May 21, 2019 - Tuesday
The Commencement of Controversy at Taylor
There are plenty of places where people of faith don't feel welcome these days. But a Christian college in rural Indiana shouldn't be one of them. When Taylor University confirmed Vice President Mike Pence to speak at last weekend's graduation, it should have been a proud moment for the 173-year-old campus. Instead, the media turned a handful of unhappy grads into a national story that made a lot of parents wonder: Is there any college left where biblical values are safe?
There are certain things visitors notice about Taylor. The cornfields, for one. The bell tower. But mostly, the intense feeling of Christ-centered community. So imagine students' surprise when one of the most defining characteristics of the school suddenly vanished in a flood of political headlines. Suddenly, the tight-knit campus was caught up in a national firestorm over something that shouldn't have been controversial in the first place: an evangelical Hoosier speaking at an evangelical Hoosier college. But then, as one soon-to-be-sophomore told me, it only takes a handful of students to ruin it for everyone else.
David Muselman wasn't a graduating senior last Saturday, but he was one of the thousands of students frustrated by all of the criticism leveled Mike Pence's way. He decided to show the media just how many fans the vice president had on campus by starting an "I like Mike" campaign. Together with some friends, he designed t-shirts with Pence's face and started wearing them all over Upland. The idea caught fire, and soon, he couldn't produce shirts fast enough. When I caught up with David on Monday's "Washington Watch," I asked him how much of the outrage over the vice president's speech was real. Not much, he said.
"After Vice President Pence got invited to campus, there was tremendous excitement, but all it took was a couple of students. One student said she was shaking -- and one student said she was fearful for some reason. And the press really blew it out of proportion. I was there Saturday. It was an unbelievable speech, and really there wasn't a large crowd that walked out. But the media just blew it out of proportion like they always do. And [they] forgot about the four or five standing ovations Vice President Pence received."
Of course, the only thing you read from most outlets was that "dozens of students walked out" of the ceremony. Some did leave, David confirmed. Others refused to shake Pence's hand, leading a lot of people to wonder exactly what they'd learned after four years in a Christian college. "You know, the Left in our culture, they preach tolerance," David said. "They preach inclusivity. 'Let's include everybody. Let's be nice to everybody.' But then they come back and they, they're not tolerant to the right. They're not tolerant to the Christian conservatives."
Like a lot of students, he was frustrated that the only thing Americans were reading was how angry Taylor students were that Pence was speaking. "That's simply not true. I've been on the campus -- I know a lot of people at our university -- and there was really just a small, small, small minority who disagreed with the decision... I just appreciate the fact that he's willing to stand firm and true to his biblical principles and beliefs despite what anybody says or anybody throws at him."
That's something the two of them have in common. One of the things Vice President Pence told the Class of 2019, ironically, is that they had to be "prepared to stand up... And as you stand up, be prepared to face opposition." Young people like David are proof that there's a faithful and courageous remnant in this next generation who will go out and do exactly what Mike Pence said.
Encourage me, I told David at the end of the segment, by telling me there are a lot more young people like you out there. "There's a lot more young people like me," he promised, "and hopefully this message and this movement will be motivating to others around the country."
If you want to feel better about the future of America, listen to the enthusiasm of this Taylor freshman. It'll give you hope that there's a great light in this darkness -- even when we can't always see it.