The Perseverance of Love
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. – Hebrews 12:15
A lot has happened since I first published “Gay at Gordon” in Gordon College’s student publication Vox Populi, as well as posting it on the internet. The “coming out” process was longer and more emotionally exhausting than I thought it would be, but others had warned me that would be the case. Anyway, this summer finally allowed me some time off to really process the whirlwind experience of the past two years. During this time I was reading any books I could get my hands on about the topic, but two helped me far beyond the others – the Bible (of course), and Torn by Justin Lee.
Fast-forward to the present. Each year, at least since I’ve been at Gordon, the college has something called “Sexuality Week,” which is exactly what it sounds. Over the course of the week there are many events exploring everything to do with sexuality, including homosexuality. Lo and behold, Justin Lee was invited to speak with his friend Ron Belgau; both gay men, Justin believes that gay-marriage is biblically sound, while Ron lives a celibate lifestyle. I was absolutely elated – the man whose book brought my family and me so much comfort was coming to my school! I eagerly anticipated sexuality week.
Then something terrible happened. It came like a whirlwind. The night before Justin and Ron were going to speak to the student body, we received an e-mail informing us that another speaker was going to be attending the same night – Mario Bergner, an ex-gay. There was much confusion about how he got on the schedule. All I’m sure of is that he originally refused to speak because he was only invited to one event, where our other guests were to speak at two- he found that “discriminatory.” In an e-mail to President Lindsay (according to Mario’s Facebook page) he stated “save Gordon College from having the false gospel of sexual immorality proclaimed to the student body on Thursday night.” He wanted President Lindsay to not allow Justin and Ron to speak – something that would have devastated me, but luckily the President did not heed his advice.
It saddens me even now to see him accuse Justin and Ron speaking from a “false gospel” – an untrue accusation of hurt. He would make the same accusation again the following night in front of hundreds. It wasn’t the first time Mario had said something like this; in an interview he stated,
“I would discourage Christians from partnering with those who call themselves ‘Gay Christians’ or with liberal Christians who are really simply modern-day Gnostics. We must simply refuse to join hands with those who are preaching another Gospel.” (SOURCE)
The following night Justin Lee and Ron Belgau gave a phenomenal talk on how to respectfully dialogue about sexuality when you disagree drastically. It was so wonderful to hear such sincere men talk with respect, kindness, and compassion. I was so encouraged.
Then Mario came up – wearing a cross necklace and a collar and his words were like knives. I won’t include all of what he said, as it upset me deeply, but I was devastated. He accused Justin Lee, to his face, that he was “speaking from a different gospel” – questioning his faith. He told graphic shock stories and stated “statistics” that were not true at all. He said birth-control caused cancer. He said 35% of sexually active gay men in the room would get AIDS. He said depression and anxiety were signs of homosexuality. He pushed for people of same-sex attraction to seek “healing” in order to become straight.
I had to walk out. I felt physically ill.
Later that night he questioned Justin Lee’s faith in front of everyone – our up-coming Dean of Students Jennifer Jukanovich stepped in and stopped him from continuing. What happened next was something I will never forget. Justin Lee responded to Mario with a perfect example of Christ’s love and forgiveness. There was not a hint of anger in his voice. He acknowledged that he was hurt by Mario’s words, but not once did he show anything but kindness and forgiveness – it was beautiful.
Mario had done his damage to the college and its students, but from his hate came something incredible. The Gordon community banded together and came to the aid of those who were hurt. I myself received numerous messages from friends telling me how sorry they were for what happened. Over a hundred students responded to a prayer event for those hurt by the words from last night. In a time of struggle, the Gordon community rallied together to spread a message of Christ’s love. They put into practice the love that is found in the gospel of Christ.
I do not think Mario Bergner is a bad person. I think his words were hurtful and inappropriate, but that does not mean he is any exception to the love of Christ. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ – our actions do not disqualify us from His love. If anything, the weeks events caused me to keep Mario in my prayers more than I would have. It would be false to say I have reached complete forgiveness, but I am working on that with God – it is my problem.
Let me leave you with a quote from an e-mail President Lindsay sent out days after the event:
“In this season of giving thanks, I hope you will join me in thanking God for this special community of which we are all a part. Unlike the vast majority of colleges and universities today, Gordon is a place where our institutional loyalty is expressed most fervently in how we love one another and those with whom we disagree. This, dear friends, is how we most effectively bear witness to the Gospel.”
Finally I pray: Lord grant me your peace, mercy, and grace – for I cannot have these things without You.