|Oklahoma Wesleyan University Chapel|
I’m not making this up. Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.”
I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen. That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience. An altar call is supposed to make you feel bad. It is supposed to make you feel guilty. The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness. The primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith is your confession, not your self-actualization.
Piper's public letter has received a lot of attention in the last several days. Rod Dreher of The American Conservative said that Piper's letter showed the OKWU president to be a "man among boys." The Chronicle of Higher Education and The New York Times have covered the story.
But the best thing I have read on this whole affair is Chris Gehrz's blog post "This Is Not Leadership." Gehrz is sympathetic to some of Piper's comments. But as a good historical thinker he places these remarks in a much larger context. I wish I could just re-post Gehrz's thoughts. I strongly encourage you to head over to the Pietist Schoolman and read it for yourself.
(I have said it before and I will say it again. Chris Gehrz is, without peer, our most thoughtful and insightful commentator on the state of Christian colleges. I hope Bethel University appreciates him. It is only a matter of time before he will be working as a Dean or Provost somewhere in the CCCU).
Part of the larger context Gehrz notes is Piper's decision in August 2015 to pull Oklahoma Wesleyan
out of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) because the presidents of the CCCU institutions chose to take some time to deliberate about what they should do with Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen Colleges--two members of the CCCU that chose to allow faculty in same-sex marriages to teach at their schools. Eventually Eastern Mennonite and Goshen decided to leave the CCCU over this issue, but Oklahoma Wesleyan (and Union University in Jackson, Tennessee) criticized the CCCU leadership for not immediately kicking these schools out of the CCCU because of their positions on gay faculty. (You can find some of our posts on the subject here. I even commented over at Inside Higher Ed).
Like Gerhz, I am having a hard time reconciling Piper's approach to the CCCU-gay marriage issue with this statement from his public letter: "At OKWU, we teach you to be selfless rather than self-centered. We are more interested in you practicing personal forgiveness than political revenge. We want you to model interpersonal reconciliation rather than foment personal conflict...."
As Gerhz notes, a leader must always be ready to communicate the following: 1). The world is complicated. 2). There is no easy solution. 3). We need to make decisions consistent with our values. Gehrz shows how Piper has failed to exercise this kind of leadership (at least on the first two issues) in several incidents over the past year. Gehrz concludes: "We need...university presidents...who will take the time to listen to multiple narratives, to empathize with diverse members of divided communities, and to hold ideas in tension. We need leaders who can do all this and yet still make prudent decisions that extend long-held values forward into a fast-changing future."
Shortly after I read Gehrz post, I read Tamara Venit Shelton's piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Shelton teaches American history at Claremont McKenna College. Here is a taste:
|Tamara Venit Shelton|