A conversation with a former Chi Alpha member

Chi Alpha is a national Christian organization whose goal is to help students connect with like-minded believers and increase their faith. In addition, it promotes a small family among students and the group leaders. This sounds like a good thing, and certainly not one that should be shunned solely on religious values. Lawrence University also held a chapter of Chi Alpha for a while before deeper problems began to arise and supporting them came into question. A former member of the Lawrence Chi Alpha chapter, who whishes to remain anonymous, agreed to sit down with The Lawrentian and talk about their experience with the organization.

According to them, at first Chi Alpha seemed like a very good organization, helping create a small family and support system. The interviewee had the impression that the organization works to grow and expand the spiritual outlook of members. Furthermore, “they emphasized that anyone could join. A gay atheist joined just because they appreciated the close-knit nature of it, even if they didn’t believe in it.” The leadership really helped them through problems personal, spiritual and professional. They had both group meetings where anyone could join and one-on-one discussions with the leader to work through personal problems.

However, problems began, and the reason this student stopped going was because “in some individual meetings [they] encountered some pretty problematic beliefs that did not align with [their] own, and those of the community.” In particular, these were the fact that “[Chi Alpha] did not believe in homosexuality or other LGBTQ+ people. And the message they gave was to still love them, but that there is inherently some problem with them.” In particular, being transgender was likened to some kind of disorder or mental illness, which is not something that the Lawrence community as a whole agrees with, nor could in any way condone. According to the Chi Alpha website, the organization considers members of the LGBTQ+ community as leading a “sexually immoral lifestyle,” and encourages its members not to associate with LGBTQ+ people.

For better or for worse, this was not something that was at the forefront of the meetings, but rather brought up only in offhand comments about homosexuality and “tasteless jokes about identification by one of the leaders.” This prompted our source to have a discussion in the one-on-one meeting in order to determine what exactly the leader thought about this topic. Our source opened up to the leader about having friends and partners that use they/them pronouns. The leader’s reaction was “not malicious, more misguided,” according to the source. He would bring up examples of people that at one point fit those descriptions but have since turned back. The case the leader brought up was a leader of the national Chi Alpha that was transgender but transitioned back. The national leader then created a DVD series about “how to not be trans.’’

This all paints a dark picture of Chi Alpha, especially because they continue to hold meetings on Lawrence’s campus, which is home to many LGBTQ+ students. But the difficult part is that while the organization holds harmful beliefs, it does good for its members. Our source concluded by saying, “I think that the positive aspects of the organization necessitate some further discussion.”