Students nationwide kicked off a campaign Monday aimed at ending the culture wars over issues like homosexuality that have divided Americans.
The annual "Allies, Too" campaign is rallying Christian students this week to commit to making their campuses safe and harassment free and to advocate "true tolerance" and diversity, particularly when it comes to differing - and sometimes opposing – views on homosexuality.
"It's a chance to throw off the dishonest, unfair labels of bigotry and hatred that some people use to silence others' points of view," according to the campaign, which is spearheaded by Exodus Youth, a ministry of Exodus International. "It's a call to your community to engage in honest reasoning and debate, not a culture war."
Exodus is one of the largest outreaches to those struggling with homosexual attraction.
"Allies, Too" participants commit to the belief that "sexuality was purposefully created for marriage between a man and a woman" and that "a homosexual, bisexual or transgender identity and/or behavior are outside of the intentional design of human relationships and sexuality, and therefore aren't what's best for us, regardless of whether we are drawn to them," according to the campaign's core principles.
They reject the notion that these beliefs amount to hatred, bigotry, or a phobia.
Expressing such beliefs is morality, not hatred, says 19-year-old Jared Barber.
The campaign is aiming to break the widely-held belief that Christians hate gays. A recent Barna Group study found that the majorities of both young non-Christians and young churchgoers say present-day Christianity is "anti-homosexual."
Christian students hope to overturn that view.
"It's about time you stop believing the lie that people with different beliefs about sexuality hate those who embrace homosexuality," states the campaign description by Exodus. "We don't. We don't want to hurt others, and our goal isn't for anyone to be unhappy."
While most Christians say homosexual practice is a sin, citing Scripture, more have opened their church doors to gays and lesbians in an effort to show love to them and to help them walk out of their same-sex lifestyle.
"We (Christians) must remember that Christ preached one thing above all else: Love," stated Barber, brother of Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues at Concerned Women for America.
"Allies, Too" is the Christian counterpart of the homosexual community's Ally Week which also promotes safety on campuses. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) held its third annual Ally Week last month to encourage support against anti-LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) bullying, harassment and name-calling in schools.
Nearly two-thirds of LGBT students say they do not feel safe at school because of their sexual orientation, according to GLSEN, and three out of four LGBT students hear homophobic remarks.
Currently, hate crime legislation covering the LGBT community is being considered in the United States. President Bush is expected to veto the measure that would add violence against individuals based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability to the list of federal hate crimes. Conservative Christian groups have petitioned against the bill, calling it a threat to silence the Church on the subject of homosexual behavior.
"Allies, Too" is a call to set aside differing views and agendas on homosexuality and stand up for what both Christians and gay-rights advocates agree on – true tolerance, safety, and respect. Christian students are encouraged to speak out against harassing or using demeaning language against others, including LGBT persons while pursuing dialogue and sharing their faith with gentleness and respect.
"We are followers of Jesus Christ, dedicated to communicating His love and His offer of relationship with God to everyone, without exceptions," according to an "Allies, Too" core principal.
The official week for the national "Allies, Too" campaign is Nov. 5-9.