It seems like each new school year lately brings another scandalous story of something stupid a college fraternity has done. In my home state of Virginia, Old Dominion University’s Sigma Nu fraternity is this year’s culprit.
As parents were arriving on campus recently to tearfully drop off their freshmen to begin this exciting new phase of life, they were greeted with large welcoming banners hanging from the frat house. “I hope your baby girl is ready for a good time…” read one. “Freshman daughter drop off…” read another accompanied by an arrow directing them to the frat house front door. Still another read, “Go ahead and drop off mom too…”
The reaction was pretty predictable. There was outrage. There were demands for action. There were calls (since heeded) for the fraternity to be suspended pending an investigation. School officials reasserted their opposition to any and all forms of sexual harassment. The national leadership of Sigma Nu declared their shock over the event and insisted such behavior is totally out of sync with the fraternity’s values. And so and so forth.
Personally, I was mostly shaking my head over the bone-headedness of some representatives of my half of the species when some words Chuck Colson wrote a few years ago reminded me that while the offensive banners were a problem, they are not by any means the problem here. And the sad part is: most of the folks reacting with the loudest volume to this incident will almost certainly be calling for dealing with only this symptom of the real problem and not the disease itself.
So then, what’s the real problem? Worldview. Specifically the worldview (or rather, set of worldviews) common on college and university campuses all over the country. Think about it: While the hanging of the actual banners was bad, the real problem with this particular incident is that when the frat brothers were all sitting around one night talking about upcoming events on campus somebody proposed this idea and nobody else recognized that it was a bad enough idea they probably shouldn’t follow through with it.
Well, on whom or what should we fix the blame for this? Is it merely a case of boys being boys without any meaningful adult supervision? Perhaps, but if in a group of 19, 20, and 21-year-olds—all adults in legal terms—no one has sense enough to speak up and say, “Hey guys, that’s really stupid; we shouldn’t do that,” after one, two, or three years of college, I’d have to say there are bigger problems at play. Despite the particulars of the various worldviews competing for dominance on college campuses around the country (e.g. naturalism, Freudianism, New-ageism, materialism, secularism, postmodernism, radical feminism, secular liberalism, etc.) the one thing all of them share is a fierce commitment to sexual freedom.
Consider these words from Chuck: “For nearly 50 years, academia, the feminist movement, and post-modern society have embraced sexual freedom as the ultimate good. . . .Well, guess what—If you promote sexual license—especially on campuses—what do you get? That’s right. Sexual license. You approve and encourage immoral behavior, and then you’re surprised when young men don’t behave like gentlemen. Are you kidding me?”
While Chuck could have written this in the past week, he was actually writing several years ago. In the Fall of 2010 some Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges on the Yale University campus were marching around chanting, “No means yes!” and holding signs proclaiming, “We love Yale sluts,” and other even more derogatory things. In response, a group of students sued the University for allowing a “sexually hostile environment” to persist on campus. I would have to say they had a point. The University, for its part, responded by suspending the fraternity for five years.
Chuck’s exasperated question, though, was really intended for the offended students and faculty at Yale. One of several possible reasons is that each year Yale plays host to what’s called “Sex Week.” During this widely popular event students are able to attended seminars put on by actors and actresses in the porn industry, enjoy tutorials in the use of various sex toys, screen pornographic films, learn from various how-to classes on a variety of sexual practices, and so on. So the university hosts what is essentially a pornography workshop for the student body—all in the name of sexual freedom of course—and then is shocked when some of the students respond by acting out the mindset toward women encouraged by the pornography industry. I believe in technical terms that’s called “Reaping What You Sow.”
What we believe matters because what we believe plays a significantly determinative role in what we do. Students at Yale, ODU, and many, many other institutions of higher learning across the country have been led (and sometimes coerced) into believing things that aren’t right without much thought being given to the broader (and largely predictable) behavioral consequences of believing such things. Again, as is the example here, they are taught both implicitly and explicitly that sexual freedom is one of the highest goods a person can achieve.
Once these lessons have been learned, students tend to act on them. Sometimes those actions are mostly just stupid—like Sigma Nu’s banners—but they won’t always be. And, just because something’s mostly just stupid doesn’t mean it’s not a symptom of a bigger problem. I wonder how many of the fraternity brothers of Sigma Nu—or those of Delta Kappa Epsilon of a few years ago—would see anything really wrong with taking advantage of a young woman whose inhibitions had been lowered with copious amounts of alcohol or a few pills. They are, after all, only pursuing their sexual freedom to its fullest. Of course, their sexual freedom of expression is harming the freedom of others, but when something like sexual freedom is the highest good, those kinds of things have to get sorted out resulting in confusing and hard-to-enforce policies like those recently enacted in California and New York.
What we—and our students…and for that matter our culture—need is a better worldview charting our course. If I might humbly offer a suggestion: How about the one that was discarded in favor of all these others which are obviously not producing anything like the kind of results they boasted they could achieve in their infancy? Or perhaps Chuck should just have the final word here: “…the Christian worldview is the only worldview that provides us with a rational way to live in the world. It’s the only worldview that we can live with. We simply can’t live with the logical outcomes of other worldviews…”