After a brief silence, we are back. In case you were wondering, The Ventriloquist is still alive. I promised to manage The V this year because of the urgent and growing need for sources of critical thinking within the Cedarville community. Things are changing and we need this paper. However, my purpose is not to indict Cedarville or its Administration. In fact, I do not wish to harm or belittle anyone. My focus is entirely student-based, and I believe The V must rise above its critics and opponents. The growing one-sidedness of our community, education, and events—such as the Religious Freedom Summit—reveal an urgency to keep this open-minded student platform available.
This year, many positive changes have taken place. An anonymous, but conservative and open-minded friend has agreed to help edit the paper. This person will prevent antagonism and fallacy. Subject matter will shift: I may still give voice to those who are mistreated, but we will focus on broader topic matter outside of our community. This is not the place for antagonism. I want to unite my conservative, moderate, and liberal friends under one banner. I want to uplift critical thinking into something positive; a place where all people can respectfully disagree. Yet critical thinking would not be useful without the critical. While anyone may write, no matter their labels, each article must challenge a widely held idea within the community.
Perhaps I should offer a personal introduction. My name is Austin Becton; I am a Junior English major, former Yellow Jackets Debater, and a passionate critic of censorship. I am also your new Executive Editor. I promise to use The V as a peacemaking tool, with kindness, even to my opponents. Although he declined to meet with us, I want to [publicly, instead] forgive Dr. White for the catastrophe that was our April distribution. I also want to apologize to Dr. White, and the entire Student Body. The last two years were tremendously difficult and those within our network often lashed out abrasively. I believe we should settle our issues with a formal apology and forgiveness from all sides. Let this be the end, and a new beginning for our paper.
And where does this leave us? Where, in our portion of Cedarville history, in its developing timeline, do we leave our mark? The Religious Freedom Summit, of course. In this article, I will not attempt to bash Cedarville for hosting the summit. All over the world, people kill and torture over religious belief. I approach this issue seriously and I appreciate Cedarville’s concern. Yet the underpinning assumptions and promotions of this event reflect a growing movement of Christian backlash against new developments in American culture. The narrative of Popular Christianity in America is that the gay-accepting, feminist-supporting, government-endorsing, so-called “left” wing desires an assault religious freedom. I strongly believe the reason Popular Christianity feels this way is because it refuses to promote open and fair dialogue with its alleged enemies. Popular Christianity refuses to talk and refuses to understand the motivations and experiences of minorities and left-leaning ideologies. This is where we come in. The Ventriloquist promotes fair and open dialogue with “other” opinions; this year, we will continue publishing opinions that challenge norms and widely held ideas on Campus. There has never been a more critical time for The V to engage with students than today.
To demonstrate, Popular American Christianity has been crying out over its alleged oppression for decades. Gays are corrupting families, morality, and marriage. Feminists hate men. Government is inherently evil and targets Christians. The LGBTQ+ debate shocks me above all. Large rallying cries, for example, of Chick-fil-A and Phil Robertson speak volumes about the fear over alleged Christian-oppression. Yet, at the point when roughly 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ kids, forced onto the streets by their “Christian” parents, and when gay people are frequently stripped of their jobs, positions, and reputations in “Christian” organizations, I refuse to believe Christians are under assault. If anything, Christianity is under assault by a far right, cultural ideology that falls under the “Kingdom of this World,” more so than the “Kingdom of Jesus.” It is no surprise that with so much historical power, right-wing Christian politics is extremely afraid right now because America is entering a time of equality not seen since Martin Luther King Jr. led us to civil rights. Dominant ideologies rarely support equality of any sort, because dominant ideologies like to dominate.
When Jesus warns us that the Gospel will be offensive to people, he does not reference Hobby Lobby or Phil Robertson in American media. He does not think of Religious Freedom advocates. In fact, He means something entirely different, which Popular Christianity misunderstands. The reason some denominations, faiths, and the secular community take offense to the ideas of conservative figures is that these conservative figures often represent systematic harms for many people. Phil Robertson’s advocacy has real world impacts. The ideology sometimes motivates people to force LGBTQ+ children onto the streets. Consider racism. It was not until the 1990’s that the Southern Baptist Convention apologized for its racist stances throughout the civil rights movement and for using Biblical justifications to support racist discrimination. Popular Fundamentalist Christianity has been legitimately offensive and harmful to millions of minorities. Phil Robertson and Hobby Lobby are not criticized for believing in Jesus, but for symbolically representing oppression in the minds of those oppressed populations. If we really fall for this modern definition of the “offensive Gospel” concept, Westboro Baptist Church must be the most Christ-honoring place on Earth. [Note: Robertson and Hobby Lobby’s harmful attitude is debatable, and is not my point. My point is that people perceive right-wing individuals as harmful because so many right wing figures align themselves with actual, systematically oppressive ideology. My point is that Left-Wing ideology does not find Jesus inherently offensive.]
I strongly differ with Popular Christianity on why the Gospel is offensive. The Gospel is offensive to Pharisees: the highly “religious,” who stress works over Grace. Grace is offensive. It is offensive to Pharisees that, yes, Jesus absolutely loves the LGBTQ+ community. He loves people of other races, equally. He loves women and he loves what women have to say. “Oh, how He loves us!” That is offensive. And yes, I will rub the love of Jesus in your face, because there is only one general concept you can kindly rub in someone’s face. Love. Respect. Peace. The aspects of Grace.
I hope this Summit and my commentary demonstrates the urgent need for critical thinking and perspective. Let this article usher in a new era for The V. Let it be known that we love our community and will graceful uphold its new focus on “boldness,” by critically engaging students with other ideas. This year, I hope our reader base broadens. I hope to include my conservative friends into our discussion of constructive criticism. I hope we come across as fans of Cedarville who simply challenge its ideas to promote its own critical thinking abilities. I hope all people, no matter their political ideology, will feel compelled to contribute articles and to know that I will accept and read all of them fairly. I hope they will keep us in check, ensuring that we remain a source of peacemaking and honor the bold Grace of Jesus Christ.
NOTE: If you would like to submit an article, directly email it to my personal address for review: [email protected] Please include a brief statement explaining how it challenges a widely held belief on campus.