Engaging Diversity

Audrey Branham

While OBU may be a Baptist University, there may be more diversity of denominations represented on campus than one may think. Some may see this as a negative quality bordering on division and infighting, but community between Christians of different denominations do not necessarily have to act the way the world does towards others that are different from themselves.

Instead of division and differences, Christ calls us as His followers to love and be in community with others that follow Him that are different than ourselves not just by ignoring differences, but celebrating our different perspectives.

This should be done while also challenging each other to critically think about our beliefs and encourage one another toward a correct and Biblical understanding of faith.

An Inside Higher Ed article entitled “Religious Literacy” wrote a subscript pertaining to this subject, referencing a study conducted by InterFaith Youth Core.

“Survey suggests colleges can do more to equip students to engage with religious diversity,” the article said.

This study by the Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS) was done over 122 college campuses and surveyed people’s commitment to set aside time to learn about people different from them in race, nationality and religion.

Co-principal investigator for the survey as well as the William Ray and Marie Adamson Flesher Professor of Educational Administration at Ohio State Matthew Mayhew commented on his views on diversity.

In regard to the importance of diversity education Mayhew said, “Any course on diversity needs to start to include religion as part of the curriculum.”

The data collected showed that up to 70% of students who were interviewed would say they are “[committed to] bridging religious divides.” Yet only a quarter, or 26%, of the interviewed students actually took action to educate themselves by attending diversity training, classes on other cultures and religion and so on.

The report says, “Participating in at least two structured interfaith activities outside the classroom is…impactful.”

With this understanding in mind, let us as a campus first strive to be educated about others who are not like ourselves and secondly take action and steps toward better personal education about our represented national, ethnic and religious diversity on campus.

The official OKBU website lists up to 35 represented countries on our campus including the UK, Mexico and Canada as well as Cameroon, Argentina, Lithuania and Qatar.

Set action to education yourself of our represented nationalities by attending the “RAWC the World” event celebrating our international students and their cultures on April 20th, 2021, or contact our Director of International Student Services, Joy Carl, to help and participate.

The official OKBU website also lists up to 30% of students on campus as African America, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Native Hawaiian, mixed ethnicity and other.

Commit to learning about other ethnicities and cultures through meeting with or joining an on-campus community such as the Black Student Association, Listen Up: Deaf Advocacy club and International Students Association. Lastly, although we are a Baptist Campus, up to 30% of our students represent a denomination other than Southern Baptist.

Ask friends what their denomination is and don’t always assume others think or worship like you.

Most importantly, celebrate each other’s differences, but live out Galatians 6:1 (ESV) which says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

Religious and theological differences can become heated and personal but commit to learning about people and thoughts other than your own and take action to expand your knowledge by gently challenging points of difference, encouraging discussion and conversation, as well as deepen your education of your own faith.

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