“How is it possible for you to effectively teach gay students?”

OpinionJournal.com’s Best of the Web Today last week covered a story from The American Enterprise magazine about how the pursuit of “diversity” on campus leads to racial and religious discrimination (quoting David French):

When I applied to teach at Cornell Law School, an interviewer noticed my evangelical background and asked, “How is it possible for you to effectively teach gay students?” If I had not given what I consider to be, in all modesty, an absolutely brilliant answer to the question, I don’t think I would have gotten the job. I sat in admissions committee meetings at Cornell in which African-American students who expressed conservative points of view were disfavored because “they had not taken ownership of their racial identity.” An evangelical student was almost rejected before I pointed out that the reviewer’s statement that “they did not want Bible-thumping or God-squading on campus” was illegal and immoral.

After the BOTW wondered aloud (er, in print, er electronicly) what his answer was, French emailed to tell them:

I was surprised and pleased to see that you quoted from my talk to the American Enterprise Institute regarding intellectual diversity (or the lack thereof) and censorship on campus. I noted that you want to know my “absolutely brilliant answer” to the improper interview question. Before I tell you, I just want to make clear that the “absolutely brilliant” comment was made tongue-in-cheek in the speech and was played for laughs. I’m not really quite so full of myself. The truth is that I was fortunate to get the job perhaps in spite of my answer. I responded to the interviewer with the following statement:

“I believe that all human beings are created in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of whether I agree with their personal conduct or beliefs. I will treat all my students well, but I can’t guarantee that they will treat me well when they learn that I’m a dreaded ‘Christian conservative.’ ”

She responded with a long silence and then said, “I never thought of things from that perspective.”

Great response, no? I’d like to think that I would compose myself and my answer in such a way as to be truthful and graceful, and honor God in the process.


  1. Ron said,

    May 25, 2005 @ 9:23 am

    That is a great response and I’m glad it was put in print. I actually think a great many evangelicals would respond similarly, if not as eloquently (or at least I hope so). Unfortunately the assumption is so firmly in place that all conservative Christians must be gay-bashing, hate-filled, abortion-clinic bombers, that it is hard to even be heard above that fray.

  2. keener said,

    May 26, 2005 @ 7:58 am

    Sadly, Ron, I have to disagree with your assertion that “a great many evangelicals would respond similarly.” Most evangelicals just don’t have a clue, and confronted with a question like that would become defensive and (probably) attack the question with a question like “why do you assume I can’t?” It’s just in our nature that when we’re confronted with a direct challenge to our beliefs that we feel threatened.

    I say this knowing myself, and with all honesty: I haven’t yet come to the place where I can respond to a question like this with grace. It’s more tempting for me to deflect with humor or to cut back with sarcasm. It’s still a work in progress.

    I suppose, as I reflect, that the population of evangelicals who would even be considered for a teaching position at Cornell would respond more thoughtfully. Maybe.

  3. Just call me G said,

    May 26, 2005 @ 10:02 am

    Joel, unfortunately, I agree that too many evangelicals would respond in more defensive manner. Too often we are sucked in to responding in kind to irrelevant and generalizing remarks. We can learn alot from the response given by Mr. French and try to replicate the attitude portrayed when we are faced with a similar accusation.

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