Written by Carl R. Trueman |
Monday, May 2, 2022
In the same month that Baylor announced the chartering of its LGBT group, Notre Dame announced the launch of a pro-LGBT alumni group. Anyone interested in how safe space thinking can develop, and how it can be used to disembowel an institution’s own religious commitments and marginalize those who actually adhere to those commitments, should consider this recent example: When a priest wore a rainbow pride stole to an event sponsored by a Notre Dame LGBT organization, one student expressed concerns, and was subject to all manner of unpleasantness for doing so.
The news that Baylor University has officially chartered Prism, an LGBT student organization on campus, marks an important moment in Christian higher education in the USA.
To be fair to Baylor, Christian colleges and universities have a very difficult task in the current climate. Institutions of higher education are meant to be places for free discussion and exchange of ideas. With sexual identity politics now a central component of wider public discourse, freedom of discussion inevitably means that sexual identity discourse will take place on campuses. But there is a difference between students discussing these issues in the context of, say, a debating society or a mainstream political club, and discussing these ideas in an official LGBT group. To receive an official charter is to receive a formal imprimatur.
The charter itself is interesting. It contains no reference to Christ or Christianity, an odd lacuna for a group at a Christian university. Especially for a group whose stated mission is to “help students gain deeper understanding of their own and others [sic] complex and intersectional identities, including gender and sexuality and faith and spirituality” and to “provide resources to navigate essential services including physical, mental, or spiritual well-being at Baylor and beyond.” We are all now familiar with spirituality Hollywood-style, which lacks objective content and represents little more than self-affirmation. It is unfortunate that a Christian school would endorse such language without requiring some explicit reference to the Christian faith.
Significant too is the group’s desire “to create a safe and respectful environment for LGBTQ+ community.” On one level, this is laudable: Campuses should be places where all students are safe from physical harm and from verbal abuse. The problem, of course, is that the language of safe environments is today remarkably flexible. It often means a place where ideas that a given group finds uncomfortable or offensive are not tolerated. The danger of this kind of charter is that it might easily come to be used as an instrument for the kind of conceptual and linguistic cleansing that now grips the culture of other universities. In effect, it begins to establish a rightward boundary on what is deemed acceptable to think and to say on campus—conservative views on sexuality start to be deemed offensive and intolerable, and outside the bounds of acceptability. Baylor is scarcely unique in this. Progressive pieties are disenfranchising conservative views and more throughout higher education. Examples abound, but the recent case of the radical feminist disinvited from Harvard for her rejection of transgender ideology is a case in point.