Monday, March 2, 2009

How to Treat a Guest

I’m watching the sun set on my gmail inbox background and listening to Elliot Smith sing about refusing to ride into the sun and not doing a thousand things I should be working on. Instead… I’m thinking.

Last week, Brian McLaren came to our campus and gave an evening presentation, sponsored by IFC. A fair amount of Taylor students were there – the floor of the chapel was almost filled. I was excited to hear what he had to say – I had heard he was somewhat controversial, and I really enjoy listening to people who have different viewpoints than me… which sounds like a kind of ridiculous thing to say, but it’s true. So when I saw the full room, silly me, I thought that a huge percentage of our student body also wanted their worlds blown away and minds broadened.

To my surprise, Brian McLaren gave a very uncontroversial presentation about social justice – talking about the major issues in the world today and how we, as a church, should be talking about them and working to fight them. Like world hunger. And drinking water shortages. He then talked about our worldview, and the overarching story to how we approach Christianity, and how that fits into our understanding about what the church should be doing.

Then we had a Q & A session.

And all hell broke loose.

The first question that really captured my attention was one (or five) from a girl. She got to the mic, fired off a rapid stream of theological questions about the gospels, Jesus, and whether or not he believed there was a literal heaven or hell, and there was a brief pause. Then, roughly 75% of the student body seated in that room started clapping and cheering for her attack on his personal beliefs.

This was followed by a steady stream of people also questioning his beliefs, which he didn’t even address in the presentation. There was one professor who even did this, in a very insulting, belittling way. Though the one that put the icing on the cake was the last boy who “asked a question.” He basically got hold of the mic to give a public condemnation of the speaker, including his most sincere sentiments that the speaker would “have time to figure things out in the future.”

The irony of 18 and 19-year-olds telling a 58-year-old researcher that they had things figured out, and he didn’t know what he was talking about, did not escape me.

I was stunned and horrified at the picture of Taylor University we had given. At the way we had treated our guest.

If you ran into me that night, you probably were treated to a long vent and impassioned cry for change on this campus. Since then, I’m no less passionate about that desire, but after talking to multiple students from all over campus about it, and having a meeting with Randy Gruendyke (our campus pastor), to discuss my concerns, most of the anger has dissipated.

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