When it was first posted last month, I had little desire to respond to a blog post in which Oklahoma Wesleyan University president Everett Piper railed against “victimization” culture on American college campuses. To an anonymous OKWU student who was apparently upset that a recent chapel talk about love (1 Cor 13) “made him feel bad for not showing love,” Piper was unapologetically unsympathetic:
If you want the chaplain to tell you you’re a victim rather than tell you that you need virtue, this may not be the university you’re looking for. If you want to complain about a sermon that makes you feel less than loving for not showing love, this might be the wrong place.
“This is not a day care. This is a university!”, he concluded.
Piper, as you may recall, withdrew his institution from the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) this past August, angry that its board hadn’t acted more swiftly to expel Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University after they decided to begin hiring LGBT employees. I feel like I’ve given him enough of my attention already this year.
Even after conservative commentator Rod Dreher then declared Piper “A Man Among Boys” for daring to “to stand up and push back against the student bullies, instead of grovel and coddle them,” even after Piper got the attention of The Chronicle of Higher Education and The New York Times, I was still ready to ignore him.
But on Tuesday the post showed up twice on my Facebook timeline. First, a colleague complained that too many of his friends were sharing Piper’s “reprehensible” post without understanding the larger context of his behavior earlier this year. But second, a member of my extended family shared it — without comment, but having read some of her earlier posts, I knew that she was sympathetic to Piper’s concerns about “trigger warnings” and “safe places.”
So by the time a friend popped his head into my office yesterday afternoon to ask what I thought of “the Oklahoma Wesleyan post,” I was already 2000 words into my response.
While it will soon become clear that I am largely in agreement with my colleague who vented his frustration on Facebook, I do understand where my relative is coming from. Like me, she was a humanities major at a major national university; like me, she values the liberal arts, academic freedom, and having students encounter a wide diversity of viewpoints at a formative stage in their lives. Like her, I’ve been troubled by some of the excesses of anti-racism protests at institutions like Yale, Amherst, Smith, Claremont McKenna, Occidental, and the University of Missouri.
In general, I agree with David Cole that such activism underscores the importance of First Amendment freedoms like speech, petition, and assembly. But the demands and behavior of some of these activists have run counter to the same freedoms: e.g., the Yale student made infamous for her profane silencing of a Yale professor; the Amherst students who demanded disciplinary action against fellow students who posted free speech and “All Lives Matter” posters; the Missouri professor who tried forcibly to prevent a student photojournalist from reporting on a gathering in a public space; the Smith students who barred reporters from covering a sit-in, since “By taking a neutral stance, journalists and media are being complacent in our fight.”
“This is a university!” ought to be a rallying cry for free expression, including dissent, protest, and the critique of dissent and protest. Here I’m sympathetic to students and other constituents who are trying to draw attention to the ways that university structures and cultures sustain racism — and to African-American scholars like Randall Kennedy and George Yancey, who have tried to complicate this narrative.
But this wasn’t Piper’s concern. Instead, he fixed attention on what he saw as a growing generational problem, exemplified by the student discomfited by the chapel talk on love:
Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.”
…At OKWU, we teach you to be selfless rather than self-centered. We are more interested in you practicing personal forgiveness than political revenge. We want you to model interpersonal reconciliation rather than foment personal conflict. We believe the content of your character is more important than the color of your skin. We don’t believe that you have been victimized every time you feel guilty and we don’t issue “trigger warnings” before altar calls.
Here too, Piper is not alone. This week Inside Higher Ed reported that a survey of professors belonging to the Modern Language Association and College Art Association revealed considerable concerns about one of the practices Piper mentioned: 60% of respondents saw trigger warnings as dangerous for academic freedom and contrary to good pedagogy.
Or consider the arguments of one of the most prominent academic critics of recent student activism: social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Even before the protests at Yale and other schools, Haidt and co-author Greg Lukianoff warned of “The Coddling of the American Mind” in a prominent article in The Atlantic. They described a movement “arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.” Unlike earlier movements for “political correctness…
The current movement is largely about emotional well-being. More than the last, it presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche, and therefore elevates the goal of protecting students from psychological harm. The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into “safe spaces” where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable. And more than the last, this movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness. It is creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.
Now, the same survey I mentioned above also revealed that only 1% of respondents were required to use trigger warnings, and no more than 15% have even received requests for such warnings from their own students. The same college and university presidents that Dreher ridiculed have rightly rejected the worst of student demands in recent weeks. And, in any case, I think we ought to hesitate to take what’s happened at places like Yale and Amherst as evidence of broader trends in all of higher ed. (There’s a good argument to be made that what we’re actually seeing is some unraveling of the unhealthy culture of elite colleges. But that’s another post…)
But here’s what really bothers me about Piper’s post:
While it’s clearly intended to show strong leadership, it actually represents a failure of leadership.
“The first responsibility of a leader,” goes an already-tired maxim, “is to define reality.”
If so, then the job of every leader at this point in the 21st century is to find a way to communicate the following:
The world is complicated.
There is no easy solution.
And yet we need to make decisions consistent with our values.
We see evidence of failure in this respect every day in America’s seemingly endless presidential campaign. Now, I think that politicians across the spectrum are susceptible to this problem, but it’s been particularly true of the Republicans in the current field, for whom no answer seems too unsubtle. It’s the perfect climate for a demagogue like Donald Trump, who feeds angry unreality to the fearful and calls it leadership.
But if the political version of this is to suggest that building walls and registering Muslims will provide security (or that ignoring climate change will resolve that particular problem), then the equivalent in higher education is to set up false binaries about the nature of learning:
Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a “safe place”, but rather, a place to learn: to learn that life isn’t about you, but about others; that the bad feeling you have while listening to a sermon is called guilt; that the way to address it is to repent of everything that’s wrong with you rather than blame others for everything that’s wrong with them. This is a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up.
As I’ve written before, Christian colleges (not uniquely, but in particular) regularly present themselves as “safe places” — “safe” in that there’s less abuse of alcohol and drugs and less sexual violence on such campuses, but also (for some of them) that conservative parents can rest assured that their children will be “safe” from the values and ideas of secular culture. And in a myriad of ways, Christian colleges do teach students that life is about them — their preferences, their time, their flexibility, their future earnings…
Yet such schools also are places to learn. And I do believe that being convicted of sin is part of what it means to learn in such settings. As I told our community at the start of the current semester, “your time at Bethel should convince you of this: you, the body of Christ, are both crucified and crucifying. If pain and suffering afflict the world, it’s at least partly of Christian making.” The Christian liberal arts, I argued, ought to convict “us of how we, the body of Christ, extend the crucifixion into our own time.”
However, the ultimate purpose of a chapel talk or any other educational “altar call” is not “to make you feel bad,” but to turn you towards Jesus Christ. (A name mentioned not even once by Piper.) The “primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith” is not “your confession,” but your conversion.
And sin, like holiness (as I’d hope the leader of a Wesleyan institution should know), is both personal and social.
So this claim from Piper begs to be noticed: “We believe the content of your character is more important than the color of your skin.” Yes — and yet we live in a society in which it’s abundantly clear that race continues to matter a great deal. Christian colleges need to name and address that reality. Instead, Piper simply waved aside the problem; for him, student anti-racism seems little more than one version of victimization culture. (“Anyone who dares challenge them is… [among other terms he listed] a ‘bigot’…..”)
Asked about his post by the New York Times, Piper said that it wasn’t meant to be about race, but a black student activist at Mizzou was understandably upset: “Growing up as a Christian myself, I can’t imagine Jesus writing a letter like that.”
For indeed, black lives matter. Not because others don’t, but because so many lingering disparities suggest that, decades after desegregation and a century and a half after abolition, those whose ancestors could be enslaved or terrorized on account of their skin color can continue to expect injustice, even at the hands of those whose job it is to enforce justice.
Now, it’s worth noting that (by 2012 IPEDS data) Oklahoma Wesleyan has proportionally more students of color than most of its former CCCU peers: one in four vs. one in five. But both figures are far below the national rates for higher education. (It’s not at all evident that most Christian colleges feel “safe” to students — or employees — of color.) And I can’t shake the memory of this tweet from Everett Piper, offered just before he pulled OKWU out of the CCCU over sexuality:
Why was he already suspicious of the CCCU? Piper linked to a post by Eric Teetsel, who argued that the CCCU “has come to function as an outlet promoting the same progressive agenda found at most American institutions of higher education.” In particular, Teetsel (recently hired by Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio) criticized the Council for hosting a conference on racial and cultural diversity. Piper added that he and his institution “declined attendance at this conference because of this very thing.”
It’s bad enough that Piper would quit the CCCU rather than help its membership to deal with the challenges of reconciling fidelity to Scripture with love of (LGBT) neighbor, and Christian conviction with Christian unity. But his “Day Care” blog post shows him to be uninterested in complexity of other sorts.
I don’t want to be uncharitable, but I don’t know what other conclusions to reach:
Confusing defiance for courage, statements like Piper’s pander to a segment of the population that refuses to accept that America is still shaped, to some extent, by its original sin. This from a leader whose actions in the CCCU debate served to position his school to appeal to a segment of the Christian population that is unwilling to have a much-needed conversation about one of the most pressing, complicated issues of the day.
In a country undergoing the kind of demographic, cultural, and intellectual change that the United States is experiencing right now, we desperately need leaders who are comfortable with complexity.
We need politicians, university presidents, CEOs, clergy, community organizers, and others who will take the time to listen to multiple narratives, to empathize with diverse members of divided communities, and to hold ideas in tension. We need leaders who can do all this and yet still make prudent decisions that extend long-held values forward into a fast-changing future.
If anyone should be equipped for this kind of leadership, it’s people who follow a God of paradoxes. As Richard Hughes writes of Luther’s theology of the cross, “In this upside-down world of redemption, life emerges from the throes of death, the first are last and the last are first, and the Christian is the one who is simultaneously justified and a sinner” (How Christian Faith Can Sustain the Life of the Mind, p. 88). The leaders of this kingdom are servants, of their enemies as much as anyone. They hold convictions, in utter humility.
Rather than hold up a young adult for ridicule, they confess their own sins. And, in the process, they confess a Lord who made people feel at once uncomfortable and loved.
17 thoughts on “This is Not Leadership: A Response to Everett Piper’s “Day Care” Post”
Outstanding response! I failed to make the connection about this institution withdrawing from the CCCU and I’m pretty sure that needs to be explained when Piper’s comments are brought up. He really is catering to a crowd that in my opinion falls short of meeting the challenges of today. They are interested in living in a world that does not change. Unfortunately for them, this world is constantly changing and they are failing to keep up with those changes.
Well stated response and I plan to share this with others.
Chris, I read your response and then the letter (by the university president) and then your response again. I came away from that exercise feeling very confused. I agreed with both him and you! What am I missing? On the one hand, I agree with him that there are people who don’t want to feel convicted of anything and “play the victim card” every time they hear someone suggest they might have a wrong disposition about something. On the other hand, a Christian leader ought always to engage students, young, impressionable, malleable minds and hearts, with love and not harshness. But toward the end of your response I had the impression something else was going on (in your mind) that didn’t have directly to do with anything the university president actually said in his letter. I had the feeling you were reading something into or out of it that I didn’t see there. Your posts are not usually that confusing to me. This time I honestly don’t know what to think or how to respond (except this way). Could you clarify your reaction to his words a little more? Or am I just being obtuse?
Roger – Read in its plain text, I can nod along to some extent with Piper’s argument that learning requires discomfort. And while it doesn’t match my own experience with students, I’ve read enough commentaries from others to not dismiss entirely the notion of a “coddling of the college student mind.” But I think Piper’s post — while ostensibly about this one student aggrieved by one chapel service — has to be read against the larger context of the many anti-racism protests going on at colleges and universities. And perhaps in light of how he responded to the CCCU debate earlier this year. But it’s possible that I’m guilty of doing the same and leaving in the background what should be in the forefront, or of criticizing Piper’s coded messaging with codes of my own. Where did it seem like something else was going on that wasn’t clear from the text?
Chris, I try to read messages by people I don’t know (and don’t know anything about their wider context) with a hermeneutic of charity–giving them every benefit of the doubt. And I know you do, also. So I had two impressions of your response to the university president’s letter: 1) That there must be something about him that caused you to read him a certain way and respond to him in what seemed to me an especially negative way, and 2) That you were responding to a larger issue than anything he specifically addressed in his letter. I couldn’t fit his letter with what I thought to be that larger context. But I assume there is a connection. So let me explain my own somewhat sympathetic reading of the university president’s letter. First, though, I will say it seemed a bit over the top in terms of rhetoric. I would have criticized him for using the undergraduate student who only approached him with a “feeling” as his springboard for a rant about his generation. However, having said that, I also have the feeling that many 18-22 year olds (some younger, some older) have a disposition to object strenuously to being made to feel convicted about anything. Many have adopted the attitude that “guilt” is a bad feeling and they should only be made to feel good about themselves–never bad about themselves. When I bring up the ideas of “conviction” and “guilt” and “need for repentance” I often get confused if not hostile looks. I think they are thinking “That’s sooooo ‘old school’.” For myself, when I go to chapel or church–I want to be made to feel convicted because I know I am a sinner and need to repent. I’m not saying I want to be “beaten up” by the preacher, but I think we are largely dropping the whole idea of conviction and even correction. I have had students object quite strenuously just for my correcting their grammar! So I felt some sympathy for the university president even if I thought his response was a bit harsh. But I’m still confused about how it exemplifies something negative in the culture as a whole–or among evangelicals or whatever. I actually thought it was kind of refreshing–except for his beginning by using a specific student (even if unnamed) as an example. He should have left that out of it.
And I should add… If you feel more confused by this post than my usual output, I’m not entirely surprised… I really struggled with how to articulate my response to Piper’s post, to explain why it simultaneously made me nod (a bit) and shake (a lot) my head.
Gotta say, from the beginning of chatter about this president’s rant, I doubted him. It was all too pat. An opportunity for a small town red state Christian college president to be a hero in the culture wars on a contrived sermon illustration. And we all bought it, without hearing from the student described or seeing the sermon which provoked the reaction. We bought the president’s telling because it fit the zeitgeist. Today’s millennials are spoiled, indulged, helicopter-parented purveyors of “political correctness,” with pathetic concerns about “trigger warnings.” And since most people aren’t following actual cases on actual college campuses, we just bought it, hook line and sinker. What’s the conversation on that campus now, I’d love to know, but it doesn’t matter, this story has national legs.
There is so much wrong with this. Among other things, it is difficult to imagine a President of prestigious university making comments like this — as if he’s the principal at a high school assembly, and the whole student body deserves to hear the same rant. If he doesn’t think they are children, why is he treating them this way? As if they deserve some sort of collective humiliation. I predict: applications will go up and some right wing somebody will make big donations. And education has another bad day, while people walk away thinking that campus protests about race should be filed right alongside stories about students who can’t handle sermons on virtue.
This story needs an investigative journalist.
Tracy, you are making sever broad brush strokes about people and institutions. Are they based on what you know as fact or how feel about a group or sect?
To Chris Gehrz the writer of the article, or those who agree with it, I must say, after reading your response to Dr. Piper’s Facebook post I believe you should have stuck with your first inclination of not responding.
I perceived your piece to be very judgmental, unkind, presumptuous, and un-“servant” like. Allow me to illustrate by stating some of your comments: “My path has “almost” crossed with Everett Piper a couple times, so I have had my suspicions over his comments about a student, Piper was unapologetically unsympathetic,”(what preconcieved suspicions did you have about Dr. Piper’s comments? Care to share them? )
“But this wasn’t Piper’s concern. Instead, he fixed attention on what he saw as a growing generational problem, exemplified by the student discomfited by the chapel talk on love,”
“While it’s clearly intended to show strong leadership, it actually represents a failure of leadership.”(How do you know what Piper’s concerns are or aren’t from this incident and his post? Are you not judging the motives and intentions of Dr. Piper’s heart? Do you know that his intention was to show strong leadership? How to you know that he wasn’t just trying to deal with it in a Godly and biblical way? We’re you there? Do you have first hand knowledge of the incident? What would you have done? Would you tell the student that it’s wrong for God’s word to make him feel bad about his sin?)
“However, the ultimate purpose of a chapel talk or any other educational “altar call” is not “to make you feel bad,” but to turn you towards Jesus Christ.”(faulty logic – the fact that someone felt bad because of a chapel message does not mean the speaker or president of the Institution hold to a practice or philosophy of ministry the seeks to make one feel bad. Godly sorrow is the precursor to confession, repentance and conversion, few would argue against this as the biblical model)
“but to turn you towards Jesus Christ a name mentioned not even once by Piper.” (again, faulty argument – implies that Dr. Piper either doesn’t care about turning others to Christ or is ineffective at it because he didn’t mention the name of Jesus even once in his article.)
“The “primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith” is not “your confession,” but your conversion. (faulty argument – implies that Dr. Piper and the university he represents is more concerned with confessions than conversions, do you know this to be factual? )
“And sin, like holiness (as I’d hope the leader of a Wesleyan institution should know), is both personal and social.” (I find the aforementioned statement very condescending and snarky. Implies that the president does not know or understand the basic theology of which his institution subscribes to. Do you believe Dr. Piper has a good theological understanding of sin and holiness?)
“Christian colleges need to name and address that reality. Instead, Piper simply waved aside the problem; for him, student anti-racism seems little more than one version of victimization culture. (“Anyone who dares challenge them is… [among other terms he listed] a ‘bigot’…..”)” (Very presumptuous statement – implies that Dr. Piper and the university either do not care about racial inequalities or have chosen to ignore them) (also, unless you know something factual about this chapel incident that we do not, how can you make statements like: “for him, student anti-racism seems little more than one version of victimization culture. (“Anyone who dares challenge them is… [among other terms he listed] a ‘bigot’…..”) How do you connect racism or anti-racism movements with this incident, I frankly fail to see the salient point or connection. I find your article at best to be conjecture and evil surmising at worst. Judging by the standards of your own arguments, if Dr. Piper has done anything wrong here, you have much worse. Forgive me if I have mis characterized you in any way, but you post seems to set up straw men in an attempt to advance your own political, social and theological biases.
It would take a rather long post to answer of all of these questions. But let me offer a couple of responses:
1. Please believe me that I hesitated a long time to write this, precisely because I was afraid that it would come off in the way you received it. So it’s troubling to find that I missed the mark so badly with one reader. Even if you can’t abide what I’ve written here, perhaps you’ll read enough of my other work to see that I strive to be charitable and irenic even when I’m being critical.
2. I know that I’m irritated when people get upset with me not for what I’ve written, but for what I’ve left unsaid. But I don’t think it’s at all unfair to ask why the president of a Christian college would spend so much time castigating one of his students, why he’d focus so much attention on sin and confession, and not use the opportunity to explain how a Christian education does not stop at conviction of sin but points the sinner to Jesus Christ.
3. That he didn’t do so is truly unfortunate: he missed a golden opportunity to proclaim for a national audience that, by grace, a just God offers forgiveness, redemption, and liberation. For all the hints he dropped about ongoing student protests on campuses nationwide, Piper failed to make clear that Christians believe in a gospel that has something to say about the persistence of social sins like racism. Instead, he let his constituents dismiss anti-racist protests as the narcissism of immature young people raised for victimhood.
I do thank you for reading, and for sharing your thoughts. I hope my comments make more clear what I was trying to do with the post.
Grace and peace,
I wonder if the statement “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” might work here in regards to the work of the preacher/professor/college president – and how it might bring a more compassionate tone to the larger issues that you are trying to get across.
Also I agree with Roger- you seemed to be blaming him for not being compassionate and pointing people to Christ- how can we do that while we bring up points against a fellow brother in at least what a few readers have described as harsh? There may be times for harsh rebuke- Jesus certainly thought so- I’m asking that as an actual question for something for us as His followers to think about- especially as so much of this dialogue is not just in house but out there for the culture to see.
Also I wonder if part of this entire conversation is more about how and when to speak – or is it more of a worldview issue? Is it the tone and demeanor of what he said in this one context – or more of this on top of his actions in the past that you do not agree with regarding the LGTBQAA issues.
I do appreciate the time and effort that you put into your posts! Blessings-
Eric (and Roger) – Anyone who knows me knows that I despise conflict and get sick at the thought of rebuking anyone. (Knowing that there’s even a single reader who finds anything I write to be “harsh” is going to keep me up tonight.) But there comes a time when even an irenic Pietist needs to speak out.
No doubt part of what irks me so much about Piper’s statement here (and elsewhere — just go back through his blog posts and radio show appearances and you’ll quickly sense a pattern) is that it sounds so dissonant against the irenic, civil, thoughtful conversations that I’ve come to cherish in my experience of Christian higher ed. So I’m upset that he’s now been given a national stage on which to reinforce the assumption that evangelicals — even those in education — speak with the combative, defiant tones of a Culture Warrior. (Is Piper articulating the “beautiful orthodoxy” that Christianity Today has been calling for all year?) As I wrote to a much less gentle critic of my post this afternoon, because it ended up getting such a wide audience, Piper had a remarkable chance with this post to proclaim the Gospel: repentance, but also forgiveness, redemption, and liberation. He did not.
Despite a tone that just grates on my ears, I still resonated at least a bit with what he had to see about the need for education to be uncomfortable and convicting. (As I hope I made clear in the first half of my original post.)
But here’s why I think the problem is much deeper than tone, and why I’m inclined to speak “harshly”:
Why do you think the student from Mizzou quoted in the NYT story reacted like he did: “Growing up as a Christian myself, I can’t imagine Jesus writing a letter like that”?
Is he simply a product of the same victimization culture that Piper thinks is pervasive? Is the student from Missouri upset for the same reason the OKWU student was: he doesn’t like being confronted with uncomfortable truths?
Or is it at all significant that the Mizzou student in the Times story is African-American, a member of the 1950 student group that’s been protesting racism on his campus?
Tell me this: why did Everett Piper allude to what’s going on at Mizzou (“…if you want to be enabled rather than confronted, there are many universities across the land (in Missouri and elsewhere) that will give you exactly what you want, but Oklahoma Wesleyan isn’t one of them”)? Why did he include the word “bigot” among many other examples of what he regards as unfair name-calling? Why did he add the line, “We believe the content of your character is more important than the color of your skin”?
He could have written none of that and still contributed his two cents to what I think is a serious conversation about trigger warnings and the like. But he consciously chose to include those words and phrases. And I think the student from Mizzou quite correctly picked up on that language, even as Piper insists that the post isn’t “about race.”
I think Piper is seeking readers who are at least vaguely aware of the campus activism that’s been raging in recent weeks, are bothered by it, and are very happy to be reassured that those protests are actually about student narcissism — not racism. And in the process, he can signal (to donors, to prospective parents) that OKWU is not a place where they need to worry about students bringing attention to ways in which “the color of your skin” is still tied to economic, legal, and other inequities. (Which is why, of course, so many people I know were so outraged by Piper: to their mind, OKWU is the “day care,” since its president doesn’t seem to want to deal with complicated subjects like race and sexuality.)
And that’s a profound failure of leadership for a Christian college president, who’s in a position to confront the enduring problem of racism in American society, to name it for the sin it is, and to explain how the Gospel responds to it. Fortunately, not every Christian college is falling short in this respect: the new issue of the CCCU’s magazine, Advance, reports on the September diversity conference that OKWU refused to attend (even before it left the CCCU). The current issue of my own institution’s magazine deals with the same theme; it’s not online yet, so I can’t include a link, but it opens with a note from our president that takes quite a different tack than Piper’s, then it features an article that includes the quotation from our chief diversity officer that I quoted in a photo caption in my original post.
Sounds like Wesleyan does not care for students. Put your perspective students through an interview and admit who you feel agrees with everything you say and believe. Otherwise, quit taking their money and bad mouthing them. Problem solved.
I watched Everett Piper speak on C-Span yesterday and I felt sad that someone in that position could present such a false narrative. Haven’t we grown in our understanding of Christ Consciousness. You state in your response that “the “primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith” is not “your confession,” but your conversion”. I love that.
“And sin, like holiness, is both personal and social.” Mr. Piper was setting up a false narrative and blaming all the ills of society on liberal arts educational institutions. Really? A good, well-rounded liberal arts program is needed now more than ever. What about greed, about massive, obscene wealth allowing a few oligarchs to control the government, the media, the financial institutions, etc. and he’s proud to be a conservative under those terms.
Like you say, “we live in a society in which it’s abundantly clear that race continues to matter a great deal. Christian colleges need to name and address that reality. Instead, Piper simply waved aside the problem; for him, student anti-racism seems little more than one version of victimization culture. (“Anyone who dares challenge them is… [among other terms he listed] a ‘bigot’…..”)
By the end of his talk (given in a location with a white student body where there were no voices to ask the hard questions) I felt sad. He is in a powerful position and his red-white-and-blue tie speak volumes. He didn’t strike me as being Christ Like. I saw no kindness there. I was glad to come across your response. Thank you.