Letter: Why we invited Christopher Yuan

As members of the Christian community at Yale, we write this letter reluctantly, not wanting to exacerbate further the hurt, confusion and frustration of this past weekend’s events surrounding Christopher Yuan. Yet we hope that some clarification may facilitate longer-term, constructive dialogue on campus. We roundly repudiate every form of bigotry and intolerance — any action or attitude that undermines the value and dignity of any person. We recognize that, contrary to the very spirit of Jesus, the Christian church has often perpetrated such wrongs, and to the extent we can, we apologize for these inexcusable offenses.

Our hope in bringing Christopher Yuan to speak to members of the Yale Christian Fellowship and Yale Students for Christ was to shore up a respectful and loving tone among Christians. In no way did we seek to position Christopher as someone to address the broader campus community.

Unfortunately, a series of divisive and factually imprecise emails rallied together a much larger audience, many of whom did not share the faith tradition in which Christopher was operating. His story and his perspectives have been deeply influenced by his encounters with God, and it is only within that framework that his words would make sense (if, in fact, they do). The thrust of his argument was that a Christian’s identity derives ultimately from a dynamic relationship with a living God. We took the risk of inviting Christopher because he regularly speaks out against discrimination based on sexual orientation and challenges churches to communicate a holistic picture of God’s love. Nevertheless, we recognize that his presence, for many individuals, was an offense rather than a help, and we are grieved by this.

Though this may seem perplexing given this past weekend, we have long desired for more amicable relationships between LGBTQ persons and Christians (and, of course, these are not mutually exclusive groups). Emotions have been frayed, and we, too, have been weary, wishing so desperately to get past destructive polarizations and to find a place of dialogue and connection where every person feels safe to consider gender, sexuality and faith matters. Our commitment is that the staff and students of YCF and YSC never act or speak disrespectfully, much less, hatefully, toward anyone. If you know members of these groups personally, we hope that you would be able to concur that this is indeed the case. We are by no means perfect, but the God in whom we put our confidence is — perfect in love and perfect in wisdom.

Sang Yun ’93 and Greg Hendrickson ’03

April 4

Yun is the staff director of Yale Students for Christ. Hendrickson is the staff director of the Yale Christian Fellowship.

Comments

  • MC13

    “Our commitment is that the staff and students of YCF and YSC never act or speak disrespectfully, much less, hatefully, toward anyone.”

    So you chose to show this by inviting a speaker who equates LGBTQ identities with sinfulness? I’m not sure I follow. Being a friendly bigot doesn’t undo the bigotry.

  • Standards

    And they identify an atheists lifestyle as sinful. They identify people with lustful thoughts as sinful. Frankly in most evangelical branches they regard *everyone* as sinful, which is entirely why the sacrifice of Jesus and the grace of God is necessary, if I understand basic theology correctly.

    To a Christian, I am sinful and I’m not offended by that.

    If I were a Christian, I would be sinful, and I wouldn’t be offended by that.

    Perhaps we should reserve the word “bigotry” for something a bit more substantial, yes?

  • eli1

    I thought universities were supposed to be a forum for the free exchange of intellectual ideas? Sometimes you aren’t always going to agree with someone, yet we should all strive to try to at least respect the views of others without immediately trying to censor them. When did everyone on this campus start taking every little thing they disagree with so personally?

  • grumpyalum

    No one tried to censor them.
    They were abhorrent people, but they have a right to a speech.

    Students have the right to protest them without interruptions, as they did.
    What’s the problem here?

    Mind you, I’m offended by this wahoo wondering around selling his ex-gay stuff.

  • terryhughes

    The Student Executive Committee for Dwight Hall has created a religiously intolerant environment on the Yale campus. The university should investigate those involved, who manipulated an official Yale organization to serve their own bigoted agenda, or run the risk that it has failed to respond adequately to the religious harassment concerns raised here.

    Yuan was first engaged in accordance with all applicable procedures to speak at the Dwight Hall library. Based on nothing but disagreement with his religious beliefs, the Student Executive Committee for Dwight Hall humiliated Yuan and all who sought to listen to him by forcing him to another venue.

    To argue that this hateful decision is justified because the organization that booked the Dwight Hall venue did not “specify that their intention was to host Yuan” is perverse. Does the Student Executive Committee now claim to be an Inquisition of acceptable religious opinion? Why stop with banishing those articulating religious views with which one disagrees. Does Dwight Hall now have it’s own Taliban? Does the Student Executive Committee now assert its right to demand the demolition of Buddha statues in the Trumbull collection because those statues offend the religious opinions of the Student Executive Committee?

    Regardless of whether one agrees with Yuan, he only SPOKE, which ought to be as sacred as anything on this campus. But the Student Executive Committee did not just SPEAK. Its demand that Yuan switch locations was an action constituting an abuse of office, an action that was itself “one of bigotry and hatred.” The Student Executive Committee needs to find the plank in its own eye.

    Any traditionally religious person would be justified in being really frustrated and disappointed if Yale fails to respond to this gross act of religious harassment. What the Student Executive Committee did here constitutes an assault on religious tolerance which creates an environment in which any person holding traditional religious perspective may feel devalued, and worse. Shame. Shame on the Student Executive Committee for Dwight Hall and each of its members who participated in this disgraceful abuse.

    To any sensitive person, regardless of his or her religious, sexual or political orientation, the Student Executive Committee action needlessly creates barriers to traditionally religious persons from participating in all aspects of Yale life. Worse, it perpetuates an environment in which these sorts of acts are ok.

    Any such sensitive person should also hope that Yale will take the abuse perpetrated by the Student Executive Committee in this case extremely seriously and fully investigate this perversion, including performing a “climate check’’ for religious intolerance by interviewing Yuan, each involved member of the Student Executive Committee, and any other students, faculty, and administrators who may have collaborated in humiliating Yuan and this program of religious intolerance.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Let the guy speak to whoever wishes to hear him, friendly or hostile..

    However be wary of someone whose ” story and his perspectives have been deeply influenced by his encounters with God”

    Mr. Jones the book burner has such “encounters”.

    So does Lauren Bgagbo’s wife who says his continuation in office in the Ivory Coast is the Divine Will of God.

    God has been mute for 2000 years, at least to Christians, if he EVER spoke at all.

    Such “encounters” are dubious and “magical thinking” at best. They are lies at worst.

    Paul D. Keane

    M. Div. ’80

  • The Anti-Yale

    PS

    Oh, I forgot. In the 1970’s God spoke to Oral Roberts, the faith healer.

    He “told” him that he would take him back to heaven if he , Roberts, did not raise 12 million dollars by X date in order to build a medical research center on the Oral Roberts University campus.

    Roberts promptly sent out the word to millions of followers, including a poverty stricken woman in my New Haven apartment building, asking for SPECIFIC AMOUNTS OF DONATIONS.The woman came to me weeping, saying she couldn’t afford to send him money he requested and asking me what to do since she believed he would die if he didn’t get the money God had commanded him to get.

    I was too polite to explain to her that Roberts was using her faith to manipulate her.

  • The Anti-Yale

    PPS

    Last month in Pope Benedict’s newly released book, the Pope told the world that Jews were not to blame for the crucifixion of Christ. If he was speaking “ex cathedra”, the Pope was telling us the will of God.

    This means that God’s silence on the matter until last month allowed 2000 years of anti-semitism, persewcution, and Jew hating,; Then BINGO, in an instant of divine clarity, we are changed and such hatred is revealed as nonsense and bigotry by the Pope.

    OOOPS. Sorry for the 2000 years of persecution. Pass the butter, please.

    (It always was nonsense and bigotry. A three-year old knows better.)

    So much for “encounters with God”.

  • The Anti-Yale

    PPPS
    Divinity spoke to Oral Roberts in the form of a 200 foot tall Jesus, as I recall. Quite an apparition.

  • penny_lane

    No matter how many times you use the word “love,” when you proclaim the LGBTQ community sinful, and when you openly call for them to spend their entire lives celibate rather than engaging in the search for love and family that makes us human, you are still doing grave harm to that community. Invoking “God’s love” is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. As you said, you are not perfect. A truly loving God would be disappointed in Yuan and his message.

    • passerby1111

      A truly loving God loves all people; we are all sinners….from the gossiper to the liar; to the prideful and the selfish; to the murderer and the adulterer; to the sexually immoral and the slanderer. We are all sinners destined for hell because our Creator made us in His image and each of us has disobeyed His command to love Him with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, with all my strength and love my neighbor as myself. To love God means to obey Him; after all He is the One who formed the universe; Read psalm 139 and see how familiar He is with your every movement. People can say whatever they want; Mr. Yuan loves each person he spoke to because he has put their need to hear truth above his own need for affirmation. There is One he lives to please and He knows what the Lord Jesus Christ did for him and he also knows that when this very short life on earth is over he will stand before Him and give an account for what he did with what he was given. He will be able to say that he told you about Jesus. I suggest you humble yourself and ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you…get a Bible, open it up, the New Testament book of 1 John is my favorite book in which to begin. You cannot dismiss the truth without spending time in it and consulting it’s Author. It sounds as though the Lord is pursuing you otherwise why would I have happened upon this site and chosen your letter to write back to. I do not even know Christopher Yuan; my daughter knows him and says what an amazing man he is. I agree because he risks ridicule in order to share the greatest gift there is. A Savior….who loves us enough to take upon Himself the wrath of a holy God; a SAvior who died in my place and yours, took my punishment and yours in order that we might go free and not receive in our bodies the penalty of our sins which is death. Even more than that once we receive Him we receive forgiveness, new life, His Holy Spirit who is our Helper, our Comforter, our Teacher and our guarantee of eternal life with the One who loves you completely. So Penny lane…don’t know if you’ll ever see this or not. I will leave it in the Lord’s hands…I know that you are precious in His sight.
      Read 1 Timothy 1:15-16

  • Andreology

    This is a complex issue. Three of the world’s major religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) contain explicit prohibitions against sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. We are talking about a 4,000-year-old tradition of regulations that are intended to sanctify the family and provide protection for vulnerable children. Most tribal religions have established similar rules. So it is not surprising that there are people who wish to defend these traditions, which so many believe come from a divine source.

  • The Anti-Yale

    The three religions you speak of have a 4000 year old tradition of human propagation designed to insure tribal survival. (Religions are tribal rituals)

    Now that there are billions of people on the planet, it is redundant and unnecessary to make propagation rituals the centerpiece of your survival strategy—–except perhaps for tribes that live around nuclear radiation plants and tribes that do not practice safe sex.

  • penny_lane

    Andreology: “Most tribal religions have established similar rules.” So you are familiar with large numbers of “tribal” traditions? If you are, excellent. If not, you have no business making this claim. You’re also ignoring other major religious traditions (notably those of ancient civilizations in Greece, Rome, Sumerian civilizations, etc.) that did NOT have prescriptions against extramarital sexual activity.

    Plus, in a modern society with specific values against discrimination, people need to get used to being criticized for deliberately discriminatory attitudes. Most branches of Judaism and Christianity and even some of Islam have chosen to ignore ancient teachings that women are inferior to men, which is progress to be celebrated. It’s time they made the same progress with regards to sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • River Tam

    WordNet:

    **bigot – a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own**

    Sounds like we know who the bigots are at Yale.

  • penny_lane

    FailBoat- Other notable bigots being abolitionists and suffragists, if we’re going to abide so very strictly by that definition.

  • River Tam

    penny_lane: Opinions are not laws.

  • timemachinist

    terryhughes may be over-the-top in comparisons to buddha-smashing taliban, but it would indeed be shocking and scandalous if Dwight Hall meetings were subject to editorial control boards. There was zero reasonable expectation Mr Yuan would incite to violence, his was well within the realm of protected free speech. One needn’t agree with Mr. Yuan to support his right to speak without passing a political test.

  • yalestudent

    Two points:

    1) It’s hard to believe that the leaders of the two Christian student groups actually expected this talk to be anything other than a slap in the face to the LGBTQ community, especially given that they invited Yuan to speak during Yale’s pride month. If they truly didn’t see it that way, it shows a lack of understanding and sensitivity to the LGBTQ community that doesn’t support their claims to want an amicable dialogue.

    2) I would like a less vague explanation of what they expect to be the topic of their proposed “longer-term, constructive dialogue on campus”. The fact that they want to use Yuan’s teachings as a jumping-off point seems to imply that the debate they hope to incite is one about whether or not LGBTQ-identified individuals are sinful, unnatural, in need of saving, etc. Considering this as an open debate IS hurtful and hateful and bigoted. If you believe that LGBTQ people are, by virtue of their sexual orientation, bad people in God’s eyes and/or are doomed to hell, you can’t claim not to be bigoted– you can only claim that your bigoted views are God-sanctioned. Others have the right to disagree with your hateful views, and it is not bigoted for them to do so because they are disagreeing with your ideas, not with your value as a human being.

  • pikadot

    Andreology, perhaps it’s time to take some Greek? Or a course that involved critical thinking. If you go back to the earliest versions of biblical text, you wouldn’t find anything remotely resembling a word for “homosexual”. What you will find in later versions are a number of intentional changes in the wording intended to “update” the text that involve talk about homosexual behavior. However, literally all of them are either choosing to construe warnings against paedophilia (“forcing of servant boys”) as warnings against homosexuality or choose one possible interpretation among many to mean “man” or “men” and turn the phrase in to one relating to homosexuality. Consult a historian.

    If you people were truly concerned with the “divine source” of your text and the sanctity of its words, surely you would be trying to better understand that message instead of heretically claiming to know the word of God and enforce it upon others.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Some folks feel so ashamed of sexuality that they have to clean it up with divine intervention. (isn’t that the whole Original Sin envelope ?) I actually heard one noted theologian say that “Jesus was the third partner” in that theologian’s “conjugal bed”.

    Sounds like voyeurism or monitoring to me.

    Can’t folks just “connect” without all the divine hullabaloo?

  • eli1

    Why should the religious groups have to take LGBTQ interests into every decision they make? Aside from these remarks, maybe his speech was religiously inspiring in some respect. I find a lot of other things people say to be offensive. I just choose not to listen to them, rather than ruin it for others that do.

  • corey

    Only the elimination of all conservative Christians will allow all Americans to be free and the world to no longer have to live in fear of the U.S.A.’s imperialist, terrorist holy war. The conservative ideology has never helped mankind in any way, it has not only never helped mankind in anyway, it has oppressed, murdered, raped and killed all those in it’s way to gain power. History shows us this. Fact shows us this. James Madison, the “Father of the U.S. Constitution”, along with many founders of this country, regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliations, knew keeping politics and religion separate not only preserves each, but helps them flourish: “The number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church and the State.”

  • alumna08

    @terryhughes Dwight Hall is not a neutral space, it is explicitly a pro social justice space that includes christians and people of all faiths, and as such it can determine which events to host in its own space. That does not prevent groups or events it chooses not to host to seek other space on campus.
    The student executive committee was not displaying intolerance by refusing to host the Yuan event; rather, it was holding to its mission to promote community service and social justice.
    As a christian who participated in Dwight Hall while I was a student, I always felt welcomed and included. My friends and I started a christian bible study group that was part of Dwight Hall’s social justice network. Dwight Hall even has a staff member, the Magee fellow, whose job is to work with communities of faith and provide space for spiritual reflection.

  • Jaymin

    I you disagree with someone, it’s all the more reason to listen to them. At least then you understand where they’re coming from and can then craft a more effective argument against them.

    It’s why liberals should be watching Fox News. As a conservative, I admit the Fox is crap and painful to watch, but afterwards you’ll be able to counter the other side more effectively and not just talk past them.

  • terryhughes

    @alumna08

    Contrary to your claim, this is not just a case of Dwight Hall inviting those it chooses. Yuan was engaged fully in accordance with all applicable Dwight Hall procedures. The Student Executive Committee for Dwight Hall then humiliated Yuan and his Yale student audience by rejecting him AFTER THE FACT, forcing him and his listeners to another venue and, incredibly, admitting that their actions were based expressly on their disagreement with his religious views. Arguing that the Student Executive Committee for Dwight Hall did not thereby create a religiously intolerant environment on the Yale campus towards those with traditional Christian views is simply disingenuous.

    Even if one assumes for the sake of argument that Dwight Hall may be “explicitly a pro social justice space” (whatever that may mean), the Student Executive Committee’s actions were no more justified here than those of any other organization whose acts create a divisive and hostile climate on campus. In terms of the unease, exclusion, hostility and divisiveness created, what the Student Executive Committee did here is quite on par with the actions of the chanting fraternity boys so much in the news. In fact, given Dwight Hall’s closer association with the university, Dwight Hall’s acts are likely worse than those of the frat boys. Is that what it now means to be “explicitly a pro social justice space?”

    You note that you and your friends started a Christian bible study group as part of Dwight Hall’s social justice network. The Student Executive Committee appears to believes it is entitled to charge a staff member, perhaps that very same Magee fellow, with the job of listening in on such Christian bible study groups to ensure that the group toes the Dwight Hall orthodox line on religious doctrine and interpretation of the Bible. Is the Magee fellow Tomás de Torquemada? Would that, too, be consistent with an “explicitly a pro social justice space?” Just asking.

  • measurenull

    Ah where to start? Many people now identify as gay/lesbian, and that’s fine. No reasonable person believes anyone chooses to be attracted to members of the same sex. That still doesn’t mean any baby comes out of the womb homosexual (or heterosexual for that matter) so the overzealous who claim gays are “born this way” are probably wrong too. Whatever, gays exist.

    Mr. Yuan and many Christians sincerely believe that homosexuality is a result of man’s fall. While, in good sense, backing down from the claim that gays/lesbians need to be cured, they still believe that it is not God’s wish / plan for man. As such, people in homosexual relationships or who seek out such relationships are living contrary to God’s plan. There is an uproar. Such a view is bigoted, you say, and has no place on an enlightened campus.

    These Christians may then claim that they themselves are now being marginalized, and discriminated against. I, a Christian, think this is fine. What so many Christians fail to understand is that they shouldn’t be seeking to be comfortable in this world. Sure, society will pretend it tolerates your beliefs but the very moment your belief diverges in a way that threatens its stability (whether by claiming that homosexuality is not God’s plan or that premarital sex is sin), its immune system reacts. Are you hurt? I don’t see a nail through your hands…Many of you would say that the decision to invite Mr. Yuan shows that the Yale Christian Groups are too bold and need to be put in their place. I have no problem with their decision. In fact, they need to be bolder. I quote Jesus: “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

  • terryhughes

    @measurenull

    Ah where to start?

    How about starting with the basics?

    “Many people now identify as gay/lesbian…” According to just-released research by Gary Gates, demographer-in-residence at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, a think tank based at the University of California, Los Angeles, about 4 million adults identify as being gay or lesbian, representing 1.7 percent of the 18-and-over population. Gates acknowledges that pinpointing a solid figure remains an elusive task. Is 1.7 percent “many people?” Another fine linguistic point. But that’s a much lower figure than the 3 percent to 5 percent that has been the conventional wisdom in the last two decades, based on studies that themselves discredited the 10 per cent Kinsey confected.

    “No reasonable person believes anyone chooses to be attracted to members of the same sex.” This comment has something in common with assertions like “No reasonable person believes anyone chooses to be attracted to classical music” in that it compounds a thin superficial correctness concealing much profound error. Sexual orientation includes both “nature” and “nurture” components, in degrees varying quite a bit among individuals, as does enjoyment of classical music. One needs a capacity, but one also needs to cultivate … and cultivation implies a level of choice. In effect, one chooses to addict oneself in a special sense of “addiction,” but one must be capable of such addiction. You might want to read “A Theory of Rational Addiction” in The Journal of Political Economy 96: p. 675-700. Gary S. Becker (1991).

    But the looming, huge error here is the attempt to shut down dialogue with the anti-rationalist rhetorical tic “no reasonable person believes.” Please. The only thing that does it shut down educated converstion and close one’s own mind. One could go on for a very long time in this vein. But that’s what a Yale College education is supposed to do, and why IT goes on for 4 years. Of course, the student has to have the capacity to be educated and choose to cultivate the habits of the educated. Choose addiction to education, in the Becker sense. That’s especially so if one doesn’t want one’s education to stop at the college door.

  • YaleDivinityStudent

    It is a shame that these two Christian groups at Yale have chosen to support and affiliate themselves with the worst manifestations of American Christianity, that they’ve chosen to be complicit in the evils perpetuated by the religious right instead of prophetically opposing them. I would think that evangelical students at Yale would want to engage their heritage more critically and work to change it for the better, instead of slavishly following whatever the dominant evangelical views happen to be.

    Attempting to “get a dialogue going” at Yale about the moral status of same-sex relationships and desire is about as offensive as attempting to re-start conversations about whether or not women should be allowed to work outside the home or whether African Americans have souls like white people do. There are some dialogues that shouldn’t be opened at all, and the attempt to open them is itself rightly denounced as bigotry.

  • terryhughes

    Conversations about whether or not women should be allowed to work outside the home or whether African Americans have souls like white people do are very much open and necessary. Indeed, unless one wishes to resort entirely to war without end or unresponsive agitprop, the role of women in the Muslim world, for example, cannot be improved without exactly the conversations you demand be disallowed. Further, broad conversations about whether or not men should be allowed to work outside the home, or whether there should be any human males at all, or whether animals or trees have or should have souls or legal rights like humans do are all necessary and appropriate, and are ongoing. And the social role of human homosexuality is very much in flux and requires conversations at all levels, perhaps now more than ever. All of that is and will remain true regardless of whether you wish to join in any particular conversation.

    But the loss is yours alone. A mind refusing conversation is closed. A closed mind in high dudgeon is just a closed mind with an extra handicap.

  • YaleDivinityStudent

    Those conversations are not at all open or necessary in university culture. They are settled just as much as questions like whether or not humans arose via evolution or whether or not the holocaust occurred. If you want to start a forum at Yale to “get a dialogue going” about whether or not we should re-enslave black people in America, or whether the holocaust might have been a good thing, I urge you to do so. I think you’ll find your assumption that all questions should be open all the time forcefully refuted.

  • terryhughes

    @ YaleDivinityStudent

    You have a remarkably narrow view of what is properly up for university conversation and a rather disturbingly broad sense of what is “settled.” “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts” is how the great Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman defined science in his article “What is Science?” I urge you to look it up, and read it several times.

    I have not (as you incorrectly assert) expressed an assumption that ALL questions should be open ALL the time. Further, that a point might be “forcefully refuted” in a conversation is no evidence whatsoever that the conversation in which the point is located is improper. You, personally, might not wish to participate. But that, in each case, is your choice. It is appropriate that you also leave to the choice of others holding such conversations and raising such points as they desire without authoritarian declarations that the matter is “closed” or point “settled.” By whom? Experts? (See Feynmann, above) Voters? The mob? Convention? Custom? Peer group pressure? Please. Hooting down an opponent is not winning the argument or settling the point.

    Yesterday’s absurd university discussion is sometimes today’s progressive legislation. Consider that Bolivia will this month table a draft United Nations treaty giving “Mother Earth” the same rights as humans — having just passed a domestic law that does the same for bugs, trees and all other natural things in the South American country. The general structure of the law is meant to mirror Bolivia’s Law of the Rights of Mother Earth, which Bolivian President Evo Morales enacted in January. That document grants the Earth a series of specific rights that include rights to life, water and clean air; the right to repair livelihoods affected by human activities; and the right to be free from pollution. It also establishes a Ministry of Mother Earth, and provides the planet with an ombudsman whose job is to hear nature’s complaints as voiced by activist and other groups, including the state. The application of the law appears destined to pose new challenges for companies operating in the country, which is rich in natural resources, including natural gas and lithium, but remains one of the poorest in Latin America.

    There you have it: The new civil rights movement of bugs, trees and all other natural things challenges the established ancien regime of desperately impoverished humans. Which side are you on?

  • YaleDivinityStudent

    I think anything for which a compelling case can be made should be up for discussion in university culture. Unlike you, apparently, I don’t think a compelling case can be made for re-instituting slavery in America, denying women rights to work outside the home, rejecting evolution, denying the Holocaust, or promoting internalized homophobia, and if you ask your professors, I think they will all agree with me. Last I checked, there weren’t any proponents of these positions at Yale.

    Universities should welcome perspectives supported by evidence and arguments (and that, not “the mob,” as you suggest, decides which positions win and lose). They shouldn’t welcome and legitimize any perspectives at all, regardless of their support. Belief in the ignorance of the experts may be a good thing if you’re a scientist and if you have a reason for that belief. It may be a very bad thing if you’re not a scientist and reject expert knowledge not because you have a good argument against it but because it is politically inconvenient, as appears to the standard practice within many segments of the evangelical community. There is a legitimate place for challenging established knowledge and there is a legitimate place for asserting it, which is why scientists write books with titles like “Why Evolution is True.” Your model of the university apparently would have us welcome and legitimate any position whatsoever, regardless of how unfounded it may be.

  • terryhughes

    @ YaleDivinityStudent

    Really? The standard you advance is that only positions “for which a compelling case can be made should be up for discussion in university culture?” That standard would mean that any conversation with a clear wrong side shouldn’t occur.

    Which, by the way, is clearly wrong. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that no compelling argument could be made to defend that position. But you think no compelling argument argument can be made for MY position (which you continue to misstate, but no matter). Either way, by your own propsed standard you should not be having this converstion, since one side or the other cannot mount a compelling argument in your judgment. Very well then, you are large, you contain multitudes.

    Further, a main point of conversation is for people who are clearly wrong (and can offer no compelling argument for their positions) to come to understand that they are wrong and why. That’s also true of much of education.

    So, in addition to leading to the conclusion that you should not be in this conversation, your proposed standard is inconsistent with key goals of both conversation and education. Nice.

  • YaleDivinityStudent

    You have articulated no basis to explain why, for example, Yale shouldn’t and doesn’t hire Intelligent Design advocates or Holocaust deniers. If you asked the chairmen/women of the relevant departments, I think they would tell you precisely what I have: there aren’t compelling evidence or arguments for either of those positions. In other words, they aren’t positions on which those educated in the relevant fields can legitimately disagree, unlike, say realism versus neoliberal institutionalism in international politics or capitalist versus marxist economic theories or theistic versus atheistic positions in the philosophy or religion or the host of other opposing issues on which universities intentionally recruit an ideologically diverse faculty. So yes, there are contradictory positions that deserve to be represented because their proponents have a point. And then there are positions motivated solely by bigotry or ideology, or by a combination of those things with sloppy arguments, and those don’t deserve to be given university sanction and they aren’t. They may deserve to be addressed if they become important aspect of our culture (it’s fair to teach biology students why Intelligent Design is wrong), and they may even deserve a fairer hearing if their proponents can put together a better case for their positions. Students, of course, should be free to bring up these perspectives and argue for them as they like. But they don’t deserve official university sanction as “valid perspectives.”

  • pikadot

    I think that YDS has hit on a valid point that can be hard for non-scientists (especially those in the thrall of the post-modern cultural relativism kick) to grapple with:

    Since Plato (and likely before) we’ve been attempting to create systems by which we can compare the merits of arguments. To the degree that the world is observable, we have extremely concrete means for evaluating most naturally-occurring phenomena. Therefore, your opinion isn’t “just as valid as anyone else’s”. It’s actually testable. The truth is demonstrable. Sadly, precious few people are interested in understanding the world that way. Anyway, the point is that matters of biological evolution, Earth’s age, historical account (especially where it concerns attempts at genocide), the biological basis and social impacts of sexual equality…all of these things can be accounted for in a quantitative way. So can claims about reforming homosexuals, and the implied or stated beliefs and revenue streams of people who claim to be able to do so.

  • terryhughes

    @ YaleDivinityStudent

    If you only want to participate in conversations on points as to which your mind has already been “compelled,” why did you bother to go to Yale at all? Trying to suppress discussion of the Biblical view of homosexuality with insistent attempts to derail it into a discussion of the holocaust and slavery is not serious conversation. Indeed, I know more than one jewish family that maintains a strict rule of dinnertime conversation requiring that the first person who mentions the holocaust must admit losing.

    It would be remarkable if a single Yale faculty member thought that ANY serious topic is properly settled by taking a poll of Yale faculty (or Chairs) on the topic.

    Serious conversations regarding when and under what conditions society might embrace slavery, racism, mass killing, torture and all manner of other unsavory things should and do occur at Yale. Discussion of whether the Koran demands the mass killing of conquered people who are not “People of the Book” go on at the Yale Divinity School. Are you paying attention? The Yale economics department does not proscribe discussions of what economic conditions might arise in the future that might create huge financial incentives for some part of mankind to enslave another. One of the country’s leading experts on the proper use of torture sits on the faculty at Yale Law School (Harvard has another). It’s called “Yale University” not “Pollyanna University.” That one must be careful of what one says around excitable students is not to the contrary.

    By the way, are abortion rights among the many, many possibly transitory doctrines you apparently consider “settled” to the point of non-conversation, as you do gay rights? If so, did you miss the fact that a United Nations treaty giving “Mother Earth,” bugs, trees and all other natural things the same rights as humans (including a “right to life”) has a huge potential to completely upend the “fundamental right” of a woman to seek an abortion? That right is predicated on the rather tenuous distinction between a “human” and a “fetus.” But the human fetus is just as much a “natural thing” as a bug. So giving “Mother Earth,” bugs, trees and all other natural things the same rights as humans (including the ‘right to life) leads to the lieklihood that fetuses are entitled to some kind of due process hearing before they are aborted. No doubt the Ministry of Mother Earth and its appointed ombudsman will want to investigate if the proposed abortion is being perpetrated for non-PC motives, such as all those abortions of female fetuses that have cost the planet so many millions of the women to which Mother Earth is entitled! Of course, there are plenty who would consider Bolivian President Evo Morales to be a complete idiot for fostering this law. Is all of that (for you) beyond conversation?

    If so, as I asked above, why did you bother to go to Yale at all? No need to answer me. That’s a question for yourself.

  • YaleDivinityStudent

    The point of bringing up the Holocaust is to show your position reduces to absurdity. Again: You have articulated no basis to explain why Yale shouldn’t and doesn’t hire Intelligent Design advocates or Holocaust deniers. Unless you think it should hire such faculty members, this would seem to be quite a liability for your position.

    I have no problem at all with faculty arguing for non-politically correct positions. I was happy when Princeton tenured the right-wing Robert P. George because he is a serious thinker and makes cogent arguments, even if I disagree with him. Your blithe assumption that there is such a thing as “the Biblical view of homosexuality,” when “homosexuality” as a concept didn’t even exist until the late 1800s, betrays your own limited exposure to conflicting perspectives. Conversations about the moral status of gay relations do occur at Yale Divinity School, and not all faculty support them (though most do). But they aren’t coupled to the type of transparent bigotry and pseudoscience of organizations like Exodus International and their affiliates.

    A better question might be: why did you go to Yale when you apparently view it as so hostile to debate on topics that are so important to you?

  • YaleDivinityStudent

    And incidentally, having faculty that discuss the history, sociology, or economics of conditions like slavery is not even close to having faculty that endorse slavery. Your counterargument is a nonstarter.

  • trolleo

    lol to see this debate go straight to an anti-religion debate. it’s funny that we, yalies, can criticize others for not being open-minded, but fail to realize that religion is something to be respected as much as someone’s race, gender, or sexual orientation.

    and oh god, the holocaust argument strikes again! since we’re using non-constructive childish arguments here: yds, you’re an idiot. unless phd stands for pretty huge douche, you’re not applying it correctly.

  • YaleDivinityStudent

    None of my arguments are “anti-religious,” and if you think my argument is wrong, by all means explain why. It’s not meant to establish a moral equivalence between the holocaust and opposing homosexuality but to demonstrate the obvious point (or it should be obvious) that universities should and do exclude certain perspectives.

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