About a month ago we hosted Shane Claiborne along with other ministries in our church. It was an amazing night, and Shane was an amazing humble person. He was not only the epitome of a gracious and loving person, but everything you would want in a lecturer. He understood his context and was able to present his message in a way that would be receptive and heard…he wasn’t there to cause a ruckus or anger people. That’s why I find the story below both unbelievably sad, though not surprising as I stated.

Christianity Today reports that The Baptist school, Cedarville University in Ohio cancels the lecture by Shane Claiborne that they had planned after a number of vocal bloggers speak up. (HT: Mike DeVries)

This is one of my favorite lines in the article:

Carl Ruby, Cedarville’s vice president for student life, told CT that although there was “a high degree of receptivity on campus” to the Claiborne lecture, he decided to cancel the lecture to avoid risking conveying the wrong message about Cedarville’s doctrinal beliefs.

“There was a tension between my desire to use this event to challenge students to take a closer look at a very important social issue, and the need to protect Cedarville’s reputation as a conservative, Christ-centered university,” said Ruby. “There can’t be any confusion about our commitment to God’s Word and our historically conservative doctrinal position.

“Nearly all of the opposition to Claiborne’s visit came from off campus,” he said. “The reaction from both faculty and students has been along the lines of, ‘We are a university … We need to be having these kinds of conversations on campus if we are going to adequately equip the next generation of Christian leaders.’ “

What? I have a few thoughts running through my head right now.

  • “There was tension between my desire to use this event to challenge students to take a closer look at a very important social issue, and the need to protect Cedarville’s reputation as a conservative, Christ-centered university.” So protecting their reputation was more important that looking at important social issues that I would argue are part of God’s Truth.
  • They aren’t the only ones guilty of this…I know we all are, but it’s sad when our reputations are more important then exposing people to Truth, and I would argue that Jesus, at great risk to himself, took on important social issues of the day, rather than protecting his reputation or those that were bearers of the conservative theological tradition. If anything, he seemed to disorient and challenge those who believed that their reputations and ideas about their conservative theological doctrines were correct.
  • It’s not implicity said, but there is this idea that to have Shane would move them away from being “Christ-centered.” As if Shane isn’t Christ-centered.
  • So the opposition was from off campus, but they cancelled him anyway. That is confusing. If you really believed as a university that having Shane speak was part of “adequately equip(ping) the next generation of Christian leaders” as they state, then why would they cancel him? (I’m thinking donors with money most likely).

You can read Shane’s great response to this situation titled, “Don’t Fear Disagreement” here. But here are a couple of great excerpts:

A university must believe its students are able to “test the spirits” and work out their salvation “with fear and trembling.” We are not talking about junior high kids, but young adults who are capable of discerning truth from fiction, and who need to be trusted with and exposed to diverse perspectives.

If there is anything I’ve learned from both conservatives and liberals, it’s that we can have all the “right” answers and still be mean. And when you’re mean, it’s hard for people to listen to, much less desire, your truth.

I have been working with college students for about 10 years and I firmly believe that we have to entrust them and empower them when it comes to their faith. Way too many times schools, churches and families overprotect college students out of fear they might actually be exposed to a differing opinion. In my experience with college students, that type of protection only leads to rebellion and a faith that is not actually theirs, but rather a very fragile faith that must be continaully coddled out of fear that it might fall apart.

In closing, here is what Shane continued to say:

Unfortunately it’s difficult to communicate with folks who will not talk to you, who only talk around you, as in this case. I do not have time to hunt down every rogue Web site. There’s too much constructive work to do for the Kingdom for us to spend our energies constantly reacting to every destructive voice, especially those who do not honor Matthew’s admonition to speak directly with one another in love (Matthew 18). And there is too much brokenness in the world to spend time tearing each other apart.