Isabella Chow is the Christian student from University of California-Berkeley who's been in the news because she read a statement explaining her biblically-based views on sexuality and marriage. As a result, she's come under fire from LGBT-identified activists and their allies.
Her story's an important one, as she took a courageous stand and has stood strong despite widespread attacks. Here's a brief recap of her story, her response to what's happened and some important lessons for believers.
Isabella Chow's Courageous Stand for Truth
Chow is a Senator in the Associated Students at University of California – Berkeley (ASUC). The ASUC Senate was voting on a resolution supported by the school's Queer Student Union and Queer Alliance Resource Center (QARC). The measure opposed the Department of Health and Human Services for restoring the legal definition of "sex" in the Title IX statute to mean biological sex – either male or female. It also called on the university's administration to "publicly reinforce their support of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students."
Every other ASUC senator voted for the resolution, but Chow believed doing so would violate her beliefs. So she abstained from the vote and read statement explaining her decision. Here's some of that statement:
I have said, and will always say, that discrimination against or harassment of any person or people group is never, ever okay. I certainly acknowledge any pain and experiences of individuals in this room who have gone through what no human being should ever go through. …
My God is one who assigns immeasurable value to and desires to love each and every human being. In God's eyes and therefore my own, everyone of you here today and in the LGBTQ+ community as a whole is significant, valid, wanted, and loved - even if and when our views differ. …
That said, I cannot vote for this bill without compromising my values and my responsibility to the community that elected me to represent them. As a Christian, I personally do believe that certain acts and lifestyles conflict with what is good, right, and true. I believe that God created male and female at the beginning of time, and designed sex for marriage between one man and one woman. For me, to love another person does not mean that I silently concur when, at the bottom of my heart, I do not believe that your choices are right or the best for you as an individual.
Even before the vote, knowing the stand she would take, her university political party expelled her from their organization. After the vote, the school erupted. The QARC started a petition demanding her resignation. She was cursed and denounced on social media. Opponents called her a "transphobic bigot" – and much worse. At the Senate meeting the next week, regular business was quickly attended to so that students could respond to Chow's vote. While a few students spoke in her support, dozens more took the mike and harangued her – and her Christian faith – for almost three hours.
Isabella Chow's Gracious Response
Chow's response to the anger and hostility has been consistently kind and gracious. The fact that Berkeley is so radically liberal means that Christian students are forced to wrestle with their faith and their world view – to know what they believe and why. They must also develop a strong walk with God and connections with other believers.
Chow says the Christian community is close-knit and supportive. She says, "The Christian community here has truly rallied together ever since word spread about my abstention on October 31st. The lead chair of Unity in Christ (a para-fellowship organization) and leaders of multiple ministries in Berkeley called for a prayer meeting on November 7th during the protests. The prayer meeting was packed, and I knew that prayers for myself, my team, and, most importantly, for the church and the LGBTQ+ community in Berkeley truly sustained me that night."
God also gave her a heart for those who attacked her, "The Lord was gracious to remind me that behind all the anger expressed during the protests were wounded hearts and broken narratives that only He could heal."
She hopes her experience causes believers to reach out to those who identify as gay or transgender, "Through all this, I pray that the Lord would use my story to spark a greater dialogue that would cause the church to more deeply wrestle with how we can more deeply love our LGBTQ+ neighbors."
Learning From Isabella's Experience
There is much that Christians can learn from Chow's experience. Here are just a few takeaways from her story.
First, we should understand that our world has taken a radical turn in making homosexuality or transgenderism into a person's identity. Sexual sin and brokenness are not new. Scripture's pretty forthright about identifying behaviors and lusts that result from our sin. What is new is the way sexual attractions and behaviors, in the case of homosexuality, are seen today as a person's identity. Similarly, for those with conflict and confusion about their maleness or femaleness, transgenderism has become an identity. Many LGBT individuals view their "sexual orientation" or "gender identity" as the very core of who they are, the center of their being.
This view stands in opposition to Scripture, where we learn, as Chow wrote, "God created male and female at the beginning of time." God sees us as men and women, made in His image, though deeply marred by sin. Contemporary categories such as "gay and straight" or the myriad "transgender identities" are man-made constructs, not God's or Christianity's view at all.
The students who castigated Chow were upset because they believe that her statement of biblical truth was a denial of their personhood, an attempt to "erase our queer identities." Sadly, even some Christians have bought into the false idea that "being gay" or "being transgender" is fundamentally who a person is.
We don't have to agree with LGBT-identified individuals on this key question of identity. But understanding this shift is important for Christians as we pray for and sensitively reach out to individuals who identify this way.
Another important lesson from her experience is this: Christians should be aware and prepared that standing for God's design for sex and marriage will bring opposition. Chow is just the most recent in a long list of examples of Christians who are under fire for standing for biblical truth about marriage and sexuality. Stories like hers are becoming more and more the norm.
Chow wasn't really looking for the response she received; she wasn't taking her stand in order to be attacked. At the same time, she was aware of the environment where she would be proclaiming her faith. She says, "I understood that my abstention represented a minority, largely unpopular belief at a campus like Berkeley, but I did not expect the backlash to blow up as much as it did."
In addition, she had done much to be prepared, including: knowing what she believed and why; sharing her faith openly with other student; building strong connections with her family and within the faith community; seeking wise counsel as she made her decision; having a heart of compassion for those who attacked her; being willing to take an unpopular stand; and forgiving and praying for those who spewed anger and hurt at her.
Developing her spiritual life had prepared her for this time of testing. We can all learn from her example.