Interesting Time for Christian Education
I don’t know that I have mentioned it here before, but I a Christian. I feel like that is pretty apperant from much of my subject matter, but in case you didn’t know…
I came to faith in the Church of Christ (not be be confused with CoC of Latter Day Saints or with any of those crazy kids from Boston). After high school I attended Harding University, a college established by members of the Church of Christ as a Christian University.
Being new to the whole faith-game I was under the impression that Harding was the only CoC-Affiliated school. I did eventually learn that there were others like ACU, Freed-Hardeman, Florida College, Lipscomb and Pepperdine. I also learned that each of these schools, despite common heritage, are VERY different in their philosophies.
For instance, Harding likes to maintain a 60-70% Church of Christ student body in keeping with our heritage. But, we always want to being in enough diversity to keep us thinking, keep us challenged, and to hear the ideas that other denominations have in order that we may benefit.
Pepperdine, however, have a pretty low Church of Christ enrollment about 15%. This way, they are free to take in much more diversity. Making them a very rich melting pot of people. But through this, they are able to teach people, even non-belivers about Jesus.
Other schools don’t want diversity. They feel that letting people from other denominations into their colleges is like saying their views are okay and that they are considered Christians. For instance, one college may not let a Baptist into their school because they are a Christian school, and do not consider Baptists Christians. They aren’t interested in diversity, because diversity means compromise, which means that some of the student body will move to believing false things. They’d rather have homogeneity and no compromise.
You can see how a long period of time with these different philosophies can have an effect on the mindset of the student body.
Schools like mine, with more diversity leads many of the students, through discussions, to say, “You know, we agree on all of the important things…we just disagree on some small things. I am a Christian and so are you…” Eventually, you move to a place where you feel that labels are barriers, and instead of saying, “I am church of Christ” you say “I am a Christian.” However, if you are in a homogenous population where you are at a Church of Christ school, with Church of Christ friends, with Church of Christ teachers, it is easy for you to say, “I am Church of Christ.”
Now, these different ideologies have had an affect on how each school views each other. For instance, several events have been held at Harding that other schools have boycotted because they don’t see us as a “real” Christian school. Similarly, there are some schools that Harding kids hear about and think are nuts. I don’t think that anyone is nuts. I just think we see things differently.
There are also some schools that are in transition.
Take Abilene Christian for example. There has been a big write-up about them because their student body is in-transition from being majority Church of Christ, to being a majority “other.” I think this is because they attract a wider range of people with the academics that they offer, but I think it is also because of what we talked about earlier. Kids no longer marking CoC and marking “Christian” instead. I think that if you poll the Student Body asking what their background is, instead of their religious affiliation, you will find an overwhelming amount are heritaged in the CoC.
I think this came from having a similar admissions policy that Harding has. And I can see that as being problematic.
On one hand, what you are seeing is kids in the Church of Christ abandoning the rich faith-history that we have. On the other hand what is happening is that the Restoration Movement called for: Non-Denominational Christian faith.
How to balance heritage with vision is a tough challenge for all Christian schools right now. I pray wisdom upon the people making these choices.