Where Speech Isn’t Free: Baptist University Censors Progressive Student Newspaper
I love it when I hear people say, “That’s not very Christian of you.”
It covers all manner of sins. I know it’s supposed to mean that you’re not being very nice or charitable, but, when you think about it, it can have some darker connotations. Some Christians might think that it’s not very Christian of you to pass a homeless person on the street without giving him or her your spare change. Other Christians might think it’s not very Christian of you to support LGBT rights in any way. The administration of Cedarville University are presumably part of the latter group.
The Ohio Baptist university is home of the Ventriloquist, an independent student-run journal. According to their website, the goal of the journal is to give an outlet to students to discuss important issues of the day, promote critical thinking and foster creativity. However, it seems that the journal has been veering into some territory the university doesn’t approve of; specifically, supporting LGBT and women’s rights and eschewing fundamentalism’s obsession with the End Times.
The publication is supported in part by Generation Progress, and arm of ThinkProgress, so it’s no surprise that it has a liberal bent. For example, one student recently published a piece about his abandonment of the idea of Armageddon. It’s about his realization that the world isn’t doomed to wallow in it’s own filth, and that we have the power to change it:
If I can believe that people change–that I change–then the world’s problems don’t need to be solved by annihilation but by the act of living deliberately well. The apocalypse might be catharsis, but it’s also a cop-out, and it’s not worth the cost of my humanity.
Another student wrote about what he went through when he came out as gay to a mentor he trusted. He was subsequently removed from his leadership positions and generally treated so poorly that he decided to transfer. Another writer argues for a more feminist Christianity, directly taking on the president of Cedarville University with sharp Biblical analysis and stories from her own life. She even goes so far as to argue that a patriarchal society is not what God intended at all, but is itself a product of sin and, like all sin, should be avoided.
One thing each of these pieces has in common — besides seeming a little left of center politically — is that they are all well-written and insightful. Each piece features one person asking big questions about themselves and the ideology they grew up with. They are trying to figure out the world and their place in it. It’s a beautiful thing to see, and it’s what college campuses are for.
Issues of the Ventriloquist were confiscated by university administration during a time when the new issues are normally handed out. Maybe this isn’t something anyone should be surprised by. I mean, apparently this is an institution of higher learning that thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to have classes that are “limited to women.” They also, incidentally, seem to be the only classes taught by women on this subject. Hmmm…
Cedarville University can do this, of course, because they are a private college without the legal responsibility to ensure the speech rights of its students. That doesn’t make what they did any less reprehensible.
These kinds of stories make me angry, sure, but also sad. Sad for people who subscribe to that way of thinking. It seems so… small. I know that part of the appeal for some religious people is its stability. It lays down a set of rules and a moral code that doesn’t change with time. But if those rules don’t change, the world ends up being a very small and very evil place.
It’s not like there isn’t any possible room for change. Evangelicals have gotten into environmentalism with the “creation care“ movement. There is Christian feminism. There is even a case to be made for Christian support of LGBT rights. There are so many ways to be a Christian, and yet it’s the firebrand hell-fire contingent who are seeking to silence those who wish to worship in another way.
The brand of Christianity being enforced by Cedarville University seems so incredibly limiting. And exhausting. So many rules. So many community norms to adhere to, lest you be ostracized from the group. No room for original thought or discussion. No room for change. I guess that’s what some people want. But, given the variety of beliefs under this particular religion’s umbrella, it doesn’t seem very Christian of them.
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