The Only Problem with Christianity Is…the Christianity

In what is only the latest chapter in the story of our culture’s changing attitudes toward Christianity, Trinity Western University in British Columbia has found itself in the news lately. The Council of Canadian Law Deans is opposing the school’s effort to gain accreditation for its new law school, saying that TWU is “fundamentally at odds with the core values of all Canadian law schools.”

The reason for this assessment? Trinity Western is evidently a school that takes its Christian commitments seriously. Its students are asked to sign a covenant in which they promise to, among other things, avoid “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Despite the fact that Trinity Western’s position expresses the historic, orthodox doctrine of the church for the last 2000 years, the Council of Canadian Law Deans considers it discriminatory and therefore beyond the pale for contemporary legal education. This despite the fact that one could persuasively argue that such doctrine has been the foundation on which much of our western morality—and, therefore, legal tradition—has stood for centuries. Take away that foundation, and it would be interesting to see on what basis the deans would claim their perspective to be fundamentally right or just.

In fact, a thoughtful person might ask why the Council should be free to make a moral judgment regarding TWU, while the school isn’t free to do the same in regard to the behavior of its students. Isn’t that just discrimination leveled at Christians? Not so, counters blogger Joe Patrice. But Patrice’s argument, it turns out, has ample problems of its own. I’ll address just two.

First, Patrice concedes that religiously affiliated law schools certainly aren’t new. But in contrast to “traditional programs” which provide “a legal education moderately informed by religious values,” he complains that the “latest crop of religious schools have a much more pronounced ideological bent.” But this assumes two things: (1) that other law schools don’t have a “pronounced ideological bent” and (2) the only appropriate kind of Christian law school is one in which Christianity enjoys only a “moderate” influence. The first assumption is a textbook example of unintentional irony. The second suggests that Christianity is fine…except when it’s explicitly Christian. It also sets up Patrice and those who agree with him as the de facto arbiters of “the way things should be.” But again, on what basis do they get to decide what is appropriate?

The second issue is frankly even more dismaying. According to Patrice, denying TWU accreditation is

…not bigotry. You see, victims of bigotry tend to get disenfranchised or beaten to death, not told, “maybe a school founded on principles at odds with prevailing law should not be handing out law degrees.” There was an anti-Christian bigotry in the past, and it involved lions and gladiators, two elements conspicuously lacking from the complaints doled out on talk radio.

What?

First Thought’s Matthew Frank responds:

This is setting the bar for decency pretty low, don’t you think? As long as Christians aren’t being hunted down, rounded up, and fed to lions in the arena for the amusement of the crowd, they have no cause for complaint.

In the interest of showing just how absurd Patrice’s argument is here, I would add this: imagine substituting virtually any other group in the place of Christians and see how well it holds up. “Sure, if we were actually feeding (African-Americans/women/Hispanics/gays/Jews/Muslims, etc.) to the lions, then it would be bigotry. But we’re not doing that, so they can’t complain.” Hmmmm.

Whatever else we might say of Patrice’s perspective, it certainly doesn’t lack in audacity.

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