Christopher King, a freshman at Harvard, recently ran for student council president with a campaign theme that’s emphasized “compassion,” “collaboration,” and “innovation.” King recruited a diverse group of students to help with his campaign. “We looked like the United Nations,” he recalls.
King seemed to have done everything right—but he had one big skeleton in his closet: He was a Christian. And although King had not made his faith a campaign issue, he soon discovered others had.
King’s story is told in a splendid Wall Street Journal article by Naomi Schaeffer. This article exposes the fact that Harvard—like so many great institutions—may claim to be tolerant and diverse, but in fact, suffers from a deeply impoverished notion of diversity and pluralism—one that makes true diversity and tolerance impossible.
King’s campaign began to unravel when a friend made the mistake of sending an e-mail asking people to pray for all the candidates—but especially for King. Soon afterward every Harvard freshman found a poster on his door that painted King as an intolerant Christian bigot. The poster included a quote from a religious group, completely unaffiliated with King, which said simply, “Our youth ministry exists to bring nonbelievers to Christ.”
Then the school newspaper, the Crimson, published an editorial saying King’s “promise of values-driven leadership” was “vague and worrisome,” and that “his ties to religious groups have raised concerns among many students.”
Well, after the editorial criticism and the flood of attack poster, it was no surprise that King lost the election. When the Crimson was asked if it discriminated against Christians, the editors said “no.” But then they admitted they were concerned over the “religious language used in the e-mails that Chris’ friend had sent.”
As the Wall Street Journal put it, “the theory seems to be: How can you embrace a community of diverse individuals if you are narrow-minded enough to believe in God?”
Well, Christians ought not be surprised at this. After all, Christians have suffered for their faith for 2,000 years.
But what’s really sad about this story is that at a place like Harvard, which preaches diversity and tolerance, we see an inability to find the basis for community that genuinely embraces all viewpoints. Historically, the word “liberal” meant open to all points of view in the pursuit of truth. Today, “liberal” means associating with the latest trendy causes—a false liberalism that undermines itself at every turn.
As long as there is hostility toward a religious group, these students are creating an environment in which they themselves become the losers. And this, of course, is the great postmodern dilemma. Everything is okay, everything is true, everything is acceptable—except something that claims to be true for everyone. That’s out of bounds.
When these Harvard students graduate, they are going to enter a world that has such an obsession with tolerance that it makes the very idea of community impossible. And that’s the point at which we Christians must lovingly say to them: Look, we don’t mind what you say about us, but there’s a better way for you to order your lives together. You don’t have to be a Christian, but you ought to know that the Christian worldview welcomes all people into genuine harmony because it respects the God-given dignity of every human being. As Christians, we’re even supposed to love our enemies.
Now that’s real tolerance—something these students are not learning at Harvard. And we can only pray, for their sake, that it’s something they will learn very soon.