Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Anti-Christian persecution? Not so fast

You may have heard that the California state university system has banned Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship from its campuses because it wouldn’t open up its leadership to non-believers, likely active gays. On the surface this appears to be a clear case of persecution of Christians for not being, as one might say, “politically correct.”

However, upon further inspection, there’s a historical context. And it doesn’t make Christians look good.

What is the context? Well, beginning in the 1980s many secular, elite campuses fell victim to right-wing student activism. I say ”fell victim” because many of these students were rude, crude, disrespectful, slanderous, arrogant, smug and downright insulting toward anyone who disagreed even a little bit. Not only that, but they also targeted certain professors and campus groups — I understand that decades ago the Dartmouth Review, an alternative right-wing campus newspaper, published a confidential list of gay students. Meanness was their stock in trade, and they despised anything that smacked of “diversity.” (It was here where the derisive term “political correctness” arose.)

I saw this up close and personal during my time at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1990s, when a cadre of rightist students from there and nearby Carnegie Mellon University decided to create similar havoc on both campuses. When I wrote a letter to the editor of their newspaper in response to an inaccurate story, its editor went after me, doing a Bill O’Reilly on his campus radio show on which he had me as a guest. (Which I figured would happen.)

Among other things, the paper regularly attacked Pitt’s Black Action Society and Campus Women’s Organization — which it referred to as “C.O.W.” — and campaigned to eliminate the student activities fee at both schools, ostensibly to put out of business the organizations it opposed. (It actually kept a lawyer on retainer, probably to shield it from libel suits.) How did it get its money? Through foundations that founded conservative activities at all levels.

If you wonder why we have such a ruckus today in Washington, D.C., there’s a great place to start.

The sad part is that innocent folks like those in IV, where opposition to homosexual conduct is not so much a political as a theological matter, are caught in the middle. I was involved in that organization, which is focused primarily on missions, at both Georgia Tech and Pitt, and in neither case were the chapters politically active.

The conservative group on Pittsburgh university campuses disbanded around the time I graduated from Pitt in 1997, but the damage had been done. I’m sure that Cal State was trying to nip that kind of thing in the bud in banning a group that might be considered hostile to gay students by not allowing them to take part — an unfortunate move, perhaps, but an understandable one.

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