Neutrality as to ultimates?

An activist group, the Alliance Defense Fund, has placed advertisements in major university newspapers urging students to report incidents of anti-Christian bigotry on campus and providing a toll-free number and email address for the purpose. According to the group’s chief counsel, “Students must understand that the protections of the First Amendment do not stop at the university gate.” The group had previously brought successful legal actions against several universities such as Rutgers, which had insisted that a Christian group could not require its leaders to subscribe to its statement of faith, and the University of Houston, which had barred the school’s pro-life group from setting up a display while welcoming Planned Parenthood.

Such efforts are well-meant and perhaps necessary. After all, is it only devotees of voodoo who should benefit from the current regime? Why not Christians too? And why not dramatize the contradictions of “tolerance” and “inclusiveness”? Still, there is something unprincipled about supporting the “level playing field” as the ultimate standard for dealing with ideas. The problem, of course, is that the standard suggests that it’s wrong for public institutions to commit themselves to any idea. Instead, they should base themselves on form and procedure, and be completely neutral regarding all substantive views of what life is about. The suggestion is liberal obfuscation. To claim to avoid deciding fundamental issues like the nature of the good, beautiful and true is in reality to refuse to discuss them and impose a solution by default—the view that the good, beautiful and true are simply the creations of desire and power. The consequences of that maneuver are displayed in the public culture of spin, celebrity and political correctness now forced on all of us.

Christians would do better in the long run if rather than agreeing that all ideas are created equal they pointed out that commitment is inevitable, debunked the pretence it isn’t, and explicitly presented their own answers. Accepting in advance liberal understandings like the ultimacy of equality is a recipe not for equality but for defeat.

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