Thursday, April 09, 2015
A Larger Classroom: Where There Is Hatred, Let Me Sow Love
Bearing signs proclaiming, "We Are Not the Gatekeepers to the Kingdom," about 200 students at Dowling Catholic High School in Des Moines, Iowa - Yes. Teenagers. Catholic. Iowa. - and their supporters walked out of classes this week to protest the school's withdrawal of a full-time job offer to popular substitute teacher Tyler McCubbin because he's openly gay and engaged to a man, which school/church officials said is "at odds with church teaching." As a religious institution, Dowling is legally entitled to discriminate and thus flaunt state civil rights laws - even though it gets generous tax subsidies from the aforementioned state. But students were unimpressed with the supposedly pious call to church teaching: Considering the classic hypothetical question, "WWJD?" they decided Jesus would urge "that ye love one another, as I have loved you," and give Tyler the damn job.
McCubbin, 26, began substitute teaching and coaching track at Dowling last fall, quickly became popular, and was subsequently offered a newly-opened full-time position; when the offer was withdrawn, he says, “It broke my heart.” After word of the abrupt turnaround got out, those in the communitystarted making unhappy noise about the decision, at which point the Diocese went into damage control. Officials sent out letters to parents and alumni carefully explaining that
McCubbin's "lifestyle (ie: being in a committed relationship with someone he loves) was inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church," that not to worry because, "We accept everybody, we love everybody...Everybody is always welcome within the context of the Catholic Church," and that McCubbin's sin lay not in being gay but in actually doing gay stuff rather than choosing to live out a life of repression and lies, which would evidently be far more godly.
The kids, while devout, weren't having any of it; about 150 walked out Wednesday, holding a rally in the rain that ended with a prayer. "Just because our school officials or diocesan leaders might have made this decision, it does not directly reflect what we believe as students," said a stalwart Grace Mumm, 16. Amidst such support, several students reportedly came out to their families for the first time. Other parents and alumni have argued that the Diocese "is cherry-picking Catholic doctrine"; that every teacher in every school, like every human everywhere, has likely committed some sin; that the school is sending an appalling message to LGBT students who do in fact exist; that “Jesus included all different kinds of people from all walks of life in his ministry - He probably would have been first in line defending (McCubbin)"; and that while sexual orientation is not a choice, bigotry and discrimination, alas, is.
There is now a petition against Dowling's discriminatory hiring policies, a #DowlingCares hashtag, a Facebook page by over 1,800 members of “Dowling Catholic Alumni, Faculty, and Students Against Discrimination,” and fervent ongoing support for McCubbin. This, lest we forget, from observant Catholics in Iowa, proving that yes, change happens. McCubbin has declared the students "the heroes here, because they are the ones who come into the school hoping to have life-changing experiences within (its) four walls." He says he considers himself religious "in that I try to be a beacon of love for everyone I meet. I think that was Jesus’ goal - to make sure we love and understand everyone we come into contact with.” From one respectful supporter, "As I think about it, you are still teaching at Dowling, and your classroom is larger than ever."