Monday, September 13, 2004

Intellectual Activism: The Threat of GMU’s Faith-Based Crusaders

Since I bit the bullet and have gone back to college, I've been itching for an opportunity to be an intellectual activist on campus. To achieve my goal, I've taken on the job on opinion columnist for the George Mason University campus paper. Here's the text of my first column:

The Threat of GMU's Faith-Based Crusaders

By Nicholas Provenzo

There is a lot of faith on campus this semester. On the first day of classes, a gauntlet of recruiters for a Christian missionary group passed out flyers to students stating that while we may aim to improve our lives through education and hard work, such efforts are ultimately meaningless. According to this group, only one?s faith in God truly matters and only His grace can sustain us.

Another group, ".Cru" or the Campus Crusade for Christ was more covert about their beliefs. ".Cru" set up a table in SUB II where they offered students a school planner in exchange for taking a survey. Since nothing indicated to me that ".Cru" was even remotely a religious group, I took their questionnaire. I was little more than surprised when the first question asked me if I wanted a relationship with Jesus. Since I've been an atheist for over ten years, I filled in the "no" bubble and went about my business.

It was later that day that I had my "miracle" moment. I ran into an acquaintance of mine who has cerebral palsy. She used to use a motorized wheelchair for movement. Yet when I saw her, she walked. Yes, clumsily, but by the power of her own muscles and the strength of her own will. Seeing her walk left me speechless--I've never seen someone I know do something so astounding in all my life.

Think for a moment what it took to give this woman the ability to overcome her disease. It took years of painstaking research for scientists to understand the nature of cerebral palsy and outflank its effects. These discoveries were not made possible by faith in God. That's not how discovery works. They were made possible by the ruthless application of the scientific method.

Yet in the face of all years of excruciating mental effort that made this woman's reclamation possible, how many of us would describe her recovery as a "miracle"--an act of divine rather than human intervention? Even if not literally (the religious might argue that God moved the researchers, for example) there is more reverence in our culture for God's will than humanity's ability. I see this as our undoing.

It is no secret that the United States is engaged in a life or death struggle with the forces of Islamic totalitarianism. Like the Christian totalitarianists of the Dark Ages who suppressed reason and science, they too are unable to deliver "miracles" such as my friend being able to walk. As committed advocates for faith, militant Islamists hate our freedom and prosperity and the secular foundation that makes our world possible. Our nation is the living refutation of their faith. They detest us for it.

Yet as a people, we have not refuted the Islamist's indictment against us. Even as our solders engage this enemy on the battlefield, we have not made clear the impossibility of their faith over our reason in every field and in every realm. I think that is because most of us don't understand the difference ourselves. Too many of us are animated by the same core belief in the divine that animates our enemy--and in this kind of battle, it's the more consistent force that wins.

Universities such as George Mason are a home for ideas. All ideas, even those animated by faith are welcome, but for ideas to have true currency, we must be able to prove them. A university is a place for reasons. Yet faith, the cornerstone of every religion and every religious moral code is the exact opposite of proof. And of all the ideologies and worldviews that exist, it was the ones animated by faith that made the strongest showing on our campus last week.

I hate to say it, but that's not a good sign.

No comments: