By Vinnie Rotondaro at National Catholic Reporter
The president of an evangelical Christian college is making news for writing an open letter that berates “our culture” for teaching American youth to be “self-absorbed and narcissistic.”
“Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims,” he wrote. “Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them ‘feel bad’ about themselves, is a ‘hater,’ a ‘bigot,’ an ‘oppressor,’ and a ‘victimizer.'”
Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, wrote the letter after a student told him he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13 — “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” — saying, in essence, that the homily made him feel bad for not showing enough love in his life.
“I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen,” Piper wrote. “That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience. An altar call is supposed to make you feel bad.”
The open letter fits into growing wave of criticism aimed at perceived “political correctness” and over-sensitivity on American college campuses, and reflects deep cultural changes taking place across generational divides.
High profile comedians like Chris Rock have said they would stop playing shows on college campuses due to the cultural sensitivities. Others, like Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher, have criticized the cultural trend.
In September, Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and Jonathan Haidt, a prominent social scientist, wrote “The Coddling of the American Mind” for The Atlantic magazine.
“Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities,” the authors wrote. “A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.”
In June, a college professor wrote a story for Vox titled, “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me.”
A more recent commentary written by an African American Harvard Law professor in the New York Times adds an important layer of racial nuance to the question.
Piper’s open letter combines religious insight with the overall criticism.
“The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness,” he wrote.
“Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a ‘safe place,'” he wrote, “but rather, a place to learn…that life isn’t about you, but about others…This is a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up.”