Thoughts on an Apologetics Conference: We Need More “Sheepdogs”

Last weekend, I went to an apologetics symposium at Southwestern Seminary called Stand Firm.  I enjoyed the conference and wanted to jot down a few thoughts on it, focusing mostly on the main speaking sessions.  I think conferences like this are very important and I hope more and more Christians try to go to them.

There were several speakers, primarily theologians and philosophers, but the keynote speaker was J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity and owner of the website coldcasechristianity.com.  Wallace has experience as a crime scene investigator and a detective, specializing in “cold cases,” cases that have been unsolved for years.  Though Wallace is neither a trained theologian or philosopher, nor does he present anything new, his testimony and unique perspective as a detective make his presentation compelling.  He is relatable and a talented public speaker, and his many analogies between investigating the historical Jesus and detective work were very helpful.  I can’t do justice to his presentations here, but I’ll talk a bit about them to show how effective he was.

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The Internet Thought-Police and Public Shamers: The True Violators of the “Do Not Judge” Command in Matthew 7

Recently, a video surfaced of guys from the OU chapter of the fraternity SAE chanting a racist song.  The lyrics contain liberal use of the N-word as well as claims that the fraternity would never allow a black person to join.  It was met with well-deserved condemnation across the board.  Most people from all political spectrums and all colors denounced the behavior and expressed surprise that such a blatantly racist chant could still be used in our day and age. OU swiftly cut ties with the fraternity while the national board for SAE shut the chapter down.

I have no problem with Oklahoma disassociating with the fraternity; there is no legal right to be in a frat, even at a public school, and what they did was truly stupid.  I also have no problem with people expressing disagreement and criticism.  However, as predictable in this time of social media overreaction, people went farther and farther.  Their outrage lasted days.  Some took this opportunity to declare that systematic racism is EVERYWHERE, as if it is a logical to make such sweeping conclusions based on a video from an apparent dating event (I wonder if this reaction would be the same if it weren’t rich white kids who got caught and instead an Asian or Hispanic fraternity?).  Others wished to relentlessly shame and humiliate these boys.  Oklahoma has now expelled two of those students, though I’m willing to bet that they had withdrawn or would withdraw anyway on their own given the public beating they’re taking.  Oklahoma’s president called these students a “disgrace,” while many others have no problem thinking of them as human garbage.

Meanwhile, runningback Joe Mixon, who punched a girl’s face and broke bones, is a “super, super kid” who just made a mistake and has every opportunity to earn his way back on the team.  President Boren himself said he believed in second chances.  Just not for frat boys with a stupid chant, I guess.

Anyway, I’m not going to speak primarily on the legal dubiousness of expelling the students from a public school (though they sure as heck aren’t fighting it, given that that would earn them even more public shame), nor am I going to talk too much about the inconsistent reaction by the OU president on the Mixon case, as important as those topics are too.  I’m going to address this issue of public shaming and thought-policing that is becoming more and more prevalent in our culture.  Instead of truly seeking justice, people online and in the media seek satisfaction for their anger and self-righteous scorn.  While doing so, they can often illegitimately and negatively affect people’s livelihoods as well as their mental well-being because they are not the least bit concerned about helping people learn but only about stomping them into a mudhole for their own glee.  In other words, the so-called champions of tolerance and “no judgment” are actually the worst offenders of bad judgmentalism.

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