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1/ Imagine (if you are actually not one) that you are an Evangelical Christian. Absolutely nothing means more to you than your faith. It’s central to your identity—your sense of who you are. It’s not something you “chose”; it chose you. You would, if necessary, die for it.
2/ You experience an attack on it as an attack on you. Further suppose that you’re a student at an elite college (call it Centerbury). The campus Secular Society has invited as a lecturer a prominent scientist and public intellectual (let’s call him Reinhold Dickens) who
3/ argues that Christianity is based on obvious falsehoods and appeals mainly to ignorant or unintelligent people; that it promotes bigotry and is hostile to reason and science; and that it’s responsible for a great deal of oppression and many wars.
4/ What should you do? Claim that Dickens should not be allowed to speak on campus since he is hateful towards Christians? Say that his presence creates a hostile and unsafe environment for a small, powerless minority on a campus where the overwhelming
5/ majority of students and nearly all faculty are secular progressives? Organize fellow Christians to disrupt the lecture? No. You should not. Should you boycott and put pressure on people not to attend? No. Should you peacefully protest? No. You have a right to
6/ do that, but there is something much better you can do: Go to the lecture, listen carefully to the speaker’s points and arguments, and see if you can learn something. Indeed, consider whether what he’s saying is true, or at least has some truth in it. If you
7/ identify what you believe is an error of fact or a fallacious inference in his talk, respectfully ask him about it in the Q&A. Why? Because you are at Centerbury to get an education. You are there to be challenged and unsettled—to have your deepest,
8/ most cherished, identity-shaping beliefs subjected to scrutiny. That’s what liberal arts learning is most fundamentally about—leading the examined life.
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