On many campuses across America, schools professing to be Christian find that the actual tenets of their faith are at odds with the populist dogma that appeals to the American ethos of free expression. On the one hand, Christian educational institutions desire to appeal to the same principles of “free speech” and “open-mindedness” that their secular peers pay lip service to, and on the other hand they also want to claim the legacy of the more than 2,000 years of philosophical, historical, and literary thought that has made Christianity the moral and scientific lodestone that steers civilization even today.
Under the pretext of free expression, it has become popular for private institutions to not just tolerate, but expressly allow and promote anti-Christian beliefs. This spirit of liberalism is antithetical to a Christian education because it presupposes that many matters of faith and morals are not infallible doctrines when, in fact, they are knowable and absolute. If something such as the morality of abortion cannot be certainly known then, of course, it should be open to debate and all views should be given a chance to express themselves on campus.
However, because there is an infallible authority that declares what the truth is (Catholics and most Protestants agree regardless of the source), ideas that are known to be false should not be allowed to be promoted on campus in any official capacity. The goal of a Christian school is not only to teach the truth—which the school would undermine if it assisted false ideas in their propagation—but also, and more importantly, to do the best they can to help students to become better Christians and be saved. This salvific mission would most certainly be undermined if the institution assisted false ideas that would lead people away from Christ and their salvation.
Of course, prudence would be the factor in deciding college policy on free expression. For instance, it would be unreasonable for the college to monitor students’ conversations or individual actions; however, I think it would be reasonable to forbid professors to advocate for heresies in the classroom or for students to hang up posters, host speakers or form clubs that promote ideas that are clearly against the faith. Many may object that these kinds of policies might stifle critical thinking or be indoctrination, but there is a difference between showing a debate or presenting opposing arguments in class, and having the college sponsor a debate, which will no doubt enable those that oppose Christian doctrine to have a new forum and be paid for their error (as opposed to an event that had already occurred somewhere else and is just shown in class). Additionally, it is important to remember that these schools are not public institutions, and every student who is on their campuses is choosing to attend a private, Christian college.
This may seem like a new idea, but it was very common not long ago. The idea that private institutions that officially adopt a particular ideology, such as a religion, have to tolerate and even sponsor activities that run contrary to their position is a revolutionary one. Additionally, colleges already apply this principle (that not all ideas should be tolerated on account of the college’s official ideology), but it is selectively applied. In a Christian college, it would be unthinkable to use school resources like funding, space and bulletin boards to advocate an abominable position like that of slavery, satanism or any other sort of broadly agreed-upon moral issue. However, when it comes to issues like the morality of homosexual relations or abortion, many schools allow both sides equal footing and support, and at the very least act like they are equally valid.
Recently, Hope College has unfortunately started to go down this road of subjectivity and the effective denial of a knowable and absolute truth given to us by God. One of the most notable occasions was when the college decided to repeal the “Hope College Position Statement On Human Sexuality,” which affirmed that marriage was between one man and one woman and said that “Hope College will not recognize or support campus groups whose aim by statement, practice, or intimation is to promote a vision of human sexuality that is contrary to this understanding of biblical teaching.” This kind of action, while motivated by a sincere goal to help others, will ultimately prove to be a detriment to students’ education and life in Jesus Christ. As Pope St. Pius X once said in the Papal Encyclical Notre Charge Apostolique, “[t]he primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas” and further that “whilst Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared. He loved them all, but He instructed them in order to convert them and save them.” Therefore, I implore those who are in power to stand up for the teachings of Christ on this campus.