November 23, 2011- Issue 10 Back page

Christian Identity Manifest (pt. 2 of 2)

By Jonathan Balmer
Back-Page Editor

Last week, I examined four different “types” of Christian schools, determining we should have a firm Christian identity but extend hospitality to those who claim different faiths and no faith at all. Now, I’ll examine three principles which may show a (sketchy) version of what this might look like.

1)Student life policies should entail mutual respect: as much as possible students should respect Georgetown College’s Christian heritage while the college respects certain personal freedoms of students. There should be an outright refusal to punish intellectual dissent in the classroom.

This means, recognizing everyone’s freedom of conscience, and, in a spirit of respect for all students, the college should not accept bullying (the attack on the worth of any student) of any form. All the while, the college cannot support every action or belief equally though it must always affirm the inherent worth of every person. Caring for students, our college may recognize that the whole of the person is not just material but spiritual and provide opportunities for students not only to examine scripture and the Christian faith but to allow them to examine us (if we so choose the latter). For those wholly uninterested in the concept, all should honor their decisions and ensure they are not obligated to partake. In turn, students must recognize that “to disagree” is not the same as “to bully” and, even when disagreeing with the faith, respect the mission of the college.

To demonstrate: it is perfectly possible for students to fornicate on campus. The paper-thin walls of, say, Allen Hall do not muffle certain…sounds and squeaky beds very well. While the college does not require students to sign requirements like more, shall I say, “vigilant” Christian colleges prohibiting extramarital sex, it does not follow that the college should officially endorse unmarried cohabitation (and it does not currently). Of course there are loopholes anyone can come up with (i.e. this does not prevent same-sex couples from living together). People can always find loopholes. I have no “solutions” here, if that’s what you really want. If ensured everyone had equally small opportunities to stick it to the college’s moral or religious foundations we might as well install some tele-screens and decorate the place with effigies of Big Brother, a la “1984.”

2) Create consistent policies for student organizations that must be utilized in the interest of a coherent identity. We should eagerly learn about different beliefs (as we have, inviting a Muslim Imam to speak about Ramadan last year comes to mind). And we may act hospitably to provide non-Christian students a place to meet, pray, fast or meditate, if possible, if such students wish. All the same, the college should only officially support with recognition and funds student organizations consistent with its Christian heritage and convictions. This policy allows current and prospective students to know “Yes, this is a Christian college” and “No, that does not mean I have to be a Christian or else risk being burned at the metaphorical stake.” When thinking of where the “line” lies, think of the difference between a lecture, which has the purpose of informing only, and a sermon, which has the purpose of convicting.

Both can speak on the same topics but one proclaims a call to respond, change, to exchange on moral, behavior or even God for another. Therefore, our college may support educational endeavors but should not support proselytization of teachings directly contrary to our Christian mission.

3) Insist on hiring only intellectually brilliant, Christian, faculty. While students should show a baseline respect for the college’s identity, the requirements for faculty must be greater as they are stewards of our college and its mission. Currently, professors are required to post a statement of faith. Why should they? And what should this look like?

Here is an imperfect metaphor: hiring carnivorous chefs for a vegetarian restaurant, even if they promise to “respectfully” place little tiny bits of parsley next to the steaks they cook, does not speak well of the integrity of the vegetarian restaurant. Likewise, a Christian college requires Christian faculty, not just people “respectful” of the faith.

One option for a standard would be something like the Nicene Creed (the most widely accepted creed)— though I suppose we might show flexibility on the filioque). An excerpt: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father….For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures.” (see:1 Cor. 15:3-4; John 1).

The gamut of faculty and potential faculty under this umbrella includes scholars from a large range of backgrounds. Compare your average Southern Baptist to your average Eastern Orthodox Christian and then try to tell me there is no room for diversity under this model. You may be put off by any talk of moral standards or requirements. Is this not stifling? Think of it this way: Such moral and social expectations are in every organization under the guise of “professionalism.” My high school requires back-ground checks of its instructors in addition to certification to teach. And they recently fired a teacher because she had sex with five students (mostly 18-year-old football players). Even B/ C list celebrities are not exempt from having standards in their jobs. Gilbert Gottfried was fired from his job as the voice of the Aflac Duck after making crass jokes on Twitter about the tsunami in Japan last March.

There are skill and behavioral standards for any profession. The question is what should they be? For an academically serious Christian college, it ought to be that highly-qualified full-time faculty A) profess Christian faith and B) refrain from carousing about and acting like an (unrepentant) scoundrel. This means faculty should act ethically. This does not mean they should live in constant fear and trembling of administration.

Finally, this is not a one-way deal. In academic matters, Georgetown College does (to my knowledge), and should, protect the integrity and intellectual freedom of its faculty. Georgetown may yet stand poised to forge our reputation as a beacon of Christian scholarship.

Do you agree? Disagree? Make your voice heard! Write a letter to-the editor or an opinion article about the future of our beloved Georgetown. Your voice matters. You just don’t get paid a whopping 17 dollars a week for writing it down (like I do).

Finally Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I am thankful for so much. I should mention my friend, Kel Arlinghaus, who reads the Back Page multiple times a week. What a pal. He does this so he can ensure he did not miss reading anything he hates which he may make fun of me for writing.

BEWARE: Opinions are that of the Back Page Editor solely and may contain trace amounts of an element proven toxic to
some readers: Truth.
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