A couple of months ago, Inside Higher Ed published an article by Joshua Wolff making a passionate case that many Christian colleges, in adhering to the traditions of faith and Scripture on sexual morality, do harm to their homosexual students. Wolff concluded that “accrediting bodies that govern colleges and programs must step in and say ‘enough’ when schools use religion to hide from accountability for policies and programs that can cause psychological harm” to such students.
Today the website publishes a lengthy reply by psychologist and Wheaton College provost Stanton L. Jones. It is impossible for me to do justice to the subtlety, and the generosity of spirit, of Jones’s essay. Here is just a single paragraph from near the end:
Religiously distinctive educational communities, once common in the Western world, are now a tiny minority, and the legitimacy of our very existence is questionable in the minds of some. Far from using religious freedoms as a pretext to oppress or discriminate against GLBTQ persons, after careful review and years of debate, many traditionalists have reaffirmed that moral concern about homosexual conduct and about all sexual intimacy outside of marriage is well grounded in the theological and moral core of Christian faith. Similar conclusions have been drawn in traditionalist Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhist contexts as well.
The whole exchange is well worth reading. But Jones’s essay prompts the following tangential–or perhaps not so tangential–thought. He ably defends what we may properly call an institutional claim of religious conscience here, on behalf of a Christian college as a particular kind of community with a particular kind of integrity. But individuals have their own claims of conscience too. We need not settle here whether the individual claims are grounded in the claims of the Christian community, or the community’s claims in the dignity and integrity of the individuals who make it up. But, to confine ourselves to the academic context, what of the professor or student who cannot conscientiously acquiesce in the norms of sexual morality (if that is what they are rightly called) that dominate public, secular private, and not a few self-described Christian colleges today? It may not feel right merely to live one’s own life conscientiously; one may experience a deeply felt call of the conscience to speak out about such matters. Yet in the modern multi-versity, a powerful pressure is exerted either to celebrate the “diversity” of sexual orientations, or to silence oneself.
Will the world of higher education sort itself out into two moral camps in diametrical opposition to one another–a small one in which it is considered wrong to reject the historic Christian teaching on sexuality, and a large one in which it is considered wrong to embrace that teaching?
Or has that sorting already been finished? And how much longer will it be before the larger camp simply decides it must conquer the smaller one?