How Faith Changes Campus Sex Assaults

Cultures of restraint fare better than cultures of mere consent, research shows.

When college freshmen step on campus for the first day of school, they will be entering what experts consider the riskiest period for sexual assault, spanning from the start of the semester to Thanksgiving break.

One Christian college graduate remembers her first weeks as the time when a guy from her “brother hall” grabbed her hand and shoved it down his pants. Another met her college boyfriend early on. The relationship soon grew threatening, and he ended up raping her in a parked car. At another school, it didn’t take long into the first semester before a female student began to wonder what to do about unwanted attention from one of her professors.

Over the past year, the #MeToo movement proved harassment and rape can happen to women anywhere, but colleges have long been ground zero for America’s sexual violence epidemic.

Most evangelical schools already have policies that address the biggest risk factors: dry campuses, single-sex dormitories, codes of conduct barring sex before marriage. But recent studies suggest that the most significant disparities between Christian and public or private institutions correspond to the biblical convictions at the core of the community, from shared morality to their approach to gender roles. Faith indeed influences the rates of sexual violence on campus—mostly for better, but sometimes for worse, researchers say.

“One of the key shared ideas [at Christian schools] is that sex needs boundaries or restraint—a radically countercultural affirmation in a society where most affirm sex need have no limits if it is consensual,” wrote sociologist Jim Vanderwoerd from Redeemer University College in Ontario.

In a 2017 study, Vanderwoerd and Harvard University’s …

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Can You Hear Me Now?

In an age when most are rushing to have their say, Christians can love by giving others a hearing.

I remember having a discussion around faith matters years ago with an intelligent person. I met him at an event I was attending with a few friends. On one particular evening, we all decided to have dinner together. Just from the incidental conversations we had before this meal, I knew that he and I did not see eye to eye on many issues.

After the meal finished, the three others got up to use the restroom while he and I sat talking across the table. We entered into a contentious theological issue, and it soon felt as though someone had turned up the temperature in the room. His face became red, and I am sure mine was too.

Eventually he looked at me and said, “Oh I understand now. You are a foundationalist!” If I weren’t so caught up in the emotion of the conversation at the time, I would have asked him what a foundationalist is.

He quickly moved on to his next accusation, clothed in the form of a question: “Tell me, where did you study?” When I mentioned the two universities at which I had done post-graduate education, he dropped his case against me. In hindsight, I am convinced that he was looking to categorize me, but he couldn’t do it because the universities I mentioned simply would not fit the anticipated boxes to be ticked.

As I think back to that intense conversation, I wonder how I could have navigated that situation better and how the Christian faith might inform my frame of mind.

Many of us have been in conversations like this in which we stop listening to the person with whom we are speaking. Lyell Asher, English professor at Lewis and Clark College, proposes a meaningful antidote to this challenge in his American Scholar article. He makes the point that instead of listening for what …

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Evangelism Is a Work of Social Justice

How critics can help us keep such social ministries vibrant.

I find myself scratching my head as to why so many evangelical Christians committed to social justice are reacting so strongly to the recent statement on social justice.

In part it may be due to matters of style and tone; the statement, for example, is a list of bold affirmations and denials. This is not in tune with our times. While we are wont to make definitive and sweeping pronouncements on social or political matters, we’re hesitant to talk like this with when it comes to things transcendent (more on this below).

As in any statement, there is much I would want to change or tweak, but statements like this do raise fundamental concerns that deserve careful thought.

The Temptations of Social Justice

For example, I think this statement grasps some of the principal temptations of those who are called into the social justice arena. Every ministry of emphasis has its peculiar temptations (e.g., journalists are subject to cynicism among other sins), and we are wise to be aware of them—if for no other reason than to ensure that our social justice ministries remain vibrant.

One social justice temptation, for example, is to let the world determine our social justice agenda and rationale. This is how the statement, now signed by almost 7,000 people, puts it:

WE AFFIRM that God’s law, as summarized in the ten commandments, more succinctly summarized in the two great commandments, and manifested in Jesus Christ, is the only standard of unchanging righteousness. Violation of that law is what constitutes sin.WE DENY that any obligation that does not arise from God’s commandments can be legitimately imposed on Christians as a prescription for righteous living. We further deny the legitimacy of any charge of sin or …

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