So, regardless of this week's news out of Nashville (no, for once, we're not talking about the SBC), I'm not about to start crying "persecution." However, I AM going to call for a little common sense!
From Nashville comes the report that Baptist Collegiate Ministry has declined Vanderbilt University's offer of status as a recognized student organization on the Vanderbilt campus. In an article in the Tennessee Baptist Convention's Baptist and Reflector newsjournal, editor Lonnie Wilkey reports,
"The issue surrounds the decision announced by Vanderbilt earlier this year that the university intends to enforce its non-discrimination policy and a new all-comers policy. The all-comer policy means that any student at Vanderbilt is entitled to become a member and to seek a leadership position in any registered student organization on campus. In a nutshell, if a non-Christian wanted to seek leadership in the BCM at Vanderbilt, he or she could do so under the university policy."Really?
This kind of knuckleheaded thinking jeopardizes the serious efforts on behalf of equal rights and nondiscrimination to which many - including yours truly - are committed. Nondiscrimination is generally a worthy goal, but not all discrimination is unfair and unjust. And not all nondiscrimination is equal!
Yes, technically speaking, it is discrimination to bar an atheist - or even a Methodist - from leadership in a Baptist organization. But such discrimination is not unfair or unjust. It's just common sense. Any organization should have the right to limit its leadership to those who understand, and are committed to promoting and advancing, the purposes and goals of the organization.
Our Baptist heritage and principles are unique, and it's important that Baptist organizations teach them and promote them. In the hands of those who don't hold to them, they will be ignored and discarded. We can't afford that.
Baptist Collegiate Ministry had no choice; it made the only logical choice open to it. Vanderbilt University, on the other hand, needs to rethink its policy. Maybe Vanderbilt needs to be a little more discriminating in choosing its own leadership - requiring some common sense would be a nice start.