Ryan Bell, the former pastor who has since become an atheist, was recently invited to deliver a lecture to students in Pacific Union College’s Psychology and Social Work department.
If you’re not familiar with the school, it’s a private Seventh-day Adventist Church-affiliated college… and it also happens to be Bell’s alma mater. So it definitely would’ve made for an interesting homecoming.
Unfortunately, the lecture was canceled. The school’s President, Dr. Heather Knight, pulled the plug, it seems, because she was afraid Bell might plant seeds of doubt into the students’ minds.
Bell wasn’t going to do that. His lecture wasn’t about why they should become atheists. But what exactly would have been the problem with challenging students on their core beliefs?
That’s what Bell would like to know, and he wrote an open letter to Knight with that thought in mind:
I realize this decision may have had little to do with the content of what I might say and more to do with public relations. With enrollment numbers down and the challenges involved in managing a college, it must be incredibly difficult to balance all the competing interests. I also recognize that having me on campus is akin to the Microsoft Corporation inviting a former Microsoft executive who now works for Apple, to come and talk about what made them leave Microsoft. It’s definitely counterintuitive. On the other hand, great leadership is often counterintuitive. More than this, great leadership is courageous. If I were to articulate a few qualities I would want graduates of any college or university to take with them into the working world it would be moral courage: the ability, when necessary, to make a difficult decision that is right for it’s own sake, even when it does not contribute to the financial bottom line or add to one’s resume.
What does it say about a college’s leadership that they would disinvite someone from speaking out of fear that the guest might just be persuasive?