The President is scheduled to deliver a commencement address at Calvin College this weekend. Fully one-third of the faculty have signed an ad protesting his visit. I don’t think Karl Rove expected this.
A couple of thoughts: First, I’m not altogether surprised that a significant portion of the Calvin faculty (not a majority, from what I can tell) doesn’t support the President. The most neutral way of stating it is that Calvin’s denomination--the Christian Reformed Church--is theologically conservative (though not quite as much as it once was), but not necessarily politically conservative. Yes, there are serious, theologically conservative Christians who oppose the war in Iraq and who think that our social welfare policies aren’t generous enough.
But that leads to my second thought. I haven’t seen the ad, so I don’t know whether the signatories are simply and politely noting their disagreements with the President or telling him he’s not welcome at Calvin. One can civilly and hospitably note that an invitation doesn’t imply an endorsement of the political positions held by the invitee and also welcome the occasion for a conversation. Or one can uncivilly and inhospitably tell the invitee that he isn’t welcome. I hope it’s the former. If it’s the latter, I’ll be very disappointed in my colleagues at Calvin and will say so.
I write this as someone who once composed and read from the platform the honorary degree citation for then-Senator Max Cleland, when he was Oglethorpe’s commencement speaker. Respectfully to welcome someone and to celebrate his genuine accomplishments doesn’t require that one agree with all or any of his views.
Update: First, here are some samples of student and alumni opinion, including a letter from prominent Ohio State professor (and Calvin alum) Dale van Kley, who does himself and his alma mater little credit by offering the following pearls of conventional academic wisdom:
In need of no introduction, George W. Bush’s chief achievement before becoming president is to have given up drinking, although the whole world would perhaps be better off were he still on his back in a Texas saloon. In his self-styled role as the Lord’s Anointed, he has launched the country on a bloody crusade without a plausible semblance of a cause. While George H. W. Bush may have killed his thousands, George W. has killed his tens of thousands.
How are students as students to be “challenged” by someone who, having had privileged access to some of the nation’s finest educational institutions, learned absolutely nothing from them and moreover takes pride in that fact? And how, except negatively, are they going to be “motivated to renew God’s world” by someone who has set out with ideological malice and aforethought to squander its remaining resources?
The benefit that will accrue to George W. Bush and his junta from this event is clear enough. It will lend additional credibility to his blasphemous claim to be the leader of an American Christendom.
But let’s not dwell too much on the negativism, which is meant to besmirch the President and to demonstrate (in an un-Calvinistic way, I might add) the superior righteousness of the protestors. Most of the letters are much more civil than that written by Professor van Kley, who (perhaps) has been away from Calvin for too long (having left for OSU in 1998); those opposed to the President’s policies apparently plan to indicate their opposition in a non-disruptive way, which wouldn’t likely be the case on most major college campuses. And then there’s the fact that only one-third of the faculty have signed the protest ad. Any guess what the percentage would have been at, say, the University of Michigan, Harvard, Amherst, or Berkeley?
Finally, any reader of pre- or post-election polling data should know that evangelicals, even theologically conservative evangelicals, do not form a political monolith. A
reliable post-election survey found that 22% of evangelicals opposed President Bush. In other words, it would be surprising if voices of dissent couldn’t be mobilized on the Calvin College campus.
Update # 2: Win Myers has more, including the text of the open letter, which is respectful but quietly strident. Im now curious about who among those I know at Calvin signed it.