Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse, an online publisher of essays on public issues,  ran a piece by Robert Oscar Lopez, a CSU Northridge professor and social activist recently, describing growing campus censorship around the country. He compares his experience as an invited, and then uninvited, speaker at a Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS) event to the legion of invitation withdrawals of prominent people to speak at university commencements. The SAS event was to discuss the institution of marriage and the impact of same-sex marriage on the institution. 

Supporters of same sex marriage remonstrated and Stanford pulled their support for the event. Evidently this experience is just one of many Lopez has suffered, including continual harassment by his own employer over his views on social issues and varied other causes that usually fall under a broad interpretation of “conservative” causes. If you are interested Lopez details this sustained harassment HERE.

But looking at Lopez’s essays on social issues one finds an addiction to extraordinarily inflammatory language, outrageous claims and what seems to be an invitation to be provoked.  Even if reactions to his social stands are out of scale to his claims and the actions against him unjustifiable, he seems to invite these extreme responses through the confrontational rhetorical style he employs. He continues to provoke, he continues to work at the academic institution harassing him, he remains firmly in the public eye, continually drawing attention to himself  through his public pronouncements and in his defiance of self-censorship.

 I began to think that he is inviting his suffering – a voluntary suffering. Reading a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ I find a Kempis counseling his readers to sacrifice. But, he cautions, 

Let him not regard as great what others might esteem great, but let him truthfully confess himself an unprofitable servant. For these are the words of the Truth Himself: `When you shall have done all those things that are commanded you, say, “We are unprofitable servants” (Luke 17:10). Then he may indeed be called poor and naked in spirit, and say with the Prophet, `I am alone and poor’ (Ps. 25:16). Yet there is no man richer, more powerful or freer than he who can forsake himself and all else, and set himself in the lowest place.

Is Lopez suffering in the model of Christ’s suffering?  Or is he fixated on regarding “as great what others might esteem great”?  Has he taken on the suffering of the righteous, forsaking himself in the name of all that is right or does he invite persecution through provocation in order to nobly and publicly suffer? These are unanswerable questions but Lopez’s tendentiousness invites his readers to question his motives, diluting the impact of his work.

Surely we need courageous writers to insist a focus on objective truths. We need to be continually reminded that trends in popular culture are neither inevitable nor value-free. Those taking on such work willingly make themselves targets of a public calumny and so suffer for their insistence on voicing the truth.

However, if one seems to stage confrontations and then publicizes these confrontations as evidence of the opponent’s lack of virtue then neither truth nor culture is served. We each have an obligation to sort a Kempis’ unprofitable servants from those who act in order to gain the esteem of others. 

 

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