A Call for Civility in the Operation of Free Speech: A Response to ‘A Call for Civility in Our Current Political & Campus Climate’

Julia Chandler  ’22, Guest Writer

Two weeks ago, our campus’ Britton Plaza was invaded by fire and brimstone. As our campus prides itself on free speech, social and religious diversity, and inclusion of all walks of life, we accepted the presence of a certain soapbox preacher who took it upon himself to enforce shame, guilt and his version of Christianity on those who had the patience to listen to him. 

While some people would try to condemn our home and campus for being intolerant and hostile towards Christianity, I urge them to consider that the mutual respect they call for is unrequited on their part. If someone wants to come to a campus that promotes civil discourse, he should keep his discourse CIVIL. 

I could describe that preacher’s rant multiple ways-civil, respectful and operating in critical thinking would not be any of those ways. While it would be the honorable thing to try to engage in rational debate, as I myself tried and saw other people do, ultimately it is useless to try to have an intelligent conversation with a toddler. Especially a  toddler with a tantrum holding the bible as a missile. 

As a Christian myself, I would like to share with my campus that what that person was screaming toward the crowd was NOT what Christianity stands for. Honestly, when I saw that a pastor brandishing a large cross had come to campus, I thought, “Cool! A pastor’s here, I haven’t been to church in a while, maybe he’ll have something beneficial to say!” Then I saw the words on the cross: “Are You Ready?” Uh-oh. He’s one of THOSE pastors. My spirits were instantly dashed. I think many Christians can agree, there is nothing worse than having our faith given a bad name by bigots like him who claim to have Christian values. My faith’s whole “deal” is love: That “God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16), and that Jesus loved us so much He gave Himself to torture and death. There is nothing I despise more than to see hate manifest itself in a person who has the power to spread it through people who do not deserve it. Our campus does not deserve to be slandered, condescended against and damned by someone who thinks he knows better than the rest of us. 

As for those who would assert that Christians are faced with disrespect on this campus, I would like to say that I have talked about my faith and the role it has in my life numerous times with my friends and others I have met on campus, and not once have I been met with anything other than love, tolerance and acceptance. 

It is that preacher’s sort of Christianity (I shudder to even call it that) that cannot be met with acceptance. Free speech, unfortunately, gives people the right to spit garbage out of their mouths and glitter it with the name of Jesus. However, that does not mean to say that it has to be a part of our diverse and inclusive campus. We as Dickinsonians share many different beliefs that not everyone agrees with, but that is what makes us very special. Indeed, there are very few people on this campus who agree on everything. We could not claim to be diverse if we all held the same opinions. 

Although I personally did not see any prospective students touring our campus while he was here, I hope they saw our student body resisting hate like that. If some students got vehement, as some would allege, I accept their reaction to un-probed aggression. 

Hate has no place here. If that preacher does ever return to our campus, I urge our student body to try to engage civilly, but not allow their hopes to get too high. Yes, be respectful, but do not accept hate; fight it with every sinew in your being. Drown it out. Walk away. Show bigots like him what it truly means to have free speech. If we are ever going to do our part to get rid of hate in the world, it must start with all of us right here at home.