Thursday, August 4, 2016

Campus Ministry at the Crossroads: The Rest of the Story

The August 2016 edition of Christian Standard includes my article, Campus Ministry at the Crossroads.

Christian Campus House at 704 College Avenue
As always, there is information I collected during the writing of that article that didn't make it into the final version. What follows are some of those "leftovers" from the lengthy conversation I had with Lance Tamerius, Christian Campus House Director.

How is the religious climate different now than 20 or 40 years ago?

The number of [Christian] student groups on campus now is one indicator and the size of those groups. The visibility of groups on campus has greatly decreased in the last 12 years since I've been back at CCH, and even more so since I came here as a student 30 years ago.

We had a campus ministers’ meeting recently with the interim chancellor. Last year there were 70 people at the meeting. This year there were 20. That’s the religious leaders.

I know of several groups that have been contemplating leaving campus because they just don’t draw people any more.

I think it’s a reflection of a couple of things, one good.

A lot of students that at one time would have been involved in campus ministries are involved in local churches. So its not all a net loss.

But also there are fewer Christians coming to campus with faith to begin with.

All those are indicators and they’re no different than what we’re seeing in church attendance nationwide, than what we’re seeing in the morals of the society. It’s all saying the same thing.

We’re becoming less and less of a Christ- minded nation. I don’t know that we were ever a Christian nation, but we’re less and less Christ-minded.

It’s not universal. There is a great tolerance toward other religions, but there’s not a great tolerance toward Christianity.

It was probably six years ago that a young man came into my Bible study with big tears in his eyes. It was the first week of class.

I said to him, “What going on?”

He said, “Man, I just had the hardest class I’ve ever had in my life.”

I said, “Gonna be a tough one?”

And he said, “Not the work, but the atmosphere. The professor asked, if you’re a Christian stand up. And there were about a dozen of us, and the professor said, my goal by the end of the semester is to not have faith by the time you leave, and if you still have faith, I will have failed."

But he didn’t do that to the Muslims, he didn’t do that to the Buddhists. It was just Christians.

Some of it’s to be expected. The biologist will always teach evolution, the philosopher will always doubt God, and all that’s expected. But the class the teacher had the students stand up in was a Chemistry class. It’s probably more a reflection of the professor’s world view than of the course he’s teaching.

Overtly though, it’s the anti-Christian attitudes that most students have.

If you stand up for anything godly, it's considered offensive to other people, because we’re judging people.

On the other hand, we’re considered weak by a whole other group of people because we stand for something based on something that is as old as Christianity.

Maybe what’s changed more than anything is that the students have those attitudes about Christianity now, and it used to be just the professors that had it.

Twenty years ago you could speak and everybody here was on the same page, they knew what you meant. We’ve reached the point where Bible literacy is very shallow. We’re at the point where fewer students know what you know, much less believe what you believe.

Institutional attitudes toward Christianity

A.P. Green Chapel has been part of the Memorial Student Union for 75 years. It was set up to be a place of worship.

At one point the university wanted to take the pews out and just put down rugs, because all religions use rugs, I guess. Fortunately that was stopped.

It’s subtle things like that.

Most of the radical policies seem to start on the coast and make their way to the heart of the country. The University of California system has been in a battle with Christian groups and barred them from using space on campus.

Not too long ago the same thing happened at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was a Methodist college, started out to propagate the gospel.

Over the past five years I think it’s over twenty colleges have removed religious groups.

ACRA – the Association of Campus Religious Advisors – met with the chancellor at a luncheon.

He said, "I’ve had a hard year. This summer I re-read St Augustine’s City of God. I needed to be reminded of a lot of things.

He said the university has always been a place to acquire knowledge, but not wisdom. Knowledge can be taught, but wisdom has to be search out, modeled. People used to come with wisdom they’d gotten from home, church, school. Now people are coming without wisdom.

He told us the problems that are on the campuses will never be solved by the university. The only hope is from the people who are providing wisdom, and that’s where the ministries come in.

He said, "I can pass rules and laws to guarantee certain things, but in the end it will be the ministries that provide that."

I asked him a question: What can we do for you?

He said, "Pray for me, pray for the university and pray for the people who work here."

Christian Campus House and Race

We have people from different ethnicities, people from different countries, and different races living here. If any of us made who we were more important than who Jesus is, we’d have a lot more divisions. If we disappear behind who Jesus is, everything works out better and we begin to see ourselves and others more clearly.

CCH Building Project

It started out with the realization that if the point does come that we think will come, that we’re told we can no longer meet on campus, then we’ll need a place to worship. You have to be proactive.

From that, the a discussion began with alumni, local builders that are alumni, and board members. The suggestion was made, if you’re going to put that footprint on your property, why not go up. Which makes a lot of sense. We always have a lot more applicants than we have room for.

Click HERE for more information about the Christian Campus House ALL IN Building Campaign.