The Curious Case of Brian Grasso and the Modern Concept of “Tolerance”

 

   The Duke Chapel and Sculpture of James Duke Photo by Ildar Sagdejev (Specious)

 

Recently, Brian Grasso, an incoming Christian freshman at Duke University, wrote a blog post for the “Post Everything” page of the Washington Post discussing the reaction to his decision not to read a book entitled “Fun Home” that has depictions of lesbian and group “sex” both in words and in pictures. The book was written/drawn in the form of a comic book with script running below the pictures. Brian explained that he did not want to read the book because he did not want to expose himself to images that would cause him to sacrifice his convictions about viewing sexually explicit images even if these images were drawn. Brian discusses the amount of public and negative feedback that he received from his classmates when he published his decision not to read the book on his class of 2019 Duke University page. However, he also discusses the private messages that he received from classmates thanking him for his post.

Grasso mentions an interaction with a Buddhist woman who described herself as a bisexual lesbian who contacted him after he wrote the post. He also writes that he and the young Buddhist woman became friends as each explained their own perspective about sexuality. Through their conversations, Grasso relates how they both gained a deeper appreciation and understanding for one another’s perspective. He then ends his post by explaining that his interaction with the Buddhist student was what college was really all about. Learning from a standpoint of mutual respect and exploring new perspectives without intimidation. From my perspective, this is a well written and thought out post of someone grappling and then learning from someone who is different from him.  What Brian shared about his interaction with the Buddhist student is a real-life example of true tolerance (see link below):

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/08/25/im-a-duke-freshman-heres-why-i-refused-to-read-fun-home/

From my perspective, what is troubling about our “progressive” American culture is the response that Grasso received from the Washington Post readers who replied to him.  Granted, the anonymous nature of posting articles seems to influence people to write in overly dramatic ways.  However, I was struck by the intolerance that I perceived in these responses to Grasso. Of course, all have the right to type what they want to in these blogs unless the words are libelous, threatening, or otherwise prohibited by law. However, in my opinion, these responses are symptomatic of what is wrong with how “tolerance” has developed in our current culture. Here are a couple of examples of the responses to Grasso’s post:

“You’re a stupid, bigoted scumbag and a liar. But that’s to be expected from someone so vocal about his immoral religious beliefs.”

“This young man is wittingly masquerading as a man and by his pronouncement, an intelligent man. Nah! He’s a boy and a featherweight at that.”

“No one forced you to go to Duke. You made the choice. If you can’t deal with the results of your choice, drop out.”

A man makes a decision not to read a book that he thinks is offensive and the reactions from “progressive” and “tolerant” bloggers tell the truth about modern “tolerance.”  In particular, the first respondent is blind to his own bigotry as he labels Grasso as a “bigot.” He then compounds matters when he complains about Grasso being “so vocal” about his beliefs. Why does this blogger complain about Grasso unreservedly exercising his first amendment right to free speech?  The concept of tolerance in our culture today is virtually non-existent. Only if you sacrifice belief in objective truth or any moral standard will you be tolerated by an increasingly radicalized culture bent on stamping out the last vestiges of free conscience.  Even as Brian is demonized by the “progressive” and “tolerant” horde, there are those who are glad that he has chosen to express his freedom of conscience. It is my sincere wish that Brian has a great scholastic career at Duke University as he grows intellectually by extending and receiving true tolerance, and as he stands by the convictions that he cherishes so dearly.

“What’s All of the Hubbub, Bub?”

This was a phrase that cartoon icon Bugs Bunny would use all of the time. Most often, Bugs would use this phrase when another cartoon character, usually his foe, was making a lot of racket outside of his rabbit hole (see link below).   Relating this phrase to my website, why am I making so much noise or should I say typing so many words about the great evidence for faith in Jesus Christ? I am making a lot “cyber noise” because Christianity in the United States has a serious problem whether Christians choose to acknowledge it or not.   Let me explain.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71NbODPietg

Recent Polls Indicate Religious Influence is Waning

There are a number of statistical indicators that reveal that the number of Americans who identify as Christians today is shrinking rapidly. Moreover, the number of those who identify with other faiths or who consider themselves to be agnostic or atheist is also increasing as well. In their survey that was conducted over a seven-year period and included over 60,000 participants, the Barna Group published the results of their survey on religious and church attendance. This survey revealed that the numbers of those who identify as Christians is on a sharp decline, especially among the “millennial generation.” The study revealed that from the 1990s to the 2000s, there was an increase in un-churched Americans going from 30% to 33% of the population. A much larger increase was observed between 2000 and 2014 with the un-churched population increasing to 43%, an increase of 10% in just 14 years.   Another disturbing trend for Christians is that the younger generations are becoming increasingly secular.

In addition to the Barna Survey, a recently released Pew Research Poll (see first link below) revealed that even though Christianity is still the largest religious affiliation in the United States, those identifying themselves as Christians dropped dramatically from 78% to just under 71% in 2014. Along with this change in the population, those who are considered to be atheist/agnostic/or of no particular faith rose from 16% to almost 23% of the population. Leading the way of this statistical group are the younger generations (older and younger Millennials) who identify as of no particular faith (approximately 35%). Another statistical group that also indicates a shift away from Christianity are those who have changed from Christianity to another faith. The Pew Research Poll also indicates a segment of our population (19.2%) that was raised Christian (85%) now consider themselves to be from some other faith perspective (or none).   The only major group of Christians that is not losing adherents is evangelical Christians who have remained stable as a population group. One additional study of those who have left the Christian faith comes again from the Barna Group who reports that from 2013 to 2015, those Americans who are categorized as post-Christian rose from 37% to 44% in just two years (see second link).

http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

http://cities.barna.org/america-more-post-christian-than-two-years-ago/

In comparing this data to that of Barna president David Kinnaman’s publication titled You Lost Me, Kinnaman’s research leads him to the conclusion that the younger generations are leaving church based on the following reasons

  • Internet brings our youth into contact with atheist and other religious views
  • Many in the younger generations believe that the church is anti-science, repressive, exclusive, and discourage any measure of doubting
  • Church has not properly educated itself regarding its intersection with science, religion, and culture
  • Our faith compartmentalized to just Sunday not relevant for the rest of the week (dealing with practical matters during the work week)
  • Must educate on the dangers of “scientism” and other ethical issues
  • A problem to thrive spiritually in modern society (Applying faith to their daily lives)
  • Not leaving church because of Gospel but because church not relevant to daily lives
  • They perceive the world differently than other generations (largely because of Internet, and technology)
  • Non-traditional family structure, absent fathers, outdated religious practices
  • Church is repressive in relation to human sexuality
  • Should openly discuss sex
  • Church has turned back on the “other” segment of the population

Militant Atheism Increasing in Schools

In addition to the above statistical information is the observed increase in militant atheism on our High School campuses. In recent months, I have heard reports from Christian students who describe the bullying of Christians by militant atheists. These high school skeptics often publicly berate Christian students about their “delusional and anti-science” beliefs.   The first report that I received of this came from one of my nieces who lives in Virginia and who shared with me how she stood defenseless and alone as other students repeatedly berated and embarrassed her for her religious beliefs. She advised me that she did not know how to respond to their anti-Christian propaganda against her and observed that other Christians were silent as well. I was able to assist her as she learned how to defend herself from these attacks.

In addition to my niece, I was recently having a group discussion with some boys about the Bible. I told them about the great evidence to support the New Testament. After stating this, one of the students described how he is made fun of at school for his Christian faith by atheist students. After hearing him say this, I asked the other students in the group to raise their hands if they were having difficulties with atheist students at public high schools and all of those attending public high schools raised their hands. Additionally, one of these students contacted me later for assistance as he was being assailed by a video gamer who was an atheist and was presenting arguments that he was not prepared to deal with. The atheist had a whole list of reasons that he gave the students as to why he shouldn’t believe that there is a good God (Jesus). Fortunately, I was able to assist that student with the issues raised by this atheist even though the student was very distressed by his interaction with the atheist.

Recently, when before a group of high school kids in Austin, TX, I asked them if they were experiencing harassment from atheists at school, nearly all of the students present raised their hands. No longer is it just that Christians are wrong to believe in Jesus. Rather, young militant atheists of today are accusing Christians of being delusional, and against science. Moreover, they also accuse Christians of being a danger to society, and proclaim that religion should be eradicated as soon as possible. Christian high school students who endure this sort of intolerant bigotry are in need of tools to defend their faith from attack and also to give testimony to these atheist students about the great evidence for faith in Jesus Christ.

In addition to the atheism prevalent on high school campuses, there are also atheist professors that are waiting to challenge Christian students regarding their faith in Jesus Christ to include Bart Ehrman of UNC Chapel Hill who claims that among other things, Jesus never claimed that he was God and that those who were followers made him into a God. In addition, another scholar in my home state of North Carolina, Dr. James Tabor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is often observed on television shows questioning core Christian beliefs. In addition to these two scholars who doubt the authenticity of the Christian proclamation are militant atheists to include the likes of Richard Dawkins, Richard Carrier, and Peter Boghassian who believe that Christians are delusional and dangerous to society. Their books and articles are observed in all forms of media and on the Internet as well. Moreover, on two separate occasions at a social gathering, I sat next to a Christian parent of a college student who informed me that they had a child who came home from college and announced their newfound disbelief in God after being assailed by atheists.

So, it is not surprising that atheism is quickly gaining ground and Christianity is slipping in popularity as there are so many skeptical voices speaking within our culture today accusing Christians of many things. Unfortunately, there is no great initiative by the Christian church in the U.S. to “defend the faith (1 Peter 3:15)” and “demolish arguments (2 Corinthians 10:5).” There are many effective Christian apologetic ministries that do well in their task of refuting skeptical arguments. However, the problem is getting this material into the hands of those who are on the front lines, the younger generations, that are most likely to come into contact with skeptical arguments against the Christian faith.

Of course, every belief system should be open to inspection and rational inquiry to determine if they are undergirded by a firm foundation in logic, philosophy, and history. So I do not object to any person questioning the tenets of the Christian faith because if they are true objectively, they will be able to withstand a rigorous analysis. However, what I object to is the religious bigotry that comes from the militant atheists who believe that a voice should be silenced in the public arena. To label another group of people as “delusional” and “dangerous” is un-American simply because they assent to the existence of God. Moreover, to try and eradicate Christian voices from the public arena or the free marketplace of ideas is un-American as we have always valued free speech in our open society.

In addition to the practice of religious bigotry by militant atheists, another concern that I have is that many skeptical arguments are not supported by any sort of relevant evidence. Rather, many of their arguments contain unfounded conjecture with no real proof to back their claims. Again, I fully expect that religious beliefs (to include militant atheism) should be examined. However, to simply engage in bullying and to argue from non-supported claims is wholly unacceptable. That is why I have been typing so many words about evidence and the Christian faith. I want people to know what good evidence actually is and how to be able to recognize whether an argument is founded upon good evidence or not. In my coming blog posts, I will analyze the different skeptical arguments against orthodox Christianity from an evidentiary standpoint to see if they can withstand this sort of scrutiny. So until the next post… “that’s all folks!”