No, there is no escaping our political divides these days. Everyone is a villain or hero. No one is just a teacher, reporter, preacher or, in this case, just a vice president.
We simply can’t tolerate people who don’t agree with us and so we set about to make one another’s lives more difficult, more argumentative and less peaceful.
Vice President Mike Pence is coming to my county later this month to speak at the commencement for Taylor University in Upland. Taylor has a well earned reputation as a good school, earnest in Christian teaching and filled with bright young people who are gracious to others. Pence is an evangelical Christian from Indiana, a former governor and a former congressman in a nearby district.
This should be a homecoming for Pence. But there is apparent anger living on campus and also directed toward the school these days.
The Washington Post recently reported, A Change.org petition asking the school to rescind the invitation to Pence had gotten about 5,000 signatures. Social media has been filled with commentators calling the vice president a bigot and alumni have sent threats to withhold contributions from the school because of Pence being asked to speak at Taylor.
The Post said one signer declared “Not my Taylor. Not my Jesus,” on the petition.
I find this is astounding. In recent decades it has been conservatives criticized for mixing politics and religion by emphasizing family values and implying that God’s plan of salvation somehow includes voting for Republicans. Now, sadly, liberals appear willing to take a turn at weaponizing Christianity to use among the faithful on campus.
Time was any school would have been proud to have the president or vice president of the nation speak on their campus. And we are not talking about the Eisenhower era. We are talking about Barack Obama and Joe Biden. And that was true even when those gentlemen spoke before audiences that included many who found their administration’s position on abortion morally abhorrent.
Some of the controversy is genuinely about Donald Trump and some is genuinely about Pence’s past stance on LGBTQ issues. But we think much of the manufactured hubbub regarding the visit is from folks who think of themselves as the “Christian hip” who virtue signal their compatriots across the nation and at campuses from Taylor to Berkeley to Yale. Hey, just because Taylor is in conservative rural Indiana doesn’t mean it can’t be as “woke” as any fashionable campus out East or West.
The trouble is a Christian college that would disinvite someone because of that person’s politics or questionable popularity would obviously be faltering in its mission as a broadminded teaching institution. And we would also suggest that they wouldn’t be doing their Christian witness any favors either.
I am thankful to the Taylor administration for inviting the vice president and look forward to his visit to our community. This is a good thing.
David Penticuff, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, is editor of the Marion Chronicle-Tribune, in which a version of this essay was first published. Send comments to [email protected].