Welcoming the stranger

Acts 20:29-30 – “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

This is apparently what the administration of Patrick Henry College is telling students about the Soulforce Equality Ride, as if hearing what these young people have to say is actually dangerous to them. Can they not be trusted to figure out for themselves what the truth is? It’s an interesting passage to choose, because it portrays the messengers as something other than human. Fellow human beings would require a loving response; “savage wolves” do not.

Here is Luke 19:1-6, as we suppose it would be reinterpreted by PHC:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he closed his heart, and challenged Jesus to an intellectually rigorous debate at a neutral location.

Or maybe Matthew 25:31-36 is more to the point.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you told me I wasn’t really, I was thirsty and you said that drinking air was really better for me, I was a stranger and you taught me about private property, I needed clothes and you challenged me to a debate, I was sick and you said I deserved it, I was in prison and you told me that I put myself there.’

According to this comment by a student, “PHC offered to co-host an intellectually rigorous debate together with Soulforce off-site at a ‘neutral’ location. Soulforce backed away from any such thing, and said they wanted to come on-campus, at which PHC gave them a cease-and-desist order, since it is private property and Soulforce obviously isn’t interested in such a rigorous debate.”

Obviously – because what Soulforce is interested in is dialogue and reconciliation, not debate. This is not an intellectual exercise, in which teams rack up points and “win” something at the end. This is about exchanging stories and listening to each other. It’s called conversation. The problem seems to be that there isn’t much point in listening if you believe you already have all the answers.

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10 Responses to Welcoming the stranger

  1. Jonathan says:

    Crouching Cougar must not be very appreciative of the exposure. He privatized his site. If he had a conscience he’d be ashamed of what he said. I don’t think that’s the problem.

  2. David says:

    I recieved this illuminating comment by a member of the clergy in response to this usage of the passage from Acts:

    “The irony of this passage is that it remembers words from the Apostle Paul who is the one who was the apostle to the Gentiles. He was one of the first to recognize that the radical nature of the Gospel was to overthrow “the dividing wall of hostility” between Jew and Greek, Slave and Free, Male and
    Female. (Galatians 3)

    The wolves he was concerned about were people called the “Juda-izers” who did not believe Gentile were welcome in the Kingdom of God without becoming Jews first. . . . ”

    Sounds like maybe the Patrick Henry scholars have it exactly backwards, doesn’t it?

  3. Scott Smith says:

    As a response to Jonathan, I would just like to clarify a couple misconceptions you have about various students here.

    “crouching”cougar (not crotching, so I’d request that you apologize or amend that as you have requested others to do, such as on the Snail’s Haven Blogspot back in February.) has had his site privatized for an extended period of time. This is not a new occurrance due to “exposure.” This has been the case for a couple years. It’s no big deal that you got this wrong, since you wouldn’t have the previous context to know that, but it grieves me to see continued attacks on people without knowing all the facts… We should be loving others who we may think to be wrong instead of intentionally misspelling their names to make them seem less credible.

    Also, I found your comment on flitgurl’s Xanga to be a bit worrisome, as you instantly accused her of not being a Christian, due to the fact that she made a vague statement about hoping everything stayed controlled. Considering the civil rights movements of the past, people on BOTH sides got out of control, so it is perfectly acceptable for good Christians to hope and pray that both sides will stay logical and loving, and I would trust that all the professing Christians on your trip will do the same. I would also hope that we don’t jump to such quick conclusions about the status of someone’s salvation on such limited evidence.

    Another part of the aforementioned comment also seems to miss the point that PHC students are able to poke fun at themselves. Having not attended or visited the school before, I can comprehend why you wouldn’t understand some of the admittedly quirky humor possessed by some of the student body, but I am concerned by your consistent jumping to such negative conclusions.

    Finally, your use of one person’s quotation of Scripture as an example of “what the administration of Patrick Henry College is telling students about the Soulforce Equality Ride” is intellectually dishonest, and untrue.

    I hope that when this dialogue continues, it will be with accurate representations of both sides of the argument.

  4. Andie says:

    While I agree that the suggested “neutral territory” debate was slightly off-topic, I do not see how bringing a large group of people to a campus where they were asked to please not visit will facilitate any form of intelligent or edifying conversation. Dialogue does not take place when you’re looking for headlines; all you get are soundbytes and pithy quotes.

    I would also ask that you please use charity when interpreting Scripture quoted. The passage in Acts is using an allegorical approach – when the wolves are mentioned the other believers are referred to as the flock the very next sentence states that “men will arise and distort the truth”

    My homosexual friends know where I stand on their choice of lifestyle, but they also know that I love them. I hope and pray that respect arises from the love you profess and that you seek a different method for interaction that will be more beneficial to all involved.

  5. David says:

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for visiting. True, Jonathan was unaware of the private status of Crouching Cougar’s site, and jumped to conclusions. I have corrected the spelling also, as I happen to agree with you.

    As for the comment on flitgurl’s site, Jonathan’s statements are no more or less vague than flitgurl’s. Both contain unfortunate insinuations that can be interpreted in the worst possible light, and in my opinion, this sort of discourse is unproductive. The suggestion that things may “get out of hand,” which you repeat here, does suggest an unfamiliarity with Soulforce and the actions that the Equality Rides are modeled after. Knowing that the administration of Patrick Henry has communicated with parents at length about the Soulforce visit, it is disingenuous to pretend that students haven’t been instructed in the administration’s point of view, and quite possibly been given some inaccurate and inflammatory information.

    It is heartening that you mention continuing this dialogue, which has heretofore seemed more like a monologue. The point of the visit, after all, is to have a dialogue, and begin to break down some of the misconceptions that we have of each other – on both sides. The only way to have accurate representations of both sides is to allow both sides to openly and honestly talk to each other. I don’t understand why your administration doesn’t want that to happen. It seems to fly in the face of the statement that “..the ability to engage the world in debate requires us to truly listen and consider the opinions of others, while never compromising our commitment to God and His Word.”

    Obviously Equality Loudoun has a strong point of view, but we also genuinely want everyone to feel welcomed at the reception and safe in expressing themselves. An honest and compassionate conversation between real human beings is very different from a “debate” over an abstract issue. I hope that you will accept our invitation to share fellowship at the reception, and judge for yourself who these young people are and what they represent.

  6. David says:


    I hope that you will also take the opportunity we are offering for genuine conversation. I see no reason for the college to have taken the position of refusing hospitality to these people, who are only asking for an opportunity to testify to their own relationship with God. That shouldn’t be so threatening. If someone who had harmed you treated you as so insignificant and unworthy that they didn’t even need to acknowledge your existence, what do you think you would do?

    The fact is that there are students at Patrick Henry right now who are going through what some of these young people went through. They deserve to know that they are loved.

    As for the passage from Acts, what are your thoughts regarding the interpretation in the second comment?

  7. Jonathan says:

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for catching my spelling mistake. I’ve corrected the comment. Apologies to Mr. Cougar. I hope that Mr. Cougar accepts and unblocks his site which I could view a few weeks ago. He seems to have personally filtered me out. The question to Flitgirl “I thought you were a Christian” was a knee-jerk response to the recurrent accusation that people who advocate for GLBT rights are anti-Christian. Professing to be a Christian myself, I should have turned the other cheek. Apologies to Flitgirl.

    You’ll have to explain the salvation thing to me. I asked a rhetorical question. There was no intention on my part to judge the status of “someone’s salvation”.

    Appreciate your comments and looking forward to future conversations.

  8. David says:

    I can see how one would be concerned that things could “get out of hand” in the sense that emotions run very high on both sides; maybe that is what flitgurl meant. These conversations cut to the core of our identities and can feel very threatening, and even with the best of intentions an offhand remark can easily be read as a personal attack.

    I would just ask that everyone please refrain from snark and sarcasm, and try not to jump to conclusions about another’s motivations. Please keep an open mind and an open heart, and assume that the person you are talking to is sincere and has good intentions, even if they are repeating what you understand to be a meme from one “agenda” or another.

    It may be, but it also may be that the person doesn’t know any other language in which to talk about this. Knee-jerk responses only confirm that there is no point in trying to learn anything from each other.

  9. Heidi says:

    As a wife of a PHC alum, I wanted to add my 2 cents. I don’t know how things went today, but I was thinking of everyone involved and hoping that everyone was able to see through the issues to the love that we as Christians are to be defined by. If I’d had the ability to (i.e. campus sticker and a day off work), I would have driven out and brought cookies and coffee or something to share with the Soulforce riders. Though I have my own views on the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality, I want to listen and really hear the hearts of those who may disagree with me, who have been wounded and torn by the condemnation that they have received from children of God. I would love to sit down to coffee and truly dialogue with people like you…your comments are well-reasoned and calm. I respect that, even though I may disagre with you on the “issues”. You’re right – there’s a difference between debate and conversation, and there is great power in non-declarative statements. This is something I think that many from the debating mindset could learn from. Because in the end is it really about the issues, or our lifestyles, or sin issues, or whatever? Or is it about our hearts before God? Another former PHCer wrote in her blog today that it’s not about being right, it’s about being His. I wish that we could have met you and talked with you. I wish that it could be known that not all Christians – not even all PHCers – are so anxious to condemn and deride and walk away from you. You ARE human beings, and deserve to be treated as such. Thank you for your bravery and honesty.

  10. David says:

    Heidi, thank you so much for this affirmation. It means a lot to us that you would have done that. We do know that not all Christians – and not all PHC students – are of the authoritarian mindset that the administration there is trying to mold, and that is just as much the purpose of the Soulforce visits. There is just as much misunderstanding coming from our side, and the goal of these conversations is to really, truly hear each other and start to break that misunderstanding down.

    I know that there were students who wanted to come down to the vigil and talk with the Equality Riders, but it would have taken a nearly impossible degree of courage for them to defy the administration and their peers in that environment. They were being watched so closely. Some of the Riders met a few students off campus who said that they were embarrassed by how the college was handling this.

    The Riders were also contacted by three gay alumni in the course of planning for the visit. My hope is that anyone currently on campus who is keeping what they must feel is a terrible secret will have a little easier time knowing that they have these peers. There is a future for them, and there will be healing.

    Thank you again.