The Hijacking of Liberalism in Higher Education

I have many friends who consider themselves ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ — and I think that classic liberalism has some good things to offer as we continue to develop a vision for our nation.  However I am disturbed to see classic liberalism disappearing and being hijacked by an extreme form of leftism — and there is nothing liberal or progressive about this new trend.  If you call yourself a liberal, then I hope you are as disturbed as I am about the way your movement has been taken over by a very different ideology.

The United States was originally envisioned as a Image result for the land of the freeplace where people would have the freedom to express their ideas in respectful ways with each other.  Freedom of religion, speech, assembly, the press, bearing arms, were all written into the Bill of Rights in order to reassure citizens that their basic rights would be protected.  Yet now we see a movement in the academic world and in the popular culture to silence all dissent on various controversial topics including sexuality, family structure, global warming, politics, economics, race relations, religion, and morality.  Those who disagree with leftist ideology are routinely vilified, assaulted, and silenced by various institutions, mobs, media chains, civic organizations, and corporations.

Related imageIn the first few months of 2017 we have witnessed angry mobs shutting down dozens of public forums and speeches scheduled at various college campuses.  The administrations and law enforcement agencies have generally caved to the pressure of the angry mobs.  In a country nicknamed “the land of the free,” we have witnessed free speech being silenced by bullies, thugs, and spoiled students who are apparently too fragile to be exposed to alternative expressions of thought.

One of my first experiences of the closing of the American mind in the modern university setting came when I was a graduate student at Princeton Theological Seminary.  It was during a meeting of the Image result for hate speechAssociated Student Council at the seminary when the council voted to not allow for a campus organization named Presbyterian Pro-Life Fellowship.   The student council decided that this group was not permitted to organize on campus and would not be recognized since it was a politically biased group.  The odd thing about this is that the student council of the seminary had two years earlier voted to give full recognition to Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns (PLGC).  The council saw no problem with officially approving this group as a campus organization.  They did not notice anything inconsistent about their decision even though it was pointed out to the council that the PLGC group was clearly a group dedicated to a particular bias and a particular moral/political/legal point of view (i.e. the legitimization of homosexual marriage).  The pro-life group was silenced and marginalized, the pro-gay group was welcomed and affirmed.

That was 30 years ago.   In the intervening 30 year period, the opposition to free speech and diversity of thought on university campuses has become overwhelming.  Hostility toward people who don’t embrace leftist ideology has become commonplace.

American universities which were designed to be places of exploring diversity of thought are now institutions of zealous indoctrination without a single opposing voice being welcomed at the table.   Finding a single conservative thinker in a department of Psychology, Literature, History, Political Science, or Religion,  is like finding a penguin in the Mojave Desert — not many exist, and any that you might find are endangered.

In a recent conversation I had with a person who serves as an academic dean at a large public university how many conservative republicans or Evangelical Christians are on the faculty of his university in the departments of literature, history, psychology, or political science, he said that he could not think of a single example.  He admitted it was lopsided but said the problem is that they do not receive applicants for these positions who are conservative in their viewpoints.  I suspect  the Department of Diversity at his university is not working very hard to remedy that situation.

The modern university has a very skewed Image result for celebrate diversity approach to diversity.  Diversity for these academic leaders is an environment dominated by administrators, instructors, organizations, and  students with different ethnicities, ages, nationalities,  and “multiple genders” who all think, speak, and vote in  exactly the same way — embracing the same worldview.   They all embrace secularism, moral relativism, feminism,  and all the other ‘isms’ that align with leftist ideology.     It’s dishonest and naïve to claim that a modern university ‘celebrates diversity’ — instead they insist on sameness in all of their areas of influence.  The party line on campus is that you must think like a leftist or you will be marginalized, vilified, and silenced.

Image result for university free speech riotsI am not sure that this quote from Noam Chomsky can be substantiated — but if a staunch leftist like Chomsky affirms free speech for his opponents, where are the liberals or progressives who will step forward to turn the tide in a different direction.

I found it refreshing to discover at least one classic liberal who woke up to the realization that liberalism has been hijacked.  His name is  Dave Rubin.    He used to gladly embrace the label “progressive” but now he’s not a progressive.  He has left the left.  He’s an openly gay man who is married.  Why did he leave the progressive movement? You can watch this 4 minute video (link below) to understand what he (and I) are so concerned about regarding the future of liberalism and the progressive movement in our country.  I hope and pray that on topics of religion, politics, science, economics, and all other pursuits,  American universities  can come back to a place of truly honoring diversity, free speech, and free thinking.

Why I Left the Left – David Rubin

Watch the video and let me know what you think.

What Makes You Happy

I recently heard a psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Stephen Marmer being interviewed about what helps to make people happy. His observations were interesting to me. Dr. Marmer said that in his practice, he noticed that in order to be happy, people needed three things: resilience, gratitude, and a sense of personal responsibility for their own life. What follows is not Dr. Marmer’s thoughts – but my own thoughts on his three ingredients.

Resilience is the ability to get through, get over, integrate life experiences, and thrive after trauma, trials, and tribulations. Resilience is the capacity for recovery and to maintain a positive view of the world even after you have been hurt and tested by difficult circumstances. Resilience is developed in various ways, but one ingredient that helps develop resilience is going through a hard experience and coming out ok on the other side.

Gratitude is being thankful for various parts of your life. It means appreciating the sacrifices others have made, not taking your possessions for granted, and learning to express thankfulness in various ways for the good things that come your way. Gratitude is developed in various ways – but early on in life it helps if someone teaches us to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Gratitude can also be learned when you have had to go without something for a while – and then you feel more thankful because you realize more directly what your life would be like without a particular experience or possessions.

Personal responsibility is not blaming others for your situation in life – feeling a sense of empowerment to create your own future by choices you make today. It means taking responsibility for your finances, your health, your words, your actions, your job, your family, your life – and not blaming others or seeing others as responsible for your life circumstances.

As I heard these three ingredients for happiness explained, they all seemed to make good sense to me. I have always believed that gratitude is one of the most important ingredients for happiness, but also believed that it’s important for people to take responsibility for their lives and develop the ability to overcome challenges. These things are all what help to make a person mature instead of immature.

Yet as I thought more about these ingredients — and then thought about the kind of culture we seem to be creating – I became concerned. As I look around I see various forces at work that tend to undermine the development of resilience, gratitude, and personal responsibility in people’s lives – especially when we look at the messages our culture is sending to our children and young people.

Resilience is undermined when we give the message to young people that they are very fragile and that they must always be protected from hard experiences. The emphasis on “safe spaces” may help to prevent bullying – but it also sends a message that young people are too fragile to be able to handle disagreement and too fragile to recover from being offended by someone else’s words, views, or behavior. The generation of “helicopter parents” has been working for over a decade now to bubble-wrap and insulate their children from all harm – this desire to protect our children is understandable, but it may also be counterproductive since we all know that resilience, strength, and endurance are developed through hard experiences rather than through easy ones.

Gratitude is undermined when our culture gives the message to young people that “you deserve to have a better life than you actually have.” This message comes across in all kinds of ways, but it is rampant in American politics and media. The basic idea is that since you are special you should have a meaningful job and lots of money and a beautiful place to live and you should not have to work too hard for these things. The general word that describes this is “entitlement.” It is the belief that if you don’t have everything you want, then someone has wronged you – and you deserve better. The entitlement message creates people who are resentful and discontent, and it makes it nearly impossible for them to have gratitude. The church has historically been a place that taught people the art of gratitude through the discipline of praising and thanking God in prayers and singing – but church has been undermined in countless ways by the culture so that participation in church is seen as “optional” at best and more often “foolish” by the culture’s elites.

Personal Responsibility is undermined by the message that you are a victim of someone else’s bad behavior. Women are victims of a sexist and patriarchal culture. People with darker skin are victims of white oppression. LGBT people are victims of heterosexist family structures. Poor people are victims of exploitation by the top 1%. Of course there are examples of sexism, racism, anti-LGBT attitudes, and exploitation of various people – but the pervasive message that seems to drive so much of our culture today is that since you are a victim, everyone else is more responsible for your life situation than you are. If you have been nurtured in the school of personal victimhood instead of in the school of personal responsibility, then you will tend to feel that there is nothing you can do to improve your situation – and this is a depressing thought indeed.

Though the job of the church is not so much to make people happy as it is to make them holy – I nevertheless think we have an important role to play in pushing back against the cultural messages that have made it very difficult for young people today to be happy. When it comes to resilience, the church teaches people to “count it joy when you encounter various trials” (James 1) and that suffering helps to produce character in our lives (Romans 5:3). When it comes to gratitude the church teaches people to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16). When it comes to personal responsibility the church teaches that though we are saved by grace – yet each of us will have to stand before God one day and give an account of how we lived our lives (Romans 14:12, Hebrews 4:13, Matthew 25:14ff). Church may seem irrelevant to most people in our culture these days – but that does not mean that we do not have a lot to offer in our troubled world. The Biblical value system that we embrace and proclaim is a strong “antidote” to the despair-inducing messages our culture instills in our young people through so many powerful communication channels.

Image result for jesus is the answer

As we journey through the Easter season we are thankful that Jesus came so that we might have LIFE and that we might have it abundantly. Let us continue to proclaim his good news to a world that badly needs to hear it.

 

 

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