This case is most instructive regarding our wider culture. It is another example of the way in which our politics is predicated on a therapeutic notion of personhood and the rhetoric of a psychologized, ever-expanding definition of violence and victimhood. And it exposes the fact that progressive Christianity is really just another discourse of power.
For anyone wondering how traditional Christianity is going to fare in the culture in future, even within many Christian institutions, the disturbing tale of Dr. Bradley Nassif, formerly of North Park University, an institution formally connected to the theologically conservative Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), offers an interesting case in point.
Dr. Nassif is a well-known Orthodox theologian, a respected scholar, and a gracious contributor to ecumenical dialogues between Protestantism and Orthodoxy. Such is his standing that the Washington Post consulted him for commentary on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its implications for religious liberty. As a Lebanese American, he is a member of an ethnic minority. And until recently, he was also the only tenured Orthodox faculty member in the Bible department of an American evangelical institution. None of this protected him from dismissal, however.
In May 2021, North Park University (NPU) discontinued its Christian Studies Department (CSD) due to low enrollment, and consequently dismissed four tenured faculty, including Dr. Nassif. However, an investigation by a neutral outside organization demonstrated that the CSD was in fact in a strong financial position. Three of the four professors were rehired, but Dr. Nassif was left out in the cold. Now, adjunct faculty teach his courses.
The reason is no mystery. Nassif maintains that all this occurred because he expressed his reasoned, orthodox views on marriage and human sexuality. He was the only faculty member in CSD who went on record in support of the ECC’s views of marriage and sexuality, and held that they should be included in the curriculum. Certain members of the faculty and administration responded to his perspective with hostility. And this stand on sexuality became a constitutive part of why he was dismissed.
Dr. Nassif’s lawyer has obtained sworn declarations supporting this claim from NPU’s AAUP president, Nancy Arneson, and former provost, Michael Emerson. While North Park is affiliated with a denomination, the ECC, that upholds traditional views of sex, sexuality, and marriage, it appears that North Park does not want these views taught in the classroom even as one option among many, let alone as the binding truth on all people. And Dr. Nassif’s objection to this has cost him his career. Dr. Emerson has offered evidence, stating that representatives of the university attempted to “shame and silence Dr. Nassif for standing up for the ECC position on human sexuality. This was evidenced in both public and private meetings.”