Shorter University, a Christ-centered institution of higher education in Georgia, recently adopted a Personal Lifestyle Statement for university employees. The first section, entitled “Christian Commitment and Membership in a Local Church,” states as follows:
Shorter University will hire persons who are committed Bible believing Christians, who are dedicated to integrating biblical faith in their classes and who are in agreement with the University Statement of Faith. Moreover, employees are expected to be active members of a local church.
The second section sets forth four “Principles of Personal Conduct,” addressing loyalty to the institution’s mission, as well as conduct regarding illegal drugs, sexuality, and alcohol. The principle regarding sexuality states as follows: “I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.”
There is nothing unusual about a religious organization articulating its doctrinal beliefs and ethical norms. Nor is there anything unusual about a religious organization expecting the members of its community to embrace its doctrines and follow its ethical standards. Indeed, these are appropriate and necessary measures designed to maintain the religious identity of an institution over time.
But certain media and other observers are simply shocked that Shorter took these steps. What to make of this? To be sure, a growing number of Americans approve of same-sex sexual behavior, and thus disagree with the Bible’s teachings. But, it seems to me, there is something even more fundamental going on here. Many of the commenters have drunk deeply at the well of radical individualism, deeming it out-of-bounds for a community to come together around shared beliefs — and to expect its members to act consistently with those beliefs. Of course, such extreme individualism threatens the idea of community itself. We Americans have a tendency to chafe against all sources of external authority, too often embracing extreme versions of autonomy. Although self-reliance and independence are good things, even virtues become vices when taken to extremes.
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