Review of Ross Douthat Humanities Lecture
Prior to his visit, Ross Douthat was presented to me as a homophobic conservative who was only talking to the Humanities Program because Carol Quillen is trying to include different points of view on campus.
I didn’t get this impression of Ross Douthat when I read two of his articles that we were supposed to read to prepare for his lecture. He seemed like a relatively rational human being. I thought he was extreme in only one sentence of the two articles I read, which was far less extreme than my introduction to him made him seem. Nevertheless, when I entered Hance auditorium that afternoon, you could feel the tension in the air, the poor, lonely conservative up against an entire army of Humanities students from a liberal arts college.
The lecture began and the floor was opened up for questions from this sea of 19 year olds. Finally, one student spoke, asking if Douthat’s opinions had changed since he was a 19 year old in college, when he had written a piece arguing against homosexual marriage being blessed by the church (I haven’t seen this article, it was also mentioned in my introduction to Mr. Douthat). Douthat responded in sheepishly embarrassed way that he would hope that his opinions would have changed since he was 19 years old.
This question broke the tension. Suddenly, there was communication. More students were raising their hands. They had questions about current issues, about the presidential administration, about radicalism. I found his answers thoughtful. He represented his own beliefs well, while still acknowledging that those who think differently from him had completely valid opinions and beliefs.
People like Ross Douthat are not the conservatives we see in the media. It is easy to stereotype conservatives, especially at a school like Davidson. Conservatives are bigots. Conservatives are homophobic. Conservatives are monsters. And even though this can be true in some cases, Douthat’s lecture demonstrated that radical inclusion can be effective. His willingness to be open and honest with his opinions led to communication between first years in college and a 40-something conservative catholic, which in this day and age I would consider a miracle.