Yale, the Christian, and “unrelenting daily confrontation”
Kristen Waggoner | Believers have an opportunity and an obligation to defend First Amendment rights
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It’s been more than 70 years since William F. Buckley Jr. wrote God and Man at Yale. In what some have described as a “lover’s quarrel” with his alma mater, Buckley challenged the Ivy League’s political radicals and made the case that Yale was threatening the future of American society by indoctrinating its students toward collectivism and atheism.
Despite his prescience, I suspect that even Buckley would be shocked by the explosive new illiberalism expressed by students at Yale’s law school. In the wake of the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft majority opinion signaling a likely overturn of Roe v. Wade, Yale law school students posted social media messages recommending that conservative classmates be challenged with “unrelenting daily confrontation” for daring to agree with the premise of the opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito—that Roe was wrongly decided and should be struck down. Other students argued that it’s “no time for reform” and that “neither the Constitution nor the courts—nor the [obscenity] illusion of ‘democracy’—are going to save us.”
To be fair, the students don’t seem to have calculated that their Instagram posts would be shared with a national audience. Perhaps they would have exercised more restraint if they intended to be noticed by journalists or future employers. But the social media rants match the passion and the totalitarian nature of the insults and harassment I faced on their campus several weeks earlier. I wrote in detail about my experience there. Suffice it to say, the students’ belligerence and refusal to tolerate my presence on campus do not bode well for the future practice of law or civil discourse.
If you don’t have a child in the public schools, you might be tempted to think that this wild-eyed illiberalism—this hyperventilating crusade—is outside the norm. Friends, I regret to say that it is becoming the norm. Almost every day, the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Center for Academic Freedom fields calls that reveal such intolerance in public schools and universities. The reality that some of the nation’s most elite law students devoutly demand chaos and unrelenting confrontation means that we—Christians who believe in robust pluralism and debate—can’t stand passively by.
How, then, should Christians respond? We begin with gratitude for God’s good gifts of citizenship in this great country and, much more profoundly, in our ultimate citizenship, where justice is pure and permanent. This double gratitude doesn’t leave much room for panic or passivity. But it does empower us toward cheerful engagement with our neighbors, even when they lack charity and civility. It animates our engagement in myriad public and private ways—depending on the contours of our callings and the seasons of our lives.
In the face of calls for “unrelenting confrontation,” we have the opportunity and the obligation to advocate for something uncomfortable: a robust defense of First Amendment rights—freedom of speech, religion, and conscience—for all. While Christians may not enjoy a partnership with many progressive elites in this effort, our advocacy isn’t simply for our own protection. We affirm the dignity of our neighbors and their efforts to pursue truth. And we’re working to keep the door open for the gospel.
We also fight publicly to defend the profoundly personal and fundamental rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children. I’ve written about the alarming threats to parental rights, especially when it comes to public school intersectional indoctrination. We simply can’t afford to turn a blind eye when the public schools treat parents as a problem and an afterthought, rather than partnering with them to support their children.
I work for one of several organizations leading the public effort for robust First Amendment protection. But our public advocacy is contingent on the thousands of private decisions Americans are making to exercise their freedoms.
And here’s where I’m especially hopeful. There still are students—even at Yale Law School—who haven’t adopted a progressive illiberal view of the world. There are professors who respect their students enough not to gaslight them with intersectional ideology. There are parents who are engaged, listening to their children and kindly articulating truths to expose the lies they face daily. There are corporate employees who decline to support the competitive wokeness of their employers. There are pastors who faithfully open God’s Word and allow the truth to illuminate the darkness.
There are a thousand ways by which faithful, prayerful Christian Americans can—and do—stand even in the face of “unrelenting daily confrontation.” We stand with joy because we know and trust the God who is wiser than any Yale grad, more just than any Supreme Court justice, and kinder than the most loving parent. Such knowledge gives us the courage to simply, and kindly, do the right thing.
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