Wednesday, November 16, 2016

If conservative Christians would only demonstrate some intellectual honesty

Ryan Hammill
Wednesday at The Federalist, Ryan Hammill writes: “Why The Left Is Going Bonkers On InterVarsity’s Affirmation Of Marriage.” Hammill is a new name for me. However, if the left was “going bonkers” over something done by InterVarsity I night know something about it. I do not. “Bonkers?” What does that even mean? Derangement of some sort?

Pointing to a piece posted nearly 14 years ago, by InterVarsity (about its own intellectualism), Hammill asserts:
InterVarsity’s British roots have also immunized the organization against the anti-intellectualism present in much of American evangelicalism, an obvious plus in academia. InterVarsity also basically turned its back on the culture wars to focus on fighting poverty and racism, while still preaching Christianity on campus.
That is called a self-serving proclamation which may, or may not, be true. what is the point? Hammill is not exactly a disinterested observer:
I represented InterVarsity on our college’s Interfaith Council back in 2014 and 2015. And I’m glad I did. Not only did I add perhaps a few more drops of trust to that reservoir, but I learned that other Christians, as well as the Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists on campus, suffered from the same stifling secularism.
I am not at all sure what “stifling secularism” is or even how to achieve it if one wanted to. What exactly is the complaint? That secularists are not interested in hearing about an afterlife? How would that be stifling? What exactly is it that atheists and agnostics do that Hammill finds to be so challenging. Perhaps we utilize too much critical thinking for his tastes. I do not really know. Jews and Buddhists? Does Hammill really know any?

Most of us (Jews) prefer secularism because the alternative usually has some relationship to Christian privilege. I lived in a Buddhist country for a few years and those folks are pretty secular if you ask me.

So far, I have yet to entertain who is supposedly going bonkers and why. But I will be reasonably patient.
So it has been especially hard to watch the story of InterVarsity’s “involuntary terminations” develop, a story Time magazine broke on October 6. The Time story quickly engendered #InterVarsityPurge on social media, as current and former staff, students, and others protested its decision to ask staff who disagreed with its “Document on Human Sexuality” to step down. The document is long, and covers topics from pornography to divorce and premarital sex, but the public has fixated on this claim.
Claiming that terminated or fearful staffers are part of “The Left™” is absurd. There are people who support same-sex marriage who are quite conservative. Ted Olsen is exhibit A. To possibly assign Time to “The Left™” isn't terribly accurate either. Time is a mainstream publication. If that makes them ultra-liberal then I am somewhere in Che Guevara range. The author of the piece is Elizabeth Dias who covers politics and religion for Time. According to Dias:
One of the largest evangelical organizations on college campuses nationwide has told its 1,300 staff members they will be fired if they personally support gay marriage or otherwise disagree with its newly detailed positions on sexuality starting on Nov. 11.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA says it will start a process for “involuntary terminations” for any staffer who comes forward to disagree with its positions on human sexuality, which hold that any sexual activity outside of a husband and wife is immoral.
“Involuntary terminations” has a more strident tone than people “being asked to step down.” And what was that about “stifling secularism” when Hammill is writing a piece about an organization that cannot tolerate any differences of opinion.
One of the earliest to write about this, Jonathan Merritt in The Atlantic acknowledges that believing in traditional marriage is not bigoted, but calls InterVarsity’s step “extreme,” saying “punishing those who support it [LGBT marriage] can hardly be called loving.” After all, the issue of same-sex relationships doesn’t seem especially central to the gospel narrative. So why does InterVarsity need to elevate the issue? Why wade into the culture war now, when it’s basically over?
That is not what Merritt wrote. “Believing in traditional ma“The Left™”rriage” is bullshit. What he means is opposing same-sex marriage. Those are two different things. Believing that same-sex marriage should not be recognized is not necessarily bigoted. It is the imposition of those beliefs that makes someone a bigot. Firing staffers for having a different view on marriage equality is imposition. Thus, it is bigoted.
InterVarsity has never published an explicit position on same-sex marriage, but this is not because the answer doesn’t matter—it’s because the answer had been assumed for so long. Merritt fails to see that people clarify doctrine in times of challenge.
Not more than three paragraphs prior, Hammill quotes the organization's documents:
We conclude, therefore, that God’s loving intention—seen in the clear teaching of Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments—restricts sexual expression to a committed marriage relationship between a husband and wife.
What the fuck? Is that not “publishing an explicit position on same-sex marriage?” It seems to be very published and very explicit — something I would not know except for the polemic of Mr. Hammill.
To be frank, it seems odd that InterVarsity is suddenly a target of protest, derision, and attack. Yes, the organization could doubtless have done better in rolling out the Document on Human Sexuality. But even these oversights don’t explain the level of vitriol being directed toward InterVarsity, which almost uniquely among evangelicals is willing to allow space for same-sex civil marriage (by contrast, just look at the list of Christian groups that filed amicus briefs opposing Obergefell v Hodges). What happened to that deep reservoir, the cistern of goodwill, filled with the water of trust?
Backing up his claim on civil marriage is a self-serving tweet from, … InterVarsity. Very compelling.

Let me try to explain the difference for young Mr. Hammill. InterVarsity operates at the pleasure of colleges and universities. Most of these place a high priority on critical thinking skills which include having young people explore various ideas and, through exploration, to reach their own conclusions.

InterVarsity's actions are antithetical to the culture of higher education with the exception of hash houses like Liberty University. InterVarsity is imposing its views through fear. An ambiguous tweet or Facebook post could get someone canned. That is generally unfair. It is unacceptable in connection with an educational program.

Hammill might understand this with some objectivity coupled with intellectual honesty. Meanwhile he could use some adult supervision.

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