Back in the wistfully simpler days of very early September 2001, I began college at Taylor University, an evangelical college in Indiana. My time there was complicated, frequently confrontational, difficult to navigate, and to summarize. I knew what I was getting into as a non-evangelical going to such a place, but I hoped that by being an earnest and well-meaning Christian person I would be able to make good things out of my time there.
It was an early lesson that our hopes frequently do not pattern the world in which we live. It was also a lesson that to be evangelical and to be a Christian (in any meaningful sense of the word) could be radically different things. In the aftermath of my first semester in college, when wars on terror and on Islam and on a thousand other global threats took over the discourse, I was disappointed to see evangelicals co-sign with Neo-conservatives rather than with Jesus. I tried to agree to disagree. I tried to understand. I tried to be open-minded but also definitive about what I believed. It was all very difficult. Unlike many people, while I have a few very close friends I know from those times, I do not keep up much connection with the school or the people I knew there.
Fast forward a few years to 2019 (okay more than a few years) and Taylor University is in the news. But this time, the news is extraordinary. A group of Taylor students and alumni have gathered to voice their disapproval of current VP, Mike Pence, delivering the commencement address at this years graduation. And what’s more they are protesting specifically about the way that the policies and actions of Pence in his various offices do not represent Christian values as these students understand them mainly to help the poor, the marginalized, and the persecuted, and to love all people. At one point the petition reads:
“Inviting Vice President Pence to Taylor University and giving him a coveted platform for his political views makes our alumni, faculty, staff and current students complicit in the Trump-Pence Administration’s policies, which we believe are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear.”
Color me shocked and amazed. This is not the gist of what going to Taylor had led me to expect. It is not representative of my experience. It suggests that things have changed, and that they have changed radically. It reminds me that things are not static, and there is almost never a reason to totally lose hope. Because if Taylor University can change this much (the petition is almost up to 4,000 signatures!), then so much more is possible.
It is a powerful thing to speak up, share your voice, and say no. It is, perhaps, even more powerful to witness it among those whose voice you presumed you would never hear again. So, again, color me shocked and amazed. I couldn’t be happier about seeing something happen that I would never have expected.