Community appreciates constructive disagreement
On Wednesday, I received a message from my Lutheran Student Fellowship e-mail list promoting several events meant as alternatives to Sunday’s TBA showings. While I was at first somewhat amused — what is this, another outcry from the minority religious right? — it dawned on me that the approach they’re taking is a bit different.
Last semester, during Pirates, the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) had what they call an “outreach event.” This semester, their efforts were more extensive. IVCF joined forces with several other Christian groups Sunday to have a sexuality workshop, screenings of Crash in the Connan Room, and a table with information about sexuality for students in line to see TBA.
The advertising may have been a bit subversive; for the “alternative movie” event, in particular, it seems that they were more interested in promoting their Dave & Andy’s sundaes than their moral outreach. The end result, though, was unintimidating: a very non-invasive banner soliciting open discussion about sex.
Consider also what these groups didn’t do. They didn’t stage a one-sided protest rally at the Fence. They didn’t enter the film, only to stand up and loudly disrupt the movie by shouting and heckling. They didn’t make and sign an empty “declaration of unity” against an “evil force.” They didn’t ask President Cohon to appoint an ad-hoc committee to investigate. Most importantly, they didn’t call KDKA investigative reporter Marty Griffin on the scene to write a sensationalist hack job so riddled with factual errors that he might as well have made it up.
No, they did something that seems to happen rarely — if ever — on this campus anymore: They engaged in rational discourse. They presented their own opinions in a highly available manner; they provided another reason and another means for students not to consume pornography. They provided a present, clear voice for the part of campus that disapproves of pornography. For this, IVCF and the other groups involved are to be commended.
These groups may have been even more successful, though, had they taken a step back and decided what message they wanted to send. To portray the moral conflict as a purely Christian vs. non-Christian issue looks past a majority of the potential audience. IVCF and the others could have reached many more people by carefully outlining the issues from a point of view of social mores and norms about sexuality in modern society. How many people simply ignored all of their attempts because God was attached to them? How many potential moral outreach opportunities were lost because of the chalk war under the UC loggia between directions to TBA and “JESUS SAVES”?
The members of IVCF who created these events need to realize that Christian life does not need to be about trying to instill the Holy Spirit in every person walking the street. They should learn that only by their own example of living according to Christian values will others get the message.
The only reason the Activities Board still shows pornography on campus is that students want to see it. It has taken the form of a fun, humorous event where people can relax for a few hours. Regardless of whether pornography is morally reprehensible and exploitative of women or just a good time for those watching and supportive of a free market, those who inflame the debate will only make the opposing sides of the argument more jaded.
Abandoning the “this is how I feel, and you’re wrong” approach for a “here’s why I think this; what’s your take?” approach may, in the end, be the best way to move toward enrichment for all of us.