“It happens all the time.”

Post office boxes

We were discussing social media communication.

August_Hermann_Knoop_Rokoko-KavaliereMy young friend and I were discussing what he sees and hears on the college campus.

“Relationships are based on convenience,” he began. “Students surround themselves with people who think like they think.”

My face frowned, “Isn’t that exactly the opposite of what should happen at college?”

800px-Graz_University-Library_reading-room“You would be surprised,” he was shaking his head, “Students form groups which disallow any and all opposing viewpoints.”

“What is the latest idea you’ve encountered,” I questioned.

“There are some who suggest that because you are a man, you are automatically a rapist.

The stunned expression on my face spoke for me.

800px-Adolf_Friedrich_Erdmann_von_Menzel_049“That’s right. Simply because you are a man you automatically have inclinations and tendencies toward abuse of women. Some groups assume that point of view. All other perspectives are viewed as an attack against women. You either agree or you become the adversary.”

It was hard to believe what I was hearing.

My college friend continued, “If a group finds others who disagree in the slightest they criticize, marginalize, and ostracize dissent.

“Posting in social media by some,” he resumed, “Is all based on personal experience and emotion. Anyone who irritates the group is isolated and antagonized.”

phoneHe picked up his phone. “Here is one posting example of the end result of such thinking.” He read the following statement word-for-word from one student’s social media feed.

“By what authority are these statements right or wrong? There are no born rights. There is only that which we take by force. Rights are a luxurious abstraction for societies which have already exercised sufficient force.”

1984“This sounds like Nazi Germany or Orwell’s 1984,” my voice was incredulous.

“So where do rights come from according to your social media friend,” I asked. [See my essay on “rights” here.]

“Whomever is in power controls rights,” came his adamant reply.

“So do you feel bullied in campus discussions?” I had to ask.

“I pick my words carefully,” his eyes locked on mine. “Campus atmosphere dictates discussions.”

Microphone_slant.svg“We have open mic nights about pressing social issues,” he motioned to an announcement on a TV monitor. “I go to listen and ask questions. But even asking questions can get you in trouble. People will read into your questions if they feel your queries are searching for alternative points of view.”

“Is there any hope of creating space for open, honest, yet civil discussions?” I asked.

Right now, in the present culture, I would say no,” came his sad response. “Obviously social media is the wrong place to post any contrarian viewpoint. The campus atmosphere precludes openness.”

handshakeHe paused, stuck his hand out across the table, and said, “Thank you for spending time with me. I look forward to our discussions each week. Your investment in my life helps me know that a loving Christian viewpoint is the answer to antagonism on campus or in social media.”

Mark is both saddened and encouraged by such discussions he has with college students. Dr. Mark Eckel is the president of The Comenius Institute. See our one minute video here.

Picture credit: Wikipedia, Wikipedia commons

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  1. New times. Old strategies. Seek out individual discussions with students, you may get a different reaction. Not always, but typically, an individual doesn’t wish to be seen in a bad light. Connecting conversations can take place with only a sentence, a seed, a thought, or a question. Then, once you test the receptivity of the audience, you can proceed further. Back off when you sense things are still going well. Make sure the other person’s opinion is the focus of the majority of the conversation. Guide the conversation by what you ask. Many do wish to explore other views but will support the group so as not to be perceived as an outsider. People want to always be viewed as going with the majority because of their need for acceptance.

    Once, I focused on doing changing the demeanor of a prickly class on a “secular” campus. I purposefully had individual discussions over time without the other students being aware that this was transpiring. I even took on the group “leader” who was cantankerous. I kept asking her personal questions and exhorting her when I could. Bottom line: I showed personal care for them. When the collective group conversation came, I had already sown the seeds to sway things towards a more open dialogue. It worked. The class atmosphere changed. I believe many Christians have backed off of engaging in individual conversations for fear of the reactions. We are to build bridges. Let’s not retreat. Let’s continue to engage in connecting conversations. Even raising a question in a large group says to those who are doubting the group think, “wow, someone was brave enough to raise a valid question!” Effectiveness is not measured by momentary success. Engage!

  2. We have our first daughter at a private Christian college and the issues are very minimal in this area for what I think are obvious reasons.
    Two weeks ago we visited our second daughters college soon to be, which is a prominent public school in Texas, and not the uber left one. Anyways, the campus she will be attending is not the main campus. The tour guide stopped in one building on this rainy day and talked about how life can be difficult for college students, and so they have an indoor sand box to play in, 200 cats freely walking about, puppy days, and sleep pod areas, etc. to help with the stress.
    I think the idea that life can be difficult and you can be strong and deal with it in honorable ways, almost seems a lot skill. Some schools now have safe spaces and excuse schoolwork when the kids “feel stressed.” All that talk about how special and important our kids are ( public school agendas) has created narcissistic, entitled, whinny snowflakes that just can’t deal with reality and buck up anymore. It truly scares me.

  3. I think fear is the great motivator in all of this. Fear of new ideas. Fear of rejection. Fear of pain, emotional, physical, or otherwise.

    Christ is the answer to fear. With Christ, we have shalom. Nothing is sweeter.

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