Open Book
Light Bulb

freedom of expression

Free speech is now suspect. Students at Vermont’s Middlebury College shut down a speech by social scientist Charles Murray, sending one Middlebury professor to hospital. Across the country violence at UC Berkeley forced the cancelation of a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos. Perhaps like me, you see such events as evidence of an illiberalism infecting our post-Christian culture.

Jonathan Haidt of New York University sees something more. He claims campus protests that shut down free speech are rituals carried out by adherents of a new religion.
“On each campus there are true believers who have re-oriented their lives around the fight against evil.” These believers demand the campus be transformed from a bastion of intellectual freedom into a holy space. They believe white privilege is the original sin. Transgressions against race and class must be acknowledged and confessed to “the community” as in China’s Cultural Revolution. Members of victim groups are afforded priest-like honor, deserving of deference and safe spaces.

This new orthodoxy has
Orwellian aspects. The UC Berkeley student newspaper claimed that protesters’ violence helped ensure student safety. Semantically, violence today includes words or language that carries a negative effect towards victim groups. By this reasoning if offensive speech is “violence” then real violence can be and has been justified as a form of self-defense.

The loss of free expression has consequences for Christians. It would be logical for this new orthodoxy to interpret Jesus’ claim “you must be born again” as a negative message creating unsafe space, perhaps calling for violent self-defense. Violent reaction to Christian evangelism is common in Muslim and Hindu cultures. Could it become an acceptable response in our own post-Christian culture?

Violence against Christians is nothing new. What is new is the loss of the safety of home. A recent development in
student recruitment to Yale is the promise of a home, a hook that’s increasingly used in college recruitment. This tactic arose due to another recent development: broken and fractured and dysfunctional families. Past generations of college students usually had a safe home to which they could retreat. Perhaps a majority of college students today don’t have a place of refuge.

Could the cry for safe places actually be a cry for home? Might colleges simply be attempting to fill the gap—which our culture has asked our schools to do for the past twenty years? The fallacy, of course, is that any college can be home. And the deception is that this world can provide you a safe place. You were created for your heavenly Father’s home. You will never be fully at rest, never know real peace, never be truly safe while you keep yourself outside His family. ~

Dan Nygaard