There are two minutes of video that’s been bothering me for weeks.
They’re two minutes in the middle of Wisecrack’s video "A Philosopher Reacts To God’s Not Dead." I’ve embedded just those two minutes below (or if you want to go to the original video at the right time, it’s the two minutes starting at 5’38").
In those two minutes, Kevin Sorbo’s character distributes sheets of paper to an intro to philosophy class, tells his students that they have to write an affirmation (and sign it!) that says "God is dead," and that it’s worth 30% of their grade.
Michael, the host of Wisecrack, reacts with incredulity, and rightly so. That simply Would Not Happen in a public university or college. So to Michael — and myself as well — the scene is a comedic strawman of the absurd.
Except Michael — and I — forgot something pretty basic about bad actors. I’ve seen it over and over again with toxic people.
They will almost always tell you what they’re going to do… by accusing you of doing it.
Or, in this case, had already been doing. Michael actually says it out loud at the end of those two minutes: "The goal of academic philosophy isn’t to instill hardcore ideological concepts into the brains of impressionable young people."
But that is exactly what Christian universities have been doing for decades right out there in the open.
Many Christian colleges and universities require employees — and students! — to sign statements of faith, or covenants. Aside from the theological statements, these documents also tend to have some kind of clause about what you can and cannot do… and what you can and cannot say.
Bethel University has on its "covenant" page a list of "character qualities and actions that should not be present in the lives of believers. For example: destructive anger, malice, rage, sexual immorality, impurity, adultery, evil desires, greed, idolatry, slander, profanity, lying, homosexual behavior, drunkenness, thievery, and dishonesty ."
That’s not my footnote, by the way. That’s theirs, and it reads: " Colossians 3:5-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Employees will not practice, advocate, or affirm these and other biblically proscribed behaviors." (Emphasis mine.)
Not "while on the clock," not "in the classroom," or anything like that. At all. Ever. Ironically, this is right before their "diversity" page. For real.
This is not an idle threat. Aside from anecdata I’ve heard about such agreements being enforced, "Inside Higher Ed" reported a year ago about a professor at Calvin University who was getting forced out for being an ally of LGBTQIA+ rights.
If you’re wondering whether the courts will do anything, the answer, at least as of January 2023, is no: "Students at colleges and universities operating on religious principles concerning marriage, sexual identity and gender won’t be blocked from receiving federal aid, the U.S. District Court in Oregon ruled this week." — The Washington Times
And the bigger lesson is easily observable in the rest of the education system as well. The constant pearl-clutching about "grooming" and "indoctrination" from the GOP around LGBTQIA+ issues seems hypocritical in the face of their efforts to ensure that children only get the "correct" education by inciting vigilante book banning, legal threats to librarians, and doing everything they can to eliminate mentions of diversity, until you realize it’s not hypocrisy.
They are projecting onto everyone else what they are about to do, just like a narcissistic gaslighting toxic partner in a relationship. They think that everyone else is out to indoctrinate children, to "groom" them to live a particular way… because that is what they intend to do.
And they’ve very clearly already started to do it. Right in front of your eyes.
Now, I want you to think back to every time since 2016 that you’ve marveled at the hypocrisy of the right wing in America. Think back to every outrageous accusation they’ve made about the left that is absolutely ludicrous.
Now look back at those times with this lens.
None of those were hypocrisy.
They were telling you what they would do.
What they will do.
What they are doing.
Ignore them at your peril.
As an aside:
These kinds of statements of faith or covenants have a huge effect outside of academia as well. For example, as California Health Online reported last month,
"As the University of California’s health system renews contracts with hundreds of outside hospitals and clinics — many with religious affiliations — some of its doctors and faculty want stronger language to ensure that physicians can perform the treatments they deem appropriate, including abortions for women or hysterectomies for transgender patients."
In 2016, one in six hospital beds in the US was at "a facility that complies with Catholic Directives that prohibit a range of reproductive health care services even when a woman’s life or health is in jeopardy," with that percentage reaching up to 40% in some regions. Now, after dealing with COVID-19, small and rural hospitals are staggering, with more than 200 rural hospitals currently at risk of closure in 2023, reducing the ability of people to "choose" an alternative even further.