Calling for the reversal of #InterVarsityPurge

It’s fitting that I should be writing this on the eve of National Coming Out Day, because it’s high time I told the full truth of my experience in college. Here, simply, is what happened: I’m a bisexual atheist who tripped and fell into InterVarsity and ended up having the time of my life, with some of the best and most loving friends I think I’ll ever make.

Now for the slightly longer version. I wasn’t in the best place when I started college at the University of Oklahoma—I was so wrapped up in my own cynicism that I couldn’t have believed there was still good in people, let alone in myself. I’d had issues with religion as a child, too; I don’t need to get into them here, but the events of my childhood had made me one of those non-combative yet sanctimonious atheists, who clucked her tongue at everything she saw on the r/atheism imgur page and congratulated herself for knowing better. But it turned out I had the absolute best luck regarding potluck roommates, because my roommate had been involved with InterVarsity since before our freshman year even started, and through her I met the people of OU’s InterVarsity chapter.

I’d never encountered people who were this unabashedly kind before. When I first set foot in a large group Bible study, they were all so happy to meet me. I didn’t go to too many IV events my freshman or sophomore years of college, but I dined with IV people in the college cafeteria regularly. They were always so glad to see me. They always cared so much about how my life was going. It had me off-balance at first, I won’t lie (*come on, nobody’s really THIS nice*), but even so, my junior year, I started attending IV more regularly. I told myself it was to supplement my readings for a class I was taking on the Bible as literature, but really I just wanted to spend more time around these people. I felt safe around them. I felt loved around them.

I was hesitant to get in any deeper, though, in part because even back in 2012, when I was just starting to figure out I was bi, IV already had a dubious track record regarding LGBTQIAP people. For a while, I just didn’t bring it up to anybody. I figured it was better not to know than to know and be ostracized. But my sophomore year, I finally fessed up to a dear friend in IV that I was both atheist and bi, and he assured me I’d still be welcome in the group. I didn’t burst out of the closet after that, only telling a few close friends, but his reassurance was still exactly what I needed to hear.

The #InterVarsityPurge doesn’t surprise me, ultimately, but it does sadden me. One of the most important things IV taught me was that religion didn’t have to be top-down, that you could and should ask questions. When I was in any IV Bible study, large group or small group, I felt like I was in an English class. I respected that so much. So for IV to be silencing dissent like this, even after such a long period of questioning, goes against everything I loved about the organization in the first place.

I owe IV an enormous debt of gratitude. I miss the friends I made there every single day. I’ve long since been able to overcome my childhood religious baggage. I love myself because my IV friends loved me first. So what I’m asking of you, the addressees of this petition, is that you find it in you to love me and people like me back. Not any of this love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin stuff, no, sorry, that won’t cut it. Dine with the outcasts, like Jesus did. Love us for everything we are. Love us because we’re queer, not in spite of it.

Thanks for reading this. Happy Coming Out Day.

Love and best wishes,
A proud queer IV alum
University of Oklahoma ‘15

Whitney Thompson, Tulsa, OK, United States
4 years ago
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