Once again, I am faced with the question of exactly what we are doing here at Vanderbilt. Although I do not seek to impose on anyone, proposing Jesus Christ necessarily involves defending the dignity of the human person. We were talking about that fundamental moral norm in RCIA last night as we finished up the 10 Commandments. The dignity of the human person leads to the following propositions, which come up in life here at Vanderbilt:
getting drunk is wrong
sex is made for marriage
marriage is made for a man and a woman
human life begins at conception
human life is inviolable
abortion takes human life
embryonic stem cell research takes human life
natural law cannot be contradicted by human law
None of these propositions relies on faith or revelation for validity. They are all propositions that can be demonstrated by reason and so they are not impositions on anyone. As propositions, the radiant person of Jesus Christ illumines the truth of these statements. They are not the horse but the cart of the Christian life! The horse -- the power -- of the propositions is The Way, The Truth, and The Life which is Jesus Christ. Have you stopped to look at Him lately? Whether by reason or revelation, we must propose the Truth.
The administration at Vanderbilt do not hold these propositions as principles. I feel sorry for them. They try to moderate some of the worst effects of violating these principles without admitting that these are principles. No wonder it does not work. Let's take the least serious of these propositions, the one about drunkenness, since spring break is coming up! One high administrator was making excuses to me for the sorority girls arrested or hospitalized for drunkenness after rush was over. He said that things in Greek life were getting better! I looked at him, not able to believe what I was hearing. Is this the best life that Vanderbilt has to offer to these young women? Having "fun" that ends in being arrested or hospitalized? The administration are caught in the intellectual dead end of relativism that prevents them from saying that practically anything is wrong. The only thing that is wrong absolutely is to say that anything is wrong. And if nothing is wrong, nothing is right either. They have nothing to propose about drinking...or about sex, or about marriage, or about human life itself for living the good life! "Be nice" and "don't get hurt" is about it.
Getting drunk is not the worst thing in the world. But it is wrong. As a Christian and as a rational human being, I can say that. It demeans the dignity of the human person by overthrowing reason, one of the jewels of the human soul. Christian anthropology allows me to say that. I can say more than "be careful" to students going out for a binge. I can say "don't do it." And what is more important, I can say "let me propose a better Way."