Matt Ramsay is a Shippensburg University alumnus and Coalition for Campus Outreach (CCO) Minister. He is often spotted in the quad wearing his flat cap next to the sign “Ask a Campus Minister Anything!”
In an interview with The Slate, Ramsay expressed his passion about the topic of homosexuality and the way the Christian church handles it.
“This is a difficult issue for students to talk about, and for me as well. I usually don’t speak publically about the issue because there is so much baggage and because the good answers take time… but I’ll do the best I can,” he said.
*Q: How do you as a Christian feel about homosexuality? *
A: “When I was a student a decade ago, I started going to SALE (Students Advocating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Equality). I was upset with the church. I heard the nasty attacks and the bullying, and the hate, and the ignorance, and most prominently, the apathetic non-response from the voices in the church who really knew better. I wanted SALE to have a Christian advocate and I wanted to learn from them. For two years I met with SALE. I was a fish out of water, and I was the only person there who thought the Bible didn’t condone homosexual acts. But I also believed that God is loving and gracious to all of us, and that my own temptations, attractions, and sins are not magically better than people who aren’t exactly like me. I also figured that since America is not a theocracy, though many like to think it is, just because I hold a view of scripture and a specific moral standard, doesn’t mean everyone ought to be coerced by U.S. law to agree with me, and I don’t see any argument in our Constitution that would block the legalization of gay marriage. Do you imagine God cares any less about fairness for our society than he does our sexual behavior? I bet he likes the equity part quite a bit, so for two years I helped advocate for legalizing gay marriage whenever I could while for other events I had to recluse myself. So it was that a Christian who still believed homosexual acts were not condoned in scripture but became friends with and advocated for the LGBT group on campus.
Q: Did your gay friends impact you, and how?
A: I grew very fond of those friends. They immediately welcomed me. They were funny, so seasoned by years of dealing with scorn from parents, churches, friends, society, that the ability to make fun of themselves became natural. They were certainly not afraid of being different or voicing their opinions. Most profound of all was their acceptance of me. You might think with all the baggage the church has heaped on this group in particular, that they would have rejected me the moment I revealed my position, or “came out” to them, if you will. But after many meetings and conversations, when I was finally asked what I thought the Bible’s stance was and I shared my views, and after a lot of debating and finally disagreeing, the group did what too many in the church have been unable to do; the group still welcomed me even though we didn’t agree. They let me continue making colorful, glittery signs with them, and to joke with them, and to be with them. I am still impressed by them.
Q: How did your Christian friends feel about these friendships?
A: When I became a Christian campus minister, I made it a point to meet with gay students. Some in the churches encouraged me. Too many chastised me. From one side I have been called a conservative bigot. From another, a liberal, a heretic, even gay. For its many triumphs and evils, the vitriol and lack of compassion displayed by the church at large on this topic will go down in history as one of its dark moments, a stain on its legacy and its witness. If God does exist (and I’ve bet my life on that proposition), and if his moral law does not condone homosexual acts, then we have to know that asking a Christian who is attracted to the same gender to follow the moral law is an extremely big ask, one that heterosexuals cannot understand. If you accept that “pray the gay away” is not the answer for everyone, the church is basically saying the only right way to live in that scenario is by chastity or marrying someone you’re not physically attracted to. Those are two options I have never had to imagine for the rest of my life, and if I did, I am not certain I could achieve either of them. I never had to worry if marrying my spouse was permissible by God. I never had agonize about telling my parents, my grandparents, my church, my peers which gender I was attracted to. Yet the loudest voices from the church have dispensed easy judgment and condemnation, pretending this difficult calling is a simple task, and pretending that God must somehow hate homosexual acts above all the other repeat, pet sins Christians all willfully go back to. Where is the compassion of the church?
*Q: How do you think the homosexual community can be shown that even though Christianity disapproves of their sin, God still is love? *
A: I’m reminded that Jesus hung out with the “sinners” and rebuked the religious leaders for not recognizing their own sinfulness as they passed judgment on the sins of the day. Jesus loved people through their failures and selfishness, even when they betrayed him to the cross. He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Count me among the sinners, for I am sinful through and through. And if any sin ought to be elevated to higher attention, it ought to be the sin of self-righteousness. At the end of the day, Jesus runs with open arms for any of us. We’re all in the same boat.