The president of a Christian college in Iowa last week compared homosexuality to sexual sins like sexual assault, pornography, and adultery, while reflecting on his 10 years leading the university.
Northwestern College (NWC) President Greg Christy made the comparison in an essay published on the school’s website Friday, titled, “What remains unchanged since 2008?” At the top of the list was “the authority of Scripture,” specifically what he believes it says about sexuality:
Pornography, premarital sex, adultery, sexual assault, the objectification of women, and same-sex activity all exemplify the brokenness of sexual desire and expression. Like all good gifts from God, the gift of human sexuality is to be honored, cherished and expressed in ways that bring glory to God. It is within this context that sexual promiscuity of any sort is always wrong, and it’s the reason we call all members of our community to chastity — to celibacy outside of marriage and faithfulness within marriage.
Christy then proceeded to emphasize that NWC opposes marriage equality:
Our board has affirmed in our faculty, staff and student handbooks: “The college lifts up the Christian ideal of marriage between a man and a woman and contends that all sexual intimacy shall be within the bounds of such marriage.” While this vision of marriage is being challenged both inside and outside the church, we believe it reflects the call of Scripture and God’s best for us as human beings. At Northwestern, we strive to live out this vision by holding to the truth while loving each other with the grace God gives each of us.
Student and alumni alike flocked to the college’s Facebook page to object to Christy’s comments. Some insisted that same-sex orientation does not make a person broken and does not harm other people. Others were upset that Christy chose to conflate same-sex attraction to brutal acts of violence.
“By listing these together, you equated them to one another and ‘sexual desire and expression,'” one commenter wrote. “Sexual assault and the objectification of women have nothing to do with sexual desire or expression — they are about exerting power and control.”
The Iowa Supreme Court approved marriage equality in 2009, so it’s been the law of the land almost the entire time Christy has been NWC’s president.
Christy issued an apology on Tuesday, but only for including sexual assault in the list. “In no way was I intending whatsoever to equate that sexual assault was in any way, shape or form equal to or the same as any of the other items that were listed,” he told The Des Moines Register.
Christy then doubled down on the comparisons he had made. “I was just (trying) to say that just like same-sex activity is inappropriate, so is premarital sex, according to scripture,” he said.
In a separate official statement, Christy acknowledged that he does not believe the “phenomena” he listed were “morally equivalent to one another” and that he did not “intend to equate same-sex activity with sexual assault.” He did not backtrack from his condemnation of homosexuality, apologizing only “that some people were hurt by those words.”
Christy’s reflection has been edited to simply remove the words “sexual assault.” The other comparisons to things like pornography and adultery remain, as does his reinforcement of the college’s rejection of marriage equality.
NWC was in the news earlier this year when a professor at the college started a petition calling upon the Orange City public library to “support the Christian values of the majority of the city residents” by separately shelving any content related to LGBTQ issues and halting the acquisition of any new LGBTQ materials. That professor, Terry Chi, defended his request by making his own comparison between homosexuality and smoking cigarettes.
“Saying we are homophobes for requesting what we are requesting in the petition is like prohibiting a child from smoking a cigarette as addiction-phobic,” Chi told The Daily Beast. “I believe sexual orientation is primarily genetically determined. I do not see the biological trait as sinful, but I do see unfettered homosexual behavior as sinful.”
The petition also prompted a group called Sioux City Conservatives to distribute a flier around the small town claiming that LGBTQ people were more likely to be at risk for cancer and more likely to encounter domestic violence.