Monday, September 10, 2012

So, here's something I've been thinking about.

As I was walking home from class today, the subject of this post was all I could think about; in fact I think about it all the time every day. But I never talk to anyone about except for Mark. 

This might be the only time I ever do this, because this is one of my least favorite subjects, and one in which I am not particularly well-versed, and it makes me really nervous and anxious, but I'm going to write about it anyway: politics. 

I am really disappointed with the way it has become acceptable for liberal arts universities to preach a liberal politics like it is the gospel, and to silence, belittle, and mock any dissenting voice.  Last year I had a professor actually say to the class, "anyone who is a conservative has no right pursuing the humanities."  Are you serious?  How is that okay to say?  Has no right?  In my classrooms I have heard Christian universities mocked for the narrow-minded academics they teach, and for some reason it is acceptable to mock them.  Fellow grad students can speak laughingly of a conservative student, dismissing her as if she doesn't really know anything when she tries to defend her Jesus.  Others feel it is their duty to bring as many students over to the side of their politics as possible---it has literally become a kind of conversion.  

I have been unfriended on Facebook by at least four people who "found out"---I'm not even sure how because I have never had one conversation with anyone about it---that I hold largely conservative beliefs.

Mark and I have been the only people intentionally not invited to numerous social gatherings because of our politics and (maybe?) religious beliefs. Rumors have been spread about us. 

A fellow writer emailed us and forbid either of us ever to speak to him/her again, because of our beliefs about marriage.  

There are people in my program who will cross the street before they will pass me on the sidewalk. People who will physically leave a group of people when I join the conversation.

In short, Mark and I have experienced an incredibly disheartening amount of alienation and hostility over the past year, both personally and impersonally, inside and outside of the classroom (do keep in mind that we've also experienced incredible kindness and made really deep friendships that we both cherish. The subject of this post obviously overshadows that fact, but I want to make sure it's stated).  Part of the problem is that some students truly do not realize when they speak that anyone in the room might feel differently; it is unfathomable that a young person pursuing a high academic degree could believe in the words of Jesus Christ, could believe in a sovereign Creator who knows us intimately and longs for us to know Him, to experience the life and freedom He died to give us.


But as much time as I spent feeling like a martyr last year and lamenting what I saw as incredibly undeserved and unfair persecution, I realize a lot of things now.  I realize that scripture gives me no reason to be blindsided by persecution, but rather I should expect it.  I realize that I am the fragrance of Christ, and to some people that smells like death.  I realize that there are many, many groups of people who have been incredibly wounded by something a Christian has said or done, and I never want to be cause for that.  I am burdened by the fact that my credibility as a follower of Christ has been shattered by those who profess to know Him, but practice patterns of disrespect, hatred, and judgment.  I want to demonstrate the incredible riches of God's love and grace. That means that I do not shy away from speaking the truth, but neither do I ever insult or condemn. I pray that my heart is earnest, and humble, and continually broken over this.

I wish that academia were a place that truly practiced open-mindedness, that allowed space for the voices of all beliefs, whether religious, political, economic, whatever, no matter how extreme or incredible they may seem, because what are we accomplishing if we are unwilling to listen to each other? The end goal isn't perfect agreement.  My hope is that we could treat each other like humans, and in the face of disagreement, continue to interact according to standards of dignity and respect. 

I would welcome anyone who has thoughts to share about this, or has dealt with something similar? I hope the true, concerned state of my heart comes across in this post.


  1. Your concerned heart definitely is apparent! Before I continue with my response, remember there are many people in the program who think you and Mark are really lovely people. Trust me, I know, since I've heard people in the program comment on it in various social situations.

    I do understand what you mean about differing political and religious beliefs in academia. I am in a different field from you, but have similar experiences. It has been easy to get through this by remembering that not all people in my field are like this, and that I have met quite a few people who have different beliefs, but treat me with respect and kindness. It also helps to have a support group of people both in and out of your program, particularly in your program, just to better put things in perspective.

    Anyway, that is my two cents, especially this late at night. Continue being strong and trust me, there are quite a few people in your program who support your successes and think you are a really wonderful person! I know because I have heard multiple people in your program say that. :)

    Anyway, continue being strong! If you ever need to talk, I'm always here to listen. :)

  2. Chelsea,
    I'm so glad you're blogging! I did experience a lot of that in University and graduate school--the assumption that it's impossible for an intelligent person to be a Christian, and the assumption that everyone in academia shares liberal beliefs. I had a prof say, about Rene Girard, "he's good, but we have to leave him behind at a certain point because he's a Christian." I had a friend tell me that I would probably stop being a Christian (stop being so naive) once I got to university. It's frustrating. But it's also helpful, since it's yet more proof of human fallibilty, and for which I feel glad in a certain way, since it makes me extra careful about falling into the same practices lest I speak so unknowingly. It's so rich in irony: you don't have the right to be here if you hold these beliefs? I think it can teach us something about kindness and about democracy, about what it really means to be openminded and to listen carefully to others.

    I'm sorry you are having this sort of experience.

  3. Chelsea, I wish we lived closer! I want to have tea with you and Mark and Mark's Tin Man travel mug so we can talk more about this! When I was reading about your experiences, my heart hurt because I care about you guys and also because I have been there too. I was talking to Scott about this one time, and he said something that really stuck with me: He said that I should just keep being who I am and let God deal with everyone else. Jesus suffered the ultimate in persecution, but even as He was hanging up there on the cross dying, He asked for his murderers to be forgiven "for they do not know what they are doing." And then, right in the midst of that moment of extreme judgment and oppression and hatred, the thief dying next to Jesus gets saved. He saw that Jesus had the truth and was willing to die for it, and that moment changed His life. I have to remind myself all the time that the same Light that shown through to that thief 2000 years ago, is in me too! And I have to believe that it can STILL shine through to the persecutors, to the haters and the oppressors, and that it can make a difference to their lives. Scott and I are praying for you and Mark! Thank you for this blog and for sharing your heart. Other Christians in secular universities need to know they are not alone. You are awesome. :)