Many thanks to Bill for his post regarding Michelle Boorstein’s excellent and informative article about Georgetown University’s ban on proselytization.
Michelle brought out a point that has been consistently overlooked and under-reported. In all too many campus disputes, campus Christians are not just willing, but often eager to self-censor:
“[Two recent Christian graduates] cited a term that has become the buzzword of evangelism today for many faiths: relational. That means sharing your faith in the context of a close relationship. Another expression that has become trendy in Christian youth magazines and blogs and on T-shirts is one attributed to 13th century Saint Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel; if necessary, use words.”
“Because Christians feel the need to “self-censor” their talk about God, Brown said, young people now are putting more emphasis on “being more radical in their acts of service,” such as in work with the poor and sick.
To be clear, self-censorship can be a good thing (good manners, for example represent virtuous self-censorship), but self-censorship that exists primarily because of fear or a desire to be accepted by an otherwise hostile community can be destructive — depriving an entire campus of a vital perspective. It is admirable to be “radical” in “acts of service,” but it is also sad for Christians to feel that legitimate witness is almost entirely nonverbal. A vicious cycle is created: Young Christians — desperate not to be perceived as a “bad” or “intolerant” — censor their speech and pour themselves into acts of service. The campus community sees this, positively reinforces the “silent but serving” Christian model, and perpetuates the intense pressure not to fully engage the community. Thus the Christian perspective is driven from the marketplace of ideas without a single overt act of censorship — with the only truly “verbal” Christians the occasional (often unhinged) street preacher spewing invective at passers-by.