The Surprising Testimony of Three Lesbians at Harvard

John C. Rankin

(January 16, 2013)

In the debate over same-sex marriage, too often the Gospel is obscured. But for me, it is always “first the Gospel, then politics…” In my Mars Hill Forum series, I have addressed this issue with lead same-sex marriage advocates on campuses such as Boston University, Harvard, Wesleyan, Smith, the University of Hartford, the University of New Hampshire, and in Bar Harbor, Maine.

We must first win the relationship, and only then can the debate be honestly addressed. Let me set the stage, with some true vignettes, for how to win the hearts and minds of the nation on this matter. One man and one woman in faithful marriage is the foundation for any healthy society. But we will lose it if we do not approach the same-sex marriage debate with biblical clarity.

In my Th.M. studies at Harvard in the 1980s, I was taking a class in feminist ethics, and as a white male heterosexual evangelical pro-life minister, I was an exception.

One day during lunch, about two weeks into the term, three women classmates approached me as I was sitting in the refectory. One of them introduced herself and her two friends as they pulled up chairs, and she said, “You know John, for an evangelical, you’re a nice guy.”

An oxymoron?

She continued, and introduced a topic de novo. She noted that the three of them were lesbian, and that every lesbian they knew had been the victim of “physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse” by some man in her early years.

This was new information to me. And why, I still wonder, were they sharing it with me?

These women were in the middle of a large and international nexus of lesbians in the university rich Boston area, and thus this anecdote carried great power (though not being a statistical claim).

In only a minority of instances is the biological father implicated in the abuse. Rather it is a stepfather, live-in boyfriend of the mother, some extended family member, or some other man with access to the household who is the usual perpetrator (apart from those who are violated by other teenagers, or adults, as teenagers).

In other words, the abuse is usually the result of the chosen or de facto absence of the biological father – the absence of the one who is supposed to love, cherish and protect them in the unique power to give of godly fatherhood.

I remember praying in my spirit as I heard these words, Dear God above, has the church ever heard this? Or do we merely pass judgment on those who are homosexual and move on?

I thought to myself, These are women for whom Christ died, to offer them the gift of eternal life. How well are we in the church communicating such good news?

When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, and the woman caught in the act of adultery (probably a set-up), how did he approach them? How well do we hear the heart cries of those who suffer, and thus, in the extreme, try to reshape society to shield themselves against any further suffering? Until we address this reality, we, the church, will be easily shouted down in an increasingly lawless society.

Some years later I shared this story before an overflow audience at a legislative hearing on same-sex marriage. I was astounded by the response.

In various Mars Hill Forums over the years , at Yale and Boston University in particular, when the subject of homosexuality has been at hand, I have noted how many homosexuals testify publicly to a broken family from their youth – usually in terms of the absence of a loving and present father. Several times I have posed the question: “If you had it to do all over again, would you have rather have had a loving mother and father at home?” The answer has always been “yes.”