Most people in our community are aware of the faculty and staff walkouts at last spring’s commencement ceremony, an event which made national news. Unfortunately, since this was the final event of the year, there was no opportunity for a community-wide conversation about this.
Since we are back on campus, I feel that now is a good time to share some of the thoughts about it in the form of a few questions.
First, it is important to note that there was some variety among the responses of the dissenters. Some people walked out as Vice President Mike Pence began to speak. Some left prior to his being introduced. Others displayed their dissent in other ways, such as donning noise cancelling headphones. Is intentionally refusing to listen to our nation’s vice president an appropriate thing to do? Scripture tells us that all government authorities are established by God (Romans 13:1–2), and Peter enjoins us specifically to “honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17). Given the historical context of this directive, this is particularly significant. During the early years of the Church, Roman emperors were extremely brutal in their treatment of Christians, not to mention other people groups. Yet Peter told his fellow Christians to honor them. What would Peter say to our brothers and sisters today regarding their grounds for dishonoring the vice president of the United States, who is a devout evangelical Christian and defender of religious liberty? Would he consider the Trump administration’s policies or rhetoric to be so evil as to warrant such disrespect?
Would he endorse such dishonor on those grounds but not toward Roman emperors who gruesomely tortured and murdered countless people? Or would Peter and the other apostles regard the wrongs of the Trump administration to be mild compared to the butchery perpetrated by their own leaders, whom they insisted we nonetheless show respect?Here is another thing to consider. As Taylor faculty and staff, aren’t we called to model for our students the intellectual virtues of open-mindedness and thoughtful consideration of ideas? Does walking out on a speaker or wearing noise-cancelling headphones model such virtues? Or does such behavior model the vice of closed-mindedness?
Whatever the intentions of the dissenters, might such responses communicate to our students that it is appropriate to tune out ideas with which one is not comfortable? If so, is that the sort of attitude we want to promote in our community?
Might there be more constructive and respectful ways to register one’s disagreement than walking out on an esteemed invited guest whose governing authority has been established by God himself? Perhaps writing an op-ed piece as Kevin Diller did in The Echo? Or wearing buttons communicating a message of some kind as several faculty and staff did, cryptic though the “We are Taylor too” message was?Perhaps here is a point we can all agree upon for the future. Whoever we invite to speak on our campus, especially if they hold high offices in federal government, can we agree to show them the honor and respect that they deserve as God’s servants?