and there was good exchange with them as we shared the Lord and His freedom, though some disagreed, of course. After, as we were talking with those who lingered, a female student came up to Ron:
Student - “Did you write what was on the poster?”
Ron - “Yes, I did.”
Student - “Did you think that some people might be offended by it?”
Ron - “No, I wasn’t trying to upset anyone. I merely wanted to stir up interest in the event. I thought the questions were rather neutral.”
Student - “But don’t you know some people are content being gay?”
Ron - “Oh, yes, but many people at this stage in life have serious questions about their gender and who they are, and I wanted to offer some answers that we have found.” (I was being tactful, right?)
Student - “It seems to me you should care about whether you are hurting someone or not.” (Nothing so far had changed her outlook.)
Ron - “Well, don’t you know that when you tell the truth you are bound to offend someone?” (This had no apparent effect on her.)
Student - (walking away) “I just think you ought to be more sensitive to people’s feelings.”
This was the first encounter I had with someone who was so concerned with how people feel that she had no regard for the truth that would set them free! Since that incident, I have seen that this spiritual condition has spread through society like a cancer, resulting in a terrible discarding of norms, boundaries, and absolutes. It is the Fall of Mankind replayed and magnified, and many issues are distorted by it today.
If we shrink from telling the truth that hurts but would set us on a true course, we are practicing a cruel humanism that chooses death over life. Anybody who has ever broken an addiction knows that! As the slogan goes, “You can kill an addict with kindness.”, meaning, of course, that if we don’t confront a troubled person with the hard answers, we have not done the right thing and have contributed to their problem.
We live, after all, in an age where people are covering up all manner of doubts, fears, and guilt with every stimulus they can find. This narcotic activity dulls our ability to respond to the Voice that would call us to a higher, cleaner place. Then, with clouded mind and hardened heart, we weigh the offer of salvation and find it unappealing. In fact, it seems like an insult to such a heart. As one of our men said, “When I was submerged in my escape mode, homosexuality seemed like the answer, and the Bible seemed like the problem!” Many have said they felt that way at one time!
As we have said before, if your main interest is in avoiding pain, the Devil will sell you his fake medicine, and you won’t get well.
This attitude, frankly, is being restated in various ways by many who speak for the pro-gay ideology: “Homosexuality isn’t the problem, homophobia is!” “Gays are the last group it is acceptable to hate.” “Hate is not a family value.” (Who said it was?) “The Religious Right wants to turn back the clock!” (I want to make buttons that say, “Humanism Hurts Families” – “Moral Conviction Is Not Hate” – “Humanism, Compromise, and Lies are Not Love”).
As Joanne teaches in our seminars, for many people in addiction, their emotions are the truth. This can’t be emphasized enough if you want to truly understand people who are caught in destructive, sinful behavior and who may even believe it is wholesome. Their emotions, self-image, and protective mechanisms have become the truth – the most valid, useful, comforting reality in their lives. When another person asks them to consider that it all could be false, they can become irrational and enraged. They have come to their state by much struggle and it is devastating to hear that it may be false. This is what we encountered at Yale Divinity School, and why we ask you to pray for those students and faculty. There is another aspect of this that it is vital to understand…
Here is a grave deception that Satan has played on many for some years now. You have seen people vigorously proclaim that god loves everyone and that we should too. The message here is dual: (1) real love won’t hold someone to a standard of conduct that makes them unhappy, and (2) if you don’t accept the conduct, you are not loving, and are guilty of hating, in fact. This all-embracing “love” without regard for standards is an attempt to separate love from truth, an ancient ploy to justify self-rule and cover fear and pain.
The Christian author George McDonald noted that “The one principle of Hell is, ‘I am my own’”. Of course we must be compassionate about the factors that enslave someone in relationship addiction, but the truth remains that what feels like love just may not be. We read statements in defense of this false love, like, “Why persecute those whose only crime is to live and love openly, freely, and with no regrets – with the love God gave us”. As we have written previously, relative, subjective “truth” is the deadliest poison on the planet, and we must care about those who are being killed by it! Thank God that He makes available His grace and power to speak in ways that cut through the lies that bind people.
The term “love” is being used as a narcotic today to cover up fear, guilt, shame, and anger. This rejection of a divine plumb line that would enlighten us is seen in C.S. Lewis’ excellent book, “The Four Loves”. He quotes Denis de Rougemont as saying, “Love begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” In other words, the world chooses to say, “Love is god.” and then comes under the demonic power of this false god so much that it can’t tell right from wrong. This blindness leads to the pitiful conclusion that we know more about loving people than God does and, in ultimate idolatry, we take God’s place because we know best! This can be seen today in many ways, but one was shown to me recently by a person’s remark as one of our men was witnessing to him. After hearing that receiving Jesus as Savior is the only way to Heaven that God has provided, he said, “What kind of love is that, to require our bowing down to His Son to avoid going to Hell?” What kind of love, indeed! Isn’t it interesting that he, and many others, could turn the sacrifice for us into a seeming sacrifice from us – to turn the lifting of an intolerable burden into the imposing of a burden. Such is the pandemic depravity of modern self-centered mankind. He cannot accept any rules but his own, born of the collective darkness of unredeemed minds and hearts.
Yet, in all this, it is vital to keep in mind that we are dealing with pain and frustration of a kind that many of us have not felt. This is very destructive to one’s self-worth and hopes for the future and greatly intensifies the need to belong somewhere or to someone.
When these hurts are not analyzed with wisdom and love and the proper healing applied, it can lead to an epidemic of humanism, which is what we see today, as people seek acceptance, love, and comfort.
It was seen again when we spoke recently to an adult class of a liberal church in New Jersey. It was a real privilege to bring some light, but a few who responded in the group were bold in their defense of homosexuality. It was evident that their first concern was for the feelings of those they defended, not wanting anything to make them feel worse about themselves. “They are so happy with each other!”
We were invited there by a woman who was appalled by the pro-gay messages given on two Sundays before, and wanted God’s alternative presented. You have likely heard of Bishop Righter of Newark, New Jersey, who is being tried for ordaining an active homosexual. That priest, Barry Stopfel, along with several pro-gay speakers, had made a presentation at this church a few weeks before us.
Those who responded to us in the class mostly had the outlook that we shouldn’t harass “gay” people with the idea that they have a problem. At one point, we asked what they used for a framework of truth. One person answered, “Our feelings and experiences.” and several others agreed with that position. Also, very few seemed to believe that the Bible was really the Word of God and reliable. When Joanne said that they seemed to have a version of the Bible for each of them, they cheerfully agreed! It was pitiful to see, but we were encouraged afterward when a few told us they had no idea there was so much unbelief in that class until they heard the comments. The battle goes on. Lord, help the people in that class find the truth!