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CULTURE DIGEST: Dartmouth student lambasted for esteeming Jesus in convocation speech; Victoria’s Secret displays draw ire

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–His speech has been called “appalling,” “reprehensible,” “an abuse of power,” “disrespectful” and “embarrassing.” What could have drawn such consternation?

The outrage is over a convocation speech by Noah Riner, student body president of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., one which employed the sinless example of Jesus Christ as how men and women can manage to display good character as they make their way through a sinful world.

Riner gave the speech as he welcomed freshmen to the Ivy League campus Sept. 20, beginning with compliments toward the accomplished students.

“You’ve been told that you are a special class,” he said, according to a partial transcript published by The Washington Times. “A quick look at the statistics confirms that claim. Quite simply, you are the smartest and most diverse group of freshmen to set foot on the Dartmouth campus. You have more potential than all of the other classes. You really are special.”

The seasoned student went on to point out that it’s not enough to be special, talented, beautiful or smart because plenty of students have been so and have even graduated from Dartmouth but have gone on to commit crimes rooted in their corrupt character. Riner listed some examples, including a graduate who became a Soviet spy, one who murdered and one who sexually assaulted a young girl.

Then came the controversy.

“Character has a lot to do with sacrifice, laying our personal interests down for something bigger,” he said. “The best example of this is Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed, ‘Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Thine, be done.’ He knew the right thing to do. He knew the cost would be agonizing torture and death. He did it anyway. That’s character.”

Riner added that Jesus is the solution for sinners like him and all others and Jesus’ message of redemption means there are consequences for actions.

“He gave His life for our sin so that we wouldn’t have to bear the penalty of the law, so we could see love. The problem is me; the solution is God’s love: Jesus on the cross, for us,” Riner said.

The next day, the vice president of the student body resigned, telling Riner, “Your first opportunity to represent Student Assembly to the incoming freshmen was appalling. You embarrassed the organization; you embarrassed yourself.”

Others heaved vicious criticism on Riner, including opinion pieces and cartoons in the student newspaper.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, addressed the debacle in his Oct. 7 commentary on albertmohler.com.

“The controversy over Noah Riner’s convocation address at Dartmouth is a bracing reminder of the fact that America’s most prestigious academic institutions have become openly hostile to the very convictions upon which they were established,” Mohler wrote, after noting that the predecessor to Dartmouth College was founded in 1750 for the purpose of evangelizing Native Americans.

PRECEDENT SET IN DEFINING ‘PARENTS’ — Ground has been broken in the realm of defining parentage in the context of new reproduction technologies after the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Oct. 6 that a woman who gave birth to triplets conceived with their father’s sperm and eggs donated by another woman had legal rights as a mother, even though she is not genetically related to them.

The babies were born in 2001, and Charles Galiwango and Cindy Culpepper lived together, sharing parenting and financial responsibilities, The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville reported. But when their relationship ended, a unique custody battle ensued.

Legal scholars say the 4-1 decision could be used in future cases involving nontraditional parents, such as homosexual couples.

“The woman is the child’s legal mother with all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood,” Chief Justice Frank F. Drowota III wrote in the majority opinion upholding earlier decisions to grant Galiwango and Culpepper joint custody of the children, with Culpepper listed as the primary custodian. Galiwango was granted visitation rights and ordered to pay child support, The Tennessean said.

“Recent developments in reproductive technology have caused a tectonic shift in the realities which underlie our legal conceptions of parenthood …,” Drowota wrote. “We now live in an era where a child may have as many as five different ‘parents.’”

SHOPPERS PROTEST VICTORIA’S SECRET DISPLAY — Victoria’s Secret is known for its scantily clad models, but shoppers at two particular malls are organizing efforts to make the lingerie chain clean up its store displays after carefully sculpted, nearly naked mannequins posed in provocative positions have offended passersby.

The lifelike mannequins, much more shapely and defined than the average clothes-displaying object, have drawn the ire of local residents in McLean, Va., and Wauwatosa, Wis., with about 50 Virginia shoppers staging protests at Tyson’s Corner Center, where a Victoria’s Secret store recently opened as part of a mall expansion.

“We can’t bring our kids up here. There’s a play area above it, you walk by it on the way to the food court. It’s ridiculous. It’s pushing the limit. It’s going beyond publicity,” Suzanne Zolldan, an outraged parent, told Focus on the Family’s Family News in Focus.

Joe Cowden, another shopper at Tyson’s Corner, told Family News he and others in the community plan to keep the pressure on.

“We would hope that they would change what exists there currently and have it be toned down substantially,” he said.

Other parents are considering forbidding their teenagers to shop at the mall.

“My 13-year-old daughter is going to come here and shop for a bra?” Mary Lynne Carraway told The Washington Post. “Come on. I’m appalled. That’s like sending her to a street with a strip joint. Is this the kind of message we want to send to our children, that this is what they should look like?”

CARRIE MCDONNALL BOOK RELEASED — Carrie McDonnall, the International Mission Board worker who suffered major injuries as the lone survivor of an insurgent attack that killed her husband and three other workers in Iraq in March 2004, has released a book chronicling her story called “Facing Terror.”

The book recounts the events that led her to Iraq and serves as a call to serve Christ, even in the midst of tremendous danger among a people group hostile to the Gospel.

“I live my life without David, but am grateful for the time I had with him,” McDonnall writes, referring to her husband. “The world is not our place of rest; it is a time to work and follow hard after Jesus. When we get home, we can rest. But for now, God is calling his children to share the gospel of the cross, the power of our Holy Father; it’s time we obediently follow Him. May we all live our lives in a manner worthy of the calling we have received in Christ Jesus. May we live lives we will never regret.”

    About the Author

  • Erin Curry