college

Jim Wallis 9-01-2016

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Most importantly, I got to put my boys to bed most nights of their lives. Almost every night, we would say a prayer and goodnight with quick conversations about the day, the next day, or baseball. That’s why it was hard to turn off the bedside light when we came home — without being able to say goodnight.

A and N photography / Shutterstock.com

The reality is that modern Christianity in the Americas was built upon the genocide of indigenous people, the theft and commodification of land, and the enslavement of black people. It wasn’t simply an ethical glitch of bad people with otherwise good theology. No. This was praxis, linked with liturgy, linked with worldview, and, beyond that, to imagination. Will you continue to believe that modern “Christianity” is essentially good but was simply misused by bad people? Or, will you have the unflinching courage to critically examine Christianity’s role in horrors, in inequality, even in your own alienation?

lastbackup / Shutterstock

lastbackup / Shutterstock

A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, while doing research on social privilege for an introductory ministry course, I came across an article titled “White Fragility.” Even a skim of the first few pages was enough to pique my excitement. In it, author Robin DiAngelo—an expert in multicultural education—describes in sociological detail a common set of defensive and destructive responses that people have when facing the reality of their own privilege.

I recognized each response she described from those my students had whenever I asked them simply to face—let alone begin to dismantle—the various forms of social privilege they each embody. Where, I began to wonder, could I squeeze this article into an already over-packed course syllabus? How could it best help us navigate the difficult issues we were trying to engage?

Emptying ourselves

Social privilege is a daunting topic to engage. When teaching it, I draw heavily on Peggy McIntosh’s now famous definition of its racial manifestation:

I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks.

What McIntosh helps us see is that social patterns of privilege are maintained because people carry them about and use them while, at the same time, people are able to carry about and use their privilege because those social patterns are maintained. The effect is cyclical, and it happens without any of us being particularly aware of our own complicity in the system.

Society confers unearned gifts on people who embody particular privileged traits—straight, white, able-bodied, middle-class men, for example—while neglecting to confer them on others. This isn’t to say that people who embody more privilege are explicitly homophobic, racist, ableist, classist, or sexist. It doesn’t mean they don’t work hard for the goods they accumulate in life—of course, many do. It’s just that it feels perfectly natural to walk through an open door without ever noticing how it swings shut in the face of the equally hardworking genderqueer Latinx whose wheelchair wouldn’t even fit.

I didn’t know whether to stop. I turned the corner and noticed you first, before I noticed the police cars and the flashing lights and your car crammed full of stuff. You were standing there, jeans and hoodie. Hands in pocket and hood over your head. It was cold and you did not have on a coat. I was in my warm car, and you were standing in the January cold. 

Jim Wallis 5-19-2016

Since all the political news is terrible and only getting worse, I decided to reflect on something very personal this week — about a great event that happened this weekend.

Adam Phillips 12-07-2015

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According to the Washington Post:

“If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now …,” he said while being interrupted by louder cheers and clapping. “Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” he said, chuckling.

“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he says, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he said, “and killed them.”

“I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course,” he said. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”

A Christian leader, at one of the most influential evangelical colleges, told a basketball arena full of 18–22 year olds to get guns and carry them around in their back pockets in order to take on any radical Muslims that might make their way down to Lynchburg, Va.

Ryan Hammill 10-28-2015

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As sexual assault on college campuses became a national conversation in the U.S., dozens of women came forward with stories that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted them — and in many cases, that he drugged and raped them.

In response, some colleges that awarded Cosby an honorary degree have rescinded the award. Fordham and Marquette were the first two to do it, but with Springfield College’s recent announcement this week that it was revoking the comedian’s honorary degree, that number has grown to 12.

Still, a majority of the schools that awarded him a degree — at least 60 — have not revoked the honor. Vulture contacted more than 40 of these schools and listed their responses on their site. Some colleges replied that they were currently having discussions about the matter, while others made statements similar to George Washington University’s:

“It has never been the university’s practice to rescind an honorary degree.”

Danny Duncan Collum 11-06-2014

Our culture has managed to turn children's sports into an expensive "gated community" for the elite. 

Kara Lofton 5-09-2014

Why are so many college graduates underemployed?

the Web Editors 1-23-2014

Debt from college loans makes some men and women postpone joining a religious community, according to a survey of men and women professing final vows in a religious order.

Ten percent of those who professed final vows in 2013 had an average amount of $31,000 in college debt and the average length of delay was two years, according to “New Sisters and Brothers Professing Perpetual Vows in Religious Life: The Profession Class of 2013.” The annual survey was conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).

Read the entire survey here.

Dr. H. Adam Ackley tells his students of his transgender identity, writing his preferred name on the board. Photo by Annie Z. Yu

A California Christian university has asked a professor who was once its chair of theology and philosophy to leave after he came out as transgender.

Heather Clements taught theology at Azusa Pacific University for 15 years, but this past year, he began referring to himself as H. Adam Ackley. “This year has been a transition from being a mentally ill woman to being a sane, transgendered man,” he said.

Ackley, who is in his third year of a five-year contract at a school that does not use the tenure system, said university policies seem to be silent about transgender issues, except that “Humans were created as gendered beings.”

LaVonne Neff 8-22-2013
A high school graduate leaves the nest. Illustration by Mike Elliott/shutterstoc

A high school graduate leaves the nest. Illustration by Mike Elliott/shutterstock.com

News bulletin to Michael Gerson's firstborn son, my firstborn granddaughter, and the maybe 3 million other kids starting college this year: Your parents will be OK!

Gerson, a Washington Post columnist, wrote a touching op-ed piece Monday about his son's departure. He's not alone — the article, "Saying goodbye to my child, the youngster," is all over Facebook. Assuming there are still teenagers who use Facebook, no doubt many of them have read it too.

Some of those college-bound teens may be concerned for their parents' sanity. Kids, it's OK to relax. Your parents are probably normal.

Robert Hoch 5-01-2013
Debt hole, Andrej Vodolazhskyi / Shutterstock.com

Debt hole, Andrej Vodolazhskyi / Shutterstock.com

In January, I received a phone message from a friend of ours. She needed to talk with me, she said. About something.

Not long after, I got an e-mail from Cordera (not her real name), our friend’s daughter:

“I am writing to you because my family and I have run into a problem. This summer President Obama passed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [of undocumented immigrants]. Over a long course of paperwork and appointments with the USCIS, I was able to receive a work authorized social security card and employment card. [But] without a student visa, I was not able to file for a loan. A few weeks after my first attempt, I found a bank that would be able to grant me a student loan with a US citizen or permanent resident as the co-signer. My father's uncle offered to help but . . . he was denied the credit.”

She wanted us to co-sign for a private loan in the amount of $35,000 to cover her first year of college. My heart sank. We couldn’t co-sign. Or we wouldn’t. I wanted to discourage her because of unfavorable and variable rates, immediate repayment, and long-term consequences of excessive indebtedness. I spoke with her university’s financial aid officer who intoned piously that the cost of the university experience was but one factor to consider: Cordera needed to hold onto her dreams, despite the crippling price tag of those dreams.

Five weeks after accepting a free, 217-acre campus in western Massachusetts, a for-profit Christian university has walked away from the gift.

Grand Canyon University of Phoenix, Ariz. faced millions in unanticipated costs as it moved to open its first East Coast campus in Northfield, Mass., according to GCU President Brian Mueller. So rather than complete a property transfer from the billionaire Green family of Oklahoma, GCU decided to dissolve the deal.    

"We were willing to make a $150 million investment, but we really had trouble with the city of Northfield," Mueller said. "Northfield was concerned that growing the campus to 5,000 students would alter the basic culture and the basic feel of the area."    

The surprise development marks the second time in less than a year that plans to give away the free, newly renovated campus have collapsed.    

The Greens, who bought the property in 2009 with plans to give it to a Christian institution, initially offered it to the C.S. Lewis Foundation to launch a C.S. Lewis College on the site. But fundraising efforts for the college fell short last year. In January, the Greens began soliciting new proposals, and in September named GCU the recipient. 

The other finalist to receive the campus was the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, which later withdrew.  

Joshua Witchger 8-17-2012

Today, Gawker answers that question by extensively evaluating the candidates in sports, fashion, education, bro-pinions, and, most importantly, beer. Which one’s got the best bro traits? Our current beer-loving commander-in-chief? Right-hand man and University of Delaware graduate, Bro Biden? Or might the title go to the skinny-jean wearing, M.B.A. Mitt Romney? Or the young, newly chosen running-mate who loves Rage Against the Machine?

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHO IS THE BIGGEST BRO IN THE 2012 PRESIDENTIAL RACE

the Web Editors 7-05-2012

We've all been there. It's the morning before your 20-page paper is due—the one that counts for 30 percent of your grade—and you get the blue screen of death before saving. Or $2 Tuesdays got a little bit out of hand the night before. Or you just plain forgot. 

While the list of excuses rattles through your mind in the hour or so before class, here's one you probably didn't think of: fake abduction. 

Christian Piatt 6-18-2012
Pill photo, Jakub Pavlinec / Shutterstock.com

Pill photo, Jakub Pavlinec / Shutterstock.com

Are we subjecting our children to a perpetually overstimulating environment? Quite possibly. Are we expecting superhuman results from them at critical points in their development when they may lack the critical judgment skills to resist such monumental pressure? Based on the epidemic now rampant in our high schools and colleges, I’d say yes.

I wrote recently about the moral questionability of the student loan system, and further, the culture of pressuring kids into college straight from high school as a necessary rite of passage, regardless of capacity to pay for it or understanding of what they need from it. But beyond urging them to mortgage a large chunk of their futures away, it seems we’re compromising their health and perhaps mental well-being for the sake of some horse race that may or may not actually be real or necessary.

What’s worse, it seems we’re harvesting a generation of addicts, placing results ahead of happiness, and certainly ahead of service, community or God.

Cathleen Falsani 6-08-2012
Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images.

Anne Lamott at the 2010 California Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images.

Author Anne Lamott, one of our favorite Jesus-loving subversives, recently delivered the undergraduate and interdisciplinary studies commencement address at the University of California at Berkeley.

Lamott's funny, irreverent, and yes, profound, words of wisdom for the Berkeley graduates included the following, about what she thinks the "truth of their spiritual identity" might be:

Actually, I don’t have a clue.

I do know you are not what you look like, or how much you weigh, or how you did in school, and whether you get to start a job next Monday or not. Spirit isn’t what you do, it’s … well, again, I don’t actually know. They probably taught this junior year at Goucher. But I know that you feel it best when you’re not doing much — when you’re in nature, when you’ve very quiet, or, paradoxically, listening to music....

Eboo Patel 5-01-2012

Gathering people from different faiths to serve others is one way of living out the command of Jesus to offer comfort to the afflicted.

Jack Palmer 3-13-2012
Still from the film, "Blue Like Jazz," via www.bluelikejazzthemovie.com.

Still from the film, "Blue Like Jazz," via www.bluelikejazzthemovie.com.

As a progressive Christian in my mid-20s, it'd be safe to bet I might be a fan of Donald Miller. And I am. Miller's Blue Like Jazz and Searching For God Knows What are among the books that have significantly affected my faith journey.

And, like many others in my demographic, I met the news of an adaptation of Blue Like Jazz with both hope and apprehension. Like Miller himself, “at first, I didn’t understand how it could be a movie. I couldn’t see it on a screen.”

My own anxieties about a big-screen adaptation fell into two categories. First Jazz is, for all intents and purposes, a memoir. And memoirs — or the biopics they often become onscreen — are, in my opinion, rarely great films. They are usually little more than a path to the Oscars for actors who are pining after an ego-boost (but I guess that’s another story).

What saves Blue Like Jazz, thankfully, is that it is a memoir with a difference. It isn’t a rose-tinted, romanticized account of some historical or celebrated figure. It is the memoir of someone who is very much like me — just a little bit funnier. That’s where the appeal comes from and I'd expect that's what will make Blue Like Jazz (the film) a success both here and abroad.

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