So imagine my surprise when I read this recent news headline about my Alma Mater: "Christian University Bans Conservative Student Club." Um, excuse me? My school? My private Christian school? I had to check it out.
The first thing that caught my attention was the (almost) laughable and misleading title of the article. Shout out to Fox News for using the headline to play into people's biases! Hooray journalism!
You can read the article yourself, but here's the synopsis: APU has a "Conservative Club" and "Progressive Club" on campus for students. (Sidenote: Whyyyyy wasn't there a Progressive Club when I was on campus?? Sigh.) The Conservative Club wanted to become affiliated with a group called the Young America's Foundation and start a chapter of YAF at Azusa Pacific, but the University denied their request. So, obviously the Conservative Club is still alive and well and they certainly didn't get "banned." In fact, there are several Conservative-leaning clubs on campus.
In an official statement, the University explains:
As an academic institution placing God First in all that we do, we not only welcome open dialogue with political student clubs on our campus, we encourage it as part of the total growth experience of our students. Azusa Pacific supports much of what YAF stands for, including its goal of preserving the U.S. Constitution, its values, and the God-given rights that we are guaranteed in that precious document. However, YAF uses divisive language and embraces some forms of political activism that do not align with who we are as a university.
APU has supported and will continue to support open and honest discourse on a variety of political opinions and ideas. We strive to avoid those polarizing discussions commonly found in secular society, and instead encourage our community to examine political issues from a biblical worldview, to model civic virtue for our campus community, and to encourage spiritual unity in Christ. (emphasis mine)So what exactly was YAF's "divisive language" that Azusa Pacific was not a fan of? The Fox News article tells us it was the following statements:
“Are you tired of liberal ideas dominating your campus? Are you tired of liberal and Marxist professors indoctrinating your classmates? Do you want to advance conservatism?
“If you answered yes, then you should start a Young Americans for Freedom chapter. YAF chapters make a difference by boldly advancing freedom and conservatism.
“Radical feminists, big government bureaucrats, fringe environmentalists, race-baiters, Islamo-fascists, and run of the mill leftists are distraught that you would even think about promoting conservative ideas.”And I have to admit, I was actually proud of my school. Proud that they wouldn't tolerate fear-based rhetoric and unproductive name calling. Proud that they are sending a message of unity rather than division. Proud that they are encouraging students to be Christ-followers first and foremost; not encouraging them to give in to the politically-charged venom that is permeating our country.
But to the majority of Fox News readers and YAF supporters? Azusa Pacific was immediately written off as a heretical and godless institution. A sampling of the comments reveal how people are now up in arms over the University's decision:
Christian is not an appropriate term for Azuza Pacific. Christian implies "following Christ." Jesus Christ did not mince his words. Azuza Pacific is nothing but a bunch of mincers who will not allow those who refuse to mince their words on their campus. Shameful!
APU, you have sold yourself out and instead of keeping in step with your school motto of putting "God First," you most resemble "Culture First" in this instance...
It's time for schools like this to grow some balls and have some backbone for crying out loud. Being silent and not wanting to speak out in this highly politically charged environment where threats exist will do this school no good, and to ban this club based on inane excuses is very foolish and does no one any favors.
If this is the school's policy, then we as Christian parents better look elsewhere for salt and light - APU wants to go the way of Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, - all were once "Christian" schools...I would not recommend our young people to APU. I repeat - SHAME ON APU!
It seems Azusa Pacific doesn't even realize how radically liberal they are, being politically correct and refusing to address the radical liberalism in their own midst. I will pray for their leadership to turn away from radical feminism and Marxism they apparently support. Students have other choices for college and there are many that do not discriminate against conservative views that are deeply evangelical and genuinely Christian. Students and parents take note. "Evangelical" and "Christian" are being used by universities that do not support traditional, orthodox values.But wait! The winner for my favorite comment is....
I have a hard time believing someone is a Christian and a Democrat. That is just an oxymoron. They are antithetical to one another.
Alright. Let me get this straight...
Because someone is not a member of the same human-made American political party as you, they are not Christian? Because a school (that you have absolutely no authentic knowledge of except for one extremely biased Fox News article) made a decision you disagree with, they are not Christian? Because a community of Christ-followers decided they did not want to be affiliated with a group who is promoting fear-based politics and name-calling, they are not Christian?
Perhaps there is a crucial misunderstanding of what the word "Christian" actually means.
What has become of the body of Christ when politics have become more important than people? When the way you vote is more important than the way you love? When your rhetoric determines your salvation? When people think they have the right to suggest that if you don't think just like us, act just like us, talk just like us, look just like us then you are outside the realm of God's love and grace and promises?
The verse that comes to mind is this:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
What Azusa Pacific did is not shameful. It is shameful that hateful and venomous poison is permeating The Church. It is shameful that my Christianity and salvation would be questioned because I vote Democrat. It is shameful that when a school like Azusa Pacific finally makes great strides in being an inclusive community, it gets lambasted by fellow Christians.
It was funny to me that the comments I have seen in support of Azusa Pacific are from students and alumni. Progressive students and alumni who are proud, perhaps for the first time, of a decision that the school has made on behalf of its students.
Because maybe they spent four years feeling like they didn't fit in because they didn't vote Republican. Maybe they were labelled as "radical feminists" because they thought women should be allowed to preach and teach. Maybe they were dismissed as "race-baiters" because they cared that there was a noticeable lack of racial diversity among school leadership and the student body. Maybe they were taunted as "Marxists" because they thought that Christians have a responsibility to care for the poor.
And maybe they doubted their faith and maybe they doubted their salvation and maybe they thought that following Christ wasn't worth it if it meant being constantly told that the way you think and act and love and worship and commune is unholy and ungodly and unrighteous and just. not. welcome. here.
And maybe now they are excited and filled with hope at the possibility that students of different political backgrounds will be ushered into a community of Christ-followers who will joyously proclaim with arms stretched open that You Are Always Welcome Here.
Or maybe that's just me.
I'm not sure what will happen with this whole situation. I hope it doesn't get uglier than it needs to be. I hope the administration doesn't cave under pressure. I hope the students of the school are not turned into the pawns of a nasty political game.
But above all, I hope that the Body of Christ can start to heal from the wounds it has inflicted upon itself during this election season.
And I'm thankful, always so thankful, that nothing in all creation can ever separate me from the love of God.