Thursday, June 11, 2015

Does It Need To Be 'As Bad As Iran' To Be Bad Enough?

An earlier version of this Throwback was first published in September 2014.

Submit or be derecognized

      For a long time now elite opinion on college campuses has been trying to shut down speech that doesn’t stick to their script, especially religious speech.  Specifically, Christian speech.  The clampdown has now become a little more overt: the California State University system has “derecognized” the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), an Evangelical group, on all 23 of its campuses, as explained in this article [here] by Ed Stetzer in Christianity Today.  The reason for the derecognition (if such a word exists) is that the ICVF refuses to change its rules requiring leaders in the group to be believing Christians.  The state of California has said, in other words, that Christian groups will not be recognized as official groups on campus unless they open up their leadership to people who don’t share, and may even be hostile to, their very reason for existing in the first place.

InterVarsity Students spreading . . . bigotry and intolerance?



Consequences of derecognition

     You may be wondering what the consequences of derecognition are.  According to Greg Jao, National Field Director & Campus Access Coordinator, there are three main things that IVCF chapters will lose:

1)      Free access to rooms (they will now have to pay, and will be shut out if a “recognized" group wants the room).
2)      Access to student activities programs “including”, he says, “new student fairs where we meet most students.”
3)      “We also lose standing when we engage faculty, students and admimnistrators.”

He doesn’t explain in detail what that last point entails. Tish Warren led a similar IVCF group at the private Vanderbilt University a few years ago that experienced a similar fate.  In a separate Christianity Today article that Stetzer quotes at length she explains:

Because we were no longer allowed to use Vanderbilt's name, we struggled to convey that we were a community of Vanderbilt students who met near campus.

In other words, as close to invisible as they can be short of being banned altogether.



Is Christianity "Hate Speech"?

     What’s behind it all?  Stetzer says that “The university system has decided that speech with beliefs that undergird it—and shape how it is organized—has to be derecognized.”  I suppose you could put it that way, but not all “speech with beliefs” is really being targeted.  He allows Warren to be somewhat more specific.  She explains that the banned groups had “crossed a line”, one that

was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad—not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.

This states the case more plainly.  Notice that it is the same in the wider world: support (not simply tolerance) of what used to be considered sexual heterodoxy is the standard by which elite opinion decides who enjoys basic rights and who does not.  Warren and Jao are both being rather too generous when they posit a desire for “democracy” as one of the motives for the anti-Christian people.  No, democracy is not a priority; these same people have no problem with federal judges overturning state laws and constitutional amendments voted in by 60-70% of the electorate, and at the university level you will not see them applying to the vegetarians, Muslims, and certainly not the LGBTQ groups the same unreasonable demands they have imposed upon the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
Don't read that, kids - it might be hate speech
    And that connection to the wider world is what most concerns me. Stetzer starts out his article saying “Now, it’s not persecution”, an admonition he repeats at the end, adding: “I hope they won’t call themselves persecuted, since that lessens the persecution in, for example, Iran.”  If only we could lessen the persecution in Iran so easily!  What he means, of course, is that equating the inconveniences experienced by college students in California to the very real suffering, up to and including torture and death, suffered by Christians in the Middle East tends to diminish our proper sense of horror and outrage at the latter. Fair enough, but on the other hand injustices don’t need to rise to ISIS level, or anywhere near it, to merit condemnation.  And I don’t think he should be in such a hurry to downplay the significance of what has happened in California.



We don't need no stinkin' constitution

     First of all, what the State of California is doing is a direct assault on the constitutional rights of  Christian students.  The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution starts out as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .

Telling members of a religious group whom they must choose as their leaders is an exceptionally unsubtle trespass on the free exercise of religion – and I know that courts have found all sorts of ingenious ways to make laws and constitutional provisions mean the exact opposite of their clear meaning, but if we’re not willing to fight something this blatant, we might as well run the white flag up the pole and get it over with.  Since the courts have also found that the restrictions the Bill of Rights places upon Congress also apply to all other government organs, including state run schools, this is clearly a constitutional issue (as it is not at a private school like Vanderbilt).
     This potential damage here also extends beyond the walls of the university.  The half-spoken message that California State is sending its students is that Christian belief is bad: “not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus”, as Tish Warren said of the attitude of the authorities at Vanderbilt.  If such a thing is simply a given in the environment where they are formed for four years, how many students are going to be prepared to be open to and tolerant of Christian belief when they get out . . . especially if the outside environment agrees with what they experienced at the university?



Bad is bad

     And, as I have noted in these pages many times, there is a conscious and coordinated campaign underway in the United States and the rest of the Western world to “derecognize” Christianity as a whole.  The mainstreaming of anti-Christian bigotry lays the foundation; simply holding traditional beliefs about morality and marriage makes a person fair game for the foulest and most hateful verbal abuse (see here and here).  Somehow the targets of this vileness, and not the spewers of it, are scorned by elite opinion-makers as “haters” and “bigots”.  And who is going to argue when haters and bigots are defamed, or even threatened with loss of their livelihood (hereherehere) if they oppose the dismantling of traditional morality -  or simply decline to participate actively in its destruction?  This harassment, I submit, is in fact persecution, if not on the level of Iran or Iraq, and sets the stage for worse: once Christians have been completely driven beyond the pale, what's to prevent harsher forms of persecution?  And in fact serious persecutions almost always start with little thing, and with the delegitimizing, the "derecognition", if you will, of the targeted group, 
     Finally, I haven’t discussed the fact that our colleges and universities have, in a very short time (and practically unremarked), undergone a radical change: where formerly they acted in loco parentis, a role in which they protected their students and enforced moral standards, now they actively promote promiscuity and licentiousness . . . and actually punish students for upholding morality.  How can this possibly turn out well?  
     So, to all you Ed Stetzers out there, hold your head up – we have nothing to apologize for. Nobody is confusing California State University with the Islamic Republic of Iran, but what’s happening there is bad enough, and if we allow harassment and injustice to continue, more serious persecution is sure to follow.