Discourse at a Small Christian University

This post is not necessarily an well-structured essay, but rather some observations and negative feelings I’ve acquired while attending a small Christian university for my undergrad. These thoughts mainly center around the discourse I’ve experienced while in classes, or interactions I’ve had with fellow students.

So, this post seems kind of ridiculous in of itself. Why complain about Christian discourse in Christian colleges when we already know, or have the idea of what the complaint is? There is a lack of critical thought, perhaps an aversion of any or all controversial subjects, political conversations are reflective of one side, etc. These assumptions flood my head as quickly as they do yours. But this is why I’m writing because frankly, Christians in these spaces often don’t recognize that their limits on discussion have negative consequences.

Let’s take for example the issue of race in America. In my university, we have been discussing about race and how it affects the Church primarily. We talk about how the greater Church is comprised of many ethnicities and races, and how we all work together and fellowship with each other. But that’s usually where we stop. If we do ever utter the words “Black Lives Matter,” or maybe suggest how we can be activists and advocates in our communities, the air begins to tense. It’s as if we have moved into this taboo territory, which is the societal/political sphere, and for some it feels like it’s over-complicating the conversation. It’s as if we don’t need to discuss these issues because they don’t directly impact the Church or aren’t primarily under the Church’s influence.

What is frustrating, however, is that the individuals shrugging off these issues are the ones who aren’t impacted by BLM, police brutality, or a many of other issues. I see more often than not white Christians stopping these conversations or changing the subject because of how uncomfortable they feel, or maybe simply because they don’t know what they can do or say. I find it frustrating because here we are at this institution that is preparing us (or the majority of us) to minister to other communities, and we can’t even talk much about the needs of those communities. We want to be a help to others, but not when they don’t look or act like us.

Another drawback from attending a small Christian university is the strange amount of emphasis on unity. I’m all for being united with my classmates, and unity is a major part of the Christian faith as a whole. But I see unity being manifested to the point where the whole university is like a hive-mind. Which is paradoxical to be honest, for another goal in my university is to promote diversity, primarily in racial and ethnic diversity. But they conveniently leave out diversity of thought, opinions, political ideologies, etc. The majority of students at my university all have similar backgrounds, political ideas, are heterosexual and cisgender, white, middle class, etc. In addition, there is this atmosphere on the campus of unspoken rules: how one should act, as well as what one should say or think. For us who are dissenters, the minority, to continue to attend this university is almost tortuous.

For me, I was a dewy eyed freshman who thought my university was the greatest opportunity and place I could have attended. The longer I have attended there (currently in my 10th semester), the more I’ve come to see the wool that has been pulled over my eyes. I realize that my university (like many others) has this fabricated environment and because it is particularly a Christian university, this environment is extremely different than how the world operates. So now, as I have matured and my ideals have shifted, they now clash with the majority’s ideals and beliefs. Discourse for me now has become questioning whether or not I should speak up in class or suggest something that is liberal, knowing that I may be dismissed because of my gender, or because my beliefs are not the appropriate brand of Christianity. And I have this ridiculous amount of tension that I hold within myself while attending this university that I know is extremely unnecessary. I even find myself being more comfortable in the city than I do on my campus. I should not have to fear being an outcast because of my beliefs, especially at a Christian institution that tries to promote diversity while maintaining unity. As far as I’m aware, this diversity is only a shallow facade for maintaining uniformity, and ultimately will fail the ones it was meant to help.

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2 thoughts on “Discourse at a Small Christian University

  1. This is quite congruent with my own experience at Calvin. There’s a general anxiety about people breaking ties or leaving the community, so the emphasis is on sticking to the middle of the road and not saying anything too disruptive or actually insightful. Eheh.

  2. Pingback: Lesser Being: Part 1: Experience | CHOPPER IN JOHTO

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