Editorials Opinion

Diversity of thought is Bethel’s strength

Should Bethel be conservative or liberal? Democrat or Republican? Neither.

Should Bethel be conservative or liberal? Democrat or Republican? Neither.

By the Editorial Board

On Sept. 28, 2016, the stairs of the Brushaber Commons were flooded with students, faculty and staff protesting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Some held signs. Others raised their fists in solidarity.

At this same moment in time, campaign posters for Donald Trump appeared in dormitory windows and on T-shirts. Evangelicals across the country denounced Trump. Others embraced him – Pew Research reported that 81 percent of white, evangelical Christians voted for Trump in 2016. Both of these groups existed inside Bethel gates.

Bethel’s mission statement describes the university as “boldly informed and motivated by the Christian faith,” but what branch of the Christian faith, exactly, are we informed and motivated by? Do we adhere to a denomination?  Is it Catholicism? Is it Protestantism? Do we baptize babies or adults?

If we intend to be the “Christ-centered university of choice for this century,” does that mean we should embrace our Swedish baptist roots or reorient ourselves to a Christian doctrine more fitting to the century?

We can scan the student handbook and each of Bethel’s values looking for the answers, but each person in the Bethel community would find different results.

The purpose of a liberal arts institution – especially a Christian liberal arts institution – is to explore human inquiry. To come with one faith, and go away with a seasoned, stronger one. We cannot expect to obtain this until we interact with the very questions that make alumni and donors pound on administration’s doors.

Is Bethel turning liberal or is Bethel turning conservative? And which one should it be?

Neither.

The era of political and religious polarization we live in should not compromise Bethel’s identity. Instead, it should emphasize that Bethel’s ability to straddle the line between multiple theologies, political ideologies and worldviews is its greatest strength, rather than its weakness.

Take a class on a subject that scares you. Attend a chapel featuring a speaker who may say something you don’t want to hear. Listen to those you’d rather tune out. Until we can do these things, we cannot be boldy informed or motivated by our faith.

We cannot be the Christ-centered university of choice for this century until we live in it.

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