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‘Sin is Sin’ t-shirt stirs debate

Jeff Miller, Geneva Nemzek, Colin Sullivan, Heather Hurner and Megan Garry wear their “love is love” t-shirts.


A Concordia student has gone public about her plans for a t-shirt campaign during National Coming Out Week to counter what she views as the majority student body attitude towards homosexuality.

This issue exploded a few weeks ago when Facebook notes and blog posts written by senior Rebecca Julius went viral. She published her conservative views about homosexuality and plans to wear a T-shirt with the phrase “Sin is Sin” (parodying the “Love is Love” T-shirts worn by many supporters of LGBTQ rights) during National Coming Out Week (Oct. 7 – 13) .

Julius said she never intended for her comments to get this much publicity.

“It has definitely gotten a lot more attention than I anticipated,” Julius said. She said that for her, this is “not so much a political issue,” but rather more of a matter of needing to fulfill a personal conviction.

“I believe that the Bible is the holy, inerrant word of God,” Julius said. “Being that this is a Christian campus, [open support of homosexual lifestyle] is wrong.”

Julius, whose essay “Be a Witness for Truth” appeared on the conservative blog “Exposing the ELCA,” made the following statement about her opposition to Concordia’s acceptance of homosexuality on that blog:

“Too often today, Christians [who] oppose homosexuality and same-sex marriage are too scared to stand up and be a witness for truth, and simply stand back and stay silent…I’m tired of waiting for someone to ask me my opinion before being able to voice my opposition. I don’t want to be mistaken for a supporter just because I am in an environment where the majority supports this sin. So this year, when my ELCA college puts on its pride week [National Coming Out Week] – covering the campus in rainbow flags, putting on presentations and telling stories celebrating one’s ‘coming out,’ and giving no acknowledgement to the truth of my God’s true Word, I want to do more than refuse to participate. I don’t want to hate, I want to make a stand. It is something I feel that God has put on my heart…”

Student Government Association president Meg Henrickson disagrees that Christian colleges should not support LGBTQ lifestyles.

“I think Rebecca and I would differ on what it means to be a Christian college,” Henrickson said.

However, Henrickson is not apprehensive about having people who share Julius’ views on campus, and said that if anything, she’s “excited” about the conversations Julius’ T-shirts will start.

“I think [SGA’s] responsibility is to facilitate discussion,” Henrickson said. “SGA doesn’t want to be a conversation-stopper.”

But while Henrickson is excited about starting conversation, Julius remains disappointed about Concordia’s and the ELCA’s inclusivity on this issue.

“It’s saddening to me that a church that says they stand for God’s truth is so socially and politically motivated,” Julius said. “I think that the ELCA selectively chooses the parts of the Bible that they want to listen to and believe.”

But Concordia campus pastor Tim Megorden said Julius’ platform is equally selective when it comes to scripture.

“People have used scripture in T-shirt form to say exactly what they want it to say,” Megorden said. “So for her to assume that her T-shirt is truthful and that someone else’s T-shirt is sinful is really unfair, I think.”

Megorden also resisted Julius’ idea that having a “socially-motivated” relationship with God was necessarily bad, stressing the importance of God’s call to be in relationship with others, to see God in others, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

“When we are in relationship, when we are in family, truth is always not as clear as we would like, but God’s challenge is to always put relationship first,” Megorden said.

Megorden said his relationships with LGBTQ individuals inform his relationship with God, and vice-versa.

“To hear someone condemn my friends is really hurtful to me,” Megorden said. “Rebecca is my neighbor, but [LGBTQ individuals] are my neighbors too.”

Megorden emphasized that love is most important in Christian life, and that it’s not up to humankind to define love.

“I disagree with Rebecca that she is the only one who knows what love is,” he said.

“My answer to that,” Julius counters, “is that if the Bible says that something is a sin, then it’s a sin.”

In contrast to Julius’ biblical literalism, however, Megordan also stressed the complexity and ambiguity of truth, even in the Bible.

“It’s really arrogant for us to think that either one of our stories is bigger than God’s story,” Megordan said. “God is infinitely complex.”

Megorden said that this complexity is mirrored in scripture.

“I’ve preached on the same Christmas text or the same Easter text for thirty-plus years, and every time I read that text I discover something new,” he said.

Despite his firm opposition to Julius’ views, however, Megorden stressed the importance of dialogue and of “creating safe places for our disagreements”.

“I think that she represents a conservative, biblical-literalist point-of-view that is held by some people in the ELCA, but is not representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 2012,” Megorden said. “But is there room for that perspective in our church? Yes.”

Concordia President Dr. William Craft agreed that the school should be a place of inclusivity and open debate.

“Concordia College affirms the dignity and worth of all its students…and the entire campus community, straight or [LGBTQ],” Craft said. “We affirm that this is and should be a place where every student who is accepted here, every faculty and staff [member] who works here, should be safe, should be uplifted and supported, and should be able to think his or her way through big and difficult questions.”

Craft said that this included Julius and others who agree with her.

“This should be a place where people can raise and explore these questions with mutual respect,” Craft said.

Citing the recent visit to the Concordia campus by interfaith leader Eboo Patel, Craft maintained the importance of finding commonalities across differences.

“There are times when colleagues and community members and friends need to say, ‘I’ll see you on the other side of the picket line on this one,” Craft said. But, he said, we must continue to ask the question: “What are the ways in which our convictions overlap?”

For her part, Julius said that she opposes anything that compromises her faith, and is thus skeptical of such statements.

“There’s no compromising God’s Word for me, and that’s it,” Julius said.

“Jesus himself said that he didn’t come here always to love on people,” she continued, quoting Matthew 10: 34-36. “He said he came to bring a sword, to pit brother against brother.”

However, Julius said that her comments are not intended to be hateful or judgmental or even to change the minds of her fellow students on this controversial issue.

“My objective is not to judge or to hold myself up on a pedestal, but to just display the Bible verses on my T-shirt,” Julius said. “I’m not out to judge anyone. I’m a sinner too.”

Julius said she feels that Concordia is “incredibly liberal” and sees her views as being very much in the minority. But she feels her views deserve to be represented and heard.

“I’m not expecting a lot of people to change their minds, but I do think my side should be out there and expressed,” Julius said.

“I just want [other people who hold the same view] to know that they’re not alone.”

Julius’ openness with her views has gotten her a lot of attention, both good and bad. Julius said that she has been receiving emails and messages from people who agree with her views and want to give her their support, but also an outpouring of nasty and negative feedback from Concordia students.

“A lot of people are accusing me of being hateful or judgmental,” Julius said. “But I don’t hate anyone on campus. I hope that [those who disagree] will realize that this is motivated by love.”

Concordia’s Straight and Gay Alliance co-presidents, Collin Sullivan and Geneva Nemzek, said they were informed of Julius’ statements by their supporters on campus long before her comments became widely known by the larger Concordia community. Sullivan said that this allowed them time to formulate their own, unpressured response to Julius’ comments. Part of that response was a video posted by Sullivan and Nemzek on YouTube earlier this month. In the video, entitled “A Very SAGA Welcome”, the co-presidents welcome students to a new year of SAGA activities and events, while also discussing opposition to LGBTQ individuals and their allies and also to the negative messages Julius has received for her views.

“SAGA is an organization that stands firmly by the ‘Love is Love’ slogan,” Sullivan says in the video. “Regardless of the hardships we endure, we are continually impressed with the support that we see.”

“That being said,” continues Nemzek, “it is necessary to keep support as constructive and friendly as possible. SAGA strives to promote equality on a campus-wide basis through love and positivity.”

“This requires that we as supportive Cobbers face adversity with a little extra love and care,” Sullivan said. “Fighting hateful words with hateful words only spreads hate, and that’s certainly not what SAGA is about.”

In further response to Julius’ actions, SAGA plans to distribute a second T-shirt during National Coming Out Week tying together religion and homosexuality.

“We have a very solid stance that the two are not mutually exclusive,” Sullivan said.


  1. Second-generation Cobber Second-generation Cobber October 20, 2012

    While I can applaud her for her devotion, I feel she is misguided.

    The selective adherence to the ancient laws of Leviticus always amazes me. If you believe homosexuality is a sin because of Leviticus, then you must follow all the laws stated therein. None of us are. If these are the perfect words of God, you don’t get to chose which ones you follow.

    Please, if you find homosexuality distasteful, just say so. Stop using the Bible to attack people who want to live in equality and peace.

  2. Lindy Lindy October 18, 2012

    How can I get a “sin is sin” shirt?

  3. Fred Fred October 9, 2012

    If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. The words of Jesus and part of the traditional Lutheran confession cuts straight to the sin problem in this debate. Since the beginning, the problem of sin and man’s desire to deny that their actions are sinful has lead to all sorts of consequences. Adam and Eve were sent from the Garden, Sodom was destroyed and on and on. There are consequences for sin. This is neatly removed if we declare something not to be a sin, repeat it enough times (especially to young people), and declare anyone who objects to be a hater to kill debate. So it will be with this issue, the consequences of declaring a sinful act righteous will play out. It is out of love and compassion for all sinners that I write this so that we may not be subject to God’s wrath. For history will repeat itself and the consequences will become self evident and on our knees we will cry out for God’s mercy and repent for our unrighteousness.

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

  4. Geneva Geneva September 21, 2012

    I’m really glad to see there are still people who believe in Jesus’ most important teaching: love everyone. Love your neighbor. Love.
    Love is love. 🙂

  5. Paula Paula September 18, 2012

    I want to know where you can order a Sin is Sin TShirt from this gal!!

  6. rhema rhema September 18, 2012

    The ELCA has been practicing invidious sex discrimination, picking and choosing denominational favorites in its repudiation of Bible injunctions like those in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, . . . nor adulterers, . . . nor homosexuals, . . . will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Since extending its post-August 2009 convention welcome to Pastors Bjorn and Cindi, who solemnly attest they are in ELCA-approved “publicly accountable, life-long, monogamous” same-sex relationships with their respective partners, how can the ELCA deny the same effusive approval to Youth Pastor Joey, who vows that his fornication with live-in girlfriend Tammy will be life-long and monogamous? Marriage is so yesterday, say these thoroughly modern sophisticates and their circle of friends.

    Similarly, how can the ELCA turn a cold denominational shoulder to Pastor Ted if he swears that his adulterous relationship with church organist Marjorie will be life-long and monogamous? After all, it’s not Ted’s and Marjorie’s fault that their balky spouses have refused to grant them a no-financial-strings-attached divorce, and those donations and membership numbers at Ted’s church have declined rather precipitously since the August 2009 ELCA convention.

    If the ELCA really wants the secular world’s unstinting approval it’s been coveting for decades, it needs to wholly expunge 1 Corinthians 6 from its Bibles and pledge fealty to the world’s “there’s no sin in any kind of consensual sex” creed. It’s clearly time for another eisegetically deconstructing, Bible-bowdlerizing ELCA convention vote.

  7. John Williams John Williams September 17, 2012

    The Gospel isn’t about consensus, it’s about proclaiming God’s victory over sin. Kudos to you, Ms. Julius, you’re doing what all Christians are called to do: to proclaim God’s Word, which will encourage other Christians, invite the wayward, and infuriate everyone else. As Jesus Himself observed, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them… If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:29-31). As for your college, Jesus also gives you helpful advice in Matt 23. God bless you, Sister Julius!

  8. Anonymous Anonymous September 17, 2012

    I would like to start off by saying thank you to Sallie for doing a fine job of presenting the “facts” in this article and being able to avoid a slant that could have easily emerged while writing about such a delicate situation. I graduated from Concordia in 2011 and while being slightly removed from the campus itself, this article still managed to strike a chord.

    I am the proud owner of not one but two “Love is Love” shirts and I must admit that while purchasing my first I wasn’t totally aware of how powerful of at statement they make. Sure, I am for supporting my LGBTQIA friends but this is so much bigger than that. This is about basic human rights. Religious beliefs aside, we must realize what statements we are making, who we choose to alienate, and why.

    The part of the article that stuck with me was not the idea that homosexuality is a sin, who hasn’t heard that before!? What I took from this was that Ms. Julius feels that her beliefs are disregarded and belittled and I can relate to that. I almost left Concordia after my first year because I felt that I was being suffocated by an attitude of intolerance toward those who do not fit the mold of the “Perfect Cobber”. I must add that this was not by my professors, who often skillfully challenged all sides, but by my fellow students. I sat through multiple classes holding my tongue as other students verbalized the seeming “correctness” of opinions far different than mine. I remember a specific conversation with my roommate expressing excitement about a lecture regarding the symbolism verses literalism of the bible. My excitement was quickly deadened as this individual bluntly stated that they believed every word as fact. My sadness ensued not as a result of their beliefs but because my beliefs were so blatantly irrelevant to them.

    But I gave Concordia a second chance, and found a family here. I learned to challenge my beliefs and that part of loving all people was to understand that we cannot and should not all think the same.

    What I’m trying to say through all of this is that I think everyone, at some point or another, has felt isolated by the convictions of those around them. We live in a society that prides itself on the protection of the First Amendment, and while it is often difficult to have our beliefs challenged, it can lead to personal growth. I have spent a lot of time confronting my own system of thought. The most progress I have made is in the understanding that virtually all issues are bigger than they may initially seem. Often, the more I learn about a particular topic the more difficult it becomes to attach myself to one specific conclusion about it. I think that Concordia’s commitment to diversity has helped this growth and I am thankful for it.

    Closing Remarks: While it is difficult for me to understand the “Sin is Sin” position, I know that Ms. Julius is not alone. I will not send her angry emails or slander her name. I will, however, use this as an opportunity to further examine myself and others as well as why we adopt the beliefs we do. I have felt much love by so many on either side of this of this issue and will continue work toward building bridges of tolerance rather than focusing on projecting intolerance toward either side.

  9. Julius Julius September 15, 2012

    “Sin is sin” is just the front of the t-shirt… Verses on the back include 1 Cor 6:9-11, 1 Cor 13:6, and John 8:11.

    • Ellis Ellis September 21, 2012

      the Bible clearly says Leviticus only applies to Levite priests. it would be a sin for someone who is not a Levite priest to follow Leviticus.

  10. Lee P. Lee P. September 15, 2012

    This reminds me of a paper I read a couple years ago, mostly about the ELCA and how it has failed to follow the Bible and the Lutheran confessions.

    Ms. Julius is doing good. The Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is sin:
    Lev. 18:22 , “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”
    Lev. 20:13, “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them.”
    1 Cor. 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,1 10nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
    Rom. 1:26-28, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”

  11. Karen Seelow Karen Seelow September 15, 2012

    I think,”Hate the sin, Love the sinner”, would have been a better T Shirt!

    • Dan Dan September 16, 2012

      That would be a great shirt… but only if you wanted to quote Ghandi instead of the Bible.

      • Cobber Cobber September 17, 2012

        I wish we would quote Gandhi and not the Bible.

  12. Anna Anna September 15, 2012

    I suppose Rebecca will be sewing tassels on the four corners of the cloth of these shirts, she won’t eat pork, and she’s never engaged in premarital relationships.

    • Julius Julius September 15, 2012

      Two examples of OT ceremonial law which was fulfilled in Jesus and no longer required (See Paul’s letter to the Galatians). Then an accusation based on absolutely nothing. Seems Rebecca would be the first to tell you that she’s a sinner though, so you really don’t have a point there.

    • Melisa Barish Melisa Barish September 20, 2012

      Please do not attack other students. This forum is a place for discussion not hate.

  13. El Cid El Cid September 15, 2012

    Many times it is troubling to see how Concordia spends its energy, its students time, and my money.

    I guess at some point the Cobbers cease to be a Christian Institution – or – they convince the rest of Christiandom that they are wrong, their tradition is flawed, and the Bible means something different.

    But alas, I stil have hope for their return to confessional Lutheranism. Each year I find at least one (and normally only one) Book of Concord on the shelf in the campus book store.

    Soli Deo Gloria

  14. Kathy K. Kathy K. September 15, 2012

    I am glad Rebecca is standing up for her faith in the Word of God. She is correct. Many places in the Bible say homosexuality is a sin. Just because man doesn’t like to hear it, doesn’t change the fact.

    • Anna Anna September 15, 2012

      I thought women weren’t permitted to preach to men, you know, since we’re interpreting the Bible literally.

      • Dan Dan September 17, 2012

        Just to clarify, I am not sure if you are trying to say that the Bible doesn’t say that homosexuality is a sin? Or, that because the Bible said women shouldn’t be in authority over men when it comes to the church, that the whole book is wrong? It seems like you are suggesting, that if the Bible says something that disagrees with our culture, that we should change the Bible and not our culture? If you (or anyone really, I am open to correction) disagree I would like to know how you go about interpreting it? Honestly. When I hear someone say that the Bible shouldn’t be taken literally I would like to know why? I always assumed that the Bible really isn’t so cryptic that we need to constantly guess what it is trying to say? Now the real reason I was going to reply. I don’t see Kathy putting herself in authority over men (or anyone for that matter), she just seems to be stating what she believes. Also, I never saw where she said she was a pastor. I thought pastors were the ones who do the preaching. I never see good dialog on these things. It is always sarcasm or slander. I don’t like that. (Rant begins now. It not meant directed at you Anna) Everyone seems satisfied making the other side of the argument into villans, instead of actually supporting the claims in question. Wouldn’t it be better to educate the other side? Especially if the Bible is, in fact, the word of God and that living outside of it’s (therefore His) authority there is consequence… Gosh I need to wrap this up and stop talking… I just hope that either side of the debate would be willing to change their position if it meant aligning with God’s will. That is a fine place to end… on a post that next to no one will likely read. (1 Tim 1:14-16… Just because I like it) Good night all!

        • Jordan Jordan September 17, 2012

          Tom’s a preacher, preacher.

      • Steve Steve September 17, 2012

        She’s not preaching. She is standing up for the truth. All Christians are called to do so.

  15. S. Rude S. Rude September 15, 2012

    Thanks so much for so objectively reporting the situation! Hopefully this conversation can be a fruitful one for all involved.

  16. T. Beckel T. Beckel September 15, 2012

    Very nicely written! I hope there will be follow up story.

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