Agee encourages evangelism with mission wall

By Jonathan Soder, Features Editor

Earlier this year, students living in Agee Residency Center were welcomed back to campus by newly laid wood-panel floors, a fresh coat of white paint and new furniture.

As a part of the building-wide renovations, the lobby also received a touchup.

Where the front desk used to be, now several couches huddle up.

With the movement of the desk from the south room to what was formerly resident director Kyle Opskar’s office, the lobby was also left with two bare walls.

One of those walls is now being used as a “mission wall” in the hopes of encouraging the men of Agee in missional endeavors.

“It’s a physical representation of the heart in Agee we want to have to help men participate in missions,” Ladner said.

The idea is that the mission wall will steep Agee residents in a culture that view missions as a normal part of life, not an intimidating and individual task.

“[First, it’s for] guys who are coming in who are thinking mission trips about all the guys who are going to mission trips,” Ladner said. “They can look at all the ones who have gone in years past or semesters previous to them and be like, ‘Oh cool. Look at all these guys who have gone. I’m not a pioneer in this… I can talk to these people if I want to about these trips.”

Ladner said that another reason he proposed putting up the mission wall is to encourage those who are going on mission trips with the assurance that other Agee residents care about their endeavor.

“It also helps us, almost, keep them accountable…” Ladner said. “It’s a way to not just talk about missions but actually remind ourselves and build that culture in Agee.”

The suggestion for the wall came back in mid-September, during GO Week.

Initially, Opskar said that he wasn’t sure what the wall should look like.

Then, director of global mobilization Dr. Joy Turner found out about the initiative and offered the GO wall, which was formerly in Montgomery Hall outside of the spiritual life office, for Opskar and Ladner to utilize.

Now, the two large pallet-walls sit in the Agee lobby, awaiting photos from GO trips to come to be hung, pinned or otherwise attached

Ladner said that the prominence and noticeability of the pallets is an important aspect of having a mission wall to keep Agee residents accountable to the communal heart for missions. Also, it’s a way to build a legacy.

“This makes a statement,” Opskar said. “This, you walk into the lobby and you see it, so it’s going to grab your attention, especially once we start putting photos on it and stories. The hope is that guys will read those and the Lord will guide and direct people to go.”

The missional heart of Agee which Ladner and Opskar hope to bolster is a recent development Opskar said.

“It’s something that’s been developing over the last couple years,” Opskar said. “I know I have a heart for missions, and over the past couple years we’ve had a lot of guys who have been m[issionary] k[ids], or they themselves just have a heart for the nations, on staff and in the building. That’s provided a lot of opportunity to just springboard off those guys and their hearts and their desire for the gospel to be made known.”

In regard to the blank walls in the lobby, Opskar said there was little consideration for using them for anything else. Once the TV was hung, no other proposition came up to rival what both Opskar and Ladner said is an important addition to Agee’s lobby décor.

For Agee residents going on GO trips, an email from Opskar can be expected. However, for those participating in missions through an organization other than GO, he said that the only criteria to get on this board is to go on a mission trip.

“The goal isn’t to limit who’s up there or to be selective on who’s up there,” Opskar said. “The goal of it is, we just want guys to see that guys are going. So, whether that’s through OBU, whether that’s through something, whether that’s through their church, if you’re going, man, let’s get it out there.”

General election voting excludes homeless

By Jonathan Soder, Features Editor

It’s no secret that downtown Shawnee is a district fraught with contradictions. It’s a place for many students, of aesthetic and spiritual beauty.

Every other Thursday night, students congregate together in the Ritz Theatre for an hour-long worship service.

The amalgamated concrete-brick walls are also popular backdrops for impromptu photoshoots.

On the other hand, downtown is also home to many of the folks who make up Shawnee’s homeless population, a people group who are often left voiceless.

Just yesterday, this population found itself mere blocks from one of Shawnee’s voting centers, Pottawatomie County Courthouse, during this year’s general elections.

Brandon Bryant is one of the homeless men who can be found downtown. At age 39, he’s now been homeless since June 2018.

Before Nov. 6, Bryant most recently voted in the 2016 presidential elections.

He said he’s rooting for democratic candidate Drew Edmonson, though he likely wasn’t going to have the opportunity to vote. This was in part due to the obstacles he faces as a homeless man.

“[One obstacle is] trying to get on and make sure that I’m registered to vote and stuff,” Bryant said. “I didn’t have all my documents with me.”

Gaining proper documentation is of particular difficulty for homeless citizens.

In order to receive a voter I.D., citizens must fill out a form that requires both a physical and mailing address – both of which homeless people tend not to have.

Another of Shawnee’s longtime homeless citizens, Jose, who’s requested his last name not be shared, has spent between 5-7 years homeless throughout the span of his life.

Contrary to Bryant, he said he had no intention to participate in this year’s general elections.

“I figure, well okay, if I do vote for the person, are they going to go sit in the office and do what they’re supposed to do in the office, or are they going to do something else, you know?” Jose said.

Though the men differed in their attitude toward voting, both said that they believe their voice matters.

“Every vote counts,” Bryant said. “Every vote matters.”

Jose echoed this sentiment, adding that, if someone wants something done, there are different voices to be heard on that issue.

Another perceived problem for homeless people during campaign seasons is keeping up with political campaigns and discussions.

However, Jose said that he was able to keep up with campaigns.

“Elections are different times of the season, you know, they’re not all the time,” Jose said.

Bryant, who said he had a little harder time keeping up, got most of the information he had on the elections from the news and the newspaper, though he did not specify any specific channel or publication.

Major aspects of American political campaigning are the “big issues” – those topics which prove most vital for candidates to have a favorable answer to in order to garner votes.

Another important issue for many Americans is the validity of a candidates bid in regards to several factors – trustworthiness, capability, etc.

Jose expressed these issues and not “big issues” are his top priorities when considering candidates?

“Are they qualified to do what they’re supposed to do,” Jose said. “Do they really want the office and [to] do what they’re supposed to do, or are they just running for that office just to be running for it, and then [they’ll] get in there after they’re elected and do something that they’re not supposed to do?”

At the time of this publication’s printing, the results of the general elections were yet unknown.

It’s doubtless that many of Shawnee’s homeless citizens had no say in the outcome, though whether that was due to lack of documentation or abstention from voting is less clear.

In either case, the voice of the homeless population in Shawnee is a large one which isn’t being heard from.

Former professors are chess mates

Jonathan Soder, Features Editor

On any given Tuesday or Thursday afternoon, former OBU political science professor, Dr. Tony Litherland, might be found in the GC focusing intently on the chess board in front of him. Litherland’s next move in the hopes of defeating former OBU adjunct professor of Design, Brad Price, once more. All the while, the men are surrounded by two or three curious onlookers and the cacophony of noise common to the GC at lunch hour.

This twice-weekly meeting-of-the-minds for strategic combat has been Price and Litherland’s habit for three years now, Price said. Even with over 90 years of experience between the two, each man says the exercise is important for keeping their skills well-honed.

Litherland began his chess journey at the age of 11, and has played an estimated 70,000 matches since then. Out of those matches, he credits himself with around 35,000 wins. Losing in chess, Litherland said, isn’t something to be afraid of.

“I once played a man for six years or about 10,000 games before I beat him,” Litherland said.

For the last 15 years, Litherland has sustained his hunger for competition purely through friendly matches and through the OBU chess club which he led until his retirement in 2016.

“The most challenging OBU opponent was former OBU international track student Alex from Zambia,” Litherland said. “I could only beat him about 10 percent of the time. He was an excellent chess player trained by Russians working overseas back home in Zambia.”

Price also began playing in his youth, inspired by the character Paladin from the late-50s TV show “Have Gun Will Travel.”

“It’s about a cowboy who goes and catches bad guys,” Price said. “And, his symbol is a black knight.”

Beginning in 1986, Price did a seven-year stint in Columbia as a missionary. While there, he discovered the Columbian people’s affinity for chess. He regularly went to chess clubs in the town of Cali to play and remembers Columbia having quite a few grandmasters.

“One day I got to play against the grandmaster in a simultaneous chess match,” Price said. “There were 24 of us playing against him, all at the same time, and I was the first one he beat, but it was fun.”

Now Price passes his time with Litherland and also visits a man in Norman every week. Both men, who Price said are ranked as “club players,” also welcome any students who are curious to challenge them to a game.

One student who has taken up the gauntlet this semester is junior biblical languages major Marshall Proctor.

Proctor became familiar with the rules of chess around 2nd grade, but seldom played. Thus far he has entered six matches with Litherland and Price, all of which he has lost. For him, it’s been a learning experience.

“He usually – at least Tony does – he’ll go back to whatever point that he felt mattered in the game, and then he’ll walk you through it,” Proctor said. “Like, ‘You did this wrong, and see the knight took that and that led to this.’ So, Tony will at least walk you through why you lost.”

In spite of the losing streak he’s on, Proctor still enjoys chess for the uniqueness of each game.

“It’s sort of like mental wrestling,” Proctor said. “You’re trying to think logically, think through all of your decisions, sort of microcosm of life, just trying to make sure that you don’t do something here that messes up something there.”

For Litherland, the meetings with Price are a nice dose of friendly competition.

“Currently…Brad Price is a very challenging player and I feel fortunate to beat him 50 percent of the time,” Litherland said. “Normally he wins more than I do.”

So, if you’re hungry for some mental competition, take a stroll to the GC on Tuesday or Thursday and have a seat with Litherland and Price. They’d be more than happy to indulge a budding chess player

Students come to college, parents tag along

Jonathan Soder, Features Editor

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For every student, college includes certain challenges. Move-in day brings feelings of homesickness. Civ introduces students to the real adult world with hours upon hours of work. And finally, graduation often comes with uncertainty about the future. On top of these mutually experienced complications, some students have to navigate the double role of student and child.

Several of these students include sophomore pre-counseling major Mackenzie Camp, sophomore math major Becca Mathews and senior Biblical studies major Graham Griffin.

The Challenges

During high school, many students perceive teachers’ children as naturally intelligent, having an unfair advantage, privy to all the goings-on of administration and sundry other stereotypical characteristics. For Camp, Griffin and Mathews these stereotypes haven’t made a strong appearance during their college lives. However, there are a few that linger.

“Whenever [students] ask questions about stuff that [my dad] talks about in his classes, they don’t completely expect me to know answers,” Camp said, “but they kind of want me to have answers.”

For Griffin, stereotypes manifest mainly in occasional joshing from his friends on account of his status as “the dean’s son.”

Mathews experiences mild cases of stereotyping in the same vein as Griffin, which she says is actually the opposite of how things really are with her father.

“[It’s assumed] I can get away with things because my dad works here, but that is not the case at all,” Mathews said. “Actually, the exact opposite because I’m under tighter standards. Like, I have to have people sign off on things if I want to get a job in his college and things like that. So, I’m actually under stricter standards than if I didn’t have a parent who worked here.”

The Relationship

On the relationship front, all three students said that little has changed for the worse with their parents since coming onto campus.

“I feel like, potentially, we could allow it to be a really big deal,” Mathews said, “but my dad is really strict on professionalism. He wants to handle everything in the most professional, polite and logical way. That’s probably more his personality than mine, but, for the most part, it’s like we have to handle this as mostly separate entities just because if [I] were any other student [I] wouldn’t have any more say over [something] than anyone else.”

Likewise, for Camp, her and her father’s on-campus relationship is largely confined to moments when they meet in passing between classes.

Both young women also live at home where they have a more relaxed relationship with their fathers. Both Camp and Mathews also started out living on campus, then transitioned to living at home later. Even after tasting freedom and moving back in with her parents, Camp said it hasn’t strained her and her father’s relationship.

“It’s weirder having the first time living at home after having lived away be also overlapped with taking his class for the first time,” Camp said. “But, it doesn’t make anything bad. I’ll be like, ‘Hey dad, when is that genogram due again?” and he’ll be like, ‘Look at the syllabus.’ So… we try to keep it separate.”

For Griffin, if any change has occurred in his relationship with his dad, it has been for the better.

“When I was at home for school, we would come up to OBU for events all the time and see [my dad] work,” Griffin said, “so I’ve always known the academic side of my dad and then also the at-home side of my dad.”

These two parts of his dad he said are the same man, just in different roles, and this consistency is inspiring to him.

“It’s cool to get to see the relaxed [Dad] where he’s still living with such high standards and such intentionality even when he’s at home and not even on the clock at OBU,” Griffin said. “That’s been a testament to seeing what a kind of man he is and seeing that I want to be that kind of person.”

The Perks

Directly resulting from Griffin’s respect for his father is one of his favorite aspect of having his dad on campus with him.

“I can’t even express how big of a blessing it is still to be under the watch and care of my dad,” Griffin said. “It puts a certain level of accountability on me to have to know that I don’t just carry my name here. I carry the Griffin name here at OBU, which is more than just me. If I do something disrespectful, that reflects not only me, that reflects my dad.”

For Mathews the perks are less idealistic and more practical. She can go flop down on her dad’s couch whenever she needs a nap. And for Camp, well no questions were off-limits as a kid, and none are now either.

Capstone project becomes community outreach

By Jonathan Soder, Features Editor
Sometimes, in fact most of the time, classes stay on campus. Classrooms are on campus, professors have offices on campus and students do homework, though not exclusively, on campus.
Naturally, campus is the epicenter for class life, but what about classes that are specifically focused on going out instead of staying in?
Last semester, several students in Dr. Galen Jones’ Intro to Evangelism responded to the Matthew 29:19’s mandate to “go” and took their class to downtown Shawnee.
For the capstone project, junior cross-cultural ministry major Jordan Sheehy, sophomore Biblical studies major Caleb Stewart, then-sophomore cross-cultural ministry major Sam Creasy and junior something major David Gonzalez began a homeless outreach ministry.
Originally, Sheehy and Creasy planned to start a discipleship group in Agee dorm, but the plan never came to fruition.
Meanwhile, separately Stewart hoped to serve the homeless in Shawnee. After hearing about Stewart’s idea, Sheehy approached him about merging the two, and the Good Samaritan Project was born.
“I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do or how stuff was going to work,” Stewart said. “So with him [Sheehy] being able to cut hair, then the idea of grilling, it all just came together [to] have free haircuts, free food and fellowship.”
With a rough plan, the team began work. First, they made posters and hung them up downtown several weeks in advance of their first visit.
The free dinners were set for every Thursday at 6 p.m. Then they purchased and prepared food for the first Thursday night and headed downtown with a pair of shears, a chair and an amateur barber.
“We started out our first week with four people, and we were really scared [thinking] that, ‘This is all we’re going to reach for the next three months,’” Sheehy said.
With food enough for 25 people, the men returned to campus, refrigerated what wasn’t eaten and returned the next to find 10 new faces greeting them.
“That next week we had 14, so that was exciting, but literally the week after that we came back and there were 45 plus people that showed up,” Sheehy said. “It was just amazing to see how many people were in need, how many people couldn’t feed themselves that even, that wouldn’t have gotten a meal without us being out there.”
For the next month, the Good Samaritan Project continued to serve upwards of 45 people every Thursday night.
“They continuously told us, ‘This is not all of us. There’s twice what you’ve see here. They’re just busy or at some other place eating right now,” Sheehy said.
Only one group among many who serve free dinners for the homeless in Shawnee, Sheehy, Stewart, Creasy and Gonzalez aimed to do more than just provide free food.
One way they achieved this was through the free haircuts Jordan offered.
“I realized that one of the easiest ways for me to serve them is by giving them something they [normally] have to pay for for free,” Sheehy said. “A haircut’s always just something that makes you feel fresh, makes you feel new [and] puts a smile on your face, so I wanted to take my gifts and utilize those to bring enjoyment to people’s lives.”
These haircuts, and the meal, were part of the larger goal to “live life” with the homeless people in Shawnee.
Much of the inspiration for their ultimate goal came from Stewart’s sociology class.
He remembers reading through a portion of his textbook, “Generous Justice,” that highlighted the emphasis in the Old Testament on the Israelites’ responsibility to treat the downtrodden with dignity and compassion.
“Another thing in that book was that, instead of just giving tokens, like, ‘Here’s some money. Go buy some food,’ build them back up,” Stewart said. “Help them get jobs again. Help them find a home.”
One way Stewart and the others hope to achieve the long-term goal of building the homeless up is to pair with local churches to establish permanent involvement with the homeless community downtown.
“We want to provide a church for these families in need to go to that’s in their area, that they don’t have to drive across town for, that are welcoming and wanting them to come as well,” Sheehy said.
“We want them to not just fund us, but also make appearance[s] sometimes and introduce themselves to the families around them because it’s so much easier to go into a church when you already know someone than to just walk into a door.
“We want them to not just fund us but also make appearance[s] sometimes and introduce themselves to the families around them because it’s so much easier to go into a church when you already know someone than to just walk into a door,” Sheely said.
This type of community involvement would ensure the continuation of this ministry even as students have to leave.
However, this wouldn’t necessitate that graduating students cease helping.
Creasy, who’s taking a semester to work back home, has continued to support the group financially in anticipation of his physical absence this semester.
He also hopes to take part again when he returns to campus in the spring.
For him, the experience was more than a class project.
“[I learned] how fortunate I am to have what I have,” Creasy said, “and how many people there are that feel like they aren’t worth anything and feel like people have given up
on them, that need someone to show them how valued they are by Christ.”
At this point, it’s undetermined when the weekly meals will take place.
However, Sheehy, Stewart and Creasy all agree that it should continue, despite schedule conflicts and new responsibilities.
(The Bison was unable to successfully reach Gonzalez.)
“It’s still one of the things the Lord is convicting me of,” Stewart said. “And, just the other day, I went to that Momentum conference that lasted the whole night. We sang that song ‘Great Are You Lord,’ and I was just thinking, ‘Everyone doesn’t know how great the Lord is.’
“That got me thinking about the homeless ministry again, and so we need to keep on sharing the Gospel and telling others how great the Lord is and that he loves them.”
This is another goal that is yet to be realized.
Last year the four men sought to build relationships.
This year they hope to move into explicitly religious conversations that will lend themselves to outright Gospel presentations.
For now, Sheehy said that the group, now called Purpose 50, plans to hang up flyers Tuesday, Sept. 18th after deciding on a time to meet.
Any students interested in learning about the project further, or even donating, can visit purposeforthepoor.com

Curriculum Overhaul: Hobbes implements Biblical and theological studies core

By Jonathan Soder, Features Editor

It started as an idea that the Bible and theology professors repeatedly came back to when they were all cooped up together in a conference room for faculty meetings. A Biblical and theological studies common core is what they were after, but it was only an idea until Dr. Alan Bandy, the Rowena R. Strickland associate professor of new testament, Dr. Matthew Emerson, the associate professor of religion and the Dickinson chair of religion and Dr. Kevin Hall, the Ida Elizabeth and J. W. Hollums chair of Bible, were commissioned to bring this Hobbs college dream to life.
Emerson and Bandy got to work sometime around Spring 2016, beginning with synthesizing an official model to build around. The goal was to develop a collection of Biblical and theological classes that all students under the ‘theology’ banner of Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry were required to fulfill, which would serve a similar purpose to the common core classes all OBU students take.
“We want to live up to our name, ‘Biblical and Theological Studies,’ and the common core is trying to make sure everybody gets a really strong foundation in Biblical studies and theological studies,” Hall said.
Next came researching the Bible and theology programs of other Christian, liberal arts institutions similar to OBU. Hall, who Emerson and Bandy sought out for help in this process, spread his search across the nation. He investigated regional schools such as Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia, Ark., as well as national schools such as Baylor University in Waco, Texas and Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill.
They all discovered that no program in the country was doing quite what they were envisioning.
After completing research and reviewing the initial model, Emerson and Bandy composed the official proposal. The new curriculum was voted on and approved by the entirety of OBU faculty in December 2017 and announced to Hobbs students in May of 2018. The changes were officially implemented for Fall 2018. Accordingly, students who were already in Hobbs have the option to remain on their former track or move over to the new model.
The second purpose of the curriculum overhaul was to streamline the process for students. Underneath the banner of Biblical and theological studies are emphases, which is just another word for specializations. These include Bible and theology, Biblical languages, Biblical studies, history and theology, philosophy and theology, Biblical apologetics and practical theology. With a shared core in Bible and theology, only those classes specific to each emphasis is up in the air for any Bible and theology major.
One unique aspect of the Biblical and Theological Studies Core is the language requirement. Every BTS student will take a year of either Hebrew or Greek regardless if their emphasis is Biblical languages or not. This, in particular, is an aspect which Emerson, Bandy and Hall noticed no other program required that they are excited to introduce.
“I feel like it’s academically really strong,” Hall said, “and OBU, as a university, has that in its mission statement. ‘Pursue academic excellence.’ Even more so now are we able to challenge all our students to pursue academic excellence.”
Besides this, Emerson particularly looks forward to the plethora of historical, theological and orthodox classes that will now have a part in the core curriculum.
“One of the [deficiencies] in the previous curriculum was [that] there wasn’t any church history and there was only one semester of theology,” Emerson said. “Now we’ve taken that and said, ‘Well we’re going to do two semesters of history and theology together.’”
Hobbs faculty hope that this new curriculum will both simplify the students’ experience and bolster interest in the program. For the professors, the benefit of these changes lies in the knowledge that they are advancing Hobbs college academically.
“No matter what their final destination is, if they go out with a ‘Hobbs college’ stamp on them, we know they’re going to have a solid core of Biblical studies, a solid core of theological studies, and we’re going to be gratified by that,” Hall said. “That’s very fulfilling for us because we feel like, with this new curriculum, we can really fulfill our mission better.”

Let’s Talk: Denominational differences, a series of conversations on hard topics

By Jonathan Soder, Faith Co-Editor  (Photo by Jonathan Soder/The Bison)

Christianity, which modernly consists of several religious traditions, is fraught with divisions. On an openly Baptist campus, how can students relate to other Christian traditions?

Protestantism

One way students can begin the process of understanding the broader world of Christianity is by talking to students with backgrounds in other Protestant denominations.

Junior psychology pre-counseling major Benjamin Dingus grew up in the Assembly of God church, which is a Pentecostal offshoot with different practices than Baptist students are accustomed to.

“That can be seen in worship practices and group prayer,” Dingus said. “Baptists can see that as more ‘mystical’ or ‘supernatural’ because we’ll anoint people with oil or do other symbolic things.”

Though Dingus said he isn’t “very educated” on specific Assembly of God theologies, he did say that there can be a difference in Assembly of God and Baptist beliefs on salvation.

“Assemblies of God doesn’t believe anything external can take away salvation,” Dingus said. “But willful choices of a person rejecting grace can jeopardize their salvation.”

This opens up a division even within Baptist churches. Some congregations believe that salvation can be lost due to an individual’s actions. Other Baptist congregations, especially those in the South, believe that once salvation is received, it cannot be lost or taken away.

Another difference which Dingus said many Baptists especially don’t understand are the Pentecostal worship practices, such as dancing and speaking in tongues.

Catholicism

The extent of Christian divisions doesn’t stop with Protestant denominations. Also found under the greater ‘Christian umbrella’ for students to explore is the Catholic tradition. For many Protestants, the Catholic church is difficult to understand because of the general disconnect between Protestantism and Catholicism.

According to a dw.com article by Klaus Kramer, one of the largest differences is each tradition’s approach to Scripture.

“Catholicism and Protestantism have distinct views on the meaning and the authority of the Bible. For Protestant Christians, Luther made clear that the Bible is the ‘Sola Scriptura,’ God’s only book, in which He provided His revelations to the people and which allows them to enter in communion with Him,” wrote Kramer.

“Catholics, on the other hand, do not base their beliefs on the Bible alone. Along with the Holy Scripture, they are additionally bound by the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Another Scriptural difference is the view of the papacy. Interpretation of Scripture falls largely on the Pope, which is part of his papal authority in the Catholic church.

Protestants, on the other hand, encourage individuals to read and interpret the Scriptures for themselves, which has led in many ways to the emergence of the many diverse Protestant denominations.

However, Kramer said that Catholics and Protestants are fundamentally the similar.

“They worship the same God, but the principles of their faith are different,” wrote Kramer.

Whether this proves the legitimacy of Catholicism in a Protestant’s eyes, or vice versa, is another issue. But, for the sake of understanding the differences in the many Christian traditions, Kramer’s article reveals some of the key differences.

Within Protestantism, Dingus said that one thing Christians can do to better cooperate is to quit focusing on differences.

“We’ve all been called to serve and love, so we should all work together and join efforts,” Dingus said. “It’s not a bad or taboo thing for a Baptist congregation to serve the poor alongside a Methodist congregation.”

In his personal life, Dingus tries to practice what he preaches.

“I’ve never, and probably won’t ever, identify myself under a denomination,” Dingus said. “I choose to identify myself as a child of God and would rather not separate myself into a humanly created and defined category.”

While divisions in Christian traditions will most likely never dissolve completely, Dingus’ statement can remind students that Christians are all a part of one catholic, or universal, church under Christ.

Let’s Talk: War, injustice, society, A series of conversations on hard topics

By Jonathan Soder, Faith Co-Editor

Two Fridays ago, April 13, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would launch an airstrike on Syria in response to a chemical attack the Syrian government carried out against its own people earlier in April. Since the U.S. involvement in Vietnam especially, many Americans question whether or not the U.S. should be involved in the wars it frequently finds itself participating in. This debate centralizes around what wars and tactics in war are just. So, what is “just war,” and how do theories about it inform contemporary conversations?

In order to determine the justness of particular wars, many theorists have sought to establish a standard for just war. The model which has been developed is known as “just war theory,” and it consists of three portions.

“From the just war (justum bellum) tradition, theorists distinguish between the rules that govern the justice of war (jus ad bellum) from those that govern just and fair conduct in war (jus In bello) and the responsibility and accountability of warring parties after the war (jus post bellum),” according to a page on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) website.

Many Americans share the same concern that the U.S. might be involved in wars it has no place in. The principles of jus ad bellum are a means to determine whether or not it is just to participate in a war on a case-by-case basis.

“There is a slight moral difference between initiating and entering a conflict,” Dr. Matthew Arbo, assistant professor of Biblical and theological studies said.

Arbo’s belief directly reflects the enumeration of principles laid out by just war theory to determine the justice of a nation participating in a war. These principles, according to IEP, include: “having just cause, [war] being a last resort, [war] being declared by a proper authority, possessing right intention, having a reasonable chance of success, and the end being proportional to the means used.”

Tied up in several of the six principles laid out above are considerations of social ramifications – both of the initiating country and the defending country. As a country engages in war, the effects are seen not only on the battlefield but also at home.

“Wars may incur serious negative consequences for society,” professor of sociology and intercultural studies Dr. Antonio Chiareli said.

“Wars can cause significant loss of life and crippling physical and psychological harm for soldiers, which will also extend to their families and communities who must mourn or care for them for an extended period of time.

Economic effects, which loop back to social effects, are also intrinsically considered by the principles of reasonable chance and pursuing an end proportional to the means.

“In addition, wars carry a high price tag, which has, in some cases, exceeded a billion dollars a day,” Chiareli said. “This heavy economic burden directly impacts society, in that it may lead to budget cuts on domestic spending, including social programs, which will negatively affect more vulnerable segments of the population, such as the poor and the elderly. In addition, a sense of anomie sets in, creating anxiety and for anyone who fears the uncertainties that come along with war and its outcomes.”

Part of theorists’ desire to develop a theory of just war is driven by observed cultural differences. Because different nations have different cultural values, some are predisposed to act in ways which other countries consider overly aggressive and brutal (e.g. guerilla warfare tactics). However, as has become apparent from the reality of anti-war protesters greeting returning troops with taunts and shouting, not even everyone in the same nation agrees on the justice of war.

“Sentiments within a population often do vary when it comes to war. They may involve variant philosophies and feelings about the idea of aggression or about violent and protracted military campaigns,” Chiareli said. “People may also share different war outcome expectations or have competing perceptions about the possible costs involved in war.”

Such differences lend themselves to reducing conversations to shouting matches, as with other contentious topics. However, Arbo said this precedence isn’t an excuse to avoid these conversations altogether.

“How to maintain civil discourse over highly contentious issues is a perennial problem, and probably irresolvable,” Arbo said. “That doesn’t of course mean the effort shouldn’t be made. We possess common language, after all. What is therefore needed is patience and precision.”

The just war theory attempts to use precision, as Arbo suggests, to equip nations with a standard that is usable to determine the justness of a war they may or may not enter. Ultimately, it implies that there are in fact situations when war is justifiable. These situations occur when, as laid out by several of the six principles, a nation has just cause to enter a war and they do so with proper intentions and via proper declaration. In this situation, there might be benefits to be reaped from war, not merely costs.

“On the other hand, wars can also serve a positive function for society, in that social cohesion and unity can result for a society that faces an external enemy and must therefore mobilize ideologically and materially to respond to such a threat,” Chiareli said. “Also, the mobilization of resources and labor can jumpstart a sluggish economy.”

Arbo said that a source of guidance, for Christians specifically, is the Bible.

“The Bible has a rather great deal to say about war,” Arbo said. “The word itself appears a few hundred times throughout the Bible. The word ‘peace’ appears twice as often. Deuteronomy 20 is often used as an early template for moral reasoning about war. Here (and elsewhere) the text suggests the inevitability of war. Its truth is of course empirically verifiable. The text does, however, distinguish between justifying individual (i.e. person-to-person) conflict and larger scale conflicts like war.”

At the end of it all, according to St. Augustine, who is often recognized as the father
of Western Christianity, there is only one goal which is both a benefit and a proper reason for war – peace.

Students band together to fight slavery

By Jonathan Soder, Faith Co-Editor

Earlier this semester – Feb. 23 to be exact – several students came together to form a new group on campus: Voice for the Voiceless. As indicated by its name, this new group aims to bring awareness to the plight of those of whom society is ignorant, specifically those trapped in slavery of various kinds.

The group formed as a result of a lesson assistant professor of English, Dr. Lindsey Panxhi gave during an 8 a.m. Civ session. The lesson, which Panxhi related back to Frederick Douglas’ abolitionist work, was about the reality of modern-day slavery including forced labor, sex trafficking and slavery due to financial indebtedness.

“We talked about [modern slavery] in class and watched a video of some boys who were enslaved on Volta in Ghana – it was a video of them getting freed – and I just told students afterward that, if they were interested in starting a student organization to fight against trafficking and slavery all over the world, that I would be happy to be sponsor,” Panxhi said.

Panxhi said she wasn’t sure what kind of response to expect, but that directly after class, four students came up to her and expressed interest in beginning an organization like Panxhi suggested. After that, another 15 or so expressed interest via email or after classes later in the day.

“So that’s kind of how it got started,” Panxhi said. “And we’ve met for about a month now. We’ve been meeting Monday mornings [during the] 10 a.m. hour and planning.”

Although Voice for the Voiceless won’t be officially recognized as a student organization until Fall 2018, club leadership was elected the week of April 9. Junior biology major Jonathan Ball –who recently put in a bid for student body president – was elected the group’s president, and rising junior Hannah West was chosen as vice president. All other positions were filled on a volunteer basis.

Soon after, members organized and hosted the group’s first fundraising event – the “Freedom Fast” – in Stubblefield Chapel Tuesday, April 10.

“Everyone that participated in this event fasted for one meal and gave the money that they would have spent on food towards the fight against slavery,” Ball said. “Also, everyone that was available met up around lunchtime, when we would have been eating, and spent some time in prayer.”

Though no more events are pinned down for this semester yet, Panxhi said that another Freedom Fast is in the works for next semester. The group’s plan for each fast is to send the collected funds to another, more established organization that fulfills one of several roles including liberation, rehabilitation or even therapy for victims. The specific goal of Voice for the Voiceless will center more around functioning as a mouthpiece through which information about modern slavery issues will be shared.

“In the future, Voice for the Voiceless plans to raise awareness on our campus of what modern-day slavery looks like and help equip students to do their part in the fight against [it],” Ball said.

“We hope to connect students who are passionate about this subject with ministries that will equip them to do hands-on ministry with the victims of human trafficking/slavery.”

Ball’s personal goal is to use the presidency platform as a means to push the group’s larger mission of raising awareness and involving others forward by encouraging others to use their passions to help those enslaved get out of slavery. It is this very goal which first attracted Ball to join Voice for the Voiceless.

“I was initially drawn to this group because it is an organization that is centered completely around Christ and his redeeming work,” Ball said.

“As I learned more and more about the reality of modern-day slavery, my heart was broken for the men, women and children who are trapped. The people in Voice for the Voiceless are passionate about helping all of these people out of the place in which they are trapped, and [about] letting the Gospel bring new life.”

One individual who is using his passion for people to further the cause of Voice for the Voiceless is the group’s chaplain, sophomore children’s ministry major David Bryant. Bryant was one of the initial four students who approached Panxhi after class on Feb. 23.

“Throughout those videos I felt the Lord tugging on my heart and saying, ‘These are my children who are in bondage – in the same way with our sin – ‘You were in bondage and I set you free,’” Bryant said. “In the same way, these people are in bondage and we can help set them free.”

Bryant said that the bondage which Voice for the Voiceless is fighting against isn’t simply physical but also spiritual. The role of chaplain gives him the specific opportunity to remind the group of this reality, he said, and to be the voice that points members back to the idea that this organization was founded for the sake of others liberation and God’s glory, not the benefit of the students involved.

Bryant said his position also offers the opportunity to encourage his fellow students.

“I love to encourage people. I love to pray for people,” Bryant said. “So really, that’s what I’m here for. I’m here to encourage people, to pray for people, to read Scriptures over people and to point people back to Christ because it’s all about him and his mission.”

For students who want to be involved but won’t be able to meet in Shawnee 213 at 10 a.m. on Mondays, Bryant said that students can do three things: give, seek out information about slavery and Voice for the Voiceless and finally, pray.

Now that the organization is unofficially underway, Panxhi is taking a step back from her faciliatory role.

She plans to continue attending and participating in the meetings and said she extends an invitation to all other faculty or staff who wish to join her.

If students have any questions about involvement or general information about Voice for the Voiceless, they may contact Panxhi at lindsey.panxhi@okbu.edu or Ball at jonathan.ball@okbu.edu.

Let’s Talk: Short term mission trips, a series of conversations on hard topics

By Jonathan Soder, Faith Co-Editor

According to a 2017 article on Fortune.com, the United States ranks as the 12th richest country in the world per capita. In a 2018 article, USA Today reported that the three richest Americans – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett – together own as much wealth as the poorest 50% of Americans.

With all this wealth, American Christians and non-Believers alike have adopted a model of charity, known as “the compassion industry.”

This model of charity embraces charitable giving to impoverished individuals, both at home and overseas, with the expectation of nothing in return. This, in large part, describes the aim of short-term mission trips, especially those lasting several weeks or
less.

However, author of Toxic Charity Robert Lupton, along with other contemporary
critics both Christian and not, says these efforts as irresponsible and ineffective. Specifically, Lupton said the propensity for pure charity to cause the receiver to become dependent on the giver.

“Why do we miss this crucial aspect in evaluating our charitable work?” According to Lupton, “Because, as compassionate people, we have been evaluating our charity by
the rewards we receive through service, rather than the benefits received by the served. We have failed to adequately calculate the effects of our service on the lives of those reduced to objects of our pity and patronage.”

Despite this fault, Christians will undoubtedly continue to participate in short-term mission trips. In light of this, how might the popular compassion model be revised or replaced to effect positive lasting changes in the individuals short-term missionaries
interact with?

Both Lupton and WMU professor of missions, Dr. Bruce Carlton, said the need for missionaries to take into account the dynamics of the community they are serving.

“The best way to assure effectiveness is to spend enough time as a learner, ask enough questions, and seek wisdom from indigenous leaders to gain an accurate picture of both existing realities and future aspirations of the community,” according to Lupton.

“Then, having made a realistic assessment of the time and asset commitment you (or your organization or church) can invest, offer low-visibility support to community-led activities. A patient, sensitive entry into grass-roots involvement can open future opportunities to assume a larger strategic role in transforming a neighborhood.”

Carlton, who served as a long-term missionary with his wife for 20 years in Hong Kong, Cambodia and India, said that one way Westerners fail in “offer[ing] low-visibility support” is in the tactics used to establish churches overseas.

“One of the criticisms I’ve heard over the years is that Christianity is a foreign religion, and this is where short-term missionaries sometimes muddy the waters a bit,” Carlton said.

“I used to get upset when people would say that because Christianity is not a religion of the West, but then I began to look around and look at all the churches we’ve started around the globe, and they’re exactly right.”

The result of church-planting overseas often results in the organization of churches that follow a similar model to Western congregations. Worship comes before the sermon, and popular Western hymns are sung, just in the local language.

“We’ve made people into our image, rather than focusing on making them into the image of Christ,” Carlton said.

“So, with short-term missions, if they’re not aware of that, then they perpetuate that model of church and Christianity continues to be seen as a Western religion.”

Serving in a foreign context is difficult for short-term missionaries who often are ill-prepared to relate to the people they are serving in terms of their own culture instead of in terms of Westernized Christianity.

One fix that may be offered is a shift in primary focus of short-term missionaries to serving and supporting the long-term missionaries they assist.

“The beauty of short-term groups or individuals is that they come alongside and enhance the work that is being done on the field,” director of Global Outreach, Dr. Joy Turner, said.

“Full-time field workers are able to learn the culture and peoples they are working with and their strategy can take on a long-term view. They can also adjust their strategy as they learn and grow which would make them more effective in their work. For short-term teams the learning has to happen quickly and a lot of emphasis is placed on pre-trip preparation and reliance on the field workers for their wisdom.”

One aspect short-term missionaries often bring to the field is passion. For long-term missionaries who have years to affect the people they are sent to serve, the temptation to become complacent represents a very real threat to their ministry. The passion of short-term workers can help to rejuvenate career missionaries in their ministry efforts.

“We work very hard at the Global Outreach center to focus on enhancing the work already being done on the field,” Turner said. “It is not about us, it is about advancing God’s kingdom.”

 

This doesn’t mean that short-term missionaries should refrain from interacting with other cultures at all.

“Of course, we desire to minister and share our faith but only in the context of what the full-time workers are doing and under their leadership,” Turner said.

“We hear many stories from the field that our students helped advance their work in ways we could not have imagined.”

One such example comes from a New York City pastor who received 11 students and two mentors from OBU as workers during the spring break.

“They handed out almost 13,000 granola bars and invitations to the Easter service at the church they worked with,” Turner said. “We just heard the church had 259 first time visitors and 63 new believers.”

While the goal of handing out invitations to the Easter service was a simple one for the students, it’s consistent with Carlton’s belief that short-term missions must have a “clearly defined task.”

On the other hand, one thing which Carlton and Lupton both warn against is participating in a short-term mission trip to “sample” missions work. Such intentions lend themselves to a consumeristic view of missions.

“Short-term missions fulfill another need, at least in terms of people from the West,” Carlton said. “People want to ‘try out’ so to speak. They want to see if missions is a career they want to pursue. So they’re not willing to sign-on for a lifetime until they’ve had the short-term experience.”

In terms of responsibility, missions (a.k.a. spreading the Gospel) is not a suggestion but a command which Christ gives in Matthew 28 and Mark 16.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19.

However this commission is fulfilled, whether long-term or short-term, at home or overseas, missions is a careful collaborative effort between the long-term missionaries,
short-term workers and those being reached.