Erskine College

New York Times visits Erskine College: Who gets to declare what is a 'sin' these days?

New York Times visits Erskine College: Who gets to declare what is a 'sin' these days?

Once again, let us return to Erskine College in Due West, S.C., where Christians -- under the watchful gaze of The New York Times -- are arguing about 2,000 years of Christian tradition on sexuality and marriage. Click here for my first GetReligion post on this controversy.

The headline: "Erskine College’s View on ‘Sin’ Jolts Gay Athletes." The key word, of course, is "sin" -- a word that is increasingly difficult to use publicly in America these days, no matter what is stated in the Bible and/or the First Amendment.

Now, loyal GetReligion readers will know that the word "sin" plays a key role in the infamous "tmatt trio," that series of doctrinal questions that I have used while reporting on the fault lines inside Christian churches, denominations, parachurch groups, etc. At one point, we jokingly suggested using "tmatt3" as shorthand for these questions. Once again, here they are:

* Are biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Did this happen?
* Is salvation found through Jesus, alone? Was Jesus being literal when he said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
* Is sex outside of marriage a sin?

With that in mind, let's look at the crucial passage in the Times piece that deals with, yes, the Erskine administration's attempts to defend the use of a doctrinal covenant that draws some boundaries around the voluntary association that is this private Christian college.

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Shocker! Erskine College covenant affirms 2,000 years of Christian doctrine on sex

Shocker! Erskine College covenant affirms 2,000 years of Christian doctrine on sex

GetReligion readers who know a thing or two about religious colleges and universities (also private schools for younger students) know that there is nothing unusual about these institutions asking students, staff and faculty to sign a "doctrinal covenant," often called a "lifestyle covenant," which confuses matters a bit.

This is an issue that frequently comes up in GetReligion critiques of mainstream news coverage, in part because many journalists don't seem to realize that it's normal (think First Amendment, once again) for voluntary associations on both the left and right to ask those who choose to become members to affirm, or at least not to publicly oppose, the goals and teachings (think "doctrines") of these groups. Thus, there is nothing unusual about the leaders of a network that opposes global warming to insist that its members to oppose global warming. There is nothing strange about a group for vegetarians choosing not to have officers who are openly affirm eating meat. Few Jewish groups want Messianic Jews/Southern Baptists as leaders. Ditto for Muslim groups welcoming Zionists.

This brings us to the hands-down winner of the worst headline of last week, care of The Washington Post. Once again, this headline graced one of those strange, brave new journalism (What is this?) "reported blog" pieces that was, nevertheless, promoted by the Post in lists of major news stories. News? Editorial? Who knows? Oh well? Whatever? Nevermind? The headline:

South Carolina college bans homosexuality after two volleyball players come out as gay

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