Dartmouth Follies

Like every university with its finger to the wind, Dartmouth College makes a point of supporting liberal virtues like tolerance and diversity. In that spirit, this Christmas season, a group of Christian students at Dartmouth had tried to introduce Christianity into the range of ideas that students encounter. But their efforts had been vigorously opposed by college officials—which only goes to show that the latest liberal version of "tolerance" is, well, not really very liberal. The story began a year ago, when students in Dartmouth's Campus Crusade for Christ decided to send a Christmas present to the entire freshman class. They sent each student a copy of C.S. Lewis' book Mere Christianity. Many students thanked Campus Crusade for the gift, though there were a few grumpy dissenters—which is to be expected, I suppose, when you send something to more than 1000 people. So this Christmas, Campus Crusade decided to do it again. They even set up a system to accommodate people who preferred not to receive the gift. But that wasn't enough for a handful of undergrad grinches, who complained to school officials. As a result, earlier this month, after the books had already been wrapped and the cards signed, officials tried to block their distribution. School officials said Campus Crusade could not send the books to non-Christian students. Leaders of the campus Catholic and Lutheran groups also demanded that the books not be sent to their faith communities on campus. In other words, Campus Crusade could send the books to themselves. Or, they could use the U.S. Postal Service instead of the campus mail system—but that was an alternative that would have been prohibitively expensive. In short, Dartmouth effectively stopped the book giveaway. Now, we're talking here, I needn't remind you, about a book regarded by many to be a modern classic written by a respected Oxford professor. Well, that's where things stood—until the matter became public. The abashed university officials backed down, and gave Campus Crusade permission to post the books through the campus mail. Though the story has ended well, it's galling to see such a stark double standard at work. Students are constantly inundated with campus mailings from other religious groups—like Buddhists—with the university's full blessing. But when an evangelical group wants to participate on the same footing as others, suddenly "tolerance" and "diversity" reach their limit. What all this shows is that these slogans are nothing but a sham. Tolerance and diversity are the faddish values of our age, replacing the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Yet, ironically, the liberals themselves feel free to disregard their own values whenever they choose to. Tolerance has really become merely a way of saying, "Leave me alone to find my own private truth, and puh-leeeze don't bother me with traditional religion." Christians are often accused of being anti-intellectual-bigots and book burners. Today the people who are suppressing books are liberals who can't stand the thought that someone somewhere might read an intellectually bracing defense of Christianity—like the one C. S. Lewis offers in Mere Christianity. But who knows? Maybe the controversy will inspire some of those Dartmouth freshmen to read Lewis's book over their Christmas break. And then they'll understand why secular elites are so afraid of this powerful little book.


Chuck Colson


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