Civil Discourse, Liberal Education and Freedom: Speak Freely – So Long as You Agree with Me

Eric Metaxas
Eric Metaxas

Is it too much to ask people to listen politely to those with whom they disagree? I hope not.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of speaking at college campuses across the country. Most of the schools, as you might imagine, are Christian institutions or schools with a more traditionalist or conservative worldview, such as Hillsdale College.

But there are exceptions. A few weeks ago, I was one of five people honored with honorary doctorates by The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. For those of you unfamiliar with the school, it’s affiliated with the Episcopal Church and it’s one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.

Outwardly, everything about Sewanee cries “tradition”—the buildings, the beautiful 13,000-acre setting in the Cumberland Mountains and the convocation at which I addressed the student body. But politically and theologically, it’s fair to say that Sewanee is better described as “progressive.” So much so that a dear friend of mine was actually upset that I accepted the invitation.

In my convocation address I said that there is a move afoot on campuses “to marginalize and even to demonize voices of traditional and historic Christian faith. . . and that this is troubling . . . because to think we can have real and enduring freedom and real liberal education without robust voices of faith ignores history.” What’s more, these expressions of faith cannot be limited to the private sphere—they must circulate in the free marketplace of ideas.

I spoke of Os Guinness’ “Golden Triangle” of freedom, virtue, and faith, all of which depend on each other, which is why standing up for religious freedom is so vital for any healthy society.

And then I urged students to “listen respectfully” to those with whom they disagree, because “This is at the heart of liberal education and it’s at the heart of democracy and freedom.”

At the time I thought it went rather well. But then I read an opinion piece published in the student newspaper. It called my speech “one of the most offensive and disgusting” the writer had ever witnessed. It said that, “Beneath a thin veneer of reason and civil discourse,” I “continued to push [my] evangelical agenda.”

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Breakpoint
Eric Metaxas