Is Exeter College supporting homophobia? Many colleges host conferences; in fact for poorer colleges they’re essential to keep finances afloat. But it can’t be denied that Christian Concern will also profit from Exeter’s decision; the reputation of this ancient institution will give the group an air of respectability and moderation.
This is wrong; Exeter College’s reputation has been built up through tolerance, intellectual freedom and critical thought. Basically, all the things Christian Concern aren’t. While Oxford undoubtedly has Christian roots, we should not pretend that this Christianity is anything like the evangelical, aggressive and uncompromising brand of religion practised by Christian Concern and associated groups.
Do not delude yourself; Christian Concern is homophobic and makes a point of demonising the LGBT community. They advocate “corrective therapy” for a number of students, many of whom are at Exeter. That fact alone should make College officials run a thousand miles. The key point here is that Christian Concern not only holds strong opinions, but during their conference will actively incite hatred against people whose sexual orientation is different to theirs. Free speech in this country was intended so we could freely hold opinions, not so we could cause pain to others.
Nor should religious groups should be exempt from the expectations we attach to each other. Having a strongly held belief does not mean Christian Concern deserves better treatment, and should not be an excuse for Exeter to ignore their extremist views. Would Exeter accept an extremist Islamic Preacher? Would the BNP be welcome to host an event?
The very fact that Christianity can be equated to such appalling people should make moderate Christians wake up and show us the true character of their faith. The culture of silence at the Oxford Inter Collegiate Christian Union must end; by refusing to comment they appear to the rest of us to be tolerating homophobia, and plays to many negative stereotypes about religion. If Christianity is better, then its believers must stand up and say so.
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