CHRISTIANITY STILL INCORRECT IN CALIFORNIA
A new Christian club at California State University--San Bernardino was recently denied official recognition by the university because it required its members to adhere to Biblical principles of morality. Some of these principles, as explained by the student organizer, Ryan Sorba, include abstaining from premarital sex and homosexual relations. Sorba says that in order to join his Christian group, a student must adhere to the teachings of Jesus Christ and strive to avoid sinful behavior.
According to Cal-State San Bernardino President Albert Karnig, these membership restrictions violate Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations. This law states, “No campus shall recognize a student organization which discriminates on the basis of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, gender, martial status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or disability.” Ostensibly, this law prevents discrimination and creates a more inclusive campus community. Students are prevented from hurting each others’ feelings since they cannot exclude each other from groups on a myriad of personal characteristics. While it is unfair for someone to be discriminated against because of something they cannot control, like a disability, it is ludicrous that the same anti-discrimination law should apply when it comes to personal beliefs and behavior, which students can control. Students choose their religious convictions with their own free will, and can decide to convert if they change their mind.
However, the state of California does not share this reasoning. Apparently California believes that it would be unfair for a student to be excluded from an ideological organization, even if that student does not agree with the teachings of the ideology. The effect of this law is that it would prevent a Catholic student organization from denying membership to a Southern Baptist. It would prevent a Muslim student association from denying membership to a Hindu.
What, then, would be the point of joining a religious organization? Would you pray with people in your club who believe in a different deity? Just as Catholics do not attend Synagogues and Buddhists do not frequent mosques, there would be no point for non-Christians to join a Christian student group. If students are forced to allow people who have fundamental disagreements about existence and morality into their club, how could the members ever accomplish their goals of praying together and promoting their beliefs?
Religious freedom is vital to a free society, and college campuses are supposed to be beacons of academic inquiry and philosophical discourse. How can universities serve this purpose when governments make it illegal for universities to recognize religious groups that expect their members to adhere to the basic tenets of their religion? The simple answer is that universities cannot achieve this purpose when they must enforce such an appalling and unconstitutional law, which is overtly hostile to religious freedom.
SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO BE CRUEL TO BE KIND
After last week's outburst of unexplained gunfire on Toronto's Yonge St., which saw six bystanders wounded and a 15-year-old girl killed, I have to wonder what's become of my native city. When I was a child, it was known as "Toronto the Good." Now it is known for mayhem, murder and carnage. What happened? Some people blame the police, some massive uncontrolled immigration, some poverty, some the educational system, some the media.
I think they're all wrong. I blame what might be called "kindliness." I think, sometime after the Second World War, Canada became too kindly. And since Toronto is our biggest city, it became, in a sense, the kindliest of all. We were told all the problems of the world could be solved by kindliness. Just be nice to people, and everything will be fine. Make love, not war.
Now we knew old Toronto the Good was not always kindly. Canada of that day had massive numbers of immigrants, too. Hundreds of thousands arrived just before the First World War, most from cultures very "foreign" to the English, Scots and Irish who populated Toronto. But, truth to tell, they were never really accepted when they arrived. They were not told they were doing us a favour by coming here. They were not offered instant welfare. Most were given farmlands cheap, and told to make a living from them. In other words, to be really accepted, they were expected "to prove themselves." And it's a matter of record they certainly did, and in the course of doing so, they made the Canada we know -- or used to know.
But then the kindliness set in. How harsh and condescending it was, we were told, to treat these poor incoming people with brutal demands that they earn a living. We must help and assist them, make them feel at home, make them feel wanted. We were kindly in other ways. We were much kindlier to school children, for instance. In the bad old days, we actually strapped kids if they misbehaved. We made them write really crucial exams; and we actually made them repeat the year if they failed them. We were particularly unkind to convicted criminals. Prisons were unpleasant places. Sensible people were somewhat frightened by the police. To most children, the huge constable, with his ramrod back, riding his bicycle and looking coldly on everything around him, was an object for terror.
Our language was unkind in other ways. People who wouldn't work were called "bums." People who drank too much were called "drunks." People who promised and didn't deliver were called "scumbags." People who shaded the truth were called "liars," and people who took things that didn't belong to them were called "thieves." In sum, we had a pessimistic view of human nature, based upon our inborn prejudice that's the way the world is.
"Exactly," said the reformers. "And the only way to change the world is to change the way we treat people. If you're nice to people, then people will be nice to you." Well, we knew this was often true. But it was also often untrue, and we also knew that, to depend on an unfailing reciprocal "niceness" was dangerous, because those who are prepared to exploit our "kindliness" could very soon render the whole community uninhabitable. Anyway, the reformers prevailed, and that explains what's going on in Toronto. It also explains what's going on in our school system, and in our court system, and it's one of the things going wrong with our economic system.
Behind it lies a fundamental misunderstanding of what is called "moral theology." Traditionally, our culture recognizes a distinction between two ancient virtues. One is called "mercy" and the other "love." But there are several kinds of "love," and the one the ancients most respected they called agape and pronounced agapay. The goal of mercy was simple. It always sought to relieve pain, whether mental pain or physical, in the other person. It was consistently kindly. But agape was much harder. It sought what would be in the best interest of the other. That might be painful in the short term, but vastly beneficial in the long. Our problem today is that we've got too much mercy, and not enough agape.