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Friday, October 1, 2010

The Right Stuff

This is complicated. The campus paper, the Trinitonian, has participated in a one-week celebration of the First Amendment, by publishing a four-page wrap-around TriniPHONian with news that is presented as, well, phony news. That wrap-around illustrated what the paper would be like if the administration - not the student body - was the publisher. The editorial in the regular portion of the paper explains this and then explores the importance of free speech, applauding the way it is practiced here. (No prior review of the paper, for example.)

This is all set to the back-drop of a story and editorial from the previous week, about Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. Apparently two club officers were stripped of their leadership positions in IVCF because one was dating a non-Christian, and another announced that she no longer believed in hell.

But before judging IVCF too harshly, check out the Trinitonian story about the speaker the group brought to campus this week. She is Trinity parent Evelyn Husband Thompson and she talked about her faith following the loss of her husband Rick in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle tragedy. He was the mission captain. Her talk, as covered by the Trinitonian, was inspiring. Her faith, apparently, helped her rebuild her life from a very real kind of hell. Maybe they are on to something.

A Trinitonian columnist who is actually the President of IVCF wrote a personal and stirring column about some of the less-than-civil criticism he has endured in the wake of last week's story. In his column, he openly disagreed with the paper's coverage and editorial the previous week. So he wrote about it as a columnist for the same paper this week. The paper, apparently, practices what it preaches, no pun intended.

This week there is also a letter from a professor who suggests Jesus wouldn't be able to hold an officer position in IVCF under current rules. I think is tongue-in-cheek. It's hard to tell, because the letter includes terms such as "anti-intellectualism"(guilty), "relativism," and "secular humanists." This is why I prefer being a staff member. (I could do a whole blog post on the pros and cons of Jesus being in a Trinity student organization, by the way.)

A library staffer, two brothers, and a satirist also weighed-in this week on the IVCF issue. I offer a brief synopsis:
- If I believed in hell, which I don't, I would suggest you go there;
- Date people of different faiths even if marriage isn't imminent;
- Houston is hell and;
- The words "womb" and "anathema" are good to keep in your arsenal.

As we learned during last year's diploma debate, sometimes being right, doesn't make you right. Sometimes there is much more gray than black-and-white. People in the same community and even part of the same publication can make legitimate differing points through civil discourse. And yet again, we see the students and the learned faculty and staff here able to exercise their First Amendment rights (even at a private institution) and debate in generally thoughtful, emotional, and intellectual ways. The focus is on teaching and learning. In the end,the details really don't even matter that much. Yes, it's complicated. On a college campus, it should be.

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