Every Monday in Citizenship Confusion, Alan Noble discusses how we confuse our heavenly citizenship with citizenship to the state, culture, and the world.
In my last two columns I have written about the importance of charity and humility in all our proclamations and conversations. This last week, the College Republicans at Messiah College enacted that charity when they cancelled a talk they were going to host because they realized that the speaker was politically “polarizing.”
The previous week, Frances Fox Piven, a political scientist known for her leftist politics and extreme statements, had given a talk at Messiah College. The College Republicans, wanting to offer the community an alternative to Piven’s views, asked Jason Mattera (Yes, that Jason Mattera—the guy who VP Biden told, “Don’t screw with me”) to speak at the college. When one of the faculty advisors for the club, Dr. James LaGrand, told them about some of Mattera’s recent comments at another college (Mattera reportedly told a student to “take out your tampon”), the students voted unanimously to cancel the talk.
They decided that it would be better to allow the radical speech of an opposing political party to go unanswered than to contribute to the unedifying and uncharitable discourse that defines contemporary politics. The Messiah student paper quotes the VP of the Republican club as stating, “In order to have good dialogue on the issues, we need to eliminate this polarizing language, whether it’s Piven calling Tea Partiers racist or Mattera on the other side calling liberals something else.”
In our country’s public square, what is most important is “winning” the political argument. We redefine love for our neighbor (or political enemy) as “telling the harsh truth” so that we can justify unedifying and abusive language. Many Christians have wrongly accepted this mindset, confusing their heavenly citizenship (which calls for charity and true, selfless love of the Other) with our earthly citizenship (which couldn’t care less).
Unfortunately, the College Republican’s positive example of prioritizing charity over political gain was balanced out by commentary on the situation by Human Events and The Pearcey Report.Human Events, the conservative magazine where Mattera works as editor, posted an editorial condemning Messiah College for canceling his talk. The headline reads: “Christian College Gives Pro-Riots Leftist Piven a Forum, Then Cancels Conservative Speaker.” Note how it conflates the student organization with the school, making it seem like the school intentionally censored Mattera. The editorial states that the republican students were “pressured” by Dr. LaGrand into voting to cancel the talk, a claim that the editorial provides no support for and which Dr. LaGrand denied in an e-mail to me.
It ends with this warning: “Parents who are thinking of sending their kids to Messiah College, take notice. Alumni who repeatedly get letters and phone calls from Messiah’s fund-raising department, you too. The students there are being programmed to be politically correct drones.”
Similarly, Rick Pearcey linked to the Human Events editorial at The Pearcey Report, writing: “If parents and financial supporters of Messiah College get wind of this, there may be Heaven to pay” and on Twitter: “If This Is Where MESSIAH COLLEGE Is Today, in One Generation It Will Be Expressly Anti-Biblical, Anti-Christian.”
Human Events and Rick Pearcey blame Messiah College for the College Republicans’ unanimous decision to cancel Mattera’s talk and both suggest that parents and financial supporters should complain to administration. Even worse, Pearcey warns that the school might soon be “anti-Christian” and Human Events says that Messiah produces “politically correct drones.” These are serious accusations to make about a Christian college, and they could have very real consequences for the college and its faculty.
Rather than commend the College Republicans for standing up for edifying speech, Human Events and Rick Pearcey publicly condemned Messiah College, suggesting that winning the political war is more important than speaking with grace.