Is the Truth Politically Correct?

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By Paul S. Williams

Greg Lukianoff, the author of Unlearning Liberty, was recently interviewed in The Wall Street Journal on the subject of politically correct speech in colleges and universities. Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is alarmed by the loss of free speech on university campuses.

Lukianoff says baby boomers who remember universities as institutions of free thinking would not recognize today’s schools. Where once there was freedom of speech, now there are strict speech codes determined by extreme political correctness.

Just how bad is it? In 2007 Brandeis University made a finding of harassment against a professor for simply explaining the origins of “wetback” in a Latin-American
studies course. He was not using the term derisively. He was just explaining how the term came into existence. Though the finding was overturned, the university still has not apologized to the professor.

In 2007 the University of Delaware instituted a freshman orientation course in which students were taught that the term racist “applies to all white people” while “people of color” cannot be racists. Through action taken by Lukianoff’s foundation, the course was terminated. Still, the decisions of these universities are indicative of just how ridiculous speech codes have become.

Students and faculty agree. A 2010 survey found 64.4 percent of 24,000 American college students and 81 percent of faculty and administrators did not strongly agree that it was safe to hold unpopular views on campus. What are the most unpopular views? You will not be surprised by the answer. Lukianoff says, “If you’re going to get in trouble for an opinion on campus, it’s more likely for a socially conservative opinion.”

Right about now you are probably thinking, I sure am glad Christian colleges did not fall prey to politically correct thinking. On that specific count I would agree. But many Christian colleges and universities have their own brand of correct thinking. Should a student come into their midst who questions God’s existence, or is highly critical of the church, he is told he really belongs elsewhere. When he was a questioning sophomore at a Christian college, my own son was frequently told, “Well if you don’t believe this stuff, then why are you here?” While some professors were responsive to him, the students were brutal.

When he came back years later to preach in chapel, I thought Jonathan was being mighty gracious. The school had done little to encourage his now strong faith. In fact, he found far greater help from a liberal Protestant university than he did from a conservative Christian college.

The church at which Jonathan now ministers in Brooklyn is a safe place for believers and nonbelievers. No question is off limits and no stone goes unturned. The church is clear about its beliefs, but invites honest questioning. There is no surprise it is a growing congregation. Whatever the subject, honesty trumps political correctness every time.

Who would’ve thought the church would replace the university as the place for truly free speech? Then again, it was Jesus who said, “The truth shall set you free.”

And so it goes.

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  1. The lack of freedom to speak and question is even evident among the faculty of many Christian colleges and seminaries. The recent controversies at a number of institutions exhibits the same “political correctness” among serious scholarly questions and research.

    What was once taught as “truth” in many instances is now widely recognized as biased beliefs grounded in faulty hermeneutic principles. When people are no longer allowed to question the status quo or long-held beliefs, whether on the Christian college or research university campus, there is the danger of narrow-mindedness which hampers the search for ultimate truth, no matter where it is found. After all, as was stated years ago by a wise philosopher, “All truth is God’s truth.”

  2. Okay, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years. I edit and re-edit and edit again. I try to avoid doing stupid stuff. But I do not always succeed. This column would be a case in point.

    I write these columns a few months in advance, and think little about them until they are in print. When I read this column last week, I thought, “Gees, I hope that guy got that off of his chest!”

    My son has made peace with his college experience, and is grateful for the very good education he received. It appears I am the one holding the unnecessary grudge. I feel particularly badly about a couple of administrators at his school, people who were helpful, and probably read this column and thought, “Hey, we did our best.” And you did. And I am sorry.

    I am glad I did not mention the school by name. I hold it in extremely high regard – did then – do now.

    I usually ask permission before I write about any of my children. I did not this time. My son was basically good with it, but when I apologized he said, “Yeah, now that I think about it, I kinda wish you hadn’t printed that.”

    And so it goes.

  3. I read with great interest Paul Williams’ article, “Is the Truth Politically Correct.” My daughter had an experience similar to Paul’s son’s experience in Christian college. She was asking questions about God and faith, as many twenty-somethings do, and was told by one of her Christian college professors that she was an atheist. Her four years at Christian college were the worst 4 years of her life – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We had been hoping for something very different-perhaps a spiritually nurturing environment, perhaps some Christian compassion. I guess our expectations must have been too high.
    Thankfully, by the grace of God, she has not lost her faith. With much prayer and love shown by family and church folks she is beginning to think that God does care about her.
    Thank you for allowing me to vent.
    Kathy Cunningham

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