Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Discrimination of Non-Discrimination and Christian Compromise

Vanderbilt University was founded by Methodists in the 1870s. However, things have changed. According to Albert Mohler,

  • In more recent months, Vanderbilt’s administration decided to push secularism to the extreme — launching a virtual vendetta against religious organizations on campus. Officials of the university informed religious groups that had been recognized student organizations that they would have to comply with an absolute non-discrimination policy. This means that religious organizations (primarily Christian) must now allow any Vanderbilt student to be a candidate for a leadership office, regardless of religious beliefs or sexual orientation. In other words, a Christian student group would be forced to allow the candidacy of an atheist. A group of Christians who believe in the Bible’s standard of sexual morality would be required to allow the candidacy of a homosexual member. There can be absolutely no discrimination, the university insists, even if that means that Christian organizations are no longer actually Christian.
Ironically, Vanderbilt’s non-discrimination policy is all about discrimination. I haven’t heard how this policy is impacting other campus groups. Is the woman’s support group now required to open their doors to men? Must the Democratic student club now open membership and leadership to Republicans? If Vanderbilt is applying their policy across-the-board, it is strange that none of the non-Christian groups are protesting it. The controversy seems to have started when:

  • School administrators started reviewing the constitutions of all student groups after members of Christian fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi removed one of their leaders over his views on homosexuality. (World Magazine, 5/5/12, 53)
Perhaps the campus non-Christian groups have avoided this controversy simply because their constitution didn’t specify requirements for membership or leadership. Or perhaps they had few scruples about discriminating, despite the fact that they are now “required to sign a document affirming the nondiscrimination policy.”

The fact that two of the largest Protestant groups – Reformed University Fellowship (RUF of the PCA) and the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) – has agreed to sign has deprived the Christian opposition of much muscle. Carol Swain, a Vanderbilt law professor, lamented that RUF and BCM:

  • Made a decision that was very self-interested and that does not advance the cause of Christ.
In defense, RUF’s chaplain, Stacey Croft, maintains that the Vanderbilt ruling doesn’t actually restrict religious freedom:

  • “I just don’t think [Vanderbilt] is there yet. I don’t think we have to fear that. Let that come when it does…Let’s continue as we are and take that to the university. If we need to leave, we will.” (54)
  • RUF does not feel as threatened by the nondiscrimination policy because it doesn’t interpret leadership the way some other groups do, Mays [an RUF coordinator] said. Each RUF chapter is led by an ordained PCA minister…That job does not fall on the students, like it does at some ministries.
Perhaps by having an ordained minister leading their meetings has given RUF some breathing room. Nevertheless, they still regard Vanderbilt’s policy as a violation of religious liberty and are willing to sign the university’s non-discrimination statement, although they insist that they will not compromise the Gospel.

Two issues come to mind. Shouldn’t RUF be standing in solidarity with those Christian groups who do have more to loose? Also, by signing the Vanderbilt policy statement, isn’t RUF playing fast-and-loose with the truth? On the one hand, RUF signs that they will not discriminate. However, they acknowledge that their Christian faith requires that they discriminate!

However, it must be granted that there are occasions when the truth must be bent for the sake of protecting life. There were the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who had lied to their Egyptian masters to save Israelite babies (Exodus 1). There was also Rahab the harlot who lied to protect the Israelite spies. However, these examples seem to be rare exceptions - hardly precedents to which RUF could appeal.

Truth doesn’t belong to us. It is not a commodity like clay and bricks, which we can mold to suit ourselves. Truth is not something to manipulate and twist for our own benefit. We do not create it; it is something to which we must conform. It is a sacred endowment, entrusted to us by the Author of all truth.

I pray that RUF and BCM will reconsider. We have a responsibility to expose the works of evil (Eph. 5:11), especially when they threaten something so important.

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