Why he’s staying away from Messiah College
Wait a second, who in the world is Josh Ritter, anyways? Good question. Ritter is an American folk-rock singer-songwriter. Releasing his first album in 1999 the artist continues to gain attention having been named one of the 100 Greatest Living Songwriters by Paste Magazine back in 2006. As of late, Ritter is making news over his protest against Messiah College, a private Christian college and their anti-gay policy.
Ritter was invited to play at the Christian college as their Student Activities Board invites pop-culture artists for the purpose of entertainment. Over the past few years artists and bands have been hosted at the college such as Bob Dylan, Counting Crows, Katy Perry, Chiddy Bang, Fun., Jack’s Mannequin, Ingrid Michaelson, Owl City, Brand New, Guster, Janelle Monáe, and Conor Oberst to name a few.
Ritter can now add his name to the list, though I think he’d prefer if it weren’t there at all. Apparently after reaching Messiah College, he found out about the “Community Covenant” that all of their students are obligated to sign which includes homophobic content. Here’s what Ritter had to say about the college and their “Community Covenant”:
“…Today I was [in] Grantham, Pennsylvania, at Messiah College, and as I was doing a little digging about the place[.] I learned something that surprised and disappointed me.
Messiah College requires all students to sign a ‘Community Covenant’ promising to, among other things, ‘avoid such sinful practices as…homosexual behavior….’
This policy, which I see as exclusionary and bigoted, could not run more counter to my personal beliefs. If I had done my homework, and read about Messiah’s policies ahead of time, I would never have agreed to play there…”
Ritter did however play his show that night at the college and took the opportunity to talk to the students to “…encourage them to seek openness and change…”
While many have been quick to get out of their seats and applaud this grand jester, I for one will remain seated. Ritter knows that as a performer he is an influential figure for his fans and spectators which why when he sees something wrong, he speaks his mind.
The problem here is that Ritter is sending a mixed message, and comments on only a fraction of the information. First of all, let’s have a closer look at the “Community Covenant”.
Under the heading Practical Implication and sub header entitled Scriptural Guidelines the college specifies some school expectations. The Christian college bases these rules on teachings from the bible which discourage any secular activities when they write: “…In contrast, we are to avoid such sinful practices as drunkenness, stealing, dishonesty, profanity, occult practices, sexual intercourse outside of marriage, homosexual behavior, and sexually exploitative or abusive behavior…”
While I don’t personally agree with several of these restrictions, Ritter acknowledges the obvious problem with asking students to choose between their faith and their sexual orientation and habits in enforcing this document. So I have just a few questions for Ritter, if he against these rules, why does he choose to close the students off to his positive encouragements? If the college is open to have him perform at their college, shouldn’t he welcome to opportunity to be a positive influence?
Asking other artists to stay away from the college so that the students are less exposed to non-secular ideas will only cement old ideas and create a very homogenous flow of thought. It’s absurd that Ritter is complaining about closed minded people to which, he reacts by closing his eyes to others. Ritter, if you really care about the gay community, don’t turn your back on all of those students who need to hear from you. Make a difference by cutting all the drama and continuing to reach out to those students.