My new piece, The Wrong Kind of Christian, is in this month's issue of Christianity Today. Read it here. Right now, you have to subscribe to see the whole thing. But you really should subscribe anyway because it's a great magazine and what are you waiting for?
(Update: The good people at Christianity Today gave me a link to share so non-subscribers can see the whole piece. Here it is. You can view and share this link with non-subscribers. But you should still subscribe.)
During my time at Vanderbilt, I wrote a ton about pluralism and creeds and faith in response to the university's new policy which forbids campus religious groups from having creedal requirements for their leadership. At the end of that year, I intentionally took a long time off from writing about the university or pluralism. Then, last year, more or less as a spiritual exercise, I began to write about Vanderbilt's campus conflict again. I needed to process what had happened that year on campus and writing is how I do that.
Much of what I wrote was heady, philosophical meanderings on the meaning of pluralism. A reporter who I became friends with during the conflict on campus said to me one day, "That's not the interesting part of this story." He told me that he wants to hear my story, what I felt and experienced and wrestled with during that year on campus. So I began to write and this piece slowly emerged. When I finished it, I closed my computer and just wept. It was the closure on that tough, beautiful year. And then it sat on my desktop for months. Eventually, I showed it to the good folks at Christianity Today and lots of editing later, here we are. It is certainly not the final word on the situation at Vanderbilt, it is simply a little bit of one person's story. But I'm very grateful to be able to share it. Huge thanks to Christianity Today and to my colleagues at InterVarsity!
If you read this article and think "I want to do something in response, but what can I do?" (This is what I feel after I read almost anything).
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Donate to campus ministry efforts at Vanderbilt. Ministry expenses are often higher for those groups who lost their registration status. Some have to pay for space off campus, advertising one's group is trickier and often more expensive, and, on campus or off, ministry requires funding. Please consider donating to InterVarsity in Nashville (they are around Vanderbilt but they can't legally use the V-word) here for InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship or here for InterVarsity Asian American Christian Fellowship or here for InterVarsity Medical Christian Fellowship. (Also, I get none of this money so there's no hidden agenda here.)
And/Or you could donate to other partner ministries of ours who also lost their on-campus status: Cru, Navigators, FCA, University Catholic, the BCM, or others. Contact me (through my contact section) for more information about how to donate to these groups .
2. Learn about the role of creeds and think well about pluralism. If I could have had 500 more words, I'd have written more about the role of creeds and more about the need for Christians to recover a language of and vision for pluralism and to lead in seeking pluralism, not just for believers but for all religious and non-religious minorities. To that end, I'd point you to this little gem, an On Being podcast where Krista Tippet discusses the role of creeds with the late Jarislav Pelikan (and they also touch on pluralism). And I would recommend this article by John D. Inazu who says much of what I'd want to say about pluralism (but does a better job than I could). I mostly want to say what he says so very well here:
Pluralism does not entail relativism. Living well in a pluralist world does not mean a never-ending openness to any possible claim. Every one of us holds deeply entrenched beliefs that others find unpersuasive, inconsistent, or downright loopy. More pointed, every one of us holds beliefs that others find morally reprehensible. Pluralism does not impose the fiction of assuming that all ideas are equally valid or morally benign. It does mean respecting people, aiming for fair discussion, and allowing for the right to differ about serious matters...
The argument for pluralism and the aspirations of tolerance, humility, and patience are fully consistent with a faithful Christian witness. And in this age, they are also far likelier to resonate than arguments for religious exceptionalism. The claim of religious exceptionalism is that only believers should benefit from special protections, and often at the cost of those who don't share their faith commitments. The claim of pluralism is that all members of society should benefit from its protections.
3. Share this article. Begin a careful and respectful conversation about faith, higher education, and pluralism.
4. Pray. Please pray for my colleagues who are still laboring at Vanderbilt. Pray for reconciliation between ousted religious groups and the University. Pray for the gospel to go forward there through all religious groups and for Christian students to continue to be encouraged and cared for there as they seek the common good of the university. Pray that faculty and university administrators across America will recover an understanding of and commitment to religious pluralism. Pray for God's kingdom to come through and in the academy. Here is a link to InterVarsity's campus access page for more information about what is happening on certain campuses across America.