Letters to the editor
December 9, 2010
To the editor,
I worked in a business close to the campus about 20 years ago. It was a nice community that was very tolerant of gay oriented people. I would guess at least 1/3 of the population was gay. I had a lot of nice customers who were gay. I found the gay population considerate and happy. I know of one time during a snow/ice storm several hearty souls took needed items to the elderly in that neighborhood. Wouldn’t it be great if the rest of us straight Christians were so gallant and considerate? I am often ashamed that “Christians” are so judgmental to our fellow man. This may be a news flash to some. I know many gay people both male and female who ARE Christians and who are shunned in many churches. Fat people are obviously gluttons – that is a sin too. Yet we do not shun fat people at the door of our church. I know pastors and deacons who are alcoholics and drug addicts (some are Baptist) One is in rehab as I write this.
I have been a counselor for Alcoholics and drug addicts for about 30 years. I have not found that being straight or gay, Baptist or Catholic etc has any special meaning to sin. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones and my Bible tells me that I am not to judge others – that is Gods job and HE does not need or want my help.
It makes me sad that this college is holding the Bible in one hand and being judgmental with the other. Very sad indeed.
I recently read about the controversy surrounding Coach Howe’s departure from Belmont from all the way up here in Washington, DC.
As many observers of the situation have already pointed out, discrimination against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation is purely wrong; in short, it flies in the face of the very basic lessons about kindness and respect that we teach our youngest children. To suggest, however, that the current controversy at Belmont is in any way motivated by Christian values deepens the offensive nature of the whole situation.
I do understand the challenging position in which the Belmont administration finds itself. There’s no doubt it is a difficult thing to buck generally accepted norms; there is always cost involved for sure. Claiming the name of Christ, however, is a radically audacious thing to do…it always moves us to opportunities that require risk and courage. Some believe institutions are functionally incapable of such action, but that is patently untrue. Speaking as the pastor of a Baptist church that works to intentionally embrace the discomfort and challenge of sustaining an institution that claims the name of Jesus Christ, I know that Belmont can indeed do the right thing and institutionally reflect the revolutionary Gospel Jesus came to teach us.
It would be nice to think that Belmont’s current situation has an impact limited to campus borders. I’m afraid, however, that the ripples of this controversy reach far further than that. For the many at Belmont and elsewhere who have given up on faith and on the church because they hear of Coach Howe’s situation, please know there are communities of faith—even Baptist communities—who strive to live the radical welcome of the Gospel, and that discrimination and exclusion are never acceptable in the name of Christ.
It is my strong hope that action to correct this situation and set a new course for the university will be the priority of Belmont’s leadership in the days to come. Our Baptist family and the world at large could use a courageous example of faithful Christian living.
To the editor,
The news of Lisa Howe’s separation from Belmont University reached my desk the end of last week and I have been stewing on my reaction ever since. I have been through a plethora of thoughts and feelings as this event seems to summarize so much of the struggle between Baptists (and many Christians for that matters) on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In Belmont there is an historic university that, while maintaining a Christian identity “with a rich Baptist heritage”, seems to have lost sight of what that heritage is all about. As Baptists we are called to live in the tensions of autonomy and association. We rely on this tension to lead us to a higher place where God’s command to love the Lord our God above all else and to love our neighbor as ourselves manifests through our actions of compassion, justice, and hospitality, even with and for those that we are not in agreement with.
In Lisa Howe’s separation from Belmont – whether forced or voluntary – the school has sought to place the discomfort of a few over the common good. In placing a singular interpretation of scripture above all others they have denied their own core values of Integrity, Inquiry, Collaboration, Service, and Humility. How can the students at Belmont feel safe exploring and expressing themselves if they know that those at the top may see their thoughts and opinions as heretical? How can they see Jesus as “the measure of all things” and stand up for those who experience bullying for whatever reason when they see the administration bullying a beloved faculty member under the guise of “employment law”.
Yes, Belmont has the right to discriminate against anyone that the administration feels is not representative of the school. But let’s be clear, this is not about being a good Baptist, or even about being a good Trustee of Belmont’s core values. This is about making a few people at the top more comfortable.
Robin Lund, Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
This is an interesting situation. Mike Curb donates millions to a university whose mission statement defines the university as “student-centered Christian community ” and then demands that the university support an agenda that is the opposite of God’s will. Those two things don’t add up.
Make no mistake about it, homosexuality is a God define sin not differentiated from any other sin. Does that mean that Christians should hate homosexuals? Why of course not, we are called by God to love ALL of his creation. But just because we love, that does not mean that we should accept.
Let’s remember, all men and women are created with a sinful nature and we all have our weaknesses and short comings. We are instructed by God thorough His Word (Bible) that when we ask forgiveness of our sins and repent, God forgives us and helps us change directions. Does that mean that we will never be tempted by that sin again…no. In many cases we have to deal with it daily. Just as homosexuals deal with their desires on a daily basis, I may have to deal with a natural desire to do something else every day. But, if God calls it a sin, it is a sin. I trust God as the Creator of the universe and that He has a much better plan for life that my selfishness could ever understand. Just because I desire something…that does not make it right.
So with that in mind, what is the issue here? Belmont University has placed itself in a position of accepting two conflicting mind sets. Does it want to follow God’s view or does it want to accept the world’s view. You really cannot have both. But, it appears that Belmont wanted to try and survive with both. The Bible is very clear on this when it says that you cannot serve two masters. Conflict was and is inevitable.
Let’s also remember that just because we think we have a right to say or do something… that really is not true. We have as much responsibility as we do right. If you want to contribute to, attend, work at, be associated with or be a parent of a student at Belmont, don’t you think that you should understand and be bound by their policies and mission statement? Do you go to a Mexican restaurant and become upset because they don’t serve pizza? Why of course not, that would be insane. If Belmont wants to honor God by having policies that honor God…don’t ask for pizza. Jaque
As a Belmont Alum and former Belmont employee, I am disappointed and embarrassed at your decision to end your working relationship with Lisa Howe. I suppose we could play a game of semantics to debate whether she was fired or if she resigned or if this was a mutual decision but we all know the reality of what has occurred. Your fear and ignorance coupled with Lisa’s honesty and integrity created this situation. While I did not know Lisa personally, I know she must have been of the finest calibre of coaches that wear the Bruin red and blue with pride. Let’s not forget she counted Rick Byrd, Tony Cross, Betty Wiseman, and every other member of Belmont’s fine athletic department as colleagues.
On several occasions I’ve heard Betty Wiseman speak on her early days of coaching and how difficult it was for her team and program to gain respect. Belmont, you have taken one of your finest and effectively erased all of the grand work Betty has done for the work of female athletes at Belmont.
The irony of this situation is that it is you, Belmont, that taught me to think critically, to be a voice for the voiceless, to be compassionate, to love and serve others unconditionally. You inspired a heart for social justice and you equipped me with the tools to address an issue such as this. My experiences at Belmont taught me to find the good in everyone which means in time, as difficult as it may be, I will forgive those whose fingerprints are all over this decision. I left Belmont and have become a teacher in the public education system and I am blessed EVERY SINGLE DAY to practice the act of LOVING and SERVING ALL students, regardless of their race, creed, sex, etc., following the example of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as taught to me in the Bible.
I am immensely proud of the Belmont students who work for the Belmont Vision. I was blessed to serve as the editor of the Vision and I am humbled by the good work they have done to bring the truth of this sad mess – that you made – to light. I pray you will not try to stifle their important voice on campus, as you so often have done in the past.
I am torn. I am so proud of the Belmont community who has stood up to your terrible misdeeds in this situation. But I am also embarrassed when people ask me if I know what’s happening at Belmont right now and start laughing.
I would suggest that if you plan to continue to go down this road, you must fire every employee at Belmont who has engaged in sex outside of marriage. If you do not, the hypocrisy of your current stance is overwhelming.
But regardless of what you may think,I AM Belmont and I still believe we can go from here to anywhere….. Amanda Wheeler c/o 2004 Belmont Employee 2004-2009
I am a recent alumna of Belmont and I was informed via email about the recent firing of Lisa Howe. I am currently not living in the US, so I have missed all of the local coverage about this story. I have however, read many online news articles and have even used them in the classroom that I teach. I have been surprised at the level of shock that has been experienced by my fellow alumni and by current students. The firing of Mrs. Howe follows the pattern that the Belmont Administration has established, of caring more about appearance than about students. Clearly, Mrs. Howe was successful at the job she was hired for. She took a losing team and turned them into one that wins. She also was an asset to the players on that team, acting as a coach, a mentor, and a friend.
Belmont has long forgotten it’s main client, the student, and has been neglecting the student population for some time. There are many instances of actions that Belmont has taken that show this. There are not enough practice rooms for music students, there are not enough studios for students to record, there is a lack of rehearsal space, the library is out-dated possessing mostly books that were written before Bob Fisher himself was born, and the international houses that students lived in were so out of repair that it was no longer safe for students to live there. Students are not a priority for the Belmont Administration.
I would even be so bold as to say that the Christian values that Belmont claims are the reasoning for the termination of Mrs. Howe are also not a priority. Where in the bible did Christ reject a sinner? Jesus showed love to everyone. Where was the love in Belmont’s treatment of Mrs. Howe? Turning someone away for their sinful lifestyle does not comply with the teachings of the bible, nor does it promote a community of Christian ideals. Belmont didn’t terminate this woman’s job -which let’s face it is what happened- because she was not living a Christian lifestyle or because her life conflicted with said lifestyle. They terminated her job because she was the same as the rest of us, sinful. We are all sinners. We are all in need of God’s grace, and we all lack the ability to live lives worthy of our Lord, and despite this, He loves us and is forgiving. Loving your brother, forgiving him, and showing a bit of compassion when he is just as sinful as you are, is just one way we can try to follow Jesus. I am disappointed in my alma-mater. As a Christian, I expected more from my Christian University. I realize every institution is flawed, but this is something I cannot stand behind.
Sincerely, R.L. Hajjafar
To the editor:
Unfortunately, the recent events involving the women’s soccer program are not new occurrences. During the fall semester of 2010, the English department at Belmont had selected its choice, a Phd recipient from Vanderbilt specializing in Shakespeare, to fill the open tenure-track position. A formal letter of intent was delivered to the applicant, but was then revoked after the university learned of her sexual orientation. She was then offered a one year, non-renewable contract.
Even after the recent events, the administration is still unable to come to grips with how to keep their image intact. And apparently they will still resort to threatening their own workforce. On monday and tuesday (today, Dec 7), meetings have been called among different divisions of the staff, namely security, maintenance, and landscaping, to inform employees that it is their best interest to keep their heads down. In short, if they speak out against the actions of the administration, they will be terminated.
Apparently the administration is scared of even their lowest-level employees, as they probably should be. The big-wig board members have nothing to defend if the students, faculty, and staff get up and leave.
Dear Belmont: As a 2008 graduate of Belmont, I am disgusted and extremely disappointed by the Coach Howe situation. I have stood up for Belmont and my costly education, even when I have been told it is insufficient for gainful employment, that it was a waste of money, because I have been proud of Belmont and the education I received. Although I have never been supportive of Belmont’s anti-homosexuality policy, I can’t watch this happen without speaking out. Perhaps the saddest part of this whole thing is that in the midst of record unemployment, Belmont pressured an excellent, well-liked, well-respected employee to resign not based on performance, but rather, based on who she chose to love and subsequently her willingness and ability to participate in one of the most rewarding and wonderful acts of love possible–becoming a parent. The fact that Belmont was able to dehumanize Coach Howe and her partner, assume some sort of religious superiority, judge them and reduce them to nothing more than a label, is truly disheartening. The Jesus Christ I know would never turn His back on the marginalized or those who need His love and His acceptance the most. If you haven’t met Him, introductions are in order: Jesus Christ, this is Belmont University, Belmont, this is Jesus Christ, I think you two should talk. I believe it would be in Belmont’s best moral, public, and economic best interest, to leave the judging up to God. I can’t understand why Belmont continues to try to straddle the line between an antiquated interpretation of the Bible that I personally feel no longer represents the student body as a whole and a progressive university that seeks to stand out because of its outstanding music and arts program. I hope that Belmont can make some important and necessary changes as a result of this horrible situation. Although I will not financially support my alma mater until it can reconcile its past and present, I don’t think it can reasonably expect to attract the more tolerant, open-minded student that generally seeks a music degree, or for that matter, the donations of their successful music and arts program alumni.
Anxiously awaiting Belmont’s arrival into the 21st Century, Liz S.
As an alum of Belmont (class of 2006) and one that covered the women’s soccer team FOR the Belmont Vision, I am HIGHLY disappointed in the way coach Howe was fired. Coach Howe is a great person with solid character and her being fired is a direct slap in the face of the “diversity” Belmont is trying to promote. I’m sickened by this as I had the pleasure of getting to know coach Howe and the soccer team and most are still friends of mine to this day.
I commend you for solid reporting and getting the truth out there – this, unlike President Fisher and Mike Strickland’s decision to possibly ruin someone’s career without remorse, makes me proud to be a Belmont alum.
Keep up the great work!
Preston Penn, III