Last year at Vanderbilt University, a homosexual student knowingly joined a student group espousing beliefs which he actively opposed. After he was predictably removed from the group, he complained to the university administration. This resulted in an investigation of several hundred student groups. In the wake of the investigation, Vanderbilt administrators began threatening to derecognize student groups that required members to adhere to specific beliefs. This bizarre belief-ban went even further. Vanderbilt began to threaten de-recognition of Christian groups that required leaders to lead Bible studies. It was so intrusive that it resulted in a letter of condemnation from 23 members of the United States Congress to the administration.
All of these cases show how identity politics, rooted in postmodernism, is destroying the marketplace of ideas at our nation’s colleges and universities. The lack of principle is seen in cases like Georgia Tech (see part one of this series) where feminists pretended to be offended by words they often use themselves. Their assault on “offensiveness” was shown to be contrived when their allies invoked racially offensive language to attack the opponents of the Georgia Tech speech code. Defenders of the speech code even superimposed swastikas on pictures of one of the Jewish plaintiffs.
The postmodern roots of identity politics show through in the cases I mentioned. In none of them was there any attempt to assert that the offending beliefs were untrue. They were simply determined (usually by white liberals) to be offensive to various disenfranchised groups said to lack the power to establish their own beliefs as “true.” At Georgia Tech it was women (feminist women). At SFCC it was blacks. At LACC and Vanderbilt it was homosexuals. In each case, postmodernism fueled a vicious assault on free speech in the name of group-based identity politics. In each case, there was a significant chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas, which no institution of higher learning can long withstand.
Public universities can be sued in federal court whenever they try to enforce overly broad speech codes. They may also be sued when their zeal to control student groups encroaches upon freedom of association. Private schools, on the other hand, are not bound by the First Amendment. But they are bound by moral considerations. If they tell students they promote a diversity of opinion, they should behave as if the First Amendment does, in fact, apply at their university. They should not use false promises of diversity to lure students into paying tens of thousands of dollars tuition per year.
But what are the requirements of a Christian university? I believe they are twofold: First, the Christian university must remain Christian. That means certain core beliefs are taken off the table as un-debatable. Belief in the deity of Christ and His resurrection are among those beliefs.
Second, the Christian university must remain a university. And that requires the maintenance of robust debate on the vast majority of the controversial issues of the day. It also means that student groups must be given wide latitude in writing their own constitutions, selecting their own leaders, and sponsoring their own events.
In John 14:6, Christ claimed that there is but one path to heaven. No greater affirmation of objective truth is needed. Christianity is and will always be a religion predicated upon individual, not group, salvation. In Galatians 3:28, Paul affirms what Christ was saying: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christianity has no room for postmodernists. They should be left to enjoy their speech code-enforced dominance within the shallow halls of the secular university.