Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

During this Lenten season when Christians are preparing themselves for Easter Sunday, those of us who are living in relative peace and affluence should remember and pray for those brothers and sisters in the faith whose circumstances are not as friendly.

To put it more accurately, Christians the world over should be mindful that at this time in our history there remain legions of Christ’s disciples who are made to endure persecution for their faith the likes of which rival that suffered by the earliest Christians.

While most of the worst environments for Christians are Islamic lands, there are non-Islamic bastions of intense Christian persecution that receive little to no coverage by the world’s media.  One particularly notable example is that of India.

Of a population of 1.3 billion people, there are 64 million Christians who reside in India.  Open Doors, an organization “dedicated to serving persecuted Christians worldwide,” relays the story of “Reena,” a 19 year-old girl who experienced this anti-Christian persecution directly.

“When I was a young child,” she says, “Hindu children did not want to play with me.”  Eventually, “my parents were banned from using the local water supply. They had to walk many kilometers to draw water from the river.”

Things got even worse for this young woman.

When Reena went to work as a school teacher, she was initially promised a salary of 1,500 rupees ($23.13) a month.  Her employers wound up welching: They paid her only 500 rupees ($7.71) for the first two months.  Within six months, they stopped paying her entirely.  So Reena sought work elsewhere.

Her new headmaster invited Reena to a teachers’ meeting.  There he offered her and her colleagues an assortment of Indian pastries.

And it was at this time that Reena was drugged and kidnapped.

Reena doesn’t want to discuss the events that unfolded over the ten days of her captivity.  She claims to have no recollection, but those in the know at Open Doors insist that it is more “likely…that what happened to her was so terrible [that] she doesn’t want to share” her experiences.  After all, literally “millions of girls in India”—many of them Christians and other religious minorities—“are kidnapped and trafficked each year.”

Reena called her parents at one point and informed them that she was being retained in “a terrible place.”  She also admits that when she first awoke, she was in a train car with many other teenage girls who followed her as she made her escape.

Yet Reena expresses suspicions that at least some of the girls were involved in her abduction.

Reena had been taken 14 hours away from her village.

Although she experienced depression and hopelessness for a time following her return to her home, upon attending an inspiring church service, Reena renewed her Christian faith.  While her brother informs us that the headmaster in whose company Reena was drugged desires vengeance for the troubles that he now apparently endures, Reena sounds hopeful:

“My future is very bright.  I will share the gospel with non-believers. I don’t expect more problems.”

But there are many problems for India’s Christians.

Over the last three years, the anti-Christian persecution in India has continued to increase.  Open Doors’ World Watch List ranked India as the planet’s 25th worst persecutor of Christians in 2015.  Yet in 2017 it was found to be the 15th biggest persecutor and, this year, it climbed to 11th place.

An Open Doors spokesperson informs us that before Christians face overt physical violence—in 2016, 15 Christians were murdered in India and many more beaten and threatened—“there [is] often…a long process of ‘re-converting’ them to Hinduism, during which they faced discrimination, social exclusion and other types of pressure.”

A chief cause of the oppression, according to Open Doors, is the resurrection of Hindu nationalism.  The Hindu nationalist holds that only Hinduism should be observed in India.  Some political leaders have even gone so far as to call for the expulsion from India of all Christians and Muslims by 2021.

In any event, although “everyone” is aware that “the churches are being attacked and demolished on almost an everyday basis in India,” as an Open Doors representative puts it, the Prime Minister of the country denies that any such persecution is occurring.

He should speak to people like Chandan Devi.

Chandan and her husband, Aadarsh, an Indian man who converted to Christianity and became a pastor who led a couple of dozen animists to Christ, have four children.  The oldest, a daughter, is married, while the other three were away at boarding school when the unthinkable occurred.

Chandan and Aadarsh were home alone when they were attacked by thirty men, Maoist (communist) Naxalites all of them.  As they grabbed him and proceeded to drag him outside, they were promising to murder Aadarsh.  Chandan clung to her husband, begging the thugs to kill her along with her husband.  Instead, though, they delivered to her a hard blow to the shoulder, dropping her to the ground.

The last thing Chandan recalls having heard is the loud sound of the door slamming shut as her husband was led off into the jungle to be killed.

Shortly afterwards, Aadarsh’s corpse was found.

None of the Christians who Aadarsh had converted attended his funeral for fear of losing their lives, and Chandan, fearing future attacks, fled her home and village with nothing but “the clothes on her back,” as Open Doors reports.

As if it wasn’t terrible enough that the Naxalites murdered Aadarsh. They subsequently threatened his brother Ajay.  In fact, prior to Aadarsh’s murder, the Naxalites abducted Ajay’s son.

Of course, none of this should come as any surprise when it is considered that over the last decade, this same treacherous group, “with the help of local authorities,” has “attacked, beaten, kidnapped, raped and killed thousands of Christians in India” (italics added).

It’s worth noting that when Chandan was asked by Open Doors whether the trauma to which she and her loved ones have been subjected has provoked her to reconsider her faith and denounce Christ, she promptly responded:

“I’d rather die.”

Hindu-on-Christian persecution—not something that we hear, or are likely to hear, talked about by the Western media that has labored tirelessly to depict Christians as the planet’s only purveyors of oppression.

 

 

 

In an essay of mine from last week, I brought to readers’ attention the painful fact—particularly painful from this Catholic’s perspective—that even traditionally religious institutions of higher learning have succumbed to the leftist, Politically Correct ideology that dominates much of the Western academic world.

I mentioned the case of Michael Smalanskas, a Providence College senior and Resident Advisor who, while acting within his job description, created an exhibit on a dormitory bulletin board affirming the Church’s teaching that marriage is inherently heterosexual and monogamous: “Marriage…As God Intended It: One Man, One Woman.”

The theme of the display was buttressed by select Biblical quotations as well as quotations from Pope Francis.

It’s also worth noting that Smalanskas constructed his display approximately a month after other students created a display celebrating “gay marriage.”  Yet while the latter—at this Catholic college—encountered zero unpleasant consequences of any kind for their advocacy of a stance radically at odds with that of the Catholic vision that is the mission of their school to further, Smalanskas was subjected to harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence, including rape.  Things got so bad that at one point security had to move him from his residence on campus to an undisclosed location.

When Smalanskas and his faculty advisor met with the college’s administration and asked for them to publically reaffirm Providence’s Catholic identity, publically underscore that Smalanskas’ perspective on marriage is the Catholic perspective, and publically and unequivocally disavow the treatment to which Smalanskas had been subjected, administrators—including, most tellingly, the school’s president, Father Brian Shanley—refused.

Smalanskas’ parents attempted to arrange a meeting with Providence administrators, but to no avail.

Smalanskas then went to Catholic media.  Consequently, thousands of indignant people flooded Father Shanley’s inbox and Providence College’s phone lines demanding that action be taken to address the indignities suffered by one of his Catholic students for affirming Catholic teaching.

A month or so after the harassment of Smalanskas began, Providence College’s president finally responded.  And while Father Shanley did indeed condemn the treatment that Smalanskas was made to endure, and while he did note that Smalanskas’ position on marriage is that of the Catholic Church (and, thus, of Providence College), Shanley’s statement actually further supports the charge, made forcefully by former Providence faculty member Anthony Esolen, that Providence has essentially abandoned their Catholic mission in favor of a PC “totalitarian diversity cult.”

First of all, Father Shanley didn’t issue a public statement at all.  He sent out a campus-wide email.

Second, that Shanley makes it a point in the second sentence to explicitly note that it is mainly “conservative social media sites” that are responsible for “much” of the “discussion and negative publicity” that “the College” has garnered is telling.  In framing the issue in these terms, one could be forgiven for suspecting that Shanley is adopting a political strategy designed to knock out two birds with one stone:

In subtly shifting the blame from his own inaction onto a bunch of “conservatives” with a political ax to grind, Shanley can give the impression that the controversy under discussion is in effect contrived by a bunch of trouble-making right-wingers. And at the same time, he can just as subtly signal to the leftists that threatened Smalanskas that Shanley is not one of those “conservatives.”

That he follows up by expressly saying that “much” of what is reported in media accounts “is not accurate,” and that the phone calls and emails that he’s received have been “angry, accusatory, and ironically uncharitable,” renders this reading of Father Shanley’s objective all but certain.

Third, it isn’t until the third paragraph of his email that Shanley expresses how “distressed” he’s been “by the way Michael Smalanskas has been vilified and ostracized by many of his peers.”  It’s in this paragraph that Shanley condemns the rape threat against Smalanskas as “odious and reprehensible.”

Yet while this sounds good on its face, what Shanley gives with one hand he takes with another, for his defense of Smalanskas is qualified by what are obviously concessions to the leftists who mistreated the beleaguered student.

For instance, immediately after expressing his “distress” over the injustice that Smalanskas suffered, Shanley adds: “While some might not agree with how he tried to express Church teaching, he is entitled to the same respect, charity, and protection that is due any student.”

Notice, Father Shanley suggests in this sentence that disgruntled students could have grounds for taking issue with the manner in which Smalanskas, a student at a Catholic college, stated the Catholic Church’s position on marriage—as if there is anything objectionable about using a bulletin board to promote marriage.

He also implies, in claiming that Smalanskas deserves the same “respect, charity, and protection” as any other student, that it is Smalanskas’ view on marriage that is a minority or exotic perspective.

In other words, Father Shanley’s defense of Smalanskas and his institution’s Catholic identity is anything but robust.

Fourth, to further elaborate upon this last point, in both the introduction and conclusion to Shanley’s email he identifies as the premiere challenge confronting Providence—as well as “every Catholic campus and…the Church as a whole”—the balancing act of retaining a Catholic identity while simultaneously being “inclusive.”

This is revealing, for “Catholic” means universal.  It is inherently inclusive of a great variety of practices and ideas.  In characterizing the relationship between Catholicism and inclusiveness as one of tension, Shanley endorses the same concept of “inclusiveness” shared by those who labored indefatigably for over a month tormenting a Catholic student at a Catholic college who affirmed the Catholic position on marriage.

Referring specifically to those Providence students who are members of “the LGBTQ+ community,” Shanley writes: “What I hear…is not that they expect us to disavow the Church’s teaching, but rather to find a way to help them feel included in light of our Catholic identity and in a way that recognizes their inherent dignity as created in the image and likeness of God.”

“Our collective challenge,” he insists, “is to find a way to be faithful to our Catholic identity and to be inclusive.”

For some reason, I doubt that Shanley is especially concerned about being inclusive of traditionalist Catholics who reject the Vatican II, Southern students who express pride in their Southern heritage, NRA members, etc.

There’s a final point.  Father Shanley’s remarks concerning the LGBTQ+ community at Providence imply that its members who were irate over Smalanskas’ marriage display had a grievance after all!  Providence, so Shanley evidently thinks, has failed to make homosexual and other students who reject the Catholicism of Providence feel welcome. It has failed to recognize “their inherent dignity as created in the image and likeness of God.”

Presumably, Michael Smalanskas contributed to this exclusionary environment when he championed marriage via a bulletin board.  This is the message that is all too plausibly conveyed when one reads between the lines of Father Shanley’s email.

Ironically, Providence College’s commitment to its traditional Catholic identity is even more in question now that its president has spoken to the victimization of a Catholic student than when he was silent.

 

 

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a neighbor who revealed to me that, insofar as she would like to exercise her right to bear arms, she doesn’t consider herself especially “liberal.”  For this reason, she would eventually like to leave our painfully blue state of New Jersey.

Yet during the course of our exchange, she also shared that her daughter is away at college. I responded: “I hope that she doesn’t come home hating you.”  I was half-joking, of course, but only by half.  It was then that I told her that, being an academic dissident, I make it my mission to inform otherwise uninformed parents of what their children can expect to experience during their time in today’s university.

A glance at a couple of recent events from two schools, one secular, the other Catholic, suffices all too easily to leave an indelible impression of the contemporary academy:

At George Washington University, just days after much of the Christian world celebrated Easter, a training session was held for faculty and students.  The purpose of this “diversity workshop” is to expound upon the thesis that Christians “receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.”

The seminar is titled: “Christian Privilege: But Our Founding Fathers Were All Christian, Right?!” According to the seminar description, Christians have “built-in advantages” over non-Christians.

Upon their completion of the workshop, participants should be able to “describe what is meant by privilege overall and white privilege especially;” “describe the role of denial when it comes to white privilege;” “differentiate between equality and equity;” “list at least three examples of Christian privilege;” and “list at least three ways to be an ally with a non-Christian person.”

Over at Providence College, a Dominican-founded, Roman Catholic institution, the school has succumbed to what Anthony Esolen, one of its former faculty members, characterizes as the “Totalitarian Diversity Cult.” Esolen is a practicing Catholic, a scholar who famously translated Dante’s Divine Comedy, who left Providence nearly a year ago because of what he insists is its abandonment of its Catholic Christian mission.

A year later, it no longer seems possible to doubt Esolen’s analysis.

Michael Smalanskas is a senior at Providence and a Resident Advisor.  He is also a conservative Roman Catholic.  Consistent with his job description, Smalanskas, shortly before spring break, placed a flyer on a dormitory bulletin board.  It read: “Marriage: The Way God Intended It…One Man, One Woman.” The flyer also included quotations affirming marriage from both Pope Francis and the Gospel of Mark.

Smalanskas informed National Review that his intention in hanging the flyer was “to expose a double standard on campus that certain positions—mainly conservative and Catholic positions—are not welcome here and are treated with hatred.”

Furthermore, conservative and Catholic views “are just not protected in the same way” as the beliefs of others.

But within hours, Smalanskas was besieged by “all sorts of harassing text messages,” and, according to The College Fix, even his fellow RAs “keyed into his building after hours to undo his work as a Providence employee.”

When a mob began forming outside of Smalanskas’ room, campus security insisted upon escorting him to another building as “a precaution.”  During his interview with LifeSite News, Smalanskas supplied a glaring example of the moral divide separating traditional conservative students from the campus left.  “There had been a pro-lesbian bulletin board up for the entire month of February in one of the female residence halls,” he remarked. “But nobody was rioting outside of the girl’s door.”

Things got so bad for Smalanskas that he “couldn’t even go brush my teeth for several nights without facing a mob” in the hallway.

Smalanskas’ fellow RAs and other students are calling for his termination and, eventually, someone posted on the wall of Smalanskas’ dormitory bathroom a drawing of him about to be raped by a man.

Despite all of this, however, Providence College has allegedly done nothing so far to aid Smalanskas except to offer him “mental health services.”  After he was whisked away in a squad car to an undisclosed location for his own safety from the left-wing mob, Smalanskas called the chaplain’s office for support.  Yet the priest “didn’t even want to come.  When he did finally show up,” Smalanskas recalls, “he basically begged and pleaded with me to ‘graduate in peace,’” and “told me that I was ‘throwing culture bombs.’”

To this priest’s credit, though, Smalanskas says that he is now “overcompensating” for the manner in which he treated the beleaguered student on the evening that he was targeted.

Not everyone has been willing to repent. In March, Smalanskas and his faculty advisor, James Keating, met with the Vice President of Student Affairs, Kristine Goodwin, the Vice President of Mission and Ministry, Father R. Gabriel Pivarnik, and Providence’s attorney.  Smalanskas and Keating asked for the school to publicly condemn the treatment to which Smalanskas had been subjected; publicly reaffirm the Catholic mission of Providence, underscoring that Smalanskas’ exhibit comports with traditional Catholic teaching; and publicly insist that Providence is a safe space for “free speech.”

School officials refused to take any of these measures.

The Vice President of Student Affairs, Ms. Goodwin, did send out a rather lengthy email to the student body imploring for all of its members to treat one another with respect.  She also mentioned that while Smalanskas’ position on marriage was consistent with that of the Church, it is “only a part” of Catholic teaching that, “when taken out of context,” “can have detrimental consequences, especially if it ends up alienating people from the truth that it serves.”

Goodwin then urged students to “walk in solidarity with SHEPARD” as it holds its demonstration to promote “unity, affirmation, and inclusion even amidst controversy.”

SHEPARD, you see, is the organization that called for the Providence community to “stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ*” in a “march against homophobia and transphobia.”

After nearly a month’s worth of outside pressure by those disgusted by Providence’s refusal to publically defend one of their students, the president of the college finally responded to Smalanskas’ request to repudiate the treatment to which the latter has been subjected while reaffirming the Church’s position on marriage.  Father Brian Shanley sent out a lengthy campus-wide email.  Three paragraphs into it he condemned the attacks against Smalanskas as “odious and reprehensible.”

Michael Smalanskas puts the point well.  While he “appreciate[s] that he [Shanley] addressed the issue more thoroughly,” his “hesitation to speak forcefully on the matter speaks volumes [.]”  Smalanskas adds:

“It took the president over three weeks to try and do something that could have easily been addressed immediately. He seems to suggest that his only reason for doing so was in response to the negative publicity and criticism from concerned Catholics, once again insulting anyone who is concerned about Catholic identity as uncharitable and angry.”

The hard left, stories like this should make obvious, has even taken control of many traditionally Christian institutions of higher learning.  Fewer and fewer places are immunized against it.

This being so, parents who wish to send their children to “Christian” colleges should take care to insure that they aren’t the victims of false advertising.

Tragically, the odds are greater than not that they will be.

 

It seems that it’s impossible to pass through a single week without hearing about multiple outrages in academia.  And it seems just as obvious that the most obscene of these outrages tend to unfold at the most prestigious institutions of higher learning.

Take, for instance, the University of Pennsylvania.  Penn is an Ivy-league school located in the city of Philadelphia.  It has recently been in the news because of “controversial” comments made by one of Penn’s veteran faculty members, the Robert Mundheim Professor of Law, Amy Wax.

Back in September of last year, Wax appeared on The Glenn Show, the on-line podcast of Brown University professor, Glenn Loury.  During their exchange over some of the deleterious consequences of those race-based preferential treatment policies favoring black student applicants, Wax shared with her host—who is black—some of the observations that she’s made over the duration of her career at Penn.

“Here’s a very inconvenient fact, Glenn: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely, in the top half.  I can think of one or two students who scored in the first half of my required first-year Civil Procedure course.”

Wax and Loury were discussing what’s come to be known as the “mismatch” effect of so-called affirmative action:  In their eagerness to satisfy their quotas for black students, colleges and universities wind up mismatching students with institutions. So, Penn, say, recruits black students that, while they would’ve performed excellently at a second-tier school, lack competitiveness at an Ivy-league school.  This move on the part of the first-tier schools in turn has ramifications that affect the whole available pool of black students, mismatching them with institutions throughout the entire system.

Black students, in other words, are not benefitted and, in fact, are actually harmed, by the very policy from which they ostensibly benefit.

Wax continued in her conversation with Loury: “Well, what are we supposed to do about that?  You’re putting in front of this person [a black student admitted via “affirmative action”] a real uphill battle. And if they were better matched, it might be a better environment for them.  That’s the mismatch hypothesis, of course.”

She added: “We’re not saying they shouldn’t go to college—we’re not saying that.  Some of them shouldn’t.”

Wax, in noting that the Penn Law Review has a “diversity mandate,” strongly implied that those black law students who contributed enjoyed this distinction because of their race.

Once these remarks of Wax’s became known, a petition calling for her removal from teaching  her first-year Civil Procedure course was circulated, and Pennsylvania’s branch of Black Lives Matter went so far as to demand her immediate termination from the university.

Asa Khalif, the head of BLM Pennsylvania, threatened to “begin disrupting classes and other campus activities with a wave of protests” unless Wax was fired.  Wax posed a “danger” to “Black and brown students,” he remarked.  Khalif also styles himself a voice for the voiceless, or something like this, when he says that other Penn students have told him that “they are afraid to say anything about Wax due to potential reprisal.”

Thus, BLM must “speak for the students who can’t speak for themselves.”

Unsurprisingly, the Dean of Penn’s Law School, Theodore Ruger, caved to the PC pressure and rebuked Wax.  “Black students have graduated in the top of the class at Penn Law,” Ruger insisted, “and the Law Review does not have a diversity mandate.”

Wax is no longer permitted to teach any mandatory first-year courses.

Of course, Professor Wax had already come within the crosshairs of leftist militants for an op-ed that she co-authored in August of last year.  Wax lamented the disintegration of America’s “bourgeois culture,” identifying this breakdown as among the principal causes of our nation’s many maladies.

From the late 1940’ to the mid-60s, bourgeois culture “laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country.  Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”

Wax even boldly declared: “All cultures are not created equal.”

Her fate was sealed.  Penn’s National Lawyers Guild issued a statement in which it refers to Professor Wax’s remarks as a “textbook example of [the] white supremacy and cultural elitism” that have been “used to denigrate the poor and sustain and justify the gross wealth inequality that defines American capitalism.”  The statement condemns “Professor Wax’s racism and classism, as well as the ‘moral toxicity and…intellectual bankruptcy’ of her opinion.”  Wax, the authors of the statement continue, is “bigoted,” “white supremacist,” and a “segregationist.”

The black Brown University academic, Glenn Loury, to whom Wax made some of the remarks that landed her further in hot water with the left, as well as the Manhattan Institute’s Heather MacDonald are among those who have leapt to Wax’s defense. Both have noted that his protestations to the contrary aside, neither Dean Ruger nor anyone else at Penn have supplied a scintilla of evidence to contradict a single syllable that Wax uttered regarding the general performance of black law students at Penn, and MacDonald specifically cited statistical data that dovetails seamlessly with the anecdotal account that Wax shared with Loury on his podcast.

However, while their efforts are commendable, ultimately they are to no avail, for facts, like reason, are suspect from the vantage of today’s militant left.  Wax above all people must know this.

In a recent essay of hers, she implores her colleagues in the academy to resist the impulse to substitute coercion for persuasion, ad hominem attacks for reasoned, civil discourse. But one can’t escape the impression that she knows her pleading is an exercise in futility, for she bluntly states that after her August op-ed appeared, many of her colleagues at Penn, including administrators, conveyed their message to Wax loudly and clearly:

“Cease the heresy.”

Exactly right: There will be no reasoning with the self-styled guardians of an orthodoxy that broaches no competitors.

And the leftist ideology that prevails in the contemporary academic world is nothing if not an orthodoxy.

Wax assailed the reigning Politically Correct orthodoxy of academia. For that she is to be treated as a heretic.