Removing the anti-LGBTQ table was censorship

After the recent events involving the homophobic booth on campus, I was surprised, or rather, disturbed by how many people I spoke to who condoned the campus removing them. Do I support the students’ beliefs? No. Do I understand the anger and frustration expressed by the students wishing to foster a more pro-LGBTQ mindset on campus? Yes. But I cannot, and never will, condone such actions as were committed by the campus by forcibly removing the booth.

Many of us seem to believe—albeit unconsciously—that simply erasing the views that we hold to be controversial and dangerous will lead to those views magically disappearing, but it simply doesn’t. The Communist Manifesto being banned in Tsarist Russia did not stop the rise of Leninism. The censorship of pro-libertarian books in the British colonies did not stop the American Revolution. And Middle Eastern governments attempting to stop the translation of Paradise Lost did not stop it from redefining what many of their youth felt about their religion and their own individuality.

And here we come to our greatest failure: how far we have strayed from our roots as Protestants. During the 16th century, the Qur’an was finally translated into Latin by Swiss publisher Johannes Oporinus. As a result, he was jailed for this slight. The concept of the Qur’an becoming widely available in Europe, especially given the campaign of conquest the Ottomans were currently conducting at the time, was seen as an abomination to Christian doctrine and morality. However, one man disagreed, and with his help the Latin translation of the Qur’an was printed in 1543. That man was none other than Martin Luther.

Today we may see this as him simply wanting to embrace a sense of diversity and understanding of other cultures, but this was not the case. Luther certainly shared the disdain against Islam that his fellow Europeans had. Rather, he wanted the Qur’an published because, after he had read the translation, he was so disgusted with the ideology enclosed within that he wanted it scrutinized and dissected by the Christian population, not simply locked behind the iron gate of censorship. Only by reading and understanding the, in his words, “utterly despicable and blasphemous” text could they expose and dispel it. Luther even wrote an introduction for the early printings, in which he explained that studying non-Christian texts was one of the best ways to confirm one’s own faith. If Luther was so adamant that Christians should understand other points of view and address them through ways other than censorship, why are we not?

This situation is not an easy one but we cannot simply banish those beliefs we think, or more often, know, to be incorrect and expect them to go away. Those beliefs will still exist, and they will become increasingly stronger unless we discuss and dispel them. I am reminded of Daryl Davis, a Black blues musician who has successfully brought about over 200 former Klansmen to renounce their once racist beliefs. He did this not through aggression, but by attending KKK rallies in order to engage with and talk with those same people who hated him simply for being born a different race. During a TED talk in 2017, he said that “When you seek to destroy somebody, all you do is empower them, because they feel like, ‘You see? They don’t want us to have our rights to feel the way we want to feel.’ And they get more and more emboldened and more and more empowered.” If we are to address and remedy homophobic beliefs, we must start by actually remedying such beliefs, else we not be able to call ourselves “Christ’s agents of renewal”. If we continue this path of censorship, it will only lead to those censored to feel persecuted, that feeling will lead to hatred, and hatred will lead to the very actions we claim to be against.