By J.R. Hoeft

Hoeft, a retired Naval officer, has been writing about Virginia policy and politics for nearly two decades. He hosts a podcast “The J. R. Hoeft Show” at jrhoeft.com. He lives in Chesapeake.

A recent column by Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America has received some attention for its criticism of Virginia Tech’s orientation. She attended this year with her son, an incoming cadet.

Nance and I have a few things in common: parents of cadets, conservative, and Christian.

When I initially read her concerns about the university embracing self-selection of personal pronouns on orientation ID badges, and some of her other worries, which included religious freedom and preferences, I thought, “Absolutely!”

However, with a little soul-searching (prayer, if you will permit), I see not only my own error in thinking, but must also respectfully disagree with the activist approach that she is encouraging.

I understand that in today’s world, attention and, perhaps, financial gain goes to those who create the most controversy. Nance, a president and CEO of a national political action organization, is able to stir the pot in spades. After all, that is her job. But when it comes to offering a perspective of love, compassion, humility, generosity, faithfulness, and, in general, staying true to Christian beliefs, she missed the mark.

Honestly, academia is hardly innocent. It seems to welcome drawing negative attention. Campuses all across the country are easily identifiable with left-leaning orthodoxy. From safe-spaces to the shouting-down of conservatives, many universities hardly promote the free exchange of ideas they piously claim. I am sure this thought played a role in why Nance lamented that her son is about to embark on four years of “indoctrination” to “leftist propaganda.”

Nance, having heard enough, stated that it is time to stand up to the “liberal, ivory-towered academic’s worldview.”

Perhaps. Instead, I am reminded of a Bible story. Are you familiar with the account of when the adulterer faced certain death by stoning from the scribes and Pharisees?

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” Christ famously challenged the mob (John 8:7).

He then turned to the sinner, after the now-neutered prosecutors sheepishly dropped their projectiles and dispersed, and asked the woman where those who had condemned her had gone. She did not know. He then said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)

This is the Christian example of confronting what is wrong.

We are all incredibly sinful beings. From our vanity to jealousy to anger and everything else, none of us can claim the moral high ground.

I understand that the LGBTQ community does not think of their identity as a sin, however, expecting the religious faithful to condone and accept the practice is next to impossible. Especially at public universities when kids are involved.

On the other hand, for those who are believers, they should also recall that no sin is above another. For example, it is sinful to shout or even think, “you fool!” to the person who cut you off on I-81 yesterday or to worry about how a presentation will go tomorrow. Yes, worry is a sin.

In other words, from our birth to our death, there is no way to escape our own sin, no matter what it is or who we are. We need help. We need repentance. We need faith. We need not cast the first stone.

I saw what the College Republicans at Virginia Tech had to say on this topic and they could not be more on point: “One of our main goals as an organization is to foster a community of respect, love, and inclusivity. Virginia Tech is a place where one should feel safe to grow as a person and not be worried to freely express themselves, a right given to us in the First Amendment.”

That same First Amendment gives Nance the freedom to be critical of the Virginia Tech practices. It is the same right that I have to respond to her. It is also the same right that students have to participate, ignore, or, better yet, discuss like adults the pronoun issue.

It is also the same right that her son, my daughter, and thousands of Hokies past, present and future swear an oath to protect and defend; a right enjoyed by all Hokies, Virginians, and Americans regardless of their political or social perspective. Ut Prosim (‘That I May Serve’), indeed.

The left may have done a good job of marginalizing common-sense beliefs and ostracizing those of faith, but no one ever said being a person of faith would be easy.

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God.” (1 Peter 2:16-17)

Stating the truth is the right thing to do, but state the truth in love. Especially when trying to set the tone of the conversation and affect hearts and minds. Also, recall Jesus did not come to the world for a Biblical debate with scribes and Pharisees; He chose to commune with and save the sinners: us.

Nance is worried that the university stated, “Parents, don’t be shocked if your kid comes home changed.”

In my view, I certainly hope so; I hope these challenges have made my daughter’s faith stronger.

I believe it has.

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