The College Needs To Denounce Young Life

Luke Mitchell ’23

Young Life, a recognized Christian organization on campus, has homophobic policies that blatantly discriminate against the queer community. Davidson College must condemn and expel this student group and remember that there is a difference between religious toleration and being complacent with overt discrimination.

I was first exposed to Young Life’s presence on campus during orientation week. Like most new students during this week, I was flooded with flyers and handouts advertising the many student organizations available here at Davidson. One of these handouts came in the form of a bright green sheet of paper that had been slid underneath my door promoting a dance party in front of Belk Hall. The event was sponsored by Young Life. 

I picked up the flyer and placed it in the recycling. I don’t consider myself to be religious, so I assumed I wouldn’t be interested in their club. I didn’t think twice about it. 

I knew a few friends from high school who participated and volunteered in Young Life. I always figured that this organization was akin to Montreat or some other place where adolescent Christians gathered to roast marshmallows and talk about Jesus. While personally unappealing, I assumed that this organization was rather harmless, and I even occasionally felt bad for the secular biases that I held against the people who attended their camps. 

Last week, a high school friend of mine at Duke University posted an Instagram story with a link to an article titled “[Duke Student Government] rejects Christian organization Young Life as chartered student group.” The article explained the student government’s decision to deny Young Life recognition as an official student organization as it violated the university’s non-discrimination policy. 

The article cited Young Life’s national Faith and Conduct Policies which state: “We do not in any way wish to exclude persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients of the ministry of God’s grace and mercy as expressed in Jesus Christ. We do, however, believe that such persons are not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life.”

I thought back to that bright green slip of paper that had been slid underneath my door a couple of months ago. I figured there was no way an organization that openly discriminated against the queer community could have a platform at a liberal, progressive institution such as Davidson. 

I decided to conduct some research and further investigate Young Life’s views on homosexuality. 

It took me all of three minutes to figure out where this organization stood on the matter. 

It opens its official Statement of Faith with a confirmation of its literalistic interpretation of the Bible: “The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, being given by divine inspiration, are the Word of God, the final and supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.” While not inherently problematic, this perception of the Bible tends to correlate with homophobic sentiments. 

Later on in the Faith and Conduct document, my suspicions were confirmed under my investigation of Young Life’s sexual misconduct policy. In the section titled “The Pastoral and Biblical Challenge,” the bylwaws state that “With regard to the delicate matter of homosexual lifestyle and practice, in the light of the biblical data regarding creation, Young Life believes such activities to be clearly not in accord with God’s creation purposes.” 

Not only does Young Life prohibit its volunteers and leaders from being gay, but it goes as far as to demand all other members to report any suspicions or violations surrounding its sexual misconduct policy, which includes “any other sexual relations or activities which are contrary to the theological and moral affirmations of Young Life’s ministry.” 

In other words, members are encouraged by the document to publicly out those who they believe to be gay. 

While I am confident that not every member involved in Young Life at Davidson holds these views, the fact that the administration allows this organization to be recognized and have a space on campus is disheartening and problematic.  

Although I wasn’t here for the neo-Nazi scandal that shook our campus last year, I have been here long enough to catch a glimpse of the culture of activism at the college. 

Operating in an inconsistent, case-by-case manner, many, though not all, students experience a short-term burst of advocacy following a major campus scandal, but inevitably retreat to their daily lives and fail to prolong this passion into any tangible changes. 

While we as a community have a responsibility to continue to call out the individuals who commit these offensive acts, we have to start going further. 

We must begin by posing the questions as to how and why these individuals felt that their actions would be accepted here at Davidson. 

If we don’t ask these questions and attempt to figure out why these students feel so comfortable at Davidson, then we cannot continue to be surprised when offensive, insensitive acts pop up on campus. 

One step that I believe that we can take is to identify and eliminate campus organizations that openly discriminate against members of our community. 

The Student Government Association and the administration should ensure that Young Life never receives any financial support from the college, is removed from the college’s website as an official religious organization on campus, and is not allowed to advertise or hold events on campus.

These steps would show the college’s support of the queer community and work towards making Davidson College an uncomfortable environment for those students who believe it is permissible to discriminate against others. 

I am not asking the college to make any foundational changes; I am merely asking the administration to stay true to its word and adhere to their non-discrimination policy.

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