Section: Opinion

Yes, intolerance is still alive at Kenyon

Before I begin, I’d like to preface this article by saying that it took me a long time to decide to tell this story to such a large audience, and the only reason why I have decided to do so is that the main character of the story is no longer at Kenyon. I would also like to add that I think the world of this person in several capacities, and that this person has shown an incredibly kind heart on many other occasions.

So, my background: I am a cradle Episcopalian. That is to say, I was born into the Episcopal Church and have never faltered in my commitment to it. I grew up going to Episcopal summer camp and youth group and helped organize several retreats and programs for other Episcopal youth throughout my high school years.

The past two summers, I worked at the Episcopal summer camp I grew up attending, and am one of the peer ministers for Kenyon’s Canterbury Club (the Episcopal campus ministry). I also used to serve on the vestry for Harcourt Parish. Basically, I’m a total church nerd.

My story begins one afternoon two Februarys ago, when I was discussing an assignment with a group of peers.  Several ideas were tossed about, and one group member suggested we do a project concerning affordable travel for college students. Another group member then opposed that idea, explaining that by doing so we may unintentionally alienate students for whom even “affordable” travel is too expensive.

At this moment, another person — whom I’ll call “Taylor” — walked by and caught a snippet of our conversation. Taylor, a huge social justice activist, misheard the idea, and thought we were suggesting alienating lower-income students. Once we explained the misunderstanding, Taylor laughed, and said the following:

“Oh, thank goodness! I was going to say, ‘Make fun of the Christians all you want, because they choose to be that way, but never make fun of the poor, because they can’t help their situation.’”

“Make fun of the Christians all you want.”

Great.

The thing that kills me is that it was so uncalled for. It had absolutely zero relation to what we were talking about. Now, Taylor was aware that I am a practicing Christian, but I don’t believe it was meant as a personal attack in the slightest — Taylor is not that kind of person. But just because it was not a personal attack does not negate its hurtfulness in any way, nor would the comment have been any more okay if I weren’t in the room.

Naturally, I was offended because Christianity is important to me, but what almost hurt me more was how easily the comment flowed out of Taylor’s mouth, and how seemingly okay Taylor was with implying that an incredibly important part of millions of people’s lives was worthless.

This memory came back to me the other day in relation to the Kenyon Confession someone posted about having sex on the altar of the Church of the Holy Spirit. We all have needs, it was probably on your bucket list, how thrilling to screw over — literally — an institution you think is inherently messed up. I get it.

But here’s the thing: even though that’s how you perceive the situation, not everyone feels that way, and there are a large number of people on this campus who view the chapel, and its altar specifically, as a fiercely sacred place. Even if you don’t, can we just respect that?

My discomfort about this situation and the perception of religion on campus brought me quickly back to that fateful February conversation. While discussing Taylor’s comment with friends, some have pointed out to me that, although they understood my indignation, this flippant comment was okay because Christians had discriminated against and hurt so many groups of people in the past and that they deserved to be attacked.

Now, I get the history of Christianity is far from all-accepting and open, even though that is its fundamental goal. But regardless of what has happened in the past, it is never, ever okay to imply someone’s way of understanding the world is worthy of scorn and ridicule. Fighting fire with fire has never been the answer.

It saddens me deeply that something so intolerant could happen at a school that is normally so open to a myriad of thoughts, a school that broadened my understanding of the world in ways I didn’t even know possible before I arrived on the Hill. But it’s not just Kenyon.

No one should ever feel alienated because of who they are — no one should ever feel like the “other” anywhere in the world, be it because of religion, political view, race, ethnicity, sexuality or anything else. Our idiosyncrasies are what make us interesting and contribute to global thought and progress — let’s respect them.

Jane Simonton ’15 is an international studies major from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is one of the Arts editors of the Collegian. She can be contacted at simontonj@kenyon.edu

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