I am enrolled in the Coordinated Arts Program (CAP) at UBC. This program has several streams (such as Media Studies, Law and Soicety, and, the one I’m in, Global Citizens) and every year the program hosts a conference were students from all across the focus streams have a chance to present the work they’ve done either in a showcase or on a panel. The 2015 CAP Conference took place on April Fools’ Day and about 99.999% of the presentations were innovative, well rounded, scholarly projects that dealt with issues such as representations of women and the normalization of sexual violence in the media, the correlation between disgust and hatred used in Nazi propaganda, and representations of non-White groups in popular culture. All of these issues are incredibly interesting and promoted tolerance, and listening to the presentations was a genuine pleasure. However, there was one panel that I was praying was an April Fools’ prank.
The title of the panel is failing me, but it was a part of the second section in the South Room of the conference and the content literally flabbergasted me. Essentially, the pair presenting was discussing the celebration of sexuality in Christianity. If presented from a non-chauvinistic, academic perspective, this presentation might be worth listening to. But the presenters were obviously deeply religious Christians and the panel was full of their personal beliefs about God, his place in everyone’s lives, and how great it was being a Christian. One of the presenters literally had to catch himself for “preaching too much”. The issue of Christian sexual celebration loses academic legitimacy when your presentation feels like you’re trying to tell your peers that Christianity is actually really cool and sexually liberating and isn’t that just great? ACADEMIC and SCHOLARLY discussions and analysis of religion and one group’s ideas about sexuality or women’s role or economic strategy are totally valid topics, but watching this presentation felt like a vanity project for these two young Christians to talk about how much God loves them, they love God, and God loves all of us too.
One of the passages the group focused on decreed that a man was no longer obligated to his parents when he married his wife and they became “one flesh”. They took this quote to not only mean they spiritually become one under God, but they literally take the form of one cohesive being when they had sex. First of all, I fail to see how this embraces sexuality as it mandates abstinence until marriage which 97% of Americans fail to do, and secondly, it totally ignores homosexuality and gender fluid individuals. At the end of the panel, all the questions were directed at this group and most of them addressed their total dismissal of non-hetero normative people and the pair danced around the question until Jeff straight up demanded an answer. Their response was that, under their interpretation of the Bible, homosexuality was a sin and gender fluidity didn’t exist, but it was OK, because God loved those people anyway.
Throughout and after the presentation I was shocked and unimpressed with the pair and their approach to this topic. But then Leigha pointed out that it was good to know that people and opinions like that exist. It’s better to know all the things you are up against than ignore seemingly outrageous views and be surprised when there’s backlash.
But thanks religion! You certainly do celebrate realistic and non-bigoted expressions of sexuality!