One of the six themes of the Messiah University Honors Program is “Facing Disputed Questions - We do not avoid those questions about which reasonable people differ, but rather face them together in a spirit of both inquiry and civility toward others holding various opinions.” We chose this for several reasons. Recent studies have shown increasingly polarization and segmentation in America, including on college and university campuses. Here, this phenomenon has resulted in friction and sometimes even discord among groups holding different views, mutual ignorance of groups holding different views than one’s own, and an inclination to keep to oneself and self-censor out of a fear (real or not) of social censure. Needless to say, this situation is concerning. It has the potential to quash curiosity and limit the furthering of knowledge and striving after what is true.
Heterodox Academy https://heterodoxacademy.org/ was established to address these problems. Its mission is “to improve the quality of research and education in universities by increasing open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement.” Its members diverse members of its advisory council https://heterodoxacademy.org/advisory-council/ all abide by the following statement: “I support open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement in research and education.”
Students and faculty at Messiah are looking forward to engaging the university-wide theme for the 2021-22 academic year, reconciliation. Reconciliation has a long, rich, and various history in religion, theology, and social relations, but at its core is mutual recognition, understanding, and sympathy one with another and a commitment to the restoration of relationships, healing, and shalom.
This leads to a question: “What has viewpoint diversity to do with reconciliation?” Are these two goals more in conflict or might they help one another? The Honors Program and Student Government Association are co-sponsoring a student panel in which a range of students will respond to and address this question.