Yes, we are broken
A member of the CICCU committee responds to ‘CICCU is broken’.
A message pops up that’s just an attached file called ‘CICCU-article’.
I feel my stomach drop. My friend tells me they wanted to let me know before publishing that I’m in it but they still think I’m super and they hope it won’t make things too weird between us. And all the feelings from the night we had that conversation come rushing back.
They had asked me what my theology was about sexuality, and immediately I could feel the anxiety rising. I love this person, they are a friend. I don’t want to lie. I don’t know what to say. Every bone in my body wishes that I believed something else, something that wasn’t so difficult, so painful. But I don’t. And I don’t at all deserve any sympathy here because talking about sexuality and theology that night was, I’m sure, so much more painful for my friend than it was for me.
And once I’d read through the article I came back to say to them again that I’m so sorry that my words caused so much hurt.
I was speaking to someone else from CU recently who’d had a similar conversation, and she was sitting with me in tears because she cared about her friend so much and she was heartbroken that she might have hurt her.
But the truth is that I, and other members of the Christian Union, have hurt people – our own friends – and so my friend has written their article because they rightly want to express that pain and be a voice for others who’ve shared their experience. So as a member of the CICCU committee, as someone who loves the people in CICCU and loves my friend deeply, is there anything helpful I can say?
First, CICCU absolutely condemns targeting people because of their sexuality.
No one that I’ve ever met in CICCU thinks that’s OK. Like other societies, we are active in college spaces and those spaces need to remain safe. We want to invite people to engage with us on their terms. CICCU exists solely because we want to see people fall in love with Jesus, and no one ever fell in love by being pressured or harassed. So CICCU completely condemns any aggressive or threatening behaviour.
But as I read the article I was saddened and confused because I look around at the people I know in the Christian Union and see people who would never want to do anything like that. I would hope that when you think about your friends who are part of CICCU, words like ‘toxic’, ‘damaging’ and ‘abusive’ don’t spring to mind.
In fact, even the author of the article wanted to explain to me that those words didn’t describe me, or the other CU members we know at college. Actually, on Thursday night CICCU and Centurion held a joint event, making Easter crafts and getting to know one another – I couldn’t make it but the author of the article tells me there was “lots of love and laughter” and it made them think there might be a way we could all move forward together with honesty.
So who is it that is “toxic”, “scarring” and “queerphobic”? My friend says it’s the system. CICCU as an organisation. But the thing is, really, CICCU is just a collection of people with a shared passion. All CICCU is, is people. And people don’t join the Christian Union to climb some ladder, or feel superior, or boost their self-esteem – it certainly won’t do much for your CV. We join together because we want to open up conversation about Jesus. That’s it. Sometimes that feels like a ridiculous thing to want to do; sometimes those conversations are humiliating or difficult. But we’re convinced that he loves every single person and that love compels us to talk.
Any real conversation about Jesus, even amongst Christians, is going to involve real disagreements. So, secondly, Christians need a framework for disagreeing well. It’s always important that we’re able to dialogue with love and integrity about the things we disagree on. But for Christians talking about faith – not just stating opinions but seeking truths that transform our whole lives – it’s utterly essential.
I think to do that we need to stop labelling people – defining a person as “liberal” or “evangelical” can just stop us engaging with them as an individual. We need to break down false dichotomies, and listen, and really be honest with each other, because loving someone means always wanting to understand them better. But it can’t be the case that to love someone has to mean agreeing with them. If we start to think that love = agreement then we find ourselves in a situation where any difference in beliefs has to equal hate; and it definitely doesn’t. As you might have guessed, my friend who wrote the article and I disagree about a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean for a second that we can’t genuinely love one another.
We also want to say that we’re sorry for not being clear enough about who we are. CICCU is an openly evangelical group, and we know that we’re by no means the only Christian student group in Cambridge; there are loads of others, some with different convictions, some with different purposes. For example, Centurion is doing a really powerful thing connecting and supporting LGBTQIA+ Christians and if you’re thinking you’d like to join that, email [email protected]. The Christian Union is a very specific thing intended for the good of the whole uni: just a group of students united by a desire to share the beauty and truth of Jesus and let people make up their own mind about him.
There’s so much more that should be said, and I pray that this would just be part of a discussion that keeps getting deeper and more loving.
But, finally, I want to agree completely that we are broken. You might have seen pictures on Facebook this week of CU people talking about grace – we’re obsessed with grace because we know how much we need it. We literally believe that Jesus had to die to forgive us and transform us. We know that we’re nowhere near as loving, or as humble, or as passionate about justice as we want to be.
So there’s nothing that breaks my heart more than knowing I’ve hurt someone who I really love. Like my friend says in their article: at times like this ‘sorry’ is not enough. But it’s the best place to start.
Statement from the author of the original article: “I wrote my original article in order to provide a space for people who have experienced similar. I’m hoping that it has this effect and that it will lead to conversations opening and actions of love beginning. Honesty has to come before reconciliation. I’m really happy with Mike’s response. I hope this will herald some change (for the better) in the relationship between CICCU and other types of Christians in the future.”