Snark is Overrated

This article is part of an Opinion series on the Interregnum theme of Compassion

 Twitter Photo from Haley Turner

Twitter Photo from Haley Turner

For a school that prides itself on intellectual seriousness, King’s sure has a lot of students who can’t sit through one lecture without trashing the speaker on social media. Indeed, it’s become a tradition for King’s students to take to Twitter at opening lecture to mock, “roast,” and generally complain about Interregnum.

On Tuesday night last week, students did not hold back from openly mocking Dr. Marvin Olasky during the Q&A session of opening lecture or clapping and cheering for questions that they perceived as clever before Olasky even had a chance to respond. After the lecture, some students suggested they’d spam the email that Dr. Olasky generously made public for students to ask him more questions.

The irony is that Dr. Olasky was speaking on compassion, while students spent the evening making fun of him on their phones and failing to honestly engage with his ideas. Even at The King’s College, it is apparently not possible for a speaker to claim that abortion is wrong or that marriage is a societal good without being lambasted for being heartless. Some students seemed determined to take everything he said in the worst possible light—for example, claiming that his joke about the 70/30 ratio was “HETERONORMATIVE BULLS**T.” Other students just complained about the event as a whole and joked about how many of them were drunk or wished they were drunk. Perhaps the low point of the night was when a student reputedly dropped a wine bottle in the middle of the lecture.

We have to do better than this. Dr. Olasky deserves respect. As former provost of The King’s College, he is responsible for recruiting some of the most popular professors on campus including Dr. Anthony Bradley, Professor Brian Brenberg, Dr. Matthew Parks, and Dr. Dru Johnson. Ironically for students who mocked Olasky for being a Conservative straight white male, Olasky left King’s because he didn’t like the ultra-conservative, GOP-worshipping direction that Dinesh D’Souza was taking the school. He runs a widely-read evangelical magazine, and he’s also a respected expert on the subject that he spoke on: helping the poor through personal sacrifice rather than impersonal government programs.

Ironically for students who mocked Olasky for being a Conservative straight white male, Olasky left King’s because he didn’t like the ultra-conservative, GOP-worshipping direction that Dinesh D’Souza was taking the school.

Even if students disagree with Dr. Olasky’s conservative views on gender and family life (which students misrepresented on both Twitter and in their questions), Olasky voiced his views with kindness and sensitivity. At one point he sincerely apologized if he had stated his pro-marriage views in an overly generalizing or unnecessarily offensive manner. King’s students had no such respect to offer in return.

This is how King’s students behave at Interregnum every year, as well as during SBP elections. Is this really how we want our community to behave? Do we really want to prize snark over kindness, respect, and intellectual seriousness? We are a Christian school—can’t a guest lecturer defending traditional Christian views be shown a drop of intellectual charity?

Dr. Bradley’s response on Twitter sums it up pretty well:

Love is gentle and kind, it is not arrogant and does not boast. It’s time for King’s students to get over our obsession with snark and start showing love instead of knee-jerk outrage to people who we have not even taken the time to attend to their ideas. It is hypocrisy to claim that we love Christ, who for us silently suffered the taunts of the people who crucified him, while heaping scorn on each other on Twitter.

The opinions reflected in this OpEd are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of staff, faculty and students of The King's College