[T]he differences are in degree. We [Dartmouth students] have the same flaws as the individuals who pillaged New Orleans. Ours haven't been given such free range, but they exist and are part of us all the same.
Jesus is a good example of character, but He's also much more than that. He is the solution to flawed people like corrupt Dartmouth alums, looters, and me. [emphasis mine]
Premise 1: Dartmouth students are all flawed people.
Premise 2: Jesus is the solution to flawed people.
Conclusion: Jesus is the solution for Dartmouth students.
It's not very difficult. Seriously. Noah Riner's statements at the Convocation for the Class of 2009 do not equivocate in their message: Jesus is the way for Dartmouth students to build character.
If you still believe, as Joe over at Dartblog does, that Riner's comments were "[h]ardly inflammatory...universally apt and eminently peaceful," try this on for size:
Jesus' message of redemption is simple. People are imperfect, and there are consequences for our 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.
The last sentence is what I'd like to focus on. Riner simply makes bare that he equates "me" with "us"--the pronouns slip entirely--"us" replaces "me"--grammatically, the sentence should be "The problem is me; the solution is God's love: Jesus on the cross, for me."
This is not a case of a personal profession of faith. Riner makes no distinction between himself and the rest of us, between what he believes is the route to his salvation and the path for everyone else to follow.
One thing that is even more disturbing: Riner does not stop at saying something equivalent to 'Surrendering to God's love is the optimal or best way to obtain character.' By providing no further examples of character and by using the exclusive article 'the' without any attempt at moderation, Riner makes it explicit that Christ is, according to him, the only Way, Truth, and Life.
I am not surprised that he holds this belief nor am I arguing that he does not have a right to hold it privately. But Riner does not just hold it; he does presume that we also hold such a belief if we are to have or do have character. In speaking for all others on campus who would like to think of themselves as persons of character without asking for or receiving their consent, Riner does abuse his position as a public speaker and as Student Assembly President.
One further note: Joe and others try to make the case that Riner's comments were no more (or no less) a violation of his office than a professor espousing or recommending political opinions (and therefore anyone who complains about Riner but lets professors off the hook is a hypocrite).
However, a speech by an elected representative is a far different matter from a professor voicing his or her opinions on gay marriage or Bush's penchant for prevaricating. Simplistically, Professors are not elected to represent our voices to anyone else; Riner clearly was. As such, Riner's acts usurp our own voices without our consent; a professor speaks only for him or herself.