[pic1]The Wells Hall Preacher – most of us know him, few of us love him. Still, we walk out of class and see him stationed in front of that building every day, preaching his Christian beliefs at the top of his lungs and telling us we are all sinners that need to save ourselves before the end comes. While his antics are protected by his freedom of speech, in one case he may be out-stepping his boundaries.
Human biology sophomore James Campbell works in the parking booth where the man parks every day. “When he leaves, no matter how many cars are behind him, he’ll sit in line preaching to me. I’ll ask him not to do it, and he says, ‘ask me not to do what, not to save your soul?’” Campbell is agnostic. He is also gay.
Many of the major religions have text in their written laws addressing homosexuality, so something as simple as the way gays and lesbians are viewed should be clear, right? The fact is, as time progresses and new interpretations of religious documents develop, the stance on homosexuality is no longer black and white. Taking a look into a wide range of religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and Muslim, and their take on same-sex relationships, students and religious leaders at MSU have plenty to say on the matter.
“It’s a really complicated issue, there are different sects of Judaism that adhere to different beliefs about homosexuality,” journalism senior Jessica Gershel said. Tracing back to the core of Judaism, the Torah, the primary document of Judaism, prohibits sexual relations between members of the same sex. This is especially severe among males because it is written in the religious text whereas for women it’s prohibited only by rabbinic teachings. [quote1]
It should also be said that different movements in Judaism produce different attitudes towards homosexuality. “Even within the movements, there is discrepancy as to what different rabbis believe,” Gershel said. “In the traditional orthodox movement, the movement that strictly adheres to what is written in the Torah, the people in the movement are against homosexuality.”
Possibly the most concrete in its teachings on homosexuality is the religion of Islam. “Homosexuality is a sin,” said accounting junior Kashif Saleem. The Qur’an, the primary source of Islam, clearly states that homosexual acts are punishable by God. This is perpetuated in the Sharia, or traditional law developed in early Islam. Scripture in the Qur’an references the story of Lot and how God punished the people of Lot for their homosexual behavior. This scripture is still read today, though Saleem said interpretations are beginning to change. “Islam doesn’t change, Muslims change,” said Saleem. “Muslims are becoming more progressive. By progressive, I mean interpretations are changing.”
Lately the stance that Christians, including Catholics, have taken on the issue relies on interpretations of the Bible as well. “I have somewhat of a close following to Catholic doctrine,” said economics sophomore Kevin Lappe. “However, I wholeheartedly disagree with their stance on homosexuality. I believe that one should be accepting of all, no matter their sexual preference. My interpretation of the bible allows me to view this as the right way to approach life. I guess it all just depends on personal beliefs, that is, there are many different takes on the same religions.”
Father Mark Inglot, pastor at St. John Student Parish, said Catholics have started to take a different approach to the topic. “Homosexuality is not a sin, homosexual behavior is,” he said. “We obviously minister to them, they are a part of our community.” [pic2]
MSU does have a student group on campus called One Spirit, which brings in LBGTA (Lesbian/Bisexual/Gay/Transexual/Allies) students seeking spirituality in general. Inglot said St. John Student Parish supports this group, “We say gays and lesbians and transgender people have spiritual needs and need those fulfilled. All people deserve respect and dignity.”
Contrary to popular belief, the Catholic Church has in fact become much more accepting of homosexuality. Inglot compared the evolution in thought to slavery and the Christian Church. He said the Christian Church used to think slavery was okay because it was in the bible, and slavery is now an abomination. “Cultural perspectives change,” he added.
“Most of the people I know who are Christian are also pretty liberal, I feel like they’re very accepting,” said anthropology junior Quinn Ostrom, although Ostrom does not identify with the Christian faith.
As with anything controversial, there are extremes to both sides of the discussion. “I think Buddhists and Hindus are the only religions that have acceptance as part of their practice,” said telecommunication, information and media studies senior Steve Carter, “and it bothers me tremendously.” Carter has attended the Atheism Club and is currently a member of the Hindu club at MSU. “[Traditional religions] will sometimes talk about how Christ was accepting, but then the other things they say and the things they do will not always represent it,” Carter said. [boaphoto]
Carter also added that people practicing these religions are not the only ones who need to work more on acceptance. “It’s funny because I am proud to say that I am not a Christian, but I find myself defending Christian teachings against some angry atheists because they have so many misconceptions and such a distorted view on it,” he said. “People ought to think about it like this: what good will it do to impose your negativity on someone who is not going to change for you? The only way to help someone with anything in life is to love them first.”
Campbell acknowledged religion as an important part of many peoples’ lives, but said those who don’t follow it should also be respected. By looking to our own beliefs and sources of inspiration and by coming out with educated opinions, maybe next time we’ll have something to say to that preacher at Wells Hall. “I admire religion as a source of spirituality,” said Campbell. “Many people find such good strength and good things in it, I just don’t need it. All we want, as a group, is not to be second class citizens.”

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