Scarf Boy was involved in many things on campus during his first year of school. He did choir and vocal jazz, he attended the occasional Straight and Gay Alliance meeting — but did not think it was for him — and he hung out with friends. There were many things Scarf Boy was not involved in yet, but he really wanted to be. Those people in Student Government seemed pretty smart and cool — okay, mostly he just wanted to be with Erik George, but still — the homecoming committee looked pretty awesome as well and the speech team seemed amazingly talented. The world was his oyster and there were so many things he wanted to try before he left this place.
There was one thing, however, he knew he would never try. He knew he would never go to Campus Ministry, because religion was for unsupportive people.
Scarf Boy had a tricky past with religion. His brother was a Catholic priest, so he had wanted to be religious, too. Then he discovered he was gay, so he felt he had to stop being religious. He was at a Lutheran-affiliated school, so he wanted to be religious again. But when his best friend passed away, he resented God and all religions in the process.
Let us clarify something quickly. Scarf Boy’s family was nothing but supportive, regardless of their religious views. That was amazing for Scarf Boy, but it seemed to him like the exception, not the rule. Here was how the hierarchy worked in his head:
“If you are religious and my family, you support me. If you are non-religious and not my family, you may support me. If you are religious and not my family there is no way in hell — pun intended — that you support me.”
This was definitive. Simple to understand. Cut and dry.
Plot twist: I am still Scarf Boy, and levels of “religiousness” cannot and will not ever dictate supportiveness.
At this point in my journey, things are much less definitive, much less simple to understand and are not even close to cut and dry. My faith journey is unique and specific to me and thus cannot be categorized by anything other than my own acceptance of it.
Some people do not believe there is any God at all. Some people use God as a method through which to seek comfort. Some people pray to God when their loved ones are sick, and some only confront God when they are ironically about to fail that Religion 300 exam. Each of these holds merit, has legitimacy and is worth respecting.
At this point, I have been continually introduced to a campus that does not allow religion to dictate support. In light of a “Sin is Sin” controversy, pastors Tim and Ellie went on record saying the Straight and Gay Alliance had their support and the support of the Office of Ministry. Members of this campus rose up to say that their Christian identity did not condemn homosexuality but rather demanded that they accept it lovingly. They will never know how much that meant.
SAGA hosted a Religion and Sexuality Week, and people actually participated! They wrote their names on various religious symbols and pledged to let faith be a catalyst for personal and societal growth, not a deterrent of it. A 1991 graduate, now an ELCA pastor, stopped by the table and told me she was proud to see SAGA flourishing on a campus where, not so long ago, it was shamed and eventually stomped out. She told me that she hoped campus was more accepting now and that I deserved love as much as my Christian counterparts. She will never know how much that meant.
Tomorrow I will be giving the message in Chapel. I was contacted by pastors Tim and Ellie to consider being a senior student speaker. My instinct was to decline due to my previous aversions to the realm of religion. However, the email stated, “Your self and life have been lifted up by the community, and we’d love to welcome you in this way!” I exist in an environment where prominent religious voices not only tolerate my personhood, but they seek to celebrate and welcome it. Tomorrow, you will finally know how much that means to me.
This is not a story of my reaching a religious conclusion. It is the story of my realizing I do not need one. My faith journey will continue as long as I actively engage in it — so hopefully forever. I do not seek a final denomination or a final belief system. I seek the opportunity to never be tied to one. I will wander where I wander and find acceptance and love in the most beautiful and unexpected places. Maybe that is an act of God, maybe an act of science, or maybe it is an act of something unknown or unpondered by all of us. At the end of the day, it does not matter whose act it is. As long as I act with an open mind and an open heart, I will always find space to call home.
My name is Colin Sullivan and I am currently a senior at Concordia College majoring in Psychology, Sociology, and Spanish. Along with my classes, I am the co-President of the Straight and Gay Alliance (SAGA) and also participate in Student Government Association (SGA), Cobber Forensics (Speech and Debate), and Choir.
My passions reside within issues of social justice and critically analyzing the ways in which Concordia and society on the whole supports diversity initiatives. I long for an environment within which one’s minority status does not pre-determine their likelihood for success.
Some other random facts about me: I am a Pisces with an inability to digest gluten. I have a debilitating fear of clowns and public restrooms and refuse to ride bicycles. I am 100% Irish, a recovering scarf addict, and my speaking voice is as loud as the average yell.
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @csulliva09 if you want to chat. I’d love to answer any questions you may have 🙂