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Of all the things that surprised and shocked me at college, the one-sidedness of so many classroom discussions was the most surprising of all. The lack of balance, the lack of honest exploration, the lack of real, unbiased, and open discussion was not how I thought it would be. It was like that bold dynamic of education had silently melded with the white wallboard or slid out the crack between the window and the sill and evaporated among the clouds in the bright blue sky.
When I thought about why I expected such analysis and discussion, aside from the fact that it had once been a staple of a basic college education, I realized it was due to the high school I had attended.
I graduated from a private Christian high school. My high school, while founded and guided by the “narrow” principles of Christianity, was truly more diverse in thought than this secular college campus could ever pretend to be. More than two hundred different churches were represented at my high school. That’s a slew of denominations, break-off denominations, splinter denominations, and a host of views on important and sometimes controversial doctrinal issues.
In an attempt to accommodate that paradox of diversity and unity, the guiding principle was always truth. The means for finding truth was honest scholarship. Our Bible instructors, the ones most often called to keep a keen eye on that delicate balance between diversity and unity, would present historical views on a matter that had potential to be divisive or controversial. They would also present contemporary views, opposing views, and sometimes even invite speakers from opposite camps in to be interviewed by the class. Then, they would do something revolutionary. They would let us think.
Our instructors encouraged us to consider all the views, reason our way through them, and draw our own conclusions. Unlike some of my college classes, where the professors eagerly, enthusiastically, and forcefully shared their viewpoint and neglected to mention other viewpoints, my high school teachers often opted not to share their personal opinions. When asked, sometimes they would tell what their position was on an issue, but never with the intent of forcing the class to adopt the same view. We were always welcome to stay after class if we wanted to know what they specifically believed about a particular issue.
I expected intellectual honesty and intellectual freedom from the faculty when I went to college. But a lot of times there was no routine standard of honest exploration of controversial issues; it was often a pat answer PC. As rigorous or deep as many discussions got was “agreeing to disagree,” a most nauseating principle in that the unspoken thought behind it was often that truth is unattainable. So many things were left of center, no questions asked. There was one side to every story, and nobody seemed interested in hearing the other side(s). Many professors are not as interesting in teaching students how to think as they are in teaching students what to think.
Part of the problem is that there are no checks and balances. If a liberal professor wants to indoctrinate, he or she can freely do so, without restraint, behind the secrecy of closed doors, climbing ivy, and brick walls. David Horowitz, a nationally known academic and civil liberties activist comments, “Universities are among our most important social institutions. They educate our youth, train future leaders, provide information and research, advance scientific and medial knowledge, generate technological innovation, and shape the attitudes that define us as a people. Yet universities are also anomalies in our national framework. Vital as they are to the functioning of our democracy, they are themselves undemocratic.
“Overall, there is little or no accountability on the part of these institutions to the wider community that supports them and underwrite the affluence to which their principals have become accustomed. Whether private or public, whether operating under the aegis of state-appointed boards or private corporations, universities are effectively ruled by internal bureaucracies, which operate under a cloak of secrecy and are protected from oversight by privileges and traditions that date back to feudal times.
“What is knowledge if it is thoroughly one-sided, or intellectual freedom if it is only freedom to conform? And what is a ‘liberal education,’ if one point of view is for all intents and purposes excluded from the classroom?” Then, Horowitz poses an excellent question I have often asked myself, “How can students get a good education, if they are only being told one side of the story?”1
At some point, students (and their parents) must ask, what’s the point of a broad-based liberal education, if you’re exposed to a narrow perspective? As Horowitz has stated, “If you get only get half the picture, you only get half the education.” And as many others, like Horowitz, have asked, “Does it not therefore follow, that students should only pay half the tuition?” Somehow I don’t think that idea is going to go over too well.
University of Kansas professor Dennis Dailey has tried to push the limits in his human sexuality class. Students have reported that he used porn movies, graphic slides of naked children, crude language in class, and directed sexually insulting remarks to his students. He even had a Pedophilia Day and a Wheelchair Sex Day. Last year Dailey was honored as an outstanding educator by the university. This was going on at a school funded by parents and taxpayers. No doubt many parents—and taxpayers—have some objections about the way their money is being spent.
As I’ve taken my core classes, required of all students for graduation, it has been my experience that there is a far heavier concentration of liberals in the social sciences than in the hard sciences. My professors in chemistry, biology, and physics generally stick to the subject matter and rarely digress into political and social ideologue irrelevant to the class. There is, however, considerable personal opinion injected into classes like psychology. Take the class where we spent twenty minutes viewing slides of primates. The professor would flash a slide on the screen and ask, “Does this monkey look sad, happy, about to attack?” Picture after picture of the faces of primates were flashed on the screen. “How about this monkey? Is he happy, sad, angry?” The point of this was to prove that we come from primates because we have the same facial expressions. On and on, chimp after chimp. After each slide he would tell us exactly what the ape was thinking and feeling. After twenty minutes of sad, happy, angry, jealous, and contented chimps, monkeys, and apes, he led us to the conclusion that, because apes emote, and we emote, we therefore come from apes.
Oh well, at least the slide show was a break from lecture. And at least sitting in the dark meant we didn’t have to see what T-shirt the professor had pulled from his drawer that day. Previously, he had come to class with a T-shirt that said, “World’s Fastest Swimmer.” On the back of the T-shirt was a picture of a sperm.
I had a T-shirt I sometimes thought about wearing to class, but I never did. My T-shirt said, “Never Underestimate the Power of Stupid People in Large Groups.” No picture on the back. You have to keep a sense of humor about these things or you end up taking yourself too seriously.
When you inject an opinion into a class discussion that is at odds with the professor’s, know that there are a variety of techniques professors use to rebuff dissenters and steer the discussion back in their direction. Sometimes the technique may be hostility, mocking, or sarcasm. Other times the technique is more gentle. It is a subtle redirect, but it is a redirect nonetheless. One particular professor used laughter and a big smile to curtail the discussion.
More than once in my class on Islam, I would bring up a different point of view, and the professor would laugh and say, “Oh, we won’t talk about that.”
One day we learned that Muslims believe that God is in every person. The professor thought this was a really nice idea and obviously embraced the idea.
It is a nice idea, but I asked if it didn’t present a problem. “If Muslims believe Christians go to hell, and if God is in everyone—including Christians—then aren’t they banishing God to hell?”
Once again, she laughed and said she really couldn’t answer that. (She’s a Harvard grad.) I think she could have answered the question. She could have answered it coming from either side, but for fear of undermining the Islamic faith or offending Muslims, although there were none in the class, she steered clear of the issue.
Another day we were discussing the separation of church and state. No one was saying much, there seemed to be a silent consensus that separation of church and state was a good and necessary thing. An education major then spoke up and raised the issue of vouchers. The professor said, “Do you really want government money paying for someone to get a religious education?”
I said that I believed public schools were just as religious as some private schools. People looked over at me and asked, “How?”
I said, “Because secular humanism was declared an official religion in 1961.” The prof began talking over me as soon as I uttered the word humanism. She said once we bring humanism into the discussion it would destroy her argument. “We won’t bring that into the picture,” she said. End of discussion. She was nice and friendly and polite, but the discussion was over. It’s a shame she didn’t pursue the matter, because she seemed like a professor with the academic integrity to present all sides and lead a civilized discussion.
During another class lecture, the same prof was trying to say that the Christian God and the Islamic God were the same. A group of Christians in class disagreed and tried to make the point that Christians believe in the deity of Jesus Christ; therefore, it can’t be the same God if part of the God-head is missing. She said, “It’s really not all that different. Yes, Muslims don’t believe Jesus Christ was God, but Jesus Christ didn’t believe He was God.”
A student said, “Some of us are pretty sure Jesus did think he was God.”
The prof said, “It’s not in the Bible. Prove it.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” someone said. “He who has seen Me, has seen the Father,” I said.
The professor shot the references down and said we had a poor understanding of Scripture. She didn’t laugh; she just flatly rejected the evidence.
Over the next couple of days, I looked up references on the deity of Christ in Josh McDowell’s book, Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask about the Christian Faith. I typed up two pages of notes, largely from the McDowell book, regarding verses and arguments about Jesus being God and knowing He is God.
I gave the professor a copy of my notes the next week in class. I also gave copies to four friends in other sections of the same class, as I knew they were having similar discussions with different professors. It helps to network with other Christians and share resources and information.
For a number of days after I gave that information to my prof, she would come up to me at the beginning of class and say, “I’m still thinking about that.” She also thanked me for putting in extra work on that issue and has repeatedly said that it was very interesting.
Even though a professor may not always give you an opportunity to be heard in class, he or she may still have an open mind. There may be other opportunities outside of class for you to express your opinion. If a professor knows that you are sincere about an issue, if you show that you care about the issue, and if you demonstrate that you are serious in your pursuit of the truth, in some cases a professor will take you seriously.
In a philosophy class the professor often engaged in Bush-whacking, taking swipes at President Bush and the “right-wing born-again Christian staff” that “runs his show,” as though the President and Christians were inextricably linked. I attempt to project a pretty calm and reserved appearance in class and manifest a loving spirit. But some days when this tripe went on, and let me add that I really liked this professor, I would fantasize about knocking over my desk and walking out of the classroom without saying a word. Just for grins. Could be fun.
One day, upset at the looming war with Iraq, and apparently frustrated that the Resolution for Peace she had attached her name to in the student newspaper, along with a number of other faculty members, wasn’t going to stop the tanks from rolling, she again began Bush-whacking. After a brief rant, she became sidetracked on a tangent. She started talking, to herself more than to the class, in a soft voice about creationists. “Most Christians don’t believe in creationism and most large churches don’t teach creationism,” she said. She continued on, saying, “People who actually believe in creationism are quaint . . . they’re like Amish.”
(Bam! A second desk goes flying.)
Some of the philosophy professor’s asides were so entertaining I wish I had a tape player in class with me to capture every word. But at the bottom of our syllabus it said “unless you are a disabled student, tape recorders are not permitted in this class.” Ah, but I am a disabled student. I am a student who believes in God, the saving work of Christ, and moral absolutes.
Every class will not be a battle, but it’s important to be prepared for it when a challenge does arise. Knowing how to be selective about your battles, how to engage, which ones to engage in, and which ones to pass on, will be valuable. You don’t have to voice your opinion on every single issue. In some classes there simply wouldn’t be enough time! And in some cases, the right thing to do is keep your mouth closed. But when the time is right and you feel the nudge to add your opinion to the debate in the classroom, there are certain things that are beneficial to know.
That’s right; chances are you’re not going to win the argument. At least not in the classroom. Most likely you won’t convince the professor to change his views. Professors are usually set in stone about their beliefs, and if you do impact their thinking, they’re not about to admit it to the class. The fact that you will most likely not win an argument though is not reason enough to remain quiet.
Winning and losing take on new meanings when engaging with different worldviews in the classroom. Winning doesn’t just have to be about changing the professor’s beliefs. Winning could be the simple, but difficult, task of getting professors to question their beliefs. What’s more, losing an argument does not come without benefits. By speaking up in class you are registering dissent. You are making the professor aware that not everyone thinks the way he or she does. By speaking up you may also plant seeds of doubt in the professor’s mind, and just as importantly in the minds of your fellow classmates. Your speaking up can mean opening up the door to explore other options and giving people both sides of an issue so that they can come to their own educated opinion. By speaking up, you also may win over some fence sitters without ever being aware of your impact. Finally, by speaking up, you will be encouraging those who are quiet so that they may gain the courage to do the same.
The reason students go to college is to learn. It would be unrealistic to think that students are well versed on every topic; especially one you have chosen to take a class about. It’s normal to feel hesitant to speak up because of lack of knowledge on an issue. But once again, that is not a sufficient excuse to back down when absolute truth is being attacked. The worst that could happen is someone will ask you a question that you don’t know the answer to. All you have to do is say, “I really don’t know the answer to that.” Your honesty will speak for itself. You could even go a little further and put the ball back in the other person’s court by saying “If you’re really looking for that answer, there’s a good book out that addresses this issue. . . .” Most often, the professor is trapped into admitting he doesn’t care what the answer is because his mind is made up already. Or, there’s always the chance, a slim one but still a chance, that the prof may express interest in reading a book you suggest, which opens the door to continuing dialog throughout the semester.
When speaking up in class, it is generally helpful to know which fields you are most comfortable talking about. Is it a Christian worldview as it relates to sanctity of life, same sex marriage, prophecy proofs, the life of Christ, apologetics, faith and the Founding Fathers, bioethics, or faith in the marketplace? You will be bringing your own unique background and experiences to the classroom that others can benefit from. Perhaps you have volunteered at a Crisis Pregnancy Center, and abortion is an issue that you are comfortable talking about. Find the subjects, issues, and current events you are passionate about and educate yourself. You will be more comfortable speaking up in class when you are speaking with both your mind and your heart.
What are the issues that fuel your passion? They vary from person to person, but typically they will be the issues that when wrongly presented in class, tug at your heart or crawl under your skin. Nobody can be an expert on all things, so develop a topic or two you are comfortable discussing.
You have teeth, right? Show them. Not in a growl, in a smile. I have found that posing dissent with a question and a smile is the best approach. For example, if the discussion topic in class is same sex marriage, and as a Christian you know the act of homosexuality is a sin, you can speak up by saying “Well if two guys are allowed to get married, then what prevents three guys from getting married? Or a man and a boy? Or a man and an animal?” Smile while you’re asking the question. Professors respond more favorably when dissent is in the form of a friendly question instead of an angry student simply yelling, “Same sex marriages are wrong!” This question and smile approach works because you show that you are interested in the topic, interested in the ramifications of the professor’s beliefs, and are honestly interested in deeper discussion. Asking questions also works in your favor because it puts the burden of proof on the one being questioned. The professor is now faced with the challenge of backing up what he or she believes.
Sometimes Christians get bad reps because they don’t know when enough is enough. Some Christians find it hard to know when to start; others find it hard it know when to stop. Be aware of that. There is no use in beating a dead horse. Once you have voiced your opinion on an issue, you don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) keep interrupting class every time the issue comes up. If you speak up once, you’ve already gone on record and people know what you think. It’s no longer necessary to shoot your hand in the air and say the same thing every time the issue is at hand. Speak up when it’s important. Trust your instincts and the nudging of the Holy Spirit.
After Islam class one day my professor called me aside and gave me a magazine page she had clipped out. She said she ran across something I might be interested in reading. She handed me a clip from Newsweek with a quote circled on the page that read “‘I actually think Bush is the greatest threat to life on this planet.’ London Mayor Ken Livingston, saying he refuses to recognize George W. Bush as the lawful president of the United States.” I chuckled, smiled, and walked out of class. What I found ironic was that I had never expressed political opinions in that class. Because of the religious nature of the course, she knew I was a Christian, and a conservative at that. She knew where I stood, so I didn’t need to keep hammering the same old points, I needed to stay silent and gain her respect by doing well in the class.
Treat everyone with respect. If you find yourself in a hostile environment with name-calling, rise above it and don’t retaliate. When you show respect to others and that respect is not returned, don’t take it personally. When others disagree with you, don’t take it personally. (By the way, this is much, much easer to say than to do.) When you’re called intolerant and closed-minded, don’t take it personally. (See previous parenthetical comment.) Depending on your personality, this may be a challenge or this may be no big deal. It took me a while to get used to the feeling. At first I was very upset and discouraged when people vehemently disagreed with me, called me names, or started flinging labels, but it helped to realize that it was really the Truth that they were objecting to, not me.
Every college campus is full of people longing to be loved. Take every opportunity in the classroom, and out of the classroom, to show professors and fellow classmates love. This doesn’t mean backing down on truth. Sometimes it means loving them enough to speak the truth. It also helps to go out of your way to do acts of kindness. In The New Tolerance, Josh McDowell writes, “I am convinced as Christian students strive to show extra-mile kindness to professors who are antagonistic to the faith, the charm of the new tolerance will seem shallow compared to the power of true Christian love.” There aren’t a lot of opportunities to go the extra mile in an hour lecture class, but don’t pass them by when they do arise. Occasionally professors ask for volunteers to carry papers or projects back to the office, or they ask for a volunteer to collect the evaluations and place them in the appropriate place at the end of each semester. It’s not a big deal, but in the rush of college life, a professor notices a student who gives up five minutes to help.
Personalities play a role in your approach to debate and discussion. Your style of interaction in the classroom may be different from your style of interaction with your peers. Different situations, different voices, different approaches.
Obviously, a shy person may not feel as comfortable speaking up as an outgoing person does. While there are a variety of ways to express your opinion and stay clear of the limelight in class, at one point or another all Christian students at secular universities will be faced with speaking up, regardless of their personality characteristics. As one who has spoken up and stood alone, I would encourage all Christian students to speak up. You don’t have to say something profound or long, just say you disagree with the non-Christian or immoral view being offered as truth. Other times you will need to speak up to support another student leading the charge. You may have butterflies in your stomach, a knot in your throat, and sweaty palms, but afterward you won’t regret taking a stand for Christ. The following are ways you can take a stand whether you are outgoing and gregarious or timid and shy.
For the student that is outgoing, the easiest approach will be to speak up in class. Follow the guidelines above and remember to show utmost respect to the professor, no matter how little respect you have for his opinion.
If you’re not as comfortable speaking up in class hopefully someone else will initiate dialog so you don’t have to. If a Christian in your class voices his opinion, you can assume a different role. Make the effort to find that person and tell them you appreciate what they had to say and that you were thinking the same thing. The person who spoke up was probably apprehensive to begin with and will be very encouraged by a little affirmation and support.
Not all situations are conducive to interrupting lectures, so it’s best to hold certain comments until after class. Students that aren’t typically outgoing may find it easier to approach the professor one-on-one after class, rather than drawing the attention of the whole class. Professors tend to be a little more relaxed and approachable after class anyway.
If it’s still impossible to muster up the guts to speak up in, or after, class try to debrief with friends from that class. Start conversations about what the professor said. Find out what other people think. Analyze how the prof’s views that promote moral relativism. You’re sure to run into other people who think critically, and once you do, you can support each other when you’re weary of a professor who constantly harps on Christianity.
In addition to knowing the correct approach in the classroom, you will be faced with new challenges of how to approach and relate to friends and acquaintances on campus that are non-Christians. One of the most important qualities a student can possess in order to survive and thrive on a secular campus is to be what Bill Hybels calls a “contagious Christian.” If you live the full life of a committed Christian, becoming a contagious Christian will come naturally. Your actions will speak for themselves. Sometimes an additional step must be taken to tell people why you are different, why you do certain things, and don’t do other things. In Bill Hybel’s must-read book, Becoming a Contagious Christian, he says, “I've learned through the years that seekers are not impressed with spinelessness. I need to emphasize this because many Christians are so afraid that if they state what they really believe, if they come out of the closet, or if they live by Biblical priorities, then they’ll automatically alienate those outside the faith. But that’s almost never the case.” He goes on to explain that “When a believer speaks up for what is right, defends Christianity intelligently, or lives his faith openly and authentically, seekers are forced to deal with the implications for their own lives.”
It would be misleading for me to give the impression that the only job of a Christian student on a secular campus is evangelism. It will be a significant part of campus life as Christian, but so will your studies, involvement in extracurricular activities, and a host of other things that can keep a college student too busy to do laundry for two weeks. Because of the time crunch common to college students, sharing your faith often will mean a sacrifice of your time. It may mean staying up later to finish studying or skipping a meal to continue a conversation with a seeking friend. My experience has been that God seems to ambush my scheduled time in order to remind me that my days are His. So are yours. Countless times, spiritual conversations arise, friends need a listening ear, or distressed friends call on the phone during what was supposed to be serious study time. I have to ask myself what is more important, studying or building relationships. You also have to factor in that God puts people in unique circumstances to be used by Him, and we should keep our eyes open for those opportunities. The chance to guide a non-Christian friend may not come again, but the chance to study usually will.
Reaching and impacting non-Christians has to be preceded by what I call the “Starbucks First” principle. We have a Starbucks on campus, and it is very easy to meet people there and spend an hour or two in conversation. Invest time in getting to know your friends on a personal level without bringing up religion. Don’t jump the gun by trying to “save their souls” without getting to know them and be a friend first.
Investing time in your friends’ lives often forges these connections. If your friend is involved in the glee club, gospel choir, or theater, go see their concerts or productions. If a friend has a need, find a way to help meet it. The most common way this comes up at college is with cars. If you have wheels, you’re going to have friends. People frequently need rides to the grocery store or to run a few errands, so if you have a car, offer them a ride.
Once you’ve developed relationships with people, it is only natural to invite them to be part of the activities that you enjoy. Invite them to Campus Crusade, Bible study, an outreach, church, or a special event at church.
After you’ve established a comfortable relationship and gotten a good conversation on matters of faith going, you’ll find people generally respond to questions of faith in one of three ways: heart, head, and holster.
Those who tend to respond with their hearts often relate to stories about personal journeys of faith, or testimonies. Everyone has a story to tell, outgoing people and shy people. Everyone can use the testimonial approach. Simply tell the story of Christ’s work in your life. You don’t have to have a dramatic life to have a powerful testimony. I have never heard the story of someone’s journey of faith of a personal testimony that wasn’t moving.
Other people come to faith on a cranial basis. They respond well to a logical and methodical approach in answering the big questions of life. If you’re a person that likes thinking, logic, and grappling with the tough issues or John Calvin’s Institutes, perhaps you will gravitate toward this approach with your friends.
The holster approach refers to shooting straight. Don’t beat around the bush; don’t sugar coat the truth; just shoot straight. Most often I have seen this approach used by guys with other guys. I have used this approach only once—on a good female friend of mine who was systematically destroying her life by the choices she was making. The more separated people are from God by the sin in their lives, the more they need the truth in a clear and direct way. One of the best approaches to reach them is by being direct and to the point, so shoot straight.
You will probably have opportunities to use all of these approaches, but maybe you realize that you’re more comfortable with one over the others. It sounds easier on paper than it really is. Having non-Christian friends can present many challenges. First off, your time with them may not be as much as with your Christian friends because you will likely chose to do different things on the weekends. You may have a friend that parties and drinks on the weekend. Or maybe you will have a friend that is promiscuous, so she wouldn’t be someone you choose to go on a double date with. Sometimes you have to invest in these friends without expecting anything in return. You will be stretched, and through that stretching you will learn new ways to exhibit grace. Grace is key to building relationships and to interacting with non-Christians. A grace-filled heart is a winsome heart. A non-grace heart is cold, mean, and condescending. A grace-filled heart can be life changing to both non-Christians and Christians.
I remember sitting in class one day (supposedly working on group projects), and the girl next to me told me her testimony. She told me she used to be a cutter, and I was deeply encouraged by her story of faith. I asked this friend what it was that eventually made her become a Christian. She said it was her Christian friends. She could see a difference in them. They loved her even when she couldn’t love herself. That’s grace in action.
Shower all your friends with grace and mercy, and you will become a contagious Christian.
Students aren’t the only ones who need some grace and mercy. Christian faculty members feel the brunt of the anti-Christian hostility—and faculty members who are people of faith do manage to slip in under the door from time to time.
Consider University of Nebraska assistant football coach Ron Brown, widely known for being a man of faith. Brown interviewed for a coaching job at Stanford University in January 2002. Brown said he was turned down in part because of his faith in Christ and for having made statements opposing homosexuality.
The Daily Nebraskan, the student newspaper at the University of Nebraska, contacted Stanford, and a Stanford official confirmed Brown’s assertion. Several years earlier Brown had drawn criticism from homosexual activists after stating on his Christian radio talk show, “Husker Sports Report,” that “homosexuality is clearly wrong according to God’s Word.” He also admitted to having beaten up “sissies” in grade school and feeling “hatred toward homosexuals in college—until he accepted Christ.” Then, he said, he realized that “Jesus went to the cross for the homosexual, just as He did everyone else. It’s going to take up-close intimate love of Jesus through you and me to win the homosexual to Christ.”
“If I’d been discriminated against for being black, they would’ve never told me that,” said Brown. “They had no problem telling me it was because of my Christian belief. That’s amazing to me.”2
Equally amazing is what happened to a professor at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Janis Price, a well-respected and popular elementary education instructor, put copies of Teachers in Focus, a publication produced by Focus on the Family, on a table in her classroom. Price did not teach from the magazines or require students read them, she simply made them available as a resource.
One of the magazines contained an article on gay activism in schools. The story, “Love Won Out,” was accompanied with the text, “Feeling helpless against the onslaught of gay activists in your school? Focus on the Family has the answer for you.” A student filed a complaint, and seven weeks later the professor was called to the office of Neal Abraham, the vice president of academic affairs, and told her salary was being reduced 25 percent and her job responsibilities were changing. Price’s attorney, John R. Price (no relation) says Abraham told the teacher that her actions were “intolerable.” The school claimed that by making the publication available, Janis Price had created a “hostile environment” for her students.
“I was absolutely amazed at that because people who know me know that I would never create a hostile environment for anyone,” Janis explained.3
Interestingly, DePauw was founded by the United Methodist Church and still continues that relationship. The denomination’s Book of Discipline states, “Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth . . . Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God’s grace is available to all.”
Price had simply offered the magazines as a resource. Attorney Price said when one student asked her about her views on homosexual teachers, she replied, “If a school hired someone to teach English or math, they need to do the best job they can at teaching English or math.”
She hadn’t said anything about her personal views on homosexuality. She hadn’t assigned readings in the magazines, but by putting them out as a resource for students, her job was now in jeopardy.
Eventually, a Brazil, Indiana, jury determined Price’s rights had been violated. She was awarded $10,401 in lost wages. She also won the case for academic freedom—at least this time.
At Indiana University, Professor Eric B. Rasmusen found himself in hot water when he added a weblog to his space on a university server and wrote that hiring a homosexual man as a schoolteacher was akin to putting the fox in the chicken coop. Rasmussen, a Yale University graduate with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, specializes in game theory and arrived at IU 1992. The blog was personal, a place to record personal thoughts and the topics reflected that. They ranged from the United Nations anti-spanking position to the Disney movie Pocahontas and to showing how he velcroed a box of tissues to the ceiling of his car.4
Students and staff complained about Rasmusen’s homosexual comments and asked that they be removed from the website. Others suggested Rasmusen, a professor of business in Indiana’s Kelley School of Business, be fired. Rasmusen is a graduate of Yale University and earned a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He describes himself as a conservative and a Christian who attends a nondenominational church.
Rasmusen became the center of controversy for personal thoughts he posted on a web page. Of course, if the university censors Rasmusen’s speech because he is using university web servers, in the name of fairness, will they also censor thoughts posted on the Internet by students using the university servers? Other observers have wondered whether the situation will cause university officials to limit faculty comments, even outside the classroom, that might make certain students uncomfortable.
Students aren’t the only ones who feel like they’re sticking their necks out from time to time. Faculty members who stick their necks out need support and encouragement. It’s not like they have a large meeting akin to Campus Crusade with hundreds of fellow faculty members where they can go and recharge their batteries once a week.
Identify yourself as a Christian to a faculty member who has been open about his or her worldview. Encourage them and let them know you’ll be praying for them. Let them know you appreciate that they, too, are swimming against the tide.
Don’t let your professors have exclusive control over your mind. Be proactive. If you’re not reading good material in class, make up for it out of class. Read the newspaper, read magazines, read books. I know it takes extra time and college students don’t always have that, but it is well worth it. Instead of just saying “I don’t think that’s right” in class, now you’ll be able to add, “and this is why.”
When you think a professor is over the top, talk it over with a friend. Professors are entitled to opinions, and you’re entitled to yours, so don’t keep everything pent up. You may be able to say it doesn’t bother you, but day after day of hearing Christians belittled can eventually get to you. Hash it out with a friend. Tell someone what is going on. They can give you perspective, reinforce that you’re not nuts, and pray for you.
This may be hard first semester as a freshman, but spend time asking around about the reputations of professors. I have learned about certain professors that I want to avoid. Even if you find out a professor is an outspoken liberal, don’t be too quick to write them off. Find out how they grade. If they are known for penalizing students who don’t regurgitate their beliefs, don’t waste your time. On the other hand, if a professor won’t dock your grade for holding a Christian worldview, as long as you can hold your own, perhaps you would like to give it a try. Keep in mind there are times you will have the energy and drive to take on a challenge and other times when you want to steer clear.
Be known as a cheerful Christian. It’s harder for professors to be belligerent when you have a smile on your face. Show them you’re confident in your beliefs by not letting theirs daunt your cheerfulness.
If you know of professors or faculty who are Christians, be sure to support them. They are in need of encouragement. They may even need it more than students do. Find a way to let them know you are a Christian, too. Many times they are as isolated as you are, if not more, because speaking up could cost them more than a grade, it could cost them a job.
I came across this quote from Albert Einstein and thought it might encourage you. “Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.”
Hang in there.
From: “Nye, Abby”
To: “The Fam”
Last night was the speech competition that all the speech classes had to attend and critique. Guess who I saw there!! Yep, the guy who wrote the article bashing Campus Crusade. I figured since I had written my letter to the editor about his piece, I should introduce myself. I went over to him when the speech competition ended, shook his hand, and struck up a conversation. I mentioned our volleys in the paper, and he gave a faint smile. I asked him about his summer and post-graduation plans. He’s going to Washington, D.C.! (I’m so jealous.)
It was good to talk to him. Sometimes things on paper look harsh, so it’s good to be reminded that even though we are butting heads over ideology, that doesn’t force us to be enemies. He seems like a pretty nice guy.
I’ll actually miss having him around next year. I hope someone will step up to take his place as an outspoken liberal.
The Christian mind has succumbed to the secular drift with a degree of weakness and nervelessness unmatched in Christian history. It is difficult to do justice in words to the complete loss of intellectual morale in the . . . church. One cannot characterize it without having recourse to language that will sound hysterical and melodramatic. There is no longer a Christian mind. There is still, of course, a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality. . . . But as a thinking being, the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization.