Over the past week, Yale students have once again encountered Brother Stephen White, who has preached for repentance of our “lives of rebellion” and acceptance of Jesus Christ as everyone’s savior.
As a greenhorn in the Yale community, I am appalled by some of White’s delusions, but also by some unreasonable responses to the issue by students.
Yes, it is true that White has every legal right to stand on Wall Street and preach his doctrines. I wholeheartedly support individuals who foster discussion, or at least personal contemplation.
While I am not asking for a banishment of White’s presence on campus, Yalies should take every step to end unnecessary misinterpretation of our diverse community.
First, White compares himself to Jonathan Edwards, saying “I am as much an extremist as — Edwards” (“Preserving the gospel of Jonathan Edwards,” 3/1). Sinning may have been a pertinent issue in the time of Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” but Beinecke Plaza is not a church pulpit. White is preaching to a mostly liberal population at Yale that embraces democratic ideals. He is wrong in assuming his radical views will get very far here.
White claims that females wearing tight jeans are asking for males to look at them, and therefore asking to be “whores,” or those females who participate in sex out of wedlock. In other words, he would be against last Friday’s Yale Daily News Scene “Fashion Issue” (3/1) that pointed to colorful spring clothing as a reflection of the diversity of Yalies’ fashion sense.
White also claims that Yalies lead “lives of rebellion.” He is against homosexuality, alcohol consumption and premarital sex. In other words, he would be against our Coming Out Week, wine tastings and Peer Health.
Maybe we are rebellious in that some of us have protested unfair treatment in the sweatshops that produce Yale gear. And maybe we are rebellious because we engage in “Tupac talking,” as White describes it. This is actually just typical impassioned Yalies responding to White’s drivel.
We are not rebellious, however, in our expression of sexuality, religion, ethnicity or political affiliation. We are females, Muslims, gays, African Americans, Jews and intellectuals. In a democratic, free world, these are forms of identification, not rebellion.
Student response to White has been slightly upsetting, as well. Infuriation is typical of Yale students after an encounter with White. But we should not be appalled by his extremist opinions. Are we appalled by a homeless person asking for money? Isn’t this homeless person a walking sermon about poverty in New Haven, as White is a preacher of radical Christianity?
Students have not just been angered by White’s practice of freedom of speech. Yalies have responded to evangelical fliers around campus that ask such questions as “What for?” by saying that they have a right to attend class without religious propaganda staring them in the face. It is true that classrooms should be devoid of religious propaganda because religion and education are legally separate.
But if you accept living in a free, democratic country, then you accept being bombarded by the Adidas logo on a student’s bag, a man preaching extreme Christianity, a flier advertising Slifka Bagel Brunch, a call for Walden counselor applicants, and any other student organization promotion that is tacked to a bulletin board.
It is therefore our right to be enraged by White but respond in a calm and rational manner. It is our right to maintain our civil community where Muslims are not scorned and homosexuals are not estranged. It is our right to ask questions, share our thoughts, and jump in and out of discussions at our own free will.
It is most importantly our right to condemn any type of alienation, especially that which threatens our Yale identity.
Sarah Weiss is a freshman in Branford College. Her columns appear on alternate Wednesdays.