Not Guilty as Charged

On Issues of Guilt, Students Need to Push Back Against the Campus Mob Narrative

As a high school teacher, it is a bittersweet moment whenever the graduating seniors I have come to know in my science classes – whom, as ninth graders squirmed anxiously grasping Newton’s laws, and as seniors ever so graciously tried to show interest grasping conservation laws – launch into post-high school life. In just a few short months, many of these young adults raised in Christian homes will find themselves navigating the tumultuous, pluralistic waters of college life. In the classical Christian school where I have the pleasure of teaching these youth, coursework is purposefully designed to encourage them to

  1. think biblically
  2. exercise logic and reason in all matters,
  3. evaluate information critically.

In interpersonal conflicts raising issues of culpability and guilt, they are exhorted to consult the wisdom of scripture in order to resolve such matters.

While nearly all the above-enumerated values in the West’s past were universal, today they exist only in the small enclaves of classical Christian schools and a few remaining private Christian universities. On many college campuses, thanks in large part to Robin D’Angelo, faux historians of the fictitious 1619 Project, capitulating clergy, and BLM’s effective messaging, these values are not only being challenged, but assailed as vestiges of “white privilege.” For this reason, anyone adhering to them is condemned as guilty.

To the peril of our young people entering college campuses – those temples enshrining the purest forms of wokeness – they may find themselves the subjects of cruel inquisitions and damned as guilty for no other offense than embracing their hard-earned math and science educations (literally, as a start). Besides embracing classical western values, still other indictments may stem from student’s affiliation with a specific identity group (of which they may have no control). Students beware, the new woke priests occupying the lofty places of college campus life – like little Caesars and Pharaohs claiming to be gods – have canonized their view as to what constitutes guilt.

Guilt is a Good Thing?

While the progressive left imagines themselves as occupiers of higher moral ground, their dangerous characterization of guilt has no basis in scripture, serving only to divide people – thereby contradicting the purpose for which our sovereign Creator intended. In their hands, guilt - as a tool - is leveraged with cruel adroitness principally for the acquisition of power.1

Yet as a psychological construct, the biblical God fashioned the ability to experience guilt into the psyche of humans for good purposes. Biblically, psychological guilt (not to be confused with metaphysical guilt denoting our legal standing before a holy God)2 is characterized as the subjective feeling of having wronged someone. When the first man sinned in the garden, he immediately had a sense of psychological guilt.

In 2016, a group of researchers3 characterized psychological guilt’s subjective experience (together with but distinct from the related construct of shame) as emotions which are germane to the development and maintenance of social relationships. As critical social regulators, guilt and shame work to facilitate a balance between a person’s self-centered urges and the rights and needs of others. When acting as an internal thermostat or regulator, the experience of guilt enables us to reflect inwardly, taking our attention off our own interests, and consider how our actions may have caused distress and pain to other people.

Because guilt impels us to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with others then, it is reasonable to view it as an agent of divine providence. A world without guilt would descend into chaos and anarchy quickly, as every transgressing act would be met with revenge – at best generating resentment undermining trust and cooperation, and at worst perpetual cycles of violence2. Guilt then, enables us to live in civil communities – engaging in commerce, enjoying the fruits of the division of labor, fulfilling contractual agreements, and most importantly, trusting marriages. In a God-ordained context, the subjective experience of psychological guilt serves to maintain civil harmony by repairing relational fissures that are inevitable due to our Adamic nature, whenever we have committed actions that have wronged another.

Their Guilt is a Bad Thing

God’s construct of psychological guilt encourages and enables a path of reconciliation whenever two or more individuals or parties find themselves at odds due to actions deemed offensive. While not perfect - because it is facilitated through human agency - it does much to maintain social harmony, since oftentimes relationships can be repaired through an apology, a guilty posture, an admission of guilt, a handshake, financial restitution, or a contractual agreement.

Quite unfortunately, the construct of guilt that will be brought to bear on the many seniors leaving my classes and the thousands of those entering the sacred temples of academia (formerly called colleges) will have little basis in their actions. Students everywhere will be libeled with guilt for merely holding onto “white” values (such as seeing the merits of math, science, delaying gratification, or hard work)4, or for their affiliation with an identity group that is deemed as privileged (white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, male, or heterosexual). We can hope that parents, pastors, and teachers will prepare the young people in their care for this assault, by reminding them the progressive left does not occupy the “moral high ground” when it comes to defining guilt. Only one Sovereign in the universe possesses the high ground to define and characterize guilt and proffer the solution by which it is remedied.

Notes:

  1. Pluckrose, H., & Lindsay, J. A. (2020). Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody. Pitchstone Publishing (US&CA).
  2. Sourced from O’Brien, P., Morales, E., & Dunson, B. (2021). Guilt, Grace, Providence, and Privilege: A Biblical Response to Guilt and Privilege. Curriculum and study guide in press.
  3. Bastin, C., Harrison, B. J., Davey, C. G., Moll, J., & Whittle, S. (2016). Feelings of shame, embarrassment and guilt and their neural correlates: A systematic review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 71, 455-471
  4. Sourced from https://twitter.com/ByronYork/status/1283372233730203651

   

has had a lifelong appreciation for science, teaching, and research. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno with a BS degree in molecular biology and a minor in cognitive psychology. As an undergraduate, she conducted summer research in immunology, microbiology, behavioral and cognitive psychology, scanning tunneling microscopy and genetics; she also published research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and co-authored a chapter on scanning tunneling microscopy. She is currently completing a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology at University of Cincinnati and a Certificate in Apologetics with the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Emily has had the joy of teaching high school chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, anatomy & physiology, and pre-engineering classes over the last thirteen years. As a former Darwinian evolutionist, Emily enjoys stating the case for intellectual agency, considering the arguments posited by the intelligent design movement as much more credible than those proffered by Darwinists.

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