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Following the Spiritual Legacy of Fellow Saints

By Alexey Bulokhov ’03

Recently I have found myself on the front lines of the struggle for the place of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people in the Christian church. Last spring, 33 young activists, including me, spent two months on the Soulforce Equality Ride, a cross-country journey to 16 conservative Evangelical colleges and universities that ban GLBT students. Soulforce is an interfaith movement to end religion-based oppression of sexual minorities and is inspired by the philosophy of nonviolence exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

We asked ourselves, and our hosts, “What does it mean to be a modern-day follower of Christ? What is a Christ-centered response to difference?” In the spirit of academic freedom, most schools agreed to examine issues of homosexuality, the Bible and American society. We worked together to create appropriate forums for this discussion on each campus. Four institutions chose to arrest us on trespassing charges instead.  Along the way, we had thousands of constructive, transformative conversations with hundreds of future Christian leaders of America.

My decision to get involved was largely influenced by two St. Lawrence experiences. During my first weekend on campus I received lewd, threatening messages alluding to my perceived sexuality. Dean Petty, Security Chief Matte and Professor Kirk Fuoss, my advisor, assured me that such harassing behavior and attitudes would never be tolerated on campus. I was never asked if, in fact, I was gay. I had a fulfilling, fear-free college career. Had I been a student at one of over 200 anti-gay universities in the U.S., a similar incident could have lead to my “outing” and expulsion. Such injustice is unjustifiable.

The second experience was my involvement in several projects working alongside Chaplain Kathleen Buckley. She fostered a vision of her position that challenged me to redefine my idea of the role of faith in higher education. Her commitment to inclusiveness and interfaith dialog on campus was inspiring. My time at St. Lawrence not only equipped me with the skills to undertake social justice work, but also built confidence to apply Gandhi’s bold vision whenever an opportunity manifests itself.
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