Tolerant California will not tolerate Christian colleges

June 27, 2016

I’ve been a California resident for more than a decade, long enough to remember when a Republican was governor (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and when 52 percent of Californians voted against the redefinition of marriage, not that I’m nostalgic for those days.

California is a state that is weird and wonderful and unpredictable. Driven by trendiness and fashion du jour rather than history or tradition, California is necessarily a fast-moving state (It’s been less than a decade since Prop. 8 and less than two years since Caitlyn Jenner was a man). California is about change, newness, discovery, pioneering. This creates fertile ground for Hollywood creativity and Silicon Valley innovation, but it also has downsides. California’s disdain for tradition and apathy about old things often leads to a dangerous void of perspective, pacing and logic.

California is about the now and the new, a real-time feed of chaotic fragments of expression and opinion. California is where supposedly open-minded, progressive people go. It’s where dreamers and outcasts and immigrants and refugees flock. It’s where Don Draper finally found his happy place. It’s a state that celebrates every culture and all ideas. Diversity, inclusion, pluralism and tolerance are its mantras.

Or so we thought.

A pernicious bill (SB 1146) now moving through the California legislature would force Christian colleges and universities into submissionwhen it comes to their beliefs and policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Section one of SB 1146 would remove an existing religious exemption and narrow it so that faith-based institutions (including Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, etc) could no longer think and behave differently on these most central human questions. What Sacramento says is true about SOGI is now what every knowledge institution in California must acknowledge in practice (if not in belief) to be true.

So much for valuing diversity.

How ironic that the state that leads the nation in “tolerance” is moving to impose a “one size must fit all” policy on SOGI orthodoxy for the very institutions (colleges and universities) who contribute the most to the state’s ideological diversity.

Welcome to the new liberal intolerance. SB 1146 is a blatant example of it, and the contentious debates about the bill in the California legislature have raised this concern. As state senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) said in the California Senate debate about SB 1146 in May, “Sometimes you can become what you hate, and you can become intolerant if you’ve been the victim of intolerance.”

SB 1146’s author, Senator Ricardo Lara, insists that he is not becoming what he hates. But he is. He insists that he values all forms of diversity. But he doesn’t. His bill makes it clear that the only diversity he values is diversity with an asterisk. And the asterisk is: you are part of the diversity we champion unless you dare to believe and live according to your traditional religious convictions about sexuality and gender. 

That’s faux diversity. Faux tolerance. It’s discrimination. It’s exactly what Lara and the anti-discrimination police are fighting against. They’re becoming the enemy they used to fight against. Lawmakers in the Golden State have clearly forgotten the Golden Rule.

The “we’re becoming what we hate” nature of this is something wise liberals are recognizing and starting to decry. Take Nicholas Kristof in The New York Timesblasting the “liberal poppycock” of faux tolerance and blatant discrimination toward conservatives:

When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards — and we all lose… Universities should be a hubbub of the full range of political perspectives from A to Z, not just from V to Z. So maybe we progressives could take a brief break from attacking the other side and more broadly incorporate values that we supposedly cherish — like diversity — in our own dominions.

California has forgotten what pluralism and tolerance are and why they are valuable for democracy. It’s not about everyone agreeing about everything. It’s about the value for society when the opposite is true: when there are varying perspectives and strong institutions that respect one another even while they hold distinct (and often mutually exclusive) beliefs. Civil disagreement and principled pluralism are foundational to a healthy democracy. Sadly America at large is forgetting how to do this and why we should.

California especially, prone as it is to quickly forget history and dispense with the wisdom of tradition and the guardrails of time-honored values, should recognize that the role distinctly religious institutions play is vital as a societal preservative. 

In such a rapidly changing culture, religious institutions that maintain classical understandings of religious teaching are crucial. With a bigger picture and (much) longer view, these institutions function as preserving agents and safeguards against an ephemeral, disposable culture that would just as soon cycle through ideas about human flourishing as soon as they can come up with them or feel them to be true.

On the issues of marriage and sexuality, for example, the Christian colleges targeted by SB 1146 are seeking to preserve the church’s 2,000 plus year teachings. The church hasn’t changed; culture has. We forget how rapidly American opinion on marriage and sexuality has changed in recent years. As recently as five years ago both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton publicly sided with traditional understandings of these issues.

In a world as sped-up and forgetful and post-truth as ours is now, conservative religious colleges and universities should be more than just tolerated. They should be supported and invested in, protected from the inertia of change and the Orwellian intrusions of government. When these agents of conservation and preservation are no longer tolerated, what or who in our world will serve as conservers and preservers?

When these religious institutions are made to give up the very beliefs and practices that make them valuably distinct, who will be left to speak clarity into our confused culture? Who will be left to offer truth claims that are backed by centuries of wisdom rather than seconds of whim? Who will be left to lead in selfless love when all the culture can think to do is please and protect the self? Who will be left to tell the Californias of the world to slow down and ponder the logic of their “tolerance with an asterisk” philosophies?

This article was originally published here.

Brett McCracken

Brett McCracken is a senior editor and director of communications for The Gospel Coalition. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24