No Snark Sunday: What the Hell, Gordon?

Here’s a thing: We signed our daughter Rebecca up for soccer camp months ago at the Gordon summer program. Someone asked me, “What’s Bec doing for camp this week, and I said, “She’s off doing soccer at Gordon”.

“Oh. Gordon. Really? You support that place?” This was not a crazy activist, this was just a ‘normal’ person. I’ve gotten a similar responses from others:  “Hope they don’t give out t-shirts, you don’t want to be caught in one of those,” and “How do you take the gay out of Soccer? I thought that whole sport was gay” (funny).

Way to go Gordon college President D. Michael Lindsay. You just created controversy about where I send my Jewish daughter to soccer camp (which we’d signed up for months ago). You have created an association between the products your organization offers and intolerance. You may be, by certain metrics, a good evangelical Christian (but not a good Christian as Jesus stayed off the topic of sex and stuck to things like the poor) but, dork suit notwithstanding,  you are a shitty businessman.

Only buys his suits from straight people.

Only buys his suits from straight people.

When we first came to Gloucester back in the early ‘90s only a couple of years out of college ourselves, we were struck by something odd about the Gordon folks we met around town: They were all super nice and profoundly dedicated people. Not one of them preached at us. We wound up connected to them unexpectedly because we cared about the same things: the co-op, arts in town, education, the outdoors and the environment. It was odd because we expected them to speak in tongues, shout at us about how we were going to Hell and handle snakes and stuff. It turns out we were the ones who had incorrect preconceptions.

I wound up taking a job traveling all over the country and later the world building ropes courses and climbing towers for Project Adventure, which at the time was right next to Gordon. The job meant going out in a huge truck full of gear to remote locations with one other person who you’d bunk with in some pretty dicey situations. It was hard work a hundred feet in the air in all kinds of weather conditions, sometimes having to hump in gear and equipment over rugged terrain. You had to pick your assistant well as the work was dangerous and you were together 24 hours a day for weeks on end.

I would put dibs on any Gordon folks who applied over a regular construction dude, even if that guy had crazy mad building skills and the Gordon grad had none. Because the Gordon kids would be interesting to talk to on 12+ hour drives and they wouldn’t want to go to strip clubs, which I generally find depressing (though I’m not morally opposed to them). The Gordon folks wouldn’t want to listen to Howard Stern on the truck radio (again, I’m not morally opposed to him, I just don’t find him funny) like a lot of dudes and most importantly they were universally up for challenges and adversity of which there was an endless supply. Being with Gordon students and grads in that capacity turned me into a believer, not of Christianity, but in the quality of people being turned out by that organization.

Gordon graduates and students contribute immensely to the blooming cultural scene here in Gloucester. Art Haven, the Shakespeare production at East Gloucester Elementary a few years ago, much of the theatre in the Elementary schools and otherwise around town: all due to incredibly talented and dedicated Gordon people. They were not just filling existing roles but actively starting arts programs that did not previously exist. We secular and non-Christian parents in this town owe them a great debt.

The same goes for your beloved The Clam, some of the new hilarious and insightful clamtributors hail from Gordon. As I said before, Gordon students think about things in a bigger, deeper way and from unique perspectives. Some of them are even funny. On top of that we personally know Gordon graduates who are gay. YES GAY! GAYER THAN CHRISTMAS MORNING! We know Gordon graduates who are non-believers. SHOCKED INHALE! Yes, people from Christian colleges can too look around and say, “You know, even though I’ve been taught all this stuff, I just am not sure if some dude goes around sneezing out universes for kicks and then hangs back while people get holocausted but is at the same time totes pissed at homos”. We have dear Gordon friends rediscovering their Jewish identities. The Gordon people we have met are by no means monolithic or intolerant by any stretch, in fact quite the opposite.

The closest college to my home has never given me what I thought I really wanted: ironic stores, an indie music scene, crap bars, cheap street-food restaurants and the ability to take esoteric adult ed courses like, “The Mysteries of Tibetan Shoemaking”. But I’ve learned to settle on the graduates Gordon produces being wildly positive for my family and community.

Hampshire degree now more legit than one issued by Gordon

Hampshire degree now more legit than one issued by Gordon

But now, ‘D’ Michael Lindsay (The ‘D’ is for “Douchewagon”) has taken a massive turd on every Gordon diploma ever issued. Now, my Gordon graduate friends, every time you apply for a job or someone reviews your CV a vast majority (especially in this region) are going to see ‘Gordon’ and have some bile appear in their mouths. You’re going to spend the rest of your life explaining that shit.  At least Penn State grads can assure employers that it was not the official policy of the school to shelter Jerry Sandusky, it was just an athletic program allowed to run wildly amuck (which was, in fact, official policy). Not so with Gordon- this is an official action by the president assumedly with the support of the board and, weirdly, the president of Catholic Charities and the increasingly creepy pastor Rick Warren.

Straight-as-an-arrow Rick Warren eats a scrumptious dessert.

Straight-as-an-arrow Rick Warren eats a scrumptious dessert.

We are not lawyers at The Clam by any stretch, but we think you should sue that dude. You paid thousands upon thousands of dollars for a diploma that he just significantly reduced the value of in the job market. It would be as if the CEO of Ford decided to rename the F-150  “The Hitler Hauler”  You think the stockholders wouldn’t rebel? Stockholders obviously have a different set of rights than degree holders, but you paid for a brand that he is reducing the value of measurably. Legal readers, go put on your magic suspenders and wing tips and weigh in here.

What depresses me most about this thing is the good I’ve seen done in Gloucester by having Gordon people involved, now saddled to a brand of intolerance. You deserve better, Gloucester Gordon folks. Much better. Maybe you guys could all get together and figure out statement you can put on your resume after the  asterisk next to your Alma Mater. It sucks, but that might be your best option. Whatever you wind up doing I’m guessing it will be thoughtful and well executed, as everything you guys do tends to be.

Now I just gotta figure out how I’m going to explain this to FIFA when Rebecca makes it big.


Note: The “Hitler Hauler” joke was actually a historical reference, not a Goodwin. Google ‘Hitler and Henry Ford.”  Henry Ford was incredibly anti-semetic and is the only American mentioned in Mein Kampf.

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  1. As a Gordon folk, I agree. Excellent response.

  2. I’m dying. Thank you.

    Here is part of the Gordon community’s response:

    Our Facebook page could use a shoutout!

  3. Everything in my life that comes from Gordon College is awesome.

    Except this idiot. I can’t imagine that he has the support of a majority of the Gordon community. He might have the support of his Board, but if he’s using that support for such immoral and unvirtuous ends, I am guessing that most of Gordon isn’t buying in.

  4. I too will be driving the drive of shame to drop off not one, but two children at Gordon on Monday. I also signed them up months ago– it was the one thing I was sure I wanted them to do this summer– because the calibre of the staff and program were so top notch last year. Like you I have many friends who graduated from or who work for Gordon or both, and they are some of the most tolerant, interesting people I know– who are now being horribly misrepresented by their alma mater. It’s very hard to believe that they will stand for this.

  5. Another Gordon person agrees with you 110%. I wish he’d take his Texas ideas back to Rick Perry, another embarrassment.

  6. Thanks for your kind words about Gordon grads (as I’m one of them)! I hope the same thing, that the effort we have collectively put into creating a reputation as quality employees, neighbors, tenants, committee members and more will ultimately triumph over this latest political kerfluffle, which seems to have been a total misstep by the current president.

  7. What they said above. Plus; kudos to the Clam’s Image Search Team. Always excellent!

  8. It seems to me the latest uproar and hate being directed towards Gordon is not very tolerant. If it is tolerance we are shooting for, perhaps we could begin by accepting the fact that some people have deep convictions. That does not mean those people hate others who do not share those convictions, but from a religious institutional standpoint it does not make sense to hire people who do not share your convictions. If there was a private corporation that worshipped the moon goddess and did not allow Catholic priests to be hired, that would be within their right. If there was a school that said “Our God is gay, so we will only hire teachers who believe what we believe”, that would be within their right. It is the same with Gordon. Just because they don’t believe that God favorably condones those practices, does not mean they hate people who do. We need to be more tolerant of other’s deep convictions. How will it create unity if people are forced to do things they do not believe in?

    • Because worshipping a moon goddess is a choice whereas being gay is not.

      • Well according to some religions everything is predestined, so worshipping a moon goddess is not really a choice either… I tolerate those views. Doesn’t mean I happen to agree or want them teaching my kids.

        • So you’re arguing in a necessity of intolerance due to an absence of free will? Please state your argument more plainly.

    • Ah, the old “the real intolerance is when you don’t approve of my intolerance” trope.

      If a private corporation had a policy of not hiring Catholic priests, they would be in violation of many state and Federal anti-discrimination laws it would make their head spin.

      Unfortunately, most of those laws don’t apply to gay people. Massachusetts is again ahead of the curve here, passing a law in 1989 that prevents discrimination against gays in employment, housing, public accomodation, etc.

      The key moment here is that the Federal government is finally providing some workplace protection for gay workers. It’s not a simple recognition of gay rights being the same as human rights. It’s only a small sliver of that; a Presidential order preventing businesses that do Federal government work from discriminating against gay contractors.

      Gordon College will be in violation of this order, which is why it has applied for an exemption. No such exemption will be granted, so the college will be breaking the law with its discriminatory policies.

      Just the same as your imaginary corporation would if it discriminated against Catholic priests. It’s just that gay people don’t have the full protection of the law yet; they have to make do with little bits here and there.

    • Soooo would you be down with a racist religious sect (which there are, right here in good old Christianity) that had a business specifically asking to be allowed not to hire black people/Asian people/etc.? It is, after all, their deep conviction that the races shouldn’t mix!

    • I think the issue is, Kate, we will tolerate–as in TOLERATE, not NURTURE (as in give- the-People’s-money-to-and-actively-help-to-thrive)–weird niche institutions, like militia groups or colleges that want to discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation. Sure, go ahead a believe whatever you would like; in our country, thankfully, you are free to. But, please, don’t expect a government subsidy for it unless it’s doing some PUBLIC GOOD.

    • “Hate being directed towards Gordon”?!?! Oh, please…. ridiculous hyperbole.

      There is no “hate” – but a vigorous condemnation, not of Gordon, per se…but of the Board and the college President, whose behavior is neither Christian nor truly representative.

    • I do hear what you are saying. They *are* a religious institution and they explicitly state they will not hire you if you do not match their very specific religious model. As a religious institution, this is not illogical. Then they take that one step further, as apparently “they” as an organization do not believe it is possible to be sufficiently christian and anything other than straight. (incidentally I’ve yet to meet a Gordon graduate who believed this). If they were off in their one little private religious world, I would more or less agree with you. The problem is that this petition requested an exemption to still work as a FEDERAL CONTRACTOR while maintaining their discriminatory hiring practices. They are chasing public money while trying to circumvent public civil law. This is where it crosses the line into douchewagon territory and where I cringe every time I remember that I’ve recently written a very big check to them. This is also why I so strongly support Kim Driscoll’s response to them in Salem — by managing city property they essentially also became a city employer, and as such they were in clear violation of city labor laws.

    • Some people absolutely have deep convictions about who they think is worthy of being part of their little club, and who is not. Those convictions can’t possibly be based on anything the Jesus of the Gospels teaches, because he never said a word about sex–let alone sexual orientation of any sort. I expect those convictions stem from a deep-seated fear that “if we let those people into our club, they’ll change everything.” Did you ever consider the fact that many LGBT people are deeply spiritual, even Christian, and share your convictions about carrying out Jesus’s mission of healing the world? Who are you to judge their faith?

  9. This is the first article from an unbiased observer to both compliment Gordon grads (of which I am one, so thanks for that) and roast president Lindsay’s terrible choices. I am glad that Gordon has shown its true nature through its community impact. It had a wonderful impact on me, so I just hope the impact on my resume isn’t terrible now… ugh.

  10. Kate – I think you might be mistaken. Private corporations cannot refuse to hire someone based upon religious beliefs, etc. That is what tolerant people, and courts, call discrimination. It also seems that you have no idea what tolerance means.

  11. GloucesterClam – THANK YOU for this blogpost. Well spoken. As a gay Gordon grad (1976), I am disheartened and deeply saddened by Lindsay’s actions. They are misguided, not Biblically-centered, and the antithesis of the spirit of Christ.

  12. Thank you for this hilarious post–as an alumna I agree with Joseph Medwig and have been considering the asterisk-subtext on my resume. It might include that I was an advocate for EqualityMaine, which recently helped the state pass a law honoring gay marriage. We are making progress in this country, and Christians are indeed helping. Thanks again for the affirming words.

    • Martin Del Vecchio

      We are definitely making progress, and once again, evangelical Christians are on the wrong side of history.

      They fought against equal rights for African Americans.

      They fought against equal rights for Woman Americans.

      And now they are fighting against equal rights for Gay Americans.

      Noted atheist Richard Dawkins speaks often about his desire to separate the notions of faith and virtue. President Lindsay may be full of faith, but he is severely lacking in virtue here.

    • Interestingly, ‘Woman American’ was the original title on an early demo of The Guess Who’s biggest hit….

  13. While I laughed more than a couple of times at this post, you’ve earned the distinction of being the single piece of writing that made me angry enough to want to respond. I’ve watched in heartache and intrigue as Gordon has made headlines over this headline-worthy issue. The truth that your article didn’t address is that every one of us Gordon grads signed that Life and Conduct Statement in full knowledge of its content. Not that the Life and Conduct Statement should necessarily remain intact – I’m fully in support of campus and Board discussions over its place in College life – but we all signed it. While you may applaud and compliment our work ethic and emotional IQ, please don’t think that those traits came in spite of our educations at Gordon; for me, at least, they’ve come as a direct result. I wore a “friends don’t let friends go to hell” t-shirt in high school, headed up the Bible club, and owned a book called “The Evolution Cruncher.” By the time I was applying to colleges, I knew I needed a series of important changes, and chose Gordon precisely because I needed a challenging crucible in which the lessons of my fundamentalist upbringing could wrestle with the stories of my peers, beliefs of the church, and wisdom of the faculty. Gordon has long been recognized as an institution that hasn’t discriminate on race or gender since its inception; blacks and women were among its proud first graduation classes. I recognized that Gordon’s history of earnest and open dialogue on the remnants of a complicated faith history would be life-changing for me. So I sought it out, signing the Life and Conduct Statement, and hoped that I’d be bettered by the college nonetheless. By the time I graduated, several individuals had come out to me – Gordon grads among them, but also my own younger sister. It was because of Gordon – not in spite of it – that I was led to embrace these individuals, and that my sister came out to me two years before feeling comfortable coming out to the rest of our family. It was because of Gordon that my friends felt comfortable sharing their struggles with me over dinner before speaking to the rest of their families about their sexuality. It was because of Gordon that I became an intellectually honest, loving person. I’m sorry that you feel you have to make the drive of shame, but if your daughter has a challenging, fulfilling, and life-changing summer at soccer camp, it will be because of Gordon, not in spite of it.

    • I believe I make it clear in the piece that I do feel that it is because of Gordon that these individuals are so exceptional. I never say nor do I imply that it is in spite of their association with the college, quite the opposite. My arc in this story is an erroneous assumption I wouldn’t get along with people from such a place, but in fact we shared a deeper connection than most others I encounter. If that’s not coming through I’ve failed, but on re-read I think I made it pretty clear.

      On my second read I do think I make it clear the beef is with this president guy, who also does that “letter as first name” bit which for a humor blog is hard to not make fun of.

      I’ll admit an outsider I don’t care much about signing statements, though I understand why that’s an internal issue. I care that the organization is not supporting bigotry, especially on the federal payroll.

      Thanks again for a thoughtful response, as I have become accustomed with you folks.

      • Thanks for following up, James. And you were clear, in text and hilarious image, that your beef is with Lindsay. My personal beef is larger though – you can run with that line, permission granted. Lindsay took the singlemost controversial line from the Conduct Statement and essentially forwarded it to Obama. This had the effect of reminding the Gordon community and North Shore that this policy exists at Gordon. To those of us who’d forgotten or chosen to ignore that our College has discriminatory language written into its hiring practices, this was a rude yet welcome awakening. Personally, I don’t blame Lindsay for signing the letter; I fault him instead for being out of touch with the pace of conversation on campus and the desires of the students and faculty, and hope that his next moves do some work toward keeping up with us.

    • Martin Del Vecchio

      I think you missed the point of the article, and I think Jim has responded to this more than adequately.

      I believe that for students raised in an evangelical tradition, Gordon College has been a very important place in which they can adapt and change their beliefs about others; probably a much safer place than your typical Enormous State University.

      And I believe that this safety is under attack from the current Board and President of Gordon. Lindsay clearly doesn’t want Gordon to be a place where such things are discussed; he wants it to be a place where gay people are not hired, and where gay students are gold that being gay is a sin.

      I have yet to meet a person associated with Gordon who agrees with this.

  14. James, thanks for writing this. I am a Gordon grad (shudder) and also an enthusiastic supporter of full equality. I don’t know many Gordon folks who are not, truthfully. It was kind of you to write this piece.

  15. I certainly hope noone every judges a person by who the president of their college was or is – I graduated from BU when John Silber was president and I would not want anyone to judge me for that! During my time at BU we protested against the University’s investments in apartheid South Africa and poked fun at Pres Silber’s conservative politics – ironically at a time when we had such a conservative University president we were able to take classes with well known profs like Howard Zinn and Ellie Wiesel and lesser known ones just as “radical” so while the president of the University was very conservative the professors were not and that is where as students we did our learning and debating and explorations. I would imagine and I hope the same holds true for Gordon – that those who are actually engaging with and teaching the students are open to the world and varying views and encourage the students to learn and explore and speak their own views freely, judging by the thoughtful responses by the grads that is the case and that is what matters about college. It would also be nice to see some Gordon students protest their college president – some poster board and markers is all it takes. I promise to all Gordon college grads I will not make assumptions about you just because of one misguided college president if you promise not to judge me either.

    • Martin Del Vecchio

      “that those who are actually engaging with and teaching the students are open to the world and varying views and encourage the students to learn and explore and speak their own views freely, judging by the thoughtful responses by the grads that is the case and that is what matters about college.”

      That is my understanding of the reality at Gordon.

      But this new President, and the Board that supports him, clearly doesn’t want that to continue.

  16. Individuals who sign those Life and Conduct statements are generally teenagers. As an 18-year-old, I chose Gordon as the most liberal of all the Christian liberal arts colleges I was permitted to attend. Though I do not align myself with much of the College’s official religious stance any longer, I thought it was lucky for me that Gordon had such a positive reputation in local schools where I have worked. No longer. It is an utter relief to read this kind narrative and know that there are those who will not assume this current college president speaks for all the students, past and present.

    • Thank you, Deb! I’m sure most of us broke the contract (was it a contract? I remember I refrained from signing it–shh, don’t tell) several times while at Gordon. I went there with many questions about the faith in which I was raised. Gordon was a relatively safe place to explore them then.

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