Sticks and stones may break your bones, but to be called intolerant at college can render you DOA.
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but to be called intolerant at college can render you DOA.
When you are labeled intolerant, people—tolerant people—look down on you. They say you are close-minded. You lose your credibility. You lose your voice. The politically correct worship at the shrine of tolerance. So once you are labeled as intolerant, you become a pariah that wandered in from the enemy camp.
The first time I was called intolerant was in a class discussion when I said something about there being absolutes. A male student raised his voice and said, “‘Well, you’re just being close-minded. Intolerant.” I smiled and calmly denied the accusations.
The truth is, those who claim to be tolerant are anything but tolerant. The “tolerant” like to claim the moral high ground of tolerance, but they are actually intolerant of those they claim are intolerant. Sometimes this is overt, other times it is a little more underhanded.
One of the issues we could choose to write about for our final essay in English class was gun control. One of the students brought up this topic for discussion in class. A one-sided discussion followed. Everyone participating in the discussion was anti-gun and in favor of banning handguns. The discussion went on and on with one student after another saying guns are horrible, they kill people, they’re not used for protection, and we can make the world a safer place by banning guns. Invariably, one student would finish a rant on guns and then another student would add a comment like, “Yeah, I agree.”
This continued with student after student offering statistics without citing sources. As time progressed the statistics got crazier and crazier. Finally, a student claimed that 70 percent of all deaths are due to handguns. Basic logic tells you that statistic is impossible. I’d worked at a nursing home the previous summer. We lost a number of patients, and not one of them died from a gunshot wound. When you consider the multiple causes of natural death and car accidents, it becomes comical for someone to claim with a straight face that 70 percent of all deaths are caused by guns. Have these people never read the obituary page?
Thinking it was about time to end the craziness, and having recently read More Guns, Less Crime by John Lott, I joined the discussion. I brought up gun control in London. I explained that the ban on handguns in England now makes it three times more likely to be mugged in London than in New York City. I qualified the statistic saying I was not sure I had the right number. I was underestimating, I was pretty sure it was higher. (The chances of being mugged in London are actually six times greater than that in New York City.)
Abruptly, the professor cut me off saying, “Hold on, you’ve brought me to a good point.” He said we should stop so he could explain that when you use statistics you must be “very careful.” For a moment I was speechless. “What’s going on here?” I said. “For the entire class period people have been saying things you agreed with and presenting statistics that were completely off the wall, and you didn’t comment on a single one of them. The second someone says something you don’t agree with, you jump on their statistic.” There was an uneasy silence in the class. It was clear that the only views treated with tolerance were the politically correct views and the views that were in line with those of the professor.
Columnist Walter Williams writes, “Universities have become bastions of intolerance. America’s liberals are known for their strong advocacy of free speech, including vile speech and speech that assaults precious symbols, such as the U.S. flag and the Bible. Liberals are free speech advocates because it’s crucial to their propaganda agenda for control. But liberals have contempt for most freedoms, and once they’re running the show, that contempt will extend to free speech.”1
Williams is right, which is why, once identified as a Christian, you will often find yourself a target. This is the thing about tolerance on campus. It only goes one way, from the liberal to the liberal. Rarely does it go from the liberal to the conservative.
Here’s another small, but telling, example: In philosophy class, the professor presented two views for believing in God. If you believe in God, you had to believe one of these two views: either an act is right because God commands it or God commands an act because it is right. Here’s the catch. If the first is true, then actions are never right or wrong unless commanded because rightness flows from the command. Therefore, even “bad” commands would be “good” coming from God. If the second is true, then God knows what actions are right or wrong and commands or forbids accordingly. The command depends on God’s knowledge of right and wrong. The problem is, as soon as we can gain knowledge of what is right, we don’t need God. As she explained both of these views, she made it clear that the logical conclusion led to a distorted God; therefore, it was unintelligent to believe in God because neither of these two views worked. Believe in God, ergo, be intellectually stunted.
After class, I realized that there were more than two views. A third view, which I was familiar with, was the correct view that led to logical conclusions and allowed one to believe in a good God. I e-mailed her agreeing that the two views she presented in class were unsound. I then presented a case for the third view and asked for her thoughts. I suggested that rightness or wrongness of something stems not from a command from God but from the character of God. The command flows from and is dependent upon the character. Morality exists as a function of God’s character. For example, it’s wrong to lie not just because God said don’t lie (although the willful transgression of a command from God is wrong), it’s wrong to lie because God is truth and falsehood is an affront to his character. God set up the Ten Commandments not because He’s aware of what’s right, but because He is what is right. She responded by saying, “Thanks for your comment. You actually hold the third position in which morality and God are identified as a matter of definition.” I had presented a view that was legitimate, and reminded her of the view, but somehow that view never made it into the lecture in class.
The list of what will not be tolerated covers topics, people, events, and activities that extends far beyond the classroom. In September 2002, Rutgers University banned InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Christian Fellowship from using campus facilities and student activity funds because IVCF selects leaders based on religious beliefs. The problem was that one of the InterVarsity beliefs is that homosexuality is incompatible with the teachings of Scripture. InterVarsity had been found intolerant and intolerance simply cannot be tolerated. Kinda makes your head hurt, doesn’t it?
InterVarsity was also charged with violating Rutger’s non-discrimination policy. The university policy reads, “membership, benefits and the election of officers” cannot be “biased on the basis of race, sex, handicap, age, sexual orientation, or political and religious affiliation.” The key phrases there were “election of officers” and “sexual orientation.” According to Rutger’s policy, IV should be open to having a homosexual leader.
Why stop there? Why not force the Black Student Association to have a white skinhead as president? Maybe the Young Democrats could be led by a Young Republican and the Tri Delts could be led by a Fiji member, just to prove everybody is truly tolerant.
The policy, completely intolerant, tried to force Christians to deny their own belief system. Two other similar efforts to drive Christian groups off campus failed at both Tufts University and more recently at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. The InterVarsity group at UNC found itself in hot water identical to that of the IV group at Rutgers.
Homosexual activists, often the most intolerant among those who promote tolerance, take aim at evangelical groups on college campuses across the country, accusing them of discrimination.
The great irony, and evidence that tolerance is often a one-way street, is that while schools such as University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Rutgers attempt to strip Christian students of their right to assemble and select their own leadership, schools such as the University of Missouri at Kansas City set up a special student lounge and office space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students in order to provide a “safe space” where they can hang out and not worry about any form of discrimination or harassment. No matter where you look, tolerance has a very selective nature.
Wesleyan University in Connecticut, known for a homosexual prom and offering a concentration in Queer Studies, may have become the first school in the country to provide housing for students that compromise a unique demographic. Wesleyan provides incoming students the option of “gender-blind” facilities. Student housing has been “reserved for students who do not want to be categorized as one gender or another.”
I wonder what the signs say on the restroom doors.
During the fall of my sophomore year, author and rebel at large Michael Moore visited our performing arts center. This was before his Farenheit 911 fame. Tickets were advertised weeks in advance. There were posters, e-mails, announcements, and a great deal of hoopla. Moore, author of Dude, Where’s My Country? and Stupid White Men, drew more than 2,100 people to the auditorium. Moore bashed President Bush and told the crowd, “Anytime you have an angry mob of voters, that can’t be a bad thing.” He encouraged voters to elect a new president in 2004.
Moore also delved into current events, taking a few pot shots at Rush Limbaugh questioning Limbaugh’s commitment to harsh drug laws now that he was a drug-addict himself. “Jesus would hold his hand out for Rush Limbaugh right now,” Moore said. “And darn if I can’t find one iota of sympathy for the man.” Moore’s visit was sponsored by our university’s Visiting Writers Series. A number of authors visit the campus and coincidentally they are all left of center.
It’ s not like the campus is totally without diversity. A few weeks later two other nationally known authors filled the auditorium—Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter. Hannity and Coulter also packed the auditorium, drawing more than 2,100 people and also were received with wild enthusiasm. Hannity is the author of Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism and Coulter is the author of Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism and Slander: Liberal Lies about the American Right. There were no announcements, advertisements for tickets, or student e-mails about Hannity and Coulter, however. But, then, Hannity and Coulter were not guests of the university. A news talk radio station had sponsored their visit. The radio station and a dozen other local businesses had rented the performance hall for the authors’ appearance. It’s not like conservatives don’t make it to campus; they just don’t make it there as guests of the university.
The local paper featured a picture and story about Michael Moore’s appearance on the cover of the City & State section the day following Moore’s visit, but somehow the paper altogether missed the Hannity and Coulter event.
During my junior year, the College Republicans invited David Horowitz, president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, to speak on campus on April 6, 2005. As Horowitz began his lecture, he was hit with a cream pie. Members of the group that assaulted Horowitz ran out of the room and were chased by Horowitz supporters. The attackers also yelled racial epithets at an African-American attending the event. Horowitz supporters caught the assailants and confronted them; however, the assailants then got away.
I wasn’t able to attend the lecture, but I spoke with my friend Carl Heck, who witnessed the fiasco. Heck, who is state chairman of the Indiana Federation of College Republicans, said this was not just a “pie-throwing incident,” but a hate crime.
Heck says while ideologues of diversity and tolerance are constantly promoted on campus, neither of them were apparent the night Horowitz came to town. Heck said, “If the ideas presented are not what they [dissenters] agree with, then they try to silence them.” Hence, we get pie throwing. Heck commended Horowitz for his response, saying he did an “admirable job.” If Horowitz had stopped the lecture and left the auditorium, as one professor suggested he do, the pie-throwers would have gotten what they wanted.
The next day, the university president sent out an e-mail rebuking the students for their behavior. I echo Heck’s response to this: “Talk is cheap.” Actions speak louder than words, and we have yet to see conservative speakers brought to campus, funded by the university. Yet, the university pays big bucks to bring in liberals all the time. Where is this intellectual diversity that is talked about? Heck points out that the students on our campus tend to be on the conservative side, but because so many of the faculty and administration are “so out of whack” (aka liberal), it will be hard to foster any change.
Diversity can be a tricky thing.
Giving the cold shoulder to conservative speakers was outright at Arizona State University. There was nothing implied or subtle, no oversight by virtue of no invitation. Here’s what happened: A conservative student did the unthinkable—dared to suggest inviting conservative speakers to campus.
Shanna Bowman was vice president of activities for the ASU student government. She and her chief of staff, Oubai Shahbandar, had the audacity to invite some speakers to campus that hold beliefs outside the mainstream of the Young Democrats, Democratic Socialists, the ASU chapter of the ACLU, Minority Coalitions, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered/Questioning, Lambda League, Asian Coalition, American Indian Coalition and El Concillo.
For merely attempting to invite conservative speakers that would balance the many liberal speakers who had been invited to campus, opposing student groups tried to have Bowman impeached.1 The grounds for impeachment? Well it wasn’t anything that she had done, but something she might possibly do in the future. They tried to impeach Bowman for possibly accepting future gifts from Young America’s Foundation, including a “free trip to California” to visit the Reagan ranch. Bowman had not accepted such a gift, but some thought she might, maybe, possibly, do so in the future. Therefore, impeachment was the only sensible course of action. The impeachment failed.
Bowman said she would probably stay at the ASU campus. Her friend and colleague, Oubai Shahbandar may not. (Of course, this all be fortunate or unfortunate, depending on whether one believes staying on a politically correct campus is good fortune or bad.)
Shahbandar dug himself a politically incorrect hole when, as a student senator, he introduced a bill condemning the university for taking down American flags one week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The university feared that symbol—the American flag—could offend international students and promote a “hostile environment.”
Problems continued when someone apparently hacked into Shahbandar’s email account and sent a threatening message to a student senator who tried to impeach Bowman. Shahbandar denies sending the message and has six witnesses who have signed affidavits that they were with him at the time the email was sent. Shahbandar was taping a radio interview at the time and has a videotape of the interview itself. Despite the evidence, ASU had police escort Shahbandar off campus half an hour before he was to take a philosophy midterm exam. He was given an interim suspension and faces expulsion pending an investigation. He also received an F for the midterm, and the class, since he failed to take the exam.
Here comes a delicious irony. Shahbandar is of Arab descent. He told NewsMax.com, “As an American Arab, I have never felt as persecuted in a post-9/11 world as I do now at the hands of the leftist university administration.”2
Stories like that generate one of two reactions. They either make your blood boil or make you want to run and cower in a corner. Unfortunately, a lot of Christian students cower in the corner. Not all though. Certainly not conservative columnist Igor Birman.
Birman writes, or wrote rather, for the University of California–Davis student newspaper, The California Aggie. Birman was the paper’s only conservative columnist. He wrote a column titled “The Right Stuff,” often expressing strong support for the war on terror and rousing debate on issues from the Israeli-Palestinian crisis to reparations for slavery. Birman was fired from his position on January 1, 2003, even though his contract ran through June 2003. He was fired by Fitzgerald Vo who cited Birman’s “tendency to enrage members of the opposing causes.” Imagine that, a newspaper columnist rattling the cages of those with opposing views. What will they think of next? A First Amendment?
Birman recounted his experience as an immigrant and told a reporter, “When my family and I fled the former Soviet Union a decade ago, we left behind a nation where laws were systematically ignored and persecution ruled. In silencing the voice of dissent at The Aggie, Mr. Vo has committed the same kind of assault against the freedom of thought that my family would have faced in the USSR for speaking out against communism.”3
Birman filed a small claims lawsuit in attempt to recover the wages he would have earned had his contract continued, as well as court costs and legal fees. Birman said any additional monies he may win will be donated to the Young Conservatives Foundation “so that conservative thought is given an opportunity to grow in this climate of general hostility.”
At Georgetown University, a Jesuit university, the invited commencement speaker of May 17, 2003, was Francis Cardinal Arinze, head of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. Arinze is known as an expert on Christian-Muslim relations and a popular speaker in the United States. It makes sense that a Catholic school would invite a Catholic speaker who takes Catholicism seriously. Or does it? Arinze delivered a commencement address that so angered faculty members that one “post-modern” faculty member left the stage while Arinze was still speaking. About 70 other faculty members later signed a protest letter delivered to the dean of arts and sciences.
What was is that Arinze said that so angered the faculty of this Jesuit school? Arinze, from Nigeria, told the class of 2003 that “true happiness does not consist in the accumulation of goods: money, cars, houses. Nor is it to be found in pleasure seeking: eating, drinking, sex.”4
Arinze said that “happiness is attained by achieving the purpose of our earthly existence. . . My religion guides and helps me towards this.” So far, so good. But then Arinze went on to tell the audience that in many parts of the world, “the family is under siege. It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce.”5
As James Hitchcock wrote on the Women for Faith and Family site, “At that, Georgetown’s roof caved in.” Despite the Catholic school, the traditional Catholic message didn’t go over well. At least not with the faculty. Tommaso Astarita, a professor of history, called the cardinal’s message “wildly inappropriate.”
The end result of the Cardinal delivering a very pro-family, pro-faith message at a Catholic school? The dean of arts and science publicly apologized for the Cardinal’s remarks. Clearly, the Cardinal’s remarks on faith, family, and sanctity of life could not be tolerated.
At the Virginia Military Institute, a school where military science is the specialty, students have long offered a brief dinner prayer. The prayer usually lasts about 20 seconds and typically ends, “Now O God, we receive this food and share this meal together with thanksgiving. Amen.” There is no mention of any specific deity and no cadet is required to recite the prayer or bow his or her head. The dinner prayer has been a tradition for 162 years and now the prayer is no more.
A federal appeals court ruled in 2003 that the prayer was unconstitutional because it offended several cadets. John W. Whitehead writing about the case says, “The military is a special society, and prayer has been a mainstay of the American soldier since 1774, when the first prayer book was issued to members of the Continental Army. And not less than 67 different prayer books have been adopted by branches of the American armed forces over a 225-year period.”
Whitehead continues, “This, of course, brings us to the compelling reason for military prayer, which stems from the old axiom that there are no real atheists in foxholes. Men do not generally die for their country or for their buddies. They enter the heat of battle believing that, if they are fatally felled by a bullet, there is something beyond our chaotic and violent world. And many die with a prayer on their lips.”6
They may die with a prayer on their lips, but at VMI they can no longer have dinner with a prayer on their lips. Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote in dissent to the appeals court decision, “The supper prayer at Virginia Military Institute is the most benign form of religious observance. I doubt that cadets who are deemed ready to vote, to fight for our country, and to die for our freedoms, are so impressionable that they will be coerced by a brief, nonsectarian supper prayer.”5
At times intolerance has even focused its laser on specific majors found to be intolerable. Teresa Baker received nearly $4,000 in state scholarship money and was promised $2,750 for her junior year at Ave Maria College. When Becker declared her major as theology, the money dried up. State officials wrote her saying Michigan law states “students enrolled in a course of study leading to a degree in theology, divinity, or religious education are not eligible to receive an award.” Accordingly, “your award has changed from $2,750 to $0.00.”
Becker sued the state of Michigan, and in August 2003 a federal judged issued a ruling in her favor stating that Michigan had “probably” engaged in religious discrimination. State officials were ordered to put her scholarship money in escrow.
Chuck Colson called the case a travesty. “Litigation shouldn’t be required for students of theology to be treated the same as other students. Nobody claims that theology isn’t a serious academic discipline, especially in an age when students can “study” sitcoms and even pornographic films for credit. This case is entirely about anti-religious bias.”7
For those continually looking for ways to enforce their mythical and hypocritical version of tolerance, nothing is more offensive to them than a sense of humor. Those with the audacity to use humor or parody are categorically not funny. Very not funny.
In late 2002 and early 2003 a new genre of fundraiser began popping up on campuses around the country—Affirmative Action Bake Sales. The bake sale to gain the most publicity was one hosted by Bruin Republicans at UCLA.
Students sold cookies at different prices depending on the buyer’s race and gender. Black, Latina and American Indian females were charged 25 cents for cookies that cost minority males 50 cents. White females were charged $1, while white males and all Asian Americans were charged $2. The Bake Sale brought cries of outrage from a top California Democrat and student groups on campus. President of the Bruin Republicans Andrew Jones said the intent of the sale was to “bring the issue (of affirmative action) down to everyday terms. We wanted to show how affirmative action is racial division, not racial reconciliation.”8
One morning, I was contemplating the totalitarian effect of a secular college education when I picked up the newspaper and realized that it wasn’t just college. It was bad all over. Even Miss America was being dogged by the politically correct. Miss America! This is usually the smile pretty, look good in a swimsuit, and I-wish-for-world-peace scholarship competition (I learned not to call them beauty pageants from watching Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality). But now they were even trying to muzzle Miss America 2003, Erika Harold.
Harold told a Washington Times reporter that pageant officials had ordered her not to talk publicly about sexual abstinence, a cause she had advocated to teenage girls in Illinois. Harold may be pretty in pink, but she wasn’t going to go along quietly. All of which made me want to add a diamond to her tiara.
“I will not be bullied,” Harold said at a National Press Club press conference, as officials tried to prevent reporters from asking questions about her abstinence message. Pageant officials had told Harold to talk only about the issue of youth violence prevention and to say nothing about sexual abstinence or her pro-chastity message, which she had delivered to some 14,000 young people by the time she won the Miss Illinois crown. (An interesting contrast is that Miss America 1998, Kate Shindle, had an AIDS prevention platform and advocated publicly funded condom distribution in public schools and government-funded needle exchanges for drug users.) Harold had delivered a pro-chastity messages as part of Project Reality, a Chicago-based group that has been a pioneer in the field of abstinence education and had won the Miss Illinois crown on a platform of “Teenage Sexual Abstinence: Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself.” Later, state pageant officials selected “teen violence prevention” as her Miss American contest platform saying that it was more “pertinent.”
When Harold attempted to share her pro-abstinence message, she was bullied by pageant officials. Harold announced she would not be bullied. When talking to Washington Times reporter George Archibald, she described the bullying she and her family endured because of her interracial heritage. Harold is of black and American Indian heritage. When she was a ninth-grader in Urbana, Illinois, someone once hurled a carton of eggs through her bedroom window and smeared the window with butter and cheese. Another time the power in her house was short-circuited by the bullies. In her math class at school, she said a teacher watched and did nothing as a student sang “a horribly degrading song with words that I am not going to repeat today.” The students retaliated in “a very frightening way and discussed plans “to pool their lunch money together to buy a rifle to kill me. And when I went to tell the principal this, his only remark to me was, ‘If you’d only be more submissive like the other girls, this wouldn’t happen to you.’”9
Harold was not submissive as an eighth-grader, and she was not submissive as Miss America 2003. After intense discussion with pageant officials it was agreed Harold could include her pro-abstinence message as part of her youth-violence prevention platform.
Anyone who believes in moral absolutes and engages in classroom discussions will be called intolerant. Be prepared for this to sting. It will. Be prepared to feel embarrassed. You will. But once the sting and blush have subsided, congratulate yourself. You have just entered the culturally relevant arena of ideas.
When you are called intolerant, immediately point out the tangled logic. “If I’m intolerant, and you’re intolerant of my intolerance, doesn’t that make you intolerant?” This may lead to a tension headache and sound humorous, but it’s really not. Intolerance is costing students across the country grades, scholarship monies, and civil liberties. The tolerance police are aggressive and punitive, which is why it is important to speak up and point out the hypocrisy.
There is also a dynamic of Christianity that is very tolerant. Christianity may be one of the most tolerant religions in the world. Christ accepts men and women in whatever moral and spiritual state they are in.
Intolerance is by no means limited to college campuses. It is sweeping the country as the measuring stick of the politically correct.
Refuse to be bullied. Refuse to be silent. Stick by your convictions, respectfully, but stick to them. You will have the reward of being true to your beliefs. Sorry, no tiara.
I have mixed feelings about your take on college. On the one hand I feel bad that you don’t exactly love it there, but on the other hand it sounds like you have a very clear idea about why God put you there. And even though I was joking about the marriage thing, I still would wager that there are some good Christian guys on your campus. And remember, some denominations are now accepting homosexuals in their churches—so if all else fails try to convert one.
You asked how school was here. Wow. If one word could encapsulate all that I feel about college life in general that would be it. There is so much new . . . everything: new friends, new home, new material in class, new food, new activities, new bedsheets. It seems almost overwhelming. The campus has a radiant spiritual atmosphere. Christians in all my classes and all of them very friendly. But one glaring fault of having all Christians in every class is that there is very little challenge to live out your faith. It’s very similar to our Christian high school, except there are very few rules.
Another advantage of going to a small school is the tradition and ability to goof around. Last night my floor, The Penthouse, the most elite floor on campus in the nicest dorm on campus, walked across the commons to our sister floor in English dorm. When we arrived we sang an adapted version of Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Only Want to Be with You.” I played the clarinet along with two guitars and a saxophone. And as part of this annual tradition, we were all wearing homemade togas.
In spite of the kidding, I applaud you for not lowering your standards to fit those around you. If you continue to be a light for Jesus Christ in the midst of our darkness, surely something good will come of it.
It is always, at anytime, good to talk to you.
Secular universities are the great marketplaces of ideas. What one hopes for in a marketplace is that the consumers will be able to make decisions about what they want to buy or sell in complete freedom. Likewise, in the best possible world, college students should be able to share opinions and critically analyze intellectual positions without experiencing any sort of intolerance or ridicule. Sadly, that is often not the case. I have heard many stories of Christian students being singled out in a negative fashion by fellow students or instructors for their viewpoints—viewpoints shaped by their faith life. Too often, the intellectual and moral playing field on the university campus is not level and Christian students are at a disadvantage.
Abby Nye shares many of these same experiences in Fish Out of Water. She gives us a candid look at the challenge of being a Christian university student on a secular campus and offers strategies for not just coping but redeeming the trials facing students of faith inside and outside of the classroom. We tell our students that they are missionaries to their secular campus. You will benefit from reading this firsthand account by one such missionary.
—Dr. Ben Gates, Campus Minister and History Professor Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne