My good friend Betsy VanDenBerghe has an excellent post up at Real Clear Religion: The Mormon Option. In the post, she builds off of Damon Linker’s experiences as a non-Mormon professor at BYU. Despite having to abide some very strict rules, Linker found that:
strangely enough . . . within a system of strict behavioral requirements, academic freedom flourished. “I was perfectly free to teach whatever I wanted in the classroom. And I did,” including the radical writings of everyone from Machiavelli to Rousseau to Nietzche and his suggestion that “God is dead.” When a singular complaint arose about a scandalous scene in Aristophanes’ The Clouds, the department chair let Linker know “that I had his support. There was no reprimand” — nor demand for trigger warnings or syllabus alterations.
VanDenBerghe suggests that what is true for Linker is also true for devout members of strict religions:
Outsiders associate behavioral guidelines with intellectual and emotional ones, but dismissing believers as incapable of empathizing with those outside their belief system usually comes from those who have never experienced the congregations they disparage. If they went inside, they’d discover a big and surprisingly diverse world of believers moving along the straight and narrow path.
In addition, she points out that if you’re looking for diversity the politically progressive mainline protestant denominations are not the way to go, since they “tend to be whiter, older, and more educated.” By contrast, “It’s American Catholics, Pentecostals, and evangelicals who are less white, younger, and more economically and educationally diverse.” And Mormons, with our population brimming with folks who have served 18- or 24-month mission to strange lands (from Albania to Alabama) is a group that is particularly accustomed to the reality that there are lots and lots of different kinds of people and different ways of living out there.
Hey, maybe Bernie Sanders’ welcome at Liberty University wasn’t such a fluke after all, eh?