ST. LOUIS, Mo. — A Lutheran pastor’s talk at Washington University in St. Louis on Monday night on the goodness and importance of procreation and marriage between a man and a woman prompted two separate protests by students and professors who accused the event and its speaker of hate-mongering.
In response to the talk, titled “The Original Diversity: Man & Woman in Christ,” the College Democrats hosted “a demonstration of inclusion” on Monday night after denouncing Rev. Jonathan Fisk in a campus newspaper op-ed as “an unabashedly homophobic, ultra-conservative, transphobic, anti-choice fear monger.”
What’s more, a separate “discussion space” on Monday night was led by students and “only open to LGBTQIA-identified and questioning Wash U students.” It was held to respond and reflect on Fisk’s talk and the event’s flyers.
Fisk, a pastor with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, was hosted by Washington University’s Lutheran Student Fellowship.
The protest, titled “Nothing But Love: A Demonstration of Inclusion,” was held in the commons of the university’s student center and began about 45 minutes before Fisk’s talk started.
Members of the College Democrats announced the event in their campus newspaper op-ed, which condemned Fisk and his beliefs on homosexuality, marriage and abortion.
Monday’s “demonstration of inclusion” began with a singing of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” and included a few dozen participants and multiple speakers.
A student speaker and member of Lutheran Campus Ministry said seeing the event’s flyers was “hurtful” and made her “angry, sad and frustrated.” She added that “these are some hateful voices that don’t represent most Christians and most Lutherans.”
Speaking with a backdrop of a rainbow flag, a member of the College Democrats said she was “in shock” when a fellow group member brought the event’s flyer to her attention.
Another speaker, Professor Jeffrey McCune, alleged opposition of Planned Parenthood is racist.
“I hope that I’m not supposed to let go of my refusal of a white Christianity that denies the ways in which certain modes of thinking, such as the removal of Planned Parenthood is racist,” said the professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. “For ultimately what is being said when people refuse Planned Parenthood, is they’re saying I care more about white fetuses than I do about the services to minority folk.”
Meanwhile, a separate on-campus event held a “discussion space” led by students and “only open to LGBTQIA-identified and questioning Wash U students” to respond and reflect on Fisk’s talk and the event’s flyers.
In his hourlong talk, Fisk said the op-ed was a misrepresentation, defending himself against its claims. The pastor also apparently took in a portion of the protest event, tweeting out a selfie.
— Jonathan Fisk (@RevFisk) February 21, 2017
While dubbed as “homophobic,” Fisk said he didn’t come to the private university to discuss homosexuality. Instead, he said his talk, “The Original Diversity: Man & Woman in Christ,” sought to encourage Christian attendees to embrace the Lord’s words “about two humans becoming one flesh, one more human, as a gift.”
Fisk spent the majority of his speech stressing the goodness of procreation and highlighting the consequences of its worldwide decline.
Speaking in a room above the protest, clapping and music could be heard below at times as Fisk talked. At one point, the pastor remarked “I feel like dancing,” in response to the music.
During his speech, Fisk responded to the accusations aimed at him in the campus newspaper op-ed, which targeted comments Fisk has made about an “anti-Christian crusade” and that homosexuality and abortion “might just spell the end of civilization as we know it.”
On the former, the pastor said said it’s pretty regular that throughout the world Christians are being persecuted in one form or another with violence, citing Syria and Africa.
“Again, I found this very interesting that this was in an article that was trying to silence me. That somehow my warning against an anti-Christian crusade actually ran into one,” he added.
Regarding his comments on abortion and homosexuality, Fisk said he was referring to society’s “mass rejection of the value of procreation.”
“I want you to hear that as not having children to a level that we actually implode and disappear as a population might just spell the end of civilization as we know it,” he said.
Within his remarks, Fisk stressed the values of toleration and discourse.
“Christians are OK tolerating people we disagree with. We’re OK not hating people we disagree with. We’re OK not making them agree with us. We don’t insist on our way for others,” he said.
After all the events had ended, key members of both student groups agreed to meet for coffee to talk civilly about their differences, it was announced on the event’s page.