Politics has saturated much of today’s mainstream social media and news outlets.
It’s almost impossible to have no opinion on current issues, policies or lawmakers, but how does a Christian decide on these things?
Five OBU faculty gathered in Upper GC last Tuesday for a “Let’s Talk” discussion about this very question: not what stance to take on political topics, but how Christians should go about deciding these things.
Maliek Blade, assistant dean of students: diversity/multicultural, Scot Loyd, assistant professor of communication arts, Alan Bandy, Rowena R. Strickland Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek, Nicole Johnson, assistant professor of nursing, and Christopher McMillion, assistant professor of political science, answered questions prompted by SGA president Clayton Myers about Christians and politics. After the panelists gave their thoughts, a discussion time afforded students the opportunity to express their opinions in small groups.
The first question, “Should Christians be involved in politics?” spurred conversation on voting.
Loyd said we should exercise our freedom to vote. We shouldn’t take our freedom for granted, he said.
Arielle Chastain, a junior elementary education major, who attended the “Let’s Talk” event, said she agreed with Loyd. She said Chris-tians should look at voting as an obligation.
“White men were the only ones who could vote for a long time,” she said. “People worked their behinds off to make it so women, black people and minorities have the right to vote. We shouldn’t take advantage of that.”
Blade said he had a different opinion. It’s up to a person whether or not they want to be involved in politics that way, he said.
“I would say there is not any Biblical mandate that you should vote in the presidential election,” he said. “There might be some social pressure, but no Biblical command.”
Blade said many people look at elections as picking the lesser of two evils. No sin is lesser or greater than another, and the Bible says pick no evil.
McMillion added to Blade’s comment, saying if someone doesn’t vote because they don’t want to pick the lesser of two evils, they should get involved elsewhere politically.
“There’s a responsibility to ask yourself, ‘how else can I get involved?’ and in doing so, hopefully, create a situation where Christians have better options.”
The panel also brought up political parties.
Bandy said “love your neighbor” and “seek first the Kingdom of God” supersedes political parties.
“For us to align with a party is inherently flawed. It hinders our evangelism if we’re too closely aligned,” he said. “The Gospel transcends any human government.”
Later, Johnson touched on healthcare. She said she’s fortunate enough to afford healthcare, but she understands not everyone has that ability.
“As Christians, we should be concerned about that,” she said.“It was with Christ that we actually saw people receive care regardless of race, background or class.”
She said that’s the example Christians should set. Healthcare shouldn’t be solely a governmental issue, she said.
“With healthcare, it’s not always about business,” she said about when money comes into play. “Unfortunately, money sometimes dictates your access, and we have to figure out how to fix that.”
Another social issue talked about was immigration.
“One of the things I find most disturbing is the dehumanization of people,” Bandy said.
He said he understands it’s a complex issue, but regardless of the stance on a solution, a mere “keep them out” is unbiblical.
“I don’t care what country you come from, what language you speak, you’re a human being. Human beings are a priority.”
On the outside, OBU’s community seems to some like a group of Christians who all think the same.
For others who have spent time on campus, like junior elementary education major Arielle Chastain, that that is not the case.
When Chastain got to OBU, she was surprised not every Christian on campus had the same opinions.
She said it’s okay for Christians to disagree on various issues, but it’s important they talk about their views with each other.
“It’s important for Christians to discuss this so they can realize we have different ideas on certain issues but we still have the same central view on Christ,” she said. “If we can all agree Christ is our Savior and He died for our sins, that’s the most important thing. Then all those other issues can be disagreeable, but it’s not going to determine our faith.”
This kind of reasoning is what started the “Let’s Talk” series, a discussion-based event covering different topics affecting our society and how Christians should approach these topics.
“Lot’s of times people speak and merely wait to speak again,” professor Paul Donnelly, one of the original founders of “Let’s Talk,” said to the Bison November 2017 before the first event. “They don’t really listen to what people have to say. One of the reasons our country is so divided is because we aren’t listening to one another or accepting people’s opinions as valid.”
Then-SGA president Hunter Doucette, another co-founder, had the same sentiment after the March 2018 “Let’s Talk” event.
“I find one of the hardest things to do, is to make others care about something that doesn’t directly touch them,” he said “Let’s Talk opens the eyes of students in many regards, to issues that they may never have been familiar with.”
After Doucette graduated May 2018, junior Clayton Myers was elected SGA president. Under Myer’s leadership, SGA has continued the “Let’s Talk” series. Myers said he wants to continue the series to encourage the open dialogue on campus between students with differing opinions.
“We want it to be good conversation starters that people can have thought-provoking ideas when they leave,” he said.
Chastain, who is also a member of SGA, said “Let’s Talk” can be a great way to give students an outlet to share their opinions.
“Everyone, regardless of what your view is, should come,” she said.“Your voice should be heard as well.”
In deciding a topic for this semester’s “Let’s Talk,” Myers said he looked to what’s going on in today’s top headlines: politics.
“There are a lot of things happening in the news a lot of people are divided on,” he said. A discussion about Christians’ take on politics, Myers said, is important. “It’s our way of how we can help take care of people,” he said. “Being active in politics is one way we (Christians) can take care of people.”
Chastain said she has found importance in discussing different opinions between Christians.
“Not all Christians are going to be on the same side,” she said.“Some Christians aren’t even going to choose a side.”
Hear from the students
True Christians have the same faith in Jesus Christ, which Chastain said is the “top tier of our beliefs.” “Then, all those other issues can be disagreeable, but it’s not going to determine our faith.”
I wouldn’t be here if my family didn’t immigrate from Honduras. However, my family all went through the grueling process of becoming an American citizen. I’m not an advocate for open borders, but I am an advocate for making it easier for people to come in legally.
Humans do matter, regardless of where they come from. If you’re an illegal immigrant, am I going to treat you any less than you are? Absolutely, not. We should be advocates for Christ.
It’s not my duty to tell them to go back to where they came from because that’s not Christlike.
At that point, it’s my duty to advocate for Christ and share the gospel with them.
I don’t think Chris-tians should be pro-wall because it hinders the ability to share Christ. We can’t have open borders either, so we have to have a happy medium.
The association with specific political parties comes with an assumed agreement with every ideal supported by the said political party. This applies also to denominational separation in the Christian faith.
When I claim a specific group as part of what I believe or stand for, I am co-signing ideas that I may not even be aware that I am agreeing with.
I think it is important, as a Christian, to be wary when deciding what to put our names on. I can not co-sign to all of the ideals of the republican or democratic party, so why give anyone even the slightest idea that I am willing to? Instead, I can co-sign to Christ and place all of my belief in His word, claiming that when people ask me my ideals.
Vote on your convictions. There’s never going to be a perfect person who’s wholesome and shows every Christian value. Blade raised the question, “If you vote for a pro-choice candidate, is that a sin?” I can’t say yes or no to that, but if you’re convictions are to vote for that person, not because of that one thing, but because of the other things, versus someone who’s pro-life but you disagree with other things they do, it’s just a matter of convictions of a person.
A lot of times when you think about voting, you think about the higher level instead of the state and local level and how you can make a difference here.
To me, that’s way more important be-cause that’s how we get our candidates. Voting is a key part of society, and as Christians, we need to be a part of society. If you have not participated in any election before, do it now.
Even the small elec-tons we have here at SGA, participate in those because it gives you practice and experience necessary to make decisions when it comes to the presidency. You have to take steps to learn about how to do it, because politics is a part of life.
“From a scriptural perspective, the pro-social justice side is right about some things, while the Chris-tian moral side is right about others.
If we were to detach any political ties between the terms “Christian moral” or “social justice,” literal Christian morality is the reason why certain social justice causes are necessary.
For example, being generally pro-immigration (not meaning pro-open borders) and minority racial rights/inclusion is the embodiment of Christian morality. The Bible tells us to welcome the sojourner and to treat the foreigner as you would a native of your land.
The Bible also tells us that there is “neither Jew nor Gentile” and that all were one in Christ.
The Bible is quite clear on these two issues and if current social justice movements entail those two, we should readily embrace it as Christians.
However, at the same time, we need to be wary of certain aspects of social justice movements, especially with abortion.
There should be systems in place to help mothers who aren’t able to handle rearing a child on their own get the means to raise a child properly and healthily, which would discourage many abortions in the first place.
So, my take is a biblical take. Where the Bible aligns with current social justice movements are places where Christians ought to align themselves with the social justice stance. Where the Bible aligns with current “Christian morality” movements are places where Christians ought to align themselves.
I don’t staunchly align myself to either side of this polarization because while both sides are right on certain things, they also both embrace rabidly unbiblical principles at the same time as well.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
Last week OBU students had the opportunity to participate in the seminal event of the democratic process – voting. While this election included no voter riots or protests outside Raley Chapel, countless national elections in years past have resulted in lessthan-cordial discussions nation-wide.
In today’s society, where voters have instant and unhindered access to the national stage via social media, how can we talk about politics without resorting to name-calling and yelling?
Dr. Sherri Raney, professor of history and political science, said that we must resist having the mindset that individuals who vote opposite of us are evil.
“I think that we have a contempt problem in this country,” Raney said. “And I’m not the first person to notice that. We don’t respect other people fundamentally. We hold other people in contempt, beneath us, for a lot of different reasons. When we start off with that attitude of having this contempt, disdain, for people who disagree with us, then there’s really not much point in having a conversation.”
Dr. Galen Jones, chair of Christian leadership, said that the best way Christians can avoid yelling matches is to do what the Bible says and not jump to the conclusions Raney said we’re prone to embrace.
“Seek to understand rather than to be understood,” Jones said.
Jones said that, by taking time to learn about someone else’s background, experiences and why they think the way they do, it will become easier to understand why they vote the way they do.
“If I only think about what I think is right in a politician, or what we’re voting for or the larger issues, then we’ll never really have a way to engage one another,” Jones said.
One stumbling block in political conversations, which leads to heated encounters, is the tendency of voters to fixate on one particular issue. Different issues will be of different levels of importance to individuals depending on their age, gender, race, locale, etc.
“For instance, a lot of white evangelicals focus on abortion,” Jones said. “Evangelicals who are African American don’t necessarily believe in abortion, but what we think about is the life that we have now. My life right now matters. I should value the life of that unborn child, but in the case of the police, we don’t see them the same because they’re not my friend.”
“And so, we need to be able to hear that from one another to understand that the legitimacy of my experience is just that – it’s legitimate and yours is as well.”
Another issue with fixating on particular policies is the reality that, perhaps despite a politician’s best intentions, some policies are administered unequally or in a manner not intended by the policy-maker. One example, Jones said, is welfare.
“Over 55 percent of all the caseload of welfare is white rural people. So, the picture of the welfare mother is not a black single woman. It really is a married, rural white woman,” Jones said.
“But in urban areas there is a policy or a practice of a ‘no man in the house’ rule. If your family is on welfare, then there’s not supposed to be a man there because, in essence, the government is supplying those things.”
Since focusing on one policy can present problems, Raney said that we should instead take the whole of a political candidate’s platform into consideration as well as considering the candidate’s credentials.
“The most important thing [a politician should have] is experience in politics,” Raney said.
While this will differ for student government because SGA is often the first stepping-stone into politics, aspiring career politicians will understand the process of government better if they participate locally and at the state level first Raney said.
Jones said that one thing Christians specifically should look for in a candidate is “fidelity to the gospel.” However, with fewer Christians surviving on the national stage, Christians must remember that their ultimate authority is Christ and that voting isn’t a Christian right or necessity.
“We have become confused that America is a Christian nation,” Jones said. “It never was, never has been and never will be. It’s not called as that; it wasn’t created as that.”
An issue or candidate can blind individuals to the humanity of others. On example of this misconception is the idea that the founding fathers were all Christian. However, neither Benjamin Franklin nor George Washington were Christian men. Franklin, though he grew up in a Calvinist-Christian home, became a deist; Washington, though he attended church services with his wife, would always get up and leave when communion was taken.
“We have what I and others call ‘euphoric recall,’” Jones said. “We do, as Christians, with our government, what we are never supposed to do with our Bible, which is called eisegesis; we read back into it from our own lens and perspective.”
“If we look at it for what it actually was – if we exegete history and the founders – you’ll find out they weren’t talking about the same Christian identity that we understand as Evangelicals.”
With the understanding that America isn’t bound by necessity to Christian morals, Jones said that Christians in America are supposed to fill a prophetic role in their location just as the prophets fulfilled their role in the place God called them to.
“We are to speak for God whether the politician ‘Christian’ is doing that or not,” Jones said. “I think we have to take the onus away from voting.”
This will open conversation up not only in the public sphere, but also in the context of the Church where differences in opinion can be misconstrued as a lack of proper faith.
Raney said that we must have respect for one another when having political conversations and follow the Golden Rule. Devotion to a single issue or candidate can blind individuals to the humanity of others.
Jones said there’s one more thing Christians specifically must remember: “Your candidate is not the Messiah.”
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
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
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.
By Jonathan Soder, Faith Co-Editor (Photo by Jonathan Soder/The Bison)
The very first amendment made to the United States Constitution protects every citizen’s right to freely practice any religion and to speak their mind.
However, many affiliated with religion, not only in the U.S. but globally, have taken to shouting their mind, including Westboro Baptist Church, radical Muslims, and Richard Dawkins to name a few.
In this contentious context which spans the globe, if a Christian and an atheist walk into a conversation, how can they engage one another without falling into a shouting match?
For self-proclaiming atheist, freshman Noah Cassidy, one surefire way to turn a conversation south is to enter into it with a firm position that is built on a misunderstanding of the core issue.
Cassidy has been on both sides of the argument, and even said that it was an intense study of the Bible which led him to denounce his faith. Though not all atheists are as familiar with the Bible as Cassidy, presenting it as evidence for God is one mistake he said Christians often make.
“If you have absolute faith in God and say, ‘I believe whatever the Bible says,’ that’s okay,” Cassidy said. “But, you’re not going to convince me that God is real because the Bible says so or that evolution is false because the Bible says so.”
Another common Christian misconception of atheism has to do with cosmological origins, how one believes the universe began.
“I get a lot of, ‘You believe everything came from nothing?’ which is obviously wrong” Cassidy said.
“The proper viewpoint of most atheists would be, ‘We don’t know where it all came from,’ not, ‘It appeared out of thin air.’”
It’s remarks like these that indicate a misunderstanding of what Cassidy said is the core issue – individual intent.
“I think the most important thing coming into a conversation is understanding why you’re doing it,” Cassidy said.
“If it’s to prove a point, if it’s to make yourself feel better, then it’s probably not going to work. You’re probably going to make yourself look worse, make yourself feel worse, and no one’s getting their mind changed.”
For Christians, who are told to share the story of Jesus Christ in Mark 16, mustn’t the goal of such a conversation be to persuade the other individual of their need for God’s forgiveness – to prove a point? Assistant professor of philosophy Dr. Tawa Anderson said yes and no.
“Probably the more important part of the answer is no,” Anderson said. “So, let’s say you’re my atheist friend and we’re just at Starbucks and we’re having coffee together – you can’t be just an agenda for me or just a project.”
Such ‘projects’ are a result of the desire to persuade someone of their need for Christ driving the relationship with them. This is backwards Anderson said.
Instead, there should be a genuine relationship established which drives one’s desire to share Christ.
For Anderson, who grew up an atheist, genuine relationships are important because conversion to Christ didn’t come as a result of one particular incident.
Instead it was a 3-year process that included friends, acquaintances, and lots of questions.
“I can point you to the time period that I was brought to Christ,” Anderson said. “But behind that time period there’s a whole lot of other things that had already happened. I wouldn’t say that there’s one thing that somebody said [that persuaded me].”
Understanding that witnessing is a process more often than not, Anderson said there are several more things a Christian should avoid.
First, there are times to argue, and times to let things go. Also, a Christian’s primary goal should not be to win the conversation.
“We’re focused on the war, not the battle,” Anderson said. “In the long term we want to win a person to Christ. We don’t want to win this battle now. We want to see their life be given to Jesus.
“So, it’s not important that we win a conversation, or that we win an argument or that we make sure that we get our two cents in right now. What’s most important is that we have a relationship where we truly do love the other person and they know that we love them.”
In addition to avoiding misconceptions about atheism, Christians must be aware that atheists too have their own misconceptions.
Cassidy said that one thing many atheists believe falsely is that Christians’ beliefs stem merely from wishful thinking. Another is that Christians share Christ for selfish purposes only.
“Atheists overwhelmingly believe that Christians want to convert for some strange zombie like reason – they just want to spread their power all over the globe,” Cassidy said.
This is part of the danger of having impromptu religious conversations. How does one share their faith, whether they be atheist or Christian, without treating their listener as a potential number in the ranks?
“I think the only appropriate intention is one of very reserved compassion,” Cassidy said. “Like, ‘Really, this is the correct way, and I want to help you but I’m not going to force this on you.’”
While persuasion will often be an underlying desire, and perhaps even should be, both Anderson and Cassidy agree, the goal can’t be to win the day. Instead, these conversations are really about two people sharing their beliefs out of genuine concern for one another’s well-being.
The entire month of March is Women’s History Month – a dedicated celebration of women’s contributions to and accomplishments in past and present societies. Within Christianity, March may prompt conversations of figures such as Lottie Moon, Beth Moore and even Mother Theresa. Among these recollections, debates regarding the role of women in the church and broader ministry naturally spring up. In a month meant for celebration, how do Christians cordially address this issue which dates back to Paul, Timothy and the Ephesian church?
Dr. Alan Bandy, associate professor of New Testament, said that the debate centralizes not around clashing Biblical texts, but primarily around differences in scriptural interpretation. The two premier views identified in this debate are egalitarianism and complementarianism.
“Egalitarians believe that there is complete and total equality between the sexes,” Bandy said. “They would read, for example, that [in] Genesis it was the Fall that introduced gender role distinctions, and the redemption of Christ evens that out.”
Contrarily, complementarianism suggests that role distinctions are a part of the original divinely created order Adam and Eve would have experienced in Eden, and the roles of male and female are such that they fill in the gaps in each other’s roles.
“The difference is, on [egalitarianism] they see equality as the goal, there’s a sameness,” Bandy said. “Complementarians see a differentness, but those differences work together in a unified way.”
Director of global mobilization Dr. Joy Turner, who worked as a missionary in Hawaii from 1992 to 2011, said that many stereotypes and reservations that Christians hold about this topic are due to mishandled interpretation.
“Many people hold views on women in ministry that have been passed down based on tradition and not always from a clear understanding of scripture,” Turner said. “Others hold views that are based on such things as modern feminism. It is important to study and understand what Scripture is teaching based on the context of the passage.”
Regarding the role of women in the church specifically, the passage in question is 1 Timothy 2:11-13 (though this passage could be extended all the way through 1 Timothy 3:7). Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, with directions for successfully leading the church at Ephesus, where Timothy was pastoring.
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness,” Paul wrote. “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”
This is when the interpretive process kicks in. Complementarians say that the leadership of the church must parallel the headship of the home, which is thought to have been given to Adam in Genesis 2 as the first of the pair created.
Contrarily, egalitarians look to Genesis 3 and interpret Paul’s declaration as reflecting God’s pronouncement upon Eve for her guilt in eating the apple of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was a cultural thing which sprang from the consequences of the Fall, and Christians are freed from gender inequality through Christ’s redemption.
So, who’s right? Can we ever know completely? And, is this question worth pursuing?
In answering the first question, Bandy said that there are three contexts through which Christians ought to view any scriptural text in order to start down the path of accurate interpretation – literary, historical and grammatical/syntactical.
“I think that the Bible doesn’t have multiple meanings. It’s not open to however you want to see it,” Bandy said. “I do think that there are interpretations that are more correct than others, more faithful to the entirety of Scripture than others.”
Bandy said that this approach is like looking through a telescope instead of a microscope where the grander whole is blocked out by tunnel vision. Another part of the process, arguing for probability of an interpretation, brings the reality that on many topics 100 percent certainty can’t be realized.
Saint Augustine of Hippo, considered one of the greatest influencers of Western Christianity, called for “unity” amongst all Christians on those topics which can be known with certainty and “liberty” on those which can only be known probably.
“There are many views on the role of women in ministry. Some align with scripture and some do not,” Turner said. “But again, it is our responsibility to examine the scriptures correctly, seeking God’s wisdom by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Part of the interpretation process is understanding that, similar to emergency room practices, Christians must conduct “spiritual triages” to determine the essentiality of certain beliefs to the integrity of the Christian faith. Regardless of which side is more scripturally accurate, all Christians – men and women alike – are called to some form of ministry by the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.
“Also, every believer is given spiritual gifts that they are responsible to use in building God’s kingdom, so we should find ways for both men and women to exercise these gifts,” Turner said.
In determining which ways align most closely with Scripture, Christians must practice exegesis, drawing meaning out of Scripture, not eisegesis, imposing meaning onto a passage.
“Just because it makes me uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s wrong,” Bandy said. “Scripture does not always conform to our opinions and perspectives. In fact, if Scripture just reaffirms what we already think, then we’re probably not reading it well.”
Bandy said that Scripture also has nuances. Its meaning is not always black and white. This question in particular, while possibly a non-essential point in Christianity, leads into bigger issues such as God’s omnipotent creatorship.
“Foundational to this issue is the fact that men and women are created in the image of God,” Turner said. “Even though each may have different roles and responsibilities in the church and home, men and women are absolutely equal in essence, dignity, and value.”
Understanding and engaging in the interpretive process is necessary to have civil discussions on this issue.
“If we all have the same rules involved of how we evaluate these things, then we have to do the hard work of thinking through theologically and Biblically what is more faithful to what the Bible says,” Bandy said
By Chelsea Weeks, News Editor (Photo by Jonathan Soder/The Bison)
Anxiety for an upcoming test, an awkward eating schedule, or depression over a relationship are common issues many college students face.
However, these issues also impact a student’s overall mental health.
OBU students gathered Tuesday, March 13, at 3:30 to discuss the topic of mental health. Throughout the night, students were able to ask questions to a board of panelists who spoke from their areas of expertise.
Panelists included Dr. Paul Donnelly, assistant professor of criminal justice, Dr. Tara Signs, director of Marriage and Family Therapy Clinical, Dr. Christopher McMillion, assistant professor of political science, Dr. Robin Brothers, assistant professor of nursing, and Mr. Mason Phillips, an adjunct professor and OBU alumni.
“Let’s Talk at OBU should serve as a model for our country in how to have these conversations,” president of SGA Hunter Doucette said. “I find one of the hardest things to do, is to make others care about something that doesn’t directly touch them. Let’s Talk opens the eyes of students in many regards, to issues that they may never have been familiar with. Let’s Talk has the potential to create advocates.”
Mental health covers the emotional, psychological and social aspects of life. How one feels, thinks, acts and responds to stress, all relate to mental health. A variety of factors can contribute to the state of someone’s mental health, whether it’s brain chemistry, life experiences or family history.
“I think if we can begin to talk and understand it, people can make informed decisions about things they do in their life and how they respond to the stressors of life, I think everyone’s better served,” Donnelly said.
“As Christians, I don’t think we recognize, and are sensitive enough, to what goes on on campus. There are kids who are really struggling to a variety of issues. If we can talk about it and not make it a taboo subject, in that it’s okay to admit that you have a problem, that you have an issue and know where you can get help.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 50 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their life.
Mental health has always been looked down upon throughout American history and has had a negative stigma attached to it.
“I’ve seen over the years how mental health has been increasingly criminalized,” Donnelly said. “For example, the largest mental health facility in the state of Texas is the Harris County Jail. In other words, there are more people receiving mental health treatment in jail than in any place else in the entire state,” he said.
“My direct experience is seeing the criminalization of mental health. My concern, however, has grown because of experiences with family and friends who’ve wrestled with some serious mental health issues and how that impacts on families and their life [structure].”
OBU’s Student Government Association started the Let’s Talk sessions last semester and hopes to have another one before the spring semester is over. The hope is to not only discuss more issues in the future, but revisit some covered in the past.
“It is important for student government to sponsor these events because we represent a diverse population and the issues we discuss affect particular groups differently,” Doucette said. “Therefore, it is vital firstly, for the sake of community at OBU, to understand how these sensitive subjects are viewed through various lenses,” he said.
“Secondly, it provides students with the necessary knowledge to engage in public discourse and effectively communicate with those outside of OBU. Christians need to be on the frontlines seeking justice. These events better equip students to do just that.”
Donnelly said he enjoys the Let’s Talk sessions because he sees the power behind students who are becoming not only educated on these sensitive issues, but also are motivated to take action.
“The greatest impact I’ve seen as a result of Let’s Talk is OBU students being able to have civil discourse on issues that usually divide our nation,” Doucette said.
“Students are more prone to listen to one another and by doing that, are able to see that there is much more in common than what separates. These conversations do not end once students walk out the door. Issues are being discussed in the dorms, in the GC, in the caf, in the classroom.”
OBU offers free therapy sessions to all OBU students, staff and faculty. The OBU Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic is located on the first floor of Shawnee Hall. They are open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
By Jonathan Soder, Faith Co-Editor (Courtesy Photo/Creative Commons)
Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Parkland – in the last six months each of these towns has felt the pain gun violence brings to a community. Each incident has sparked national conversation, and each time talks have been reduced to a country-wide shouting match between gun control proponents and gun rights supporters, just as it has after shootings past. With history seemingly bound and determined to repeat itself in this way, how can both sides contribute to effective conversations about gun control?
First, because there are several facets to this issue, the core topic in this national debate must be identified. Associate professor of political science Dr. Chris McMillion said the conversation is currently focused on how to interpret the second amendment which says:
“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
There are two camps of thought. Gun control supporters latch onto the phrase “a well-regulated militia” and argue that civilian access to guns ought to be limited, or completely banned, because this phrase doesn’t necessarily confer individual rights to gun ownership.
On the other side of things, gun rights proponents claim that the 2nd amendment does in fact impart individual rights to gun ownership. They draw support from the 2008 Supreme Court decision of the case District of Columbia v. Heller, which was 5-4 in favor of individual gun rights.
In the national conversation, these two positions have been construed as having conflicting aims, when in reality, McMillion said, both are trying to protect the same thing – liberty.
“For those who make the gun control argument, it seems that there is a conception of liberty that insists on protecting the right of individuals to be safe from firearm violence,” Mc-Million said. “…That a right to life and to general protection of liberty is impossible if you constantly need to be concerned about dangerous individuals in possession of firearms who could interfere with your life or end it.”
On the other side, McMillion said, gun rights supporters seek to protect this same life and liberty, but through the arming of individuals in order to suppress the possibility of the uprising of a tyrannical government regime. This view reflects upon America’s history and struggle against British rule during the Revolutionary War.
One approach, which both McMillion and assistant professor of biblical and theological studies Dr. Matthew Arbo said is necessary to have effective conversation, is for both sides to open up to compromise.
“If we understand that we’re dealing with competing [philosophical] conceptions in this particular circumstance… [and] it’s not clear which of these perspectives should absolutely hold true, I think we open the ground for compromise,” McMillion said. “For finding more decisions and mechanisms to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, while simultaneously not parting with the conception of the individual right that seems so critical to others.”
While gun rights supporters may need to admit a need for greater inhibitions to purchasing guns, Dr. Paul Donnelly, assistant professor of criminal justice, says that the national conversation needs to steer away from the topic of mental health – one of the favorite arguments of gun control advocates at present.
“A very small percentage of people with mental illness harm others and even more rare are those who are mass shooters,” Donnelly said. “This comes into focus when comparing rates of mental health disorders in other countries who have similar mental health issues but almost no mass shootings of the type that are becoming a regular occurrence here in the United States.”
Donnelly, who served in New Jersey as executive director of the Juvenile Justice Commission and in Texas as Deputy Director of the Texas Commission on Children and Youth, said that focusing on mental health alone is too narrow. If discussed, it must be viewed in light of other factors.
“Like many difficult problems in our world, we want simple explanations to complex problems, followed by quick fixes,” Donnelly said.
Racial stereotypes also must be re-examined.
“There is something unique happening to many of our young white boys in this country, that is not happening anywhere else in the world. Guns and mental health are important areas for examination and problem-solving. However, the problem of mass shootings in the U.S. is the culmination of many things.”
Paralleling McMillion’s statement that the gun control debate is fundamentally philosophical, Arbo said that one thing Christians, in particular, must understand is that conversations on this topic are “moral discourse.” For Christians, the standard of morality comes first from God, not the law.
“Either those commands about how to care for life matter deeply to us or they don’t,” Arbo said. “Our freedom is to be used to honor God, to make His name known, whether in deed or in word.”
Consequently, gun owner or not, Christians are to live out their convictions on this issue in a manner that honors God. Part of honoring God for Christians, according to Romans 12:18, is to actively pursue peace “with all men.”
“In a general sense, when we are called upon to be the ‘addresser,’ we need to consider the example Paul gave us on Mars Hill,” professor of communication arts Dr. Vickie Ellis said. “Paul role-modeled how we should follow God, engage people where they are, find a place of agreement and then share with love, truth and conviction.”
“Additionally, I don’t believe there is a Christian monolith regarding the issue of gun control. That’s another reason we need to join the conversation.”
This is the second installment in the Let’s Talk article series. Students may suggest topics for future articles by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org