This past week, Grand Canyon University, a private Christian university in Phoenix, cancelled an appearance by conservative Ben Shapiro, citing a desire to “bring unity to a community that sits amidst a country that is extremely divided.”
This is hardly the first time that Shapiro has had the speaking rug pulled out from under him. It’s a rite of passage in this PC-climate in which we live, where snowflake-students (and the administrators who coddle them) believe that education happens when we stop our ears from hearing voices that might disturb us (as opposed to that oh-so-old-fashioned idea that education happens when we learn to engage in spirited debate with others, and may the best argument win.)
But that this happened at a conservative, evangelical university is what’s uniquely bothersome this time around. Ben Shapiro is a practicing Jew, who shares substantial moral and spiritual DNA with practicing evangelicals. Grand Canyon University even acknowledged this in its statement.
Nonetheless their statement went on to read: “Our decision to cancel Shapiro’s speaking engagement is not a reflection of his ideologies or the values he represents, but rather a desire to focus on opportunities that bring people together.”
This milquetoast response is troubling on several levels. The last time I looked, colleges and universities were not about the mission of bringing people together but on educating the minds of its students. This should be especially true for a Christian university which should be about the task of training its students how to live well and think well as followers of Christ in the present age.
Ben Shapiro does this for a living everyday as a writer and radio commentator, as he takes to the microphone and pen to passionately, humorously, intelligently defend classical Judeo-Christian ethics before a world that is growing ever more hostile toward those values. He truly is one of the good guys. (I mean, come on, just look at him. He could have been Michael J. Fox’s stand-in on Family Ties).
A Christian university should be about the task of training its students how to live well and think well as followers of Christ in the present age.
It is awe-inspiring to listen to him speak. There is a verbal Autobahn that runs between his brain and mouth. Obviously, with a man of so many words and so many ideas, he’ll share plenty of things you can disagree with, but he won’t share them in a way that’s disagreeable. He doesn’t name-call or insult his audience. He’s as far from Trumpian as you can get.
And should you disagree with him, then you better come to the fight ready to rumble with the one-two punch of logic and reason. Because he’ll send flying back at you specific reasons why he believes what he believes.
Which is exactly why Grand Canyon University disowned its mission and dishonored its students by cancelling Shapiro’s appearance.
I would argue that one of the greatest things needed in the wider Church today is training is cultural apologetics. We’ve done a great job with theological apologetics. Thanks to the Josh McDowell’s and Ravi Zacharias’ and William Lane Craig’s of this world, any Christian who wants can learn how to defend the resurrection of Christ or explain the cosmological argument or show how the Old and New Testaments square together (Andy Stanley would do well to study that material again.)
But most people aren’t rejecting the faith today because they can’t piece together biblical illiteracy. They’re staying away because they think we hate gays, or are racists, or are heartless when it comes to immigration, or are in the back-pockets of the Republican party.
The first Christians were masters of “cultural apologetics”. They knew how to explain why the Christian belief system and ethical system blew out of the water anything that the Greek and Roman pagans offered. It’s one reason among many why the gospel swept like a wildfire across the Roman empire, despite facing three centuries of relentless opposition. Now as our culture reverts back to a variety of pagan ideas (particularly in regards to sexuality), it’s time to relearn this classic discipline.
Most people aren’t rejecting the faith today because they can’t piece together biblical illiteracy. They’re staying away because they think we hate gays, or are racists, or are heartless when it comes to immigration, or are in the back-pockets of the Republican party.
Cultural apologetics is what needs to come front and center now (not meaning we throw out the other. Never!) Theological apologetics just needs to scooch over to the passenger seat for awhile.
But in yielding to the siren song of political correctness and in desiring to gain the approval of the unbelieving culture (which ain’t gonna happen), one might say that there’s a mile-wide chasm now between what Grand Canyon University did, and should have done.
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.