Lexi McMenamin (@leximcmenamin) is news and politics editor at Teen Vogue. Their work has appeared on the BBC and in The Nation, VICE News, InStyle, Mic, Allure, and more.

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‘Are We Advocating for Something By Existing?'

by Lexi McMenamin 06-06-2022
Student and alumni activists seek to protect LGBTQ rights and challenge Title IX exemptions on Christian university campuses.
Illustration of a group of people rolling rainbow-colored carpet up the steps to a university building

Illustration by Ryan Johnson

WHEN JOHN BAGLEY JR. chose to attend evangelical Wheaton College in the mid-2000s, he said he was still trying to understand himself. As a Black queer man, Bagley said he spent a lot of his time after graduation just attempting to “put together the pieces of a lot of what was deconstructed or broken while ... in that environment.”

The year after Bagley graduated, he was contacted by a friend who was still a student at the school in Wheaton, Ill. The friend shared with him what would become known in Wheaton circles as “The Letter.” It was a message from students and alumni released following an April 2011 on-campus chapel series on “Sexuality and Wholeness.” The message from the college was clear: Heterosexual relationships were the only legitimate and faithful choice for Christians.

Wheaton alumnus Wesley Hill, author of Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, was among the series speakers that week, delivering a sermon based on his book, which chronicles his decision to be a “celibate homosexual Christian.”

“Many of us felt trapped and unable to respond honestly to these messages while we were students,” the alumni authors of “The Letter” wrote. To current LGBTQ students, they added, “your sexual identity is not a tragic sign of the sinful nature of the world. You are not tragic. Your desire for companionship, intimacy, and love is not shameful. It is to be affirmed and celebrated just as you are to be affirmed and celebrated.”

More than 700 alumni and students, including Bagley, signed the open letter. Bagley also became an informal member of an LGBTQ alumni group known as OneWheaton, which launched amid the controversy.

‘The Terrorists Perceived Themselves To Be Christians’

by Lexi McMenamin 07-27-2021

Aquilino Gonell, sergeant of the U.S. Capitol Police, Michael Fanone, officer for the Metropolitan Police Department, and Harry Dunn, private first class of the U.S. Capitol Police, listen while Daniel Hodges, officer for the Metropolitan Police Department, testifies during a hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 27, 2021. Brendan Smialowski/Pool via REUTERS.

In an emotional congressional hearing Tuesday morning, witnesses of the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill used multiple words to describe those who attacked them: One was “terrorists;” another was “Christians.”

“It was clear the terrorists perceived themselves to be Christians,” Metropolitan police officer Daniel Hodges stated in his testimony, which graphically described the physical attacks on Hodges and other officers.

How Bayard Rustin’s Quaker, AME Faith Shaped the Civil Rights Era

by Joshua Eaton, by Lexi McMenamin 07-26-2021

Bayard Rustin at news briefing on the Civil Rights March on Washington in the Statler Hotel, half-length portrait, seated at table. Warren K. Leffler via the Library of Congress. 

Rustin, who died in 1987, is best known for helping Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. implement Gandhian tactics of nonviolence and for the key role he played organizing the 1963 March on Washington and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — two key components of the civil rights movement.

Less well-known are the particularities of Rustin's faith, including his deep roots in the Quaker and African Methodist Episcopal churches which drove his activism. Those two faith traditions, marked by silence and singing, respectively, echoed throughout Rustin’s life and work.

‘Like a Love Letter to Queer Youth’

by Lexi McMenamin 06-29-2021

'Queer Youth of Faith Day' social media graphics. Courtesy Beloved Arise.

June 30 marks the end of Pride Month, and Beloved Arise is closing out celebrations with its second annual Queer Youth of Faith Day. The organization, dedicated to LGBTQ youth of faith, is joined by several co-hosts, including LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project, LGBTQ advocacy organization PFLAG, Jewish Queer Youth, Q Christian Fellowship, and Interfaith Alliance.

In Defiance of Vatican, Catholic Leaders Bless LGBTQ Community

by Lexi McMenamin 06-09-2021

Screenshot of Miguel Díaz, the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See under President Barack Obama, offering a blessing during DignityUSA's Catholic Pride Blessing event on June 1, 2021. 

Earlier this year, the Vatican said that its priests and ministers cannot bless same-sex unions. For LGBTQ Catholics, this was a setback for what many saw as the church’s more welcoming trajectory under Pope Francis. But not everyone is following the instructions; in the United States and across the globe, Catholics have directly disobeyed the Vatican’s instructions.

On the first day of June — which marks the beginning of Pride Month in the United States — DignityUSA, an organization supporting LGBTQ Catholics, hosted a Catholic Pride Blessing, where LGBTQ Catholics could be blessed by clergy.

Will Support for Palestinians Grow Among U.S. Christians?

by Lexi McMenamin 05-26-2021

People protest in solidarity with Palestinians on May 16, 2021 in Seattle. Shutterstock/ Inna Zakharchenko

“As Black American activists are being increasingly heard and amplified, so is this message about linking national contexts and the importance of recognizing the global scope of anti-racism activism beyond national boundaries,” Roger Baumann said.

Warnock Urges Progressives of Faith to Protect Voting Rights

by Lexi McMenamin 04-19-2021

Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks with Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary, via video chat, on April 18, 2021 (screenshot).

On Sunday, April 18, in an event hosted by Union Theological Seminary (Warnock’s alma mater), Warnock, a Democrat, detailed how his time as a minister, and now U.S. Senator, led him to his current image as a staunch defender of voting rights, and the responsibility of progressives to combat restrictions.

Preach the Gospel. When Necessary, Do It In Drag

by Lexi McMenamin 04-16-2021

Isaac Simmons as Ms. Penny Cost. Courtesy / Isaac Simmons.

Isaac Simmons is right in the thick of it. Simmons, 23, is the first openly gay man certified for candidacy for ordination in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church. And if that wasn’t enough of a barrier to break through, he’s not doing it alone. Instead, he’s bringing along Ms. Penny Cost — his drag persona.

How Parler Played to Conservative Christians’ Fear of Censorship

by Lexi McMenamin 01-25-2021

The Parler app on the screen of smartphone. Ascannio / Shutterstock.com

Parler was removed by app stores and its web server, Amazon. But getting rid of Parler is like cutting one head off a hydra: Since Parler’s suspension, MeWe and Rumble have seen massive gains.

Rejoining Climate Agreement Is ‘First Step of Repentance,’ Say Faith Leaders

by Lexi McMenamin 01-20-2021

President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, after his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

On his first day as president, Joe Biden followed through on one of his pre-inaugural commitments: re-entering the United States into the Paris climate agreement.

Faith Groups Condemn Lisa Montgomery's Federal Execution

by Lexi McMenamin 01-13-2021

Lisa Montgomery pictured at the Federal Medical Center Fort Worth in an undated photograph. Courtesy of Attorneys for Lisa Montgomery/Handout via REUTERS

In the early morning of Jan. 13, following a day of attempted legal delays and despite documentation of severe mental illness stemming from childhood abuse, 52-year-old Lisa Montgomery became the first woman in decades to be executed by the federal government.

When Does a Mob Become a Coup?

by Lexi McMenamin 01-06-2021

Graphic via isthisacoup.com

In the months prior to the November 2020 election, progressive activists Jethro Heiko and Nick Jehlen partnered with Choose Democracy to create the Coup-o-meter in order to provide clear communication about how close the U.S. was to an anti-democratic usurping of power. By Wednesday afternoon, they had shifted the meter.

Lawsuit Filed Against Proud Boys for Vandalizing Black Church in D.C.

by Lexi McMenamin 01-05-2021

Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio addresses supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump and other members of the far-right Proud Boys in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 11, 2020. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart/File Photo

The complaint, filed on behalf of Metropolitian AME church, alleges the attacks were part of “coordinated acts of violence.”

The COVID-19 Vaccine Is Here. What Ethics Should Guide Its Rollout?

by Lexi McMenamin 12-14-2020

A sign directs healthcare workers to a rehearsal for the administration of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Indianapolis on Dec. 11, 2020.  REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Initially, the available doses of the vaccine are limited; experts estimate that it could be months before the vaccine is available to most Americans. And for the incoming administration as well as public health experts, this raises a number of ethical questions, most importantly: Who should be the first to receive the vaccine?

Faith Leaders: Trump's Rushed Executions Show ‘Blatant Disregard’ for Life

by Lexi McMenamin 12-10-2020

Anti-death penalty protesters arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court in 2017. Photo by JP Keenan/Sojourners

Today, 40-year-old Brandon Bernard is scheduled to be executed for a crime he was involved in at age 18. While Bernard was not the person who pulled the trigger on the two people murdered — that man, Christopher Vialva, was executed in September — he was eligible for capital punishment, which can only be handed down to legal adults.

How Close Did We Come to a Coup?

by Lexi McMenamin 11-23-2020

Graphic via the website isthisacoup.com

Even before ballots were cast in the 2020 presidential election, many were suspicious of how the Trump White House would handle a potential transfer of power. As the election wound down with clear margins in President-elect Joe Biden’s favor — and as Donald Trump continued his refusal to concede — more people began to use the word “coup.”

End the Muslim Ban on Day One, Urge More Than 100 Faith Leaders

by Lexi McMenamin 11-19-2020

Protesters in New York City rally against the Muslim ban in February 2017. Photo: a katz / Shutterstock.com

“President Trump and some of his appointees have sowed fear and division among religious communities,” says the letter. “The Biden administration must act quickly to correct these actions and reclaim a positive vision of religious freedom that protects all Americans.”

Pastors Work to Stop Evangelicals’ Spread of ‘Dangerous’ Misinformation

by Gina Ciliberto, by Lexi McMenamin 11-05-2020

Pastors serving as poll chaplains with Lawyers and Collars on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Photo: Erik Paul Howard / Sojourners

After President Donald Trump falsely claimed victory in the presidential election at 3 a.m. on Wednesday, he continued to share unsubstantiated claims about dumped ballots, mysteriously found votes, and an effort to rig ballot counts.

More Than 230 Texas Christian Leaders: Count All the Votes in Harris County

by Lexi McMenamin 11-01-2020

A line of cars drive in for an event encouraging community members to vote in the upcoming presidential election at an early voting site in Houston, Oct. 25, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare/File Photo

On Oct. 31, a coalition of faith groups worked together to launch a sign-on letter calling on faith leaders to condemn the effort to toss more than 100,000 Harris County ballots, saying counting every vote “matters in the eyes of our state, our country, and our God.” The sign-on process is hosted by Vote Common Good, a national organization encouraging Christian voters to vote Trump out.

Pizza, Selfies, Dancing: 10 Ways To Spread Joy at Polling Places

by Lexi McMenamin 10-29-2020

Members of Extinction Rebellion perform in New York City on October 24, 2020. Photo: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

Here’s some hopeful news: Voters are turning out in droves across the country in advance of next Tuesday’s election. According to the United States Elections Project, as of Oct. 28, more than 74,000,000 Americans have voted: that’s more than half of the total votes counted in the 2016 election. Cities like Chicago are breaking their early voting records. New York City’s overwhelmed poll centers added additional hours for the weekend before Election Day. Youth voter turnout is up overall, and Texas is leading with the biggest youth vote participation in the country.