Philip Ryken, Wheaton College’s President, released a statement about the recent chapel demonstration related to Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s speaking engagement. From the statement:
Wheaton College’s conviction on homosexual practice remains as articulated in our Community Covenant, which is affirmed each year by all students, faculty, and staff:
“Scripture condemns . . . sexual immorality, such as the use of pornography (Matt. 5:27-28), pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior and all other sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage between a man and woman (Rom. 1:21-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31).”
Chapel guests and programs speak to various topics, including contentious issues of the day, always in alignment with the biblical standards outlined in the Community Covenant.
As our Covenant states, Wheaton College is a community of living, learning, and serving. We are a confessional Christian academic community with a focus on the spiritual and intellectual formation of our students. While we are not insulated from cultural conflicts over ideas, including our own students’ search to understand how the truth of Scripture shapes each Christian’s life, our educational model does not require us either to silence critical exploration of complex issues or to accede uncritically to cultural pressures.
Instead, the Christ-followers who lead this Christian liberal arts institution, and who value the minds and hearts of the students entrusted to our care, judiciously employ a variety of responses to student concerns and conduct. These responses may include personal conversation, civil public discussion, godly counsel, admonition, and discipline.
Within Wheaton’s historic commitment to biblical truth, as well as in our model of liberal arts education, our goal is to grow a community where questions can be raised, disagreements can be expressed, discernment can be modeled, and disciples can be nurtured.
As a do-over, this series of statements greatly improves upon those offered by the Chaplain in the previous article. Had Wheaton started from this position, it seems doubtful anyone would have bothered to say anything at all. But it still reveals the defensive position American evangelicals are increasingly operating from on this issue (and others) in a culture that is slowly but steadily abandoning Christianity. Let me point back to the comment in the previous article that probably angered me just enough to write a blog post:
“My prayer is that hearing Dr. Butterfield’s story will encourage and embolden all of us to share our stories with each other — to warmly invite those stories and to warmly receive those stories,” Kellough said. “My hope is that in telling our personal stories, we will be pointing one another to the ‘story of stories’ found in Jesus’ love for us.”
The reason I got so hot at the original article was the implied notion that because everyone’s story is meaningful (I agree with this), everyone’s story is equally edifying to us, equally pleasing to God, and equally worthy of the Ooohs and Ahhhs of a Kumbaya Moment. This is absolutely not what Christianity teaches, and this further reveals the inability of many American Christians to understand both the nature of the conflict and their current position in it. The article itself reveals that even the groups talking about ‘more than a single story’ recognize this, otherwise they would have been just as enthusiastic about Butterfield’s story as their own. Their real position was revealed to be ‘A Certain Set of Pre-Approved Stories In Deference To Us’. Our stories all have meaning, but not the same meaning. All of us are of equal value, but there is no neutrality in the Cosmos. The demonstrators instinctively understood this the moment they encountered a story that challenged them. Wheaton still seems unwilling to challenge them on this central point.
Our prayer should be that the stories shared by each of us, as varied as they undoubtedly are, will become unified on the central point of repentance and transformation through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The stories are wonderful, always unfolding in unpredictable ways, but the critical point of focus ought to be the path chosen at the fork in the road. A culture moving away from Christianity will undoubtedly employ tactics to move the focus elsewhere (preferably upstream, where sins remain unchallenged). However, a Christian institution should be among the last to accept the premise that the focus should be moved at all.
The mistake made by Wheaton has nothing to do with listening to the demonstrators. This is what they should have done. The mistake was made the moment they agreed to play along with the game the demonstrators offered rather than simply pointing out the hypocrisy of the language of the demonstration itself, something they still haven’t had the courage to do. The response from Wheaton should have come, publicly, in the form of one simple question:
Why does Butterfield’s story, or 10 million like it, even bother you at all?