The offices of Common Ground, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Chaplaincy sponsored a discussion called “Sexuality & Spirituality: Student Stories of Faith & Struggle” March 31 in Adams Auditorium.
A panel of four students from various Christian traditions shared personal experiences about the differing relationships between their religious beliefs and human sexuality. Speakers included Alex Witt, Westhampton College ’14, Brittany LaBelle, WC ’15, Zak Kerr, Richmond College ’14, and Natalie Shaw, a student at the T.C. Williams School of Law.
While Shaw was the only student on the panel who is gay, all students talked about their internal struggle with the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality as a sin, and its message to love all people.
“Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love the Lord and other people to the utmost extent,” Kerr said. “For God as man to say this means every human, every person, deserves this love, indiscriminately.
“It has been the fallacy of man in the last two millennia to claim that hatred of any group or person is a biblical command.”
Ted Lewis, associate director of Common Ground for LGBTQ campus life, said the event was sponsored for the second year in a row because many students at University of Richmond struggle with questions of faith and sexuality.
“These discussions provide an opportunity for us, as a community, to engage in dialogue around difference, questions of faith, and ways to build better community,” Lewis said.
Students from the Rev. Craig Kocher’s first-year seminar, “Faith and Differences in America: Learning to Live Together,” were also in attendance.
“I am really glad he brought this talk to light,” Amy Alexander, WC ’17, a member of the class, said. “I don’t think I would have known about it otherwise.”
Kocher said there had been a group of multi-faith panelists last year at the event.
“There’s already such diversity within the Christian tradition that, at the end of the day, we thought for this one we’ll keep it within the Christian tradition,” Kocher said.
The focus on Christianity also allowed the talk to make religious connections to The Laramie Project, the focus of this year’s One Book, One Richmond initiative. The Laramie Project explores clashes in LGBTQ identity and communities.
“The One Book, One Richmond program provides a common reading experience and then we craft events that connect back to work,” Lewis said. “In this case, questions of faith, sexuality and community.”
May 3, Richmond will be presented with the Catalyst Award from the Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth for supporting LGBTQ students and creating an inclusive environment.
“My greatest hope is that students understand that any fervent, lasting, imminent hatred of a person or group cannot be done by a true Christian,” Kerr said.
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